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February 12, 2011 04:03 PM UTC

Weekend Open Thread

  • by: Colorado Pols

“Somebody told me it was frightening how much topsoil we are losing each year, but I told that story around the campfire and nobody got scared.”

–Jack Handey


98 thoughts on “Weekend Open Thread

  1. …I’m not entirely sure I agree with it, but it is worth thinking about…

    Time to end the mortgage interest tax deduction

    If someone proposed a tax “reform” designed to push house prices up and encourage buyers to borrow to the limit of their ability at taxpayers’ expense, it is unlikely that they would get much support. Yet that is precisely what the home mortgage interest deduction does.

    The research evidence is in. No matter what real estate agents say, there is no evidence it encourages home ownership overall. When it comes to home ownership rates in developed countries, the United States is roughly in the middle of the pack, about the same as Australia and Canada, which don’t have a similar deduction. Italy abolished its deduction in 1992, and still has a much higher home ownership rate than the U.S.

    The deduction does two things. First, by changing the relationship between the sticker price of the house and the actual carrying cost, it pushes prices upward and encourages people to buy bigger, more expensive houses. Second, it encourages them to borrow more instead of putting more of their savings into home buying, because in essence they get a federally-financed rebate on every dollar they borrow.

    It is one of the most regressive parts of the tax code, since it affects all house prices, including the price of houses bought by lower-income home buyers, who rarely itemize and get little benefit from the deduction. One study found that barely 10 percent of homeowners earning less than $30,000 take the deduction, but they pay higher prices for their homes to benefit more well-off homeowners. On top if this, it is projected to add $120 billion to the federal deficit next year.

    1. The National Association of Realtors is one of the largest lobbies in Washington.  The deduction has become a sacred cow regardless of effectiveness.

      They act like renters are sitting around unaware of the deduction and one day slap themselves on the forehead, “I coulda had a tax break!”

      The barriers to home ownership have nothing to do with that relatively small tax break.  

      If the tax break is kept, we need to limit it to one home, not the biggest, but the one where they are registered to vote or legal residence for other matters.

      1. The mortgage interest deduction (MID) is a sacred cow to the industry. Anytime in the past a proposal has been made to modify or eliminate it, the NAR and the NAHB (National Assn. of Homebuilders) spring into action. When the Deficit Reduction Commission again floated the idea a couple of months ago, I immediately got blast emails from the NAR and NAHB vowing to fight any modification or elimination. These are very powerful lobbying groups.

        Of course their main argument is an elimination of the MID would make an already depressed housing market even worse and it would plunge us into an even deeper recession. That might be somewhat credible, but probably not to the extent the NAR and the NAHB will gin it up to protect the MID.

        That being said, I believe it skews the market and while it makes home ownership “more affordable” (an intended public policy objective), theres’ no denial it’s a massive subsidy to a specific industry at a huge cost to the federal treasury.

        Credit card and other consumer loan interest deductions were phased out in the 1980’s. If the MID is modified at all, it would probably be under the same scenario, but quite frankly I don’t see it getting done now with the adamant opposition of the NAR and NAHB under the current state of the housing market. (Over one million foreclosures last year and a continuing decline of market values in most areas).  

    2. Even though I’ve benefitted from this deduction for several decades, I agree the time is coming to phase it out.

      Of course, with millions of homeowners underwater on their mortgages, taking away the deduction from them could send many into financial ruin — unable to sell their property and unable to afford the higher tax bill.  The financial turmoil would be huge and completely avoidable.

      To provide certainty for the market, I would drop the deduction on homes purchased after some given date.  Thus buyers would know going in what their true cost of home ownership will be, but not penalize current mortgage holders.

      Just like when Reagan took away the sales tax deduction, the market will adjust, and it will remove one more artificial distortion in our economy.  Then we can start to work on all the rest.

      1. which will inevitably become a political can to kick down the road of years, I think a better — more manageable and less disruptive — way would be a gradual phase out:  Say, the elimination of 10% of the interest deduction each year, over a nine-year period?

        1. No matter what, both solutions will be political footballs that will get tossed around by both sides.

          But I believe knowledge that your next house will not come with the deduction, while leaving current mortgages alone will be a lot easier for the market to absorb, as well as for individual homeowners.

          Seeing all homeowner’s taxes rise every year for 10 years, when it may not be feasible in today’s market to get out of your mortgage could cause serious damage not just to the housing market, but for potentially millions of economically stressed homeowners.  

          We are years from a fully recovered market.  Cutting out the deduction on home sales will lead to prices that better reflect the true market value, while not forcing even more foreclosures due to increasing tax liabilities on existing mortgageholders.

