Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, January 16, 2014 7:12 pm

New York Times vs. New York Times

If a genie granted me three wishes, I wouldn’t waste one of them on this. But, damn, it would be nice if, at least once in a while, New York Times economics reporters would consult their columnist colleague Paul Krugman, who has, like, a Nobel Prize in the subject, before publishing bilge like this, particularly when Krugman could steer them to a large pile of research showing that he’s right and they’re wrong.

(h/t: Dean Baker)

Sunday, November 25, 2012 7:40 pm

Spain dances with the devil, and the newspaper El País’s CEO leads

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 7:40 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

If you’ve followed the European economy much, you probably know the following things:

  • Spain has been particularly hard hit by the 2008 crash and its aftermath, with official unemployment at 25% and youth unemployment at 52%.
  • Spain’s problems were almost all caused by the collapse of the housing bubble. Before that, the country was running a surplus.
  • Nonetheless, the EC (read: German bankers who don’t want their bonds to take it in the teeth) are forcing austerity measures onto Spain that are making a horrific situation worse.

And here’s something you might not know: A newspaper editor who once helped fight off a military coup against a fragile new democracy is now a newspaper CEO who has joined the rapine:

“When you look at it from here, it doesn’t seem like there’s a crisis on,” observed one of the striking El País journalists I spoke to later that evening, gesturing at Madrid’s central shopping district, lights and logos glistening in the rain. But he said it wearily – he was above the cut-off age of 50, specifically earmarked by El País chief executive Juan Luis Cebrián as too old to be needed. A week before the high profile general strike, the newspaper’s employees were on strike over the “ere,” a kind of mass lay-off with next to no severance pay that had been enabled by the new labor reforms. El País will sack 139 journalists from a workforce of 450, a plan implemented by a chief executive who, they despaired, had once been a brave, campaigning editor, using his newspaper to fight the attempted military coup in 1981 with passion and integrity, and helping to establish a new pluralistic, democratic ethos in a febrile country still feeling its way into the light after 40 years of dictatorship.

Cebrián, who takes home 13m euros a year, told his striking journalists “we can’t keep living so well.”

For those of you keeping score at home, at the current exchange rate of $1.2975 to the euro, that’s close to $17 million. So if Cebrián could satisfy himself with making a ton of money instead of a shit-ton of money, he could pay the laid-off workers an average of more than $86,300 a year and still have $5 million left over for himself.

We can’t keep living so well?

WE?

¿Quién, hijo de puta, es este de quien hablas “nosotros”? Who, you son of a bitch, is this “we” of whom you speak?

 

Monday, November 12, 2012 7:21 pm

Repeat after me, kids: There. Is. No. Fiscal. Cliff.

The Washington Post continues to lie, and economist Dean Baker, bless him, continues to call them out on it. Logic having failed, he now turns to mockery:

The Washington Post is throwing all journalistic norms aside in its drive to cut Social Security and Medicare. It continues to hype the budget standoff as an ominous “fiscal cliff” and tells readers on the front page of its web site that it could provide a “magic moment” in which Social Security and Medicare can be cut. The piece begins by telling readers:

“Two years ago this month, the leaders of a presidential commission rolled out a startling plan to dig the nation out of debt. After decades of stagnating incomes, they said, Washington must tell people to work longer, pay higher taxes and expect less in retirement.”

Okay I tricked you, this is the Washington Post which doesn’t acknowledge economic realities like stagnating income. The piece actually began:

“Two years ago this month, the leaders of a presidential commission rolled out a startling plan to dig the nation out of debt. After decades of profligacy, they said, Washington must tell people to work longer, pay higher taxes and expect less in retirement (emphasis added).”

This departure from reality gives you the gist of the story. The piece continues:

“Lawmakers recoiled from the blunt prescriptions of Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan K. Simpson. But their plan has since been heralded by both parties as a model of clear-eyed sacrifice, and policymakers say the moment has come to live up to its promise.”

