Crafty, You are correct but I would also note the speed that the story got corrected. I was traveling and noticed and shared the picture of the protest on powerline. I looked again a very short time later and another powerline poster had issued the correction - right with the original post. Then they took down the false picture. Not like CBS and Dan Rather digging in their heels or the NY Times burying corrections much later deep in the paper if at all.
Same goes for this format which lends itself nicely to offering corrections or other takes on anything posted.
I remember reading and repeating a story that Oliver North so long ago testified that he needed his elaborate security system because he had been targeted by a then unknown terrorist - OBL, and that was false, I think the real story was of another terrorist named Abu Nidal. Anyway I remember being duped and hating it. Makes me wonder how regular readers of the NY Times must feel on a near-daily basis. --- From the wit of the tea party crowd, some blogs covering the protest posted photos of protesters pretending to be czars wearing protest t-shirts mocking the glibness administration and their avoidance of senate confirmations for key appointees. Hope this is received in good humor...
I didn't watch the speech but the word is that it generally positive and motivational. Congrats to our district and principal for their decision to not interrupt the day with it.
This could go under glibness, but we won't see the same speech to adults in America tellinig them they can all make a valuable contribution etc. instead of telling them the rich could pay more and then we would have more money to spend on them...
From the speech: "I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. "
- Which means fighting selfish Republicans to get bigger funding increases and greater federal government control over your local schools.
To any smug liberals out there: Since education is not a federal power, YES, I find that political and offensive.
If he was doing everything he could for the worst districts instead of for the teachers' unions he would support school VOUCHERS, IMHO.
Nice post Boyo. Interesting that besides doing everything the opposite of Reagan he is emulating the policies that worsened and lengthened the great depression. --- On a different note I picked up a pearl of wisdom from Professor Walter Williams last week. He was explaining inflation which he defines as increasing (inflating) the money supply. What we think of as inflation - increases in prices - are a symptom of inflation, but it is the increase in money supply that is the inflation.
I would clarify that it is the increase in money supply relative to the quantity of good and services in the economy, but at a time of zero growth - all monetary increases are inflationary.
Translated I think that means that it will only take ordinary levels of new growth in the economy for this current inflation to show its ugly head in the form of spiraling prices increases, and it will also be possible to return to stagflation, where inflation roars up without the accompanying economic growth.
A story linked below says China is nervous about the US printing money. That, I assume, is a world class understatement - they hold $2 trillion already and must feel like they are in quite a box to have to keep buying to protect their previous investments.
As I read the article, the meaning quickly turned upside down for me. The US is in a lousy position economically right now, but China it seems to me is in an even more precarious situation because their bubble has continue to inflate even further and has yet to burst or correct.
From the story: "Mr Cheng said the Fed's loose monetary policy was stoking an unstable asset boom in China. "If we raise interest rates, we will be flooded with hot money. We have to wait for them. If they raise, we raise. Credit in China is too loose. We have a bubble in the housing market and in stocks so we have to be very careful, because this could fall down."
sgtmac, crafty, bbg, I agree at least part way with you guys. Consumer level amounts should be a state right to legislate and I would like the move to be toward decriminalization rather than legalization. As much of a free marketer that I pretend to be, I am not interested in seeing pot commercials on prime time, just as I don't appreciate actors discussing erection issues during prime time with my daughter. I don't want to see big government start to profit off selective legalization with taxation the way they do with gambling and smoking. As long as they do there will still be a black market. I don't see highly addictive and highly destructive drugs (meth for example) in the same light as those that we consider no worse than alcohol. Unfortunately, the really effective pain meds are highly addictive.
The feds may still have a role regarding large amounts crossing state and federal boundaries.
What is grown on your property, consumed on your property and harms no one off of your property should already be legal under the highest law of the land.
One of Pres. George W. Bush worst off-teleprompter moments, Nov. 30, 2004 just after reelection he said: "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style." From that moment on he accomplished nothing domestically and then lost the house, the senate and the Presidency for his party.
Pres. Obama also needed a little humility in the job, instead adopted a larger than reality view of himself, his popularity and his agenda.
See if this chart comes through regarding the most important problem people see. Throughout the decade, the economy and the wars were intertwined as number one even when the economy was going gangbusters and the wars were going terribly. Then the Iraq situation improved and housing and financial sectors collapsed and the economy soared to 80% - by the nations most important problem. Meanwhile healthcare hovered in single digits even during the campaign and the election, before the new President told us it was our biggest problem. Then it still only soared to 20% which includes people like me thinking that defeating the current proposal is the biggest problem facing the republic.
