Yaakov-Oz: “MODIQUES absolutely is a word! Just not in English. But feel free to give yourself 230 points in French. (It means ‘moderate.’)”


Joe Devney: “President Bush has suspended the Davis-Bacon Act, freeing companies contracting with the federal government to rebuild New Orleans to pay their workers less than they would be required to otherwise. I assume that the companies will be contractually obligated to pass the cost savings on to the government – otherwise there is no reason to reduce the wages in the first place. The end result is that money will be taken out of the workers’ pockets and put into the federal treasury. Mr. Bush has insisted that he will not approve any tax increases to pay for the costs of hurricane Katrina. Yet he has, by this executive order, decreased the after-tax pay of some American workers whose incomes are in the $20,000-a-year range – in effect taxing them – in order to keep from having to pinch people who make millions of dollars a year.”


Dan Flikkema: “Imagine we could somehow stop adding to the current National Debt and instead could begin to pay it back. Let’s say we pay back $1,000 every second of every day. Did you know it would only take us a little over 251 years to pay it all back?”

☞ Dan goes on to acknowledge that we don’t literally need to pay it all back – it’s okay for a country as rich as ours to have, in effect, a mortgage. It’s just that ours is getting out of hand.

(But here’s some good news: One of you double-checked James Musters’ math from yesterday and it seems those 8 trillion dollar bills we’ve borrowed, mainly under Reagan, Bush and Bush, would only stretch to the moon and back sixteen hundred times, not sixteen thousand.)

Hollis Polk: “I see the enormous Federal deficit, with no plans to change course while we can still maybe avoid a catastrophe. I think what the Feds will do is print money to inflate their way out of the problem. What do you think of the likelihood of that?”

☞ It is definitely possible, but the Feds may have learned it doesn’t get you out of the problem without some very nasty side effects. With inflation come higher interest rates, higher cost of carrying the debt, higher entitlement pay-outs, the likelihood of stagflation and lower stock prices (at least in the short run) so fewer capital gains tax receipts . . . inflation can balloon the deficit. The Republican economic stewardship, or lack thereof, over the last five years has weakened us in ways for which there is no easy fix. The sooner the tax cuts are rolled back on income above $200,000 or $300,000 a year, the sooner we’ll take the one obvious and relatively painless step in the right direction.


Instead of a Rolex, this holiday season, consider a water treatment plant in Ouagadougou. What’s novel about this site is that you get to choose the specific local project you would like to help fund. Some are small enough to be funded with just a couple dozen shares of the Anadarko Petroleum you bought at $56.50 in June last year (closed $97.97 last night), or by your daughter’s high school cake sale. (All this, presumably, after working out an arrangement to share your kitchen and bathroom with the family you’ve taken in from Louisiana. It’s shaping up to be a banner year for charitable opportunities.)

And where with many charitable gifts 25 cents of each dollar may go just to raising that
dollar, with another 10 or 20 cents going to overhead, here close to 90% of what you give gets straight to the project.

If nothing else, touring this site is yet one more way to see how fortunate most of us are, by

Although if that’s the feeling you’re after, you could just rush out to see “March of the Penguins,” which – while the penguins seem to endure it somehow – has got to be the bleakest existence on the planet. A love story? Give me a break, Morgan. It’s a story about nearly nonstop suffering. However distasteful you find my political views; however much money you may have lost buying Google puts – please don’t make me come back as an Emperor Penguin.


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