Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, May 10, 2015 5:37 pm

Odds and ends for May 10

Hidy. Yeah, it’s been a while.

Your brain is your brain. Chuck Norris is your brain on drugs.

So good to see that the Baltimore officers implicated in Freddy Gray’s death were all the kind of stable individual to whom you want to give the power of life and death.

I had about given up on anyone doing anything to stop the NSA’s blatantly unconstitutional hoovering of Americans’ data. This isn’t a fix, but it’s a start.

Good to see that job creation is back on track. We’re still far from where we need to be, though, and farther still on wage growth.

Advertisements

Friday, February 6, 2015 8:03 pm

Odds and ends for Feb. 6

Climate change: It’s a matter of national security.

Obama might be a socialist, but the country just completed its best three-month period of job growth in 17 years, bitchez. Still a long way to go — unemployment actually went up in January as more people resumed looking for work — but it’s definitely looking better.

Boko Haram is opening a branch office in neighboring Niger. Bloodshed and misery follow. World does little.

The annual silliness known as the National Prayer Breakfast was this week. And this year we got more proof, were more needed, about just how impossible it is for Americans conservatives to have an honest conversation about race.

NBC’s Brian Williams lied about being in a helicopter that got shot down in Iraq (which is a firing offense where I’m concerned), but did he also lie about seeing a body floating outside his New Orleans hotel after Hurricane Katrina? Quite possibly not.

Relatedly, why is it such a bad thing for Brian Williams to lie when Fox News personnel do it day-in and day-out, constantly? That’s neither a rhetorical question nor an exaggeration of the network’s mendacity.

Hey, anti-vaxxers? When Autism Speaks says you should vaccinate your kids, you’ve pretty much lost the vaccination argument.

I love it when they throw each other under the bus. This time, it’s Bibi and Boehner, who both deserve all the tire tracks.

One would think that maternal health would be a human right. Sadly, the U.S. has not gotten the word.

Yes, health insurance premiums have gone up an average of $4,154 under Obama — but that’s less than half as fast as they went up under Bush.

Is police reform impossible? Could be.

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin tried to rewrite the Wisconsin Idea (the state university system should benefit the entire state), then got busted for it, then lied about it, then got busted for lying about it. Great start to your presidential campaign, there, goob.

If there’s no war on women, it ain’t for lack of trying.

Intuit’s TurboTax, though not hacked itself, may be being used by scammers to file fraudulently for tax refunds.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership might be the most dangerous, and depressing, trade agreement you’ve never heard of.

The oldest living survivor of the U.S.S. Arizona has died at age 100.

The movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” opened today. Theater operators requested that patrons not dress up, or down, for the showings.

This is how the apocalypse will begin.

Or this, as a single penguin holds the entire crew of a Coast Guard vessel hostage. I, for one, welcome our new spheniscidaean overlords.

Y’all have a good weekend.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013 12:58 am

The Gospel According to Pierce; or, A Christmas Prayer, With Carrion

And Pierce wrote, saying:

But this is the argument in season over these holidays. That the poor must suffer in order to be redeemed. That hunger is a moral test to be endured. That only through pain can we hope. What doesn’t destroy you, etc. Santa Nietzsche is coming to town. The idea that we should — hell, that we must — act out of charity for each other through the institutions of self-government is lost in the din of a frontal system of moral thunderation aimed at everyone except the person who is out there thunderatin’ on behalf of personal-trainer Jesus, who wants us to work, work, work on that core. That was the way that government operated once before; the specific institutions that Scrooge mentions, and with which the Spirit eventually reproaches him in his own words – the prisons, the union workhouses, the treadmill, and the Poor Laws – were all government institutions based on the same basic philosophy that drives the debate over the food stamp program today.(We even seem to be going back to debtor’s prisons.) We have speeches on self-reliance given by government employees to people who increasingly have only themselves on whom to rely, day after grinding day. It is a way to keep the poor from having a voice in their own self-government. It is a way to keep the wrath of the boy at bay. There will be a reckoning, one way or another. But it can be staved off by platitudes, and by verses from Scripture wrenched from the obvious context of the Gospels. The sepulchers brighten whitely while the bones inside grow increasingly corrupt. This is what this Congress believes, as it goes home proud of itself and its members dress themselves to sing the midnight carols with no conscience sounding in counterpoint, and this is Christmas in America, and it is the year of our Lord, 2013.