          And politicians wanting to get re-elected probably feel a one-time voluntary hit is better than spreading the pain onto the unwilling over the span of a decade.

    3. The deduction does two things. First, by changing the relationship between the sticker price of the house and the actual carrying cost, it pushes prices upward and encourages people to buy bigger, more expensive houses. Second, it encourages them to borrow more instead of putting more of their savings into home buying, because in essence they get a federally-financed rebate on every dollar they borrow.

      The deduction is the last thing that affects housing prices and what people choose to borrow. It’s interest rates that do this; that, and the way deregulation affected the whole mortgage and banking industries, allowing them to sell mortgages to otherwise unqualified borrowers, to trade mortgages on the markets, to make as much as they could from origination fees, and to leave some other sucker holding the bag.

      As far as this part goes…

      It is one of the most regressive parts of the tax code, since it affects all house prices, including the price of houses bought by lower-income home buyers, who rarely itemize and get little benefit from the deduction. One study found that barely 10 percent of homeowners earning less than $30,000 take the deduction, but they pay higher prices for their homes to benefit more well-off homeowners. On top if this, it is projected to add $120 billion to the federal deficit next year.

      … I know not every place is a big city where the most modest homes in the meanest neighborhoods would still be out of the price range of a family making $30k a year, but I can’t believe that there is such a significant group of $30k/yr homeowners filing 1040EZ’s that this conclusion is supportable. If you want to address regressive taxes, you have to go after sales tax.

    4. my understanding is that the deduction was expanded to include any housing, not just a primary residence.  I would first seek to remove that expansion.

      (Our household has only taken advantage of that deduction maybe the first and second years or our first mortgage.  After that, the interest total was not enough to use instead of the standard deduction.)

  2. Mubarak is out and that’s step one. But the Egyptians now face the hard part – creating a democracy. Here’s hoping they can pull it off. They do seem to have a pretty strong set of political groups so here’s hoping…

    1. I mean they spent who knows how many hours happily jumping up and down celebrating their victory (don’t know where they find the energy to smile for that many straight hours, much less chant, yell and jump up and down) without breaking windows, torching cars, etc., a la American sports fans in the wake of your average national championship team victory and today they are showing up en masse to clean up the mess left behind by their 18 day revolution and day of celebration in Tahrir Square.

      Good thing we didn’t try to take charge because these people are obviously doing a much better job so far with their self-liberation than we ever did with any of our helpful Bush “freedom agenda” invasions, overthrows and occupations.

      Many who have lived and worked with Egyptians and are close to the Egyptian military are popping up saying they feel that there is little danger of the military refusing to allow the development of civilian governing institutions or that the military will want to see the end of treaties now in force. Not that the military/civilian relationship will likely be the same as ours but why should it be?  It’s up to the Egyptians to work out that relationship.  Unlike our military, they have universal male conscription so the army isn’t something apart from the people.  And since it’s still the most popular institution, they don’t have to be afraid of them as are so many hated military forces in military dictatorships where its clearly “us against them”.

      So here’s what Egyptians are up to now:

      At the epicenter of the protest that brought down the three-decade regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, young men and women took to the streets again today — only this time, with a different agenda. Armed with brooms, gloves and trash bags, they launched a massive cleanup following 18 straight days of unrest that debilitated the country.


  3. In his continuing efforts to “Destroy Colorado Springs” (his words), Doug Bruce has formed a slate of 4 other candidates to run for City Council in the April election and try to form a majority.

    This slate will fall apart when one of the other four has the audacity to think for him or herself, deviating from the Bruce mantra.  Bruce will label that persdon a traitor and withdraw his support.

    Having this Gang of five run is actually a good thing.  With 14 people running for 5 At-Large positions, a great deal of the population is saying that they can at least reduce the pool of candidates down to 9 in order to decide who to vote for.

        1. That’s delicious.  It’s not that I doubted.  I just love to have sources when people accuse me of making stuff up! With Bruce, you really can’t make up better stuff than the plain facts, can you?

  4. I watched the game at British Bulldog, and it appears that Floppa had not one damn contribution on ice. ONE Shot on goal?

    The shorthander was a thing of beauty, but we need a #2 Goalie, ’cause Eastern European Ned Flanders is not cutting it. Again, maybe they could lure Chico Resch out of retirement….  

