Archive for the 'Economy' Category

History didn’t begin in the 1950s.

Feb 08, 2012 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy

This deconstruction of Charles Murray by David Frum is masterful. If Republicans talked like David Frum, we’d be getting somewhere.

I tramped through a lot of the same research that Charles Murray presents here when I wrote my history of the 1970s, How We Got Here.

As I looked backward and forward in time, however, I had to face this awkward fact: America became more culturally stable between 1910 and 1960 as it became less economically and socially libertarian. As it became more economically and socially libertarian after 1970, America became culturally less stable:

“The greatest generation was also the statist generation. Like them or loathe them, the middle decades of the twentieth century were an entirely anomalous period in American history. Never had the state been so strong, never had people submitted as uncomplainingly, never had the country been more economically equal, never had it been more ethnically homogeneous, seldom was its political consensus more overpowering.”
Murray nostalgically regrets the lost America of his 1950s Midwestern boyhood. But to describe in any true way how that America was lost would require a reckoning of how that America was made. Unwilling, as he acknowledges, to submit his politics to the check of uncongenial evidence, Murray prefers to avoid encountering the evidence that might shake his politics.

The cognitive dissonance required to be a Republican nowadays qualifies as neurological self-mutilation. Going back to the taxes of the nineties is regarded as Stalinism by Republicans nowadays. Looking back to the story of the “Greatest Generation” and how they built a middle class America reveals that we were apparently a sub-colony of the USSR. Republican presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan (yes, I mean that) and George HW Bush were all bleeding pink. As Republicans wrenched us away from the kind of unity we had post-Depression and WWII, the middle class has seen increasingly disproportionate returns, and blue collar workers have ever fewer roads to common prosperity in this service economy. If Republicans intend to explain how they’re going to return us to middle class prosperity with the economic support systems of the 1800s, then they should get started on explaining sooner rather than later.

-hw

Will facts matter in the 2012 election?

Jan 19, 2012 in Economy

The thing is that when you look back, the stimulus was one of the few things that did have an effect on the recession. We already had low taxes and a deregulatory paradise before the economy collapsed, why would those things be expected to work as salve for fiscal wounds?

-hw

I will bet you ten thousand dollars.

Dec 11, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy, Politics

Ten grand, I say, that my chicken quiche won’t melt your heart. Let’s put another ten grand on whether or not I can do the Fox Trot! And why not? Let’s bet a fucking yacht that I can bowl over 200. I’m so frivolous I should run for president.

-hw

Complete and utter devastation.

Nov 04, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Crazy Tea Party People, Economy

A good primer compiling numerous resources on the cause of the 2008 financial collapse. Short version: Just because Republicans decided everything was the fault of blacks and the gubmint doesn’t mean anybody has to take it seriously. Just like invading Iraq after 9/11, they decided that the best thing to do was blame the people they already hated, so they came up with whatever it took to paint that picture, even if it meant leaving out virtually the entire story of what really happened.

Regardless of whether or not Republicans are racists or just generally bullshitters and assholes, the fact is that we as a country really have to stop giving them any credibility until we see real proof. Over and over and over again Republicans make grave pronouncements and intimations of irrefutable fact, and just as often we find out that not only are they wrong, but easily verifiably wrong by the most basic empirical standards. And their mistakes are rarely harmless. We elected them back into office in 2010 without ever holding them accountable for 2008. We didn’t even expect them to know what happened in 2008, instead we listened to their fabulous fibbing yet again. And how successful can a repairman be if he doesn’t understand what’s broken? As could only be expected, they only did further economic damage to the country, directly destroying jobs, damaging our credit rating, and taking us to the bring of economic Armageddon (just to prevent tax increases on the rich, mind you).

No party that cannot come to terms with our predicament and what caused it can be trusted to lead, period.

-hw

Crushing student debt.

Sep 23, 2011 in Economy, Education

Mrs. Whistler begins her MBA in a few days. Now, in her case I know the extra $20K in student loans will be money in the bank, but she is an amazingly competent and likable person. Not all of us are so blessed;)

Unfortunately, for-profit colleges and increased tuition at private and state schools has resulted in a lot of students for whom there are no jobs, and skyscraper-heavy debt. But at least it profited somebody, eh?

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

And that bubble’s ready to burst

-hw

This is why there must be no backing down.

Sep 19, 2011 in Barack Obama, Clueless Conservatives, Crazy Tea Party People, Disappointing Dems, Economy

When you have the right ideas and the public has your back, the last thing you need to be afraid of is the crazy Teapublicans throwing a tantrum and yipping CLASS WARFARE CLASS WARFARE over and over again.

…Obama’s new jobs plan, and the provisions within it, have clear public support:

* A slim plurality is very or somewhat confident that the American Jobs Act will improve the economy and create jobs, 48-47.

* A solid majority, 56-30, favors significantly cutting payroll taxes for working Americans.

* A majority, 52-40, favors Federal aid to state governments to avert public employee layoffs.

* A huge majority, 80-16, favors spending money on the nation’s infrastructure in order to try to create jobs.

* A big majority, 71, favors reducing the deficit through a combination of tax increases and spending cuts; a meager 21 percent favors only spending cuts.

* A solid majority, 56-37, favors reducing the deficit with tax hikes on households earning $250,000 a year or more.

* A solid majority, 56-29, thinks creating jobs should be prioritized over cutting spending.

Now, we’re talking about Democrats here, so naturally we have the horrible idiot who bungled Hillary’s campaign, Mark Penn, actually lecturing Obama for choosing class warfare and not going for the “center.” Well, besides the fact that Obama’s policies are actually aimed at benefiting the real center of America, the middle class, they have majority support, but one would be a fool to think this is what guides the chickenshits in the Democrat Party who most love to claim the “centrist” label.

No, “centrist” Democrats are just chickenshits who jump whenever Republicans throw a tantrum. Their overriding commandments are 1. Accept all Republican premises in any argument and 2. Run from any fight with Republicans, no matter how extremist or fringe they are. And yet it’s guided entirely by electoral fear of a group that obeys neither in respect to Democrats.

This next year and the election capping it off really are all about what’s best for America. As president, Obama will take a hit if America isn’t doing better no matter how much people love his policies, no matter how much they would oppose Republican policies, no matter if those policies do actual good. Republicans have realized this calculus and embraced it, engaging in blatant sabotage of the economy to keep things bad as long as Obama is in office (not that this would guarantee things improving under a Republican, but they’ll take their chances…after eight years of defending Bush they’re used to brushing off failure). The incentives are in place…what helps America helps Obama, what hurts America helps Republicans (although Democrats putting up a real fight would alleviate that somewhat). Are Republicans going to take the high road and potentially sacrifice 2012 in order to help get America back on its feet? Don’t hold your breath.

Really, they’re left arguing that President Obama and the Democrats may have these plans to help the country, but they’re only doing so to keep their jobs. In other words, they’re doing the right thing but for the wrong reasons. Now, it’s pretty hard to overstate just how reprehensible and insulting that is to Democrats, but whatever. Republican insults are as cheap and plentiful as oil used to be. And they’re usually based on projection. What would you expect to hear from people who deliberately held the American economy hostage in order to prevent the rich paying a penny more in taxes? Again, do you smell any sense that Republicans are feeling electorally selfless lately? Projection.

But who cares? Politicians who help the country to keep their jobs are what one expects in a democracy. Democrats have only fear of Republicans saying mean things on FOX news as their inhibition, and if that rules their judgment, then they deserve to lose (note: That still doesn’t make voting for a Republican a smart thing to do, they also don’t deserve to win!). If Obama decided he’s going to fight for everyone in America who isn’t uber-wealthy because it’s the right thing to do, great. If he decided that because he knew he’d be a one-termer if he didn’t, great! Any Democrat supports most of these policy prescriptions, and it used to be that Republicans supported them too. Whatever it takes to kick them in the ass is good, and the public being on their side needs to matter this time. If you see a chickenshit Blue Dog kvetching and moaning about the “center,” kick that dog in the ass extra hard.

-hw

No, Virginia, the Democrats aren’t just as bad as the Republicans.

Sep 14, 2011 in Crazy Tea Party People, Economy

Well, if our recent invasion of trolls weren’t enough to illustrate that…Michael Tomasky compares major Bush initiatives to Obama’s to see how the opposition party cooperated.

Here’s how it all adds up:

Average Democratic Senate support for Bush: 45.5 percent.
Average Democratic House support for Bush: 36.8 percent.
Average combined Democratic support for Bush: 41.1 percent.
Average Republican Senate support for Obama: 8.8 percent.
Average Republican House support for Obama: 2.7 percent.
Average combined Republican support for Obama: 5.75 percent.

And where Republicans couldn’t win by merely withdrawing support, filibusters exploded.

