Monday, October 29, 2007

Bush Stops Going to Church

Oooh, another gem from Froomkin today, of note to me because, of the Bush supporters I have met, some of the most sentient have actually been those that voted for him out of appreciation for his religiosity:

Julie Mason blogs for the Houston Chronicle that Bush has apparently stopped going to church: "Another Sunday and President Bush skipped church. We can't remember the last time he went. He never used to miss church -- and we know, because we get Sunday pool duty all the time and have to get up in the dark and go with him."

Mason checks her files: "9/23 pool report: The president of America eschewed church on this fine Sunday and instead went for a bike ride in Virginia. . . . 9/30 pool report: The evangelical president did not go to church today, but he did go on a bike ride. . . . 10/7 pool report: (Bush gave a speech at the National Fire Academy) . . . . 10/14 pool report: (Bush was on his Crawford ranch) 10/21 pool report: Pool reported this morning and headed straight for biking, no church. . . . 10/28 pool report: No church, and uneventful bike ride at Fort Belvoir, Va."

Is the Election of Bush an Argument for Leninism?

While many people have been aware since 2003 of the fact that contractors in Iraq are not held accountable to any law in any country (I blogged about it years ago), it does seem like to the media it is a new discovery, or even a "loophole", as if "overlooked" by the Administration and not, in fact, by design.

Anway, Froomkin uses the media moment to showcase yet another example of how Bush Does His Job:

As it happens, President Bush has been aware of the hole for some time -- and deserves some of the blame for not fixing it earlier. Confronted about it in public more than a year ago, Bush literally laughed off the question -- and then, tellingly, described his response as a case study in how he does his job.

The setting was a question-and-answer session after Bush spoke at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in April of 2006. (Here's a video clip.)

One student, a first-year in South Asia studies, told the president: "My question is in regards to private military contractors. Uniform Code of Military Justice does not apply to these contractors in Iraq. I asked your Secretary of Defense a couple months ago what law governs their actions.

Bush: "I was going to ask him. Go ahead. (Laughter.) Help. (Laughter.)"

Student: "I was hoping your answer might be a little more specific. (Laughter.) Mr. Rumsfeld answered that Iraq has its own domestic laws which he assumed applied to those private military contractors. However, Iraq is clearly not currently capable of enforcing its laws, much less against -- over our American military contractors. I would submit to you that in this case, this is one case that privatization is not a solution. And, Mr. President, how do you propose to bring private military contractors under a system of law?"

Bush: "I appreciate that very much. I wasn't kidding -- (laughter.) I was going to -- I pick up the phone and say, Mr. Secretary, I've got an interesting question. (Laughter.) This is what delegation -- I don't mean to be dodging the question, although it's kind of convenient in this case, but never -- (laughter.) I really will -- I'm going to call the Secretary and say you brought up a very valid question, and what are we doing about it? That's how I work. I'm -- thanks. (Laughter.)"

Oh, and just because I am amazed nothing comes up in Google for this:
Election of Bush is an Argument for Leninism

Limits of Education as a Means to Equality

Stumbling and Mumbling has an interesting argument for a more equitable income distribution. It is in response to the often made claim that Education is the panacea.

Rich parents tend to transmit advantages to their children in all sorts of ways outside school: home tutoring; good genes; investment in activities and books; social networks; a culture that values learning; and positive attitudes.
To offset these advantages - that is, to create genuine equality of opportunity - poor children must get better schooling than rich ones, perhaps much better.
But this is not feasible. For one thing, it's expensive to improve schools; the link between inputs and outputs in education is weak. And there'd be huge hostility to this; just look at the outrage prompted merely by cheap ways to equalize children's chances of going to good schools. And even if poor areas did have better schools, richer parents would game the system to get their children into them.
Instead, a better solution might be to increase equality of outcome - not just through more progressive taxation, but by flattening organizational hierarchies. International evidence suggests countries with less inequality of income have greater social mobility.

