Policy

Giving housing to the homeless is three times cheaper than leaving them on the streets

Giving housing to the homeless is three times cheaper than leaving them on the streets:

The most recent report along these lines was a May Central Florida Commission on Homelessness study indicating that the region spends $31,000 a year per homeless person on “the salaries of law-enforcement officers to arrest and transport homeless individuals — largely for nonviolent offenses such as trespassing, public intoxication or sleeping in parks — as well as the cost of jail stays, emergency-room visits and hospitalization for medical and psychiatric issues.” Between 2005 and 2012 the rate of homelessness in America declined 17 percent By contrast, getting each homeless person a house and a caseworker to supervise their needs would cost about $10,000 per person.

Climate change deniers are not skeptics.

Climate change deniers are not skeptics.:

Skepticism is all about critical examination, evidence-based scientific inquiry, and the use of reason in examining controversial claims. Those who flatly deny the results of climate science do not partake in any of the above. They base their conclusions on a priori convictions. Theirs is an ideological conviction—the opposite of skepticism.

The key words being flatly deny. Its fine to be critical of climate science where there are gaps or issues with the models. That’s skepticism. But to conflate weather and climate. Or argue that it isn’t happening because something-something, that’s denial.

New study shows that the savings from 'tort reform' are mythical

New study shows that the savings from 'tort reform' are mythical:

"Tort reform," which is usually billed as the answer to "frivolous malpractice lawsuits," has been a central plank in the Republican program for healthcare reform for decades. The notion has lived on despite copious evidence that that the so-called defensive medicine practiced by doctors merely to stave off lawsuits accounts for, at best, 2% to 3% of U.S. healthcare costs. As for "frivolous lawsuits," they’re a problem that exists mostly in the minds of conservatives and the medical establishment. A new study led by Michael B. Rothberg of the Cleveland Clinic and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association aimed to measure how much defensive medicine there is, really, and how much it costs. The researchers’ conclusion is that defensive medicine accounts for about 2.9% of healthcare spending. In other words, out of the estimated $2.7-trillion U.S. healthcare bill, defensive medicine accounts for $78 billion.

Talking white: Black people’s disdain for proper English and academic achievement is a myth.

Talking white: Black people’s disdain for proper English and academic achievement is a myth.:

By contrast, “acting white” accusations were least common at the most segregated schools, a finding echoed by a 2006 study from Harvard economist Roland Fryer, who found “no evidence at all that getting good grades adversely affects students’ popularity” in predominantly black schools. Across schools, the general pattern was this: “Acting white” accusations weren’t attached to academic performance and rather were a function of specific behaviors. If you hung out with white kids and adopted white fashions, you were accused of “acting white.” Smart kids were teased, but no more than you’d see in any other group.

Worth a read.

The Worst Governments in America Are Local

The Worst Governments in America Are Local:

Uber has brought taxicab regulations, unlike other manifestations of Big Small Government, onto the national stage. It has scrambled partisan lines. Republicans have attempted to turn Uber into a symbol of free-market economics that can appeal to young and urban voters. Uber hired David Plouffe, the Obama-campaign whiz, to run its political operations. Plouffe’s hire provoked a wave of recriminations from the left wing of his party—here was another D.C. sellout working for the Man. But Plouffe’s support for Uber could also be understood as a natural extension of Obama-style moderate liberalism. At the federal level, where government power is checked by a hostile Republican Party, liberalism means advocating for subsidized medical care, or funding for science and infrastructure. At the local level, moderate liberalism may in fact be at odds with regulation, and advocates of “more government” are sometimes defending an organized racket.

intra-Democratic politics is not optimized to root out most government failure. Democratic voters tend to apply an ideology shaped by high-profile national struggles to their local voting habits; they may, for instance, associate arguments against regulation with the sorts of spurious claims made by polluters, Wall Street, or other robber barons, even if Uber’s argument against intrusive regulations has vastly more merit than the coal industry’s.

Worth a read. While it starts with a discussion of Ferguson, it gets what the liberal position on local regulations should be. Restricted to concerns about public safety, equal access and accountability to the public. The fact is that most of the worst regulations are at the local level. Most of the crony capitalism happens on the local level. It’s not the EPA and OSHA, it’s local intrusive regulations that are a problem.

Two Theories of Poverty

Two Theories of Poverty:

Poverty replicates itself in very predictable structural ways.

Not a perfect article but worth a read. I’ve never seen any reason to support the pull-your-pants up view of poverty being a defect in individuals. If it were true the great depression would have been the great slack where a fifth of the nation decided to become lazy and live off free soup.

Obamacare implementation went great and people love it

Obamacare implementation went great and people love it:

None of this proves that the Affordable Care Act is a good law or that conservatives should love it. But it does prove that the Affordable Care Act is working just fine. When an initiative comes in ahead of schedule and below-cost, that’s called working. And the people on the new Obamacare plans are using them and they like them.

We are two decades away from people holding up signs demanding the government keep out of their Obamacare.

Build We Won’t

Build We Won’t:

We can’t simply write a check to the highway fund, we’re told, because that would increase the deficit. And deficits are evil, at least when there’s a Democrat in the White House, even if the government can borrow at incredibly low interest rates. And we can’t raise gas taxes because that would be a tax increase, and tax increases are even more evil than deficits. So our roads must be allowed to fall into disrepair.

There Are 10 Times More Mentally Ill People Behind Bars Than in State Hospitals

There Are 10 Times More Mentally Ill People Behind Bars Than in State Hospitals:

Putting the mentally ill in jails instead of hospitals isn’t saving the government any money. … The average stay for an inmate at Rikers is 42 days. Mentally ill inmates get stuck there for an average of 215 days.

The stigma of mental illness isn’t helping anyone. It costs us more, it puts us in danger and it creates really dangerous conditions for people who need help.

Work Like a German

Work Like a German:

Germany suffered a more precipitous drop in gross domestic product than the United States, but it experienced almost no change in unemployment. Here, it doubled. Today, unemployment in Germany is actually lower than it was pre-crisis, and long-term unemployment is negligible.

Rather than enforce austerity on the population, German reformed and improved its social safety net during the crisis and is better for it.

We have a growing problem with disability insurance. But because its whiter, more southern and more male than the nation as a whole, no one dare call it welfare. When white southern men get paid to not work it’s not welfare.

The Carbon Tax:Economists Have A One-Page Solution To Climate Change

The Carbon Tax:Economists Have A One-Page Solution To Climate Change

This is why economists love a carbon tax: One change to the tax code and the entire economy shifts to reduce carbon emissions. No complicated regulations. No rules for what kind of gas mileage cars have to get or what specific fraction of electricity has to come from wind or solar or renewables. That’s by and large the way we do it now. Reilly says the current web of rules is a more complicated and more expensive way of getting the same outcome as a carbon tax. … Reilly says, you can reduce, say, income tax to balance out the new taxes people are paying for carbon emissions. People pay more for gas, but they get to keep more of their income. I called around and talked to a bunch of economists about this, and they said the basic idea was sound: If you give the carbon-tax money back by cutting income taxes, you can probably offset a lot of the pain.

My problem with the carbon tax, versus Cap-and-Trade is that with a carbon tax, it goes directly to consumers. Who are just as likely to vote for people who promise the cut the carbon tax without offsets as they are to vote for people who promise to cut income taxes without offsets.

U.N. Drone Investigator Might Be a Deadly Robot's Worst Nightmare

U.N. Drone Investigator Might Be a Deadly Robot's Worst Nightmare

That carries the possibility of a reckoning with the human damage left by drones, the first such witnessing by the international community. Accountability, Emmerson tells Danger Room in a Monday phone interview, "is the central purpose of the report."

