Monthly Archives: June 2011

Full Employment Means Nothing.

I know that all of the liberals are screaming about employment. But even if there was no unemployment, if too many people were working for minimum wage–or if minimum wage had been abolished–it wouldn’t improve the general standing of society.

We would be much better off with a strong safety net and 10% unemployment than we would be with 0% unemployment and none.

Some of us have forgotten that at some point in the 70s, the discussion turned from some kind of minimum guaranteed income (there were competing proposals from Nixon–!!!–and McGovern, to name a two) to not giving money to people who don’t work, as if they were subhuman–Nixon later coined the term “workfare” after abandoning his guaranteed income proposal.

Then came the myth of the welfare queen and the window was moved to the right so that only “working” people were worthy of even the slightest break (even as the system moved to destroy the working class).

People who don’t work for various reasons are still people. Some, like those who rear children, are doing the most important “jobs” in our civilization. Others are probably worth paying to keep out of jobs where they wouldn’t do very good. (Just by way of quick example: don’t you wish they would really leave the pickles off your sandwich when you ask for that? or, better: lowering the retirement age to 55 so that younger, cheaper workers can get jobs.)

It’s all fine and good to wish everyone back to work. But it won’t solve all of our social problems, even if it will solve many political ones. Families are under strain. Income would help. But, so would being able to get by on one income instead of two.

We need some good old fashioned socialism as much or more as we need to punch more clocks for the man.

Greek Austerity

I guess I shouldn’t be, but I’m still a bit shocked that the banksters are so against the free market! If Greece can’t pay, the bondholders should lose.

Government interference in the market is always ok if it helps the rich.

The T in LGBT

I’ve always been repelled by engaging in the discussion of whether being gay was a choice. To me, it just doesn’t matter. I’m all for the rights of people born gay to have heterosex and act hetero and all for people born straight to have gay sex and act gay, and a fortiori for people born gay to be gay and people born straight to be straight. But I understand the need for this argument. It’s a basic principle of American fairness that we don’t have the way we were born held against us.

So, I don’t think the prospects of the transgendered are all that great. I’m not sure it will be considered anything other than a choice, even if we can be convinced that people are born with a different gender identity. I also think that liberalization towards gays will cover most of the bases, leaving the question of transgendered rights down to their gender appearance in the workplace  and so on.

I don’t think this will come easy, if at all. The most powerful arguments against discrimination against gays are (1) that classic American fairness about how you were born, and (2) ironically to some, the need to have stable family groups (gay marriage and adoption, etc.); institutionalizing a kind of relationship that exists anyway to allow for stability is important to society. Does this work for the T in LGBT?

That’ll be a heavy lift, I think.

Cuomo 2016?

Let the speculation begin.

Of course, I say nfw. The next President–regardless of party–will be the WASPiest imaginable man, because, you know 1 of out 44, much less 2 out of 45, is some kind of quota or affirmative action. And even a woman would be get everyone whining about that. And yes, Cuomo counts.

Guys like Cilliza either are too stupid to know these rules or are paid to pretend these rules don’t exist.

New Rule: Funding a war is approving a war

This goes for both parties. If you fund a war, you are approving it. There is nothing in the Constitution that says Congress has to make formal declarations of war; it just says Congress has that power. It doesn’t say how. I don’t see how you can fund it if you don’t approve of it.

Of course, this is all political stunt time so that people who invoke the Constitution every time a Democrat does something can scream about the illegal muslim socialist president. But, for all their criticism, Democrats made no serious attempt to defund the war in Iraq.

Our media overlords could solve this problem by simply not being tricked by this Byzantine, nonsensical distinction. A vote for funding is a vote to support what the President is doing. Period.

Sarah Madness

People are far too willing to read entrails and believe she is either running or not and people seem to stand fiercely by their convictions either way, evidence notwithstanding.

Palin is doing the things people do when there’s more than a year before an election and they might want to be “official” candidates. To me, that means she’s “running.” If she has to have some lame press conference to announce it before it meets your definition, then she’s not. Whether or not she gets to that point depends on what kind of support she finds. But looking for support like that is “running” to me.

Greek Potato Famine

The EU is basically telling Greece to lie down and die.

All of the predictions of gloom and doom for countries that default are almost never founded. Look at Iceland. Yet Greece, like most poorer economies with small militaries, is expected to get its creditors paid back in full even though they bought debt in a risky market. So much for the free market.

The Greek people are rising up. They don’t want to take more austerity so that foreign bankers playing at the roulette table can be protected from losses. I don’t blame them.

The banksters not only think they should be paid back in full, they think the Greeks should like it. Banksters don’t believe in democracy. They think they can just make enough arguments using bought-and-paid-for economists in journals like the DoucheBagehot Press (The Economist) and all the people should just go along with everything.

I keep thinking one day, the banksters will realize that maybe if they at least pretended to care about democracy and real people’s lives by at least preserving some kind of social net with these deals. But, sadly, no.

Obama is just like….

Now it’s George H.W. Bush. Thanks to The Nation for filling that one in.