One reason for this is that greater equality amongst parents would tend to reduce inequalities in investments in children. Another reason is purely mathematical. The narrower is the gap between the top and bottom quartiles, the more likely are people to move between them.

I would also add that it would alleviate the modern curse of the guilt due to underachievement well summarized in the first few chapters of Alain de Botton's "Status Anxiety"

Education, Over-education

A somber Krugman post today had me contemplating Democracy and, mixed with my recent enjoyment of MIT's free online lectures, especially Sylvia Ceyer's excellent Chemistry presentations
and the question of how to teach science to youngsters who are not blessed with mild forms of Asperger's,
led me to this post which echoed at least one recent Angry Bear feedback post on a Free Trade post, which begs the qustion of the purpose of education in an economy. This line from the referred to study abstract is significant:

"This adds to the relevance of preventing overeducation, and shows that being employed above one’s level of education contributes to workers’ cognitive resilience."

Essentially, you're happier if you are employed at a job JUST ABOVE your educational level than if you are employed at a job JUST BELOW your educational level.

And the aforementioned blogger, Zubin Jelveh, asserts that "the (U.S.) job market isn't built to help find a new job for a person who is stuck in a position that doesn't use their abilities efficiently.".

I still am left wondering, however, with each generation of scientific advancement and complexity, what percentage of the population can be expected to fully understand it (and thus contribute to it). I say this as one who considers himself cursed to being somewhere between the elites that do, and the those that don't. I think I understand enough to know where my capabilities end (somewhere in the mid-19th century...just before Maxwell's Equations).

And why are the Dutch seemingly the only ones studying these things?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Provocative Statement

I found this interesting point amongst an otherwise near scatalogical post. I think it brings together two of my interests very provocatively, Free Trade and History of Public Education:

If, as immigrationists often claim, the economy benefits so much from low skill workers, why continue to spend money educating native born Americans? Think of the economic boom to result if we stopped funding high schools and colleges in order to increase the homegrown pool of unskilled labor.

Libertarianism is Applied Autism

Ran into this gem of a statement today, originally attributed to a blogger named "AcrossDifficultCountry", and nicely showcased by one Steve Sailer.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rush Limbaugh Blackmails Reporter, Threatens Reporter's Children

This is such a revealing offense by Rush Limbaugh that word needs to get out about this. He says to a reporter, by his own admission, "We're going to find out where your kids go to school..." in order to threaten the reporter into changing his/her story on him (and by Rush's admission, the reporter did in fact change the story).

Rush Limbaugh blackmails reporter, threatens Reporter's children

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Reaganomics Finally Trickles Down To Area Man

Well done, Onion!

Reaganomics Finally Trickles Down To Area Man
October 13, 2007 | Issue 43•41

HAZELWOOD, MO—Twenty-six years after Ronald Reagan first set his controversial fiscal policies into motion, the deceased president's massive tax cuts for the ultrarich at last trickled all the way down to deliver their bounty, in the form of a $10 bonus, to Hazelwood, MO car-wash attendant Frank Kellener.

"Back when Reagan was in charge, I didn't think much of him," Kellener, 57, said, holding up two five-dollar bills nearly three decades in the making. "But who would have thought that in 2007 I'd have this extra $10 in my pocket? He may not have lived to see it, but I'm sure President Reagan is up in heaven smiling down on me right now."

Leading economists say Kellener's unexpected windfall provides the first irrefutable proof of the effectiveness of Reagan's so-called supply-side economics, and shows that the former president had "incredible, far-reaching foresight."

"When the tax burden on the upper income brackets is lifted, the rich and not-rich alike all benefit," said Arthur Laffer, who was a former member of Reagan's Economic Policy Advisory Board. "Eventually."