"Gilder contends, "not only the canary in the coal mine -- it is also a crucial part of the mine." If Americans will not defend Israel, they will "prove unable to defend anything else." ---- Some negatives on Gilder have been posted previously and with some validity, but IMO he is a very brilliant guy. That's why many of us were reading his work for so long. He is an amazing researcher. (On the technologies he covered, I think he was spot-on every time, but that did not mean the correct response was to buy and hold shares in that particular company.)
I have not read his new book but agree with his security view of Israel. How do we downplay the fact that a major power is actively developing nuclear weapons and committed to destroying an ally? How does anyone not see a parallel to Hitler stating and writing his intentions to a world of busy people sure that he couldn't really mean it.
For those who will disagree with Gilder's conclusions, I think there will still be plenty of information and analysis of value to justify a read. Then you can draw your own conclusions, but I'm sure once you are drawn in you will find his very persuasive.
Further on Israel, I mentioned before that I have read but cannot find online Saddam Hussein's surrender speech of March 1991. Saddam goes on for 4 pages about the 'Imperialists and the Zionists' (America and Israel), all in one breath, over and over and over, before finally mentioning that he accepts the UN resolutions that equal surrender. To our Middle East and Islamic-extremism-based enemies, Israel and the US are one and the same and our destruction is their stated objective.
Buchanan was very much against deposing Saddam IIRC, and departs from most Republicans on the issue of trade as well. When he ran against sitting Pres. Bush (1) in 1992 he was very protectionist - we need to buy everything American etc. Then he drove his Mercedes to New Hampshire.
Very charismatic guy who, along with Perot, succeeded in weakening Bush which led right into the Clinton presidency. So Bush lost his 90% popularity for breaking his 'no new taxes' pledge, Buchanan was very tough on that, and then Bush lost his job to a guy committed to raising taxes much further on his first day in office. Somewhere in there I hope are lessons learned.
Following up to difficult questions asked by Crafty about what we should be doing in Afghanistan. Personally I don't know the answers but I am amazed by the silence of the left. My liberal friends still have 'not one drop' bumper stickers from their opposition to Bush in Iraq as they blindly support Obama's current escalation. And I am still worn out by the phony debates of the Iraq operation but the questions today about Afghanistan are important.
Here is George Will, who I find to be a very independent thinker and sometimes I agree with him, writing persuasively about how we should be downsizing and moving back in Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON -- "Yesterday," reads the e-mail from Allen, a Marine in Afghanistan, "I gave blood because a Marine, while out on patrol, stepped on a (mine's) pressure plate and lost both legs." Then "another Marine with a bullet wound to the head was brought in. Both Marines died this morning."
"I'm sorry about the drama," writes Allen, an enthusiastic infantryman willing to die "so that each of you may grow old." He says: "I put everything in God's hands." And: "Semper Fi!" clear pixel
Allen and others of America's finest are also in Washington's hands. This city should keep faith with them by rapidly reversing the trajectory of America's involvement in Afghanistan, where, says the Dutch commander of coalition forces in a southern province, walking through the region is "like walking through the Old Testament."
U.S. strategy -- protecting the population -- is increasingly troop-intensive while Americans are increasingly impatient about "deteriorating" (says Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) conditions. The war already is nearly 50 percent longer than the combined U.S. involvements in two world wars, and NATO assistance is reluctant and often risible.
U.S. strategy is "clear, hold and build." Clear? Taliban forces can evaporate and then return, confident that U.S. forces will forever be too few to hold gains. Hence nation-building would be impossible even if we knew how, and even if Afghanistan were not the second-worst place to try: The Brookings Institution ranks Somalia as the only nation with a weaker state.
Military historian Max Hastings says Kabul controls only about a third of the country -- "control" is an elastic concept -- and "'our' Afghans may prove no more viable than were 'our' Vietnamese, the Saigon regime." Just 4,000 Marines are contesting control of Helmand province, which is the size of West Virginia. The New York Times reports a Helmand official saying he has only "police officers who steal and a small group of Afghan soldiers who say they are here for 'vacation.'"
Afghanistan's $23 billion GDP is the size of Boise's. Counterinsurgency doctrine teaches, not very helpfully, that development depends on security, and that security depends on development. Three-quarters of Afghanistan's poppy production for opium comes from Helmand. In what should be called Operation Sisyphus, U.S. officials are urging farmers to grow other crops. Endive, perhaps?
Even though violence exploded across Iraq after, and partly because of, three elections, Afghanistan's recent elections were called "crucial." To what? They came, they went, they altered no fundamentals, all of which militate against American "success," whatever that might mean. Creation of an effective central government? Afghanistan has never had one. U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry hopes for a "renewal of trust" of the Afghan people in the government, but The Economist describes President Hamid Karzai's government -- his vice presidential running mate is a drug trafficker -- as so "inept, corrupt and predatory" that people sometimes yearn for restoration of the warlords, "who were less venal and less brutal than Mr. Karzai's lot."
