Archive for February, 2009

The Next 100 Years

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

I have finished a book by the CEO of, George Friedman titled The Next 100 Years. My review of it will be up on Amazon in a day or so. In that review I commented that I was a bit disappointed by his lack of discussion of technical advances that may well affect, if not outweigh, the political ones that are the heart of his book.

Today, we learn about one of those advances that has to foreshadow huge changes in bioengineering and mechanics.

The creation enhances Seeman’s earlier work—a single nanorobotic arm, completed in 2006, marking the first time scientists had been able to employ a functional nanotechnology device within a DNA array.

The new, two-armed device employs DNA origami, a method unveiled in 2006 that uses a few hundred short DNA strands to direct a very long DNA strand to form structures that adopt any desired shape. These shapes, approximately 100 nanometers in diameter, are eight times larger and three times more complex than what could be created within a simple crystalline DNA array.

As with Seeman’s previous creation, the two-armed nanorobotic device enables the creation of new DNA structures, thereby potentially serving as a factory for assembling the building blocks of new materials. With this capability, it has the potential to develop new synthetic fibers, advance the encryption of information, and improve DNA-scaffolded computer assembly.

Here the biochemists have created what is, in essence, a mechanical equivalent to the ribosome that makes protein from DNA via instructions from RNA. The potential of such devices is beyond my comprehension and will probably exceed the imagination of anyone reading about it, including molecular biologists.

This is all about nanotechnology, the manipulation of very small structures. It is now understood to concern structures of atomic or molecular size but when Richard Feynman first offered a $1,000 prize from his own money, the size parameters were much less refined. He tells the story in one of his books. He also gave a classic lecture in 1959 that marks the beginning of the nanotechnology movement. In it, he offered a prize.

And I want to offer another prize—if I can figure out how to phrase it so that I don’t get into a mess of arguments about definitions—of another $1,000 to the first guy who makes an operating electric motor—a rotating electric motor which can be controlled from the outside and, not counting the lead-in wires, is only 1/64 inch cube.

I do not expect that such prizes will have to wait very long for claimants.

I fact, he waited a while for such a device to appear until one day a man came to his office with a wooden box and asked to show Feynman his device. Feynman had already seen many devices that, while small, were nowhere near his criteria for a nanodevice. Then, he said, the fellow opened the box and took out a microscope. “Oh oh,” Feyman thought, “this looks like it is going to cost me some money.”

And 50 years later, here we are. Who knows where this will take us in another 50 years ? I enjoyed Friedman’s book but there is a lot more to be considered.

The Obama economy

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

A better picture of Obama’s, and the Democrats’, economic plans is emerging. First, he is announcing plans to raise taxes in a recession.

Obama plans to unveil his goals for scaling back record deficits and rebuilding the nation’s costly and inefficient health care system Monday, when he addresses more than 100 lawmakers and budget experts at a White House summit on restoring “fiscal responsibility” to Washington.

In his weekly radio and Internet address today, Obama expressed determination to “get exploding deficits under control” and described his budget request as “sober in its assessments, honest in its accounting, and lays out in detail my strategy for investing in what we need, cutting what we don’t, and restoring fiscal discipline.”

Reducing the deficit, he said, is critical to the nation’s future: “We can’t generate sustained growth without getting our deficits under control.”

How is he going to get the deficits under control, considering that he just signed a bill that adds over a trillion dollars to them?

Obama proposes to dramatically reduce those numbers by the end of his first term, cutting the deficit he inherited in half, said administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the budget has yet to be released. His budget plan would keep the deficit hovering near $1 trillion in 2010 and 2011, but shows it dropping to $533 billion in 2013 — still high in dollar terms, but a more manageable 3 percent of the overall economy.

To get there, Obama proposes to cut spending and raise taxes. The savings would come primarily from “winding down the war” in Iraq, a senior administration official said. The budget assumes that the nation will continue to spend money on “overseas military contingency operations” throughout Obama’s presidency, the official said, but that number is significantly lower than the nearly $190 billion the nation budgeted for Iraq and Afghanistan last year.

Obama also seeks to increase tax collections, primarily by making good on his promise to eliminate the temporary tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 for wealthy taxpayers, whom Obama defined during the campaign as those earning more than $250,000 a year. Those tax breaks would be permitted to expire on schedule for the 2011 tax year, when the top tax rate would rise from 35 percent to more than 39 percent.