The $10 began its long journey into Kellener's wallet in 1983, when a beefed-up national defense budget of $210 billion enabled the military to purchase advanced warhead-delivery systems from aerospace manufacturer Lockheed. Buoyed by a multimillion-dollar bonus, then-CEO Martin Lawler bought a house on a 5,000-acre plot in Montana. When a forest fire destroyed his home in 1986, Lawler took the federal relief check and invested it in a savings and loan run by a Virginia man named Michael Webber. After Webber's firm collapsed in 1989, and he was indicted on fraud and conspiracy charges, he retained the services of high- powered law firm Rabin & Levy for his defense. After six years and $7 million in legal fees, Webber received only a $250,000 fine, and the defense team went out to celebrate at a Washington, D.C.-area restaurant called Di Forenza. During dinner, lawyer Peter Smith overheard several investment bankers at an adjoining table discussing a hot Internet start-up that was about to go public. Smith took a portion of his earnings from the Webber case and bought several hundred shares in, quadrupling his investment before selling them four months later.'s two founders used the sudden influx of investment capital to outfit their office with modern Danish furniture, in a sale brokered by the New York gallery Modern Now! in 1998. After the ensuing dot-com bust, Modern Now! was forced out of business, and Sotheby's auction house was put in charge of liquidating its inventory. The commission from that auction enabled auctioneer Mary Schafer to retire to the Ozark region of Missouri in 2006. Last month, while passing through Hazelwood, she took her Audi to Marlin Car Wash, where Kellener was one of the employees who tended to her car. She was so satisfied with the job that she left a $50 tip, which the manager divided among the people working that day.

"This money didn't just affect one life," Laffer said. "It affected five."

Prior to joining Marlin Car Wash in 2005, Kellener worked for nearly two decades at a local Ford assembly plant that is now defunct. Before that, he was employed by the FAA as an air traffic controller until his union went on strike and Reagan fired him, along with nearly 13,000 others. This is the largest tip he has received in his professional life.

"I thought Reaganomics was nothing more than a mirage that allowed President Reagan to reward his wealthy support base," Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) said. "But two generations later I am seeing Reaganomics in action, and I like what I see. It just took a little longer than I thought it was supposed to."

The tip has not gone unnoticed by the economic team in the current administration.

"Had Mr. Kellener received that money in 1981, like the Democrats wanted, it would only be worth $4.24 today because of inflation," Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr. said during an official announcement of the economic policy's success at a press conference Monday. "Instead, Kellener has a solid $10 to spend right here and now. The system works, and our current president intends to keep making it work."

Kellener, who has cared for his schizophrenic sister ever since her federally funded mental institution was closed in 1984, said that he plans to donate the full $10 to the Republican presidential candidate who best embodies Reagan's legacy.

On the UK Dentist Story

How pathetic. In response to the national outcry for national health insurance, a story gets planted in the US Media going by headlines such as: "English 'pull own teeth' as dental service decays".

I am sure the rate of self-performed dentistry in the U.S. is a lot higher than in the U.K. Only, the U.S. government has no incentive to do such a study as was done in the UK.

As I understand it, what has happened in the US and in the UK, since about 10-20 years ago, modern dentistry had been a great success in cutting down on stuff that historically plagued teeth (cavities, I suppose) and that for a period of time it looked like much fewer dentists would be needed (witness the closing of dental schools in the US during the late '80's and 90's. ).

In the UK, they recognized that great success and created a new contract with dentists to cut down on the number of patients Dentists had to see.

In the US, the dentistry field recreated itself, doing lots of cosmetic dentistry (to make money).

In the UK, the new contract apparently backfired in unanticipated ways (yes, you always get those with government programs). But all in all it seems a temporary situation in Britain until they re-do the new contract. In the meantime, if you have enough money in Britain, you can still get dental work done, just like in the US.

UK Story on Dental Care Problem

Dental Care Crisis in United States

Monday, October 15, 2007

New Dinosaur Named for Corporation

From today's news:

Futalognkosaurus dukei's name is derived from the indigenous Mapuche language meaning "giant chief of the lizards," and the name of U.S. power company Duke Energy Corp, which financed a large part of the excavation in Argentina.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Angry Bear (see link to the side) has had some good posts lately. Please check that blog out.