Glenn Greenwald argues every day how he’s just like George W. Bush. All kinds of people accuse him of DLC Centrism. Obama himself wanted to be like Ronald Reagan. Republicans accuse him of being like Jimmy Carter. Depression references make him like FDR.

Just who isn’t he like? That’s the question.

The thing about Obama: he’s always been everyone’s Rorschach test.

Good idea.

Nick Kristof, for once, ftw.

How about this for a grand bargain: universal military service for 1 or 2 years after high school in exchange for paid college after, health care for your lifetime, and retirement down the road.

Don’t “mandate” anyone to do it. If you don’t go in, no benefits. How about that?

How many libertarians do you think would take that bargain?

Gay Old Jewish Ladies

I’ve noticed that for being otherwise liberal Democrats there are a disproportionate number of old Jewish ladies that hate Obama and a number of gay establishment voices too.

This couldn’t be because he’s black, could it?

Playing Liberals For Suckers

It’s been 10 years since Eric Alterman documented the atrocities in What Liberal Media? But apparently knowing you’re being worked doesn’t make a difference to these so-called liberals. (Does anyone honestly think having David Brooks on as a columnist for The New York Times helps them sell one paper in the Bible belt?)

So, knowing that these “liberals” have internalized a lot of the attacks on them for not being real Americans (dissonance warning: we all love New York suddenly after 9/11), outlets like Slate will publish every single argument they can find that proves they really understand NASCAR.

As such, before 2008 we were told that tightening mortgage lending standards or more tightly regulating credit cards was an elitist way of denying access to credit that would keep the poor from participating in the American dream.

After 2008, it was a bunch of welfare queens lying to get loans they couldn’t afford and being deadbeats.

Of course, none of these people see any contradiction there.

Dear Professor DeLong

Because Clinton-era Rubinomics is all they know how to do.

Republicans seem to think that every problem can be solved by tax cuts and spending cuts. This is objectively untrue. Democrats are painted as believing every problem can be solved with tax increases and spending. This is also objectively not true, but it’s also not what any executive-branch Democrat has believed since the 1960s—and since this was when the modern Conservative movement was born, they are always refighting the same fight, trying to keep the Negroes from busting their block. Actual, non media-straw-man Democrats, believe in technocratic and complicated formulas for jerking off Wall Street, usually by hoping to score on bond-holder rate cuts due to balanced budgets and no-inflation policies at the Fed.

This is how you manage an economy in normal times. (At least times when the Federal Reserve is willing to inflate new bubbles.) As everyone who moved beyond Econ 101 knows, in times of severe crisis economics, a stimulus is indicated. A stimulus that offsets the shortfalls produced by the crisis, not one that merely gives the appearance of a stimulus. For a guy that may have the biggest smartest-guy-in-the-room narcissism this side of Bill Gates, Larry Summers really fucked the dog on this one because, I believe, he and the rest of the Obama team thought it was 1993 or 1998, not 1933 or 1907. Oh, and incidentally, one of the most efficient stimuli is a payroll tax cut. Others include extended unemployment benefits and WPA-like direct employment. This involves both tax cuts and spending increases not one or the other. As such it does involve running deficits, something that the Obama administration started sharting themselves about a year ago.

This was truly the “nobody could have predicted” moment for the Obama administration. Just as Bush was warned about an impending attack by al-Qaeda in the United States on August 2001, the Obama administration was warned on the pages of the New York Times by Paul Krugman (and all over the place by others) that this was not 1998. Summers chuckled about Krugman’s tendency to see everything as needed a revolutionary fix in a recent New York Magazine article. Well, Larry—was he wrong?

Clinton got away with Republican-lite economics because, for whatever reasons, the economy was booming. I tend to believe it was because Greenspan was willing to blow up another bubble. This one’s failure would be more catastrophic than the Savings & Loan recession of the early 90s (does anyone remember that?). When the banksters saw they had social insurance for whatever ridiculous scheme they could cook up, whether it was investing old lady’s passbook savings in junk bonds in the 80s, or buttraping “day traders” with sock puppets in the 90s, they cooked up an even greater, more structural scheme in the 00s to confiscate trillions from the middle class. They got away with it twice, right? Third time’s the charm.

Given a situation that is different in kind and not degree, the Obama team fucked the dog by trying to do what worked before and not having the courage to do what any objective analysis of the facts would have shown the need to do. This type of political cowardice on everything except the individual mandate (i.e., conservative as of 2009) health insurance reform has typified this administration.

You have less than 18 months, Barry. Time to do something.

May I suggest trade reform? Not only is that the ticket to making our economy sound again, balancing our budgets while being able to cut income taxes, reducing unemployment, and restoring manufacturing, it will also break the GOP’s current coalition up in a nasty, nasty way. You see, your average blue collar, red neck GOP-leaning independent has had his future stolen by NAFTA and the WTO and he knows it.

The Red States Are Coming! The Red States Are Coming!

1. Sarah Palin says something stupid.
2. The usual army of smart alec commentators makes a joke out of her.
3. Sarah’s army makes some laughably stupid excuse for why it wasn’t stupid.
4. Sarah’s followers love her more.

Why this isn’t understood by the ostensibly smart people laughing at Sarah by now is beyond me. It’s not like she is the first politician to play off the resentments of the “silent majority.”

