Daily Archive: September 2, 2011

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More elite failure

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

thereisnospoon says never ascribe to malice what can be explained by ignorance and pride.  Me, I’m not so charitable.

But Markos’ key critique of the Administration is well-taken. First, everything they do is almost designed to make them look craven and weak. Being accommodating is one thing; being constantly humiliated like Charlie Brown kicking a football is quite another.

And it’s not even working to attract independents. It’s terrible politics, in addition to being terrible policy.

Keep in mind that these are some of the top political professionals in the entire United States advising the Administration on these maneuvers. Which means that either they’re utterly incompetent idiots as Digby and I have repeatedly argued, or they’re paid-off corrupted tools of a grand global elitist conspiracy. Personally, I find the latter idea preposterous hogwash, a comforting opium for the sorts of people who want to believe that there are no solutions, or that the solutions are as as easy as grabbing pitchforks and guillotines and letting blood run in the streets. Yes, there’s rampant criminality–in Wall Street’s case, even an entire culture of criminality. And those criminals should be held to account. But that doesn’t mean that the entire governmental and financial apparatus–or even most of it–is run either by elite criminals or their paid-off lackeys. It just doesn’t work that way, as anyone who has actually dealt with the individual policy makers in question knows.



It’s just really hard–and frankly terrifying–for a lot of people to believe that we’re really governed by selfish, short-sighted, incompetent morons. That our lives are really and truly dominated by idiots who set their eyes on a shiny object like next quarter’s profit statements, or moving the polling dial with white female independents aged 35-65 by five points, or some other stupidity, so much that they miss the big picture, and then grab as much of the loot as possible and make the best of the situation after everything smashes to bits. That’s understandable. But if policy makers want to limit the growing number of conspiracy mavens out there, it might be advisable for them to try putting competent people in charge for a change. Otherwise, they’ll get the paranoid public attitudes toward them that they deserve.

More

Seems like no matter which door you peek behind, a neoliberal is behind it with a wrong answer. And when they’re called on being wrong, there’s another neoliberal waiting behind the next door with another wrong answer. In fact, there’s an endless string of stupid and/or corrupt business school graduates waiting to tell us that the banking sector crisis is the fault of social security, labor unions, universal healthcare, strange swarthy Greeks, individual deadbeat homeowners, welfare queens driving Cadillacs, the Environmental Protection Agency, and anyone and anything else they care to dream up. Anyone, of course, but the banks, business school grads and Milton Friedman acolytes who drove this car straight in the ditch and refuse to take any responsibility for having been right behind the wheel the whole time.

Herr Doktor Professor

Zero job growth, with unemployment still at nosebleed levels. Meanwhile, the interest rate on 10-year US bonds is down to 2.04%, and it’s negative on inflation-protected securities.



Too bad there weren’t any prominent economists warning that the obsession with short-term deficits was a terrible mistake, that austerity would undermine hopes of recovery. Oh, wait.

The awful thing is that those of us who warned about all this – based not on some unorthodox doctrine, but on basic textbook macroeconomics – weren’t so much argued down as just ignored. Somehow, those with actual power were convinced that fiscal austerity wasn’t just an option but the only option, and that anyone arguing with that – even people like me and Joe Stiglitz, who had a few easy-to-understand credentials – were just not part of the serious discussion.

Nobel Prizes?  They mean nothing.  Look at Obama’s.

Is austerity killing Europe’s recovery?

By Howard Schneider, The Washington Post

Published: September 1

(T)he budget cutting has been coupled with a reluctance by the the European Central Bank to stimulate economic growth like the Federal Reserve has in the United States; the ECB has instead raised interest rates twice this year to contain inflation.

Those steps have sucked hundreds of billions of dollars out of a European economy that may be edging towards recession.

Such a downturn, by choking off government revenues and increasing the demand for public services, could put struggling countries such as Spain and Italy at risk of missing the very deficit-reduction targets that budget cuts and other austerity measures were meant to achieve.



In Spain, for instance, where the parliament this week is voting to place constitutional limits on government deficits in a bid to reassure global investors, some analysts say the country is taking the wrong medicine. Spain’s debt level remains lower than even that of Germany, the continent’s strongest economy and one of the world’s benchmark credit risks. But Spain’s unemployment rate is more than double that of the United States, and some economists say the country needs a healthy dose of policies to restore growth, not constrain it.



