Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Newt, Master of the Evil Tongue

In the ethics of the Jewish sages, the "evil tongue," lashon hara in Hebrew, is condemned as a common but particularly heinous sin. The sages said that the evil tongue is more destructive than an arrow, because it can be let loose in Rome and kill in Syria. The great medieval sage, Maimonides, had a special category of person he condemned particularly harshly, the "master of the evil tongue," ba'al lashon hara in Hebrew.

Newt Gingrich is probably the most influential and destructive master of the evil tongue in our time. As Dana Milbank reminded us recently in the Washington Post, Newt way back in 1978 wrote “one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty.” He then has worked his whole career to correct that "problem" by devoting much effort to creative name-calling and character assassination. In an infamous memo, he advocated calling the opposition: “anti,” “betray,” “bizarre,” “corrupt,” “destructive,” “disgrace,” “shame,” “lie,” “pathetic,” “radical,” “self-serving,” “selfish,” “shallow,” “shame,” “sick,” “traitors.”

Newt is a guy who stayed up nights thinking of names to call people. A true master of the evil tongue. Sarah Palin recently gave Newt a run for his money as a mistress of the evil tongue, rising to new heights by combining a beautiful face and malicious speech in a way outdoing the movie "Mean Girls." But for a lasting impact, no one has outdone Newt.

Now we have the delicious sight of the master of the evil tongue being slaughtered by millions spent on calling him names, and succeeding in tearing him down. Perhaps it's bad form to rejoice, but it certainly couldn't happen to a more deserving fellow.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Debate over Keynes and Government Spending

One of the key differences today is over whether government stimulus is the way to reverse high unemployment, and the great suffering that goes with it.

Nixon once said "We are all Keynesians now," but since the rise of "supply side" economics Republicans have had a strong anti-Keynesian stream. While consistency has never been politicians' strong suit, the rejection of Keynes has been a reason to dismiss Obama's stimulus as useless, and to combat any efforts at stimulus.

This is a critical issue, because a key divide now is over whether we go for austerity—cutting government spending—or increasing spending through government.

Unfortunately reporters in the mainstream press won't touch this issue, on the question of where the truth lies. But it is raging in op-eds. Here Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson attacks Keynes, and in response Paul Krugman and Dean Baker issue lacerating replies. It will be interesting to see if the mainstream press reports on the debate.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Conservative rejects "alternative universe" of dishonest Conservative media

Former W. Bush speech writer and Conservative semi-apostate (he's honest) David Frum has written about the "alternative universe" of Fox News and conservative talk radio which "immerse their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information." Here is an interesting interview with Howard Kurtz, media reporter on CNN. What is amazing to me is the push back from Kurtz.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Political Reporters don't care about policy

—And almost all reporting on television is political reporting. Hence the public has little information on which to based an informed decision about politicians. I was glad to see some agreement on this from one of my favorites, Paul Krugman. He goes on to excoriate Politico complimentary coverage of Paul Ryan's health care "plan."

He writes: "Even if you like the thrust of Ryan’s ideas, even if you think privatizing Medicare and turning it into a voucher scheme is fine, what became painfully, embarrassingly clear during the debate over the Ryan plan was that Ryan is, well, incompetent; the plan was a mess, from its invocation of ludicrous Heritage Foundation projections to its crazy assertions about what would happen to discretionary spending. ...Oh, and it was pretty clear that Ryan wasn’t being honest about his own numbers."

Why the incompetence and dishonest? Well it all makes sense if they are not interested in actually improving the country, but only conning the Republic on behalf of their paymasters. As I was saying...

Starving the Watchdogs

The Republican war on facts is of course alive and well. And, as noted in earlier posts - Republicons do this in a variety of ways. The most significant thrust currently is a post-facto strategy of "starving the watchdog." So...in spite of the fact that virtually everyone in America - except the most hidebound conservatives - recognize that Wall Street, and its hedge fund operatives literally sprinkled the investment landscape with toxic assets, conservatives continue to fight hand and tooth to ensure that oversight institutions are defanged. Thus, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission - a critical institution in overseeing the complex (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-27/republicans-try-to-starve-wall-street-watchdog-william-d-cohan.html) derivatives and swap markets- is being systematically drained of its budgetary resources.

As the author of this article (Bill Cohan, former investment banker notes):

Kingston’s power [A Georgia Senate Republican] play makes no sense if he and fellow Republicans are of the mind to help the American people by bringing a modicum of transparency to the complex swaps and derivatives markets. The same can be said if they want to prevent the systemic risks we identified -- too late -- in 2008 from becoming new dangers in 2011 and 2012. Or if they have any concern about the effects of the European debt crisis, should it land on our shores and wreak more havoc with our economic prospects.

On the other hand, their behavior makes perfect sense if they don’t want any “rules of the road” in the financial markets and have no interest in creating any traffic lights on the financial superhighway.

A simpler way to sidetrack all of those efete liberals of course is to ensure that no institutional accountability is legislatively built into any processes that involve immense profit making for the private sector -even when extraordinary risks to human health are involved. Best example? The new found love of the "fracking industry" in oil sand deposits. Because this technique was developed at Halliburton, then Vice President Dick Cheney had a special interest in ensuring that this industry would be completely exempt from EPA regulations under the Safe Water Act (http://www.earthworksaction.org/halliburton.cfm). Even though the EPA originally gave the Halliburton exemption its approval, subsequent reanalyses of the original EPA study found that the EPA had removed all information from early drafts that suggested that fracturing fluids (which are toxic) may pose a substantive threat to drinking water. That exemption still exists.

In short, the corporatist interests of the Republicons clearly trump any considerations of "the public interest." And regulatory agencies are just one more obstacle that must be crushed along the way to ensure their corporate success.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The RepubliCon war on the facts, part 56

Bruce Bartlett, former adviser to Kemp, Reagan, etc., who seems to have contacted reality now reveals the war that Gingrich and other RepubliCons are waging against reality. They are using one of the most effective methods of attacking effective government: cut budgets, cut staff who know anything.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Republican friend wrote me: "In fact, no Republican I know is for laissez-faire or for the abolition of Medicare or Social Security. Democrats, especially Pelosi and friends, say Republicans want to abolish these entitlement programs. Not true."

My Response:

The idea of social insurance was originated as a practical plan by Otto von Bismark, not exactly a screaming liberal, I believe as way to neuter Marxism. Roosevelt enacted the first social insurance in the US, the Social Security program.

I have heard Republican conservatives for the past fifty years philosophically rejecting the idea of government social insurance programs, and attempting to replace them with something with a market component, and generally with an eye to making them market based, and not government social insurance programs, particularly compulsory ones, which advocates say are necessary for them to be a reliable social safety net.

Starting with Goldwater and Reagan:

Reagan campaigned on behalf of for the AMA against the passage of Medicare, an effort which was the launch of his political career. Reagan spent much of his 1964 speech introducing Goldwater supporting. Goldwater’s view that Social Security should be made voluntary

Note that Goldwater and Reagan's original position was to make social security completely voluntary. That abolishes the programs as entitlements, because if you don't have the money to fund your own program for yourself, you are not entitled to anything more from the government, right? The "socializing" of insurance is gone, and so far as I can see that is the whole point of the recurrent efforts to change social insurance programs.

W Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security was a centerpiece of his 2004 campaign.

Furthermore, Bush made it clear philosophically that this was but a first step: In 2000, Bush said "It's going to take a while to transition to a system where personal savings accounts are the predominant part of the investment vehicle. ...This is a step toward a completely different world, and an important step."

I heard Republicans screaming bloody murder at a town hall meeting at South Lakes High School in the summer of 2009 about Obama's compulsory government health insurance, and all of the Republican Presidential candidates propose to repeal it, I believe.

The current Ryan proposal on Medicare would “extinguish medicare as a guaranteed coverage program for new enrollees and would replace the program with healthcare vouchers.”

The point is that all these are efforts to start dismantling Social Insurance programs with guaranteed coverage.

I should emphasize that the point of these is not to reduce the cost of these programs and provide similar coverage, at least as judged by their evaluation by the Congressional Budget Office, which is generally regarded as pretty non-partisan. Bush's program would not have put Social Security current benefits into a hole. Ryan's proposal would greatly reduce future health benefits, unless health care costs were greatly constrained, and his plan did nothing to contain health care costs. (Unlike Obama's, according to the CBO.)