    1. Mine’s more an implacable bored to death with his giant ego and refusal to face reality.  But agree this isn’t going to do us any concrete good and agree that he’s washed up.  I guess maybe the thinking was, what can we do to get people interested in this sucky team again. How about bringing back Foppa? Don’t know how much or if it increased attendance for his first game but I doubt it’s going to do much good in that department either. Too bad Stewart can’t seem to get back on track.  We haven’t been the same since he broke his hand.  

      1. He’s a great guy, and loves playing hockey.  It’s been killing him to not play, and he’s finally found something where he can play on the ankle with very little problem.  He honestly is not egotistical, even as good as he is.

        The reason Dan hates him is because Pete OWNS his Kings.  He knocked them out of the playoffs two successive years when the Kings might have actually done well in the playoffs.

        Oh, well.

        1. ….because the Swedish Dive Champion would draw bS tripping and holding penalties, and then the Avs would get a Power Play.

          He’s now as annoying as Farve.

          1. He’s easily a hall-of-famer.  One of the best ever to play the game, and a genuinely nice guy.

            If you want to be a hater, let’s agree about Matt Cooke or Alex Burroughs. Clutterbuck? Ruutu?

            1. …I doubt there’s ever been a jerkwad on the Avs, at least at Sean Avery level.

              MAYBE Forsberg had HoF cred in his early years, but as the injuries mounted up, he relied more and more on drawing penalties than his speed or accuracy at shooting.

              Bottom Line – he can’t save the Avs season. He’ll get some butts in seats, but not dive them into the playoffs.

              You can go to Sportsfan on Federal and order my jersey….

                1. as he has for years, over his getting in and out, rinse repeat, generally while leaving people hanging until the last minute. This has been going on forever. He’ll never be in shape to play at anywhere near his former level again and the game has changed in the meantime. Sadly, you’ll see, LB.  This is going to go nowhere. I don’t have anything against Foppa except that he’s washed up as an NHL player. This is theater.  That’s all.

                  1. BC, I can tell you with all seriousness, and as someone that’s spent a good amount of time around and with him that you’re just not correct in your assessment.  Maybe someday I can explain in further detail.

                    1. He’s washed up, too old and slow to get back in at this point.  The guys who survive into their 40s never left and tried to come back.  At, what, 37 with all of  the physical damage and ailments he’s suffered, he’ll never  make it back to where he’s a legit addition to any NHL team.  Love of the game isn’t enough. The game has moved on. He’s a dinosaur. He may have a shining moment or two and you’ll be telling me how wrong I am, but it will only be a moment or two and I’m not wrong.

                    2. Although I always say that and I keep watching.  At least until it’s halfway through the 3rd and they’re down 3 to nothing. Again.

  5. I just came from a county re-org meeting and someone talked about some Republicans organizing to take over most (or all) of the chair positions at CCI.  It was intimated that the desire is to not have any consensus or bipartisan rule but simple majority rule.  Kind of disturbing to have happen with an organization that is taxpayer supported.

  6. Rep. Ron Paul won the presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference, finishing ahead of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney for the second year in a row.

    The Texas congressman, a libertarian-thinking Republican, earned an ardent following in the 2008 GOP presidential primaries that were ultimately won by Arizona Sen. John McCain.

    Paul garnered about 30% of the vote, with Romney getting 23%. The next closest finishers — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson — got 6%.

    I think this is the year the straw poll matters.  Clearly Rep. Paul can go all the way, if only the ‘establishment’ will get out of the way.

    In thinking of the ticket, I like a Paul/Bachmann combo–2 flavors of crazy for one vote!

    In any case, the prospects of a crowded field–each clinging to the mythical (if not historical) Ronald Reagan Conservative Action Figure President, as they violate His 11th, savaging and stomping on one another to make it to the furthest right reaches of wackiness–is certainly appealing.

    Romney is the obvious pinata the others will be swinging at for now. They should be able to damage him sufficiently I think, being the father of Obamcare and all, perhaps a member of a cult, and a renown fliper, flopping around like a dog on a roof rack (sorry Seamus!).

    I do think Palin would be a lot of fun in the race, but I think she really just wants to sell books and be America’s Tweetheart. Most could-be competitors will try to ignore her–and avoid her vengeance, as poor Ricky found–for now.

    As long as her name is out there, and the QUESTION, it’s good for the Palin (tm-should-be-pending, but Damn!  If only she would have signed the stupid form!  Who knew that was what those little lines are for at the bottom of documents, anyway?) brand.  

    The weird thing is–when you listen to the pool speak at CPAC, Paul almost makes the most sense.  And that is really saying something.  

      1. .

        “Light at the end of the tunnel.”

        “Turning a corner.”

