Friday, December 24, 2010

Krugman on the "humbug factory"

Krugman great, as usual, this time on the disinformation spread by a well-oiled right wing publicity machine. The left, as he points out, has nothing remotely comprable.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Whose Money is It?

Paul Ryan, supposed "intellectual" leader of the right in congress, on Dec 16 repeated the often heard conservative line that "it's their money", that taxes are in effect confiscation of what private individuals have earned on their own. The implication is that all taxes are a kind of theft, morally offensive, and should be eliminated as much as possible.

Representative Ryan's intellectual prowess apparently doesn't extend to reading what it says on the dollar bill, which is "The United States of America," and not the name of any private individual or private individual's bank. The dollar bill is worth something because the US government has passed a law that it must be accepted as payment for goods and services, and because the US government is trusted to enforce the law. Pointing to what is written on the money is not just being cute, but goes to the heart of the matter. Money is a social product, and not a private good.

Money is only as good as the government. The advocates of minimal government are free to move to Mogadishu, Somalia, where it is reported that there is effectively no government, and there they can enjoy the paradise of walking down the street and dodging bullets from warring gangs and militias at any time of day or night. Or they can go to Zimbabwe, where the inflation rate reached nearly 100% per day, and people switched to using foreign currency.

Money being good depends the whole banking system, which in this country has evolved in a series of reforms in response to a series of financial crises over several hundred years. And this is by no means the only necessary intervention of government for a thriving economy. Adam Smith, patron saint of free market advocates, in fact in his great The Wealth of Nations cites a long list of proper functions of government action to make the economy thrive. He said that among the requirements of a good government are (quoting from the Wikipedia summary):

“To enforce contracts and provide justice system, grant patents and copy rights, provide public goods such as infrastructure, provide national defense and regulate banking. It was the role of the government to provide goods ‘of such a nature that the profit could never repay the expense to any individual’ such as roads, bridges, canals, and harbors. He also encouraged invention and new ideas through his patent enforcement and support of infant industry monopolies. He supported public education and religious institutions as providing general benefit to the society.”

Further, Smith supported the obligation of citizens to contribute to the state in proportion to their wealth, and in fact even more. That is he supported progressive taxation:

“The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, … in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state. … The rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion. …Every tax, however, is, to the person who pays it, a badge, not of slavery, but of liberty.”

In other words, Smith supported the idea, which Vice President Biden expressed in the 2008 campaign, that the rich paying generous taxes is a patriotic act.

The reality is that the slogan that “it’s your money” has no intellectual foundation. The ability of individual to earn a lot of money depends on effective government. And taxes are necessary to support that effective government, in a capitalist society. Thus a portion of what a person earns is not his or hers but rightly belongs to the government. What government should be involved in to help the economy is a legitimate debate. But the idea that taxes are confiscating what is rightly “yours” is sheer demagoguery. Furthermore it is unpatriotic, because encourages people to press for unwise tax cuts, and even not to pay their taxes.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The meaning of compromise and government by BS

John Boehner said on 60 Minutes that he doesn't want to use the word "compromise" for what he did and will do with Obama. He wants to call it finding "common ground". But common ground is when you find out when you agree. Compromise is when you don't find a mutually agreeable solution, and you have to give up something you want. But Boehner understands rhetoric very well. He says that when you use the word "compromise" the electorate will hear that as "selling out." The solution? Don't call a thing what it is. Call it something else and hope people will go along because it sounds good, though not true. Government by BS.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stunning collection of charts on income inequality

Center on budget policies and priorities puts up a stunning series of charts on income inequality. The last chart could be a header for this blog. I'm going to try to track down the charts Bernie Saunders used also.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rachel Maddow predicts non-coverage of liberals.

Interesting, in tonight's news Rachel Maddow predicted that the "inside the beltway media" would not cover the arguments of liberals against the tax compromise. Instead they would report about their complaining, but not actually report the arguments. I think she's right, but I don't think they cover conservative arguments either, only a few slogans.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Excellent article by Ezra Klein on the tax kefuffle

Excellent article by Ezra Klein on the tax kefuffle and what is says about Washington.

What's wrong and right in Obama's tax politics

Ok, here's my take on the current storm over Obama's political tactics. On the liberal side the feeling is outrage for his going along with the low rates on the rich. And they insist that Obama could have got a lot more.

I do sympathize with Obama here. Comedian Andy Borowitz has put up a "fake news" item expressing the Democratic left idea: Obama has agreed to put his balls in trust to John Boehner for the next two years. But where were the house liberals when they had the chance to vote for preserving the middle class tax cuts only, before the election? They had already "put their balls in trust." And during the health care debate Obama was criticized for not saying to the house and senate exactly what he wanted, but consulted them endlessly. Now he negotiated only with the Senate—where the road block is—and the house Dems are screaming. Personally, I think he should have had them at the table, but the screaming, given their earlier cowardice and criticism of Obama on the health care process, seems to me a bit lame.

All that being said, I really fault Obama for not going at the RepubliCONs for the past two years on their con of the American people, their holding that it is some sacred truth that cutting taxes on the rich is the key to a better society. There is massive evidence against this and he hasn't cited it, or made the argument. Nor has he made the moral case that we are all in this together, and the government is the only one who can invest in education, health, and infrastructure. And that these are key to our future, so we need more government spending, not less. And the funds need to come from the rich, who have profited obscenely more in the past 30 years.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Obama's deal

Interesting analysis of Obama's deal

And here from Ezra Klein the Washington Post

I am here parting with Democratic Left. I think Obama did the right thing, and the main failure to fight was in the congress.