Obama's Top Priorities

By: Inoljt, http://thepolitikalblog.wordpress.com/

Below is a list of what, in my view, the most important to-dos on the president's lengthy to-do list are.

Of course I could be a smart aleck and just put -

1. THE ECONOMY

2. THE ECONOMY

3. THE ECONOMY

But that would be both unintellectual and too crude a way to make a point. Nevertheless - and quite coincidentially - all of the priorities listed below do link to the economy in some way or other. Here they are:

1. Fix the subprime mess.

2. Reform the banking industry.

3. Cut health care costs.

Details below the fold.

There's more...

A Map of Afghanistan's Election

By: Inoljt, http://thepolitikalblog.wordpress.com/

The New York Times posted a very interesting map of Afghanistan's recent election.

Photobucket

Before continuing, I must note that my purpose is not to question whether irregularities or fraud might have denied Abdullah Abdullah victory; I am simply analyzing the data as it appears.

There's a lot of data here, and interpreting it is fairly difficult; few people know much about Afghan politics and demographics. This map indicates the margins each candidate won. Kabul is the big red circle. In total, Karzai won 55% of the vote, essentially doubling the vote of the second-closest candidate.

Compared to a similar maps of U.S. elections, several things stand out. The first is the extent to which polarization is apparent. Afghani society is very clan-based, and elections can reveal polarization like nothing else.

At the point most politicians win an election by more than 20%, maps like the one above tend to consist of something like below:

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This is Barack Obama's 24.03% landslide in California. Compare it to Karzai's 27% victory: one might be forgiven for concluding that out of the two elections, Karzai did worse.

(Many) more maps below the fold.

There's more...

A Major Achievement

By: Inoljt, http://thepolitikalblog.wordpress.com/

A few days ago the House of Representatives passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, a meaningful reform of the way student loans are dealt with.

In my mind, this bill constitutes one of the Obama administration's most important accomplishments.

To understand why, provided hereafter is an explanation of what the bill does. In recent years, the cost for college has increased tremendously, to the point where total expenses exceed per capita American income. Therefore the federal government encourages banks to loan money to students. These loans are guaranteed and subsidized by the government.

Unfortunately, private banks are not in the business to help students. Many private student loans can be compared to sub-prime mortgages; they charge exorbitant interest rates, add numerous fees (e.g. the origination fee), and often take advantage of vulnerable, low-information customers. Moreover, under Republican banking reforms, student debt cannot be wiped away through bankruptcy.

Continued below the fold.

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