Also, Eric Alterman writes:

There's zero proof that voters ever cared about Hillary Clinton's cackle or John Edwards' haircuts or Al Gore's sighs -- stories that consume so much of the press corps' time, energy, and interest. For instance, throughout the extensive cackle coverage, do you recall reading or hearing a single quote from an actual voter who expressed interest, let alone concern, about Clinton's laugh? Read more (below)


The Cackle joins The Haircut and The Sigh


The media's comical obsession earlier this month with the tone and frequency of Sen. Hillary Clinton's laugh didn't just represent another head-smacking moment in the annals of awful campaign journalism. It also served as a preview of what's likely to come in 2008.

Anybody who thinks that if Clinton wins the Democratic nomination that the Cackle narrative won't be revived has not been paying attention in recent years. That's why it's so important to take a moment to understand the press dynamics that allow a story like The Cackle to flourish, and why pointless stories like that -- and John Edwards' Haircut or Al Gore's Sighs during a 2000 presidential debate -- only affect Democrats.

You simply cannot find examples in recent years of Republican presidential candidates' physical ticks or trivial personal foibles that the press has pounced on and announced to be wildly important and deeply revealing. That's just not a distraction Republican candidates have to deal with. The media phenomenon only applies to Democrats and the phenomenon only exists because journalists manufacture it.

Meaning, there's zero proof that voters actually care about Sighs or Haircuts or Cackles, stories that consume so much of the press corps' time, energy, and interest. For instance, throughout the extensive Cackle coverage, I don't remember reading or hearing a single quote from an actual voter who expressed interest, let alone concern, about Clinton's laugh.

That was confirmed by the polling data released after the cascade of negative Clinton coverage. One prominent poll showed she had opened up a gaping 33-point lead over her closest rival. The press manufactured an accusatory storyline about Clinton's calculated laughs, and voters couldn't have cared less.

The reason the Cackle story had such legs is that the campaign press corps resents Clinton (and the large lead she's opened up in the polls), and that disdain anchored much of the coverage. Just like pundits and reporters do not like Edwards and his populist streak, and just like they didn't like Gore when he ran for the White House in 2000, which led to the Sigh news coverage.

You remember The Sigh don't you? During the crucial final stretch of the 2000 campaign, pundits and reporters announced that Gore's ill-timed sighs during a debate against candidate George Bush were not only rude and condescending, but they might cost him the election. The New York Times' Bob Herbert wrote, "If he can somehow force himself to stop sighing and interrupting and behaving condescendingly in front of the television cameras, Al Gore may yet get elected president."

It's true, as the Daily Howler noted, that every instant poll taken after the debate indicated that Americans thought Gore had won the debate, and won it easily. So where was the proof that viewers detested Gore's allegedly smug style? Journalists didn't need actual proof. They just knew Gore was disliked. By whom? By journalists, of course.

Edwards this year battled the same press bias with the never-ending Haircut coverage, which has also been barren of quotes from voters who claimed to care about the coiffure kerfuffle. But the press was certain that The Haircut told us a lot about Edwards the candidate (that he's a phony and a hypocrite), which justified the swarming media attention.

A quick check of Nexis shows The Haircut was mentioned 120 times in mainstream media news reports about Edwards ... within the last 30 days. For the year, the Haircut tally is north of 700 news mentions.

That brings us to The Cackle, which was covered earnestly by the best and brightest gathered inside elite newsrooms at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Cincinnati Post, National Public Radio,, Reuters, Associated Press, Politico, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, among others.

Why did The Cackle matter? Because, we were instructed, it showed how calculating and inauthentic Clinton really is; how unlikable she has become. Just like The Sigh proved Gore was a jerk and how The Haircut proves Edwards is a fake. And because anecdotes are so much more fun to cover than actual campaign issues.

