Tag: ek Politics

Veal Pen Progressives

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

(h/t to Xanthe who scooped me, also TMC, Corrente, and FDL)

I am not a “progressive” or a “liberal”.  I’m a leftist, more specifically an anarcho-syndicalist.  I mention this so you’ll understand that “who are the real Communists here” fights primarily amuse me and I’m highlighting this one as recent and illustrative as well.

Most of you will recognize Yves Smith as the author of Naked Capitalism.  Over the last couple of days there has been a lot of discussion which started out with this post-

Bribes Work: How Peterson, the Enemy of Social Security, Bought the Roosevelt Name

Friday, June 3, 2011

Bribes work. AT&T gave money to GLAAD, and now the gay rights organization is supporting the AT&T-T-Mobile merger. La Raza is mouthing the talking points of the Mortgage Bankers Association on down payments. The NAACP is fighting on debit card rules. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute supported the extension of the Bush tax cuts back in December. While it seems counter-intuitive that a left-leaning organization would support illiberal extensions of corporate power, in fact, that is the role of the DC pet liberal. This dynamic of rent-a-reputation is greased with corporate cash and/or political access. As the entitlement fight comes to a head, it’s worth looking under the hood of the DC think tank scene to see how the Obama administration and the GOP are working to lock down their cuts to social programs.

And so it is that the arch-enemy of Social Security, Pete Peterson, rented out the good name of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the reputation of the Center for American Progress, and EPI. All three groups submitted budget proposals to close the deficit and had their teams share the stage with Republican con artist du jour Paul Ryan. The goal of Peterson’s conference was to legitimize the fiscal crisis narrative, and to make sure that “all sides” were represented.

Well, there’s been quite a reaction.  As Yves puts it-

I’m surprised that my post, “Bribes Work: How Peterson, the Enemy of Social Security, Bought the Roosevelt Name” has created a bit of a firestorm within what passes for the left wing political blogosphere. It has elicited responses from Andy Rich of the Roosevelt Institute, Roosevelt Institute fellow Mike Konczal, as well as two groups only mentioned in passing in the piece, the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Her longer response-

On Fauxgressive Rationalizations of Selling Out to Powerful, Moneyed Backers

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Left wing operatives seem unable to grasp what outsiders see clearly: that what advances their resume is often inconsistent with what is in the best interest of the causes they say they believe in. Some face this tradeoff more on an institutional rather than individual level. The EPI and CFPB were both created to counter the right supply side phantasmagoria with fact based analysis. They’ve been truer to the left wing principles than the Hamilton Project infested Center for American Progress. But they depend on Democratic party infrastructure for much of their fundraising. As a consequence, they are often asked to take dives, such as the stance we highlighted in our post, that of supporting an extension of the Bush tax cuts last fall. The payoff was not explicit as in the Roosevelt case, but maintaining good relationships with money sources is as important as grant funding.



Let’s look at the Mike Konczal post as an illustration. It’s an odd mix of misdirection, rationalization, and coded ad hominem.  His opening sentence depicts me as “unhappy”, thus tagging me as being emotional rather than having a reasoned critique.  It also characterizes the critic as someone who doesn’t see the system as legitimate, and thus cannot be trusted as a credible system-supportive messenger.

But that’s precisely the point – my priority is not sustaining a corrupt order, while that is exactly what he is doing.  I feel no allegiance to the powerful officials and interests who made decisions, and I believe they owe the public an accounting for the deeply destabilizing and immoral two-tiered system of justice they have foisted on all of us.  He is keen to marginalize those who demand answers from our self-appointed guardians of discourse. For instance, his peculiar emphasis on word count is to suggest that people like me are tiresome and irrelevant.

His post is not even an argument, it’s a tribal signal to the insider class that, though he may have liberal sympathies, he can be trusted at crunch time.



It is in fact an argument against moral courage.



(T)he reality is that the Roosevelt participation was utterly irrelevant save for its PR value to Peterson. It’s simply an ornament that allows Peterson to claim millennial support for his toxic game plan. No one cares what the student paper says; the only reason I bothered dealing with it substantively was to show I had indeed read it and point out how it failed to build on or even acknowledge prior (better) Roosevelt work.

Water Water

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The cooling pump failure at Reactor 5 (yes, Reactor 5, a new one) seems to have been corrected by the installation of an additional pump.  The failure raised temperatures from 68 to 93.6 degrees in the reactor and 41 to 46 degrees in the fuel pool.  I suspect that these numbers are Celsius, not Fahrenheit, which puts the boiling point of water at 100, not 212.  The explosion heard at about the same time came from rubble clearing equipment damaging a gas cylinder according to TEPCO.

And we all believe them, don’t we?

On the credibility front, Prime Minister Naoto Kan barely survived a no-confidence vote by making a pledge to resign “once certain progress” has been made.

Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who brokered the deal, said that Kan had agreed to go by the end of June, while Kan said at a press conference late Thursday that the work required him to stay at least through the end of the year.

Hatoyama shot back Friday morning, saying that Kan was a “con artist” if he tried to stay on.

“Right before the no-confidence vote, he says he will resign, and then once it’s voted down, he says he won’t. The prime minister should not be behaving like a con artist…If he is such a person, I should have supported the no-confidence vote,” Hatoyama told reporters Friday morning.

But there are more important things happening, like the imminent exhaustion of ALL the storage for the now highly radioactive water they’ve been pumping to prevent another out of control reaction.

Fukushima Radioactive Water May Breach Plant’s Storage Trenches in 5 Days

By Tsuyoshi Inajima, Bloomberg News

Jun 2, 2011 6:32 AM ET

Tepco has pumped millions of liters of cooling water into the three reactors that melted down. By May 18, almost 100,000 tons of radioactive water had leaked into the basements of reactor and turbine buildings, connecting tunnels and service trenches at the plant, according to Tepco’s estimates.

Water levels are between 27.7 centimeters (11 inches) below the top of a shaft leading to a trench connected to the No. 2 building and 23.9 centimeters below the ground at the No. 3 unit today, Junichi Matsumoto, a general manager at Tepco, said.

The levels were 64.1 centimeters for the No. 2 building and 45.6 for No. 3 on May 27, showing a rate of increase that will reach the lip of the trenches as early as June 6.



The rate of increase in water level quickened because of three days of rain from typhoon Songda that weakened as it swept past Japan earlier this week. Namie, a town near the Fukushima Dai-Ichi station, had 112 millimeters of rain on May 30, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

The Associated Press is currently reporting that TEPCO is planning on removing 1,500 tons of water immediately, but you don’t have to be a math genius to compare 100,000 to 1,500 and reach the sure and certain conclusion that this represents 1.5%, literally a drop in the bucket.

Even this more optimistic piece from AFP says that only 2 or 3 of a planned 370 temporary storage tanks are expected to reach the site in the next few days with the rest taking as long as mid August to get there.  And when they do the capacity will be a mere 40,000 tons which some quick and non-controversial arithmetic tells me leaves 60% still sloshing around.

They still keep pumping more too.

59% of Japanese are worried they have been exposed to radiation from the Fukushima disaster and at least 2 workers have exceeded their lifetime limits with an additional 40 being tested.

When you’ve lost James Carville…

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

He actually admires this, but consider whom he wakes up next to.

Obama is looking like a 2008 Republican

By James Carville, CNN Contributor

May 24, 2011

In 1992, Bill Clinton famously proclaimed himself to be an Eisenhower Republican. By that measure, I’d say President Obama is a pre-2008 John McCain Republican.

But this much is sure: The policies of the eventual Republican nominee, that is, anybody left running for it by the time of the vote, will be right in line with those of Sarah Palin. It’s pretty remarkable that the next election is going to boil down to a competition between the 2008 Republican presidential candidate and his vice presidential nominee.

Remarkable is not the word I’d use.

Moody

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The Shame of the Ratings Agencies: How Moody’s Blows It Again

By Zachary Karabell, Time Magazine

June 3, 2011

Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch are three of the most powerful actors in the global financial system. Their inability to discern the flimsiness of those “investment grade” mortgage-backed securities between 2006 and 2008 was one reason for the implosion of that system in 2008 when it became apparent that those trillions of dollars of securities and their derivatives were worth a lot less than it seemed. Yet for all the reforms since then, the ratings agencies remain largely untouched.



Add to this yet another issue: the United States debt market of Treasury bonds and bills is one of the anchors of the global economy. The dollar remains the preferred – though not much loved – currency of international commerce. The purchase and sale of U.S. Treasuries is not something the world can halt if Moody’s or S&P or Fitch decide one day that there are credit questions. Until the Chinese yuan or the Brazilian real or the euro or some new synthetic currency replaces the dollar, and until there is a market liquid enough to absorb the trillions now invested in U.S. Treasuries, countries and institutions can’t just shift gears and divest of their U.S. holdings simply because one day ratings agencies decide that they should.

So it is patently ridiculous that these agencies are even in a position to hold court on U.S. creditworthiness. It’s not that their analysis of the challenges and pitfalls is useless: far from it. But it is the degree to which that analysis is supposed to be connected to action, and there is a world of difference between saying that company X is no longer investment grade and saying the same of the United States. At best, such a decision will roil markets and sow confusion; at worst, they will trigger a wave of selling and a race to the bottom that could make the mistakes of the ratings agencies during the financial crisis look small in comparison.

U.S. Treasuries are the world’s reserve currency.  They’re currently trading at less than 3% (as Colbert would say- the judgment of the market).  To think that any other currency could or would want to absorb the $600 TRILLION notional value of derivatives (1000% of the WORLD GDP) is as foolish as wishing the Sumerians had never invented cuneiform

Some ten millennia ago the Sumerians began using clay tokens to count their agricultural and manufactured goods. Later they began placing the tokens in large, hollow, clay containers which were sealed; the quantity of tokens in each container came to be expressed by impressing, on the container’s surface, one picture for each instance of the token inside. They next dispensed with the actual tokens, relying solely on symbols for the tokens, drawn on clay surfaces. To avoid making a picture for each instance of the same object (for example: 100 pictures of a hat to represent 100 hats), they ‘counted’ the objects by using various small marks. In this way the Sumerians added “a system for enumerating objects to their incipient system of symbols.” Thus writing began, during the Uruk period c. 3300 BC.

Hilda Solis- Shill

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

“I’m optimistic!”

That was the message from Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor, in response to a jobs report that can only be described as appalling.

The Obama administration is in a complete disconnect from the Main Street economy and Ms. Solis looked pathetic and frantic as she denied reality on behalf of her employer.  It’s really not a good sign when you let a CNBC reporter PWN you like this.

Unless Obama can change these numbers (or at least the stink of failure that permeates his record) he is doomed no matter what nut job the Thugs put up.

Photobucket

From Calculated Risk, h/t Atrios

The Mistake of 2010

By PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times

Published: June 2, 2011

In fact, in important ways we have already repeated the mistake of 1937. Call it the mistake of 2010: a “pivot” away from jobs to other concerns, whose wrongheadedness has been highlighted by recent economic data.



Back when the original 2009 Obama stimulus was enacted, some of us warned that it was both too small and too short-lived. In particular, the effects of the stimulus would start fading out in 2010 – and given the fact that financial crises are usually followed by prolonged slumps, it was unlikely that the economy would have a vigorous self-sustaining recovery under way by then.

By the beginning of 2010, it was already obvious that these concerns had been justified. Yet somehow an overwhelming consensus emerged among policy makers and pundits that nothing more should be done to create jobs, that, on the contrary, there should be a turn toward fiscal austerity.



(T)he news has, indeed, been bad. As the stimulus has faded out, so have hopes of strong economic recovery. Yes, there has been some job creation – but at a pace barely keeping up with population growth. The percentage of American adults with jobs, which plunged between 2007 and 2009, has barely budged since then. And the latest numbers suggest that even this modest, inadequate job growth is sputtering out.



(T)he mistake of 2010 may yet be followed by an even bigger mistake. Even if that doesn’t happen, however, the fact is that the policy response to the crisis was and remains vastly inadequate.

Somewhat corrected transcript below.

9% Unemployed? Try 11.5%!

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

More job seekers give up, reducing unemployment

By PAUL WISEMAN, AP Economics Writer

19 mins ago

The percentage of adults in the labor force is a figure that economists call the participation rate. It is 64.2 percent, the smallest since 1984. And that’s become a mystery to economists. Normally after a recession, an improving economy lures job seekers back into the labor market. This time, many are staying on the sidelines.

Their decision not to seek work means the drop in unemployment from 9.8 percent in November to 9 percent in April isn’t as good as it looks.

If the 529,000 missing workers had been out scavenging for a job without success, the unemployment rate would have been 9.3 percent in April, not the reported rate of 9 percent. And if the participation rate were as high as it was when the recession began, 66 percent, in December 2007, the unemployment rate could have been as high as 11.5 percent.

Electoral Victory my ass!

Employment Data May Be the Key to the President’s Job

By BINYAMIN APPELBAUM, The New York Times

Published: June 1, 2011

WASHINGTON – No American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has won a second term in office when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 percent.



More than 13.7 million Americans were unable to find work in April; most had been seeking jobs for months. Millions more have stopped trying. Their inability to earn money is a personal catastrophe; studies show that the chance of finding new work slips away with time. It is also a strain on their families, charities and public support programs.



Ten presidents have stood for re-election since Mr. Roosevelt. In four instances the unemployment rate stood above 6 percent on Election Day. Three presidents lost: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush. But Ronald Reagan won, despite 7.2 percent unemployment in November 1984, because the rate was falling and voters decided he was fixing the problem.

How to Get Washington’s Attention

by Robert Reich

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The stock market is dropping because corporate earnings are slowing. Corporate earnings are slowing because consumers are pulling back. Consumers are pulling back because they don’t have enough jobs or adequate wages.



The economy needs 125,000 new jobs a month just to tread water, given that at least 125,000 people join the potential labor force every month. Simply put, if new hires are in the range of five digits, American consumers will not have enough purchasing power to buy what the private sector can produce.

The leaders of the Street and big business may now have to wake up to a reality they’ve tried to avoid – that the central economic problem of our time isn’t the long-term budget deficit but the immediate deficit in aggregate demand.

The Next Meltdown

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Krugman

(T)he ECB keeps saying that restructuring is unthinkable. Yet austerity programs are not working; the prospect of a return to normal financing is receding rather than approaching.

If you ask me, the water level has now dropped so far that the fuel rods are exposed. We really are in meltdown territory.

How is that austerity thing working out for you?

More Lies

This is why I no longer watch Talking Head Sundays.  Krugman opines

(E)ven I am surprised by this. When the gaping holes in the Ryan plan were revealed, I expected the Very Serious People to move on and find a new GOP daddy to idolize. Instead, however, they’ve mostly dug in, condemning anyone who points out that the plan is a piece of junk as being somehow out of bounds.

Steve Benen (whom Krugman hat tips) says

It’s exasperating, but it’s worth reemphasizing what too many establishment types simply refuse to understand: Democrats are telling the truth. Indeed, Dems are doing what the media is reluctant to do: offering an accurate assessment of the Republican plan for Medicare. If voters find the GOP proposal frightening, the problem is with the plan, not with Democrats’ rhetoric.

I’m at a loss to understand what, exactly, Ruth Marcus, David Brooks, and their cohorts would have Dems do. Congressional Republicans have a plan to end Medicare and replace it with a privatized voucher scheme. The proposal would not only help rewrite the social contract, it would also shift crushing costs onto the backs of seniors, freeing up money for tax breaks for the wealthy. The plan is needlessly cruel, and any serious evaluation of the GOP’s arithmetic shows that the policy is a fraud.

Which part of this description is false? None of it, but apparently, Democrats just aren’t supposed to mention any of this.

Pobrecitos

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Even in Connecticut $400,000 a year is wealthy.

Deficit May Snap 12-Year Tax Winning Streak for Top-Earning Americans

By Margaret Collins, Bloomberg News

May 25, 2011 1:57 PM ET

For a married couple with two children in Connecticut, which has the third-highest state and local tax burden in the U.S., the increase in rates Obama has proposed, along with levies from health-care reform, mean their tax bill may jump to $142,160 in 2013 from $126,410 this year, or 12.5 percent, according to an analysis Fleming ran for Bloomberg News.

That’s based on $485,000 in earnings, $2,000 in interest on investments, $3,000 in dividend income and $10,000 in long-term capital gains, and the following deductions: $20,000 in mortgage interest and charitable donations of $10,000, said Fleming, who works for PwC’s private company services tax group in Boston and Hartford, Connecticut.



Under the tax-cut compromise passed in December, individuals generally may gift up to $5 million during their lifetime without paying tax. That threshold will revert to $1 million in 2013 unless Congress acts.

“Move that $5 million now to your children or grandchildren to lock that in if you’re afraid that will go away,” Beerman said. That way the appreciation on those assets is out of an estate, Beerman said.



The biggest federal tax breaks for individuals include those for mortgage interest, charitable contributions, state and local taxes, incentives for retirement savings and the exclusion for employer-provided health care, said Clint Stretch, managing principal of tax policy at Deloitte Tax LLP in Washington. Each of them would be “politically pretty toxic” to eliminate or reduce, Stretch said.

Phasing out the mortgage interest deduction would increase federal revenue by $214.6 billion over the next 10 years, according to estimates from the Joint Committee on Taxation in a March report by the CBO. Curtailing deductions for charitable giving would raise an estimated $219 billion over the next decade, the CBO study said.

Did I mention their $400,000 McMansion?

A victory?

Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Law Curbing Unions

By STEVEN GREENHOUSE, The New York Times

Published: May 26, 2011

Ruling that Republicans in the State Senate had violated the state’s open meetings law, a judge in Wisconsin dealt a blow to them and to Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday by granting a permanent injunction striking down a new law curbing collective bargaining rights for many state and local employees.



Republican senators asserted that they had enacted the collective bargaining law under emergency conditions, obviating the need to comply with the open meetings law. But Judge Sumi said she found no official evidence of emergency conditions or notice.



She (Judge Sumi) said the evidence demonstrated a failure to obey even the two-hour notice allowed for good cause if a 24-hour notice was impossible or impractical.

Perhaps temporarily-

“There’s still a much larger separation-of-powers issue: whether one Madison judge can stand in the way of the other two democratically elected branches of government,” he (Republican Scott Fitzgerald, Senate Majority Leader) said in a statement. “The Supreme Court is going to have the ultimate ruling.”

Liar’s Poker

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

I have 6 Aces.

The world’s most reckless central bankers

By Colin Barr, Fortune Magazine

May 25, 2011: 6:32 AM ET

Euro area President Jean-Claude Juncker said last month he is willing to mislead the public if the price in terms of market stability is right.

“When it becomes serious, you have to lie,” Juncker said. Either that, or you have to get serious. No prizes for guessing which course Europe will choose.



As Ireland’s post-bailout death spiral makes clear, austerity alone simply is not going to do the trick. Balancing a budget that is as out of whack as Greece’s “has been known to cause riots if done in a single year,” warns Paolo Manasse, an economics professor at the University of Bologna.

Yet officials at the ECB insist the alternative — inflicting losses on bondholders who until recently were all too happy to foot the bills for the big, fat Greek consumption party — is still too damaging to even contemplate. Taking a book out of the Tim Geithner playbook, ECB board member Juergen Stark last week called a possible restructuring a “catastrophe” because it would do bad things to the banks.

Meanwhile the real catastrophe plays out before our eyes. Every day that goes by without a restructuring that forces investors to share European taxpayers’ pain, the ultimate cleanup tab rises. You only have to survey the mess that is the U.S. housing market — or the wreck that once was the Irish economy — to see how that movie ends.

“You cannot really afford to keep buying time, because it is so expensive,” says Daniel Gros, who runs the Center for European Policy Studies think tank in Brussels. “Paying out 100% to existing bondholders is just too big a burden to bear in this situation.”

Krugman Decoded

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

I often find it’s better to read him bottom to top, like stack language or a blog.

The ‘elite’ economists are arrogant morons-

If Greek banks collapse, that might well force Greece out of the euro area – and it’s all too easy to see how it could start financial dominoes falling across much of Europe. So what is the E.C.B. thinking?

My guess is that it’s just not willing to face up to the failure of its fantasies.

What are those fantasies?

European leaders offered emergency loans to nations in crisis, but only in exchange for promises to impose savage austerity programs, mainly consisting of huge spending cuts. Objections that these programs would be self-defeating – not only would they impose large direct pain, but they also would, by worsening the economic slump, reduce revenues – were waved away. Austerity would actually be expansionary, it was claimed, because it would improve confidence.

What are the results?

(T)he confidence fairy hasn’t shown up. Europe’s troubled debtor nations are, as we should have expected, suffering further economic decline thanks to those austerity programs, and confidence is plunging instead of rising. It’s now clear that Greece, Ireland and Portugal can’t and won’t repay their debts in full, although Spain might manage to tough it out.

Realistically, then, Europe needs to prepare for some kind of debt reduction, involving a combination of aid from stronger economies and “haircuts” imposed on private creditors, who will have to accept less than full repayment. Realism, however, appears to be in short supply.

Clinging to a thin reed of hope.

I often complain, with reason, about the state of economic discussion in the United States. And the irresponsibility of certain politicians – like those Republicans claiming that defaulting on U.S. debt would be no big deal – is scary.

But at least in America members of the pain caucus, those who claim that raising interest rates and slashing government spending in the face of mass unemployment will somehow make things better instead of worse, get some pushback from the Federal Reserve and the Obama administration.

“Realism, however, appears to be in short supply.”

State and local governments may cut 450,000 jobs in FY2012

Reuters

Mon May 23, 4:23 pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Around 450,000 people who work for U.S. states, counties, cities, towns and villages could get pink slips in fiscal 2012, sharply up from the 300,000 positions shed this year, a report said on Monday.

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