Tag: debt

Feb 01

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: The Mouse Has Roared – Greece post-Elections by NY Brit Expat

The Greeks have said enough! Hope has defeated fear and SYRIZA has won the election and have beaten New Democracy and the fear-mongers, as expected.  This is a major victory for anti-austerity forces which could change the economic and political landscapes.

However, they did not win an outright majority (they were short 2 seats) and were forced into coalition with a right-wing, nationalist (pro-Greek Orthodox) anti-austerity party, the Independent Greeks (referred to as ANEL from now on).  

 photo 57055606-f937-4671-a7b2-1ba4704d70e6_zpsd6efb423.jpg


Irrespective of this, we do have quite a lot to celebrate! The election of SYRIZA is a shot directly across the bow of neoliberalism and its flagship of ideas, aka as the austerity project. The European ruling class (which includes mainstream political leaders) are a wee bit shaken especially Germany.  Whether or not the Troika is forced to negotiate the debt successfully, this is a victory and it is forcing the ruling class in Europe to take stock over whether austerity (and destroying the working class) is more important than the EU project. The stakes are literally that high!  

Jul 12

Student Loan Deal: From Bad to Worse

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

On July 1, student loan rated double to to 6.8% when Congress failed to take action. This placed an enormous debt on students who start off in deep debt in an seriously depressed labor market.

In the Senate, a vote to restore low interest rates temporarily on some new federal student loans failed to advance sparking a clash among Democrats.

Liberal firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) blasted a fellow Democratic senator Tuesday as a dispute over student loan rates escalated divisions within the party.

“Elizabeth came out very strong against Manchin,” said a Democratic senator who requested anonymity to discuss the exchange. “She said, ‘They’re already making money off the backs of students, and this adds another $1 billion.‘”

Warren was referring to a deal Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and two other members of the caucus, Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Angus King (I-Maine), struck with Republicans to peg student-lending rates to the 10-year Treasury notes.

It appears that Manchin, Carper and King have prevailed with a deal that will possibly be even more costly for future college students:

Rates on new student loans from the Department of Education, the dominant source of college loans, would be pegged to the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. Undergraduates would pay 1.8 percentage points above the government’s cost to borrow for 10 years. Graduate students would pay 3.8 percentage points above the rate. Parents would pay 4.5 percentage points above the benchmark, officials said.

The yield on the 10-year note was 2.57 percent late Wednesday, according to Bloomberg. Assuming the measure is signed into law as is, most students starting school this fall and their parents would enjoy lower borrowing costs than the rates that prevailed during the last school year.

But their savings would effectively be subsidized by future borrowers, who would pay more relative to current law as the economy improves and interest rates rise. [..]

Many Senate Democrats have been reluctant to support the measures, in part because of the possibility that future students would pay much higher rates than they do under current law.

Before Wednesday’s failed vote, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called for student loan rates to be returned to 3.4%.

“We have a major crisis in our country today in terms of the high cost of college and the incredible debt burden that college students and their families are facing,” Sanders said in a Senate floor speech. “Our job is to improve that situation, to lessen the burden on students and their families — not to make it worse.”

The deficit hawks have prevailed to once again put the burden of the non-existent debt/deficit crisis on the backs of those who can least afford it.  

May 22

John T. Harvey: Austerity Leads To… Austerity!

In the real world and the reality based community, there is talk about austerity from people who understand the nuances of it and macroeconomic accounting identities. They point out the undeniable fact that there is austerity in the UK, the Eurozone, and yes, the United States. This interactive chart will show this, though I can’t embed it here. So instead, I will add a small snapshot of some of the data.

Net spending in the United States has steadily declined since it rose from 2008 to 2009 when the inadequate stimulus(only $500 billion of direct spending at about 1.5 percent of GDP) was passed. Stimulus packages don’t exist in a vacuum, and you have to count all government spending, which basically shows how exactly the numbers, including the stimulus as this does, didn’t close the output gap. And since the numbers didn’t, that is actually austerity. After all, spending went up in the UK and Eurozone from 2008 to 2009 as well, and since then, their spending has declined. Even though it is on a higher level, it is being cut at an even more alarming rate with its fate set to go below our miserable level by 2017.

I have pointed this out before. Sometimes I get frustrated, and point this out harshly, because some pride themselves on denying this established data to support whatever a politician in their party says or does. I don’t know why. Denying reality is not going to give resources to people who need them. There is a reason my last diary has been cited by the reality based Post Keynesian MMT community, in which I am truly grateful for and humbled by; it is the truth.