Our pundits don't do policy. They do personality. And it's not just the much-maligned cable talkers who bypass substance in favor of fluff. Here's the number of New York Times columns, written by staff columnists, that have examined, in detail, Clinton's recently unveiled "American Health Choices Plan": 2. Washington Post: 1. USA Today: 0. Chicago Tribune: 0. Los Angeles Times: 1. Dallas Morning News: 0. San Francisco Chronicle: 0. New York Daily News: 0. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 1. Washington Times: 0. Boston Globe: 0

You get the idea.

In fact, when Clinton did talk about policy during her recent Sunday morning talk show swing in late September, The Washington Post mocked her for talking too much. It was reminiscent of the 2000 campaign when Gore met with columnists and editorial page writers at The New York Times. Afterward, Maureen Dowd complained in print that Gore had been so boring, droning on and on about heath care and the environment. Dowd had no patience for such banalities.

What else did The Cackle, The Haircut, and The Sigh have in common? They were all typed right off Republican talking points, which hammer the notion that Democratic presidential contenders are phonies. Yet during the Cackle coverage Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz kept trying to push the idea that it was liberal Comedy Central host Jon Stewart who hatched the laugh storyline (who "kicked things off") by airing a clip featuring Clinton's chuckles and suggesting they were pre-programmed. During a online chat, Kurtz specifically pointed to Stewart's role to deflect the suggestion that the press had adopted yet another negative, right-wing talking point about a Democratic candidate. Kurtz's claim though, was false.

Yes, Stewart's show poked fun at Clinton, albeit in a very mild way. Even Stewart conceded on-air that the idea of a Fox News host asking Clinton why she's so partisan was funny, which accounted for Clinton's uproarious response on Fox News, one of the most authentic belly laughs I've ever heard a politician uncork on national television. (No matter, the pundits huddled and determined the outburst had been phony.)

But days before The Daily Show chimed in, right-wing talker Sean Hannity had already been making fun of the "frightening" Clinton laugh, and so had Rush Limbaugh. Fox News' O'Reilly Factor had tagged the laugh "evil," right-wing news website the Drudge Report had hyped the laugh (complete with an audio clip), and the Republican National Committee had started the whole news cycle off by admonishing the Clinton laugh via a press release, which was sent out within an hour of her concluding her final Sunday morning interview on September 23.

The truth is that just like the Gore-invented-the-Internet attack from the 2000 campaign -- which began as an RNC press release, was picked up by the right-wing media, and then embraced by the mainstream press -- the Clinton Cackle story was written and produced at Republican headquarters. It's curious that Kurtz tried so hard to pretend otherwise.

The New York Times and its dreadful Cackle reporting

Back to The Cackle. It was the Times that led the charge among the serious press into the utterly trivial pursuits of Clinton's laugh, and specifically the use of the sexist term "cackle." The Times also forcefully assigned motivation to the wayward chortles.

Let's take a look at the lede of the Times' atrocious September 30 article, written by Patrick Healy:

It was January 2005, and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton had just finished a solemn speech about abortion rights -- urging all sides to find "common ground" on the issue and referring to abortion as "a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women."

Healy goes on to tell about how Clinton, once off-stage, laughed inappropriately "for a few seconds" to a reporter's question about abortion. (FYI, the story was re-told exclusively through the eyes of Healy; nobody independently confirmed the tale.) But note the date of the anecdote: January 2005.

If I were a news editor at the Times and for some reason OKed an article about candidate Clinton's use of a loud laughter in public forums and what it meant to her presidential chances, and a reporter filed a story that opened with an anecdote that took place 33 months ago, before Clinton was even a candidate for president, I'd send the article back for a re-write.

But that's just me.

Then there was this paragraph, in which Healy was busy reading Clinton's mind:

So, instead of alienating Iowans who might not vote for edginess, Mrs. Clinton goes for the lowest-common-denominator display of her funny bone: She shows that she can laugh, and that her laugh has a fullness and depth.