Well, yes people have praised their plan. They have also ridiculed it. For example it proposes immediate cuts in Social Security benefits that would be a larger share of the income of the typical beneficiary than President Obama’s proposed tax increases on the top 2 percent would be for most of the affected taxpayers. It also proposes increasing the age for Medicare eligibility, even though this would add tens of billions to the country’s health care costs over the next decade. And, it proposed a minimum Social Security benefit for low wage earners that few low wage earners would actually qualify for due to the number of working years required to qualify.

You  know what the worst thing will be to happen immediately if we don’t have a new deal by Jan. 1? Very rich people will start having to pay a little more in income taxes. Quelle horror.

Also, everyone just needs to shut up about Erskine Bowles being some kind of selfless patriot and/or competent leader. As White House chief of staff, he made Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky possible (not that Clinton wasn’t a Grade A horndog, but you don’t give people like that lots of free time if you expect them to lead the nation without embarrassment). The guy’s an investment banker. He personally will profit a great deal from any kind of austerity deal, as will the investment bank on whose board he sits. Also? Obama is expected to get 60 votes in the Senate to get anything done, a situation the Framers never intended, and Bowles couldn’t even get 14 votes for his own plan from a committee that was named after him. I think that tells you just about all you need to know.

Sunday, October 21, 2012 12:07 pm

Learning from the (not-so-ancient) Greeks

Thereisnospoon (@DavidOAtkins), writing at Digby’s Hullabaloo:

It turns that when you throw a proud people who have lived a relatively decent lifestyle with modest provisions for the middle class into the desperate grinder of austerity economics, fascist movements start to develop. That’s pretty much how it happened in Germany in the first place, which is why the the rest of the world learned from its Post-WWI mistake to implement the Marshall Plan after the Second War. When people start to lose everything, it’s easy to blame immigrants and the dispossessed. Those people start to become scapegoats for the sorts of scoundrels who use jingoistic xenophobia for career advancement in the guise of patriotism.

It’s no surprise that the ascendance of the far right in the United States tracks alongside the erosion of the middle class. Fortunately, America has been spared the full force of austerity. So far.

But the rise of a Golden Dawn [Greece's fascist neo-nazi movement, now polling at 14% there -- Lex] in the U.S. isn’t at all unthinkable. All that need happen is for the Very Serious People to get their way in voucherizing Medicare and Social Security, destroying the safety net, and remaking society in Ayn Rand’s image.

History repeats itself, and sometimes, if it doesn’t feel like you heard it the first time, it shouts.

 

Saturday, August 18, 2012 12:02 am

American suffering as morality play for our so-called journalists

Sir Charles on the great American sport of granny-starving, as applauded by The Village:

Someday someone is going to do a study on the psychological attitudes of the worthless media elite of our time and their obsession with making life more miserable for large swaths of their fellow Americans. The degree to which Saletan, Dancin’ Dave Gregory, David Brooks, and virtually the entirety of Fred Hiatt’s funny pages (save Eugene Robinson, Harold Meyerson, and E.J. Dionne), get tumescent over granny having to move in with the kids because she can’t afford to live on her own is really like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s gratuitous cruelty at the hands of people who have far more than they deserve and confuse this status with wisdom

.

Saturday, August 4, 2012 10:35 pm

Child abuse

Economist Dean Baker:

Yes, on this great day when we hear the unemployment rate is 8.3 percent, NYT columnist Bill Keller is still pressing on the need to curb Social Security and Medicare spending and calling on his fellow baby boomers to rise to the occasion. He has even brought in Jim Kessler, the senior vice-president for policy at Third Way, to help him make the case.

I’m sure that Keller and Kessler would consider my mention of the 8.3 percent unemployment rate to be rude, after all what does that have to do with the need to cut Social Security and Medicare? There is a simple answer to that. The 8.3 percent unemployment rate should be seen as comparable to a school fire where the children are still inside the building. Tens of millions of people are seeing their lives ruined.