If you’re mad about the government not doing enough to help the economy since the collapse of 2008 capping off two terms of Republican leadership enjoying coooperation from Congress, it certainly doesn’t make sense to be angry at Obama for not stomping his feet harder. Republicans have been waging war on him since they were thrown out in 2008, and when they got some power back in 2010 they used it to wage economic sabotage against the entire country just to have a chance in 2012.

We heard a lot about patriotism during the Bush years, but working against helping the country after the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression? And then expecting to be rewarded for it? What exactly do Republicans have to do to offend the public?

-hw

How’s that Republican obstructionism working out for ya?

Sep 09, 2011 in Crazy Tea Party People, Economy

Funny how Republicans never seem to listen to Wall Street anymore.

Stocks dropped Friday, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 303.68 points, or 2.7 percent, to 10992.13. Analysts blamed Europe’s debt woes for the fall, along with the resignation of European Central Bank board member Juergen Stark. Stark is resigning because of a conflict over the bank’s bond-buying program. Analysts also attributed the drop to skepticism that President Obama can get his $447-billion jobs package through Congress. (emphasis added) Finance chiefs from the G-7 countries meet Friday to discuss the global economic situation.

Wall Street didn’t like the debt ceiling threat either.

Oh, do we need reminding that in Obama’s first two years with a Democratic Congress Wall Street saw its losses recovered and corporate America sits on a big pile of cash? According to Republican boilerplate of the past 30 years, if you save the rich then everybody else profits. To say that Reagan Christ’s beloved trickle-down economics has been discredited is to be too kind. And yet Republicans talk about is how high corporate taxes are.

Wall Street knows Obama’s jobs bill can do a lot of good.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, is frequently the go-to guy for both parties when it comes to analysis of various jobs proposals. So, what did he think of President Obama’s speech last night? Here’s the report: “The plan would add 2 percentage points to GDP growth next year, add 1.9 million jobs, and cut the unemployment rate by a percentage point.”

But there’s a higher principle at work here for Republicans. Why help the economy and add jobs when doing so helps Obama keep his? Economic sabotage is all they have. When Obama’s foreign policy is nearly unassailable (from the right) and supply-side economics has failed, what else do they have but to hurt the economy and hope people point the finger at Obama?

Fortunately, with just 26 sane Republicans in the House, Obama could pull this jobs plan off. That leads one to the next question: Are there 26 sane Republicans in the House?

-hw

Go down with a fight.

Sep 01, 2011 in Barack Obama, Crazy Tea Party People, Economy, Election crap

On knowing that whatever jobs program Obama proposes is DOA in the Republican-controlled House (and that Republicans will gladly turn around and blame Obama for not doing anything about jobs):

The Republicans are going to deride whatever he does as Son of Stimulus, the right-wing propaganda apparatus will put a fatwa on the head of any wavering House member or senator, and no plan with “Obama” in its name is going to clear the Senate, let alone the House, and that will be that. We know this.

This is why it’s so chillingly disheartening to read quotes like Carney’s and Earnest’s. The plan can be bold. The plan can be modest. The point is that he has to fight like hell for it. But he won’t. He is the anti-Broder on this front. Remember how the late David Broder wrote all those columns lamenting partisan gridlock, carefully blaming both sides, pointedly ignoring the mountains of evidence that it was chiefly Republicans driving the divide? Well, Obama, rather than blaming both sides, blames neither. He speaks of ending partisan gridlock in a disembodied and remote way, and he talks about it as if it’s an act of God that has descended on the capital, like Irene did—and one that can be overcome if we all just put our shoulders to the wheel.

But the truth is that our gridlock is an act of man—or men. Particular men. They even have names. They are McConnell, Boehner, and Cantor. God forbid the president criticize them. It’s two more syllables than “Martin, Barton, and Fish,” the trio of Republican obstructionists FDR famously called out (read this for a little background on how Obama could be behaving differently), but the president’s an articulate fellow; he could handle it.

President Obama seems to be dipping into the crazy juice when he still talks about how Washington is going to come together and work to solve our problems. Yes, that’s what’s necessary, but it isn’t going to happen, and he needs to acknowledge that and choose how he’s going to spend the final year of his first term. There’s a terrific case to be made against Republicans for what they’ve tried to do to sabotage the economy and prevent any successful legislation that even appears to have come from President Obama, but Obama simply cannot move forward acting like anything’s going to change in the next year. Why should it? As stupid and destructive as it is, the GOP cockblock strategy is hurting Obama’s ratings and that’s all Republicans care about, even if it means cratering their own. Maybe it won’t work for them next year, but there’s no reason for Obama to let them have the chance. He needs to be the guy we elected the next year, the guy who ran on change we could believe in, who ran on standing up for progressive principles, for working families, for all the people the Bush/GOP years left behind.

The most important thing people need to see is that Obama cares and he’s fighting for them. If he fights for them and the Republicans oppose everything he does, then the Republicans are opposing the people. This is already the case, but it needs to be made crystal clear. Republicans are bullies. They will talk shit, they will insult, they will lie, they will make up anything they want about Democrats because they can usually expect Democrats to not fight back, and slowly the taint creeps. But when you fight back, Republicans scatter, whine, cry, complain, and moan about how hurt their feelings are. So Democrats veer between being wimps and, the second they fight back, mean ole’ meanies who are so very cruel and shrill. That’s falling right into the GOP playbook.

No, what you do is keep pressing forward, keep pointing your finger, and keep touting your values, the positive values that lead you to fight for all Americans, not just the wealthy and white. President Obama has actually done some pretty significant things for the poor, most importantly health care reform, but he can’t rest on his laurels and wait for progressives to kiss his ass, as his admin has sometimes signaled they’d like to do. The political capital is burned up. It’s time to earn some more.

-hw

More studies show the stimulus worked.

Sep 01, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy

Ezra Klein gives a thorough breakdown of nine major studies that have been done on Obama’s stimulus and how it impacted the economy. Bottom line, most say it significantly benefited, and people who claim it hurt the economy are probably selling you something (hint: A Republican candidate).

It’s always important to remember that the stimulus was smaller than most experts wanted and was one-third tax cuts (something Republicans will never tell you). It obviously didn’t rescue America from all effects of the 2008 crash, but there is a general consensus that it prevented a lot of damage. Now, it’s never easy selling voters on how you saved them from something bad that didn’t happen, but it’s still reality, so it’s worth pointing out.

And what was that Republican plan that would have gotten us through the whole ordeal scott-free?

-hw

Somehow, there are people who believe Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh aren’t dirty liars.

Aug 17, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy

Steve Benen comments on Media Matters catching Limbaugh claiming unemployment was 5.7% when Obama assumed office and Hannity later repeating that as 5.6%, when it was 7.5%.

It was June ’08 the last time we saw numbers comparable to Limbaugh/Hannity’s bullshit claim. Apparently the Great Recession started after Bush left!

Hannity and Limbaugh may have blocked out eight years of spectacular Republican failures, but Obama took office when the nation was in freefall. Arguably no president in American history started his first day with a list like this: the Great Recession, two deadly wars, a jobs crisis, a massive deficit and budget mess, crushing debt, a health care system in shambles, a climate crisis, an ineffective energy policy, an equally ineffective immigration policy, a housing crisis, the U.S. auto industry on the verge of collapse, a mess at Gitmo, a severely tarnished global reputation, an executive branch damaged by corruption, incompetence, and mismanagement, and an angry, deeply divided electorate.

It was, by most measures, the worst national conditions ever faced by a newly-elected president.

Hannity and Limbaugh want their minions to believe Bush bequeathed a healthy, prosperous nation. That’s insane.

That’s money in the bank for those assholes, but what about the idiots who listen to them and believe it?

-hw

What we need to understand for 2012.

Aug 17, 2011 in Economy

-hw

David Frum has cast off his chains and wanders where his mind takes him.

Aug 04, 2011 in Economy

It’s amazing what happens when you stop caring what LimbaughPalinBeckAiles thinks of you. Frum:

Two years ago, Commerce estimated the decline of the US economy at -0.5% in the third quarter of 2008 and -3.8% in the fourth quarter. It now puts the damage at -3.7% and -8.9%: Great Depression territory.

Those estimates make intuitive sense as we assess the real-world effect of the crisis: the jobs lost, the homes foreclosed, the retirements shattered. When people tell me that I’ve changed my mind too much about too many things over the past four years, I can only point to the devastation wrought by this crisis and wonder: How closed must your thinking be if it isn’t affected by a disaster of such magnitude? And in fact, almost all of our thinking has been somehow affected: hence the drift of so many conservatives away from what used to be the mainstream market-oriented Washington Consensus toward Austrian economics and Ron Paul style hard-money libertarianism. The ground they and I used to occupy stands increasingly empty.