Adm. Mullen speaks of combating Afghanistan's "culture of poverty." But that took decades in just a few square miles of the South Bronx. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, U.S. commander in Afghanistan, thinks jobs programs and local government services might entice many "accidental guerrillas" to leave the Taliban. But before launching New Deal 2.0 in Afghanistan, the Obama administration should ask itself: If U.S. forces are there to prevent re-establishment of al-Qaeda bases -- evidently there are none now -- must there be nation-building invasions of Somalia, Yemen and other sovereignty vacuums?
U.S. forces are being increased by 21,000 to 68,000, bringing the coalition total to 110,000. About 9,000 are from Britain, where support for the war is waning. Counterinsurgency theory concerning the time and the ratio of forces required to protect the population indicates that, nationwide, Afghanistan would need hundreds of thousands of coalition troops, perhaps for a decade or more. That is inconceivable.
So, instead, forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.
Genius, said de Gaulle, recalling Bismarck's decision to halt German forces short of Paris in 1870, sometimes consists of knowing when to stop. Genius is not required to recognize that in Afghanistan, when means now, before more American valor, such as Allen's, is squandered.
First part is about the Lockerbie release but the topic is still governing glibly instead of wisely.
Suicide of the West? By Thomas Sowell
Britain's release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi-- the Libyan terrorist whose bomb blew up a plane over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, killing 270 people-- is galling enough in itself. But it is even more profoundly troubling as a sign of a larger mood that has been growing in the Western democracies in our time.
In ways large and small, domestically and internationally, the West is surrendering on the installment plan to Islamic extremists. clear pixel
The late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put his finger on the problem when he said: "The timid civilized world has found nothing with which to oppose the onslaught of a sudden revival of barefaced barbarity, other than concessions and smiles."
He wrote this long before Barack Obama became President of the United States. But this administration epitomizes the "concessions and smiles" approach to countries that are our implacable enemies.
Western Europe has gone down that path before us but we now seem to be trying to catch up.
Still, the release of a mass-murdering terrorist, who went home to a hero's welcome in Libya, shows that President Obama is not the only one who wants to move away from the idea of a "war on terror"-- as if that will stop the terrorists' war on us.
The ostensible reason for releasing al-Megrahi was compassion for a man terminally ill. It is ironic that this was said in Scotland, for exactly 250 years ago another Scotsman-- Adam Smith-- said, "Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent."
That lesson seems to have been forgotten in America as well, where so many people seem to have been far more concerned about whether we have been nice enough to the mass-murdering terrorists in our custody than those critics have ever been about the innocent people beheaded or blown up by the terrorists themselves.
Tragically, those with this strange inversion of values include the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder. Although President Obama has said that he does not want to revisit the past, this is only the latest example of how his administration's actions are the direct opposite of his lofty words.
It is not just a question of looking backward. The decision to second-guess CIA agents who extracted information to save American lives is even worse when you look forward.
Years from now, long after Barack Obama is gone, CIA agents dealing with hardened terrorists will have to worry about whether what they do to get information out of them to save American lives will make these agents themselves liable to prosecution that can destroy their careers and ruin their lives.
This is not simply an injustice to those who have tried to keep this country safe, it is a danger recklessly imposed on future Americans whose safety cannot always be guaranteed by sweet and gentle measures against hardened murderers.
Those who are pushing for legal action against CIA agents may talk about "upholding the law" but they are doing no such thing. Neither the Constitution of the United States nor the Geneva Convention gives rights to terrorists who operate outside the law.
There was a time when everybody understood this. German soldiers who put on American military uniforms, in order to infiltrate American lines during the Battle of the Bulge were simply lined up against a wall and shot-- and nobody wrung their hands over it. Nor did the U.S. Army try to conceal what they had done. The executions were filmed and the film has been shown on the History Channel.
So many "rights" have been conjured up out of thin air that many people seem unaware that rights and obligations derive from explicit laws, not from politically correct pieties. If you don't meet the terms of the Geneva Convention, then the Geneva Convention doesn't protect you. If you are not an American citizen, then the rights guaranteed to American citizens do not apply to you.
That should be especially obvious if you are part of an international network bent on killing Americans. But bending over backward to be nice to our enemies is one of the many self-indulgences of those who engage in moral preening.