        “We have about 70,000 combat troops in Afghanistan.  We’ve deployed 40,000 of them into 2 provinces, Helmand and Kandahar,

        and by golly we are turning the tide in those 2 provinces.”  

        What he doesn’t mention is that there are 10 provinces where the Taliban are more formidable and more entrenched than in these 2.

        Following his current strategy, he would need over 600,000 soldiers in order to achieve across the country the type of saturation he has in the South.

        Even if he were to switch to a “Counterinsurgency” strategy (no, Virginia, we are not pursuing a COIN strategy today,) he would still need another 200,000, trained in COIN, but they don’t exist.  


        1. I guess John Kerry, Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations, isn’t seeing the “light at the end of the tunnel” or the “corner turning”.

          He stated, somewhat underhandedly, a couple of days ago our strategy in Afghanistan wasn’t working.  

          1. In the mid 1980’s I went to a small dinner for a Vietnam Veterans group.  Company I worked for at the time had bought the tics to support the group (good cause) and Westmoreland was the speaker.

            I got a chance to chat with him during cocktails, but steered clear of the topic of Vietnam given my anti war activities and the purpose of the dinner.  

            After dinner, Westmoreland spoke and said only if he had been given the troops he had requested from Johnson (he wanted another 200,000 according to the Pentagon Papers) , he could have won the war.

            He was generally unapologetic about everything. No wonder we “lost”.  

            1. Brings back memories of the “teach-ins” at CU in the mid- to late 1960’s, and the endless generals who all seemed to have it figured out how they could “win” the war in Vietnam.

            2.  Nixon was president when it ended.  He won, right?

              And never mind that tape of Predident Johnson on the phone with Senator Dirksen in 68 when Nixon was telling the North Viet Namese to not negotiate with LBJ and instead wait, and negotiate with him and he’d give them a better deal.  That couldn’t have happened. And then just 12 years later Reagan does the same thing with Iran?  No way.

              We won in Viet Nam.

              It wasn’t Nixon who created the EPA- it was Ted Kennedy.

              Viet Nam wasn’t debt financed- Republican presidents would never ever debt fund a war.

              And the Mets sucked in 68.

  7. She actually appeared (and spoke!) at today’s Denver Democrats reorganization meeting.

    Upon seeing her own shadow however, she will return to DC and is expected to appear in Colorado again sometime in 2012 for a token campaign event.

      1. See… if CP = AF, then HUMB > SOAF, and therefore the only logical response is George Clinton and Rubberband Man. Exceptions can be made for The Heavy, and local talent.  But those should be rare.

        Conspiracies everywhere.

        Opposition is just more commies under the bed.

        (thanks for the car guy)  

    1. So nice of elpresidente, Fong and other SQirters to give bj a shiny toy to play with.

      Who are these people and when will they come up with actual evidence of anything, other than their Beckian style conspiracy theories.

      E.g., what the fuck does “well-funded” mean in re ProgressNow?

      I saw that alleged as part of the weird DPS/recall shitstorm.

      I mean, Pox Views, Glenn Beck, etc. are well-funded by Rupert Murdoch.  We all know what that means.  Are there billions of dollars behind ProgressNow?  Or a few paltry thousands.

      And why the hate on against this Alam Franklin?  Does he eat baby kittens?  Is he the Svengali-ist of manipulators?  Where does this Big Money he’s supposed to have come from?

      Aaaargh!  Question with no answers.  Who the hell are these people!?

      1. This is all proof that Easley must be recalled. Evil CoPols!

        In all seriousness, I’m curious about it, too. But every time someone comes up with an answer, they are so covered in shit it’s hard to judge who stinks worse.

        Why did “Fong” allow Pols to beat up on Romanoff even though she knew the ugly truth? Why come out with it now?

        Moreover, who the fuck cares? If this site is trying to influence politics, it’s not doing a great job of it.

        Finally, it’s time to release the release code for anyone who wants their life back. Alt+F4. You’re free!!!!

      2. I can’t believe that someone would write so openly about how they divulged information from two different sources, Progress Now and Soapblox, and openly betrayed another person.. I don’t know who Fong is but I sure as heck would never hire this person because they so freely betray past employers. Who knows what they would say about your campaign or company when they changed jobs. I don’t feel any particular love for some past employers of mine but I wouldn’t openly crap on them because that comes back to bite you eventually. A friend of mine lost out on a job when they called a previous employer and found out that the friend had been badmouthing the company all around town. This is a small town and political circles are even smaller.