Merry Christmas to all, and tonight, God bless us, every one. But forgive me, Lord, in advance, for hoping and praying that the year of our Lord 2014 brings plague and pestilence upon those who would force the suffering to suffer further, those who would insist upon morality tests for the poor that they themselves could not pass, those who would require that many of our fellow Americans be denied a voice with which to insist anything. Bring on the plagues for them, turn their fruit into locust husks, their wine and water into blood, and their foie gras to feces, and let their corrupt bones and those of their first born be cast out from the whitely brightened sepulchers to be feasted upon by jackals and vultures.

Except for those who repent and atone. Always except for those.

Amen. And Amen.

Friday, July 26, 2013 6:19 pm

Our overburdened corporations

The Washington Post had a chart on how corporate taxes have been rising as a share of GDP in OECD countries (industrialized countries comparable for economic purposes to the United States). The problem is that the piece was a tad misleading in that every country counted the same.

In the U.S. that burden has been generally shrinking since World War II. As of 2009, that burden was 1%, down from its postwar high of 6% just after the Korean War. Here’s a chart showing how it’s gone:

Corporate Income Tax as a Share of GDP 1946 - 2009

Now, corporations are sitting on $2 trillion in cash. If they’re not going to create jobs with it, which they’re not because there’s no demand for their goods and services because too many people have been unemployed for too long, then they ought to pay a bit more of it to the government so that we can set about some badly needed infrastructure projects. Those projects, in turn, will both create jobs in the short term and lay the foundation for future wealth creation in the long term.

This is not rocket science. This is not even rocket economics.

(h/t: Dean Baker)

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.

 

Thursday, October 18, 2012 6:56 pm

Our terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad news media and the deficit; or, Don’t point that gun unless …

Economist Dean Baker:

In the middle of a steep recession, any measure that reduces the deficit will cost jobs. That is because it will reduce demand. If anyone wants to see a lower deficit in 2013 (certainly the Post does), then they want to throw people out of work.

This is sort of like pulling the trigger on a gun pointed at someone’s head. Presumably this is not done unless the desire is to see the person dead.

 

Thursday, August 2, 2012 7:43 pm

Steve King’s priorities

Steve King, the dog-slaughtering mutt who represents unfortunate parts of Iowa in the U.S. House, is moving on. After creating enough jobs to reduce unemployment to below 5%, he pushed a bill today to make English the country’s official language.

What?

Oh.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 8:27 pm

Institutionalized

As befits one of the holders of prime New York Times op-ed real-estate, columnist David Brooks has analyzed American society and concluded that the problem is … us:

I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem. Vast majorities of Americans don’t trust their institutions. That’s not mostly because our institutions perform much worse than they did in 1925 and 1955, when they were widely trusted. It’s mostly because more people are cynical and like to pretend that they are better than everything else around them. Vanity has more to do with rising distrust than anything else.

I guess Brooks didn’t get the word about the brown acid.

Because, see, the Vietnam War, Watergate, Iran-Contra, Monicagate, torture and other war crimes, and even The New York Times helping lie this country into a war and sitting on a story about unconstitutional and criminal government wiretapping for more than a year while the guilty president who ordered it won re-election, have had nothing to do with collapse of people’s faith in institutions. Nor has the fact that the economy got blown up by the greatest white-collar crime in history while  the people responsible are still massively wealthy and the people who warned about it are continually ignored. Nor has the fact that government in general and the Republican Party in particular are hell-bent on looting this country until there is nothing left to steal.

And Jesus H. Child Molesting Vaginal Ultrasound Christ with Jimmy Swaggart Sauce and Jerry Falwell on top, what could institutional religion possibly have done to warrant such a massive loss of trust?

Without having done any polling, I’ll grant Brooks one possible point: It might actually be true that institutions aren’t performing significantly worse now than they did in 1955 (they were screwing up in 1925, too, and the result was the Great Depression). It might just be that thanks to the Intertubez, we just know more about the screwups than we used to. Certainly I don’t think the Catholic Church’s skirts were any cleaner in 1955.

