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Toughen Up, Beltway!



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Can you stand a bit more complaining about the weather?

A friend in Fairfax County points out that between Christmas break, Martin Luther King Day, and snow days, kids in Fairfax County public schools have attended 22 days of school in the last 39 weekdays. Schools are closed entirely today because of snow that fell Tuesday. As noted in a Morning Jolt earlier this week, the Washington region takes risk-averse decision-making to new heights.

Toughen Up, Beltway

By 11 p.m. Monday night, most of the school districts in the Washington, D.C., area had announced they were closed in anticipation of an approaching “Alberta Clipper” snowstorm.

Tuesday morning, the federal Office of Personnel Management announced that federal-government offices in the D.C. region would be closed. Emergency employees and telework-ready employees were expected to work.

The first snowflakes didn’t fall until about 11 a.m. At 1 p.m., most of the major roadways remained clear, with the salt trucks having had plenty of time to prepare the roads. The Clipper did amount to a genuine snowstorm by the standards of the mid-Atlantic region, dumping three to seven inches.

My suspicion is that the Washington, D.C., area is a lot more capable of toughing its way through a few inches of snow. We would like to try, but nervous-Nelly school administrators won’t let us. Either that, or those administrators are terrified of nervous-Nelly parents.

Jake Tapper:

When I was a kid they waited for snow to accumulate before they called snow days. Then we had to walk home in it barefoot with bags of rocks.

The AP wrote that the U.S. is becoming a nation of “weather wimps,” attributing it to . . . global warming, contending that the warmer globe means we’re less used to cold weather, so we have a harder time coping with it. That article featured a Rutgers University climate scientist positing that melting Arctic sea ice is generating “more weirdness” in our weather. That darn indecipherable, precise scientific jargon!

But this isn’t really about the actual temperatures or precipitation; it’s about how we react to them. Winter’s always going to be cold, ranging from pretty cold to bitterly cold. Some years we won’t get much snow, some years we’ll get a blizzard or two. What’s stupefying is how this region always seems shocked by it.

Washington, D.C.,’s snow accumulation this year, now including Tuesday’s Alberta Clipper is . . . 7.2 inches. Yuppie Acres, Northern Virginia has already had five snow days and two delayed openings. The annual usual total snowfall in the Washington, D.C., area is . . . 5.4 inches. So we’re getting a bit more snow than usual, but not much.

(You can check out snowfall totals and averages for 57 cities here.)

The Washington Post’s Petra Dvorak spoke for exasperated parents a few weeks ago when there was talk that some school districts would close school because of the “Polar Vortex.” No actual precipitation, snow, sleet, or ice, just a blast of really cold air.

A cold day has no resemblance to the glory of an actual snow day — where the rinse-and-repeat cycle of getting all the snow pants, hats, mittens on, then going outside to play, then fighting and screaming because snow went down someone’s back and someone else got smacked with an iceball, then going home for hot chocolate — makes the day feel Sysiphean, but makes it go by faster.

A bitterly cold day?

Let’s crack an egg on the sidewalk and watch it freeze? Test that “Christmas Story” tongue scene?

Nah. This is our big chance to show the rest of the country that flintiness that President Obama longed for when he moved here from Chicago and learned his daughters’ school had closed because of a dusting of snow.

It’s time for the folks of Our Town to show the government how to keep functioning despite a deep freeze, how to hunker down, wear an extra layer and get it done.

Please? For the sake of parents?

. . . Human beings are capable of walking, driving, and functioning in snow; otherwise places like Boston, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Minneapolis (and Canada) would be abandoned throughout winter. But not only does Washington, D.C., fail to do that . . . it seems afraid to even try.

Tags: Weather , Global Warming , Washington D.C.

Just After President’s Obamacare Speech, Another Delay Announced



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Some bad, if not downright incompetent, timing for the White House this morning. Just minutes after the president had made a speech in which he slammed the opponents of Obamacare as naysayers and reiterated that there would be no more delays to the legislation, the White House announced . . . another delay to the legislation. Per Politico:

The Obama administration is delaying another piece of Obamacare – this time postponing online enrollment in some of the small-business exchanges scheduled to open Oct. 1, sources tell POLITICO.