So, will the administration agree to UN inspections?

Ray Dalio calls for more stimulus

Ray Dalio calls for more stimulus

We will also need fiscal stimulation by the government, which of course, is very classic. Governments have to spend more when sales and tax revenue go down and as unemployment and other social benefits kick in and there is a redistribution of wealth. That’s why there is going to be more taxation on the wealthy and more social tension. A deleveraging is not an easy time. But when you are approaching balance again, that’s a good thing.

Dalio leaves Team Friedman and joins Team Keynes.

Scott Walker to campaign on made-up jobs data.

Scott Walker to campaign on made-up jobs data.

Wisconsin lost 23,900 jobs between March 2011 and 2012, according to the bureau, which will release fresh estimates tomorrow. Walker, who promised to create 250,000 jobs by the end of his first term in 2014, says the state is performing better than that. He said while campaigning this week that he would release his own figures as early as today, the Associated Press reported.

The numbers show my policy isn’t working so I will change the numbers we use so I can still promote my policy as a success. Wow.

The invisible welfare state of the top one percent

The invisible welfare state of the top one percent

"Indirect social policies offer benefits that are comparable to direct social benefits both in their purposes and in their costs," Mettler and Koch write. "Both are targeted to specific groups of people, aimed to reward some kind of activity or some class of persons whom policymakers deem worthy of public support. From an accounting perspective, as well, both types have the same effect: They impose costs on the federal budget, whether incurred through fiscal obligations or lost revenues."

Notice the complete lack of discussion of austerity for the parts of the welfare state that support the wealthiest?

How German Solar Has Made All German Electricity Cheaper

How German Solar Has Made All German Electricity Cheaper

The Fraunhofer Institute found that - as a result of the Merit Order ranking system - solar power had reduced the price of electricity on the EPEX exchange by 10 percent on the average, with reductions peaking at up to 40 percent in the early afternoon when the most solar power is generated.

Its amazing how public policy can work when it isn’t subverted by zealots and shills chanting Drill Baby Drill.

Racial Education Gap Narrowing, Income Education Gap Growing

Racial Education Gap Narrowing, Income Education Gap Growing

pure income inequality has become much bigger and on a variety of different fronts income-linked stratification has become a bigger deal. One way in which this reflects itself is that the “achievement gap” in school between white kids and black kids used to be bigger than the gap between rich and poor.

I remember someone on Bill Maher’s old show making a joke about this. Conservatives looked at the problem of poor black kids having fewer opportunities to get an education than poor white kids and decided to solve the problem by making sure that poor white kids don’t have any opportunities for a good education either.

It would, of course, be absurd to think that the white working class is suffering because they live in ghettos which reflect and reinforce their shiftlessness in addition to the idea that our country is too soft on crime and too focused on rehabilitating prisoners. The last time the neoconservative intellectual movement had to explain something like this it was about poverty concentrated among African-Americans and in urban environments, and this was their answer. But the white working class lives everywhere - in cities and suburbs, in dynamic towns and dying ones, in conservative ones and liberals ones - and they are having a rough economic time of it everywhere. And nobody is arguing that our criminal justice system is too lenient.

It would, of course, be absurd to think that the white working class is suffering because they live in ghettos which reflect and reinforce their shiftlessness in addition to the idea that our country is too soft on crime and too focused on rehabilitating prisoners. The last time the neoconservative intellectual movement had to explain something like this it was about poverty concentrated among African-Americans and in urban environments, and this was their answer. But the white working class lives everywhere - in cities and suburbs, in dynamic towns and dying ones, in conservative ones and liberals ones - and they are having a rough economic time of it everywhere. And nobody is arguing that our criminal justice system is too lenient.

What's Missing From Charles Murray's Diagnosis of the White Working Class?

The reason they want this to be a cultural problem rather than an economic one has everything to do where the economic analysis leads. It leads to policies that are a near 180 from the policies the right has been pushing for the past 50 years. And like any other fanatic movement, when the prescribed policy fails they look for scapegoats and demand we double down on failure.

You are a white man aged 30 without a college degree. Your grandfather returned from World War II, got a cheap mortgage courtesy of the GI bill, married his sweetheart and went to work in a factory job that paid him something like $50,000 in today's money plus health benefits and pension. Your father started at that same factory in 1972. He was laid off in 1981, and has never had anything like as good a job ever since. He's working now at a big-box store, making $40,000 a year, and waiting for his Medicare to kick in. Now look at you. Yes, unemployment is high right now. But if you keep pounding the pavements, you'll eventually find a job that pays $28,000 a year. That's not poverty! Yet you seem to waste a lot of time playing video games, watching porn, and sleeping in. You aren't married, and you don't go to church. I blame Frances Fox Piven. How you can tell a story about the moral decay of the working class with the "work" part left out is hard to fathom.

You are a white man aged 30 without a college degree. Your grandfather returned from World War II, got a cheap mortgage courtesy of the GI bill, married his sweetheart and went to work in a factory job that paid him something like $50,000 in today’s money plus health benefits and pension. Your father started at that same factory in 1972. He was laid off in 1981, and has never had anything like as good a job ever since. He’s working now at a big-box store, making $40,000 a year, and waiting for his Medicare to kick in.
Now look at you. Yes, unemployment is high right now. But if you keep pounding the pavements, you’ll eventually find a job that pays $28,000 a year. That’s not poverty! Yet you seem to waste a lot of time playing video games, watching porn, and sleeping in. You aren’t married, and you don’t go to church. I blame Frances Fox Piven.
How you can tell a story about the moral decay of the working class with the “work” part left out is hard to fathom.

Is the White Working Class Coming Apart?-David Frum - The Daily Beast

David Frum makes his case that the decline of the white working class is due to changes in nature of work.

Are high-tech classrooms better classrooms?

Are high-tech classrooms better classrooms?

the nonprofit I-News Network recently reported that students attending the state's "full-time online education programs have typically lagged their peers on virtually every academic indicator, from state test scores to student growth measures to high school graduation rates." Stanford University researchers found similar results in their separate study of online schools in Pennsylvania. And after its exhaustive national investigation of the trend, the New York Times concluded that "schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning."

Schools are willing to anything to improve education, except increase teacher salary.

When businesspeople complain about regulations, you should generally be skeptical. The regulations, after all, are there precisely because some businesses can make more money by despoiling the environment, endangering public health and safety, and threatening the financial system. A regulation that's not annoying someone by wrecking his money-making scheme would be completely pointless.

When businesspeople complain about regulations, you should generally be skeptical. The regulations, after all, are there precisely because some businesses can make more money by despoiling the environment, endangering public health and safety, and threatening the financial system. A regulation that's not annoying someone by wrecking his money-making scheme would be completely pointless.
Bruce Braley's Plain Regulations Act: Can the Iowa Democrat force the government to write in clear English? - Slate Magazine

as just two recent examples, both Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have championed massive cuts to public education while sending their kids to private school.

as just two recent examples, both Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have championed massive cuts to public education while sending their kids to private school.
America's dangerously removed elite - salon.com

Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs

Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs

Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe. The mobility gap has been widely discussed in academic circles, but a sour season of mass unemployment and street protests has moved the discussion toward center stage.

Low taxes and anemic public services haven’t made for a more dynamic meritocracy so of course the right wants to fix this with lower taxes and fewer services.

a family's economic situation is a bigger determinative force in a child's academic performance than any other major demographic factor. For poor kids, that means the intensifying hardships of poverty are now creating massive obstacles to academic progress.

a family's economic situation is a bigger determinative force in a child's academic performance than any other major demographic factor. For poor kids, that means the intensifying hardships of poverty are now creating massive obstacles to academic progress.
What real education reform looks like - salon.com

The appetite of red states for federal subsidies mocks the tirades of their politicians against the federal government. In March 2008, on the verge of the Great Recession, 22 Republican states were net recipients of federal subsidies, while only 10 Democratic-leaning states were. Sixteen blue states were net payers of federal taxes, compared to only one red state, Texas (thanks to the oil and gas industry).