In light of all of this I think it is just plain fact that Republicans have had a big problem with government social insurance programs, particularly compulsory ones, and have wanted to at least partially replace them with private market mechanisms. Because of Goldwater's, Reagan's, and it seems W. Bush's unvarnished views, I think it is understandable that Democrats view the current efforts as a first step to completely replacing comprehensive government programs with private ones. Certainly Republicans have never said "we want to restrict the private segment to x%" Quite the contrary.

Currently it may be that very few current Republican elected officials say "I want to abolish social security and medicare", but the record over decades is that they keep trying to reduce them as government insurance programs as much as possible. And they do want to abolish compulsory Health Insurance. Is there something I'm missing here about Republican opposition to government social insurance?

The response to the above was to stop talking about it, but to repeat that no Republican wants to dismantle the entitlements. This depends on what you mean by "dismantle." It you mean by "dismantle": they should not be mandatory or cover everybody, so they are no longer "entitlements", then the above shows that they do indeed want to dismantle.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dean Baker on Housing and the Recession

As Dean Baker was one of the few to correctly identify the housing bubble early, and predict the bust, I am always particularly interested in what he has to say about housing. In a correction to information linked in my last post, Baker argues that we are not suffering not from the aftermath of the financial crisis, but the aftermath of the housing bust. The current recession is the result of reduced demand on housing, because of the collapse of the housing market at many places in the country. When housing comes back, so will the economy. Incidentally, Baker's solution is that people should have the option of converting their underwater or about-to default-mortgages to rentals. Makes sense to me. I wonder why Obama is not on board?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Matt Taibi's take down of the "Blame Barney" RepubliCON

In Rolling Stone, Matt Taibi takes down the "Blame Barney" lie that Barney Frank and Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac were the main cause of the financial collapse in the US. As this is the main Republicon narrative about the great recession, it is worth refuting.

Here's the nub of the argument:

"The whole game was based on one new innovation: the derivative instruments like CDOs that allowed them to take junk-rated home loans and turn them into AAA-rated instruments. It was not Barney Frank who made it possible for Goldman, Sachs to sell the home loan of an occasionally-employed janitor in Oakland or Detroit as something just as safe as, and more profitable than, a United States Treasury Bill. This was something they cooked up entirely by themselves and developed solely with the aim of making more money.

"The government’s efforts to make home loans more available to people showed up in a few places in this whole tableau. For one thing, it made it easier for the Countrywides of the world to create their giant masses of loans. And secondly, the Fannies and Freddies of the world were big customers of the banks, buying up mortgage-backed securities in bulk along with the rest of the suckers. Without a doubt, the bubble would not have been as big, or inflated as fast, without Fannie and Freddie.

"But the bubble was overwhelmingly built around a single private-sector economic reality that had nothing to do with any of that: new financial instruments made it possible to sell crap loans as AAA-rated paper."

The whole article and the follow-up rebuttal are well worth reading. Addendum Monday November 7. Krugman today links to two excellent articles on "the big lie" of the innocence of Wall Street in the financial collapse. I hope this issue is getting enough noise to get into TV coverage.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Paul Krugman has posted the chart to the left, based on the recent CBO report on income inequality. What it makes clear is that the income inequality has not been driven by education differences, but by policy of huge tax cuts for the rich, and "deregulation" which enabled them to plunder the economy. While the top twenty percent, less the top one percent, barely increase in relation to others, the huge shift was from the lower 80% to the top 1%. And, as Krugman points out, it is actually the top .1% who really made out like bandits—perhaps because they were bandits, legalized or not.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The congressional budget office has just released a new report on the increasing inequality in the US. (You can get the full report in PDF at the link.) What is particularly interesting about the above chart is that if I read it rightly it indicates that all of the increase in inequality is due to the increase in income for the top 1%. I am disappointed that they don't include the wage income for individuals, because there the picture looks far worse. The middle class made up for stagnant wages by having both husband and wife work. And then we used our inflated house prices to keep above water. Now when are the journalists going to ask Republicans why Republican policies produced this?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Crackpot Economics and the Republi-CON

As Will points out in yesterday's post, evidence contradicts the idea that regulation is responsible for unemployment. In addition, as Dean Baker has pointed out, evidence also contradicts the idea that "uncertainty" about the future federal budget and regulation, rather than lack of demand, is why businesses are not hiring. He points out that the hours worked by existing employees have not gone up. If the problem were uncertainty about the future, then we would expect hours to go up, but employers to hold back from hiring more people. But hours are still down. Hence the problem is lack of demand, as most economists say.

All this is further evidence that the Republicons are so addicted to a thoroughly refuted ideology—that deregulation and tax cutting and shrinking government will lead to a boom—that they are delusional. The most prominent evidence of this, though, is the respectful reception that Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan had in the Republican debates. It was obviously a crackpot idea. The only one who said it would work were Cain and his "economist" who wasn't an economist. No others, liberal or conservative, were backing it.

The fact that Cain rose to number one in the polls among Republicans is the biggest evidence that the Republican electorate is out of touch with reality. The latest, most thorough analysis from the Tax Policy Center makes clear just how big a disaster Cain's plan would be, and how far it is from what he claims. 84% of Americans would pay more taxes, and the top income earners would pay massively less. So Cain's plan would strike a body blow against consumer demand, and in turn massively increase unemployment.

The Republi-CON is not only Cain, but all of them, including Romney. The success of the Democrats in 2012 is going to depend on their discrediting the whole Republi-CON, in the way that Cain is now discredited. Cain will now sink in the polls, I believe. If only Obama and other Democratic leaders would bring the argument to bear on the whole Republican con!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lay-offs Caused by Over-regulation

Another major Republicon talking point is the notion that government regulation is absolutely job destroying. Were that the case, of course, we might expect to hear that complaint from businesses themselves. As Bruce Bartlett points out based upon Bureau of Labor Statistics data for 2008, 2009, 2010, and the first half of this year, lay-offs (private, non-farm separations) due to regulations were miniscule - accounting for about 2/10ths of one percent of the reasons for separation. (http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/04/regulation-and-unemployment/). "Lack of demand" on the other hand contributed to 30.6 percent of these seaparations in 2010 !!! Surveys of economists and small business owners overwhelmingly demonstrate the same truth - namely, that the notion that regulation is strangling our otherwise vibrant economy is an absolute canard. It's "lack of demand" stupid !!!

An especially intriguing and thoughtful analysis of this conservative regulation argument was provided by a professor at Montclair State's Sociology Department. As Jay Livingston cleverly ( http://montclairsoci.blogspot.com/2011/09/that-uncertain-feeling.html) hypothesizes - if it is true that regulation is job-killing, then the highest regulated industries should be those that suffer the highest unemployment rates during this recession... The prime candidates he identifies are 1) Mining, Oil, Gas Extraction; 2) Financial Activities; 3) Education and health Services. Will it surprise you gentle reader to discover that these are the economic sectors with the lowest unemployment rates during this recession ????

In short, the entire Republicon political platform lacks any empirical economic basis and their strategies provide no serious effort to assist the American people during some very difficult times. The miracle to me is that so many people can continue to believe some of this tripe..






Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Obama's Passivity

In a previous editorial, Bill commented upon Obama's tendency to cater to "establishment" figures esp. in regard to economic issues. I could not concur more. While there are a variety of explanations for this behavior, I will confess that I feel a bit like Maureen Dowd in having recourse to an explanation which is both pyschological and cultural, and not political, or structural. In the New York Magazine article of August 12, 2011, Janny Scott (author of "A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother") reveals some amazing facts about Obama's upbringing between the age of six and ten in Jakarta, Indonesia before he was sent to live with his grandparents in Hawaii.

According to Scott, there were aspects of Indonesia's culture which were daunting. Specifically, as a friend of the Obamas recalled:

Over lunch, Barry [Barack], who was 9 at the time, sat at the dining table and listened intently but did not speak. When he asked to be excused, Ann [Obama's mother] directed him to ask the hostess for permission. Permission granted, he got down on the floor and played with Bryant’s son, who was 13 months old. After lunch, the group took a walk, with Barry running ahead. A flock of Indonesian children began lobbing rocks in his direction. They ducked behind a wall and shouted racial epithets. He seemed unfazed, dancing around as though playing dodge ball “with unseen players,” Bryant said. Ann did not react. Assuming she must not have understood the words, Bryant offered to intervene. “No, he’s O.K.,” Ann said. “He’s used to it.”

“We were floored that she’d bring a half-black child to Indonesia, knowing the disrespect they have for blacks,” Bryant said. At the same time, she admired Ann for teaching her boy to be fearless. A child in Indonesia needed to be raised that way — for self-preservation, Bryant decided. Ann also seemed to be teaching Barry respect. He had all the politeness that Indonesian children displayed toward their parents. He seemed to be learning Indonesian ways.

“I think this is one reason he’s so halus,” Bryant said of the pres­ident, using the Indonesian adjective that means “polite, refined, or courteous,” referring to qualities some see as distinctively Javanese. “He has the manners of Asians and the ways of Americans — being halus, being patient, calm, a good listener. If you’re not a good listener in Indonesia, you’d better leave.”

In short, it seems clear that Obama's cultural upbringing taught him to behave with an almost overweaning civility and respect to authority figures. Arguably, this trait, which epitomizes his civility and basic morality, has damaged his ability to portray himself as an effective transactional leader (in the bureaucratic form envisioned by Max Weber). While he may be an incredible charismatic leader, that type of leadership is not enough. When your opponents are uncivil, insist upon economic theories which are unworkable in a recession; when they work arduously to suppress voter registration of minority groups and low income populations; and persist in arguing that massive growth in wealth inequality is "O.K" or perhaps indicative of a lazy attitude among workers, it behooves a real leader to stand up and use the bully pulpit. Obama has been weak-kneed in doing so. (Oh, and by the way, if Republicans persist in acting as if Article 6 of the Constituion - which prohibits any test for the office of the President based upon religion - does not exist, the forth estate needs to inform them of therror of their ways. It's not happening.)



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

March on Washington (mini)

I just attended the "Jobs not Cuts" rally near the Capitol. It was good, but too small—300 people or so. I hope it gets press coverage. I talked to a reporter from the conservative Weekly Standard, and gave him an earful, which I'm pretty sure he won't report. Afterward I spoke briefly with someone who has attended the "Rebuilding the American Dream" conference. He was optimistic that progressives will come together for 2012 and is himself running for congress. He said that there will be progressive candidates throughout the country in 2012. I hope there are, and they get elected.

Monday, October 3, 2011

DC Rally against austerity and for jobs to happen

Ok, fans, my call here for a march on Washington flopped, but it seems that a lot of others had the same idea. Here's the organizing site for a rally this Wednesday.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Time honored tactic for gutting the effective of government

In a nice piece of reporting, Martin Bashir exposes the Republi-con cutting of food safety inspectors effectively gutting the new law passed under Obama, and leading to deaths from food poisoning. Of course they did the same thing W. Bush to the SEC. That worked out well for the thieves. Explain to me why I'm wrong about calling it the Republi-con...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Geitner and Summers: Obama's big mistake

Here in New York Magazine is a useful summary and discussion of the new Ron Suskind book on the Obama administration. The very bad decision to put people in charge of economic policy who had been complicit in the wreckage in the first place is one thing I never understood about Obama. My take has always been that he was too impressed by the "establishment", and didn't have his own well developed policy views on the economy. What do you all think?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Why Big Lies Are So Functional for the Republicons

While the Republi-con site has been expressly concerned about the big Milton-Friedman/Ayn Rand/Alan Greenspan "economic lie" - namely that tax cuts for the rich are infinitely trickle-worthy, multiplicative in their effects, and bountiful in their impacts upon the less fortunate among us (an argument completely and totally contradicted by Bureau of Labor Statistics data over the past 3o years) - it is important to bear in mind that limited governance and the crippling of any corporate regulation are the major core strategies employed by Republicons to advance their mission.

While we may smugly view ourselves as somewhat seasoned, cynical critics of the current political state of affairs, most of us in fact have no full appreciation of the depth of current Republican cynicism, an ideological cynicism that willingly embraces enormous LIES about the Republican party and its willingness to engage in acts of political terrorism to achieve its goals.
This point was brought home in a recent article by a GOP operative of over thirty years that I encourage everyone to read. Entitled Goodbye to All That and written by a gentleman named Mike Lofgren ( http://www.truth-out.org/goodbye-all-reflections-gop-operative-who-left-cult/1314907779 ) he points out just how Goebbels-like the Republican strategy really is.

He points out that the recent debacle with respect to the debt ceiling was a pure act of political terrorism. The debt ceiling bill had been addressed 87 times since the end of World War II, and passed in every instance with bipartisan support. But, as he also correctly points out, the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a representative political party (it's completely out-of-line with what citizens insist should be protected according to all national polls) and more like "an apocalytic cult." Lofgren also points out that "Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate in doing its job, it would lower Congress's generic favorability rating." And, by sabotaging the reputation of Congress, the ideological wizards of the Republican Party come out the winners. How? Because they have disabused citizens thoroughly of the idea that government can ever help!!! That's exactly what they want !!! (Sadly, most American citizens make little distinction between Republicans and Democrats on these issues - it's Congress!!!). That distinction- failure by citizens and especially by major newsmedia is absolutely lacerating, and indicative of their own terrible weakness in pointing out the truth.

Journalists like Michael Tomasky with The DailyBeast.com have picked up on this theme and,
to put it mildly (see http://www.thedailybeast.com/contributors/michael-tomasky.html),
are not thrilled with what they see in Obama's rosy-lensed vision of bipartisanship........ (see http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/08/31/barack-obama-still-acting-like-a-wimp-refusing-to-fight-for-jobs.html). He's right. The difficulty with the 2012 elections is that Democrats are saddled with a fine, but deeply flawed man who will fight in the trenches for what he believes- while Republicans are saddled with a bunch of lunatics. Should I consider these prospects depressing ????

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Six Lies of the Republi-CON

In a wonderful video, Robert Reich debunks six key lies of the the Republi-CON. I'm delighted that at last someone in a position to be listened to is exposing the "con". You heard it here first, folks. Video link thanks to moveon.org

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Austerity kills jobs, and Republicans are RepubliCONS

Another long range survey of the impact of government austerity policies by the IMF shows that cutting government spending in general shrinks the economy and kills jobs. So why do Republican leaders keep insisting that cutting spending and taxes on the rich is the only way to grow the economy. It goes against all evidence? My conclusion: they are con men and women. That doesn't mean that they disbelieve their own con. In some cases they may. In most cases they probably don't care. What do you all think? Let me know by commenting here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Economic History of the Great Divide, in one chart

Robert Reich included a great chart in his recent article on the necessity for increasing the middle class. The argument is: Increasing the middle class increases demand. This is because of the very well verified reduced "marginal propensity to consume" with rising income. The richer people spend less of their income. So when the economy is more unequal, demand drops. The most beautiful thing in the article is a chart that tells the sad story of the past 50 years, and in particular all the bad things that started happening from Reagan on. Here's the chart (click on the chart to magnify):

Saturday, September 3, 2011

March on Washington against Job-Killing Austerity

I think we need a march on Washington against "Job-killing austerity" and for government investment in jobs to benefit the nation. If John Boehner can lie constantly about "job killing tax increases" when the rich are sitting on cash and not investing, then why can't the masses of us march on Washington with the truth: that the government needs to invest in America, now? What do you all say? If you think this is a good idea you can "Like" a Facebook Page on the March.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More Proof that the Republi-CONs don't believe what they're saying

The Think Progress blog reveals that85% of Republicans, including Boehner, Cantor and McConnel in 2008 under Bush voted for a stimulus with elements that they are now rejecting from Obama. There couldn't be a clearer illustration that this is about pure politics, and any idea of actually understanding how to help the economy, or actually help it, is the farthest thing from the minds of the Republi-CONs.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dean Baker's Book: End of Loser Liberalism

Dean Baker has a new book, The End of Loser Liberalism available free in PDF form.

Baker argues that Liberals have been accepting the Conservative line that they favor market solutions. This puts the Liberals in the position where they look like they are just trying to bail out the losers in the competitive market place.

In fact, the Conservative line is a lie, as they support all kinds of government limitations on the free market—so long as they favor the rich. Baker puts forward proposals that restructure the market to as to benefit "the bulk of the working population rather than just a small elite."

I've just started the book, but his basic analysis of the Republi-CON seems right on target.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Remember arguments in good faith?

Krugman acidly remarks in a blog post that some of the arguments against Keynesians like him are so bogus and malicious that: "You have to assume that this kind of argument is made in deliberate bad faith — although I suspect that many of these people don’t remember what it is to make an argument in good faith."

The argument in question was that when Krugman points out that WWII overcame the depression by massive spending he is being a war monger. Of course he is arguing for government spending on infrastructure, education, etc., not war.

I think what this points up is that Democrats should not only be answering the arguments of the RepubliCONs, but to point out their dishonesty. They are not interested in the truth, but only name-calling and belittling the opposition.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Debate on Obama's Leadership

Charlie Rose aired a fascinating debate on Obama's leadership. Drew Westen sharply criticizes Obama, and Jonathan Chait and Fareer Zakaria defend Obama. Will and I have been taking the Drew Westen side, with me being slightly softer.

What I think is missing from this debate is the most interesting thing about it. Obama, by not using the "bully pulpit" to educate the public on economic issues, and the devastatingly bad impact of RepubliCON policies, has ceded the field to the Right Wing crazies. Their narrative is not contradicted.

Yes, it is contradicted by Krugman, Ezra Klein, Dean Baker and others we've been quoting here. But not in the national mainstream TV news: the CBS NBC ABC CNN. Only Obama making the case for government investment and against austerity will get the public on his side. He's just relying on them seeing him as responsible. But that didn't work in 2010. Yes, there's a failure of leadership.

Jonathan Chait argues that the "bully pulpit" is way overrated and hardly has any impact. I really doubt that, not because it's not the President alone. Once the President takes the field philosophically against small government cut taxes on the rich people, the whole public debate will change. The latest example of this is when Ross Perot took out his charts about the deficit, it changed the narrative, and the Clinton tax increases resulted, which helped.

Friday, August 12, 2011

RepubliCON chutzpah and Obama's response.

In response to Will's last post I was too mild. I heard Congressman Nadler make a good argument. When Obama blamed Congress he was actually being dishonest. Nadler didn't put it that way, but that's what it amounts to. It wasn't Congress that wouldn't compromise, but the RepubliCONs. The right wing of the right wing said they wouldn't compromise on anything. As some have pointed out, today the Republicans have regularly come out against their own original proposals. They have ended up favoring nothing but tax cuts on the rich. That's it.

There's a famous definition of the Yiddish word "chutzpah". The fellow who beats you and cries "Help, Help!" Now HE has chutzpah. He's going to blame you for attacking him. Even after he's stolen your money he's going to try to get you arrested!

That's what the RepubliCONs have been doing. They held up the country by needlessly threatening to force the government not to pay it's debts and creating an international financial collapse. And they refused to compromise. It's only Wall Street that brought enough RepubliCONs along not to collapse the whole financial system.

So the guy being beaten here is Obama—and the rest of the country. And what does he say when the police arrive. "There's a fight going on here; can you separate us." No dammit, he mugged you and us. Tell the truth. As I think Churchill once said, there's a difference between an arsonist and a fireman. Obama has really now gone too far. It's like the guy who spits in your face and you say it's raining. Hey, Obama, it's our face he's spitting in as well. Tell the truth!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Bully Pulpit Failure & Other Failures

For those of us who are typically in thrall to the concept of American exceptionalism and the idea that "the American experiment" was still alive and well, the 2008 election of Barack Obama certainly brought tears to our eyes. And yet, two and a half years later, in the midst of the current "manufactured" American "debt crisis" - when the opportunities for strong Democratic leadership are at an absolute apogee - Barack Obama chooses to step back from them. He does not do this timidly but resolutely and consistently. It is beyond pathetic.

Even in the face of "GOPspeak" which the ending of a decade-long Bush gift of lowering taxes ( http://www.projo.com/opinion/contributors/content/CT_landay6_08-06-11_EQPHQHH_v9.39577.html) to those who don't need it is called a "tax increase" by Republicans, the President himself calls the current agreement on the debt a "balanced" tax-and-debt package (when the top 1 percent continue to control 40-50% of the wealth in the country)...He will simply not talk about class warfare in spite of the fact that this actions by the Tea Party and its adherents have are totally consistent with such a theory.

It is not surprising then, as has been pointed out recently by the chief executive of a polling company (Greenberg-Quinlan-Rosner, a polling company that works primarily for center-left interest groups) that the "common man" is disgusted with the Democratic Party. Even though Democrats and others support the DP's policies, they have very little belief in the Party's abilities to implement them. And, Obama represents these policies perfectly. As Landsy emphasizes, "if they [the Dems] are to win trust and votes, Democrats must show that they are as determined as the Tea Party to change the rules of the game....

What should Dems do??? (I paraphrase the Landsay article here): a) they should limit or bar corporate contributions to electoral campaigns; b) they must force public broadcast media to "freely" publish candidate ads; c) they must simplify the tax code and remove the loopholes, etc. Obama has failed consistently to stand up for any serious Democratic principles. He has consistently caved when any serious conflict was involved. Why should I vote for him in 20012??? Because the alternative is so much worse? Wow, that's an real exciter!!! Sadly, he will expect Progressives to support him vigorously...in spite of the fact that he has absolutely refused to stand up for the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party. And, the Super coalition to which the President agreed will be simply a reprising of the same.....No revenue increases...
I will take bets now....

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Clear refutation of right wing economic analysis.

Paul Krugman marshals the evidence that his Keynesian analysis of the economy—that we are in a liquidity trap, and government spending won't raise interest rates—has proven large correct. The Wall Street Journal's persistent RepubliCON view that government spending would increase interest rates and inflation has proven wrong again and again.

Now explain to me again why Obama doesn't mention this?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A failure of leadership

Now that we have survived the irresponsible threat of financial collapse by the Republi-CONs, it is more clear than ever that President Obama has seriously failed to articulate a vision for our economic future, and to rebut the Republi-CON—the Republicon "CON" of the American people for the sake of the rich.

Why is this?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eating our seed corn

What is the number one thing the government can do for the economy? Invest in public goods for decades. That the message of the book Success in Agricultural Transformation, coming out at the end of August. It turns out that 100% of the time sustained public investment has been necessary to create a modern economy—across all countries, across all of history, from the English industrial revolution on.

What is the government now proposing to do? Cut public investment. As Ezra Klein documents this disaster for our future is what Obama is proposing, and the RepubliCON are proposing to hurt us far worse. This is how the USA declines. Sad day.

Monday, July 25, 2011

No, they're not equally at fault, it's the Republi-CONs

Krugman has a delicious story from Abraham Lincoln on blaming the other side when it's your fault. The punch line: "You will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, 'Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!'"

Ironically, the first Republican president was not just the "Great Emancipator", but also the "Great Investor," believing in the massive public works that the current Republi—CONs refuse to enact.

Friday, July 22, 2011

No Intellectual Integrity for the Republi-CON, yet again

Ezra Klein lays out the the fact the tax breaks and expenditures amount to the same thing. So the current Republi-CON fixation on not even closing loopholes in the tax code actually makes no sense. Of course that's not the only thing that makes not sense.

The short version: "Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan says that tax expenditures are “misclassified” because they are identical to outlays. Gregory Mankiw, who led President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, calls expenditures 'stealth spending implemented through the tax code.' You can’t find a serious economist on God’s green Earth who thinks the economy differentiates between cutting a government program that subsidizes health insurance and cutting an equally large tax break that subsidizes the purchase of health insurance. The crude budget calculus that counts every dollar in spending cuts as a win for Republicans and every dollar in revenue increases as a win for Democrats is simply wrong..."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Growth in Family income, before and after Reagan

This wonderful graphic says it all about the impact of Republi—CON policies, from Reagan on. Note that the overall growth even for the rich is less! Thanks to Peter Enneson for alerting me to this. [Click on graphic for larger size.]

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Obama answers liberal critics

Here is an interesting analysis of Obama's attempt to answer liberal critics.

I see his point, but I think it's wrong. If he were hammering constantly on the false analysis and damaging prescriptions of the Republi-CONs, I think he'd not have lost so much in the midterms. And he'd be in a stronger position in 2012.

What do I know about politics? I don't, but Lee Kuan Yew, one of the most successful politicians of the past century, says: always argue your case, as forcefully as you can. I think he's right. What do you all think?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Why can't journalists ask Why?

Following from Matt Yglasias is an interesting analysis of how we got here, starting with a situation where "supply side" had some plausibility, to a situation where it has none.

This pinpoints a great source of my frustration with journalists today: they won't seem to be able to ask "Why?" If they ever asked the Republi-CON sloganeers and blowhards "Why did the economy collapse under W. Bush?" And "Why would be expect any different result from your policy prescriptions?" All they could do is sputter or chance the subject. Here is Yglesias:

"What you have here is a political movement that no longer understands its own theory. Flash back to the 1970s. You have high unemployment. But you also have high inflation. Because inflation is already high, you can’t boost growth by boosting aggregate demand. You need reforms that operate “on the supply side” and lower marginal tax rates count. Now we can debate ’till the cows come home whether or not Ronald Reagan’s 1981 budget actually had important supply side benefits, but the basic story makes sense. But by 1996, what is the problem that Bob Dole is trying to solve with this tax cut? He’s grappling with the political problem of “a steady stream of solid economic news—low unemployment, mild inflation and rising wages.” We need supply-side reform because . . . why? Ever since then, conservatives haven’t really answered “why” questions about their economic prescriptions. Instead they prescribe a cure for stagflation regardless of the situation. And over time, this scenario has become more and more toxic, such that today they’ve decided that we are experiencing high inflation even though we’re not."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Triumph of Anti-Intellectualism

For those of you of more conservative ideological cast and lemming-like, "true-believer" instincts (dubious in this crowd !!), you should be concerned right about now about the studious disregard of the Republican leadership for job-creation efforts. I'll bet that's what you thought you were voting for when you chose your local tea Party candidate. Instead, you have been a pawn in a shell game since your leadership has virtually ignored the job-creation agenda. Instead, Mr. Boehner and Mitch McConnell have Hoovered-in on massive spending cuts - and refused to acknowledge that one of the prime contributors to the current deficit problem is the Bush tax cuts and their continuation. (Oh, yes, elective wars and their expenses which were always "off-budget" have certainly helped). Possibly you had forgotten that just by eliminating the Bush-tax cut extensions for the top 2%, an estimated $690 B. over a 10 year horizon was "lost"(http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/07/let_cuts_expire.html)

We will set aside the superb irony of those ideologues - whose conspicuous commitment to the Bush tax cuts did not support their supply-side theories - and led instead to an average 600,000 monthly job loss in the last three months of the Bush administration. But what we cannot set aside is Obama's response to the Bush recession; he has chosen to give away the "New Deal" store and to drape himself in judicial robes as he cuts the child in half. He chooses to portray himself as the "mature", avuncular father dealing with squabbling children. Convenient! He himself never paid the blood sweat and tears that helped to create a solid middle class in this country; in the main he was the beneficiary of progressive Democratic Party-led policies. But God forbid that he actually use the bully-pulpit, by using his enormous teaching skills, to point out that the Republican agenda is designed to shred the safety net for the poorest among us while making these folks feel morally superior while doing it.!! It is beyond pathetic.



Monday, July 11, 2011

Why does Obama listen to Geitner rather than Krugman and Stieglitz?

This is a question I've been asking since the beginning of the Obama administration, and has always been a limitation on my general admiration of him. Krugman in his latest makes all too clear that he and those who think like him have been consistently in conformity with reality in their predictions. The Republi-CON opposition has been totally out of touch with reality (except for the reality of getting more money from their rich pay masters,) and the Obama administration has been far too timid in their economic proposals and actions, compared to the challenge the country faces.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Is Obama a Republican?

A truly depressing post from Paul Krugman, pointed out that in his latest address Obama repeats the republican myths. Here's Obama:

"Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can’t afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs."

And Krugman's comment:

"Yep, the false government-family equivalence, the myth of expansionary austerity, and the confidence fairy, all in just two sentences."

I think I've figured out a way to explain why the government-family equivalence is wrong: The government is a bank. Just as banks lend out much more money than is on their books, so too the relation between government income and spending is not the same as in a family. By deficit spending in some cases—like bank lending, when you look at at—can help grow the economy.

Krugman has extensive columns, linked in his post, on "the myth of expansionary austerity" and "the confidence fairy."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The record of RepubliCON false predictions on raising taxes.

Paul Krugman points to this revealing history of RepubliCON dire predictions about raising taxes: first with Reagan's own tax increases, and then with Clinton's tax increases. In both cases expansions followed. Since both tax increases in the last 30 years were followed by greater economic growth, treating it as a sacred truth that tax increases tank the economy is either a lie or stupid. It is particularly interesting that these observations come from Bruce Bartlett, one of the builders of supply side economics, who repudiates it in its current form. He worked for Ron Paul and Jack Kemp, and wrote the Kemp-Roth tax bill, the foundation of Reagan tax cuts.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Soros' brilliant analysis of what's gone wrong in American politics and economics

Soros' Introduction to a book on his philanthropy appeared in the New York Review of Books. It includes an incisive critique of The Open Society and its Enemies, by Karl Popper, under whom I, like Soros, studied. More importantly, it reveals why the collapse of political debate is a key problem for US democracy. Here is the last part of it, which I quote at length:

How can open society protect itself against dangerously deceptive arguments? Only by recognizing their existence and their power to influence reality by influencing people’s perceptions. People’s thinking is part of the reality they need to understand, and that makes the understanding of reality much harder than the philosophers of the Enlightenment imagined. They envisioned reason as something apart from reality, acting as a searchlight illuminating it. That is true for natural science but not human affairs. In political discourse we must learn to give precedence to the understanding of reality; otherwise the results will fail to conform to our expectations. Karl Popper took it for granted that the primary purpose of political discourse is the pursuit of truth. That is not the case now; therefore we must make it so. What was a hidden assumption in Popper’s argument must be turned into an explicit requirement for open society to prevail.

I thought I had a convincing argument in favor of the truth. Look at the results of the Bush policies: they were designed to demonstrate America’s supremacy, and they achieved the exact opposite; American power and influence suffered a precipitous decline. This goes to show, I argued, that it is not enough to manipulate perceptions; it is important to understand how the world really works. In other words, the cognitive function must take precedence over the manipulative function. That is the additional requirement I put into my definition of open society, but obviously it did not have an effect on the public that reelected Bush in 2004.

The election of President Obama in 2008 sent a powerful message to the world that the US is capable of radically changing course when it recognizes that it is on the wrong track. But the change was temporary: his election and inauguration were the high points of his presidency. Already the reelection of President Bush had convinced me that the malaise in American society went deeper than incompetent leadership. The American public was unwilling to face harsh reality and was positively asking to be deceived by demanding easy answers to difficult problems.

The fate of the Obama presidency reinforced that conviction. Obama assumed the presidency in the midst of a financial crisis whose magnitude few people appreciated, and he was not among those few. But he did recognize that the American public was averse to facing harsh realities and he had great belief in his own charismatic powers. He also wanted to rise above party politics and become—as he put it in his campaign speeches—the president of the United States of America. Consequently, he was reluctant to forthrightly blame the outgoing administration and went out of his way to avoid criticism and conflict. He resorted to what George Akerlof and Robert Shiller called the “confidence multiplier” in their influential book Animal Spirits. Accordingly, in the hope of moderating the recession, he painted a rosier picture of the economic situation than was justified.

The tactic worked in making the recession shorter and shallower than would have been the case otherwise, but it had disastrous political consequences. The confidence multiplier is, in effect, one half of a reflexive feedback loop: a positive influence on people’s perceptions can have a positive feedback in its effects on the underlying economic reality. But if reality, for example the unemployment rate, fails to live up to expectations, confidence turns to disappointment and anger; that is the other half of the reflexive feedback loop, and that is what came to pass.

The electorate showed little appreciation of Obama for moderating the recession because it was hardly aware of what he had done. By avoiding conflict Obama handed the initiative to the opposition, and the opposition had no incentive to cooperate. The Republican propaganda machine was able to convince people that the financial crisis was due to government failure, not market failure. According to the Republican narrative, the government cannot be trusted and its role in the economy—both regulation and taxation—should be reduced to a minimum.

he Republicans had good reason to take this line: it is a half-truth that advanced their political agenda. What is surprising is the extent of their success. The explanation lies partly in the power of Orwell’s Newspeak and partly in the aversion of the public to facing harsh realities.

On the one hand, Newspeak is extremely difficult to contradict because it incorporates and thereby preempts its own contradiction, as when Fox News calls itself fair and balanced. Another trick is to accuse your opponent of the behavior of which you are guilty, like Fox News accusing me of being the puppet master of a media empire. Skillful practitioners always attack the strongest point of their opponent, like the Swiftboat ads attacking John Kerry’s Vietnam War record. Facts do not provide any protection, and rejecting an accusation may serve to have it repeated; but ignoring it can be very costly, as John Kerry discovered in the 2004 election.

On the other hand, the pursuit of truth has lost much of its appeal. When reality is unpleasant, illusions offer an attractive escape route. In difficult times unscrupulous manipulators enjoy a competitive advantage over those who seek to confront reality. Nazi propaganda prevailed in the Weimar Republic because the public had been humiliated by military defeat and disoriented by runaway inflation. In its own quite different way, the American public has been subjected to somewhat comparable experiences, first by the terrorist attacks of September 11, and then by the financial crisis, which not only caused material hardship but also seemed to seal the decline of the United States as the dominant power in the world. With the rise of China occurring concurrently, the shift in power and influence has been dramatic.

The two trends taken together—the reluctance to face harsh reality coupled with the refinement in the techniques of deception—explain why America is failing to meet the requirements of an open society. Apparently, a society needs to be successful in order to remain open.

What can we do to preserve and reinvigorate open society in America? First, I should like to see efforts to help the public develop an immunity to Newspeak. Those who have been exposed to it from Nazi or Communist times have an allergic reaction to it; but the broad public is highly susceptible.

Second, I should like to convince the American public of the merits of facing harsh reality. As I earlier wrote, I have from my childhood been drawn to contending with what may seem insurmountable challenges. Those in charge of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes, have done well in identifying me as their adversary. They have done less well in the methods they have used to attack me: their lies shall not stand and their techniques shall not endure.

But improving the quality of political discourse is not enough. We must also find the right policies to deal with the very real problems confronting the country: high unemployment and chronic budget and trade deficits. The financing of state and local governments is heading for a breakdown. The Republicans have gained control of the agenda, and they are promoting a misleading narrative: everything is the government’s fault. The Democrats are forced into fighting a rearguard battle, defending the opposite position.

We need to undertake a profound rethinking of the workings of our political system and recognize that half-truths are misleading. The fact that your opponent is wrong does not make you right. We must come to terms with the fact that we live in an inherently imperfect society in which both markets and government regulations are bound to fall short of perfection. The task is to reduce the imperfections and make both private enterprise and government work better. That is the message I should like to find some way to deliver.

The lie of the great Reagan economic growth

Krugman exposes the lie of a great spurt of economic growth under Reagan. It was under Clinton.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Republicons didn't get memo on death of supply side economics

Ezra Klein, in the Washington Post, links to interesting article on supply side economics. Not surprising in being new, but in who says it: Bruce Bartlett, one of the key people advising Jack Kemp and Reagan. Here he says that supply side economics has turned into a completely nutty theory, and that Keynes was one of the best economists.

It looks like none of the current Republicons, including the candidates for president got the memo.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Believing is Seeing

The problems with the journalistic enterprise are legend..esp. as a broadcast medium. The accent is upon 24 hour turnaround, and upon hyperbole and sensationalism. The old paradigm, "seeing is believing" seemed to imply some type of objective, "evidence-based" standard.....but the reality increasingly appears to suggest that the chain of causation works in the other direction, i.e. "believing is seeing"esp. in the political realm. Thus - to cite one compelling current example - in the face of unambiguous evidence (based on BLS "establishment" data) that the Bush administration's job creation record was beyond anemic (total non-farm job losses of 597,000, 681,000,and 741,000 respectively in the last three months of his administration) vs net job growth of 194,000, 232,000, and 54,000 for the three months of March, April, and May 2011...you have two competing interpretations of these facts:

Republicons become studiously ahistorical and see Obama's "recovery" as an unmitigated disaster. They refuse to acknowledge ANY of the contextual lead-up to it (namely the twin Bush decisions to both enter into a prohibitively expensive elective war, and to cut taxes in both 2001 and 2003 - a phenomenon without historic precedent in this nation's history EVER). The relevance of these decisions to the current fiscal deficit should be obvious to all (especially since all major "spikes" in fiscal deficits in the country's history follow: a) the Civil War; b) World War I; and c) World War II )...

Add to this the journalistic propensity now - ESPECIALLY in the absence of any strong data-oriented, fact-gathering norms - (exacerbated by quick turn-around requirements of contemporary journalism) and you have a recipe for disaster. Given few facts, the enterprise boils down to "he said"-"she said" journalism....one in which journalists seek to "balance" their reportage - not to provide a strong objective basis for them. Thus, creationist "science" is accorded a false intellectual equivalence with evolutionary theory - in the interest of balance !!! Thus, comparative analyses of health care systems (virtually all of which demonstrate the cost effectiveness of universal health care systems in leading European nations) must share the stage with Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute analyses who persist in portraying fee-for-service capitalist approaches as fine and dandy...even if $40 million go uninsured. Regrettably, this is the type of balance which will rapidly turn this country into a third rate power.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Balanced and Untrue

In writing about some recent craziness of Haley Barbour, Krugman laments "If you say that one of our two major parties has gone completely off the deep end, you’re considered shrill and extreme. But if you don’t say that, if you pretend that someone like Barbour is a reasonable guy with somewhat different views, then you’re fundamentally lying about reality."

I linked earlier to the article on the press treatment of the "death panels" lie. Its authors made a related point: print journalists sometimes pointed out the lie, but often did not in an effort to appear "balanced." And had that article looked at television, I think they would find a far lower percentage that have pointed out the lie.

This shows that something is broken in journalism. The first duty of journalists should be to the truth, not to balance. When journalists avoid looking for and stating the truth in order to be balanced they are doing the public a grave disservice. Something is broken in much of the TV news.

Friday, June 3, 2011

No shame—open duplicity.

Steven Colbert satirizes the open duplicity of the Republi-con. What is remarkable is that they introduce a bill saying it must be defeated, and then assure Wall Street that they are not serious about sending the country into default. This shows nakedly that they think government is all about sloganeering, and it doesn't matter if they are lying.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

How the news media handled the "death panel lie"—a valuable study

The Nieman Journalism Lab publishes an excellent study of how the newspapers handled Sarah Palin's "Death Panel" lie two years ago. The bottom line? Journalists were confused about whether being fair and objective means just reporting on different views, or whether they should say what they can verify or refute as true or false. That confusion, in the view of the authors helped the lie to spread.

The issue they point to is indicative of a much larger problem. Palin's lie was easily refuted. In more complex issues most journalists feel no obligation to ascertain the truth. They just quote opposite sides and leave it at that. That's the main reason, in my view, the "Republi-con," the claim that lowering taxes on the rich is the key to prosperity, still has any credibility. And why I started this blog

Friday, May 27, 2011

Shocking news: real debate on health care starts, maybe.

Amazingly, Paul Ryan responded to Ezra Klein's questions. I say amazing because this whole non-debate has been characterized by an absence of *relevant rebuttal* and response to it. And that's the heart of debate. Now Ryan has opened himself to rebuttal, and Ezra Klein has done it with his usual vigor and clarity. The big question is now whether Ryan will respond, so that a real debate ensues. Any bets? "Stay tuned".

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Questions for Paul Ryan—and the White House

Ezra Klein, one of the most knowledgeable journalists about the health care debate, and about the budget, has a list of questions he'd like to ask Paul Ryan about health care. But Paul Ryan won't talk to him, and Ryan has never answered them from anybody else either. Again, why are politicians able to get away with this? Why don't the press and the Democratic party ridicule and shame them for ducking straightforward questions?

Klein also pointedly asks the White House to answer why their budget fails to invest in the country, though Obama says that's a priority, and why he won't raise taxes back to what they were in the Clinton era.

I'd like some answers, but I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The disaster of trying to govern by bravado

Lawrence O'Donnell had a stunning piece on Trump and Schwartzenegger in his show last night May 17, on MSNBC. He argued that both shared the illusion that governing is easy, and all you have to do is come into office and be a tough guy and problems will magically be solved. O'Donnell brilliantly predicted in early March the day on which Trump would drop out, and why. In this piece, he shows how Schwartzenegger said he could easily handle California's debt and deficit by his toughness—and the fact is that they doubled under his reign. The tragedy, as O'Donnell highlights, is that half of the country is deceived by this "governing is easy you just have to be tough" nonsense. My question is, why do Democrats let them get away with it? They should be combated with relentless facts and searing ridicule, such as came Trump's way.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bush's failure in anti-terrorism, and being too soft on the Republi-con

Normally, this blog discusses the Republi-con, the lie that cutting taxes on the rich and small government will help the country. The reality, demonstrated vividly by the Bush's administration's creation of a huge debt and an economic collapse, is just the opposite. But I will note that the same con is going on with respect to terrorism. In fact, it was on Bush's watch that Osama bin Laden attacked the US and escaped. And both involved demonstrable Bush incompetence. Here, from Think Progress is an excellent video making the case for Bush's incompetence on Osama bin Laden. How Bush was able to portray himself as protector of the nation against Kerry is a mystery, except that Kerry was such a horrible candidate and didn't hit back. Is Obama too soft on the Republi-con now? Is that what led to the 2010 electorial debacle?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Enemy of the People: Liberterianism of the Pauls

An article in yesterday's Washington Post makes clear a key swing voting group that must be swayed if the Democrats are to win in 2012: Libertarians. They must be convinced the personal liberty is not well served by cutting taxes on the rich and starving public investment. Personal liberty is not served by such "small government" and has nothing to do with how oppressive the government can be. On the contrary, by wrecking the economy in the long term, it will dis-empower people in their personal lives. We need to make clear that the small government mania is far more of a threat to the future of the republic than Al Qaeda ever was.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Why Ayn Rand's philosophy is stupid and evil

This video with clips of Republi-cons praising Ayn Rand, and then a positively Hitlerian turn by Rand herself raises the question: What's wrong with Rand?

Rand views all relationships in a black and white way: either altruistic or selfish. Altruistic is stupid, selfish virtuous. Relationships are trades, like buying a cabbage: I give you this, you give me that. If we are both happy with the trading we keep the relationship, as soon as either of us is not happy, we break it.

What is stupid about her philosophy is that it leaves out risk and uncertainty, and forgets about trust. We enter into longer-term relationships, whether employment or marriage, because we think that in the longer term, we, and the other person will benefit. But we don't know. We're taking a risk. And when we're asked to do something for the other person, we don't know if we are going to get support in return. It's a risk. It's not buying a cabbage. That's why the character of the other person, and trust are critical. In fact, trust is at the heart of cooperative relationships, and both marriages and economies fall apart without out it. That's because when and how much to do short term sacrifice are critical issues. When suspicion and hostility arise, and trust dissolves, then people won't enter a cooperative venture.

This is not only true in personal relationships, but in economic ones. We just saw the economy freeze up in 2008 because of the collapse of trust. Credit was no good and nobody was willing to lend. And the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression followed. To keep up trust we need both strong regulation and a sense of moral duty on the part of those with fiduciary responsibilities. Both collapsed years before the financial collapse, and partly because of those, like Greenspan, who adopted the stupid philosophy of Ayn Rand. And that's why her philosophy is not just stupid in being blind to risk and trust, but also evil. It undermines both financial discipline and cooperation for the common good. There's more evil as well, but that's enough.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A campaign of lies

The birther accusations and Obama's response has made more clear than ever that Republi-con politics is fundamentally dishonest, and is a campaign of deliberate deception. Exhibit one is that they say "oh no, the Ryan plan is not a voucher," but they never say how it differs from a limited, fixed voucher, because that's what it is. In other words they want to deceive the public into accepting their policies, instead of having an honest debate.

The disgusting racist birther accusations are even more stark. The idea that an 18 year old pregnant girl and her 25 year old student husband would fly to Kenya to have their baby in a country is so ludicrous that nobody who is not hate-filled could believe it, even aside from the certified birth certificates, contemporaneous announcements in the newspapers, etc. Where would they get the money? Why would they fly to a third-world country with poor medical care to have a baby? Would the grandparents subsidize such a lunatic trip? This is about lies and hate.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Long piece on Krugman

Here is New York Magazine's long piece on Krugman . It quotes criticisms from Larry Summers, but, disappointingly, does not give Krugman's replies. My take: Obama's basic mistake has been listening to Summers and Geitner, instead of Krugman and Steiglitz.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Don't ever make your move too soon

I'm starting to think, now that Obama is fighting back, that he has been slyly holding back, giving the Republicans enough rope to hang themselves with. Maybe he's a devotee of the philosophy "don't ever make your move too soon", in the immortal words of B.B. King. But did he have to wait till we lost the House?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

At Last! DCCC put out fact check pointing out the lies of Republi-cons this morning

This links to the DCCC blog. This April 17 it contains a series of good refutations in particular of Paul Ryan's lies on this mornings talk shows.

I don't think they've been listening to me, but hopeful things are starting to turn, and there will be rebuttal.

Analysis of the Republi-con from Austan Goolsbee

In his latest, Paul Krugman links to two interesting, detailed refutations of the claim that cutting taxes on the rich is the key to economic growth. Both are by Austan Goolsbee—who I believe is a former student of Krugman. Here they are:

Evidence on the High Hncome Laffer Curve

Taxing the Rich

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Incremental wins in a context of national erosion"

Matt Miller I think really nails what is right and wrong with Obama's current speech in his column in today's Post. Miller writes, "Is Obama’s framework better than Ryan’s? Absolutely. Is it equal to what America needs for renewal in an age of global competition? Absolutely not. It’s Clinton redux — a recipe for incremental progressive “wins” within a broader context of national erosion."

What we need is vigorous investment in the future. Air traffic controllers sleeping on the job is just the latest indication of what happens when you starve governmental institutions: they don't work well, and the public suffers. Hence, too few at the SEC to enforce bank regulations, too few to enforce food safety. And of course, no investment in a whole new, more excellent primary and secondary education system. We are talking about probably 3-4% more of our economy for public investment in the future. That's what is needed. Are we eating our seed corn?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Continuing to Tell The Big Lie - The Republi-con Marches On

Well Gentle Readers:

On the Republican side, the con goes on. Both John Boehner and Eric Cantor (not to forget Congressman Paul Ryan) continue to rail about the job destroying effects of President Obama's stated policy (in his speech last nite) to NOT extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Supply side economists of course (usually found only in the employ of the Heritage Foundation or the Cato Institute) continue to insist that such "tax increases" are highly stimulative. Regrettably, "big-lie" statements appear to be the preferred truffles of the Republican party these days (but then, if you consistently advocate for the wealthiest among us, while consistently eschewing any need for safety nets for the poorest among us - while insisting on treating your empoverishing policies toward low-income earners as a sign of your greater Christian morality - it's clear that your interest is in truffle eaters..not those who eat cabbage and beans.

Such statements however ignore some interesting facts. For example, the highly respected CBO analyzed a wide variety of economic stimulus options and found that the tax cuts for the wealthy (see http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/108xx/doc10803/01-14-Employment.pdf ) were in fact minimally stimulative (in terms of Gross Domestic Product). That is, for each dollar in budgetary cost incurred, this policy would have returned 40 cents on the dollar (while the extension of unemployment benefits would have returned about $1.90). Still, the Republicans preferred the truffles.

Instead of hewing to a theoretical (or if you prefer, an ideological argument), lets look at the actual growth in jobs and income after the Clinton tax increases and the Bush tax cuts respectively. As the Center for American Progress points out clearly in their discussion of tax cuts (see http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/07/let_cuts_expire.html ) the empirical evidence is strong. Real GDP growth was 26% under Clinton's increased tax rates, and 16% under Bush's tax cuts for the rich. The changes in median income were profoundly different. Under Clinton, median household income went from $45,839 in 1993 to $ 52,587 in 1999 - a 14.7 percent increase. Under Bush's tax cuts, real income went from $51,356 in 2001 to $52,163 - an increase of 1.6%. In short, the actual evidence here is damning.

The good news is that for the first time in office Obama actually availed himself of the "bully pulpit." Amazing!!! I was beginning to believe that certain bodily organs had permanently left for warmer climes....

Will Van Horne

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Obama Comes Through

In his speech he attacked the Republicans forcefully, but not the RepubliCON. Overall, I relieved, and impressed by the power of his attack, combined with his tone of understanding and compassion. I didn't hear the whole thing, but want more on the RepubliCON that cutting taxes on the rich will help grow the economy. Krugman has a similar reaction, with an important caveat: that he doesn't bargain away what he's asked for.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What to look for in Obama's Speach

Obama I think has done a lot of good, but he has been missing in action in rebutting the RepubliCON—that cutting taxes and spending will be great for the economy. All evidence is against it. Will Obama cite that evidence or not? Will he say that the RepubliCON is an attack on the middle class and poor, and that the rich must pay more for a good future for this country?

This is the moment. I'm worried.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Calling out the Ryan Plan as a Fraud

As Krugman repeats here, and quotes others as emphasizing the same thing, the Ryan plan to cut the deficit is not a serious plan that is to radical. It is a fraud plain and simple. It's the RepubiCON again. Same old story.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ludicrous and Cruel

Krugman nails it again, labelling the Paul Ryan budget "Ludicrous and Cruel". When are the mainstream media going to stop taking him seriously as an "intellectual."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

John "Herbert Hoover" Boehner

In today's column Nicholas Kristof aptly renames speaker Boehner. Are journalists more widely than Krugman and Ezra Klein waking up to the RepubliCON, and are they going to call it out more forcefully?

Monday, April 4, 2011

The coming challenge: Will Obama stand up publically to Ryan?