The Maudlin piece is interesting. He introduces the idea of a double-dip recession which makes sense if we are having a bit of a turnaround while we inject trillions of pretend money. Eventually that faucet slows or dries and the pre-existing problems are still all there.
He points to deflation risk now but that will pass if/when we economically survive this. Then we instantly have huge inflationary pressures.
He spelled out the bad choices we face and then the piece ended kind of suddenly before he told us the right answer. Hopefully there is a sequel.
CCP: "I think it a terrible mistake to make health care a gigantic government entitlement though a lot of it already is. I prefer reversing this not expanding this." Couldn't agree more. Like most of politics, it would be something of an accomplishment to just stop moving in the wrong direction.
Medicaid - free health care for poor people, Medicare - government plan for older people. And S-CHIP which goes up to something like 3 times the poverty level, was supposed to be aimed at children but means all kinds of different things now. No one proposes to end any of these so reform can only mean to tighten up eligibility, ration care more or raise taxes in an upward spiral until we collapse (even worse than now).
Crafty: "If we stay within the entitlement structure AND limit our spending to what we can afford, then as best as I can tell, are not death panels inevitable?
- Yes. The success rate of saving lives in the long run is zero so death panels are part of the ordeal. That panel is hopefully is small room of people you trust including loved ones and a second medical opinion. They will come to tell me or you someday that we've got til Friday if untreated, but if we take the aggressive million dollar treatment we have until maybe next Tuesday. Then we look at coverage and options and make the hard choices. We just don't want the government in the room as we sort it out. Besides inefficiencies and incompetencies, they would come in with other biases, such as the fact that you are taking up one of their beds in short supply, or that someone else has more income tax paying years left than you and should move past you in the line.
Instead we plan ahead hopefully and get the best advice on the best plans and coverage to anticipate our future circumstance and hopefully match coverage to the type of aggressiveness that we will want to fight off whatever nasty ailment is going to attack us. When we go to one size fits all, then for sure it will be third parties instead of us deciding the size of the coverage and the level of cost.
While finding an acceptable proposal let's not forget underlying principles regarding what is the state and county role, what role does charity play, and what is a constitutionally-based federal government role. If we decide that health care is a constitutionally unenumerated right, it will be the vaguest right ever established with denial of service decisions made in every state and every hospital, every minute or so, challenging that right, with costs spirally up to economic collapse, not down to containment. It will be the first right I know of that creates a burden on someone else to perform an act of service for you, like having freedom of speech require people to tune in and pay attention while you speak, with federal enforcement. --- Seems to me Feds could make a huge difference with tort reform. A doctor does not need the threat of punitive damages because he/she can be punished through state licensing (lose your license you lose your income) and because the doctor doesn't pay, malpractice insurance does and its all wrapped in the cost.
I can see a federal role in encouraging insurance competition across state lines.
Feds play a role in the federal tax code.
Feds could play a role in mandating easy access for consumers to know costs before treatment choices. ---- For the most part we are not arguing health care, we are arguing about finance and control, who decides and who pays. Insurance is designed to protect your assets against large unforeseen future costs, so that you won't have to pay your life savings on catastrophic costs or so that your up and down medical costs as needed can be budgeted nicely into predictable monthly costs. If you have no significant income, assets or likelihood of future income or assets, you are already covered by public plans and receive treatment today not only in emergency rooms.
The only thing that really controls cost other than rationing/denying service is the extent that INFORMED consumers make their own choices and pay their own bills. (Current bills stomp out Health Saving Accounts and catastrophic coverage only - high deductible plans.) --- "Universal" should refer to the availability of choices for everyone, not the mandate that you take one of them.
To one of Crafty's questions, people already diagnosed with diabetes for example while not covered might expect a higher cost than signing up healthy. A millionaire with colon cancer or in need of heart surgery but no health plan might have to exhaust his own assets before qualifying for public assistance. Or be offered a plan for people in that circumstance more expensive than was available to him before he was diagnosed. That seems logical to me. Making providers cover you for what they insure after you are diagnosed and keep you as long as you continue to pay the premium is only common sense as a regulation IMO. If I find out that is not already the case I would cancel my plan today. --- The current healthcare system is built very largely off of Medicare reimbursement schedules even for private coverage outside of Medicare. Because of this, there is almost no innovation in the system in terms of lower cost ways to administer common services that we all need.
Under the current system even a self-paying customer has NO IDEA what kind of money he is spending while being treated until after the bill comes. Better consumer cost disclosure requirements and regulations are a proper role for government at some level and we certainly want to be treated across state lines so a common sense federal standard seems justified to me. --- Proposals under consideration don't add to the number of doctors, nurses, facilities, hospitals, etc. because that would add to the total cost. True - but bringing down the cost per procedure using market pressure can never happen in a zero competition environment. ---
National Health Insurance of any kind will totally wipe out every aspect of any libertarian's view of their informational privacy. Please review again the 'humor' video of national pizza ordering that both Freki and I posted. You call and they already know where you live, where you work, what you make, what you drive, what foods and activities you need to stay away from and on and on and on. Not very funny.