OK so we raise tax rates in a recession and that increases revenue ? Democrats seem to think that people will not alter behavior when incentives change.

Even some non-partisan observers question the wisdom of announcing a plan to raise taxes in the midst of a recession. But senior White House adviser David Axelrod said in an interview that the tax proposals reflect the ideas that won the election last fall.

“This is consistent with what the president talked about throughout the campaign,” and “restores some balance to the tax code in a way that protects the middle class,” Axelrod said. “Most Americans will come out very well here.”

How high could those rates go ? Here’s what a Democrat Congressman told his constitutents last week.

Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) hosted “Congress at your Corner” from 9:30 to 10:30 this morning. The meetings are “part of McNerney’s effort to reach out to and hear from citizens in the 11th District.” I have never gone to anything like this before, but decided to go to express my displeasure about the stimulus package. Keep in mind that this is NORTHERN CALIFORNIA. The meeting was held in a local bagel cafe, and I was happy to see that the place was packed with probably about 50-75 people. The vast majority of them were extremely angry about the stimulus package. It started out with him taking questions from the crowd, but then they started a line for people to talk to him privately because things were getting “out of control”. Several people then asked if he would consider having a town hall style meeting with microphones, etc. We’ll see if that happens. I’m not betting on it.

The writer finally got to talk to the Congressman.

When I got my time with him, I explained to him that even people who make $150k in Northern Cal. are not “rich” and should not be taxed as if they were. (A 1400 sq ft, 40 year old home here goes for over half a million, even after the housing slump. Then you add in real estate taxes, state income taxes, 10% sales tax, gas prices, utility costs, etc.) I also expressed my concern that about half the people in the country now pay no income taxes, so there is overwhelming incentive for them to keep voting for democrats and therefore higher taxes for the rest of us. He told me that he thought tax rates should go up for the very rich and that the top marginal tax rate should be 90%. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, so I asked in a voice that many in the room could hear if he really meant 90%, and he said yes. Several people asked me after my turn was over if they heard correctly what he said, and were amazed when I said yes.

Here is a Congressman who thinks that the rich will sit still and let the government take 90% of their income with taxes. How did that work out for Herbert Hoover ?

There actually is some history of revenue changes with tax rate changes. I doubt that Congressman has read any of this, any more than he read the “stimulus bill” he voted for. In fact, Obama told Charlie Gibson, in the most revealing answer of the primary debates, that he would raise capital gains tax rates even if it lost money !

Welcome to Obamanomics.

Health insurance in other countries

Friday, February 20th, 2009

We are often chastised that American health care is too expensive and private health insurance is inefficient. How much better would we be with a national health plan ? How about a few examples from the present time ?

Australia had an excellent health system in the early 1980s. The residents paid into a national health plan called “Medicare” that paid doctors’ bills and for other non-hospital services. The states, like New South Wales, built hospitals that cared for both insured patients and indigents. The doctors could see their private patients and the charity patients in the same location.

Then came the Labour Party, which in an election, promised free healthcare for everyone if elected. They won the election and most people stopped paying for Medicare. Except that no one had planned how to pay for the doctors’ services. There was chaos for a while. The exception was Queensland, the most conservative state, which had not built the big new government hospitals like the other states had. Much of Queensland was still covered by private care and doctors told their patients that, if they dropped their private insurance, they would lose access to the private hospitals.

Now it is 20 years later.

British retirees in Australia are finding a new problem; skyrocketing health insurance premiums.

The Britons, numbering around 6,000, reside permanently in the country on condition they do not become “a burden on the state”. That means comprehensive private medical cover is mandatory.

The expats, all of retirement age and including some Second World War veterans, hold temporary residence permits, which have “rolled on” through the years. Categorised as 410 visas, they allow holders to own property, travel freely in and out of the country and work for 20 hours a week.

Many visa holders are retirees who went to Australia to join their adult emigrant children.

Now, health insurance costs are forcing some of them to return to England.

It is not just that insurers assess visitors as higher risk. In Australia – where private cover is officially encouraged and bought by four in 10 citizens – residents’ premiums are subject to official control. Visitors’ premiums are not.

Consequently, Beria is petitioning the government to give long-term 410 visa holders permanent resident status.

The issue came to a head following legislative moves last year. Visitors’ medical cover was switched from its former category of “health insurance” to “health-related insurance”, removing the protection afforded by official capping of increases.