Recent statistics showed that the combined economy of euro-zone countries nearly stalled from April through July, with growth of just 0.2 percent. Germany’s economy, one of the main props of the region, grew just 0.1 percent. Analysts project Spain’s annual growth at about 0.7 percent for the year, far below prior government estimates of 2.3 percent.



With the euro-zone economy slowing and governments aggressively cutting, the ECB may need to concede its rate increases and tight money were a mistake…

Like that will ever happen.

Mass Exodus of Teachers In Wisconsin

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Teacher Retirement Spike, with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine

Wisconsin facing teacher exodus

Controversial law prompts a spate of retirements

MADISON, Wis. – When students return today for the first day of school across Wisconsin, many familiar faces will be gone, as teachers chose retirement over coming back following the passage of a bill that would have forced them to pay more for benefits and taken away most of their collective bargaining rights.

Documents obtained by the Associated Press under the state’s open records law show that about twice as many public school teachers decided to retire in the first half of this year as in each of the past two full years, part of a mass exit of public employees.

Their departures came after the bill passed but before the new law took effect. The bill, which was pushed by Governor Scott Walker and the Republican Legislature, led to weeks of protests at the Capitol.

The ensuing exodus of teachers and other state employees has spurred fears that the jobs might not be filled and that classroom leadership by veteran teachers will be lost.

Cartnoon

Rabbit Hood

On This Day In History September 2

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 2 is the 245th day of the year (246th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 120 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1969, America’s first automatic teller machine (ATM) makes its public debut, dispensing cash to customers at Chemical Bank in Rockville Center, New York. ATMs went on to revolutionize the banking industry, eliminating the need to visit a bank to conduct basic financial transactions. By the 1980s, these money machines had become widely popular and handled many of the functions previously performed by human tellers, such as check deposits and money transfers between accounts. Today, ATMs are as indispensable to most people as cell phones and e-mail.

Several inventors worked on early versions of a cash-dispensing machine, but Don Wetzel, an executive at Docutel, a Dallas company that developed automated baggage-handling equipment, is generally credited as coming up with the idea for the modern ATM. Wetzel reportedly conceived of the concept while waiting on line at a bank. The ATM that debuted in New York in 1969 was only able to give out cash, but in 1971, an ATM that could handle multiple functions, including providing customers’ account balances, was introduced.

ATMs eventually expanded beyond the confines of banks and today can be found everywhere from gas stations to convenience stores to cruise ships. There is even an ATM at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Non-banks lease the machines (so-called “off premise” ATMs) or own them outright.

Roubini: We”re Going Into A Second Recession”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Nouriel Roubini: “we’re going into a recession”

Bloomberg TV’s Margaret Brennan speaks to Nouriel Roubini, co-founder and chairman of Roubini Global Economics LLC. Roubini tells Brennan, “we’re going into a recession based on my numbers” and that the Federal Reserve and other authorities no longer have the ability to provide emergency support.

There seems to a consensus here. Just last week Nobel Prize winning Economist Joseph Stiglitz told Bloomberg the same thing:

“The unemployment situation in the U.S. is very severe and very probably going to get worse,” Stiglitz told reporters today at a conference in Lindau, Germany. “There’s a very high probability we’ll go into double dip.”

snip

Stiglitz said calls by policy makers to engage in deficit- cutting austerity measures were heading in “exactly the wrong direction.”

“The most important way to address the deficit is to get America back to work, to get the economy back to full employment,” Stiglitz said at an annual gathering of Nobel Prize-winning economists. “Austerity is going to get us predictably into trouble. Spend the money on investments, and those investments will lead to higher growth.”

Two other points were made about the current economic crisis by Paul Krugman. One is that the economy has not really recovered and that the Federal Reserve needs to take firmer action to stimulate job growth. The non-recovery is best illustrated with this chart provided by Krugman:

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Krugman’s second point is about debt, federal and personal, that there has not been an explosion in debt over the past few years

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There have been hints about President Obama’s jobs plan that he will present to a joint session of Congress Thursday night but it needs to be big and bold but that’s doubtful with this president.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Time for a break from poetry…in order to create some art.

Why try to be someone you’re not?  Life is hard enough without adding impersonation to the skills required. 

–Robert Brault



Art Glass 45

Late Night Karaoke

“We Need to Look Forward as Opposed to Looking Back”

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

WikiLeaks: Iraqi children in U.S. raid shot in head, U.N. says

By Matthew Schofield, McClatchy Newspapers

Posted on Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A U.S. diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks provides evidence that U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence, during a controversial 2006 incident in the central Iraqi town of Ishaqi.