Once everything is under the federal government responsibility, does anyone think a bill to end mountain climbing shouldn't follow? Motorcycle jumping, obviously out. Then what? French fries? I hate to even be facetious because nothing is out of the realm. Soccer players with federal helmets or banning the header altogether...
Gentlemen, do you really think MARTIAL ARTS will still be legal in a few years as acceptable risk? Sparring with knives?
As this is a finance/insurance bill, does everyone understand that the enforcement agency is the IRS? That is no joke or exaggeration and they cannot perform their federally mandated duties without more agents, larger budgets and more powerful informational tools. Let's poll that question and see how many favor 'universal' coverage. --- If the CBO says the cost of this will be a trillion, the cost will be tens of trillions. Go back to original social security projections and original medicare projections and learn to translate government numbers. If it doesn't grow at double-digit, compound rates, it is a cut that will kill innocent people. --- I disagree with Crafty that we have to offer specific alternatives right now more than "NO". IMHO moving forward now starts with a resounding defeat of the current takeover attempts. Let's get real clear and articulate on 'no' and why 'no'. Then proposals and solutions will be offered by the candidates and parties who want to compete in 2010 and 2012.
I quibble with CCP over the idea that the 'cans (Republicans) need to answer to all these questions. It is the party in power that currently needs to answer the objections raised - and they haven't! The 'cans who need to figure out a better way are the Ameri-cans, including 'blue-dog' Democrats, blue-collar Democrats, non-class-envy Democrats (if there are any) who don't have a goal of making someone else pay for their expenses, deficit-weary Democrats who previously railed against fiscal irresponsibility and independent voters who make up about a third of the electorate and need to sort out what kind of country they want to live in and who always swing the outcomes of the elections.
GM, Who could have imagined this intellectual giant was criticizing deficits just as we grew out from under economic disaster that followed the stock crash of 2000 and the attacks of 9/11/01. As said about the Clintons, they lie with such ease!
Bush deficits were all about spending, not tax cuts. An economist should know that Bush did not 'cut taxes', he cut tax rates and revenues surges beyond all projections.
2003 1,782,532,000,000 Federal revenues as Krugman sounded his alarm 2004 1,880,279,000,000 5.6% increase in revenues, in spite of lower rates 2005 2,153,859,000,000 14.6% increase - The surge goes to double digits! 2006 2,407,254,000,000 11.5% increase - Double digit revenue increases continue as tax cuts remain firmly in place. Jan. 2007 Pelosi-Reid-Obama take over majorities in congress, promise to end tax cuts. Economic growth ends after setting a 52 month consecutive job growth record and surpassing federal revenue forecasts by hundreds of billions of dollars.
Same for the 1980's, rates slashes - revenues doubled. 1980: $517 Billion 1990 $1.032 Trillion
Same for the 1990's. Slow growth until the (Clinton)-Gingrich capital gains rate cuts of 1995. Revenues surged, budget balanced.
Professor Krugman, the problem is the SPENDING, stupid.
CCP, Amazing story. Of course the perp. in the story is only a Jew by association or by family of origin, not Judeo-Christian in his beliefs - Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's organs for transplant.
I don't know if Krugman formally advises the administration or is just their chief apologist in the media. Forget about Cheney allegedly saying Reagan proved deficits don't matter, this Nobel prize winner thinks 10 trillion is good but more would be better.
At the heart of the differences in philosophy is the belief in government intervention, a never-ending so-called Keynesian stimulus of demand, versus a supply side view that if government reduced its role of crowding out the private sector in terms of taxing, spending and regulating, the economy would flourish faster, freer and stronger, without all the man-made 'business cycles'.
Could have run this in 'Humor/WTF' but I swear to God this is his column...
So new budget projections show a cumulative deficit of $9 trillion over the next decade. According to many commentators, that’s a terrifying number, requiring drastic action — in particular, of course, canceling efforts to boost the economy and calling off health care reform.
The truth is more complicated and less frightening. Right now deficits are actually helping the economy. In fact, deficits here and in other major economies saved the world from a much deeper slump. The longer-term outlook is worrying, but it’s not catastrophic.
The only real reason for concern is political. The United States can deal with its debts if politicians of both parties are, in the end, willing to show at least a bit of maturity. Need I say more?