But the reason followers aren’t following leaders the way they used to has nothing to do with vanity on the rabble’s part. (I and people like me don’t think we’re better than everyone else around us, but let’s face it: If Congress, the Roman Catholic Church and The New York Times op-ed page are the standard, then the bar’s really not all that high.) It’s not even explained entirely by the fact that leaders have manifestly screwed the pooch and/or sold themselves to the highest bidder, over and over again. No, what really gets our goats is that if you have enough money and/or profess to believe certain things, you can commit the most calamitous misfeasances, utterly without consequence — indeed, you can make a career out of failing upward — while those who were right are marginalized and ridiculed.  Blogger Driftglass has neatly encapsulated the phenomenon:

That last bit’s the most maddening part, and for Exhibit A, you need look no further than David Effing Brooks himself,  sitting in his comfy office at the Times Almighty and pulling meretricious and/or delusional observations out of his lower digestive tract, not only getting to keep his lucrative job but actually being celebrated as a public intellectual. He has decided that this country’s biggest problem is that you and I haven’t suffered enough. God help us.

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.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 8:22 pm

Why the economy will continue to suck until at least 2013

Because, as Steve Benen points out, Republicans are bound and determined to do what they want to do rather than stuff that will actually help the economy:

 

What you’re looking at is a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the likely economic impact of various options now being discussed and/or implemented. And although it doesn’t identify each measure with the political faction supporting it, the nonpartisan CBO finds that what actual economists like Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong think we should be doing will bring the unemployment rate down faster than what the Republicans want us to do.

Benen comments:

Now, if our political process made any sense, this would be about the time that policymakers said, “We all want to improve the economy, so let’s do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t.” Then, they’d look to independent analyses like this one from the Congressional Budget Office to shape the best agenda.

But our political process doesn’t make sense, and analyses like the new CBO report won’t sway Republicans at all. Confronted with evidence that their agenda won’t work, Republicans reflexively respond, “We don’t care what the evidence says; our ideology trumps all.”

And that’s why we can’t have nice things.

Like, you know, jobs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 8:30 pm

Another quote of the day, #ows edition

“Trashing libraries is a very particular kind of political statement.” — Henry, Crooked Timber.

And commenter Bill Benzon adds:

I note that these police actions seem to be taking place in the name of public health, among other things. This is the imagery of defilement and impurity that clearly signals that “THEY are not one of US.” This is very dangerous ground.

Oh, please. Likening people to filth and vermin has always ended well.

Quote of the Day

Filed under: I want my money back.,Quote Of The Day — Lex @ 7:01 pm
Tags: , ,

From economist Brad DeLong, on former Bush economic official Glenn Hubbard: “May I say that I am sick of budget arsonists wearing fire chief hats?”

Thursday, November 3, 2011 8:27 pm

Quote of the Day …

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:27 pm
Tags: , , ,

… from Sir Charles at Cogitamus:

 

[Tuesday] the S&P 500 — the measure of broad large capitalization stocks in the United States — closed at 1219.  On January 1, 1999, it closed at 1229.  When people talk of an impending lost decade, they are missing the fact that we have already had one.

I’m pretty sure the 18% un- or under-employed haven’t missed a thing. (Which, to be fair, is part of Sir Charles’s point.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 8:11 pm

We’re so screwed, J. Bradford DeLong edition

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 8:11 pm
Tags: , ,

Brad DeLong is an economist who firmly believes that to put people back to work, we need to be doing things we’re not doing now. And he is very concerned about the near- and medium-term future:

Back at the end of 2008, our questions (at least my questions) were: “What if the downturn is bigger than we currently think it will be? What if worries about a jobless recovery and the absence of labor-market mean-reversion turn out to be true? What if–as has happened in the past–this financial crisis turns into sovereign crises and the world economy gets hit by additional shocks? Then your polices will not be bold enough. What is Plan B?” And the answers were all along the lines of:

  1. You are a pessimist. We are already doing unprecedented things to stabilize the economy–and odds are that in a year we will be worrying about inflation and unwinding the stimulus rather than about unemployment.
  2. Obama is genuinely post-partisan, and won’t have anything like the trouble Clinton had negotiating with Republicans: our policies will evolve as the situation evolves.