The appetite of red states for federal subsidies mocks the tirades of their politicians against the federal government. In March 2008, on the verge of the Great Recession, 22 Republican states were net recipients of federal subsidies, while only 10 Democratic-leaning states were. Sixteen blue states were net payers of federal taxes, compared to only one red state, Texas (thanks to the oil and gas industry).
The red state model is (also) broken - salon.com

How we can succeed through supercommittee's 'failure'

How we can succeed through supercommittee's 'failure'

Here is a surefire way to cut $7.1 trillion from the deficit over the next decade. Do nothing. That's right. If Congress simply fails to act between now and Jan. 1, 2013, the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush expire, $1.2 trillion in additional budget cuts go through under the terms of last summer's debt-ceiling deal, and a variety of other tax cuts also go away.

The GOP can not be counted on to do nothing in a way that doesn’t harm the public interest.

In Democrat-world, up is up and down is down. Raising taxes increases revenue, and cutting spending while the economy is still depressed reduces employment. But in Republican-world, down is up. The way to increase revenue is to cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and slashing government spending is a job-creation strategy. Try getting a leading Republican to admit that the Bush tax cuts increased the deficit or that sharp cuts in government spending (except on the military) would hurt the economic recovery.

In Democrat-world, up is up and down is down. Raising taxes increases revenue, and cutting spending while the economy is still depressed reduces employment. But in Republican-world, down is up. The way to increase revenue is to cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and slashing government spending is a job-creation strategy. Try getting a leading Republican to admit that the Bush tax cuts increased the deficit or that sharp cuts in government spending (except on the military) would hurt the economic recovery.
Failure Is Good - NYTimes.com

Companies can now extract oil and natural gas from the high Arctic, shale, oil sands and deepwater wells. These fossil fuels are still finite and dwindling, but tapping the new sources pushes back the date of "peak oil." Does that give the United States necessary time to develop sustainable energy sources, or will it keep Americans needlessly addicted to dirty fuels by keeping them cheap - and eroding the "energy security" argument?

Companies can now extract oil and natural gas from the high Arctic, shale, oil sands and deepwater wells. These fossil fuels are still finite and dwindling, but tapping the new sources pushes back the date of “peak oil.” Does that give the United States necessary time to develop sustainable energy sources, or will it keep Americans needlessly addicted to dirty fuels by keeping them cheap — and eroding the "energy security" argument?
Will a Boom for Oil and Gas Delay Renewable Energy? - Room for Debate - NYTimes.com

I suppose I agree with Will Wilkinson about the importance of "an ethos of initiative, hard work, and individual responsibility" though I have no real idea why he thinks most progressives are against such an ethos. It strikes me that cultivating such an ethos is sort of integral to making a progressive agenda work. I think back sometimes to the time when I stumbled into a Stockholm Metro station and got the person working the booth to explain what I needed to do to use the city's bikeshare system. This wasn't really her job, and the conversation wasn't in her native language, and obviously no practical harm would have come to her if she'd blown me off but I take it that she took pride in working for Stockholm Metro and had a self-conception as someone who's a helpful public servant. Any effective public agency from the United States Marine Corps on down is built in pretty profound ways on an ethos of duty and hard work in an even more profound way than things in the for-profit business sector. People who believe in public sector work and public services must believe in the idea of a strong work-ethic.

I suppose I agree with Will Wilkinson about the importance of "an ethos of initiative, hard work, and individual responsibility" though I have no real idea why he thinks most progressives are against such an ethos. It strikes me that cultivating such an ethos is sort of integral to making a progressive agenda work. I think back sometimes to the time when I stumbled into a Stockholm Metro station and got the person working the booth to explain what I needed to do to use the city's bikeshare system. This wasn't really her job, and the conversation wasn't in her native language, and obviously no practical harm would have come to her if she'd blown me off but I take it that she took pride in working for Stockholm Metro and had a self-conception as someone who's a helpful public servant. Any effective public agency from the United States Marine Corps on down is built in pretty profound ways on an ethos of duty and hard work in an even more profound way than things in the for-profit business sector. People who believe in public sector work and public services must believe in the idea of a strong work-ethic.

Who Killed Hard Work And Personal Responsibility? | ThinkProgress

Worth a read.

the way to understand the "Barney Frank did it" school of thought about the crisis is that it's an attempt to turn a huge defeat for conservative ideas into a win. The reality of the financial crisis was that deregulation - which was part of a broader rightward shift in policies that played a large role in creating rapid growth in income inequality - led to an economic catastrophe of the kind that just didn't happen during the 50 years or so when we had effective bank regulation. So the right's answer is to claim not just that the government did it, but that it caused the crisis by its attempts to reduce inequality! It's kind of a masterstroke, in an evil way.

the way to understand the "Barney Frank did it" school of thought about the crisis is that it's an attempt to turn a huge defeat for conservative ideas into a win. The reality of the financial crisis was that deregulation - which was part of a broader rightward shift in policies that played a large role in creating rapid growth in income inequality - led to an economic catastrophe of the kind that just didn't happen during the 50 years or so when we had effective bank regulation. So the right's answer is to claim not just that the government did it, but that it caused the crisis by its attempts to reduce inequality! It's kind of a masterstroke, in an evil way.
Financial Big Lies - NYTimes.com

We cannot find qualified hourly production people, and, for that matter, many technical, engineering service technicians, and even welders, and it is hurting our manufacturing base

Doug Oberhelman, the C.E.O. of Caterpillar, which is based in Illinois, was quoted in Crain's Chicago Business on Sept. 13 as saying: "We cannot find qualified hourly production people, and, for that matter, many technical, engineering service technicians, and even welders, and it is hurting our manufacturing base in the United States. The education system in the United States basically has failed them, and we have to retrain every person we hire.

So if the job creators think we should spend more on social goods, does that make them evil socialists too? What a paradox. Both a job creator and a evil Marxist.

A Progressive in the Age of Austerity - NYTimes.com

Very generally, I think people are quite unhappy with the state of the economy and what's happening," he said. "They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess and they're dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington. "On some level I can't blame them," he said. "Like everyone else, I'm dissatisfied with what the economy is doing right now.

Very generally, I think people are quite unhappy with the state of the economy and what’s happening," he said. "They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess and they’re dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington. "On some level I can’t blame them," he said. "Like everyone else, I’m dissatisfied with what the economy is doing right now.

Ben Bernanke to congress.

Ben Bernanke does a Jack Nicholson on Capitol Hill - latimes.com

On average, contractors may be billing the government approximately 1.83 times what the government pays federal employees to perform similar work. When the average annual contractor billing rates were compared with the average annual full compensation paid to private sector employees in the open market, POGO found that in all occupational classifications studied, the contractor billing rates were, on average, more than twice the costs incurred by private sector employers for the same services.

On average, contractors may be billing the government approximately 1.83 times what the government pays federal employees to perform similar work. When the average annual contractor billing rates were compared with the average annual full compensation paid to private sector employees in the open market, POGO found that in all occupational classifications studied, the contractor billing rates were, on average, more than twice the costs incurred by private sector employers for the same services.
Overpaid in D.C. | Mother Jones

The great delusion of the age is that society must be endlessly grateful to the wealthy. They owe nothing to society. Rather, society owes everything to them as "wealth generators" because society contributes nothing to their success. The mores and values that inform the rest of human interaction - reciprocity, proportional distribution of pain and reward, trust and social obligation - must be suspended for them. If we want to enjoy the benefits of a dynamic capitalism we must recognise that the rich are different - and not self-defeatingly tax them. American neo-conservatives and their Republican outriders have worked tirelessly for 50 years to promote this hocus pocus, which offends not only the first principles of humanity, but of what we know about capitalism.