Let’s start with the effects of this year’s deficit.
There are two main reasons for the surge in red ink. First, the recession has led both to a sharp drop in tax receipts and to increased spending on unemployment insurance and other safety-net programs. Second, there have been large outlays on financial rescues. These are counted as part of the deficit, although the government is acquiring assets in the process and will eventually get at least part of its money back.
What this tells us is that right now it’s good to run a deficit. Consider what would have happened if the U.S. government and its counterparts around the world had tried to balance their budgets as they did in the early 1930s. It’s a scary thought. If governments had raised taxes or slashed spending in the face of the slump, if they had refused to rescue distressed financial institutions, we could all too easily have seen a full replay of the Great Depression.
As I said, deficits saved the world.
In fact, we would be better off if governments were willing to run even larger deficits over the next year or two. The official White House forecast shows a nation stuck in purgatory for a prolonged period, with high unemployment persisting for years. If that’s at all correct — and I fear that it will be — we should be doing more, not less, to support the economy.
But what about all that debt we’re incurring? That’s a bad thing, but it’s important to have some perspective. Economists normally assess the sustainability of debt by looking at the ratio of debt to G.D.P. And while $9 trillion is a huge sum, we also have a huge economy, which means that things aren’t as scary as you might think.
Here’s one way to look at it: We’re looking at a rise in the debt/G.D.P. ratio of about 40 percentage points. The real interest on that additional debt (you want to subtract off inflation) will probably be around 1 percent of G.D.P., or 5 percent of federal revenue. That doesn’t sound like an overwhelming burden.
Now, this assumes that the U.S. government’s credit will remain good so that it’s able to borrow at relatively low interest rates. So far, that’s still true. Despite the prospect of big deficits, the government is able to borrow money long term at an interest rate of less than 3.5 percent, which is low by historical standards. People making bets with real money don’t seem to be worried about U.S. solvency.
The numbers tell you why. According to the White House projections, by 2019, net federal debt will be around 70 percent of G.D.P. That’s not good, but it’s within a range that has historically proved manageable for advanced countries, even those with relatively weak governments. In the early 1990s, Belgium — which is deeply divided along linguistic lines — had a net debt of 118 percent of G.D.P., while Italy — which is, well, Italy — had a net debt of 114 percent of G.D.P. Neither faced a financial crisis.
So is there anything to worry about? Yes, but the dangers are political, not economic.
As I’ve said, those 10-year projections aren’t as bad as you may have heard. Over the really long term, however, the U.S. government will have big problems unless it makes some major changes. In particular, it has to rein in the growth of Medicare and Medicaid spending.
That shouldn’t be hard in the context of overall health care reform. After all, America spends far more on health care than other advanced countries, without better results, so we should be able to make our system more cost-efficient.
But that won’t happen, of course, if even the most modest attempts to improve the system are successfully demagogued — by conservatives! — as efforts to “pull the plug on grandma.”
So don’t fret about this year’s deficit; we actually need to run up federal debt right now and need to keep doing it until the economy is on a solid path to recovery. And the extra debt should be manageable. If we face a potential problem, it’s not because the economy can’t handle the extra debt. Instead, it’s the politics, stupid. - Paul Krugman, NY Times ----- The $10 trillion estimate is low UNLESS there is a change of government. What is the cost of the new, permanent debt when interest rates hit 15% or 20% and GDP growth is at 0.00? - Doug
The world's second largest, fastest growing economy and most populated country, but the inevitability that it will soon overtake the US as we enter the 'Age of China' deserves a little skepticism. I don't agree 100% with this author but appreciate his key points including the historical perspective and the conclusion that our focus should be on getting our own house in order and then competition with China will go just fine for the U.S.
Overblown announcements heralding the supposed coming of the Age of China have become a staple of journalistic futurism in recent years. When Maclean's magazine banners across the top of its cover "When China Rules the World," as it did last month -- and it is not a Monty Python send-up of swarms of incomprehensible people in Mao suits -- I know it is time to raise a peep of dissent.
Does any of this sound familiar? It was not even 20 years ago that the same was being said about Japan, when U. S. president George H. W. Bush went to Tokyo and was patronized by the Japanese prime minister for being at the head of a declining power. At an official dinner, the president vomited and returned to his embassy in an ambulance (but explained privately that his indigestion was the consequence of eating plain fish while facing Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca for two hours).
And it was only 15 years before -- during the Carter doldrums, following the Kennedy assassinations and the debacles of Vietnam and Watergate -- that the world was abuzz with predictions that the U. S. S. R. would surpass the United States.