Back in the late summer of 2009, our questions (or at least my questions) were: “You aren’t getting any cooperation from Republicans–they appear to have doubled down on the Gingrich-Dole strategy that you win the next election by making the Democratic President a failure. The economy really needs more stimulus. What are you going to do? Isn’t it time to use the President’s powers more aggressively–to use Fed appointment powers and the Treasury’s TARP authority and Reconciliation to do major stimulus?” And the answers were:

  1. We are doing all that we can.
  2. This is really hard.
  3. Things will probably still work out all right.
  4. If worst comes to worst, we will trade long-run budget balance via a spending cut-heavy package of long-run spending cuts and tax increases for short-term stimulus to get us out of the short-term unemployment mess.
  5. Hippie punching.

By the late summer of 2010, our questions (or at least my questions) were: “You are in a total war with the Republican Party. They aren’t giving you anything. It is time to seriously push the envelope of executive authority to put policies in place that will reduce unemployment.” And the answers were:

  1. The best policy is to achieve long-run fiscal discipline so that the confidence fairy will show up.
  2. Hippie punching.

And now it is the late summer of 2011. Our big question still is: how is Obama going to use executive branch authority to reduce unemployment? There are lots of options: adjourn congress and do some recess appointments to get the Federal Reserve more engaged in actually pursuing its dual mandate, quantitative easing via the Treasury Department, shifting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from their do-nothing position by giving them a microeconomic stabilization mission, talking about how a weak dollar is in America’s interest.

And this time what I am hearing back is only:

  1. Hippie punching.

It is difficult to read this in any way but as a group of people inside a bunker who (1) have been wrong about the situation, (2) are scared to use the powers they have to try to make things better, and (3) really do not like being reminded that they were wrong about the situation.

That seems to me to mean that the Obama administration right now has one and only one macroeconomic policy idea: hope that the country gets lucky.

As I’ve mentioned, there’s been some back-and-forth on the left about whether what Obama is doing is the right thing to do (and why he’s doing/failing to do what he’s doing/failing to do). This discussion, as have most of our discussions about politics and government during the past 30 years or so, has tended to focus more on tactics than on substance: Obama is doing all he can do in this environment vs. Obama should be using the bully pulpit to call out recalcitrant Republicans who are supposedly keeping him from doing the right thing.

My own suspicion is that Obama, for reasons I cannot fathom, has decided that the suffering of millions of un- and under-employed Americans here and now matters less than arriving at some kind of grand bargain on federal spending that may or may not make us better off in the future. I find this approach problematic for a number of reasons, not least the likelihood that nontrivial numbers of Americans will die prematurely as a direct consequence of Obama’s inaction on jobs.

Monday, October 5, 2009 11:30 pm

It’s the economy, stupid. No, not Washington’s economy. MY economy.

Filed under: I want my money back.,Journalism — Lex @ 11:30 pm
Tags: , ,

Yeah, I voted for Obama. No, I don’t think he’s all that. For that reason, among many others, I can foresee several scenarios under which he could be defeated for re-election in 2012. But the most likely, in my reasonably humble opinion?

Jobs:

Nowhere is the massive disconnect between Washington D.C. and the rest of the country more striking than when it comes to the issue of jobs.

Inside Washington, it is almost universally considered a foregone conclusion that unemployment will remain near, at, or even above 10 percent — not just for months, but for years to come. (The unemployment rate in September, we just found out this morning, ticked up yet again, to 9.8 percent.) As White House economic guru Larry Summers dispassionately told reporters last month (while otherwise taking credit for turning the economy around), “The level of unemployment is unacceptably high and will on all forecasts remain unacceptably high for a number of, for a number of years.”

This situation creates no sense of urgency in Washington. Ask Summers what he’s going to do about it, for instance, and he hems and haws about recovery act programs that have yet to take full effect. To our political elite, jobs are simply nowhere near as critical an issue as the other economic indicators, the stock market, or the financial health of the nation’s top bankers.

Outside the Beltway, however, it’s a different story. According to a new poll by Hart Research Associates for the Economic Policy Institute, unemployment and the lack of jobs “remains the dominant problem on the economic agenda for voters across party lines.” In fact, it’s not even close. Asked to name the most important economic problem facing the country, registered voters cited unemployment twice as often as they mentioned the deficit or even the cost of health care; and four times as much as the housing crisis or problems with the banking system.