First off, Healy's reference to "Iowans" made no sense since most of Clinton's identified laughs took place on national television, which meant voters in every early-caucus and primary state were likely exposed to them. (i.e. Why would she be afraid of alienating just Iowa voters?) Also, that Hawkeye state reference came out of the blue; it was the first Iowa reference in the article. I assume its inclusion there was simply due to sloppy editing.

Secondly, notice how Healy, based on nothing more than his own keen powers of observation, concluded that Clinton's laughs represented a "lowest-common-denominator" attempt to win over voters. What was his proof? He had none.

Healy quickly adopted the unproven theory that Clinton unleashes her laugh when faced with difficult, probing questions as a way to divert attention and defuse the situation. It's the same presumption John Dickerson used at Slate, claiming the laughs constituted an obvious ploy, a "strategy" to distract attention away from tough questions that she's going to "dodge." Soon the Politico's Mike Allen chimed in, agreeing the laughs were "a way for the senator to deflect questions that either are tough or ... could be trouble." And days later The Washington Post's Kurtz reported, categorically, that the laugh represented "a calculated tactic to deflect tough questions and perhaps soften her image in the process."

To prove the point about the laugh being a pre-planned tactic, here's what Healy wrote about Clinton's appearance on CBS' Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer:

The Schieffer moment seemed particularly calculated because Mrs. Clinton has most certainly not laughed in other settings when she has been accused of pursuing socialized medicine.

Try to follow the logic at work here: Clinton laughed when she was asked by Schieffer about her health-care plan. To prove that The Cackle was designed to defuse difficult questions, Healy noted that on previous occasions Clinton had been asked the exact same question about her health-care plan and she had not laughed. But doesn't that in fact prove the opposite? Meaning, if the laugh was "calculated" wouldn't it occur every time Clinton was asked about whether her health-care plan was an attempt to socialize medicine?

And do journalists really think that Hillary Clinton, who has been campaigning for universal health care for the last 15 years and has become a leading expert on the issue, is so nervous about the topic and unsure of the facts that when she's asked about it on national television she deliberately hides behind a giggle in order to camouflage her response?

Also, recall that the interest in Clinton's laugh came after she spent the morning of September 23 appearing via satellite on all five Sunday morning talk shows, during which time she spoke for nearly an hour and answered approximately 60 questions. As best I can tell, within that marathon session of interviews Clinton laughed just a handful of times, and the laughs lasted, combined, maybe 30 seconds. But if the Healy/Dickerson/Allen/Kurtz theory were true, and Clinton laughed whenever she faced a probing questions -- and she faced them for nearly an hour that Sunday morning -- then Clinton would have uncorked laugh after laugh after laugh. Instead, just a handful were audible.

In other words, the media's lazy, contemptuous theory about Clinton's chuckle, that it's manipulative and calculated, makes no sense. And am I the only one who chuckled that Clinton, previously depicted by the press as aloof, was suddenly being ridiculed for laughing too much?

Meanwhile, did you notice what was missing from the Times piece and the Slate piece and the Post piece and every other article and television discussion that took place about The Cackle? What was missing was any reporting, or even second-hand speculation, that Clinton's Democratic rivals were using the laugh against her, or that they were even discussing it.

Truth is, nobody from the other campaigns was talking about the laugh -- they couldn't have cared less -- just like none of Edwards' Democratic rivals ever brought up The Haircut. Both stories were driven exclusively by pundits and reporters who stressed that the trivial pursuits were politically important even though they could not produce any evidence to support it. Neither voters nor opponents cared. Only journalists were intrigued.