In the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne point out that crunch time is almost here: Cong. Ryan will propose a budget that will eviscerate the federal government. Will Obama talk to the nation, with the facts and charts on the RepubliCON—increased inequality and flat growth—that many have noted, and that we have posted here? Stay tuned...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Krugman calls out the RepubliCON lie that cutting spending will grow jobs

Paul Krugman calls out the latest RepubliCON propagandasaying that cutting discretionary spending will increase economic growth. As he warned last year, the British Conservatives pushed in austerity (which is always on the backs of the poor, not the rich!) and result has been miserable as predicted. Krugman points out that the International Monetary Fund, not exactly a left wing organization, has refuted the idea that austerity kicks off economic growth. The shameless RepubliCON keeps going relentlessly nonetheless.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rep. Weiner lashes other Democrats for timidity in defending Health Care

As Dana Milbank explains in the Washington Post, Anthony Weiner has forcefully defended the new health care act—this is the one year anniversary. And he has criticized his Democratic colleagues for not defending it more forcefully. But the President has to lead on this. Why is he not out front rebutting Republican lies? Here is the link to Weiner's speech before the Center for American Progress on Health Care.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ezra Klein exposes RepubliCON hypocrisy on deficit

Ezra Klein exposes Republicon hypocrisy on the deficit. Their first priority is not raising any taxes of the rich. (Scroll down to the third item in the link.) At this point the issue is not RepubliCON lies and hypocrisy, but how to expose and discredit what they are doing. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

5% surtax on millionaires would eliminate need for RepubliCON cuts-Sen. Saunders

Will Obama come out for this? Here are Sen. Saunders and Gov. Rendel on how Democrats should "stand up for core principles." Great question from the journalist: "Why do Democrats lose the 'framing battle?'"

Monday, March 7, 2011

Now is the time for Obama to stand up and say, I will veto this!

As 60 minutes last night documented, heartrendingly, the rate of child poverty in the US will soon reach 25%, the highest since the depression. And the RepubliCONs want to cut needed programs for children, as ThinkProgress.org says in an article. Isn't this the time for Obama to stand up and say: "I will veto any RepubliCON attack on the well being of our children! Let the rich pay, and the children eat!

Why the Old Adage "Seeing Is Believing" Is Wrong

One of the remarkable aspects of the fierce "conservative-liberal" debate that is so disturbing today is the frequent reliance upon ideology rather than fact. More disturbing still (as folks like Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolution pointed out decades ago), recognizing "anomalies" or findings that are inconsistent with your theory is an incredibly hard thing for any true believer to acknowledge.

Thus, followers of Aristotle, found it heretical to believe (like the Copernicans) that the sun and the planets did not revolve around Mother Earth. Conservative, free-marketers similarly find it heretical to believe in any structural explanation for the massive levels of unemployment (Certainly this is an anomaly from the standpoint of "individual responsibility" it's hard to explain how 9-10% of the economically active population suddenly "got lazy" or failed to yank harder on their bootstraps). Certainly it's hard to recognize an anomaly like the impoverishing effect of our health care system (seen in rates of higher infant mortality, lower longevity, poorer health care outcomes) than in other industrialized nation states. Certainly it's hard to recognize the failure of "trickle-down" economic theory - when no one, with rare liberal exceptions, spotlights the consistently massive growth of wealth inequality in this country. And certainly, its hard to recognize that budget documents are moral documents as much as they are fiscal documents unless one is prepared to acknowledge that biblical teachings instruct us to favor the wealthy. In all of these cases, it's the tight prism of radically conservative ideology that prevails - even as the counterfactual universal grows larger and larger. For a good take on this conservative moral prism see Lakoff's blog http://georgelakoff.com/2011/02/19/what-conservatives-really-want/).

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

How to kill a recovery

Krugman does it again, prompting I think the first time I have posted twice in one day. Key points: "Last October, a comprehensive study by the International Monetary Fund concluded that “the idea that fiscal austerity stimulates economic activity in the short term finds little support in the data.” In other words the Republi-CON has no basis in reality.

The bottom line: "Republicans have managed to come up with spending cuts that would do double duty, both undermining America’s future and threatening to abort a nascent economic recovery."

The tale of how the RepubliCONs are turning us into a banana republic

Here in Mother Jones magazine is a great collection of charts documenting the extreme inequality that has been created since Reagan: the great Republi-Con. Why doesn't Obama do a TV special laying out these charts to make the case that we need to tax the rich, not cut needed spending? The case needs to be made, NOW, not in 12 months.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The fundamental Republi-CON lie, definitively refuted

In an important new article, reporter David Cay Johnston definitively refutes the Republi-CON with specific facts and figures: cutting taxes has not raised revenue or increased economic growth, as they constantly repeat as if a fundamental truth, when it is a fundamental lie.

The summary: " No matter how many times advocates of lower tax rates said it, tax rate cuts did not pay for themselves, did not spur economic growth, did not increase jobs, and did not make America better off.

Now that the news has been broken, let's see how many political leaders start speaking facts instead of fairy tales. And let's also watch to see how many Washington reporters, news anchors, talk show guests, and syndicated columnists use the actual figures. It's called holding politicians accountable, and it used to be a mainstay of journalism, where the first rule is to check it out and the second is to cross-check until you know what is going on and can give context."

Here's the PDF with the facts and figures.

Lies about compensation of government worker in Wisconsin

Via Miles Krasen. Reporter David Cay Johnston exposes the lies of the Governor of Wisconsin about state worker's pensions, in this fascinating interview. Most significant is that the media have by and large just swallowed the Governor's line. Here's the original article. His new one, even more important, I'll post shortly

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Forbidding lying in the news

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. writes that the effort in Canada to repeal a law forbidding lying in the news has collapsed. Apparently it has prevented Fox from moving into Canada. The repeal of the "fairness doctrine" by Reagan has, in retrospect, really had a damaging effect on American journalism. If we don't reinstate it, then surely we need something like the Canadian law. Journalists need to be held to a higher standard of responsibility for honesty than schoolyard or back fence gossip.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Losing the Future, the Republi-Con way

Paul Krugman takes a scary look at the dismal state of children in Texas—only 6 in 10 graduate high school, and they have the fewest percentage of children with health insurance. By not investing in children, Texas assures many of them a dismal future. Now we have like-minded folks running the House. Cut investment in children, and give the rich tax breaks. And they say that's good for the country. I really wonder how much they believe this stuff themselves.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Is the "tea party" winning?

E.J. Dionne argues in today's Washington Post thatthe tea party is winning, because the media conversation is all about how to cut the budget. When is Obama going to come out and say that's not the important agenda now? The important and urgent agenda is to tax and spend: tax the coddled rich, whose taxes have been cut from 90% to 30% and less, and to invest in the American people and infrastructure. This will reduce unemployment and build a better future.

As for the long term deficit, as Krugman has written, it is really all about health care. Obama made a start with the health care bill, but it needs to be pushed much further to really cut health care costs. The Republicon agenda is exactly the opposite of what is needed. It will increase unemployment and undermine the long term strength of the country.

The anti-Lincoln Party

Somehow I missed this column of Paul Krugman on how the Republi-cons have become the anti-Lincoln party. Krugman punctures the current Republi-con fantasy that inflation is tearing us up, or just about to next week, and our currency is becoming worthless. But even more important is what was one central plank of Lincoln's policies: federal government investment in infrastructure. Lincoln is known for fighting the civil war and his great speeches, but in fact under his administration, the investments, such as the homestead act, the trans-continental railroad, and land grant colleges were started. These formed the foundation of the development of the US as a great power. The Republi-cons, by opposing federal investment in public goods are supporting policies that would do far more to weaken the US than anything the Taliban are doing or likely to do.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The moral universe of conservatives.

Very interesting analysis of "conservative" moral world view by George Lakoff. Lakoff's analysis partly accounts for the RepubliCON refusal to look at evidence, and presistant lying about health care and other political issues.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why isn't President Obama saying this?

President Obama said that the debate over extending further the tax cuts for the rich in 2012 is a debate he'd be glad to take on. To be effective that debate needs to start NOW. Here is Bernie Saunders starting it. .

Many of the stats from Saunders have already been posted on this blog, here or the facebook version, but here is a striking new one from Saunders: 80% of the increase in wealth since 1980 has gone to the top 1%. It's not "trickle down" but "reverse Robin Hood:" rob the poor to pay the rich.

The problem is that the TV news does not usually cover Saunders. If Obama takes up the rebuttal, and emphasizes the necessity of restored higher taxes on the rich, the debate will be engaged, and the Republi-cons be forced to respond. Come on President Obama, now is the time!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Three Pinocchios from Wash Post for Republi-CONS

Glenn Kessler, on Washington post's "Fact Checker" gives Republicans Three Pinocchios for twisting Congressional Budget Office information. And they should "be ashamed of themselves" for quoting and twisting the CBO when they have dismissed all the CBO other CBO numbers, particular its prediction that the Health Care law will save the government money.