So they’ve raised the national debt ceiling to $9 trillion. That should hold us for another year or so.

I may not have mentioned this (have I?) but it’s interesting to note that by the time the Republicans leave the White House January 20, 2009, if they do, our accumulated-since 1776 National Debt will be $10 trillion – roughly $8 trillion of it racked up by just three presidents: Reagan, Bush, and Bush.

Even today – not yet at the $10 trillion level, and at today’s relatively low interest rates – the annual interest on this debt is equivalent to about 40% of all the personal income taxes Americans pay.

It is terrible to think of the damage that’s been done to our country, at home and abroad, in five short years. (Though in fairness one must concede it’s been a grand time for the rich and powerful.)

Doug Langdon: ‘This vote more than any other shows which party can be trusted with the taxpayer monies. All 44 Democrats in the Senate voted for ‘pay-go.’ Fifty Republicans voted against it.’

Senate G.O.P. Blocks Tight Budget Rule
New York Times

WASHINGTON, March 14 – Senate Republicans on Tuesday narrowly defeated an effort to impose budget rules that would make it harder to increase spending or cut taxes, a move that critics said that showed Republicans were [merely] posturing in their calls for greater fiscal restraint.

In the first of several politically charged budget and spending issues confronting Congress this week, the Senate rejected on a 50-to-50 tie a proposal to restore what are known as “pay-go” rules, a requirement that tax cuts and some new spending be approved by 60 votes or offset by budget savings or revenue increases.

Democrats and a handful of Republican allies said that the added discipline was essential to getting a handle on the mounting federal debt and that the rules had been instrumental in reducing red ink before they were allowed to lapse in 2002.

“For those who say they are fiscally responsible, here is your chance,” said Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, senior Democrat on the Budget Committee. “You are going to be able to prove with one vote whether you are serious about doing something about these runaway debts and runaway deficits or whether it is all talk.” . . .

As Doug says, only five Republicans joined with all 44 Democrats in voting for this bill.


Roberta Taussig: ‘I think the strongest argument against it having been done by anyone other than Osama is how inept the President’s response was. He kept reading to children for seven minutes, then he flew around the country aimlessly while his spin doctors figured out what to do next, while Dick Cheney apparently assumed the powers of the President to order a plane shot down, then disappeared. If it was a conspiracy, surely they would have scripted a more heroic response.’

☞ And (while we’re debunking conspiracy theories), maybe all those put options on American Airlines and Boeing purchased shortly before 9/11 weren’t the result of insider trading, after all. One of you linked me to Snopes on this topic.


It used to save a fortune to fly round-trip – and sometimes still does. Indeed, it can sometimes pay to buy a round-trip ticket even knowing you will only use the outbound leg, because the round-trip is cheaper than the one-way. Go figure.

Now, however, it often costs no more to buy two one-way tickets than one round-trip. When that’s the case, I’ve begun to do it. The downsides: it’s a little more effort, buying and printing out two tickets instead of one; and there’s more chance of your being strip searched and sent to Guantanamo. But the upside is that if you have to change one of the legs of your trip – especially the outbound leg, and especially if your departure date is now just a few days off – you will likely save money. Instead of having the whole thing recalculated, you change just the one leg. Or perhaps grab a seat on a different carrier altogether.

Every situation is different, but this is a strategy arrow to add to your travel quiver. And here’s one more: don’t be shy about ‘wasting’ money on a ticket if, odds are, you might actually be saving. Example: I have to go to DC at the end of the month and then back to South Florida on a Friday (tough day of the week to get cheap seats in March to the Sunshine state). But I actually may have to go to New York a day earlier for something else. Not sure.

Rather than try to guess which I’ll do, I bought one way tickets up to New York and to DC – at a whopping $99 each, when bought in advance – and the single ticket I know I’ll need back to Miami (another $99). One of the two outbound tickets will be wasted (because on American, the change fee is more than $99 – on Jet Blue, with many fares, it would not be wasted) . . . but $99 is a small price to pay for the flexibility. Because if I had had to change a roundtrip ticket at the last minute, the last-minute fare plus the change fee could have been pricy.


If no man is an island, then this young man’s plight affects us all. His English struck me as rotten until I remembered the level of my Farsi. It’s not clear whether his story will end with a beheading or a boyfriend in Nottingshire. How can this be happening in 2006?


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