The unclassified cable, which was posted on WikiLeaks’ website last week, contained questions from a United Nations investigator about the incident, which had angered local Iraqi officials, who demanded some kind of action from their government. U.S. officials denied at the time that anything inappropriate had occurred.

But Philip Alston, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said in a communication to American officials dated 12 days after the March 15, 2006, incident that autopsies performed in the Iraqi city of Tikrit showed that all the dead had been handcuffed and shot in the head. Among the dead were four women and five children. The children were all 5 years old or younger.

(h/t Think Progress)

This Week In The Dream Antilles

It’s called the Dream Antilles, emphasis on dream.  Here’s one now coming in from left field:


My fellow Americans.  And especially those of you who are unemployed.  I have called you to come together today, Labor Day 2011, 61,000 strong to Soldier Field in Chicago, so that I, your president, could explain to you how I am going to get you back to work and how I am going to re-start the economy.  And to ask humbly for your support in pressuring Congress to enact these essential proposals that I will shortly lay out. I was going to tell all of this to Congress.  But I see no reason, in light of Congress’s penchant for obstruction and delay and partisan politics, to talk further with Congress about my plan.  No.  I want to talk to you.  Because you are the people that matter.  And you will help me to increase employment.

I’m sure you understand that Congress is obdurate.  That Congress plays politics with your lives on a regular basis.  And that some of its members are nothing but stooges for the multinational corporations that financed their election.  But that doesn’t matter right now.  What matters is that you don’t have work.  That you are unemployed.  That you and your families are suffering hard times.  And I want to put you back to work.  Immediately.  Without further delay.

I have a good plan that will put you back to work.  I am going to describe it in detail this evening.  But we all need to understand that to pass this bill in this most obstructionist Congress, I will need your active help.  I will need you to stand up for this proposal.  I will need you to be active, to make calls, to send emails, to write letters, to demonstrate, to picket, to speak out.  I am asking you, if you agree with the proposal , to do these things and more to tell Congress clearly and explicitly that you demand that this proposal be enacted.  And that the consequences of failure to enact these proposals are quite simple: those who block it will be replaced in Congress by legislators who understand the plight of the unemployed and who will enact measures to create employment.  It’s that simple.  Vote for the proposal, or go home.

My plan is unspeakably simple.  It is a broad stimulus package, far larger than the previous bipartisan stimulus package, that will make America’s economy run again and will without any question greatly increase employment.  My detractors in the media, and those who sit across the isle in Congress, and even some of those in my own party, and all those who seem to delight in ignoring your misery, will roll their eyes and rent their clothing because these measures will briefly increase the deficit.  These measures will definitely increae the deficit in the short term.

But I tell you, and those who undertand economics will tell you that this increase in the deficit simply does not matter.  At all.  And those who argue that it is a problem will be enacting their ideology.  But they will only demonstrate beyond all question that they do not understand macroeconomics at all and that they are simply pawns of those who would continue to siphon economic wealth from the poor and middle class to the wealthiest 1% of our population, and continue unemployment at ridiculously high levels, and deny you the dignity of earning a respectable living.

I will not allow them to paralyze our economy further with their partisan, ideological nonsense.  I will not allow them to increase the suffering of workers further by refusing to enact measures that will spur employment.  I will not allow them to block the taking of necessary, short term steps to re-start the economy and provide employment.

America’s problem is not its debt.  It is not its deficit.  It has never been its problem.  America has always paid its debt and it always will.  America’s problem is simply this: creating jobs.  And there is absolutely no way to create jobs without increasing government spending.  We know this because we’ve tried everything else.  We’ve tried tax cuts and created more misery and it hasn’t created a single job.  The Federal Reserve has already done all it can with monetary policy.  It hasn’t been able to spur employment.  So.  Fiscal policy is the only device left that can spur employment.

When we create jobs, when we get the economy running again, the deficit will heal itself.  Because tax revenues will be increased, because more people will be working and more people will be paying taxes.

Most important, this is not a time to contract government spending by cutting programs.  The contrary is required: we need to spur employment by increasing government spending.  In short, those who insist on balancing the budget, on decreasing the deficit, on cutting spending have a fundamental misunderstanding of macroeconomics.  And I am not going to permit their willful ignorance of economics further to destroy the nation’s economy….

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest. Sometimes, like now, it is not actually a digest of essays posted in the past week at The Dream Antilles. For that you have to visit The Dream Antilles. Please leave a comment so that your Bloguero will know that you stopped by. Your Bloguero likes to know you’ve visited.