        (long time lurker here finally compelled to comment)

      1. Well I didn’t see it then, because I don’t pay attention to Pols much anymore. You guys don’t post much that interests me these days, it’s all just conspiracy theories about the Tea Party and Frank McNulty. I obviously struck a nerve. I just thought it was kind of funny that the anti-outing Pols got outed by another website.

        1. Nobody but Pols even remembered what the hell you were whining about in the first place, by the time you posted this.

          Talk about nothing of interest: who outed who, when, why, where, a bunch of no-names throwing allegations and snide insinuations.  Gonna put food on anyone’s table? give an 8-year-old some breakfast, get the troops home from the Middle East, anything of any import?

          I asked questions, you were absent, questions still unanswered, all your “outing” bullshit means absolutely nothing. You are off the Island!    

  8. A letter from the Army Department telling units to destroy their records after the end of Operation Desert Storm has made it more difficult for injured veterans to get the medical benefits they need.

    The letter, never made public before now, says units were told to destroy their records because officials had no room to ship the paperwork back to the United States. The letter goes on to say it was in direct contradiction to existing Army regulations.

    “This could have been one, five, six, a couple of hundred or this could be thousands [of soldiers],” says Andrew Marshall, a Florida regional officer with the nonprofit Disabled American Veterans group. “You don’t know.”

    One solider trying to get help from the Veterans Administration for combat-related injuries says he has been turned down because his records are missing. He did not want to be identified.

    1. Interesting about the chemicals used in the war, which also included depleted uranium in projectile casings. Very toxic stuff and a lot of illnesses linked to it.  

      Guess we knew where the WMD’s were all along.  

      1. The Defense Department did send a letter telling the same soldier that he and others in his unit were in an area where exposure to nerve agents saran and cycolosarin was possible, but they should not worry about any side effects.

        To your point, it’s insanity! I want my country back, too! I want it back from the MIC.

    2. ..a lot of med records were “purged” in 2004 for some odd reason.

      And Federal law is clear – the VA cannot grant any disability benefits or award care for even presumptive conditions without documentation that shows a veteran was deployed.

      All of these guys (and gals) are fucked without Congressional Action.

      1. Because we now have an R House and we know they’ll do the right thing and they love vets, right?

        Except they’re about to kill Tricare.  But other than that. Oh, and they want to cut funding for Shinseki’s effort to cut the backlog. But other than those two things.  Oh, and …

        never mind.

      2. I’ve got some time on my hands and want to read up on this… I’ve got my head in a vice already and everything. Links links links, please?

        Which is the federal law about veterans benefits? How did it become public knowledge about the records that went missing in 2004–and were those Gulf War 1 records that went missing after the fact, or Iraq War records?

        @Sir Robin–thanks for getting this up. Can’t find any recent mention in any mainstream press yet, although the NYTimes did have this bit from 1997.

        1. Denise Nichols, a GW1 Army nurse and activist for those vets of that conflict, has posted the details on the destruction of Army medical records in 2004 and 2005. It’s all over, but their stupid search engine never brings me to the right article.

          I will post something in a diary once I find it.

          One of the vets I mentor is a OIF Army disabled vet that had his med records destroyed from 2004 – it was only because he had his military and personnel records was he able to get the VA to admit he was in theater, and then he was able to get treated (but not awarded disability)for PTSD as a presumptive condition.

          As far as MADCO’s claim about TriCare, I know that DoD is going to try and raise the fee they charge retirees for their so-called free health care for life (that we were promised prior to 1994) but I don’t think it’ll pass Congress.

  9. My U of M classmate got lead author in Science.


    The transition to full-time terrestrial bipedality is a hallmark of human evolution. A key correlate of human bipedalism is the development of longitudinal and transverse arches of the foot that provide a rigid propulsive lever and critical shock absorption during striding bipedal gait. Evidence for arches in the earliest well-known Australopithecus species, A. afarensis, has long been debated. A complete fourth metatarsal of A. afarensis was recently discovered at Hadar, Ethiopia. It exhibits torsion of the head relative to the base, a direct correlate of a transverse arch in humans. The orientation of the proximal and distal ends of the bone reflects a longitudinal arch. Further, the deep, flat base and tarsal facets imply that its midfoot had no ape-like midtarsal break. These features show that the A. afarensis foot was functionally like that of modern humans and support the hypothesis that this species was a committed terrestrial biped.

    1. EVERYONE knows that the development of longitudinal and transverse arches of the foot that provide a rigid propulsive lever and critical shock absorption during striding bipedal gait is a key correlate of human bipedalism. Zzzzz….

      (j/k of course, that’s awesome for your friend.)

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