If I can’t follow where most of my friends have gone, it is because I keep hearing (a) question:

Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Wall Street Journal editorial page between 2000 and 2011, and someone in the same period who read only the collected columns of Paul Krugman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of the current economic crisis? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?

I know Very Serious People are supposed to sniff at Krugman and his numbers for saying things that the corporate media don’t want to hear, but he’s been right about things for quite a long time now, so Frum doesn’t exactly get a birthday cake for arriving at this moment, but it’s a good sign. A little late, though, as our fantastic great awesome austerity bill sends the markets tumbling…

-hw

Wall Street confused, sending mixed signals…it’s not you it’s them.

Aug 03, 2011 in Crazy Tea Party People, Economy, Welfare of the rich

Wall Street and the Tea Party…what a relationship. Wall Street loves that the Tea Party wants to keep its taxes low and cut up all that troublesome regulation that makes them play fair, but then the Tea Party runs around doing shit like opposing TARP, holding the nation’s credit rating hostage and threatening a new recession, and choking off that government spigot that keeps the economy limping along (as opposed to crawling along, or rotting in a ditch along). What to do?

Ladies and gentlemen, some of you know a bit about dysfunctional, torrid love affairs where one day it’s epic bed parties and the next it’s dodging cutlery. *faraway stare*

So anyway, big surprise, Wall Street is now shitting its pants that spending is going to dip.

For months they sat around cheering on the tea partiers and declaring solemnly that the federal budget was just like a household budget and we needed “real action” on the debt in order to build confidence in the economy. Then, suddenly, when they got it, they realized that what they really wanted wasn’t dumb slogans but actual policies that would help spur the recovery. And that means looser monetary policy and fiscal stimulus.

So which is it? Has Wall Street really been sitting idly by during the whole debt ceiling debacle and has only now realized what it really means? Can they really be so steeped in the Fox News fantasyland that it never occurred to them until now that cutting federal spending during an economic downturn wasn’t really a great idea? Seriously?

Seriously, yes.

-hw

“But the CRA forced them to break the law!”

Jul 21, 2011 in Economy, Housing Bubble

The CRA-caused-the-crash myth had all of the right elements to make it popular amongst the brethren. Supposedly, librul Democrats passed the Community Reinvestment Act to force banks against their will to underwrite risky loans to families in urban areas. When those loans predictably underperformed, the hapless mortgage lenders were put out of business thereby paving the way for a government takeover of the private sector. The message of the story is obvious; business-hating politicians pulled the levers of Big Government and used listless Negroes as pawns in their long term goal of steering the USA further down the road towards Communism. There’s a couple things wrong with that story. Mortgage lenders lobbied hard for that legislation (under the twin banners of deregulation and “ownership society” propaganda) and sought to issue more risky loans far beyond what the CRA required because of the potential for higher rates of return. Remember “Lost another one to DiTech”? Who could forget besides the willfully blind? Anyone breathing and with a pulse during the past decade knew how aggressively companies pursued risky borrowers and as it turns out the motive for higher and higher profits obscured all other concerns. Wells Fargo was recently fined $85 million dollars for committing fraud against its customers by pushing them into higher interest sub-prime loans and, among other things, falsifying legal documentation. $85 million is a pittance compared to the tens of billions Wells Fargo received in bailout funds and the free money they continue to receive by borrowing money from the Federal Reserve at 0% interest but it still shows that nobody was forcing giant lenders into a precarious financial predicament. Nevertheless, the CRA myth will carry on. The allure of an easy answer that conveniently absolves the home team of responsibility and heaps it upon minorities is too great for them to resist. Which isn’t racist, of course.

-mg

Tax Cuts Cure All Ills.

Jul 18, 2011 in Economy

After thirty plus years of “supply side” economics there is no longer any demand. Whooda thunk?

-mg

Republican economic terrorism.

Jun 30, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Constitution, Crazy Tea Party People, Deficit, Economy

As the kids say nowadays, this.

Over at Dana’s blog the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection of the validity of the US debt has produced a sort of nervous chuckle without anybody really willing to explain how Republicans could force the US to default without violating the Constitution. Something tells me they’re feeling a bit blindsided.

But when your only goal is to do whatever hurts President Obama, even if that means tanking the economy, you gotta be careful of those blinders.

Sounds to me like Democrats just need to show a little spine to save the country and themselves.

Ah, shit. We might be screwed anyway then.

-hw

UPDATE: Fourteenth Amendment fever popping up here and here.

Quick question about Romney…

Jun 14, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy

He seems to be willing to talk the most smack about Obama, but has anybody noticed anything in his punch lines that involves any substance whatsoever?

It’s obvious Republicans have one strategy for 2012: Hey, look at those job numbers, Obama failed! But where’s the beef?

Republicans have held the veto pen since the beginning, using the filibuster to unprecedented levels when they had only 40 votes in the Senate, and now they control the House. Obama has only been able to get a weak stimulus that was mostly tax cuts that Republicans hate and weak financial reform. Oh, he saved GM, but Republicans hate that too. Anything, anything whatsoever that could be classified as “spending” was verboten.

So what is the Republican plan for jobs?

More tax cuts. Because we know how well those worked the last ten years.

You can’t attack Obama for the slow job growth (after suffering the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression on Bush’s watch with GOP deregulatory policies), when you stopped him from doing anything effective and all your plans are worthless.

Romney, a Gordon Gekko type who made what fortune he didn’t inherit by butchering companies and destroying jobs, can run around with his smile and his scolding tone all he wants. He’s got nothing, and if he emerges as the GOP nominee, he’s not going to like the scrutiny he’s going to get. It’s a lot easier up there on the stage with a bunch of Republicans who refuse to attack each other. And it’s easy to look like a contender when you’re up against Herman Cain, Michelle Bachman, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Tim Yawnplenty, and Ron Paul. By merely being the only candidate who wasn’t a complete disaster, Romney walked away with the debate.

Go ahead, Romney, tell me what you’re going to do for jobs without spending a dime or raising a dime in taxes. Cutting Medicare and SS payments is going to stimulate the economy, is it?

-hw

On that debt ceiling…

May 23, 2011 in Economy

Gosh, remember last year when it was all THERE IS SO MUCH UNCERTAINTY THAT IS WHAT IS KILLING THE ECONOMY…?

And now we’re sitting around trying to figure out what the hell is going to happen by August 2nd to prevent the US from defaulting on its loans and/or stopping payment for Social Security checks, Medicare, and military wages. Well, given our priorities I’m sure we’ll devote every penny we can scrape up to paying the military first, but still, that’s a whole lot of heapin’ uncertainty, all courtesy of the Republicans.

If you wonder why they have so often have no fear of making things up and being proven utterly wrong, it’s because they know that the country suffers from ADD-induced amnesia, and that the people who are supposed to hold them accountable usually find their job a lot easier as long as they’re talking about whatever it is rightwingers want to talk about on any particular day.

-hw

Austerity!

Mar 25, 2011 in Economy

I know anti-spending fervor was just a anti-whatever-Obama-does reactionary fart from the right in America, dutifully copied by serious people, leading to a stunted stimulus and several canceled public infrastructure projects that would have employed lots of people and improved the country, but why on earth did other countries have to copy the stupidity?

Just ask the Irish, whose government — having taken on an unsustainable debt burden by trying to bail out runaway banks — tried to reassure markets by imposing savage austerity measures on ordinary citizens. The same people urging spending cuts on America cheered. “Ireland offers an admirable lesson in fiscal responsibility,” declared Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute, who said that the spending cuts had removed fears over Irish solvency and predicted rapid economic recovery.

That was in June 2009. Since then, the interest rate on Irish debt has doubled; Ireland’s unemployment rate now stands at 13.5 percent.

And then there’s the British experience. Like America, Britain is still perceived as solvent by financial markets, giving it room to pursue a strategy of jobs first, deficits later. But the government of Prime Minister David Cameron chose instead to move to immediate, unforced austerity, in the belief that private spending would more than make up for the government’s pullback. As I like to put it, the Cameron plan was based on belief that the confidence fairy would make everything all right.

But she hasn’t: British growth has stalled, and the government has marked up its deficit projections as a result.

Our deficit problems are largely fueled by the economy tanking in 2008, causing already low revenues (thanks, Bush tax cuts) to decline precipitously. If we don’t fix the economy constructively in a way that gets more Americans working and spending, then revenue dips even more and trying to shave a few points off Medicare gets us nowhere. Even worse, we cut funding for things that save money in the long run, going directly backwards.