Every time you make a joke at Palin’s expense, Bill Maher, you are just making her more powerful. As long as that’s what you want–as long as you’re willing to play chicken with Palin being a major party’s nominee for President–fine. But if you think this is stopping her, uhhh. No. Also.

Brace Yourself.

February 2, 2013
Washington, DC

Barely two weeks into his young administration, President Huntsman already has a number of huge legislative accomplishments. Last night, he signed five bills which passed the U.S. Congress in record time. “The people have spoken and we have acted,” President Hunstman said. Two of the five were only able to pass the U.S. Senate after Vice President Bachmann ruled the filibuster by Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders unconstitutional. The first bill, the Health Care Freedom Act of 2013, easily passed the Senate 69-31 after clearing the House 300-135. The Health Care Freedom Act repeals outgoing President Obama’s signature piece of legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The second bill, the Economic Recovery Act of 2012  also passed by overwhelming majorities, with 75 senators voting in favor and 305 representatives also voting in favor. The Economic Recovery Act 2012 makes permanent tax cuts originally put into place by President George W. Bush in 2001 and extended by President Obama in 2010, but which recently expired when Obama vetoed their extension in 2012. The Act also eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax, the highest tax bracket, and most capital gains taxes. The third bill, a supplemental defense spending bill, fully funded President Huntsman and Defense Secretary Giuliani’s request to expand the troop presences in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Pakistan, as well as their request to return the country’s nuclear arsenal to 1984 levels by the end of 2015. This bill passed by a voice vote in both Houses.

But it was the last two bills that were the most controversial. The Retirement Choice Act of 2013, H.R. 1, cleared the House on January 6 by a margin of 225-210, but appeared stalled in the Senate when a filibuster led by Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, with the backing of the remaining 38 Democratic senators and one Republican, Olympia Snowe of Maine. The Retirement Choice Act repeals Social Security Disability Insurance and replaces old age benefits with 401k-like private accounts to be managed by private contractors for the government. Treasury Secretary Chris Christie has hinted that he has shortened the list of potential contractors to Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and an unnamed sovereign wealth fund. After a mere 4 hours, the Senate leadership moved to change the Senate rules to permit filibusters only in cases where a Senator actually held the floor, breaking with decades of Senate tradition. Sanders persisted, speaking for 18 straight hours before being relieved by Barbara Boxer of California. The Democrats passed the baton for six days before Majority Leader Thune raised a point of order on the Constitutionality of the filibuster. Vice President Bachman, in her capacity as President of the Senate, ruled the filibuster out of order. After a vote on her ruling sustained it 58-42, the Senate proceeded to vote on the bill. It passed 50-50 with Vice President Bachmann breaking the tie, with many insiders saying this made her a lock for the 2020 nomination.

The Senior Citizen Health Care Freedom Act also faced a series of challenges, but ultimately passed the Senate 55-45 after it became clear there was no going back on the filibuster. “It is an honor, as the first woman President of this chamber, to be the first one to bring the people’s voice to it,” Bachmann said. She added, “The Majority’s bills will get up or down votes.” Bachmann did not answer whether this meant that a bill supported by the minority would also get up or down votes. This bill repeals Medicare, but does not replace it with the voucher program that Huntsman promised in his campaign. A source on Capitol Hill stated that, “The leadership hasn’t yet come to an agreement on what to replace it with.” Sanders replied that, “There is no replacement. There will never be a replacement. The American people were tricked.” Indeed, the only modicum of success the Democrats have had at all this year was in blocking the nomination of Sarah Palin as Secretary of State. “I’m not sure that worked out for the best, though,” a Democratic hill staffer said, after the Senate confirmed former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton in her place.

Despite the speed and breadth of the five bills, the President said, “We’re just getting started on returning this government to its intended functions, as the voters overwhelmingly demanded of us last fall.” Final language is being worked out on a bill that will end federal funding of education. Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry claimed that, “They are simply arguing over what Orwellian name to give it. Last I heard it was the ‘Act to Restore State Funding to Schools,’ but I can’t keep up.” Several more major pieces of legislation are expected by the end of the month, including the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency, reduction or elimination of the federal minimum wage, and the Labor Modernization Act, which would end federal involvement in and protection for union organizing. Democrats claim that despite Republicans’ assertions of “fiscal responsibility,” their reforms are actually putting the government into trillions of dollars of new debt every year. “Hogwash. Lower taxes mean higher revenues; anyway, Bush proved deficits don’t matter,” Secretary Christie retorted.

Republicans credit their small government message and claim that President Obama’s failure to prevent 20% unemployment and prevent outbreaks of war in the Middle East led to their sweeping gains in last Fall’s elections. Democrats blame the high unemployment on the refusal of Republicans to negotiate on Obama’s Rewarding Work Act, which would, Obama claimed, have prevented the spike in unemployment. Democrats also blamed the billions spent on Republican campaigns by anonymous donors with distorting their message. “There’s no doubt the voters were mad, ” Obama said last November, “but history will remember that I tried to do everything in my power to prevent the New Depression, but I was blocked at every turn by Congress.”