In fact, the most serious threat came from the Nazis. The official borders of Germany at the end of 1940, including Austria, Bohemia (the Czechs), Moravia, most of Poland, Denmark, Norway, Benelux and the Atlantic coast of France, gave the Reich 130 million people, the same population as the United States, and almost equivalent industrial potential. This was why Roosevelt ran for a third term, determined to help keep Britain (and Canada) in the war, and to assist all who resisted the Nazification of Europe. The Nazi threat was so serious that it required the entire combat strength of the British Commonwealth, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. to defeat it.
In the Cold War that followed, the Soviet challenge simply imploded, crumbled, after 40 years of containment by a U. S.-led alliance, in which no fire was exchanged between the major powers. As for Japan, it simply ran out of steam, lost a whole decade in financial stagnation while its stock market declined by 90% -- even though it continued, to this day, to be a brilliant manufacturer and marketer of automobiles and many sophisticated products from cameras to television equipment.
None of this means that China won't continue to rise, or that the U. S. won't again have to prove its staying power as a world force. But matter-of-fact assertions, complete with timetables, of an imminent Chinese assumption of world leadership, are rubbish.
The takeaway message on the failure of the brief era of U. S. unipolarity that followed the demise of the U. S. S. R. is not that the U. S. is finished as the world's leading country, but that multipolarity, not the hegemony of a sole superpower, will replace the bipolarized Cold War. There are about 40 reasonably important countries in the world (of a total of 192), and the major powers will compete to build relations within that group.
The theory of the inevitable rise of China is similar to the recent theory of the inevitable end of the U. S. as a mainly Caucasian country: It is based on the extrapolation of current statistics that will not continue, and that in the case of the Chinese economy, are a fiction anyway.
China has a centrally directed economy, and calculates growth rates as a function of production, not spending; and production is deemed to occur when it is commissioned by the state. Thus, all Chinese predictions of economic growth are self-fulfilling: The central economic leadership orders production of toasters or submarines and announces construction of roads and sports stadiums, and the anticipated costs are added to the GDP at once. (In western countries, by contrast, GDP is the sum of consumption, investment, government spending and exports.)
The government monitors the progress of state construction and inventory levels, but doesn't release these numbers. It regularly claims 15% annual retail sales increases, but that reflects shipments to retail outlets, not sales, and even less, sales revenue. Such a system preserves some aspects of the catastrophic Soviet-style command economy. There are reports of consumer goods being virtually given away at point of sale, i. e., at below their cost of production.
All outsiders can do to judge the progress of demand is to see what the central bank does with credit and the money supply. The country has had a 21% decline in exports this year, so to achieve its 8% economic growth for 2009, there will have to be a 15% to 17% increase in domestic economic activity. There has been a strenuous effort to increase domestic demand, and the much-ballyhooed US$586-billion Chinese stimulus plan was really an excuse for the relaxation of credit and the redesignation of categories of already approved expenses.
The money-supply increase for this year is a very audacious 34.5%, to stimulate domestic demand. The two Shanghai stock exchanges almost doubled (before a recent 20% downturn) and major city residential prices are up around 13% so far this year. So bubbles are clearly developing. The country's claimed savings rate of 50% is not real, because it includes provision for all health care, retirement benefits and other social spending that is provided by the state in most western countries.
China claims to be expanding health care and other social services, but has not allocated realistic amounts to accomplish this. The country also has no credible legal system, and is rife with corruption (as evidenced by the shoddily built schools -- used as shelters during the recent earthquakes -- which were built on the cheap with no structural steel, and then collapsed, killing thousands of people). It has one billion peasants who largely live as they did 3,000 years ago. Almost every great urban development attracts swarms of expropriated people throwing rocks at bulldozer drivers, and the Chinese navy regularly steals the catches of commercial fishermen. The one-child-per-couple policy is creating an ageing and male-unbalanced population. It is a rough country, oscillating between near chaos and Tiananmen-like exertions of authority.
The rise of China is impressive and an objectively good thing, and the United states is labouring. But the U. S. has a functioning, if conspicuously imperfect, political and legal system, formidable resources, an incomparably productive work force, nearly four times China's GDP, and a popular culture that dominates the world. It must put its house in order, which will be painful, but a trifle compared to the challenges facing China. The United States has seen off greater challenges than this.
"...while praising the Swedish envoy for her statement, said a similar one needed to be heard from the government in Stockholm and aimed not at the Israeli public, but at the Swedish one."
Thanks for that story. Last March in 'Islam in Europe' I posted what I thought was an amazing story about how Sweden did not allow spectators to see the Davis Cup match (the world cup of tennis and tennis is HUGE in Sweden) for fear of uncontrollable riots. The match was Sweden vs. Israel and the city was Malmo, now largely Muslim (27% of the people are foreign born) and Sweden's 3rd largest city.