Posted to the web on Wednesday October 10, 2007 at 11:10 AM EST

Friday, October 5, 2007

Personal Income Over Time

This chart is median income of 15 year olds or older, who have non-zero income.
(US Census Bureau)
1950(1950 $'s, 2004 $'s)1960(1960 $'s, 2004 $'s)1970(1970 $'s, 2004 $)1980(1980 $'s, 2004 $'s)1990(1990 $'s, 2004 $'s)2000(2000 $'s, 2004 $'s)2004(2004 $'s)
OverallMale2 570(17 077)4 080(22 051)6 670(28 100)12 530(27 206)20 293(28 439)28 343(31 089)30 513
Female953(6 333)1 261(6 815)2 237(9 424)4 920(10 683)10 070(14 112)16 063(17 619)17 629
WhiteMale2 709(18 001)4 296(23 219)7 011(29 536)13 328(28 939)21 170(29 668)29 797, (32 684)31 335
Female1 060(7 044)1 352(7 307)2 266(9 546)4 947(10 741)10 317(14 459)16 079(17 637)17 648
Black/African AmericanMale1 471(9 775)2 260(12 215)4 157(17 513)8 009(17 390)12 868(18 034)21 343(23 411)22 740
Female474(3 150)837(4 524)2 063(8 691)4 580(9 944)8 328(11 671)15 581(17 420)18 379
AsianMaleNANANANA19 394(27 179)30 833(33 820)32 419
FemaleNaNaNANA11 086(15 536)17 356(19 038)20 618

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Tax Surcharge for War Proposed

Democrats Propose Tax Surcharge for War
By ANDREW TAYLOR – Tuesday, October 2, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three senior House Democrats proposed an income tax surcharge Tuesday to finance the approximately $150 billion annual cost of operations in Iraq, saying it is unfair to pass the cost of the war on to future generations.

The plan, unveiled by Reps. David Obey, D-Wis., John Murtha, D-Pa., and Jim McGovern, D-Mass., would require low- and middle-income taxpayers to add 2 percent to their tax bill. Wealthier people would add a 12 to 15 percent surcharge, Obey said.

The plan's sponsors acknowledged the tax measure is unlikely to pass, and admitted they lacked support from top Democrats, a fact immediately reinforced by the No. 2 Democrat in the House.

"This is not a policy which the Speaker or I have signed off on," said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

But Democrats have been seeking in recent weeks to contrast the approximately $190 billion cost of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars with the $23 billion increase that Democrats want in domestic programs.

President Bush has threatened to veto most of those domestic spending bills as too expensive. Those bills were largely written by the House Appropriations Committee that Obey chairs. Murtha chairs the panel's subcommittee that writes Pentagon and war spending bills.

"The war will cost future generations billions of dollars in taxes that we're shoving off on them and it is devouring money that could be used to expand their educational opportunities, expand their job training possibilities, attack our long-term energy problems and build stronger communities," Obey said.

At the same time, a group of Democratic allies, including unions and liberal advocacy groups such as and Americans United for Change, announced a grassroots and an advertising campaign urging Republicans to override Bush's promised veto of a bill expanding a popular children's health insurance program known as SCHIP.

The $3 million to $5 million campaign will be broadened to upcoming battles over domestic spending, including a measure boosting spending on education, health research and job training programs.

Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin unveiled polling suggesting voters side with Democrats in the upcoming budget battles.

"This is a fight that Democrats ought to welcome, that Republicans ought to fear," Garin said.

"SCHIP and the battle over spending priorities is the most important fight since the showdown over privatizing Social Security," said Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "I don't think we need to remind Bush who won that battle."

But Republicans pounced on the tax surcharge idea.

"Americans will reject Democrat plans to take away their hard-earned dollars and will penalize the party that demonstrates an inability to win the War on Terror," said Republican National Committee spokesman Danny Diaz.

Obey also announced that Democrats will not pass a supplemental spending bill for the Iraq war until next year, when Democrats hope public pressure could force Bush to change the course of the war.

Democrats hope their chances of winning a battle with Bush on the war will be better next year as the election season heats up.

"The showdown is going to be in January or February," McGovern said.

The lawmakers said the tax surcharge was similar to policies put in place to pay for the Vietnam War and World War II.

"By putting together this bill we hope people will stop ignoring what this war is costing American taxpayers and call the president's bluff on fiscal responsibility," Obey said.