Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Only "Repugnant?"

During his Senate confirmation hearings, President Bush's nominee for Attorney General, Judge Michael Mukasey, refused to answer one way or the other whether waterboarding was torture and therefore illegal. The 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent Judge Mukasey a letter, asking him to "clarify his views" regarding waterboarding. Several members of the panel have said that their votes to move the nomination forward will hinge on Judge Mukasey's response.

Yesterday, Judge Mukasey issued a letter in which he stated that techniques like waterboarding "seem over the line or, on a personal basis, repugnant to me, and would probably seem the same to many Americans." The letter also noted that waterboarding is illegal for the military under the Detainee Treatment Act. However, Judge Mukasey refused to say whether the technique was illegal in and of itself or whether it could be used by other parts of the government, most notably the CIA.

Judge Mukasey hedged most of his explanation on the use of the technique being "hypothetical." However, the technique is specific enough to be listed and prohibited in the Army's Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation. He also indicated that it would be irresponsible to make a firmer statement, but of course nothing could be more responsible.

Vice President Cheney has agreed that "a dunk in the water" to elicit information from suspected terrorists is a "no brainer." Waterboarding, however, is no such thing. Waterboarding involves restraining a person, pouring water over his face and into his throat until the gag reflex sets in, and thereby simulating the terrifying, physical sensation of drowning. One news report indicated that CIA officers who have tested the technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before giving in. Or as Senator John McCain, a former POW who was himself tortured, said, "to make someone believe that you are killing him by drowning is no different than holding a pistol to his head and firing a blank. I believe that it is torture, very exquisite torture."

The United States needs an Attorney General who won't equivocate on this issue and craftily define away "torture" into meaninglessness. If Judge Mukasey continues his evasion on this most fundamental human rights issue and effectively allows the President to continue ignoring Title X, Section 1003 of the lawfully-enacted Detainee Treatment Act, the Senate will be right in refusing to confirm him.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Vampires slurping electricity

Electronic vampires lurk in my house and are probably lurking in yours, too. While the bloodthirsty vampires of fiction are frightening, the electronic variety should scare you--or at least your wallet--even more.

Electronic vampires refer to the standby and low-power components in products like microwave ovens, DVD players, computers, phone chargers, and the like. They get their name from the two electric plug "fangs" that stick out from small black voltage adapters in consumer electronics but refer more generally to any device that draws power continuously, 24 hours a day regardless of whether the device is switched on. So unlike the fictional vampires, electronic vampires don't retreat when the sun comes out.

Those small amounts of electricity add up. It's estimated that some five percent of U.S. electrical consumption is devoured by vampires.

President Bush brought attention to these devices early on in his administration. One of the most useful things to come out of this was a directive to the Department of Energy to develop new standards for its ENERGY STAR labeling program, so that consumers could be better informed and act voluntarily.

To defang the vampires, there are three main things that consumers can do. The first is to shut off appliances and devices when they are not in use. The DOE recommends shutting down computer monitors and CPS if they are not going to be used for at least two hours. TVs, stereos, and lights should also be turned off if you are leaving a room.

The second is to really turn off some unneeded devices by cutting the power that flows to them when they are not in use. For example, cell phone, toothbrush, and other types of rechargers can be unplugged when they are not needed. It's as simple as removing the plug from the outlet. Other systems, like computers, are more complicated because of the number of plugs involved or the awkward placement of the outlets. For these systems, you can connect all of the relevant plugs to a surge protector with an on/off switch and then flip that single switch when the system is shut down.

The third thing is to look for the ENERGY STAR label when purchasing new appliances or replacing old ones. The approved appliances often use less than half the electricity of other appliances. The approved appliances typically cost more up front but end up saving money in the long run. It seldom makes economic sense to replace an otherwise functional existing applicance. However, ENERGY STAR replacements are a good idea when those less-efficient appliances wear out (or when you can talk your wife into the necessity of a new gadget).

Cutting energy use this way obviously saves consumers money without much in the way of inconvenience. It also reduces the need for power plants, cuts pollution, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. It's not tricky to treat your wallet and the environment well.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Napping while California burns

Nothing like a roaring fire (or 15 of them roaring out of control) and a cozy Cabinet chair to put our Vice President to sleep.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rep. Rangel's "mother of all tax reforms"

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) today introduced his long-awaited and mammoth tax reform bill, describing it as "the mother of all tax reforms." Rep. Rangel's bill is a revenue-neutral reform, meaning that cuts and other fixes that reduce the tax receipts going to Uncle Sam are balanced by increases in other areas. Thus, the bill is fiscally responsible--it addresses some problems in the tax code without adding to the federal deficit. However, this also means that the complicated legislation will result in winners and losers.

Rep. Rangel's bill would reduce taxes for some by

  • eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT),

  • increasing the standard deduction for households,

  • increasing the refundable part of the child tax credit for low-income households,

  • extending the coverage and amount of the Earned Income Credit (EIC) for low-income childless households, and

  • lowering the corporate tax rate.

  • At the same time, it would increase taxes for others by

  • adding surtaxes for couples earning more than $200,000 and single filers earning more than $150,000,

  • taxing "carried interest," mostly earned by investment fund managers, at the same rate as regular income,

  • eliminating many special tax breaks for corporations, and

  • changing inventory accounting rules.

  • By far the biggest changes are the permanent elimination of the AMT and the offseting surtax on upper-income households. The AMT was originally intended as a minimum tax for households with very high incomes that also claimed lots of deductions and would have otherwise paid little if any tax. The AMT is a good idea in principle. However, it has never been indexed for inflation. This has led to "bracket creep" whereby inflation pushed more and more families into the income range where the AMT takes effect. Congress has addressed the problem on a patchwork year-by-year basis but never enacted a permanent reform. Rep. Rangel's bill would simplify the tax code by eliminating this parallel tax system; it would also remove the uncertainty associated with the year-by-year patches.

    As currently structured, the AMT brings in an enormous amount of revenue; the projection without any other fixes was $800 billion over the next decade. Eliminating the AMT while remaining revenue-neutral means that all of that money must be replaced. The revenue losses are what have stymied previous reforms. As upper-income households benefit the most from the repeal of the AMT, it makes sense that compensatory, offseting tax increases should be concentrated among them. The proposed surtax is calibrated to match the loss in revenues from the AMT.

    Another major component of the reform involves corporate taxes. Tax rates would be lowered, but special deductions would be eliminated and accounting rules would be altered. The net result would be a simplified and more even-handed tax system. This would be devastating to tax accountants. But more importantly, it should remove the government from picking and choosing among special business interests.

    It wasn't that long ago that tax simplification was championed by Republicans. Indeed, one of the crowning economic policy achievements of the Reagan administration was the enactment of the bipartisan 1986 Tax Reform Act--a sweeping revenue-neutral package that eliminated deductions, lowered tax rates, and eliminated tax brackets.

    Sadly, bipartisanship and budget concerns are absent from today's GOP. The party's spokespeople and special business lobbyists are howling about the necessary offsets and licking their chops at the opportunity to point out all sorts of individual tax increases--without, of course, mentioning that there will be no net change in taxes and that the compensating increases will be concentrated among the very people who benefit the most from the repeal of the AMT. With budget deficits already projected to grow wider over the coming years because of war spending and looming old-age entitlements, the country needs to return to fiscal sanity. Instead, all the Republicans can offer is a bankrupt supply-side fantasy of never-ending (and never paid for) tax cuts.

    Because of the herd of oxen that it gores, Rep. Rangel's tax plan has virtually no chance of passing this year or probably next. However, he has offered a sensible, fiscally-sound proposal for finally fixing the AMT and simplifying several parts of the tax code. Maybe there will be an opportunity to return to the bipartisan "spirit of '86."

    A swing and a miss on the revised SCHIP legislation

    Update to the update. The Hill reports that today's vote on the revised State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) legislation fell short of a veto-proof majority in the House. The vote was 265-142, with 26 members absent.

    House will consider a new SCHIP bill

    Update to yesterday's post. The Washington Post reports that Democrats in the House of Representatives will introduce and vote on a new State Children's Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP) reauthorization bill today; The Hill has a longer article on the same story. Details of the legislation are still being ironed out, but it appears that the revision will have several features to increase support among Republicans. Most features of the original legislation, including its overall cost of $35 billion over the next five years and its financing through higher tobacco taxes would remain.

    Among the new features...

  • The bill will set a firm eligibility cap of 3 times the poverty line (about $60,000 for a family of four).

  • It would mandate that all applicants provide Social Security Numbers and have those numbers checked by the Social Security Administration to ensure that illegal immigrants do not get benefits.

  • Performance bonuses would be given to states with high enrollments in the Medicaid program to make sure that the greatest effort was being made to cover the most disadvantaged children.

  • It would place greater restrictions on participation by non-pregnant adults.

  • Recall that the House missed overriding the President's veto of the original legislation by a mere 13 votes; so, sponsors only need to pick up a few more votes to get a veto-proof majority.

    The administration is grumbling, with no apparent sense of irony, that the House is not negotiating. The Hill reports that Secretary of Health and Human Services Leavitt acknowledged that some of the changes addressed administration concerns but said "it would be clear that they are not interested in compromise, that they’re not interested in a negotiation, that they’re simply interested in being able to expand [government] health insurance to higher and higher incomes, that they’re interested in moving people off of private insurance to government insurance, that they’re interested in seeing adults on SCHIP, and so forth."

    The SCHIP train may finally be leaving the station. The administration should declare this a return on success and climb on board.

    Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    How did those adults get on the State Children's Health Insurance Program?

    I want to tell you a startling statistic, that based on their own states' projections -- in other words, this isn't a federal projection, it's the states saying this is what's happening -- states like New Jersey, Michigan, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Illinois and New Mexico spend more money on adults in the S-CHIP program than they do on children. In other words, the initial intent of the program is not being recognized, is not being met.

    G. W. Bush, Oct. 3, 2007.

    Last week, President Bush vetoed bipartisan legislation that would have reauthorized and expanded the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). SCHIP is a federal-state partnership, in which the federal government provides capped grants to states who in turn offer free or subsidized health insurance to children and pregnant women in families whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid. The legislation would have doubled funding for SCHIP and increased coverage substantially among the nearly 9 million uninsured children in the U.S.

    One reason the President gave for vetoing the expansion--and that his supporters have seized on--was that SCHIP funds were being diverted from their original purpose of covering low-income children and were instead being spent on adults. Indeed, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS, the federal agency that administers SCHIP) reports that in FY 2006 just over 700,000 adults in 12 states were receiving coverage through either SCHIP or a related Medicaid expansion program; this compares to more than 6.6 million children who were served by the program.

    So how did those adults get on the children's health insurance program? (Those of you who like your hypocrisy served up big are really going to like the answer to this one). The "startling" fact is that those adults are included in the federally-funded portion of the programs because of the administration's own 2001 Health Insurance Flexibility and Accountability Initiative (HIFA). HIFA encouraged states to apply for waivers to the statutory regulations for SCHIP programs to make a number of changes, including adding parents and childless adults who were not otherwise eligible to participate in SCHIP or Medicaid (the Robert Wood Johnson foundation summarized the provisions of HIFA); all waivers were subject to approval by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

    Prior to HIFA, some states covered adults in their SCHIP programs through their own funds; waivers approved under HIFA allowed them to use federal funds. As of September 2007, the President's own Secretary had approved adult-related waivers for 17 states. Of the states that the President now criticizes, New Mexico, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Rhode Island have had extensions or amendments of their adult programs approved since 2005 (corrected Oct. 24, 2007, please see #1 below). So absent the administration's own initiative and absent its approvals of individual state plans, there would be no adults other than pregnant women receiving federally subsidized SCHIP benefits.

    What about the costs of these waivers? All of the applications require the states to provide detailed cost projections (even if the states gave faulty projections, you would think that cost experiences would be considered when states like New Jersey and New Mexico renewed their programs). Also, state plans can only be approved if the overall impact of the waiver is budget neutral (i.e., it results in offsetting cost savings elsewhere) or if it relies on unspent federal funds. How could extending coverage to adults possibly be budget neutral? In some cases, states have used funds to subsidize employer plans that cover whole families or purchase entire family plans that cost the same as "child-only" plans.

    Through the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act, one group of adults--childless adults--can no longer be included in any new waivers (when the current waivers expire, the childless adults will lose coverage). Thus, existing legislation already partly addresses this problem.

    In a final hypocritical twist, it turns out that the President's own preferred legislation, "states can continue to cover parents up to existing eligibility levels".

    If adult coverage is such an awful problem, why did this administration encourage it, approve it, and propose continuing it?

    1. The post originally stated that "New Mexico had an extension of its adult program approved just last month, and New Jersey had its plan reapproved last year." Actually, the last amendment to the adult (HIFA) component of New Mexico's program was approved in June 2005. A different non-FIFA waiver component was renewed last month.

    Sunday, October 21, 2007

    Wal-Mart and wages

    An article by Emek Basker in the latest issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives (subscription required) analyzes the causes, benefits, and consequences of Wal-Mart's phenomenal expansion over the last 40 years. On the plus side, Basker finds that Wal-Mart is a boon to consumers both directly through the lower prices that Wal-Mart itself charges and indirectly through the lower prices that its competitors end up charging. Through technical efficiencies, especially early and continuing computerization, Wal-mart has increased productivity throughout the retail sector.

    On the negative side, Wal-Mart hurts the country's trade balance--approximately one-seventh of all of the consumer goods that China exports end up being sold by Wal-Mart stores. The company also has enormous market power in the domestic wholesale market, allowing it to restrict profit margins for its suppliers. Wal-Mart also drives profits down among local competitors and causes some of them to go out of business. Wal-Mart does not appear to add much to job growth. Although a new Wal-Mart will hire lots of workers, these employment gains are typically offset by job losses among other retailers. Finally, it appears that Wal-Mart may lower wages in the labor markets where its stores operate.

    One of the really interesting things in all of this is how Wal-Mart can keep its wage costs so low. The business itself is remarkably productive. The company leads the retail industry in terms of output per worker--productivity, efficiency, and size are its primary competitive advantages. Nevertheless, little of this productivity advantage seems to find its way into workers' pockets.

    Wal-Mart's checkered labor history is well known. The company has staunchly resisted unionization efforts, using both legal and illegal means. The company has gone so far as to shut down its internal meat-packing operations after a unit in Jacksonville, Texas voted to form a union and closed one of its stores in Quebec after workers there voted to form a union. The company is also facing a discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of 1.5 million of its female employees (although women make up vast majority of Wal-Mart's hourly employees, they are severely under-represented in Wal-Mart's salaried management ranks, both in absolute terms and relative to other retailers; they are also underpaid relative to men).

    But anti-union efforts and possible wage discrimination only take us so far. While the company is large relative to its competitors (in fact, it is the largest employer in the U.S.) and possibly able to affect wages in local labor markets, there still should be competitive pressures that force the company to pay something close to the market-clearing wage. Thus, the very low wages remain something of a puzzle.

    One potential explanation for the lower wages is that Wal-Mart may be able to bring the technological and scale advantages from its general operations into its hiring and human resource operations. Low wages usually imply high rates of voluntary (worker-initiated) turnover. Workers who are just entering the job market or who have recently been laid off may be willing to accept low wage employment while they continue to search for something better. Thus, workers come in the door, but they also go out the door as soon as a reasonable alternative shows up. Wal-Mart appears to have reduced many of the "fixed costs" of hiring. Because of the size of the stores, each one has a personnel manager dedicated to recruiting employees. There are streamlined procedures for hiring. There also appear to be relatively low-cost methods for training new employees, including self-paced computer-based learning, self-paced reviews of the employee manual, and coaching from department managers. In other words, if one employee leaves, she can be easily and relatively costlessly replaced.

    Low costs of hiring also mean that Wal-Mart can accommodate secondary workers, such as mothers of small children, students, retirees, and moonlighters, who wish to work part-time hours and may be willing to trade some schedule flexibility for pay. Businesses typically face a trade-off between the number of people they hire and the number of hours that each employee works. If the fixed costs of hiring are high, a business will employ fewer people but require them to work full-time schedules. If hiring costs are low (and if productivity doesn't vary much with the number of hours worked), a business can be more flexible and hire more part-timers. This flexibility may allow Wal-Mart to reach further into the lower-paid secondary labor market than its competitors.

    Low hiring costs would also allow Wal-Mart to continuously hire employees and then adjust its labor force by firing the least productive, least cooperative, or most expensive workers. Indeed, workers complain that Wal-Mart routinely fires long-tenured employees to make way for less-expensive new workers.

    Wal-Mart may also have features that appeal to certain kinds of workers. If Wal-Mart stores are continuously hiring, then workers who want immediate employment will find them appealing. Some people are highly risk averse or are unable to finance a prolonged period of unemployed job search; these people would prefer the "sure thing" of a Wal-Mart job. Along the same lines, Wal-Mart stores represent very stable establishments in a relatively unstable industry. So a Wal-Mart position would offer some measure of job security that other retailers can't match. Risk-averse workers would be willing to trade some salary for near-term job stability.

    Wal-Mart should "play fair" in labor markets. That means respecting workers' decisions to organize and paying women and men fairly. However, Wal-Mart appears to have many natural advantages in labor markets that allow it to attract productive workers at low wages. Moreover, the company is known for its ferocious low-cost ethic, which it certainly applies to its labor relations. It would be unreasonable for regulators or local governments to try to strip these advantages away.

    Friday, October 12, 2007

    Gore shares the Nobel prize

    This morning former Vice President Al Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work bringing attention to global warming. For Gore, the award caps a great year in which he won an Oscar and numerous other awards for his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Gore promptly announced that he would donate his half of the $1.5 million prize (corrected, please see below) to The Alliance for Climate Protection.

    Gore's story is a remarkable and inspiring one. After the close defeat to George Bush in 2000, Gore could have easily fallen into a state of bitterness and completely withdrawn from the public stage. Instead, he almost immediately began teaching. He also dedicated himself to his long-held interests in technology and climate issues.

    The documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, contains elements of the global warming presentation that Gore has been making and honing for many years. It also shows Gore during his travels and contains personal snippets that show how he has come to terms with the 2000 loss.

    While Gore's winning the Nobel Prize is a fantastic achievement that all Americans should be proud of, his strength in overcoming the loss and finding a different avenue for leadership is the real achievement.

    The original post said "that he would donate half of his prize." Thank you to Ged Maheux for pointing out the error in the original post. Corrected Oct. 12, 11:42 a.m.

    Monday, October 8, 2007

    National reconciliation moving off the Iraqi political agenda

    The Washington Post is reporting this morning that several top Iraqi politicians no longer think that national reconciliation is an achievable near-term goal. According to the article, the politicians see little hope for passing legislation explicitly targeted at reconciliation. It also indicates that the current Shiite-led government is simply unwilling to take meaningful steps to share power with other groups.

    The United States' current military surge strategy was put in place to buy time and provide the Iraqis with "breathing space" to make the hard political decisions necessary to mend their country. Without political reconciliation, the surge strategy is like sticking your hand in water--once you remove it, there is nothing to indicate that it was ever there. Absent reconciliation, animosity and the competition for political control will lead to a resumption in violence and possibly civil war.

    If Iraqis have indeed given up on this process, the primary justification for the surge has evaporated, and the U.S. is faced with two terrible choices. The first is to continue to remain in the middle indefinitely, keeping troop levels near where they are to minimize the violence. The "success" of this strategy is far from certain, as the pressures for both civil war and Iraqi self-determination are likely to lead to increased violence. Moreover, without a fundamental shift in how we replenish the troops, such as a draft, we cannot long maintain the current force levels.

    The second choice is to end the surge and reduce our involvement sooner rather than later. The mission of our remaining troops would be narrowed to fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq, helping to secure borders, and training troops. It's very likely that violence would increase, but again, without political reconciliation, violence is likely to be inevitable.

    Until now, the administration has justified its surge strategy using an investment framework. The U.S. was to pay a substantial up front cost in terms of troop levels and lives in return for long-term benefits in terms of Iraqi stability. The prospects of such benefits were always chancy; more and more they appear to be wholly unobtainable.

    Thursday, October 4, 2007

    Carbon emissions can come down ... and did

    A May report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration gave preliminary evidence that total energy-related CO2 emissions in the U.S. fell by 1.7 percent from 2005 to 2006. If the numbers hold up to subsequent revisions, that's very good news.

    There are short-term and long-term explanations behind the numbers. The biggest short-term explanation is that the weather in 2006 was milder than in 2005. The winter was warmer, while the summer was cooler. This led to fewer heating and cooling days. Accordingly, the biggest decrease in energy-related CO2 emissions in both absolute and percentage terms occurred in the residential sector, where emissions dropped by 3.7 percent.

    While year-to-year temperatures can go up and down, the long-term trends give some reason for optimism. Overall, the U.S. is continuing to become more energy- and emissions-efficient. Energy-intensity (units of energy per dollar of total economic ouput) fell by 4.0 percent from 2005 to 2006, and carbon-intensity (CO2 emissions per dollar of output) fell by 4.5 percent. Since 1990, the EIA reports that carbon-intensity dropped by more than a quarter, or just under 2 percent per year. At least some of this can be explained by restructuring in the economy and the steady shift from industrial activity to services and other types of commercial activity.

    Another positive trend is that the long-run overall growth in emissions appears to be slowing. Since 1990, overall emissions have grown by about 1 percent per year. However, since 2000, there has only been one year (2004) with emissions growth above 1 percent. Emissions declined in 2001, partly due to the recession and partly due to the brief transportation shut-down following the 9/11 attacks. After 2001 though, growth in emissions has been very modest; this occurred despite relatively strong growth in the economy.

    The short- and long-term pictures would be brighter still were it not for the transportation sector. Transportation has overtaken the industrial sector as the largest contributor to emissions. Since 2000, the growth rate in transportation emissions has been nearly triple the growth rate of residential emissions and 50 percent higher than the growth rate of commercial emissions. Energy-related CO2 emissions continue to be dominated by the use of petroleum.

    Both sides of the climate change debate should be cheered by these numbers. For the stay-the-course crowd, the numbers show that regular market and technological forces, and perhaps voluntary action, can slow the production of greenhouse gases. For the policy-change crowd, the numbers show that zero growth and even reductions in energy-related CO2 emissions may be more easily achievable than we might have thought, and that reductions can occur without driving the economy into recession. The numbers also seem to justify a special focus on improving the efficiency of the transportation sector.

    Wednesday, October 3, 2007

    Bluegreen? Just say no.

    The proposed Bluegreen development along the Haw River certainly makes sense to the Bluegreen Corporation and the current property owners but doesn't make sense to the rest of us.

    The development would benefit from the proximity to both the river and the state park. It would also benefit from relatively cheap land and proximity to the Triad. It's easy to see why it's an attractive development target and why people would eventually want to move there.

    It doesn't make sense, however, from a planning perspective. The development would be outside much of existing road, service, school, and infrastructure networks. More importantly, it would encourage sprawl away from the "Heart of the Triad."

    Guilford County needs development--especially high-end residential development--but that development should occur closer to existing urban centers, jobs, and infrastructure. The rezoning required for the Bluegreen development should be rejected. There is plenty of land to be developed in other parts of the county; the Bluegreen Corporation should go there first.

    Monday, October 1, 2007

    Running out the clock on climate change

    Sometimes you have to ask, "why bother?" Through much of this summer, the White House has put out the word that it is shifting policies and giving attention to climate issues. That now appears to be so much hot air.

    Last Friday, President Bush spoke at a conference of major greenhouse gas producing nations that was convened by the White House. Many observers were looking for the President to fill out his earlier calls for a voluntary system of reductions--maybe something along the lines of what he did with electric utilities during his last years as Governor of Texas. Hopes may have been raised when the President began by saying "Energy security and climate change are two of the great challenges of our time" and "The United States takes these challenges seriously." However, those hopes were subsequently dashed. The rest of the speech made clear that the President has no intention of making any serious efforts during his remaining time in office.

    Instead, the President offered to participate in negotiations that would lead to a working set of "goals"--not programs or strategies mind you, but "goals"--by next summer. These, in turn, would lead to a global consensus on goals that could be adopted by 2009. Of course, that comes after the President leaves office and means that the tough choices will be left to his successor.

    That's not leadership; it's running out the clock and passing the buck.