Annual premiums for a couple on top level cover are now more than A$6,000 a year (about £2,900).

That’s 4,152.80 U.S. dollars. Less than most US policies for a couple but a lot for a pensioner.

I thought health care was free everywhere else but the USA.

Military Medicine

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Here is a powerful account of a doctor’s tour in Afghanistan. Ironically, it from Mother Jones web site but a great account anyway.

What should have been done

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

UPDATE: Here is a pretty good primer on how the meltdown happened. It was those physics PhDs.

There is an interesting column today by Holman Jenkins that speculates on what might have been done about the financial crisis last year.

Letting the technical matter of keeping the banks afloat become a political football was a terrible idea. Letting our willingness to deploy giant sums of taxpayer money become the measure of credibility was a disaster. Letting all this be sold on Capitol Hill amid shrieks about the country collapsing into a Second Great Depression was a confidence killer across the economy, which until that point had held up well.

This was a crisis in bank liquidity, the consequences of another financial bubble like those described in A Random Walk Down Wall Street, now in its 9th edition. This has all happened before although few were as severe as this financial panic. Malkiel points out that many of these bubbles have been inflated by the supposed invention of “new technology” like the conglomerates on the 1960s and the LBOs of the 80s. This time we had astrophysicists inventing new derivatives that not even they understood.

A rational, not political, approach would also have latched on early to the striking fact that much of the subprime crisis stemmed from just a handful of fast-growing counties in four states where housing prices zoomed then plummeted.

Looking back, the biggest mistake was the original Troubled Asset Relief Program — not the idea itself, but because it required Congress’s participation. Giant appropriated sums were never necessary, except perhaps by the screwy reasoning that banks had to be made to lend again for anti-recession purposes.

The Fed and FDIC, formally or informally, had already guaranteed the deposits and other liabilities of the banks. Bank runs were off the table, so even if banks were technically insolvent, they could stay in business and have an opportunity to earn their way out of trouble. Withdrawal of investor support for the securitization of credit-card loans, auto loans and jumbo mortgages does present a big and somewhat related challenge (one the Fed is addressing), but otherwise the economy is not being starved for bank credit.

Jenkins points out that lending is not really the problem; it is demand.

the National Federation of Independent Business, the authoritative small business trade group, has reported deepening pessimism among its members — and yet no credit crunch. “Fewer loans are being made, but a substantial share of the decline is due to lower demand, not problems on the supply side,” the group reported along with its just-released January survey.

As this dynamic has developed, Obama and his assistants have continued to talk down the economy threatening a “depression” unless his pork-barrel spending bill was approved. The result has been the drying up of demand. Roosevelt punished businessmen with confiscatory taxes and changing regulations that paralyzed investing. The 1930s were a time of “capital strike.” Something similar could occur as huge amounts of money sits on the sidelines waiting to see if investing will become attractive again.

The ratio of cash on hand to U.S. market capitalization jumped 86 percent in the first 11 months of the year, the biggest increase since the Fed began keeping records in 1959, as the U.S., Europe and Japan fell into the first simultaneous recessions since World War II.

What will make the owners of this money decide to invest ? I don’t think the stimulus bill is the thing. Nor is a campaign to cancel contracts entered into freely and voluntarily. The present campaign to renegotiate mortgages in bankruptcy court is a terrible idea. Those of us who are current in our mortgages do not seem to be Obama’s favorites. The results of previous attempts at mortgage renegotiation have not done well with a 36% delinquency rate at 3 months and 60% at 8 months.

The crisis has become a political football and those rarely result in good outcomes.

Tony Blankley has some related thoughts on Obama’s governing style.

The car czar and why it won’t happen

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

UPDATE: More from Mickey Kausabout the bailout situation. This may not fly as the public is wise to it. At least 64% of them are.

There was considerable discussion about Obama appointing a “car czar” to solve the problems of the Big Three auto makers. That has now been cancelled. Why ? This might explain it.

President Barack Obama announced Monday that he will appoint, not a “car czar,” but a “Presidential Task Force for Autos” to “fix” the Detroit Three. The task force will headed by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, but it is the first name appointed by Geithner — “Senior Advisor” Ron Bloom — is of real interest for a number of reasons.

Ron Bloom is the UAW’s man in the administration. The only chance to solve the Big Three’s problems is bankruptcy. Not only are their union contracts too expensive, the work rules and other adversarial factors in the relationship will prevent the auto makers from restructuring and becoming competitive once again.