Yet somehow, in our difficult times, we’ve only mustered enough courage for the “hard choices” that happen to coincide with the 30 year Republican dream of starving the beast, defunding the government in order to force shrinkage to satisfy some vague ideological goal. Steadily, we strengthen the impression that America is unable to understand, address, and solve its problems. Thus the mythical “confidence” we do all this to seek dances further from our reach.

-hw

Let the Bush tax cuts expire in their entirety.

Dec 11, 2010 in Economy, Politics

Yeah, I said it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The Bush tax cuts were a bad idea ten years ago, they’ve bankrupted us for ten years straight with nothing to show for it with the worst market crash since the Great Depression, and they’ll keep sapping us every day down the road they’re in place.

I am only talking about returning to the tax rates of the prosperous nineties and having a decent shot at paying down our debt before interest payments spiral up out of control. That this is now thought of as some extremist lefty position, and that lefty ire over the bill satisfies the “if it pisses off liberals, it must be a good idea!” quotient for Krauthammer and Sullivan (oh, it means Obama will have an easier time in 2012, so it’s automatically good and I should shut up, you see…), does not strengthen my faith in American discourse. Once again, any rational position held by the left and supported by the public must be written off as beyond the pale.

I’m not immune to the suggestion that this constitutes a second stimulus. Indeed, I desperately hope so, if it passes. I just don’t have any faith that anything beyond the unemployment benefits are going to create decent returns. The Bush tax cuts didn’t get us anywhere but ten feet out from the ledge of a cliff doing bicycle kicks, so why would two more years do anything? The richest Americans are already sitting on their cash and not investing because there’s no demand, so why would more cash change their mind? Right now, tax cuts are the only way they’ll get more cash, not through investing. “Hey, I’ll go build a factory to make stuff nobody wants!” isn’t any more likely to happen now.

I have almost no hope that the deal will be held off or altered acceptably, so my hope that it will actually do some good is slightly higher. That’s not an endorsement, but I’ll be willing to say my reservations were wrong if I am so proven, ala TARP. But if this thing doesn’t pay off and provide enough inertia to the economy to get us over the hump, we’re gonna get screwed like Sasha Grey in prison.

-hw

I balanced the budget.

Nov 15, 2010 in Deficit, Economy

Here’s my take: 69% tax increases, 31% spending cuts.

It’s kind of reassuring knowing that with some relatively modest tweaks the deficit situation is solvable. Of course, we live in a political environment where Republicans gleefully campaign promising explicit tax cuts and vague spending cuts, telling voters they can have something for nothing. My position is that most spending programs can be altered but are essentially popular and desired by the public, and thus should be paid for. It’s something for something, and it balances out, doesn’t it? Don’t believe me, go look for yourself.

-hw

UPDATE: This is a good look at the kind of things missing from the calculator.

Leave the rich alone!

Oct 21, 2010 in Economy

But watch out, because you might lose your home anytime, even if you’ve been playing fair, if the bank says so (and it doesn’t have to prove anything). This is the America of two sets of rules:

We *know* that the rich will, on a personal level, get away with it — even if their company is “punished”, no-one who got rich by title fraud will be impoverished, there is almost no chance that anyone will go to jail, and if one or two *do* go to jail it will be a really, really nice place by jail standards.

Yet, even though legal title to the properties has been tangled and obscured, we know who is in actual possession: the people living in the houses. What is the downside of letting them continue to live there? They may not have a clear legal right to live there — but at the moment no-one else does, either. Unlike everyone else involved in the process, the residents have a direct, personal, and tangible interest in the properties, because they need a place to live.

What are the moral, legal, and social downsides to letting defaulting residents stay in possession? Why is it so important to punish them directly and tangibly, when the powerful people who set up this whole mess will never be directly punished?

Does the fact that we all know the faceless powerful will get away with it make us more determined to punish the powerless? Am I wrong to assume that they *will* get away with it — does one of you have a reason to think that anyone in the financial industry will actually end up hurting in a way that hurts?

The burden of proof for evicting somebody should be staggeringly high. Loans can be negotiated, principal can be negotiated, and kicking someone out should be the absolute last resort. But, folks, it isn’t, because in the end you’re just a financial unit, a number to be gamed like any other.

-hw

On our approaching serfdom.

Oct 15, 2010 in Economy

We now realize that foreclosures are happening in as sloppy, haphazard, and groundless a manner with which the subprime lending bubble blew up the country. And here we go again:

True to form, the Obama administration’s response has been to oppose any action that might upset the banks, like a temporary moratorium on foreclosures while some of the issues are resolved. Instead, it is asking the banks, very nicely, to behave better and clean up their act. I mean, that’s worked so well in the past, right?

The response from the right is, however, even worse. Republicans in Congress are lying low, but conservative commentators like those at The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page have come out dismissing the lack of proper documents as a triviality. In effect, they’re saying that if a bank says it owns your house, we should just take its word. To me, this evokes the days when noblemen felt free to take whatever they wanted, knowing that peasants had no standing in the courts. But then, I suspect that some people regard those as the good old days.

Toothless Democrats vs. Republicans actively aiding the country’s destruction…and about half the electorate digs the Republicans for having conviction. No doubt, in feudal days many serfs did admire the nobles.

-hw

What we’re up against.

Oct 09, 2010 in Deficit, Economy, Politics

Some Republicans are claiming they’d be open to defense cuts, but how far will they go? Bruce Bartlett tackles the usual wingers like Bill Kristol who have come out against defense cuts:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, originally appointed to his position by George W. Bush, has taken the lead on finding $100 billion in savings over the next five years. But the magnitude of our budgetary problems requires much deeper cuts. And as a recent Congressional Budget Office briefing makes clear, deep cuts are impossible without scaling back our defense commitments.

As the painful process of deficit reduction moves forward next year, many conservatives are going to scream that our national security is being fatally undermined. They will need to be reminded that excessive national debt also undermines our national security — especially when much of it is owned by foreigners like the Chinese. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently warned:

Our rising debt level poses a national security threat, and it poses a national security threat in two ways. It undermines our capacity to act in our own interests and it does constrain us where constraint may be undesirable. And it also sends a message of weakness internationally … It is very troubling to me that we are losing the ability not only to chart our own destiny, but to have the leverage that comes from this enormously effective economic engine that has powered American values and interests over so many years.

Is it good strategy to mortgage the earnings of future generations to keep a widespread standing army in 2010? To go broke maintaining a Cold War-fighting machine in a guerrilla war?

Anyway, go read the whole article. Reading an actual conservative take down the radical posers of the GOP is too sweet.

-hw

The Pledge to America is a horrific flop.

Sep 23, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives, Deficit, Economy

I told ya for two years they were crazy and had no good policies. Somehow they got backed into providing specifics (*gasp*) and now that we can see them, we can safely laugh. The Republicans are charlatans, especially about the deficit, and the Pledge is a budget-buster, plain and simple.

Fortunately, it takes 60 votes to get anything done in the Senate nowadays, right? The Republicans taught us that. Whatever Democrats don’t like, we’ll filibuster, just like Republicans did. Until they want to disarm the filibuster, why should Democrats get beat over the head with a stick for two years and not pick up a stick to fight back with? Two years of pure Obstructionism, in its most concentrated form, has destroyed the normal expectations. We don’t have a fair partner in the Senate. Just Machiavellians.

So what part of the pledge can get past the 60 vote barrier and a presidential veto (presuming Obama doesn’t just cave into everything, a possibility)? I’m sure something truly popular could get 60 votes. After all, Democrats did it for Health Care.

Watch the folks over at CPST run into a brick wall on the Pledge here. It’s crickets right now after a brief volley, but perhaps the thread will draw some rightwinger martyrs ready to yammer about Obama being teh Commie.

-hw

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Postcards From the Pledge
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

A moment of actual conservative thinking.

Sep 21, 2010 in Deficit, Economy

Christopher Buckley:

I worked at the White House in the early Reagan administration, at a time when the deficit rocket really started to take off. The problem was that Reagan had promised to a) cut taxes and b) increase defense spending. You remember: supply side? Candidate George H.W. Bush called it “voodoo economics,” his argument being that you couldn’t cut the deficit without cutting non-defense spending. Mr. Bush stopped calling it that round about January 20, 1981. Reagan then cut taxes, increased defense spending, and didn’t cut entitlement spending. Oops.

As the deficits began mount–though they were mere trifles, pittances compared with the Mt. Everest variety with us today–I meekly raised my little voice and said, “But I thought we Republicans were supposed to be the ‘Daddy Party’–the responsible ones. The designated driver-party.”

The answer, rendered most succinctly, 20 years later by Vice President Dick Cheney, himself part of a Republican administration that managed to double the national debt in eight years, was: “Deficits don’t matter.” P.S. Go f— yourself.