A whopping 83 percent see unemployment as either a fairly big or very big problem; and 81 percent say the Obama administration hasn’t done enough to deal with it.

And there just aren’t a whole lot of things that more than 80 percent of Americans agree about.

If Obama’s political instincts are all that — and I don’t think he has been as good as he has been lucky — he’s going to take this issue and ride it. Unfortunately, to do so, he’s going to have to fire a lot of his senior economic brain trust. I say “unfortunately” not because this would be a bad thing — Tim Geithner is as responsible as anyone for having gotten us into this mess — but because Obama, and this is one reason I do not think he is all that, has never displayed a knack, let alone a taste, for significant policy corrections and the personnel changes they generally require. (Note that I distinguish policy corrections — changes in actions — from breaking political promises, which he has done as much as the next guy.)

In 1981-82, Ronald Reagan let the unemployment rate hit 10 percent because he felt it was part and parcel of getting inflation (which had topped 11 percent in 1979) under control. He might or might not have been right about that, but it was at least a defensible argument. Obama, on the other hand, has no such argument to make. Banks are borrowing money overnight for free and lending it to consumers at up to 30% (checked your credit-card bill lately?). There’s no greater good being served by high unemployment now, not even in theory.

And beyond that, this country needs to have a serious talk about this question: What is the purpose of the economy? I would argue that the purpose of the economy is to provide decent jobs, period. You take care of that, everything else will pretty much take care of itself.

The purpose of the economy is NOT to maximize the profits of commercial banks or investment banks. It is NOT to make rock stars out of bond traders. It is NOT to enrich the wealthy and the politically connected through government-driven upward transfers and concentrations of wealth, as have occurred almost without interruption since the mid-1970s.

Officially, 9.8 percent of Americans were unemployed in September. (Worse, a signficant chunk of them have exhausted their unemployment benefits because they’ve been unemployed so long.) That figure, the highest since 1982, is so widely recognized as misleadingly low that even the mainstream media, who typically can be relied upon to parrot the banksters’ language, are beginning to use the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ U6 figure, which provides a more accurate picture of what’s really going on, or not, in the labor market. (And the fact that they are will not redound to Obama’s political credit, which is another reason to dismiss what conservatives say about the media loving Obama and hating Republicans.)

Here’s the deal, folks: Close to one in five of your friends and relatives are either out of work entirely but still looking, have completely stopped looking, or are working in jobs for which they’re overqualified simply because it’s that or nothing. There are now six people out there hunting for work for every job opening that exists. And four out of five of you think that sucks worse than any other problem we’ve got AND that Obama isn’t doing enough about it.

Do I think there’s a Republican out there right now with the right answer? I do not. But it won’t take a Republican with the right answer for Obama to lose. All it will take will be for Obama himself not to ask the right question.

And right now, he ain’t asking. He should ask Jimmy Carter how that worked out for him.

UPDATE: One possible explanation for why he ain’t asking.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 8:41 pm

Roundup

Quick comments on some stuff bubbling up:

  • Apparently the president is “open” to the idea of some sort of tax break for newspapers that convert to nonprofits. Very bad idea — the government help, that is, not necessarily that type of conversion. For one thing, we can’t afford it. For another, it would be subsidizing an industry that has steadfastly refused to change its business model to adapt to changing market conditions. (Econ 101 was a long time ago, but I believe the technical term for such an expenditure is “throwing good money after bad.”) And news media need to maintain an arm’s-length relationship with the government if they are to do their jobs effectively. Converting to nonprofit status might or might not be a good idea (and some newspapers, such as the St. Petersburg Times, are owned by nonprofits already), but taking government money or tax breaks is bad for the industry and bad for the taxpayer.
  • Speaking of old media, Zero Hedge delivers the worst flaying of old media since the centurion scourged Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ.” (Caution: that video link is beyond graphic)
  • It is way beyond time to stop talking about the economy in terms of the Dow and start talking about it in terms of jobs. (That said, this blogger seems not to grasp that we’re already having a class war, and as Warren Buffett has famously observed, the rich are winning.)

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: