The former governor has a lot to teach Washington about earning a strong credit rating. Her secret: raise taxes.
In light of Friday's decision by Standard and Poor's to downgrade the United States' credit rating to AA+, it's worth mentioning again -- as I first did in this Atlantic piece -- that Alaska recently had its bond rating raised to AAA for the first time in the state's history, largely due to fiscal improvements brought about by Sarah Palin while she was governor. The state currently enjoys a $12 billion budget surplus. I was reminded of this fact over the weekend by Ian Lazaren, the indefatigable supporter-cultist behind Conservatives4Palin.com.
This is unquestionably a good thing for the people of Alaska, just as the country's downgrade is a bad thing. The state enjoys lower borrowing costs as a result. But especially in light of the current dysfunction in Washington, it's important to understand why Alaska's fiscal situation improved: It was largely because Palin raised taxes. Specifically, the state oil tax. Her central achievement as governor was signing a law, Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share (ACES), that dramatically increased the state's share of oil profits just as oil prices began to take off. There's a direct line between increased revenue and improved fiscal health. (Alas, the good folks at Conservatives4Palin have posted a gloating item about Alaska's credit-rating that both attacks Obama for raising taxes and neglects to mention that Palin's own tax increase was the basis for the improvement.)
This chart from the Alaska Department of Revenue nicely illustrates the result. For purposes of comparison, ACES is best measured against ELF, since the intervening tax (PPT) was tarnished by corruption and ultimately replaced by ACES, a story recounted in my piece:
She lived with us for 56 years. She raised me and my siblings without pay. I was 11, a typical American kid, before I realized who she was.
The ashes filled a black plastic box about the size of a toaster. It weighed three and a half pounds. I put it in a canvas tote bag and packed it in my suitcase this past July for the transpacific flight to Manila. From there I would travel by car to a rural village. When I arrived, I would hand over all that was left of the woman who had spent 56 years as a slave in my family’s household.
The condition has long been considered untreatable. Experts can spot it in a child as young as 3 or 4. But a new clinical approach offers hope.
This is a good day, Samantha tells me: 10 on a scale of 10. We’re sitting in a conference room at the San Marcos Treatment Center, just south of Austin, Texas, a space that has witnessed countless difficult conversations between troubled children, their worried parents, and clinical therapists. But today promises unalloyed joy. Samantha’s mother is visiting from Idaho, as she does every six weeks, which means lunch off campus and an excursion to Target. The girl needs supplies: new jeans, yoga pants, nail polish.
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At 11, Samantha is just over 5 feet tall and has wavy black hair and a steady gaze. She flashes a smile when I ask about her favorite subject (history), and grimaces when I ask about her least favorite (math). She seems poised and cheerful, a normal preteen. But when we steer into uncomfortable territory—the events that led her to this juvenile-treatment facility nearly 2,000 miles from her family—Samantha hesitates and looks down at her hands. “I wanted the whole world to myself,” she says. “So I made a whole entire book about how to hurt people.”
Bobby Moynihan, Vanessa Bayer, and Sasheer Zamata all said their goodbyes last weekend—in very different ways.
In the past, departing Saturday Night Live cast members have gotten whole sketches devoted to sending them off. Kristen Wiig was serenaded with song and dance from Mick Jagger and the rest of the crew; Bill Hader’s Stefon finally married Seth Meyers; Will Ferrell got a series of testimonials. On last weekend’s 42nd season finale, the show said goodbye to three cast members with varying tenures and legacies: Bobby Moynihan, Vanessa Bayer, and Sasheer Zamata. The first got a goodbye sketch of sorts, the second a couple of featured roles on her last night, and the third no acknowledgement at all. It was a slightly muddled end to what feels like one of SNL’s weaker eras—even as the show breaks ratings records in the age of Donald Trump.
The reported suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester was aimed at preteen and teenage girls enjoying one of the best nights of their lives.
Every terrorist attack is an atrocity. But there’s something uniquely cowardly and especially cruel in targeting a venue filled with girls and young women. On Monday night, a reported suicide bomber detonated a device outside Manchester Arena, killing 22 people, many of whom were children. The victims had gathered at the 21,000-seat venue to see the pop musician Ariana Grande, a former Nickelodeon TV star whose fan base predominantly includes preteen and teenage girls. The goal of the attack, therefore, was to kill and maim as many of these women and children as possible.