Small businesses looking to enroll in coverage on so-called SHOP exchanges run by the federal government will be able to submit a paper application on Oct. 1 – they just won’t be able to enroll online.

The delay is expected to further stoke Republican-led concerns that the law is not ready and should be stopped before 2014.

The rest here.

Tags: Washington D.C.

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Rove: Cruz’s Marathon Speech ‘An Extraordinary Performance’



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Karl Rove, normally a critic of Ted Cruz, complimented the freshman senator’s marathon speech and said he had positioned himself well for 2016.

“I obviously don’t agree with the strategy . . . of trying to defund [Obamacare] as opposed to trying to delay . . . but that was an extraordinary performance,” Rove said during On The Record With Greta Van Susteren last night. “I mean, he was on his feet for almost 24 hours. He was cogent, he was thoughtful, he was funny, he was engaging, he was personal, he was personable.”

“He did himself a lot of good. . . If you’re focused on 2016 as he is, he has given himself a big head start,” Rove said, though he declined to label Cruz the front-runner for the Republican nomination.

Rove took a noticeably softer line on Cruz than he has in recent days. He previously called the defunding strategy “ad hoc” and said Cruz had created it without consulting with his Senate colleagues.

“At every step of the way, it’s sort of been cobbled together on the fly,” Rove said. 

Tags: Washington D.C.

Lobbying, America’s One Truly Unstoppable Growth Industry



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Today’s Morning Jolt looks at what kind of a Republican the GOP should run in West Virginia in 2012, how the “balanced approach” never seems to balance, and then this theme for populist campaigns in the near future . . .

Speaking of Fodder for a Populist GOP Theme in 2014 . . .

Glenn Reynolds says we’re headed in the direction of the Hunger Games series. This is where I would usually insert some pop culture quip, but I haven’t read the books and am not likely to catch the movie.

You know the story: While the provinces starve, the Capital City lives it up, its wheeler-dealer bigshots growing fat on the tribute extracted from the rest of the country.

We don’t live in The Hunger Games yet, but I’m not the first to notice that Washington, D.C., is doing a lot better than the rest of the country. Even in upscale parts of L.A. or New York, you see boarded up storefronts and other signs that the economy isn’t what it used to be. But not so much in the Washington area, where housing prices are going up, fancy restaurants advertise $92 Wagyu steaks, and the Tyson’s Corner mall outshines — as I can attest from firsthand experience — even Beverly Hills’ famed Rodeo Drive.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, the contrast is even starker. As Adam Davidson recently wrote in The New York Times, riding the Amtrak between New York and D.C. exposes stark contrasts between the “haves” of the capital and the have-nots outside the Beltway. And he correctly assigns this to the importance of power.

Washington is rich not because it makes valuable things, but because it is powerful. With virtually everything subject to regulation, it pays to spend money influencing the regulators. As P. J. O’Rourke famously observed: “When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.” But it’s not just bags-of-cash style corruption. Most of the D.C. boom is from lobbyists and PR people, and others who are retained to influence what the government does. It’s a cold calculation: You’re likely to get a much better return from an investment of $1 million on lobbying than on a similar investment in, say, a new factory or better worker training.

So, if we must raise taxes . . . how about a tax on lobbying expenses?

After all, when you tax something, you get less of it.

Tags: Washington D.C.

Imagine How Rich D.C. Would Be Without Reid’s Public-Sector Recession!



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The Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt, now technically produced within the wealthiest metropolitan area of the country:

The New Hold Music on Federal Phone Lines: Pet Shop Boys’ ‘Let’s Make Lots of Money’

As Vince Vaughn said in Swingers, “You’re so money, baby.”

Here’s the latest Yule Log to keep the Tea Party fires burning:

Federal employees whose compensation averages more than $126,000 and the nation’s greatest concentration of lawyers helped Washington edge out San Jose as the wealthiest U.S. metropolitan area, government data show.