And if we face a debt crisis, it’s just a good chance to slash entitlements and stop making Americans so lazy in Republican eyes. Not really the most responsible way to handle things, is it? They started instituting their philosophy thirty years ago and now everybody living today and their descendants will be left with the burden of our exorbitant conceits (such as trillion dollar wars of widespread slaughter to avenge the loss of 3000).

I think that we might as well face reality: we’re going to have to cut spending and raise taxes. (Good luck with that, America.)

And we’re left with cowardly Democrats and corrupt Republicans gleefully willing to take political power by promising people they won’t have to pay for our mistakes.

There can be no redemption for this nation without pain. It’s up to the people to demand honest politicians who will tell them they can’t have everything for nothing, and that certain bills simply must be paid. And the people who ran up the tab so high shouldn’t be lecturing us about fiscal sanity.

Entitlement reform has to come packaged with massive defense spending cuts and tax increases. Anybody else telling you different is selling a get-rich-quick scheme. And you ain’t the one getting rich.

-hw

Got four trillion bucks?

Sep 16, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy

Not only have Bush’s tax cuts helped put us in the hole, but should they be made permanent, as Republicans would like us to do, it would cost us $4 trillion in just the next ten years.

These are the people we’re supposed to trust on the deficit? Repeat after me: Democrats lead to surpluses, Republicans lead us further and further into endless debt. Obama and the Democrats are taking a major step forward towards fighting the deficit by letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the rich. If only our country had the balls to go back to Clinton-era rates for everybody.

-hw

p.s. It’s true, it must be noted that Obama wants to compromise with the Republicans to keep the bulk of the cuts, which would go to the poor and middle class. That’s the thing…he’s trying to find a middle ground between the right solution and the destructive one, but the result is still $3 trillion more in the hole, validating a tax cut we never needed and couldn’t afford in the first place.

Now were the Republicans actually willing to do something real about the deficit, and we could all agree to go back to the tax rates of the 90′s, the Democrats wouldn’t be trying to compromise. Were the Republicans not willing to call the pre-set expiration date a “tax increase,” we wouldn’t have the compromise. But we have demagogueing entertainers on the right and shiftless cowards on the left, and so Rome continues to burn…

On receiving firing advice from Republicans.

Aug 24, 2010 in Barack Obama, Clueless Conservatives, Economy

John Boehner says, “Fire Summers and Geithner!”

Well, who can argue with that? It would be a good sign, actually, presuming the voice that replaced them was an actual liberal (no, you haven’t been living in some Commie nightmare, it’s okay to breathe a sigh of relief now) or at least somebody willing to really get serious about the best solutions to our problems, even if they are somehow bankrupt simply for being ideas that come from liberals.

I’d just like somebody who sticks to the merits. And the merits of our case are that capitalism has been broken by the rich and twisted into channels of infinite accountability-free revenue that can be used to muster political power and keep gaming the system in their favor. At every juncture, Geithner and Summers made sure above all else that the masters of money stayed happy and that the billions continued to flow upwards. What did we get? A robust Wall Street and a 9.5% unemployment rate. Fuck that noise, ladies and gentlemen. Fuck it in its ass.

Still, one has to giggle whenever a Republican says who ought to be fired, because it’s usually that Republican who needs to be fired. John Boehner has been a dolt, a barfly, a golfer, a stubbornly ignorant hack, and an unrepentent baseless obstructionist who has violated the principles of every “conservative” involved. Summers and Geithner would be useful in a room when decisions are being made, but they shouldn’t be making those decisions. Obama has shied away from having real oppositional thinking in his Cabinet, and people like Paul Volcker are simply not given much heft to work with. They propose something, then Geithner and Summers go over it and take out everything that would make a real difference. Symbolic measures, more tax cuts, less public benefit.

In their defense, Obama seems to be more reluctant to hang anything on Geithner’s word, and things like the $26 billion dollar jobs bill, half-measure as it is anyway, suggest somebody in there is listening.

Yes, you can spend a dollar on an ordinary American, not just a CEO. No, we won’t turn into the Soviet Union because of it. Nor Nazi Germany. That’s reality. And if Obama can get his team focused on reality, not just appeasing Wall St. (and getting called anti-business for it), then I’ll be a much happier camper.

-hw

Thanks for your patience.

Aug 23, 2010 in Economy, Politics

I was visiting family the last ten days, surely breaking a new record for weight gain during a visit. I started to feel the lure of becoming a giant fatso, wondering how easily I could move my weight around with another 50 lbs added. Ultimately I decided against it and to hunker down and adopt a lean lifestyle for the time being. My musculature has already taken a hit this past year, and I’ve tempted fate too much.

We must sustain ourselves, you see. And so I have to admit that while I am a committed libertarian socialist who believes in strong safety nets, I’ve encountered too many early retirees for my comfort, and it’s caused me to wonder why exactly it’s so important that we allow people to stop working in their fifties, when they’re easily at the peak of their professional wisdom and form. A fifty-five old politician is considered a young scrub, but a fifty-five year old can’t handle a white collar job? Yeah, moments like those are where I detour slightly from the dogmatic path.

Everything is about balance. To me, the question of safety nets is already well established social policy that sustains our populace’s total well-being. Retirement, with some planning, is an important social institution, one without which I believe our nation would harbor a great mass of suffering, and much less character. But then there is the line. The inevitable setting of pen to paper, where it comes down to picking numbers.

And I say this to the police. You want a pension? Stay on a case. Do cold case files for your fishing money. Test rape kits, thousands of which sit around in backlog. You can help when you’re old, and the country needs your help. When crime is over, I’ll listen to the sob stories. So yeah, sixty-five for cops too.

The moral case aside, it’s terrible for our finances too.

-hw

This is how you do it, cont.

Aug 10, 2010 in Economy, Outstanding Democrats

The House passed a bill Tuesday afternoon providing $26.1 billion to cash-strapped state governments, and preventing roughly 161,000 teachers and 158,000 public works employees from being laid off. The vote was 247-161.

And from the loyal opposition:

Republicans derided the measure as a transparent handout to teachers’ unions, a key Democratic political constituency, and argued that it will be no more successful at restoring the nation’s economic health than was the massive stimulus package President Obama signed soon after taking office last January.

“This is a bailout. This is another bailout. . . . Let’s not do this!” yelled Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.). “We’re facing almost a $1.5 trillion budget deficit. America, please, please, wake up. And remember in November.”

In a midafternoon vote, the House approved the measure 247 to 161, with most Republicans voting no. The Senate had already signed off on the package.

Keeping teachers in classrooms, health care workers in clinics, and other folks serving the public interest employed couldn’t have merit on its own, could it?

With the start of school just a few weeks away, most school systems were not counting on increased federal aid this summer as they set their staffing plans in motion. Across the country, class sizes have been on the rise, school bus routes have been cut and a plethora of programs, including summer school, arts and physical education and health and counseling services, have been cut back. Some school systems even trimmed the length of the school year to make ends meet.

Nobody could genuinely believe this bill would be one of the best uses of federal funds in the past two years. Right?

Congrats to the Democrats for a real win. Now appoint Elizabeth Warren and let’s have some fun campaigning in September and October…

-hw

Boehner knows how to kill the audience.

Jul 31, 2010 in Economy, Politics

Boehner pretends he had nothing to do with the Bush tax cuts expiring, room full of people who know he worked on them in committee bursts into laughter. I love that joke!

Oh, but they’re not the Bush tax cuts anymore:

In the meantime, Boehner is also urging Republicans to stop referring to the Bush tax cuts as the Bush tax cuts. GOP members are supposed to fight for the failed former president’s tax policy, but avoid using the failed former president’s name.

Yeah, calling them the Bush tax cuts might remind people of the guy who rode the economy into the ground and then high-tailed it.

It’s Bush tax cuts/massive deficit vs. Clinton tax rates/surplus. The country is ready, Democrats are scared, but this is an easy fight. I say let them expire entirely. If I owe $47,000, it’s time for me to start making a payment on that bastard. This is how I’ve eliminated tens of thousands of dollars in debt before, that’s something I’m fine with doing to keep the country out of the hole and to kill that damn interest payment.

We should be the ones loaning the money and profiting.

-hw

Democrats, listen up:

Feb 24, 2010 in Disappointing Dems, Economy

These guys are telling you how to do something right and get re-elected for it:

Marvin Bohn, (pictured at right) a 57-year-old former executive chef in Ohio, is another American who wants to work for his money. He’s been getting unemployment checks since June 2008.

“You keep wondering what’s gone wrong. Is there something wrong with you? You apply for jobs you’re overqualified for and you don’t get ‘em, and you get chided for making too much on unemployment.”
Story continues below

By contrast, a government job sounds good to him. “Instead of receiving the unemployment checks, even if it’s a fill-in job, it’d be doing good,” he said. “I would be very happy to do that.”