Bloom (and Keilin) made their reputation battling steel companies which, burdened by excessive union costs, suffered through a very similar experience to the Detroit Three thirty years ago. In fact, as the New York Times’s David Streitfeld points out in this superb article, five U.S. steel companies received over $300 million in bailout loans from the Carter Administration in the 1970s.

They still ended up in bankruptcy but, in the meantime, the unions had extracted millions in additional money from the taxpayer. Mickey Kaus knows what the problem is but Obama isn’t interested. This will be another boondoggle and will cost millions, if not billions.

But what’s a billion between friends ?

Welcome to fascism

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

UPDATE #2: The political left is already deciding which barrier to their agenda will be taken down next. The filibuster has to go, of course. ACORN is working on vote fraud.

UPDATE: Michael Ledeen sees it. His second column is here.

What is happening now–and Newsweek is honest enough to say so down in the body of the article–is an expansion of the state’s role, an increase in public/private joint ventures and partnerships, and much more state regulation of business. Yes, it’s very “European,” and some of the Europeans even call it “social democracy,” but it isn’t.

It’s fascism. Nobody calls it by its proper name, for two basic reasons: first, because “fascism” has long since lost its actual, historical, content; it’s been a pure epithet for many decades. Lots of the people writing about current events like what Obama et. al. are doing, and wouldn’t want to stigmatize it with that “f” epithet.

Second, not one person in a thousand knows what fascist political economy was. Yet during the great economic crisis of the 1930s, fascism was widely regarded as a possible solution, indeed as the only acceptable solution to a spasm that had shaken the entire First World, and beyond. It was hailed as a “third way” between two failed systems (communism and capitalism), retaining the best of each. Private property was preserved, as the role of the state was expanded. This was necessary because the Great Depression was defined as a crisis “of the system,” not just a glitch “in the system.” And so Mussolini created the “Corporate State,” in which, in theory at least, the big national enterprises were entrusted to state ownership (or substantial state ownership) and of course state management.

Maxine Waters was on This Week today. That is a scary prospect and it was as bad as it sounds. A grinning fool is in charge of our future.

I have worried about Obama and the fascist tendencies of the left. This “stimulus bill” is an example. It is a spending orgy of Democrat priorities, mostly to reward and strengthen constituencies. Thus, we see ACORN get billions even while they are prosecuted for election fraud. They are a core constituency of Obama’s and were even behind a lot of the real estate abuses that brought on the crisis. No matter. They will be rewarded.

Obama is not a communist. Fascism is a form of socialism that includes private property. It is often supported by private interests that think they have an inside track with the government. One example is big business, which loves this bill. The “Progressives” of the early 20th century were interested in power and control, not necessarily public ownership of the means of production. They also used censorship, just as threats of the “Fairness Doctrine” circulate in Washington now.

Why would Obama want to roll back welfare reform? That was Clintons great accomplishment but it was really, like most of his accomplishments, an act of the Republican Congress. Democrats have no interest in reducing the welfare rolls. Those are voters ! Why risk the possibility that they might stray as they gain self confidence in the work force?

The economic stimulus bill had very little economic stimulus in it, if you mean a solution to the crisis. That comes next. Banks will be bailed out on condition they continue to fund Democratic party imperatives like loans to risky borrowers. After all, there are few Democrats who understand economics.

I suspect we have begun our own “lost decade.” The Japanese used exactly the same sort of spending priorities in the early 1990s and built billions of dollars of infrastructure projects, many useless and redundant. We are about to do the same with the same result. Stagflation, here we come!

The political risk is an even worse consequence as we have a fascist in the White House.

Next week

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

UPDATE #2: More good news. The recession will end by late 2009 without the “stimulus.. Oh, and the Democrat controlled CBO says the stimulus will hurt, not help. Maybe it will hurt enough to abort the recovery, like Roosevelt did.

UPDATE: Delaying the consideration of the second TARP bill seems to be the strategy to avoid sticker shock with the voters when they see just how much money is being shoved out the door.

The stimulus bill seems destined to pass the Senate, then go to conference committee. On the Sunday shows, the consensus was that Obama is not as interested in “bipartisan” actions by Republicans so the bill will most likely end up closer to the House version, including the return of welfare. This may result in another contest for votes in the Senate. This Week, with George Stephanopolis, seems to be gaining stature the past few months and they had the best group today. George Will and Newt Gingrich provided needed depth in analysis. Gingrich pointed out something that I have seen mentioned nowhere else. Next week two huge bills will be considered that will involve even more financial risk for the taxpayer.