The real economy of jobs and wages continues to go nowhere thanks to the lack of deficit spending and an illogical debate in DC about how much austerity we need to appease the invisible bond vigilantes and confidence fairies. It is neoliberal deficit terrorist economic insanity based on lies. And on that note, it is my pleasure to republish a piece by someone in the reality based economic community whom I can now proudly say is a friend of mine, Post Keynesian MMT economist John T. Harvey. He, once again, brings clarity to these matters in a way that only he can.  

May 08

Obama Losing Democratic Support on Social Security Cuts

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Eight of the 14 Democrats who are up for reelection in 2014, three from red states, have taken a stand against Pres. Obama’s proposed Social Security cuts:

The majority of Senate Democrats running for reelection in 2014, including three running in red states, have broken with President Barack Obama and are opposing his effort to cut Social Security benefits, imperiling the austerity project known as the “grand bargain.” [..]

Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mark Begich (Alaska) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), all running in states won by Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, have publicly opposed the president’s effort, going so far as to co-sponsor a Senate resolution against chained CPI last week. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), running in bluer states, also co-sponsored the resolution. [..]

Other Senate Democrats up for reelection who didn’t sign the resolution were still unfavorably disposed toward chained CPI. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) opposes the cost-of-living cut, her office confirmed to HuffPost, and has said Social Security should be off the table in debt talks.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) has been open to the chained CPI cut, but insisted a “circle of protection” must be established for the most vulnerable Americans.

Alaskan Senator Mark Begich will introduced two bill that would protect Social Security benefits:

Begich plans to introduce the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act and the Social Security Fairness Act of 2013 when he returns to Washington, DC next week. He says his plan has three points. The Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act would remove a cap on high income contributions. The cap is now at 113,700 dollars. Removing the cap would make high income earners pay into Social Security just like everyone else, he says. [..]

The second part of that bill would revise how SS payments are adjusted to better reflect how America’s senior spend their income. Currently, payments are based on a Consumer Price Index model that does not accurately reflect higher costs seniors pay, for medications, for example. The bill would create a CPI – E for elders.

The Social Security Fairness Act would remove penalties that are now placed on retirees who worked more than one job, paid into Social Security, but then retired under a different retirement system. Under current law, they are denied their Social Security benefits Many government workers and some teachers in Alaska fall into this category.

It’s about time the Democrats stood up to the Republican in the White House.

Mar 02

What You Need To Know About “Fix The Debt”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Billionaires for Austerity: With Cuts Looming, Wall Street Roots of “Fix the Debt” Campaign Exposed

With $85 billion across-the-board spending cuts, known as “the sequestration,” set to take effect this Friday, a new investigation reveals how billionaire investors, such as Peter Peterson, have helped reshape the national debate on the economy, the debt and social spending. Between 2007 and 2011, Peterson personally contributed nearly $500 million to his Peter G. Peterson Foundation to push Congress to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – while providing tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Peterson’s main platform has been the Campaign to Fix the Debt. While the campaign is portrayed as a citizen-led effort, critics say the campaign is a front for business groups. The campaign has direct ties to GE, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. Peterson is the former chair and CEO of Lehman Brothers and co-founder of the private equity firm, The Blackstone Group. For more, we speak to John Nichols of The Nation and Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy.

Sequestration Is Austerity, but Not Enough for Simpson and Bowles

by John Nichols, The Nation

Sequestration?

Cue the return of Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, frontmen for American austerity. [..]

The former Republican senator and defeated Democratic senate candidate who praises Paul Ryan’s budget don’t particularly like the death-by-slow-cuts of sequestration. They prefer a full frontal assault on the most vulnerable Americans and a redistribution of the wealth upward.

As President Obama has noted, Washington has already reduced the deficit by $2.5 trillion.

But the co-chairs of the failed National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform now want another $2.4 trillion.

To wit, in a “rehashed” plan to “Fix the Debt,” Simpson and Bowles are busy promoting schemes to “modernize…entitlement programs to account for” an aging population. That’s code for schemes to delay the point at which the hardest working Americans can get access to Social Security and Medicare.

Simpson and Bowles are arguing specifically for the adoption of “chained CPI.” That’s the assault on Social Security cost-of-living increases that Congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, correctly identifies as “a benefit cut.”

Remember who appointed these two charlatans to head the “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform” when Congress refused to create it, Pres. Obama. Remember who embraced their recommendations when the committee failed to come to an agreement, Pres. Obama.

Remember who was privately financing the commission, Peter G. Peterson.

Sperling: Obama Wanted Sequester to Force Democrats to Accept Entitlement Cuts

by Jon Walker, FDL Action

The way Obama has handled basically every manufactured crisis from the debt ceiling, to the Bush tax cuts expiration, to the sequester has been about trying to force both Democrats and Republicans to embrace his version of a “grand bargain.” While it is clear this has been the driving force behind Obama’s decisions, if you pay close attention to his actions is is rare than an administration official will directly admit this. This is actually what I think it most interesting about the recently leaked email exchange between Bob Woodward and Gene Sperling up on Politico. Sperling wrote:

   But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim. The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand bargain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start. It was an accepted part of the understanding – from the start. Really. It was assumed by the Rs on the Supercommittee that came right after: it was assumed in the November-December 2012 negotiations. There may have been big disagreements over rates and ratios – but that it was supposed to be replaced by entitlements and revenues of some form is not controversial. (Indeed, the discretionary savings amount from the Boehner-Obama negotiations were locked in in BCA: the sequester was just designed to force all back to table on entitlements and revenues.)

Pres. Obama has close ties to Mr. Peterson, both want cuts to Social Security and Medicare. That the president is calling for tax increases is a cover so he can get away with unpopular cuts. If he can get a bipartisan agreement that cuts entitlements and raises taxes then everyone, and no one, is to blame. What John Walker said, “That is why even now Obama isn’t calling for the sequester to be simply repealed or delayed. Obama still wants to use this manufactured crisis to force congressional Democrats to betray their base by adopting Social Security cuts and get Republicans to accept revenue increases.

This is a fine mess you’ve got us into, Barack.

Feb 20

Analyzing the blur (Part 2)

Part 1 described how humans face multiple ongoing, interlocking and spiraling crises of existential proportions, all of which can be conveniently subsumed under the theme of carrying capacity, the ability of an environment to support a population at the limit of sustainability, a limit we have exceeded.   The basic elements of the story are these: Through the exploitation of fossil fuels, humans have over-run the planet, cantilevering the entirety of complex industrial society on finite sources of fossil fuels, which we are using to extract itself other resources unsustainably to the point of collapse while altering the basic chemical and biophysical operating conditions of life.  Thus, the collapse of the physical environment threatens mass extinction on the order of five previous mass extinction events on Earth.  This is not exactly news, yet it’s tenaciously more controversial than it should be.  Today’s tour examines how we got locked into one particular death spiral, the “debt spiral,” that keeps us locked into the fossil fuel death spiral.

*     *     *

The very recent “success” of humans in economically advanced countries has culturally engendered a misleading assessment of human accomplishment, deranged notions of wealth, and conditioned unwarranted expectations for more of the same.  To borrow a phrase from Jim Hightower, industrial humans were “born on third base and thought they hit a triple.”  The baptismal font of fossil fuels has fostered a belief system in which the religion is growth and the supreme being is the Lord of More, an orthodoxy that is both irrational and nearly ubiquitous in industrialized nations, and probably far more damaging than any conventional dogma Richard Dawkins has railed against.  The irrationality of this system stems from the simple fact continual growth of any kind is impossible in a finite world.

Despite its root insanity, this belief system has been not merely elevated as a national narrative, but has been reified as the operating system of our physical economy in the form of debt-based financing.  Still worse, as the leading global power of “The American Century,” we have pushed to globalize this operating system on the rest of the world, to exert a kind of neocolonial control over resources and political systems through inventive regimes of debt and discipline, and largely succeeded.  

On the ascending limb of resource extraction, economic growth, and credit expansion, debt-based assets could be rolled over into the foreseeable future, and interest-laden fiat capital could function as a tradable substitute for actual resources, such as oil.  The belief in infinite resource extraction has allowed debt-based fiat economies to runaway from ecological reality.   As alluded to in part 1, we are hitting hard limits to physical capacity, leaving only imaginary exponential functions to vary to infinity.  The master resource of oil has by any reasonable estimate begun its terminal decline, which guarantees economic contraction, which in turn certifies the impossibility of rolling all the old debt into new debt.  Thus the viral proliferation of the operating system has also hit hard limits, and the ascending limb of inflationary credit expansion has transformed into its nasty alter ego of deflationary credit contraction.  The American wealth pump has begun to run in reverse.  How did we get here?

Feb 15

Why is the “Grand Betrayal” Still on the Table?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

What Atrios said: Republicans Don’t Care About Cutting Social Security

The big flaw in the premise of the grand bargain is that Obama is asking them to give away their precious by increasing taxes on the rich in exchange for something they don’t care much about. Cutting taxes for rich people is their whole purpose. Cutting Social Security? Well, if they can use Social Security cuts to cut taxes for rich people, sure. But cutting Social Security in order to increase taxes on rich people? Really not interested.

401Ks are a disaster

We need an across the board increase in Social Security retirement benefits of 20% or more. We need it to happen right now, even if that means raising taxes on high incomes or removing the salary cap in Social Security taxes.

Over the past few decades, employees fortunate enough to have employer-based retirement benefits have been shifted from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans. We are now seeing the results of that grand experiment, and they are frightening. Recent and near-retirees, the first major cohort of the 401(k) era, do not have nearly enough in retirement savings to even come close to maintaining their current lifestyles.

Frankly, that’s an optimistic way of putting it. Let me be alarmist for a moment, because the fact is the numbers are truly alarming. We should be worried that large numbers of people nearing retirement will be unable to keep their homes or continue to pay

Economics and law professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, William K. Black joined Paul Jay, senior editor at The Real News Network to discuss President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and his economic proposals.


More at The Real News

Feb 10

The Grand Sell Out Still On

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

President Barack Obama told Democratic delegates and congressional members meeting at the annual House Democratic retreat at Lansdowne Resort in Virginia that the he wants a “big budget deal”

President Barack Obama said he wants to reach a “big deal” on the budget that will cut the nation’s deficit without slashing spending on education and research that is needed to ensure future growth.

Obama said negotiations with congressional Republicans over avoiding the $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board spending reductions set to begin March 1 shouldn’t push aside the effort for a broader plan to cut government debt.

While the president stood firm against “government by crisis” and the need for more revenue in any future deficit reduction deal, and much like the Republicans, who keep saying that they will close loop holes in the tax code but not which ones, there have been few details in how that deal would be accomplished. Nobel Prize winning economist points out that any reduction in government spending at this time would “destroys jobs and causes the economy to shrink”

This really isn’t a debatable proposition at this point. The contractionary effects of fiscal austerity have been demonstrated by study after study and overwhelmingly confirmed by recent experience – for example, by the severe and continuing slump in Ireland, which was for a while touted as a shining example of responsible policy, or by the way the Cameron government’s turn to austerity derailed recovery in Britain. [..]

But aren’t we facing a fiscal crisis? No, not at all. The federal government can borrow more cheaply than at almost any point in history, and medium-term forecasts, like the 10-year projections released Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office, are distinctly not alarming. Yes, there’s a long-term fiscal problem, but it’s not urgent that we resolve that long-term problem right now. The alleged fiscal crisis exists only in the minds of Beltway insiders.

(my emphasis)

Prof. Krugman discussed with MSNBC’s The Last Word host, Lawrence O’Donnell the consequences of such a deal at this time would mean and what the government should be doing to restart the economy.

Dec 27

Back to the Phones

Habds Off Social SecurityBack to the grind. President Barack Obama cut his Christmas holiday in Hawaii short, returning to Washington to try to cut a deal to avoid the mythical” fiscal cliff.” While there was much cheering from the president’s most avid supporters over the reports of his tough talk last week during negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), there is still a major concern that Social Security cuts are still on the table by tying cost of living increases it to the chained CPI. It is not just Republican and the president we can’t trust on this, it’s also Democrats. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sees no problem with chained CPI. While there was no mention of Social Security in Speaker Boehner’s failed “Plan-B,” there is no indication from Pres. Obama that it won’t be offered again as a carrot to entice the Republicans to accept a tax increase on the top two tax brackets.

Until we hear it from Pres. Obama’s lips that it isn’t, Social Security is still a bargaining chip in the manufactured debt/deficit crisis. So it is back to the phone. Flood the White House and the Congressional phone lines with calls demanding that they keep their hands off Social Security.

White House

202-456-1111

Your senators

Your House member.

No cuts to Social Security.

Gaius Publius @ Americablog offers this helpful digest-

What are we protecting?

We’re protecting three social insurance programs. These are:

    ■ Social Security

    ■ Medicare

    ■ Medicaid

What are we protecting them from? Anything that:

    ■ Reduces benefits

    ■ Turns the program from insurance to welfare (which only the “deserving” have access to)

How are these programs being threatened?

As near as I can tell, these are the threats. Note to foxes – this is the hands-off list. Each of these seven items is a benefit cut:

Social Security

    1. Raising the retirement age

    2. Chained CPI instead of current COLA

    3. Means-testing benefits

Medicare

    4. Raising the eligibility age

    5. Increasing Part B premiums

    6. Increasing “cost-sharing”

Medicaid

    7. Shifting costs to the states by any means, such as “federal blended rate,” etc.

Keep it up everyday, jam the lines until the President and Congress get the message:

No cuts to Social Security.

Dec 19

To the Phones: No Cuts to Social Security

Cross posted from The Star Hollow Gazette

As you know, if you read this blog, or any of the true left wing sites, like FiredogLake and Corrente, that Pres. Obama has once again gone back on his word that cuts to Social Security were off the table as a bargaining chip for a “Grand Bargain.” He has proposed to use  the chained CPI to calculate cost of living increases in Social Security benefits. Now House Minority Leader Nancy is saying that she could live with tying Social Security to the chained CPI, plus she said Democrats would stick with the president to avoid going over the fiscal cliff.

David Dayen at FDL News summed up Pelosi’s meaning and later White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at the press briefing:

Pelosi tried to emphasize the unformed idea that there would be “protections” for the most vulnerable. For example, the disabled on Supplemental Security Income might not be subject to chained CPI, and there could be a “bump-up” for people aged 80, to compensate for the cumulative effect of the benefit cut. Again, the vulnerable are a massive part of this population (pdf). This is almost the entire income source for almost half of seniors, and for 3/4 of widows or unmarried women. And 15.1% of seniors live in poverty. And if you hold all of them harmless, you erode the actual savings you can derive from this. The three-legged stool of retirement has withered away, especially since the dot-com bust and the Great Recession. This argues strongly for increasing Social Security benefits, not cutting them and not even mitigating cuts.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called this a “technical fix” to better calculate inflation. Bullshit. If this were just a technical fix, you would adjust so that the fix wouldn’t hit beneficiaries in a regressive fashion, with the most pain at the bottom. This plan doesn’t, to any real degree. The goal isn’t to properly measure inflation, it’s to save money for the federal government. It always has been.

Well, it time to make noise and fight back. Atrios has sounded the alert and we should take to the phones:

White House

202-456-1111

Your senators

Your House member.

No cuts to Social Security.

Keep it up everyday, jam the lines until the President and Congress get the message:

No cuts to Social Security.

Dec 18

The Overhyped Fiscal Myth

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Bruce Bartlett and Yves Smith on Overhyping the Fiscal Cliff

Bruce Bartlett and Yves Smith join Bill in a discussion about why Washington insiders are talking about the deficit crisis instead of the jobs crisis.

Transcript can be read here.

H/T Yves Smith at naked capitalism:

I had fun in this conversation with conservative Bruce Bartlett, even though he stole some of my best lines (like Obama not being a liberal). Bartlett is in exile from the Republican party for saying things like Keynesian deficits stimulate the economy (after doing research and finding he couldn’t debunk it based on data) and unions help promote higher wages.

Repeat after me, “Austerity is bad.

Dec 04

The Great American Scam: “The Fiscal Cliff”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This interview with economist James K. Galbraith, by Paul Jay of Real News Network about why the “fical cliff” is a scam, was posted at naked capitalism in two parts by Yves Smith and Lambert Strether.

This is a very good, high level interview of Jamie Galbraith by Paul Jay of Real News Network. It explains how the fiscal cliff scare was created and why Obama and the Republicans are united in fomenting a false sense of urgency. This is the sort of piece I’d suggest sharing with friends and relatives who’ve been unable to miss the news coverage and want to get up to speed.

Lambert made note of this passage:

[GALBRAITH:] If, for example, [incompr.] suggestion which has been in the news, you raise the eligibility age for Medicare, then what you’re doing is privatizing it in part. What you’re saying is that people who have employer-based insurance or other forms of private insurance have to hang on to that when they’re 66 and into, say, 67 [incompr.] they hit the age when they can shrug it off and get onto Medicare. That’s privatization. That’s what it is. And I think that should also be off the table.

Six Reasons the “Fiscal Cliff” is a Scam: A Mechanism for Rolling Back Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

by James K. Galbraith at Global Research

Stripped to essentials, the fiscal cliff is a device constructed to force a rollback of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as the price of avoiding tax increases and disruptive cuts in federal civilian programs and in the military.  It was policy-making by hostage-taking, timed for the lame duck session, a contrived crisis, the plain idea now unfolding was to force a stampede.

In the nature of stampedes arguments become confused; panic flows from fear, when multiple forces – economic and political in this instance – all appear to push the same way.  It is therefore useful to sort through those forces, breaking them down into separate questions, and to ask whether any of them justify the voices of doom. [..]

In short, Members of Congress: if you can, just pass the President’s bill on middle-class taxes, and, if you can, eliminate the domestic sequester. Then, please go home.  Enjoy the holidays. Come back in January prepared to extend unemployment insurance, to phase out the payroll tax holiday gradually, to restore stable funding to necessary programs and to start dealing with our real problems:  jobs, foreclosures, infrastructure and climate change.

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