Christopher Hardin of Valdese, N.C., (pictured at right) said he, too, would jump at the opportunity to work rather than put up with the indignity of a futile job search in return for unemployment benefits. “Being 55, I haven’t been able to find any work,” said Hardin, whose most recent job was loading and unloading trucks for an auction house. “I apply for jobs all the time. I don’t get any return email or phone calls.”

Of course. People like to look at the classifieds, see a good job with decent pay, apply, and get hired. Americans work. These guys are sitting around waiting for somebody to put them to use. Of course…

Blackburn, Hardin and Bohn — and however many other Americans want the government to put them back to work, too — don’t have many champions on Capitol Hill or in the White House.

Democratic leaders, increasingly worried that members of their party will get swept out of office in the November elections, are desperate to do something about job creation. But the packages they are seriously considering are a mishmash of ineffective or inefficient measures, distinguished only by their political safety.

Yeah, because they’re awesome that way. Start out compromising with Republicans before you even get into the ring, and then act helpless when they pull you further to the right than you wanted to go.

ACT: Win. SIT AROUND AND GET YOUR THROATS CUT BY PROCEDURE: Go down in infamy as the cowardly Democrats who fell down when the country needed them.

Republicans have overextended their bullshit. It’s been a year and they haven’t cleaned up their act at all. Though if this is Obama’s ground game for November, it might be a good time to start kicking it in. Reconcile, attach a jobs bill to the defense bill, issue an executive order, but above all get people working again, like we did once before. Guys, Roosevelt got elected four times.

-hw

If only conservative voices could be heard.

Feb 05, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy

Ah, those arrogant liberals are at it again! Looking down their noses at real Americans and trying to force their political correctness on all of us. It’s as if they think we’re fucking retards!

Gerard Alexander affirms
what all conservatives have internalized in their heart of hearts already: that conservatives and their ideas are reflexively maligned because elitism and condescention are innate, unique qualities possessed by liberals. You’ll never go broke if you’re getting paid to tell right-wingers that they’re being victimized and imposed upon by Volvo drivers who think that they’re smarter than them. It’s their bread and butter.

This condescension is part of a liberal tradition that for generations has impoverished American debates over the economy, society and the functions of government — and threatens to do so again today, when dialogue would be more valuable than ever.

Because, you see, conservative ideas weren’t able to make it to the surface over the past eight years because they were drowned in a sea of domineering liberal discourse.

These four liberal narratives not only justify the dismissal of conservative thinking as biased or irrelevant — they insist on it. By no means do all liberals adhere to them, but they are mainstream in left-of-center thinking. Indeed, when the president met with House Republicans in Baltimore recently, he assured them that he considers their ideas, but he then rejected their motives in virtually the same breath.

This works if you ignore the fact that Obama responded to their proposed ideas using logic and reason. The president didn’t stand up in front of them at the House Issues Conference for an hour and a half and merely reject their motives. During that time Republicans got exactly what Alexander is suggesting they didn’t receive; a reasoned debate over their suggestions for fixing a broken economy. Not only that but it was face to face on live television on their own turf. I don’t know how much more open and accommodating to Republican suggestions the president could have been.

Like a lot of right-wing think tank groomed intellectuals, it doesn’t matter to Alexander whether “conservative” ideas can be refuted by sound reasoning or logic. We need to implement them anyway because they’re “conservative” and if we don’t we’re condescending ideologues who refuse to take them seriously. Here’s a fresh, new idea; instead of spending your time whining about how arrogant liberals don’t respect you why don’t you concentrate on developing more cohesive arguments.

-mg

This is one of my favorite demonstrations of what Gerard Alexander would refer to as “liberal condescension”. Daniel Ellsberg eviscerating the Very Serious ideas of great conservative thinker William Kristol.

Isn’t it a tragedy that liberals routinely brush aside the sage advice of this wise and humble man? Perhaps someday in a more civilized future, conservative greats like Kristol, Krauthammer, Broder, Kaplan and Hanson can have a platform from which to speak freely and have their ideas heard.

 

Tea Partiers, man your battle stations.

Feb 01, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives, Corporate shenanigans, Economy

Wall Street needs your anti-government rhetoric, and Frank Luntz is here to tell you how to apply your newfound populism to protecting big banks and the inscrutable financial apparatuses that got us in this mess:

If there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the bad decisions and harmful policies by Washington bureaucrats that in many ways led to the economic crash must never be repeated,” Luntz wrote. “This is your critical advantage. Washington’s incompetence is the common ground on which you can build support.”

Luntz continued: “Ordinarily, calling for a new government program ‘to protect consumers’ would be extraordinary popular. But these are not ordinary times. The American people are not just saying ‘no.’ They are saying ‘hell no’ to more government agencies, more bureaucrats, and more legislation crafted by special interests.”

The thing is, the teabaggers never were populists at all. They’re nothing more than angry Republicans who went apoplectic the day a man named Barack Hussein Obama was sworn into office, and the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency were utterly rebuked.

A group adrift, ideologically bankrupt, unrepentant, they seized on the emergency measures drafted to fight the economic collapse that nearly a decade of Republican deregulation had merited. In 1999, the Glass-Steagal Act crafted after the Great Depression was revoked, a move championed by Republicans and signed by go-along-to-get-along President Clinton, and in 2008, unleashed financial chaos led to entirely predictable results. Being Republicans, they couldn’t fight that. In reality, they could do nothing more than wait to see what President Obama would do to correct the situation, and then attack every inch of it. While they were at it, they tacked TARP onto Obama as well, since Great Leader Dubya must be excused from responsibility for his eight year tenure.

So the Tea Party activists claimed to develop “principles,” but it was new and unsteady for them. The best they could come up with was that they were against, surprisingly after eight years of massive deficit spending by Dubya, deficit spending. And after Bush’s massive tax cuts which contributed to our massive debt, they concluded that they were “taxed enough already.”

Of course, they have no clear proposals on how to reduce any spending or fix the deficit at all. They’re against ending the tax cuts, they’re against requiring bills to pay for themselves, they’re largely against toning down our overseas adventures, they’re against the cost-cutting reforms of the health care bill.

But Frank Luntz knows who the Republican party is, and he’s geared up the propaganda to make sure Tea Party buffoons are properly educated to understand that they must never truly turn their rage against the real elites who are robbing them blind. Wall Street must remain deregulated. There’s been some loss of message control over TARP, but pinning it on Obama was a fair enough compromise (if you don’t believe me, scan the comments threads on any rightwing blog, including Common Sense Political Thought…there’s a bevy of revisionists there). Sure, it’s likely to result in another collapse in a few years, and Wall St. will proceed as if expecting to be bailed out again, but since the president is a Democrat, Republicans can block whatever he tries doing to fix the problem and then blame him for anything that goes wrong.

All that’s really important is that Republicans get back in office. And if they don’t stop reinstating regulation to keep Wall Street safe, what use will Republicans be to those who regularly fill their campaign coffers?

-jb

Capitalism: Amoral or immoral?

Jan 17, 2010 in Economy, Politics

Joseph Stiglitz:

We have created a society in which materialism overwhelms moral commitment, in which the rapid growth that we have achieved is not sustainable environmentally or socially, in which we do not act together to address our common needs. Market fundamentalism has eroded any sense of community and has led to rampant exploitation of unwary and unprotected individuals. There has been an erosion of trust—and not just in our financial institutions. It is not too late to close these fissures.

How the market has altered the way we think is best illustrated by attitudes toward pay. There used to be a social contract about the reasonable division of the gains that arise from acting together within the economy. Within corporations, the pay of the leader might be 10 or 20 times that of the average worker. But something happened 30 years ago, as the era of Thatcher/Reagan was ushered in. There ceased to be any sense of fairness; it was simply how much the executive could appropriate for himself. It became perfectly respectable to call it incentive pay, even when there was little relationship between pay and performance. In the finance sector, when performance is high, pay is high; but when performance is low, pay is still high. The bankers knew—or should have known—that while high leverage might generate high returns in good years, it also exposed the banks to large downside risks. But they also knew that under their contracts, this would not affect their bonuses.

It’s always about rigging the game and having a good alibi:

The financial sector worked hard to stop predatory lending laws, to gut state consumer protection laws, and to ensure that the federal government’s ever laxer standards overrode state regulators. Their ideal scenario, it seems, is to have the kind of regulation that doesn’t prevent them from doing anything, but allows them to say, in case of any problems, that they assumed everything was okay—because it was done within the law.

And the teabaggers say DON’T YOU SEE WE NEED MORE FREE MARKETS GUBMINT IS EVIL! I dunno, but I feel I have a lot more control over what my government does than I do Wall St. Without the stimulus we’d have an 11%+ unemployment rate, but the teabaggers are sitting around shaking in their boots about socialism, convinced that it’s the source of their problems, after we just suffered an economic collapse at the hands of unrestrained private institutions.