The administration is not talking about these bills because it wants to focus all debate on the “stimulus bill” and does not want to emphasize the huge amount of debt that is going to pile up. Credit markets may derail these masterminds’ plans.

Tax cuts are ideologically unacceptable to Democrats so the negotiations with Republicans were just not going to work. John Kerry does not want people to have the freedom to use their money as they wish. Both Will and Gingrich raised the point that a cut in the FICA tax would be an immediate Keynesian stimulus but, once again, Robert Reisch another member of the group today, noted that recipients of the tax cut may not use the money as the government wishes.

Senator Kerry and Secretary Reisch both believe:

If you put a tax cut into the hands of a business or family, there’s no guarantee that they’re going to invest that or invest it in America.
They’re free to go invest anywhere that they want if they choose to invest.

And we can’t have that.

Gringrich noted that the new FDIC authorization that comes up next week may place up to four trillion dollars at risk for taxpayers. I can understand why Obama does not want this discussed while the Congress is debating the “stimulus bill.”

Well, it looks like the “stimulus bill” will pass.

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

The Democrats seem to have gotten all their own people on board, and there was doubt about Diane Feinstein and Ben Nelson, and now they have two Republicans. Specter was always the most likely to flip. He was never a real Republican, having been a defense attorney for one of the most notorious murderers in Philadelphia history. Ira Einhorn was an aging hippie who murdered his girlfriend and, when his lawyer Arlen Specter got him out on bail, he skipped for 16 years. Republicans prosecute murderers, not get them off.

Susan Collins is one of the squishy Maine Senators we have come to expect little of. She couldn’t even bring along her colleague Olympia Snowe. That’s how bad this bill is. An analysis of the bill by economist Robert Barro makes a few points:The multiplier effect of government spending is never more than one and usually less than one. Paul Krugman, who is not an expert on macroeconomics, no matter what he writes in the NY Times, thinks World War II ended the Depression.

Barro ?

Because it is not easy to separate movements in government purchases from overall business fluctuations, the best evidence comes from large changes in military purchases that are driven by shifts in war and peace. A particularly good experiment is the massive expansion of U.S. defense expenditures during World War II. The usual Keynesian view is that the World War II fiscal expansion provided the stimulus that finally got us out of the Great Depression. Thus, I think that most macroeconomists would regard this case as a fair one for seeing whether a large multiplier ever exists.

I have estimated that World War II raised U.S. defense expenditures by $540 billion (1996 dollars) per year at the peak in 1943-44, amounting to 44% of real GDP. I also estimated that the war raised real GDP by $430 billion per year in 1943-44. Thus, the multiplier was 0.8 (430/540). The other way to put this is that the war lowered components of GDP aside from military purchases. The main declines were in private investment, nonmilitary parts of government purchases, and net exports — personal consumer expenditure changed little. Wartime production siphoned off resources from other economic uses — there was a dampener, rather than a multiplier.

Not so good. What does he think of the “stimulus bill” ?

He doesn’t like it.

you are fairly skeptical in general that fiscal policy will boost aggregate demand.

Right. There’s a big difference between tax rate changes and things that look just like throwing money at people. Tax rate changes have actual incentive effects. And we have some experience with those actually working.

What would you say is the best empirical evidence there?

Well, you know, it worked to expand GDP for example in ’63 and ’64 with the Kennedy/Johnson cuts. And then Reagan twice in ’81 and ’83 and then in ’86. And then the Bush 2003 tax-cutting program. Those all worked in the sense of promoting economic growth in a short time frame.

I’m the middle of a study where I am trying to estimate this overall, going back to 1913 — sort of constructing some measure of the overall effect of the tax rate at the margin, at the moment. I’m just looking at that now, actually…

You’re talking about the multiplier on a dollar of…

Well both things, but here I’m talking about the tax rate stuff. Get some measure of the effect of marginal tax rate that comes from the government — federal, state, local. And then you can see what it looks like going down or going up and how the economy responds. And then, in addition to that, the government might be spending more or less money on either military stuff or not on military stuff. And we can estimate that at the same time. With the government spending stuff, the clearest evidence is in wartime. It’s not that it’s the most pertinent, but it’s the clearest in terms of evidence because it’s the dominating evidence at those times, especially during the world wars.