This is not a short-term story. Many of the families that will break up under the stress of high unemployment or the loss of their home will not get back together when the unemployment rate falls back to a more normal level. Similarly, the kids who have their school lives disrupted because their parents lose their homes or must move in search of jobs and/or family break up will not have the damage repaired later. This is why 8.3 percent unemployment should be problems #1, #2, and #3.

And yes, we do know how to fix this. Spending money puts people to work. Contrary to a bizare cult in policy circles, it does not matter whether money comes from the private sector or public sector –dollars will get people to work. And the people who get those dollars will spend them and put other people to work. If Keller and Kessler want to be responsible baby boomers they will do everything in their power to try to get us back to full employment quickly so that so many children do not have to grow up in families that are troubled by unemployment. The next generation will thank them for their efforts, I assure them.

UPDATE: Link added. H/t to Beau for alerting me to the omission.

UPDATE: Greensboro folks, this Keller piece appears on the front of today’s Ideas section in the News & Record.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 7:07 pm

Anyone who argues differently is not trying to sell you something, he’s trying to steal what little you have left.

Facts and logic having failed to persuade anyone to do the right thing with respect to the economy, I decide instead to try a good rant, outsourced to Charlie Pierce:

Austerity has murdered any hope of recovery in the UK. It seems to have done the same thing in Italy. And, in Greece, the citizens of democracy’s birthplace seem to be taking offense at the notion that their first obligation is to punish themselves to make a lot of international bankers whole again, and to cement Angela Merkel’s place in European history, which will be further propped up in Germany by an economy that depends on strong labor unions, a thriving government safety net, and the world’s oldest universal health-care system, to which Germans are entitled, but to which Brits, Italians, Greeks and, if you believe David Gregory, Americans, are not. Make no mistake about it. “Austerity” is a theological construct. It is about punishing the alleged sins of sloth and gluttony. It is about purging through pain. It is about enshrining into law every misbegotten slander about the poor and struggling that’s been floating around the political dialogue for generations. And it doesn’t work.

The deficit is not our biggest immediate economic problem. Joblessness is. Questions? See post title.

 

Thursday, February 2, 2012 9:25 pm

“Those who don’t understand history are doomed to condemn those who do.”*

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 9:25 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Those wild-eyed liberals at The Economist apparently have figured out that the sky is blue:

Now maybe you people will listen to me.

D.B. Echo, Another Monkey

So, here’s the thing. The debate we had about the stimulus probably should have been a lot like the book Mr [Mike] Grabell has written: a detailed investigation of what does and doesn’t work in stimulus spending and whether the government really can jump-start a promising industry through investments, tax breaks and industrial policy. But that wasn’t the debate we had. Instead we had a debate about the very concept of whether the government ought to spend money counter-cyclically during a recession in order to keep the economy from collapsing, or whether it should tighten its belt along with consumers and businesses in order to generate confidence in the financial markets and allow markets to clear. We had a debate about whether governments should respond to recessions with deficit spending or austerity.

That was the debate we had. And what’s interesting about this particular moment is that while Mr Grabell is writing about what did and didn’t work in the stimulus, and Mr Obama is staying away from the topic for political reasons, out there on the barricades what’s happening is that the entire argument that governments should engage in austerity appears to be collapsing.

How about that.

There are times when austerity absolutely is the correct approach. This is absolutely not one of them. But our “leaders” continue to insist that the sky is pink with purple polka-dots.

*Quote and link from Digby.

Thursday, January 26, 2012 8:17 pm

I say this with the greatest possible affection for the Irish …

… but subtlety has never been their strong suit:

I deplore eliminationist rhetoric no matter whom it comes from.

At the same time, it is worth noting that the economic policies of austerity enacted in Ireland have not helped that nation’s economy, which just a few years ago was the envy of the world. Indeed, they have had precisely the opposite effect. And yet all the Responsible People here in the U.S. want us to do the same thing Ireland did.

 

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