-jb

A hint for our president.

Jan 16, 2010 in Barack Obama, Clueless Conservatives, Economy

Keep this up, and follow up on it, so we can see the teabaggers stutter while Republican politicians run to the defense of Wall St.

-jb

Harold Ford: Rugged Individualist Extraordinaire

Jan 13, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy

Cuz he’s got a helicopter and you don’t.

So the rugged individualist Harold Ford — who inherited his father’s Congressional seat at the age of 26 — is a self-proclaimed “capitalist” who believes that people “should lose” if they don’t do well: unless, that is, the people who “don’t do well” are his funders and controllers on Wall Street, in which case they should be propped up by the U.S. Government with bailouts and loans and Federal Reserve tricks until such time that they can pay themselves tens of millions of dollars in bonuses, at which point they should be left alone in the name of “free market capitalism” and keeping the Government out of the affairs of industry and away from their “rewards.” What Ford is advocating, of course, is the exact opposite of free market capitalism:

It’s the exact opposite of free market capitalism but their understanding of capitalism is exactly what is described above. Venture onto any right-wing blog/message board, the Wall Street Journal editorial page or College Republicans gathering and their definition is quite clear: government money going to people they like is capitalism while government money going to people they don’t like is socialism. Obviously if you were an authentic capitalist you would see any type of state intervention into the economy as a distortion but today’s rugged individualists never have an issue unless the largesse goes to parties they feel are unworthy. You’ll find plenty of ardent “free market capitalists” working at places like Lockheed Martin or Rockwell Collins. The fact that the companies they’re working for wouldn’t exist without enormous tax payer funded subsidies rarely enters into the equation and if it does they’ll rationalize it by saying that they “deserve” it because they’re working and those people aren’t working or some other self serving justification. A guy who lived on my dorm floor at ISU is the head of a research team at a defense contractor here in town. He makes over $100K a year and is currently developing a system by which the data from unmanned drones can be transmitted to hand held devices like the iPhone. He freely admits that all of their R&D money initially comes from the Air Force and if their projects happen to have civilian applications they’ll be able to capitalize on that as well. Again, the exact opposite of free market capitalism. But this friend of mine will also moan and groan about food stamps and “socialized” medicine. Maybe he thinks he’ll lose his house if some local kid gets his ear infection cleared up. I dunno. He drives a BMW 5 series so I guess that makes him a “capitalist”.

A reminder for you Republican populists.

Dec 15, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy

When push comes to shove, your party is still slave to Wall St. And they’re really happy that you sit around having your tea parties without expecting them to change their behavior in any way whatsoever.

…in the House of Representatives…with the meltdown caused by a runaway financial system still fresh in our minds, and the mass unemployment that meltdown caused still very much in evidence — every single Republican and 27 Democrats voted against a quite modest effort to rein in Wall Street excesses.

Now, we Democrats know chagrin. It sits in our passenger seat, constantly grabbing the wheel and sending us into the ditch (see Joe Lieberman, who will let thousands die to settle his political score with the party, willing to filibuster the very compromise he suggested a few months ago). There you can see 27 Democrats going along with the bastards, the party of the little people once again containing disturbingly large numbers of politicians willing to go to bat for corporate fat cats, even with the public livid.

But every…single…Republican.

How long can you teabaggers pretend you’re angry about unemployment, or the recession, or the risk of future economic implosions-

Nevermind. The answer is forever. Why do I bother?

-jb

Republicans are populists now, because they say so.

Dec 11, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy

Zero votes for the Wall Street reform bill, even one completely riddled with loopholes that will be readily exploited (Thanks, centrist Democrats, again, for representing nobody but the highest bidders).

Can we please toss a few more of these bums out? Are people really interested in a Republican party that sits on its ass in D.C. saying no to absolutely anything Democrats do to try fixing the damage from the Republican-fanned flames of financial deregulation wildfires.

Am I really supposed to believe these teabaggers who’ve been crowing so loudly really just want us to let Wall Street run wild? If so, why are they so reluctant to tout that? Republicans should be crowing about resisting another attempt to prevent gelded titans from tearing our country apart again.

-jb

The Gauntlet.

Dec 04, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy

Hey, fiscal conservatives…how many of these can you get behind?

I counted nine, and could imagine many more methods along those lines (e.g. end Drug War). Of course, I’m a liberal therefore I cannot be fiscally responsible. The teabaggers would quarrel with just about every one of those budget control ideas, but they’re conservative therefore they cannot be fiscally irresponsible.

Anybody who can score higher than five, however, may have a leg to stand on…

-jb

How’s the recession affecting you?

Nov 28, 2009 in Disappointing Dems, Economy

Don’t be afraid. My checking account balance as of today: $0.05

I’ve always been ready to stack jobs, and have usually done so. I’m always the most responsible person on a crew of nutsacks with no direction or work ethic, a by-product of my Iowa upbringing. I have a reasonable assurance of some seasonal work at the local college bookstore in January, but that’s it. Where before I used to go on craigslist.org and have a second job in a couple days, I now sit around wishing 7-11 would call me back.

I mean, my stack of screenplays is going to pay off someday as soon as all those Hollywood agents reading this blog get off their asses and bust down my door, but like any promising (not-so-young-anymore) author, I’m a broke-ass joke when it comes to the day job.

Be anon if you must, but how are you doing in the age of Geithner?

-jb

Stimulus should have been bigger, but still working.

Nov 21, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy

BUT HE SAID 8%!!!

…with roughly a quarter of the stimulus money out the door after nine months, the accumulation of hard data and real-life experience has allowed more dispassionate analysts to reach a consensus that the stimulus package, messy as it is, is working.

The legislation, a variety of economists say, is helping an economy in free fall a year ago to grow again and shed fewer jobs than it otherwise would. Mr. Obama’s promise to “save or create” about 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010 is roughly on track, though far more jobs are being saved than created, especially among states and cities using their money to avoid cutting teachers, police officers and other workers.

“It was worth doing — it’s made a difference,” said Nigel Gault, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, a financial forecasting and analysis group based in Lexington, Mass.

Mr. Gault added: “I don’t think it’s right to look at it by saying, ‘Well, the economy is still doing extremely badly, therefore the stimulus didn’t work.’ I’m afraid the answer is, yes, we did badly but we would have done even worse without the stimulus.”

In interviews, a broad range of economists said the White House and Congress were right to structure the package as a mix of tax cuts and spending, rather than just tax cuts as Republicans prefer or just spending as many Democrats do. And it is fortuitous, many say, that the money gets doled out over two years — longer for major construction — considering the probable length of the “jobless recovery” under way as wary employers hold off on new hiring.

More:

Among Democrats in the White House and Congress, “there was a considerable amount of hand-wringing that it was too small, and I sympathized with that argument,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Economy.com and an occasional adviser to lawmakers.

Even so, “the stimulus is doing what it was supposed to do — it is contributing to ending the recession,” he added, citing the economy’s third-quarter expansion by a 3.5 percent seasonally adjusted annual rate. “In my view, without the stimulus, G.D.P. would still be negative and unemployment would be firmly over 11 percent. And there are a little over 1.1 million more jobs out there as of October than would have been out there without the stimulus.”

The article does point out that Obama shouldn’t have projected 8% unemployment max, and that Republicans harp on that constantly (as we well know here, thanks to monkey troll Group2012). But what was their plan to save jobs again? Cut some more taxes? As it is, our unemployment levels can be directly attributed to the stimulus being too small, because of Republican protests.

And we’re supposed to reward them in 2010?

-jb

Wingers talking about unemployment while stocks are up?

Oct 15, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy

People like to remind us that unemployment hasn’t been this bad since…most of Ronald Reagan’s first term. Those who gloat about that, strangely, worship Reagan. Nevertheless, any Republican would tell you that Reagan took care of Wall Street, and the economy exploded.

Anybody can figure out why the market and unemployment are both high.

Stocks are rising because many companies are earning more money than analysts have expected. But earnings aren’t up because companies are selling more stuff; most companies are still selling less stuff and grappling with falling revenue. Instead, earnings are rising because companies have cut their costs more than revenues have fallen. And “costs” are often the same as “jobs.”

Fortunately, we have a better outlook than in 1983. While rightwingers have, of course, been foolish enough to declare the stimulus’ modest success a bust, those who are actually paying attention to the facts note that most of the stimulus bill hasn’t kicked in yet. Most of it will be enacted after Wall Street is feeling solid but people still need work (and Wall Street needs some primed-pump retail spending). Not that Wall Street has been sufficiently reined in to keep business clean yet, but as long as they aren’t panicking, the middle class can begin to rebuild.