The great delusion of the age is that society must be endlessly grateful to the wealthy. They owe nothing to society. Rather, society owes everything to them as “wealth generators” because society contributes nothing to their success. The mores and values that inform the rest of human interaction - reciprocity, proportional distribution of pain and reward, trust and social obligation - must be suspended for them. If we want to enjoy the benefits of a dynamic capitalism we must recognise that the rich are different - and not self-defeatingly tax them. American neo-conservatives and their Republican outriders have worked tirelessly for 50 years to promote this hocus pocus, which offends not only the first principles of humanity, but of what we know about capitalism.
Growth is about so much more than just the top rate of tax | Will Hutton | Comment is free | The Observer

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2011/09/so_awesome.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed: Talking-Points-Memo (Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall)

Not long ago, a political party seeking to change U.S. policy would try to achieve that goal by building popular support for its ideas, then implementing those ideas through legislation. That, after all, is how our political system was designed to work. But today's G.O.P. has decided to bypass all that and go for a quicker route. Never mind getting enough votes to pass legislation; it gets what it wants by threatening to hurt America if its demands aren't met. That's what happened with the debt-ceiling fight, and now it's what's happening over disaster aid. In effect, Mr. Cantor and his allies are threatening to take hurricane victims hostage, using their suffering as a bargaining chip.

Not long ago, a political party seeking to change U.S. policy would try to achieve that goal by building popular support for its ideas, then implementing those ideas through legislation. That, after all, is how our political system was designed to work.

But today's G.O.P. has decided to bypass all that and go for a quicker route. Never mind getting enough votes to pass legislation; it gets what it wants by threatening to hurt America if its demands aren't met. That's what happened with the debt-ceiling fight, and now it's what's happening over disaster aid. In effect, Mr. Cantor and his allies are threatening to take hurricane victims hostage, using their suffering as a bargaining chip.

Eric and Irene - NYTimes.com

The National Flood Insurance Program Reextension Act of 2010 was sponsored by a bipartisan group, it passed the filibuster-ridden Senate by unanimous consent on September 21, it passed the House of Representatives on a voice vote on September 23, and was signed into law by President Obama a week later. The lead sponsor of the current Flood Insurance Reauthorization is Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi. Amidst fierce ideological debate about the size and scope of the federal government, in other words, there's no serious budget-cutting move to stop subsidizing people from living in dangerous flood zones.

The National Flood Insurance Program Reextension Act of 2010 was sponsored by a bipartisan group, it passed the filibuster-ridden Senate by unanimous consent on September 21, it passed the House of Representatives on a voice vote on September 23, and was signed into law by President Obama a week later. The lead sponsor of the current Flood Insurance Reauthorization is Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi. Amidst fierce ideological debate about the size and scope of the federal government, in other words, there's no serious budget-cutting move to stop subsidizing people from living in dangerous flood zones.
America's Worst Federal Spending Is Generally Its Least Controversial | ThinkProgress

As Chait says, the first thing you need to understand is that modern Republicans don't care about deficits. They only pretend to care when they believe that deficit hawkery can be used to dismantle social programs; as soon as the conversation turns to taxes, or anything else that would require them and their friends to make even the smallest sacrifice, deficits don't matter at all.

As Chait says, the first thing you need to understand is that modern Republicans don't care about deficits. They only pretend to care when they believe that deficit hawkery can be used to dismantle social programs; as soon as the conversation turns to taxes, or anything else that would require them and their friends to make even the smallest sacrifice, deficits don't matter at all.
Very Serious Suckers - NYTimes.com

Our nation's economy and international reputation as the world's presiding grownup has already been badly damaged. It is a self-inflicted wound of monumental stupidity. I am usually willing to acknowledge that Democrats can be as silly, and hidebound, as Republicans-but not this time. There is zero equivalence here. The vast majority of Democrats have been more than reasonable, more than willing to accept cuts in some of their most valued programs.

Our nation's economy and international reputation as the world's presiding grownup has already been badly damaged. It is a self-inflicted wound of monumental stupidity. I am usually willing to acknowledge that Democrats can be as silly, and hidebound, as Republicans-but not this time. There is zero equivalence here. The vast majority of Democrats have been more than reasonable, more than willing to accept cuts in some of their most valued programs.
Joe Klein on The Nihilism Of The GOP - The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Beast

Blame Obama Please

Remember when Obama negotiated with the GOP over an extension of the Bush tax cuts and allowed the GOP to take the budget hostage? This phony debt ceiling crisis is directly related to that. If he let the tax cuts expire we wouldn’t be in this mess as the GOP would have been discouraged from further hostage taking.

Maybe Someone Should Do Something

A major Bronx water supply line burst this morning just before 6:30 a.m., flooding Jerome Avenue for several blocks near 177th Street, halting traffic, disrupting subway and bus service, and damaging two nearby gas mains. The water flow was capped by 9:20 a.m., officials said. Speaking at a news conference, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said it was not clear why the pipe, which was installed in 1903, had burst. "It has been doing yeoman's work, but unfortunately, after 108 years, it's not," he said.

What's difficult to think is a good reason for the United States of America to have this problem. The United States can current sell five year bonds at a negative real interest rate. The United States has plenty of unemployed construction workers. Are we suffering from a metal shortage of some kind that makes it impossible to take advantage of cheap lending to hire construction workers to fix broken pipes? If so, I haven't heard about it. Instead, we seem to be suffering from a shortage of effective political leadership. Not coincidentally, we're talking about a rich, low-tax country that's also the world's military hegemon losing its AAA-rated bond status.


From Maybe Someone Should Do Something

I think the problem is worse than that. There is a large segment of the political establishment that thinks the problem is the lack of private water companies. Because if the government got out of the way, there would be plenty of people willing to start private water companies to run pipes everywhere and they could do it cheaper and better than the government. And if you point out the numbers suggest this is not the case and demonstrate the game theory that explains why such a thing is unlikely; then they just toss up their hands and insist that government water is slavery. You can not have a sane policy discussion with people who find the concept of policy illegitimate.

Conservative Origins of Obamacare

Romneycare, is a three-legged stool of regulation and subsidies: community rating requiring insurers to make the same policies available to everyone regardless of health status; an individual mandate, requiring everyone to purchase insurance, so that healthy people don't opt out; and subsidies to keep insurance affordable for those with lower incomes.

The original Heritage plan from 1989 had all these features.

These days, Heritage strives mightily to deny the obvious


From NYTimes.com

Heritage declares we have always been at war with Eastasia.

I could end the deficit in 5 minutes. You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP all sitting members of congress are ineligible for reelection.

I could end the deficit in 5 minutes. You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP all sitting members of congress are ineligible for reelection.
Warren Buffett: I could end the deficit in 5 minutes. | The Big Picture

My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant

Over the past 14 years, I've graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I've created a good life. I've lived the American dream.

But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don't ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.


From NYT

He was brought here as a child and was unaware that he was undocumented. Shouldn’t we consider this fact rather than attacking him as a criminal?

A Hamiltonian Solution For Europe

It would start with the recognition that Greece is insolvent. It can't pay the money it owes. One or two or maybe three other countries also may be insolvent. And the existence of solvency problems in some states is creating liquidity problems for other larger states. So there's some insolvency, and even though the insolvency is concentrated in a relatively small number of small states it's a problem for a much broader set of European people. At the same time, if you look at the total amount of sovereign debt in Europe and compare it to the Eurozone's total fiscal capacity, the debt is very manageable. The Eurozone as a whole is a very solvent, creditworthy entity. So in principle you could consolidate all that outstanding European debt into a single Eurozone-wide debt financed by a modest European Solidarity VAT Surcharge. Then you'd have to severely curtail (if not eliminate) the EU member states' ability to engage in deficit spending, limiting them to some kind of authority to borrow from a central European entity. The EU itself would become a debt-issuing, taxing entity like a real country.

From A Hamiltonian Solution For Europe


Yglesias comparison of the current European Union and the US under the Articles of Confederation is flawed but not without merit.

The tax which will be paid for the purpose of education is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.

The tax which will be paid for the purpose of education is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.
—Thomas Jefferson, third US president, architect and author (1743-1826)

Lysenkoism as economic policy in the Diamond nomination

I think the rejection of a Nobel laureate for a seat at the Fed is tied, in a fundamental way, to the willingness of economists with decent professional reputations to sign on to the increasingly crazy proclamations issued by Republican politicians. Whether they are honest with themselves or not, what they've realized is that they face a loyalty test - or maybe that's an apparatchik test; if they have any ambitions of serving in a policy position, they have to prove themselves willing to follow the party line wherever it goes.

From Everything Is Political

Lysenkoism as economic policy.

Six plans to balance the budget

Policy teams from the six groups taking part in the Solutions Initiative-the American Enterprise Institute, the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Center for American Progress, the Economic Policy Institute, The Heritage Foundation, and the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network (representing the perspective of younger Americans)-all provided comprehensive plans to meet the budget challenge head on. The goal is sound fiscal policy over the long run, so that we put in place structural reforms that will resolve these problems for a generation or more.

The six plans contain specific policy recommendations, reflecting the groups' unique perspectives and priorities, and look out 10 and 25 years into the future. To make the plans more easily comparable, we asked that they be developed from a common starting point based upon the Congressional Budget Office's long-term projections. We also asked the Tax Policy Center and Barry Anderson (former acting director at CBO) to serve as independent scorekeepers, reviewing the plans and applying consistent analytical techniques to all of the proposals. The end result is an apples-to-apples comparison of spending, taxes, deficits, and debt that illustrates the impact and interaction of various policy choices made by the grantees.

From Six plans to balance the budget

pretty much covers the spectrum from Center-Left to Center-Right to Right-out-of-their-minds-at-Heritage.

The Ongoing Conservative Recovery

Over the past year, we've consistently seen the economy engage in so-so private sector job growth offset by job losses in the public sector. The results are, if you ask me, bad. But in a decent world, conservatives would be forced to acknowledge that these are the results they claim to want. The private sector's not being held back by the grasping arm of big government. Government is shrinking. And the shrinking of the government sector isn't leading to any kind of private sector explosion. It's simply offsetting meager private sector growth.

From The Ongoing Conservative Recovery


This is assuming that conservatives want that because they think that it is good economics policy. I think its much more likely that they want those results irregardless of the economic consequences. They want to shrink government to shrink government.

Global Commission Of Former Officials Says War On Drugs Has Failed

"The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world," the report reads. "Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed."

The report calls for an end to the “criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others,” and for governments to experiment with ways to regulate drugs so as to undercut organized crime and improve public health.


From Global Commission Of Former Officials Says War On Drugs Has Failed


Coming to the obvious conclusion about 30 years late.

Obviously the federal government has the authority to specify for what purposes federal grant money can be used. Obviously. How else could it work? The other is the tendency to regard any existing profit stream as a form of property. Banks are entitled to their federal subsidies to offer student loans. For-profit colleges are entitled to their own student loan subsidy stream. Health care providers are entitled to unlimited wasteful spending at federal expense. Potato growers are entitled to their school lunch money. Great take down of Tea Party constitutional interpretation.

Get the Government Out of My Government!

When you own a hotel and bar Black people what happens is that if Black people comes in and sleep in the beds you call the police—functionaries of the state—and they then take the Black people away and charge them with trespass. When you own a bus and require Black people to sit in the back and Black people sits in the front you call the police—functionaries of the state—and they then take the Black people away and charge them with trespass. When you own a lunch counter and make it whites-only if Black people sit down at the lunch counter you call the police—functionaries of the state—and they then take the Black people away and charge them with trespass.

Ron Paul’s belief is that the state should assist in amplifying social and political crises and injustices whenever the propertied wish to provoke them.

Private fee-simple property is, after all, an institution established and enforced by the government. You can hardly get the government out of what is, fundamentally, the government’s core business.


From Brad DeLong’s Grasping Reality with Both Hands


And this is one of the ways where libertarians lose me.

The Conservative Recovery Continues

this is the recovery conservatives say they want. The balance of economic activity is shifting away from the public sector and toward the private sector. So why is it that we have people running around the country-not just ignorant grassroots folks or talk show entrepreneurs, but billionaire political organizers like David Koch-screaming about incipient socialism?

From The Conservative Recovery Continues


I think this has something to do with the odd definitions of socialism that are taking hold on the right. It’s no longer about state ownership of the means of production. Now the acknowledgement of the existence of public goods or any form of social insurance is declared socialism.

Senators Coburn, Feinstein, Introduce Bill to Eliminate Ethanol Subsidy and Tariff - Press Releases - Tom Coburn, M.D., United States Senator from Oklahoma

U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) today introduced the Ethanol Subsidy and Tariff Repeal Act, which will fully eliminate the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) and fully repeal the import tariff on foreign ethanol. Cosponsors also include Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Burr (R-NC), Jim Webb (D-VA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and James Risch (R-ID).

"The ethanol subsidy and tariff is bad economic policy, bad energy policy and bad environmental policy. As our nation faces a crushing debt burden, rising gas prices and the prospect of serious inflation, continuing our parochial ethanol policy that increases the cost of energy and food is irresponsible. I'm pleased to introduce this common sense bill with Senator Feinstein and will push for its consideration at the earliest opportunity," Dr. Coburn said, noting that the bill has been filed as an amendment () to the small business bill pending in the Senate


From Senators Coburn, Feinstein, Introduce Bill to Eliminate Ethanol Subsidy and Tariff - Press Releases - Tom Coburn, M.D., United States Senator from Oklahoma


Bipartisan effort to eliminate a wasteful subsidy that won’t be covered nearly as much as it should be.

Reducing Health Costs With Voluntary Death Panels

If you're 77 years old and receive a medical diagnosis that implies you have eighteen months to live without treatment, the government will spend large sums of money on trying to extent your life twelve months further. The government won't pay for you to take a trip to visit the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank or to see Michelangelo's David in Florence. But would it be so crazy for a fatally ill 77 year-old art lover who's never been to Italy to prefer the chance to see her favorite artists' iconic works in person over the chance of receiving extra medical care? I don't think so. The point of our retirement programs should be to deliver high quality of life to senior citizens, and that militates at the margin for more Social Security rather than more Medicare. But the way our programs are set up, per retiree Medicare spending will grow much more rapidly than per retiree Social Security spending. That's not the most cost-effective way to deliver high-quality retirement to people.


From Yglesias


A point often lost in the argument about health care spending.

Let's Not Be Civil

Whenever there's something the G.O.P. doesn't like - say, environmental protection - Heritage can be counted on to produce a report, based on no economic model anyone else recognizes, claiming that this policy would cause huge job losses. Correspondingly, whenever there's something Republicans want, like tax cuts for the wealthy or for corporations, Heritage can be counted on to claim that this policy would yield immense economic benefits.

The point is that the two parties don't just live in different moral universes, they also live in different intellectual universes, with Republicans in particular having a stable of supposed experts who reliably endorse whatever they propose.


From Let's Not Be Civil


Calling it as it is.

A very large share of the public has no income that hasn't already been reported to the IRS by the payer and doesn't itemize deductions. Under the circumstances, the sensible thing would be for the IRS to send everyone a sheet of paper that says "based on the income that's been reported to us and your family status from last year, your taxes owed (or refund owed to you) is $X with standard deductions. If something's changed, or if that income number is wrong, or if you want to itemize deductions, you should fill out forms blah blah blah. Otherwise, just send a check." A lot of us would still need to wrestle with the forms and nobody likes to give up money, but this would be much more convenient for millions of people. We don't do it because H&R Block and TurboTax don't want to lose customers and, crucially, because the conservative movement wants taxes for ordinary people to be as annoying as possible. Rich people don't care about this kind of simplification because they itemize their deductions and hire accountants. But they benefit from middle class people resenting the tax process because it helps them build the case for low tax rates.

A very large share of the public has no income that hasn't already been reported to the IRS by the payer and doesn't itemize deductions. Under the circumstances, the sensible thing would be for the IRS to send everyone a sheet of paper that says "based on the income that's been reported to us and your family status from last year, your taxes owed (or refund owed to you) is $X with standard deductions. If something's changed, or if that income number is wrong, or if you want to itemize deductions, you should fill out forms blah blah blah. Otherwise, just send a check." A lot of us would still need to wrestle with the forms and nobody likes to give up money, but this would be much more convenient for millions of people. We don't do it because H&R Block and TurboTax don't want to lose customers and, crucially, because the conservative movement wants taxes for ordinary people to be as annoying as possible. Rich people don't care about this kind of simplification because they itemize their deductions and hire accountants. But they benefit from middle class people resenting the tax process because it helps them build the case for low tax rates.
Yglesias >> Why Taxes Are Annoying

Barber Licensing Rules Harm Prisoner Re-entry

Nobody comes out and says "I want to establish an occupational licensing regime for my profession in order to create an arbitrary barrier to entry" but the system works, in practice, to create arbitrary barriers to entry. Consequently, there's a need to find barriers that don't seem totally arbitrary,

From Barber Licensing Rules Harm Prisoner Re-entry

Why is the talk of deregulation always about banks and mineral extraction and never about main street?

Wis. Dems Claim 45 Percent Of Needed Signatures For Recalls | TPMDC

In the latest development in Wisconsin, after the passage of Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s new law curtailing public employee unions, state Democrats claim that they have reached 45% of their goal for petition signatures to recall eight Republican state Senators

From TPMDC

Walker is safe until the end of the year, assuming they don’t try some other method of removing him.

A great paradox of our age is that despite the declining cost of connecting across space, more people are clustering together in cities. The explanation of that strange fact is that globalization and technological change have increased the returns on being smart, and humans get smart by being around other smart people. Dense, smart cities like Seattle succeed by attracting smart people who educate and employ one another.

A great paradox of our age is that despite the declining cost of connecting across space, more people are clustering together in cities. The explanation of that strange fact is that globalization and technological change have increased the returns on being smart, and humans get smart by being around other smart people. Dense, smart cities like Seattle succeed by attracting smart people who educate and employ one another.
The Seattle Model

Collective bargaining for me, but not for thee

This brings to mind the phenomenon that's sort of the obverse of union decline-the extraordinary level of solidarity manifested by the corporate executive class in the United States of America. There are plenty of individual firms that benefit from this or that public sector spending stream, but essentially all business organizations are solidly united in opposition to essentially all possible ways to enhance government revenue. On financial reform, it's not merely that the big banks opposed the Dodd-Frank bill, but there was absolutely no counter-lobbying from firms in the non-financial economy in favor of it. And that's not to say that Dodd-Frank was the greatest thing since sliced brad, but there were no proposals coming out of corporate America for any financial regulatory overhaul of any kind. Yet clearly something went badly awry in 2007-2008. But the business class united behind TARP, then united to oppose any regulatory reforms, and is now united against any return to pre-Bush levels of taxation on rich people.


From Collective bargaining for me, but not for thee


Collective bargaining works, that’s why they want to stop it.

We're actually purchasing shockingly little in the way of improved health for all that money

Americans are getting richer, agriculture is becoming more efficient, apparel is increasingly made by Bangladeshis or robots, etc. At the same time, computers and other electronic gadgets are getting cheaper in real terms. And if some things shrink as a share of our income, other things need to grow. The biggest of those things has been health care. And that makes perfect sense. Richer people should be spending our money trying to be healthier. The problem we have isn't so much that the volume of health related spending is "too high" as it is that we're actually purchasing shockingly little in the way of improved health for all that money.


From Something's Got to Go Up


Looking at the numbers, it makes sense that where our money goes should shift as markets mature.

2010 Was The Hottest Year Ever

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today announced that "2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year of the global surface temperature record," and 2010 is also "the wettest year on record, in terms of global average precipitation." The year was by far the hottest during a La Nina cycle, during which the equatorial Pacific Ocean is unusually cold.


From 2010 Was The Hottest Year Ever


Coincidences that just keep happening.

Post-Meltdown, Banks Still Rule Derivatives Trade

In theory, this group exists to safeguard the integrity of the multitrillion-dollar market. In practice, it also defends the dominance of the big banks.

The banks in this group, which is affiliated with a new derivatives clearinghouse, have fought to block other banks from entering the market, and they are also trying to thwart efforts to make full information on prices and fees freely available.

Banks' influence over this market, and over clearinghouses like the one this select group advises, has costly implications for businesses large and small, like Dan Singer's home heating-oil company in Westchester County, north of New York City.

This fall, many of Mr. Singer's customers purchased fixed-rate plans to lock in winter heating oil at around $3 a gallon. While that price was above the prevailing $2.80 a gallon then, the contracts will protect homeowners if bitterly cold weather pushes the price higher.

But Mr. Singer wonders if his company, Robison Oil, should be getting a better deal. He uses derivatives like swaps and options to create his fixed plans. But he has no idea how much lower his prices - and his customers' prices - could be, he says, because banks don't disclose fees associated with the derivatives.

"At the end of the day, I don't know if I got a fair price, or what they're charging me," Mr. Singer said.


From Post-Meltdown, Banks Still Rule Derivatives Trade - NYTimes.com


Why regulation maters.

The SPECTRE of Inequality

there's a scene early in the movie when the minions of SPECTRE, the evil conspiracy, are shown reporting on their profits from dastardly activities. And the numbers are ... ludicrously small. I know that's a running gag in Austin Powers, But it's true, it's true!

Even the big one - demanding a ransom for two stolen nuclear warheads - is 100 million pounds, $280 million. Adjusted for inflation, that's about $2 billion - or one-eighth of the Goldman Sachs bonus pool.

It's just an indicator of how huge top incomes have become that what were once viewed as impressive numbers, the kind of thing only arch-villains might demand, now look trivial. Or maybe the other way to look at it is that we have a lot more arch-villains around than we used to.


From The SPECTRE of Inequality - NYTimes.com


But do that have sharks with freaking laser beams?

The SPECTRE of Inequality

there's a scene early in the movie when the minions of SPECTRE, the evil conspiracy, are shown reporting on their profits from dastardly activities. And the numbers are ... ludicrously small. I know that's a running gag in Austin Powers, But it's true, it's true!

Even the big one - demanding a ransom for two stolen nuclear warheads - is 100 million pounds, $280 million. Adjusted for inflation, that's about $2 billion - or one-eighth of the Goldman Sachs bonus pool.

It's just an indicator of how huge top incomes have become that what were once viewed as impressive numbers, the kind of thing only arch-villains might demand, now look trivial. Or maybe the other way to look at it is that we have a lot more arch-villains around than we used to.


From The SPECTRE of Inequality - NYTimes.com


But do that have sharks with freaking laser beams?

Post-Meltdown, Banks Still Rule Derivatives Trade

In theory, this group exists to safeguard the integrity of the multitrillion-dollar market. In practice, it also defends the dominance of the big banks.

The banks in this group, which is affiliated with a new derivatives clearinghouse, have fought to block other banks from entering the market, and they are also trying to thwart efforts to make full information on prices and fees freely available.

Banks' influence over this market, and over clearinghouses like the one this select group advises, has costly implications for businesses large and small, like Dan Singer's home heating-oil company in Westchester County, north of New York City.

This fall, many of Mr. Singer's customers purchased fixed-rate plans to lock in winter heating oil at around $3 a gallon. While that price was above the prevailing $2.80 a gallon then, the contracts will protect homeowners if bitterly cold weather pushes the price higher.

But Mr. Singer wonders if his company, Robison Oil, should be getting a better deal. He uses derivatives like swaps and options to create his fixed plans. But he has no idea how much lower his prices - and his customers' prices - could be, he says, because banks don't disclose fees associated with the derivatives.

"At the end of the day, I don't know if I got a fair price, or what they're charging me," Mr. Singer said.


From Post-Meltdown, Banks Still Rule Derivatives Trade - NYTimes.com


Why regulation maters.

How starving the beast makes us fat

tax cuts that are not matched by spending cuts actually result in increased government spending — for the citizenry as a whole, the pain of payment for products received has been eliminated. When we receive government services without paying their full cost, we consume more such services. If every spending initiative had to be matched by a tax hike or cut elsewhere in the budget, we would end up behaving much more frugally. But starving the beast just makes us more profligate.


From How starving the beast makes us fat


Worth a read. We have moved from impulse buying at the supermarket to impulse government in Washington.

If Democrats are the big spenders, why do Republican states get the money?

states with the highest anti-spending sentiment appear to be the largest beneficiaries of government spending. Not only do red states swallow the lion’s share of government spending, but Richardson found a linear relationship between the extent of GOP support in a state-and, by implication, the fervor of its anti-government sentiment-and the amount of federal largesse the state receives.

Alaska, home to Sarah Palin, and where two fiscally conservative Republican candidates for Senate recently mopped up 75 percent of the vote between them, received $1.64 in federal benefits for every $1 the state contributed to the national kitty. Massachusetts, Richardson found last year, received 82 cents for every dollar it paid into the national pool. No doubt as compensation, liberals in Massachusetts and other “blue” states also received lots of vitriol for being such out-of-control spenders.

The 28 states where George W. Bush won more than 50 percent of the vote in 2004 received an average of $1.32 for every dollar contributed. The 19 states where Bush received less than 50 percent of the vote collected 93 cents on the dollar.

"Voting Republican paid large dividends," Richardson wrote in a piece published in the Economist’s Voice. “For each 1 percent of the population voting in favor of the Republican presidential candidate, the state received an additional 1.7 cents in benefits for each dollar in taxes.”


From Slate

None of this is surprising. If you hide the true cost of government, people will demand services more while expecting to pay less for them.

People who are serious about the size of government and subscribe to fact based rather than faith based economics are asking that the cost of government (taxes) match the goods provided by government (spending). Raise taxes, and keep raising them until the laws of supply and demand return to normal.

Our Fiscal Security

The following report puts forth a blueprint that invests in America and creates jobs now, while putting the federal budget on a long-term sustainable path. We document the hard choices that need to be made and suggest specific policies that will yield lower deficits and a sustainable debt while preserving essential initiatives and investments.


From Our Fiscal Security - Fiscal Blueprint


Having had time to finish reading it yet. First look is promising.

What is a family? Chart Of The Day

From Pew:

Family

Catherine Rampell hopes that “Pew continues to ask this particular question in the future”:

It'll be interesting to see how the evolving definitions of such social terms affect how Americans think about the social safety net and related economy policies.

The whole report, which takes a look at the state of marriage and family life, is well worth a read.

From Chart Of The Day

What is a family?

The Tea Party and the market for land

You have people here who enjoy their existing low density lifestyles, they like the fact that said lifestyles are explicitly and implicitly subsidized through a variety of public policy measures, and they don't like the idea of losing those subsidies. What's more, they regard their antagonists as somewhat culturally alien. So they're pissed off. The fact that a small government approach to land use would in fact lead to denser lifestyles, more bus commuting, and smaller homes is of absolutely zero interest to them.

From Yglesias >> The Land Market

But those subsidies that allow for their life-style aren’t socialism. It’s only socialism when government helps other people. When it helps them, it’s freedom.

There Will Be Blood

There's a legal limit to federal debt, which must be raised periodically if the government keeps running deficits; the limit will be reached again this spring. And since nobody, not even the hawkiest of deficit hawks, thinks the budget can be balanced immediately, the debt limit must be raised to avoid a government shutdown. But Republicans will probably try to blackmail the president into policy concessions by, in effect, holding the government hostage; they've done it before.

Now, you might think that the prospect of this kind of standoff, which might deny many Americans essential services, wreak havoc in financial markets and undermine America's role in the world, would worry all men of good will. But no, Mr. Simpson "can't wait." And he's what passes, these days, for a reasonable Republican.

From There Will Be Blood

What GOP Nihilism looks like.

The Big Lie

It seems to me that the last year or so in America’s political culture has represented the triumph of untruth. And the untruth was propagated by a deliberate, simple and systemic campaign to kill Obama’s presidency in its crib. Emergency measures in a near-unprecedented economic collapse - the bank bailout, the auto-bailout, the stimulus - were described by the right as ideological moves of choice, when they were, in fact, pragmatic moves of necessity. The increasingly effective isolation of Iran’s regime - and destruction of its legitimacy from within - was portrayed as a function of Obama’s weakness, rather than his strength. The health insurance reform - almost identical to Romney’s, to the right of the Clintons in 1993, costed to reduce the deficit, without a public option, and with millions more customers for the insurance and drug companies - was turned into a socialist government take-over.


From The Big Lie


This hits the nail on the head.

QE Is Not CM

QE is basically expansionary monetary policy, no different in its effects (if it works) from reducing the policy interest rate. Yes, it tends to weaken the exchange rate; but it also increases domestic demand.

China is engaged in currency manipulation, that is, buying foreign currency to keep the yuan weak; meanwhile, it is actually moving to reduce domestic demand, among other things raising interest rates.

So the United States is moving to expand world demand, with a policy that may weaken the dollar; China is moving to reduce world demand, with a policy of deliberately weakening the yuan. America's policy may annoy its trading partners, but they are not the target; China's policy is predatory, pure and simple.

No equivalence here.

From QE Is Not CM - NYTimes.com

Clear explanation on differences between QE2 and China’s yuan manipulation.

Government By Tea Partiers

Flushing Township, Michigan is an early case study:

"Even communism looks good on paper," said Zimmerman, 55, who manages a chain of hardware stores. "Even though I agree with some of their ideals, there’s no compromise when you’re dealing with a revolutionary." Gardner, who founded a countywide tea party, said that was the point.

"That’s where people in politics get a bad name, when they have their ideals, but they leave them at the door for compromise," he said. "I believe we need to hold to our ideals."

From Government By Tea Partiers

This is what scares me. Handing government over to people who hate government is a bad idea. Doubly so when they only idea they ever have is tax-cuts and deregulation.

Yglesias >> FA Hayek, Statist

in The Road to Serfdom Hayek ends up committing himself to a view of environmental regulations that's well tot he left of where today's center-left politicians are:

Nor can certain harmful effects of deforestation, or of some methods of farming, or of the smoke and noise of factories, be confined to the owner of the property in question or to those who are willing to submit to the damage for an agreed compensation. In such instances we must find some substitute for the regulation by the price mechanism. But the fact that we have to resort to the substitution of direct regulation by authority where the conditions for the proper working of competition cannot be created, does not prove that we should suppress competition where it can be made to function.

Of course the correct free market riposte to this proposal is that we can create a price mechanism. So instead of having the guys in the EPA building try to tinker with everyone's factories, we could establish a legislative ceiling on the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions we're willing to tolerate and then allocate permits to do it. That way the price mechanism-a la "the use of knowledge in society"-will be able to uncover the most economically efficient way of undertaking the reductions. But I guess Big Government Hayek doesn't think that will work.


From Yglesias >> FA Hayek, Statist


I’ve been saying this for a while now. Cap and trade is the pro-market solution. Those who are opposed to cap and trade are anti-government not pro-market. And in some cases, to do nothing is to embrace Carbon Socialism and put the costs of carbon onto the state rather than the users.

Malpractice Methodology

The traditional way to reform medical malpractice law has been to impose caps on liability - for example, by limiting punitive damages to something like $500,000. A far better strategy would be to provide safe harbor for doctors who follow evidence-based guidelines. Anyone who could demonstrate that he has followed the recommended course for treating a specific illness or condition could not be held liable.

From Malpractice Methodology - NYTimes.com

Great idea.

A Far Away Country Of Which We Know Nothing

I've been getting a lot of correspondence lately that runs something like this:

You're an idiot. Give me one example in all of history of a country that spent its way out of a depressed economy

Ahem. There's this country - people may not have heard of it - called the United States of America:

DESCRIPTION

The blue line is total debt, public plus private, in billions of dollars; the red line debt as a percentage of GDP


From A Far Away Country Of Which We Know Nothing - NYTimes.com

But the axioms say it isn’t possible! How could this ugly facts be true when my beautiful theory says it is false?

Reforming Medicare's Payment System

Three-dimensional radiation costs roughly $10,000. A somewhat newer treatment, I.M.R.T., initially cost $42,000. And an even more recent treatment, proton radiation therapy, costs $50,000. The newer treatments do not seem to be more effective at keeping patients alive than three-dimensional radiation, so under the proposal all three treatments would be reimbursed (after the three-year trial period for the new ones) at $10,000.

Despite some of its downsides, this is a good idea - and precisely the type of shift in our reimbursement system than needs to happen if we are to reduce cost growth over time.


From Reforming Medicare’s Payment System - NYTimes.com


Orszag’s plan makes sense but the health care industry is going to fight anything that will reduce the use of expensive therapy and medications.

Plan to Ban Food Stamps for Sodas Faces Obstacles

Experts question the legality of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's proposal to bar New York City's food-stamp recipients from using them to buy sugared drinks.


From Plan to Ban Food Stamps for Sodas Faces Obstacles - NYTimes.com


Why doesn’t the debate over taxing junk food ever include discussion about ending the broken farm subsidies system that makes junk food cheap in the first place?

Taliban Allies, Warlord Flunkies Guard U.S. Bases

The U.S. military's bases in Afghanistan are frequently guarded by Afghans who pay kickbacks to warlords - and even aid the Taliban.

That's what the Senate Armed Services Committee found after a year-long investigation into 125 contracts held by private security firms in Afghanistan. In a report released today (.pdf), the committee discovered that the firms rely on "warlords and strongmen" to supply them with security guards for protecting U.S. military bases, some of whom kill one another and moonlight as insurgents attacking U.S. troops. And the Defense Department barely vets the security companies it hires. At least one of those companies just won another contract with the State Department - to protect the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

From Taliban Allies, Warlord Flunkies Guard U.S. Bases [Updated] | Danger Room | Wired.com

Wow. This is insane.

Why are we forcing the army to be so dependent on private for-profit contractors when they have shown themselves to be problematic so often?

The standard of judgement for privatization seems to be that when government contractors fail it is proof that government can not do anything right. When government contractors are successful, it is proof that the private sector is superior.

Railing Against Rail

people like me probably have a slight affinity for rail because it's a kind of socially provided good. But I don't think it's comparably irrational: rail just makes a lot of sense for densely populated regions, especially but not only the Northeast Corridor. New York could not function at all without commuter rail, and Amtrak even as it is is crucial to intercity traffic - it's not just a question of expanding airport capacity, we just don't have the airspace.

From Railing Against Rail

One thing I’ve never understood is why the GOP loves ear-mark driven national highways but insists that rail be a profit making venture. Other than historic accidents, why do we have socialist roads and capitalist trains?

For-pay fire department lets man's house burn

The homeowner, Gene Cranick, said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late. They wouldn’t do anything to stop his house from burning.

Each year, Obion County residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton. But the Cranicks did not pay.

The mayor said if homeowners don’t pay, they’re out of luck.

This fire went on for hours because garden hoses just wouldn’t put it out. It wasn’t until that fire spread to a neighbor’s property, that anyone would respond.

Turns out, the neighbor had paid the fee.


From For-pay fire department lets man’s house burn


This is what it looks like when the libertarian version of defending property rights in enacted. Property has rights and people don’t.

The Town Hall Mob

There was a telling incident at a town hall held by Representative Gene Green, D-Tex. An activist turned to his fellow attendees and asked if they "oppose any form of socialized or government-run health care." Nearly all did. Then Representative Green asked how many of those present were on Medicare. Almost half raised their hands.
Now, people who don't know that Medicare is a government program probably aren't reacting to what President Obama is actually proposing. They may believe some of the disinformation opponents of health care reform are spreading, like the claim that the Obama plan will lead to euthanasia for the elderly.
URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/07/opinion/07krugman.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

I am so glad there are brave people out there protesting Obama’s plan to take over Medicare and turn it into socialized, government-run health care.

Arthur Laffer is against government take over of Medicare

If you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they’re run well, just wait till you see Medicare, Medicaid and health care done by the government.
URL: http://www.salon.com/politics/war_room/2009/08/04/qotd/index.html

I am so glad there are brave people out there like Arthur Laffer; of Laffer Curve fame; protesting Obama’s plan to take over Medicare and turn it into socialized, government-run health care.

Mass. bashers take note: Health reform is working

PUNDITS and politicians who oppose universal healthcare for the nation have a new straw man to kick around - the Massachusetts reform plan that covers more than 97 percent of the states residents. In the myth that these critics have manufactured, this state’s plan is bleeding taxpayers dry, creating nothing less than a medical Big Dig.
The facts - according to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation - are quite different. Its report this spring put the cost to the state taxpayer at about $88 million a year, less than four-tenths of 1 percent of the state budget of $27 billion. Yes, the state recently had to cut benefits for legal immigrants, and safety-net hospital Boston Medical Center has sued for higher state aid. But that is because the recession has cut state revenues, not because universal healthcare is a boondoggle. The main reason costs to the state have been well within expectations? More than half of all the previously uninsured got coverage by buying into their employers plans, not by opting for one of the state-subsidized plans.
URL: TheBostonGlobe - Mass. bashers take note: Health reform is working

The real test will be on how this plan work over the next five years or so. If Massachusetts manages to cover virtually everyone, control costs and maintain quality health care, it will be all the more difficult for right to protest it. And it will make it all the more easy to convert whatever passes as Obama-care into the Massachusetts plan.