The U.S. capital has swapped top spots with Silicon Valley, according to recent Census Bureau figures, with the typical household in the Washington metro area earning $84,523 last year. The national median income for 2010 was $50,046.

The figures demonstrate how the nation’s political and financial classes are prospering as the economy struggles with unemployment above 9 percent and thousands of Americans protest in the streets against income disparity, said Kevin Zeese, director of Prosperity Agenda, a Baltimore-based advocacy group trying to narrow the divide between rich and poor.

“There’s a gap that’s isolating Washington from the reality of the rest of the country,” Zeese said. “They just get more and more out of touch.”

Total compensation for federal workers, including health care and other benefits, last year averaged $126,369, compared with $122,697 in 2009, according to Bloomberg News calculations of Commerce Department data.

Kathleen McCaffrey seethes at Legal Insurrection, “So, there you have it, the heart of corporatism, rent-seeking and soul-sucking is prospering while the people who invest in businesses and innovation are called criminals. Why bother with a life of innovation and entrepreneurship when figuring out how to allot other people’s money has become such a profitable venture?”

Mark J. Perry, a professor of economics and finance in the School of Management at the Flint campus of the University of Michigan, wonders if the Occupy Wall Street protesters will even notice this: “Considering that Washington has the highest median income in the country thanks to all of the lawyers and lobbyists, and all of the federal employees earning compensation that averaged $126,369 last year, OWS might have the wrong target. After all, it was government housing policies originating in Washington that contributed more significantly to the housing bubble, mortgage meltdown, financial crisis and economic recession than any greed on Wall Street.”

Tina Korbe writes at Hot Air: “That’s exactly what the federal government does — overpays its employees. After controlling for differences in education, experience, occupation and other observable characteristics, federal employees earn hourly wages 22 percent higher than those of comparable private-sector workers. Even Alan Krueger, the chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, concedes: ‘Federal government appears to consistently pay higher wages than the private sector for comparable employees.’ And what about those added benefits? The average federal employee’s benefits package is also greater than a comparable private-sector worker’s — by about 30 to 40 percent. Simply reducing federal compensation to market rates could’ve cut $47 billion from the deficit this year.”

She points to James Sherk’s testimony before Congress in March that declared, “Market forces drive private-sector workers’ pay toward their productivity. A company that pays its workers more than they contribute will soon go out of business. A company that pays its workers less than their productivity risks the possibility of competitors hiring its employees away. In most circumstances, private-sector companies cannot systematically overpay or underpay their employees. These market forces do not exist in government. The government earns no profits and does not go out of business. Competition for workers limits the government’s ability to pay below market rates. Nothing, however, prevents the federal government from paying its employees more than they would earn in the private sector.”

Tags: Washington D.C.

The Ultimate One-Party Town



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The editors of the Washington Post would prefer that their local governing class act like the District of Columbia Democratic Party and their local government were distinct. Alas, that seems to be too much to ask:

NO ONE WOULD think it okay for the Republican Party to hold a partisan candidates’ debate in the Capitol rotunda. Democrats would know better than to use Dirksen office space to stuff party fundraising envelopes. The line between proper use of government resources and party politics is pretty clear. Except, it seems, in the District of Columbia.

Here, one-party rule has resulted in such coziness between government and party officials that the use of District facilities for partisan events apparently has become business as usual. Last week, for example, the D.C. Democratic State Committee held a forum in the old Council Chambersat the District-owned building at One Judiciary Square for candidates seeking an at-large city council seat soon to be vacant… No one can quarrel with the desire to open up the process to the public – but in a government building? It’s indefensible; D.C. law naturally prohibits the use of District government resources for campaign-related activities.

What’s most troubling is that no one seems to bat an eye at the practice. How else to explain the brazenness of the party to showcase on its Web site a picture of members seated at a table in the John A. Wilson Building stuffing invitations to the party’s annual Kennedys King Gala? A Democratic Party official said the party sought permission through proper government channels and that it’s not unusual for the party to use public facilities.

When they say “public facilities,” I wonder if they mean facilities open to the public, or government-owned facilities…

Tags: Democrats , Washington D.C.

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