What does his study conclude ?

One thing is what do you think about the ratio of spending to tax relief in the bill. And the second is, if you judge it by Larry Summers standard — that stimulus be temporary, timely and targeted — does it clear the bar?

This is probably the worst bill that has been put forward since the 1930s. I don’t know what to say. I mean it’s wasting a tremendous amount of money. It has some simplistic theory that I don’t think will work, so I don’t think the expenditure stuff is going to have the intended effect. I don’t think it will expand the economy. And the tax cutting isn’t really geared toward incentives. It’s not really geared to lowering tax rates; it’s more along the lines of throwing money at people. On both sides I think it’s garbage. So in terms of balance between the two it doesn’t really matter that much.

He doesn’t sound very enthusiastic. What about the Obama economists ?

They’ve brought in some reasonable people in terms of economic advisors. I don’t know what impact they’re having, and I suppose they have different views on Keynesian macroeconomics than I have. But I’m giving you my opinion about it.

I think Geithner is a good appointment. I think he’s going to focus on what really matters, which is the financial system and the housing market. That’s where they should be putting their efforts. That’s where the problems came from.

Fixing the credit market, you mean?

That was the main problem in the Great Depression, too. Though then it was concentrated on commercial banks which were the main credit vehicle. That was the main problem in the depression and fixing that was the main thing that ended the depression.

Well since you brought it up… I have no idea what your views are on financial economics, but it seems like there’s going to be another round of TARP-like bailouts. Do you have an opinion on how that should be structured?

That’s a hard problem. I mean, they’re basically floundering around — the crew of the previous administration more than the current one. But I admit they’re having a good effect by putting more resources into assistance. The exact way to do it is pretty tricky. It’s not clear what the best thing to do is. Larry Summers did bring in Jeremy Stein, who is probably one of the best people in the area. I think he’s going to have a lot of impact on that design. I hope so. That’s another person they hired recently.

So, what do we do ?

Tax cuts are bound to be better. I think the best evidence for expanding GDP comes from the temporary military spending that usually accompanies wars — wars that don’t destroy a lot of stuff, at least in the US experience. Even there I don’t think it’s one for one, so if you don’t value the war itself it’s not a good idea. You know, attacking Iran is a shovel-ready project. But I wouldn’t recommend it.

I don’t think this stimulus bill will do anything good. But it seems to be a done deal. It will be a long four years.

This might be McCain’s finest moment

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

McCain has always been recognized as a man of courage. He refused an offer by the North Vietnamese to repatriate him when he was unsure he could survive. Since his career in politics began, he has been an advocate of control of spending. Other than that, his positions have been all over the map and his Republican colleagues have been frustrated by his willingness to cooperate with the Democrats when the issue was one where solidarity might have been appreciated. His position on immigration, for example, has been puzzling and irritating to those worried about illegal immigration.

His choice of Sarah Palin was a welcome sign of an open mind and, while her campaign was mishandled, she was a sign that he could appreciate new talent. His conduct in the present crisis, however, may be his finest moment.

McCain’s stand is significant in a way no other Republican senator’s would be. He’s not the run-of-the-mill Republican making a partisan point. He’s hardly a Limbaugh dittohead. McCain is the Senate’s most relentless seeker of bipartisan compromise. His colleagues feared he might seek the media’s favor by going along with Obama.

But Obama left McCain and nearly every other Republican in Congress with only one option: Just say no. That’s what Republican House members said when they voted unanimously against Obamanomics. And on its merits, the Obama bill cries out for rejection. It’s dangerously expensive, crammed with pork, and bereft of credible economic incentives.

But, yes, there’s political risk in opposing it. An economic recovery may begin later this year not because of the Obama bill but in spite of it. Obama would step forward shamelessly to claim credit. And you can imagine the Democratic attacks on Republicans for opposing aid for college students, emergency help for strapped homeowners, funds for medical research, and all the other non-stimulative stuff in the bill. Politics can be unfair.

I’m assuming Democrats won’t embarrass Obama by failing to enact his first major piece of legislation when the final vote comes this week or next. Why would they balk? Like Obama, they adore spending. Never in the congressional careers of the current crop of Democrats has there been an opportunity for a spendfest like this. They will take full advantage.

Thus, McCain, so often the bipartisan, has seen that this is the time to say NO. He has earned the appreciation of the entire Republican Party for this stand.