How can you respond to such an event? Like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, it’s something so horrific in intent and execution that it boggles the mind. And like the 2015 attack claimed by ISIS at the Bataclan theater in Paris and the shooting in Orlando last year, the Manchester bombing was targeting people who were celebrating life itself—the joy of music and the ritual of experiencing it as a community. For a number of children at the Grande concert, it would have been their first live musical event. Images and video of the aftermath of the bombing, depicting teenagers fleeing from the event, reveal some still clutching the pink balloons that Grande’s team had released during the show. The youngest confirmed victim of the attack, Saffie Rose Roussos, was 8 years old.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu explains to his city why four monuments commemorating the Lost Cause and the Confederacy had to come down.
Last week, the City of New Orleans finished removing four monuments—to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Generals P.G.T. Beauregard and Robert E. Lee, and the postwar battle of Liberty Place. The removals occasioned threats, protests, and celebrations. On Friday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu explained to his city why he had concluded that the monuments needed to come down.
The soul of our beloved City is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way—for both good and for ill.
The office was, until a few decades ago, the last stronghold of fashion formality. Silicon Valley changed that.
Americans began the 20th century in bustles and bowler hats and ended it in velour sweatsuits and flannel shirts—the most radical shift in dress standards in human history. At the center of this sartorial revolution was business casual, a genre of dress that broke the last bastion of formality—office attire—to redefine the American wardrobe.
Born in Silicon Valley in the early 1980s, business casual consists of khaki pants, sensible shoes, and button-down collared shirts. By the time it was mainstream, in the 1990s, it flummoxed HR managers and employees alike. “Welcome to the confusing world of business casual,” declared a fashion writer for the Chicago Tribune in 1995. With time and some coaching, people caught on. Today, though, the term “business casual” is nearly obsolete for describing the clothing of a workforce that includes many who work from home in yoga pants, put on a clean T-shirt for a Skype meeting, and don’t always go into the office.
Why a schoolyard taunt could be a savvy strategy against ISIS
Donald Trump is famous for describing his many opponents—from Rosie O’Donnell to an astrologer in Cleveland named Gary—as “losers.” But on Tuesday, following a terrorist attack that killed at least 22 people at a concert in the English city of Manchester, the American president did something new and notable: He applied the term to those who have claimed responsibility for detonating a bomb among teenagers who had gathered to watch Ariana Grande perform—an act for which ISIS has taken credit.
“So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life,” Trump said during a visit to Israel. “I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term. They would think that’s a great name. I will call them from now on losers because that’s what they are. They’re losers. And we’ll have more of them. But they’re losers—just remember that.”
The president wants to cut funding for programs such as career and technical education and redirect that money toward school choice.
Many of the spending goals outlined in Donald Trump’s proposed education budget reflect his campaign rhetoric. The president, who has long called for reducing the federal government’s role in schools and universities, wants to cut the Education Department’s funding by $9.2 billion, or 13.6 percent of the budget approved by Congress last month. The few areas that would see a boost pertain to school choice, an idea that Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have repeatedly touted as a top priority. In the White House’s spending proposal, hundreds of millions of the dollars would go toward charter-school and voucher initiatives, while another $1 billion in grants would encourage states to adopt school-choice policies.
The story of a decades-long lead-poisoning lawsuit in New Orleans illustrates how the toxin destroys black families and communities alike.
Casey Billieson was fighting against the world.
Hers was a charge carried by many mothers: moving mountains to make the best future for her two sons. But the mountains she faced were taller than most. To start, she had to raise her boys in the Lafitte housing projects in Treme, near the epicenter of a crime wave in New Orleans. In the spring of 1994, like mothers in violent cities the world over, Billieson anticipated the bloom in murders the thaw would bring. Fueled by the drug trade and a rising scourge of police corruption and brutality, violence rose to unseen levels that year, and the city’s murder rate surged to the highest in the country.
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And other tales from the intersection of science and airport security
When Martin Cohn passed through airport security at Ronald Reagan Airport, he figured that he’d probably get some questions about the 3-D-printed model of a mouse penis in his bag.
The model is 15 centimeters long, made of clear translucent plastic, and indisputably phallic— like the dismembered member of some monstrous, transparent, 11-foot rodent. One of Cohn’s colleagues had already been questioned about it when she carried it on an outward flight from Gainesville to Washington D.C. She put it through the security scanner, and the bag got pulled. A TSA official looked inside, winked at her, and let her go. She was amused but embarrassed, so Cohn offered to take the model home on the return flight.