Of course, wingers hated that the stimulus was back heavy, but people who were actually concerned about the economy rather than Republican re-election prospects knew full well that we would not be soon recovered. We knew before Obama took office it was going to be a years-long project. But, of course, there are people who need to blame Obama, so history has to be re-written.

-jb

UPDATE: Come on, you know this is a more controversial post than anything else you read on a blog this week! Link, you bastards!

Cut spending!

Sep 19, 2009 in Economy, Politics

Republican claims to fiscal conservatism are completely baseless. An actual conservative, Bruce Bartlett, explains the reality: No Republican has any serious plan to deal with the deficit. 54% of discretionary spending goes to defense spending, and they’re deficit hawks now?

In short, there is no evidence that it is politically possible to cut spending enough to make more than a trivial difference in our nation’s fiscal problems. The votes aren’t there and never will be. Those who continue to insist otherwise are living in a dream world and deserve no attention from serious people.

Even shorter: your choice is tax and spend, or borrow and spend. Republicans are neither able nor willing to make any serious budget cuts. They only talk the talk to get elected. Give them complete control of the government, as we did for most of the Bush administration, and you only get more spending and more borrowing to fund the politically easy tax cuts.

Meanwhile, Obama takes the slightest measures to reduce the frighteningly costly boondoggle known as missile defense, and wingers are already hyperventilating that he’s handing the keys to Eastern Europe to Russia. Again, hardly any thought, only what they think they can say to push voter buttons and keep their asses in office another term. Unfortunately, our discourse on foreign policy has become so suffocatingly dominated by neocon theology and military industrial complex campaign financing means that we’re again left with only one party able to merely discuss unnecessary spending, and Republicans standing firmly in their way.

-jb

The Gipper Returns!

Jun 05, 2009 in Economy

Unemployment highest since 1983. I think I speak on behalf of all Americans when I say this is unacceptable. 1983 was the 2nd year of the Reagan presidency. If there’s one thing we can’t afford, it’s for Obama’s presidency to mirror Reagan’s. I know our conservative friends will be stoked at the Reaganesque picture emerging, and will say now, as they did in ’83 – again, two years into the Reagan presidency – that the President has inherited a bad hand, and is trying to right the ship. But come on, now. It seems clear that an unemployment rate measured five months into a President’s first term couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the economic policies of the last eight years. It has to be Obama’s fault. Right? I mean, that is what conservatives say about the unemployment rate in 1983, isn’t it – that Reagan got it wrong for most of his first term, and that he, and not the emerging Democratic majority along with predictable economic cycles, is to credit for the financial boom of the mid-eighties?
-TT

Invisible hand fail.

May 30, 2009 in Economy, Education

I remember college being a large number of students sitting in spare rooms listening to a really smart guy talk. Apparently that costs a lot more now:

According to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, over the past 25 years, average college tuition and fees have risen by 440 percent — more than four times the rate of inflation and almost twice the rate of medical care.

Shouldn’t private schools be offering a better education than state colleges, for less?

-jb

New Deal revisionism on the right.

Apr 22, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy

Those on the right have been on the wrong side of history for quite a long time. They have a way of trying to get around that though: wait several decades, then convince themselves they were right all along and see if they can prey upon the amnesia of the mainstream. They’ve tried to re-fight Vietnam, redeem Nixon, revitalize McCarthyism, and now they’re trying to pretend it’s common sense that the New Deal failed. Jonathan Chait finally manages to impress me with this immaculate takedown of the revisionist claptrap book that all the wingers are passing around as definitive proof the New Deal didn’t work, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression by Amity Shlaes:

Shlaes begins every chapter with a date (say, December 1936), an unemployment percentage (15.3) and a Dow Jones Industrial Average. The tick-tick-tick of statistics is meant to show that conditions did not improve throughout the course of Roosevelt’s presidency. Yet her statistics are highly selective. As those of us who get our economic information from sources other than the CNBC ticker know, the stock market is not a broad representative of living standards. Meanwhile, as the historian Eric Rauchway has pointed out, her unemployment figures exclude those employed by the Works Progress Administration and other workrelief agencies. Shlaes has explained in an op-ed piece that she did this because “to count a short-term, make-work project as a real job was to mask the anxiety of one who really didn’t have regular work with long-term prospects.” So, if you worked twelve hours per day in a coal mine hoping not to contract black lung or suffer an injury that would render you useless, you were employed. But if you constructed the Lincoln Tunnel, you had an anxiety-inducing make-work job.

In response to this criticism, Shlaes has retreated to the defense that unemployment was still high anyway. “Even if you add in all the work relief jobs, as some economists do,” she has contended, “Roosevelt-era unemployment averages well above 10 percent. That’s a level Obama has referred to once or twice–as a nightmare.” But Roosevelt inherited unemployment that was over 20 percent! Sure, the level to which it fell was high by absolute standards, but it is certainly pertinent that he cut that level by more than half.

Whenever I see something from the right that halfway sounds like it makes a convincing case, it takes about five minutes of research to discover simple, factual refutations that utterly destroy their argument. Every. Goddamn. Time.

Why? Because they start with what they want to be true, and work backwards. Big surprise, they always think they get their man. In reality, it’s a punctured blow-up doll.

-jb

UPDATE: The author backs away from being used as a political prop, or even saying there was much of an alternative to the New Deal:

Fans of the book’s political applications might also take note that Shlaes herself stops short of asserting that a laissez-faire approach would have been more successful than the one Franklin D. Roosevelt took.

“We don’t know — because we weren’t there — what would have happened if they had left the market alone,” she said. Or, as she puts it in the book, “Of course Hoover and Roosevelt may have had no choice but to pursue the policies they did. They may indeed have spared the country something worse — an American version of Stalin’s communism or Mussolini’s fascism.”

How does she feel about being a darling of the House GOP? “Insofar as certain policymakers are reading the book, on the authorly level, that’s really gratifying,” she said.

“And if certain politicians find ‘The Forgotten Man’ useful for making arguments, that’s great, but that does not mean that I endorse the individual action of the individual lawmaker,” said Shlaes.

Covering her ass? Perhaps. But the book clearly is not what Republicans want it to be.

The Military Industrial Complex as socialistic stimulus plan.

Apr 13, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Economy

Better to kill than build bridges.

One of the major themes of last week was the degree to which Republicans in Congress were deceptively referring to Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ budget proposal as a weak-on-defense spending cut. The corollary to that claim–articulated by many Republicans, but also some Democrats–is that defense spending “cuts” will cost jobs. The problem is, though, that most of the people making that argument voted against the stimulus bill this past winter.

Last week we caught Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) in just such a contradiction. During the debate over the stimulus, Chambliss lashed out at the specter of government recession spending, calling it a “bloated government giveaway.” But then, he called into the NPR program Talk of the Nation and said none of that matters as long as the spending is defense spending.

“[W]hen it comes to stimulating the economy,” Chambliss said, there’s no better way to do it than to spend it in the defense community.”

Chambliss, always a dullard, expresses the distilled programming of a person suckered into thinking he’s principled while he dutifully repeats the necessary truisms of his corporate masters. The military industrial complex has laid out its cash for politicians to feed on for years.

And now, it is accepted basic knowledge that social welfare for the rich is perfectly rational and, actually, very effective. What you aren’t allowed to do, in Republican theology, is reward the filthy poor who haven’t earned it yet. But they didn’t stop there, they argued that the stimulus spending would be ineffective.

As our readers should know by now, Republican lapdogs have subscribed to the master’s ethos that serves free market for the scumbag working class, but spares the uber-class who we can only hope to be like.

-jb

Fraud.

Apr 04, 2009 in Economy, Uncategorized

Shorter William K. Black: It’s all Bill Clinton’s fault. Just kidding! They’re all crooks.

William K. Black suspects that it was more than greed and incompetence that brought down the U.S. financial sector and plunged the economy in recession — it was fraud. And he would know. When it comes to financial shenanigans, William K. Black, the former senior regulator who cracked down on banks during the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, has seen pretty much everything.

Now an Associate Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri, William K. Black tells Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL that the tool at the very center of mortgage collapse, creating triple-A rated bonds out of “liars’ loans” — loans issued without verifying income, assets or employment — was a fraud, and the banks knew it.

And while there is no law against liars’ loans, Black points out that there are, “many laws against fraud, and liars’ loans are fraudulent. [...] They involve deceit, which is the essence of fraud.”

Only the scale of the scandal is new. A single bank, IndyMac, lost more money than the entire Savings and Loan Crisis. The difference between now and then, explains Black, is a drastic reduction in regulation and oversight, “We now know what happens when you destroy regulation. You get the biggest financial calamity of anybody under the age of 80.”

Moyers, as always, is worth watching.