Needless to say the riots went on anyway. Take a look and see if this is the civilized Scandinavian country one might have expected. Or has it been invaded by immigrants on a takeover mission, abusing the world's greatest welfare system, along with a remaining populace, like in certain suburbs of Paris, afraid to speak an opposing view.
Probably could have put this under founding fathers, lol:
“Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized - the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.” - Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) 1971
I just posted a story in 'Intel Matters': http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/08/what_made_ksm_talk.asp#more detailing the lives saved from the real intelligence received from the worst characters on the face of the earth. Meanwhile I listened to NPR, a trusted source where my intelligent liberal friends might be listening, and they interviewed an FBI agent who explained how no real info is ever gotten through enhanced techniques and how 'it says more about us than it does about them', then the host piles on with more liberal drivel opposite to the FACT that real intelligence was obtained from terrorist detainees saving real American lives.
I am happy to go to conservative sites to read conservative opinions but it bugs me to no end that I have to go to right wing sources to find out established facts about the economy and about protecting our country. What a tragedy that intelligent, liberal and moderate citizens can watch, read and listen to so many trusted sources and not get key facts on big issues.
The Inspector General forgot to mention the lives that were saved, that the operatives that were captured from the intel were already in the US studying landmark targets, and that the info was not forthcoming until after the enhanced techniques.
I look forward to some liberal explaining to me 'what it is says about me' and my moral defect that I would favor water tricks before execution on the person who planned the bombing of the USS Cole and the planner of the 9/11/01 attacks that killed more Americans than Pearl Harbor.
Newsweek’s Mark Hosenball says the Inspector General’s report and other recently-released documents pertaining to Bush-era interrogations of top al Qaeda operatives do not show that waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) “actually worked.” Hosenball concedes that the detainees gave up a treasure trove of valuable intelligence, but the documents do not “convincingly demonstrate” that the EITs “produced this useful information.”
This is likely to be the new conventional wisdom on the documents. It’s wrong, so let’s take it apart.
First, here are the four key paragraphs from the Inspector General’s Report that deal specifically with waterboarding – the harshest of the enhanced interrogation techniques – and its effect on intelligence production. They are reproduced below, with redactions noted, because you have to read them together to understand as much of the story as possible. The paragraphs can all be found on pages 90 and 91 of the Inspector General’s Report.
The waterboard has been used on three detainees: Abu Zubaydah, Al-Nashiri, and Khalid Shaykh Muhammad. [REDACTED]…with the belief that each of the three detainees possessed perishable information about imminent threats against the United States.
Prior to the use of EITs, Abu Zubaydah provided information for [REDACTED] intelligence reports. Interrogators applied the waterboard to Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times during August 2002. During the period between the end of the use of the waterboard and 30 April 2003, he provided information for approximately [REDACTED] additional reports. It is not possible to say definitively that the waterboard is the reason for Abu Zubaydah’s increased production, or if another factor, such as the length of detention, was the catalyst. Since the use of the waterboard, however, Abu Zubaydah has appeared to be cooperative, [REDACTED]
With respect to Al-Nashiri, [REDACTED] reported two waterboard sessions in November 2002, after which the psychologist/interrogators determined that Al-Nashiri was compliant. However, after being moved [REDACTED] Al-Nashiri was thought to be withholding information. Al-Nashiri subsequently received additional EITs, [REDACTED] but not the waterboard. The Agency then determined Al-Nashiri to be “compliant.” Because of the litany of techniques used by different interrogators over a relatively short period of time, it is difficult to identify exactly why Al-Nashiri became more willing to provide information. However, following the use of EITs, he provided information about his most current operational planning and [REDACTED] as opposed to the historical information he provided before the use of EITs.
On the other hand, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, an accomplished resistor, provided only a few intelligence reports prior to the use of the waterboard, and analysis of that information revealed that much of it was outdated, inaccurate, or incomplete. As a means of less active resistance, at the beginning of their interrogation, detainees routinely provide information that they know is already known. Khalid Shakyh Muhammad received 183 applications of the waterboard in March 2003 [REDACTED]
Admittedly, the redactions make it difficult to get the whole story. But here is what we can tell.
The IG says he couldn’t tell whether it was the waterboard or some other factor that led to the increase in intelligence production coming out of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogations. It seems highly unlikely on its face that Zubaydah’s time in custody alone (the only other possible explanation specifically offered by the IG) could have led to this increase in output. The waterboarding began in August 2002, and the increase in Zubaydah’s intelligence reporting that is cited ended in April of 2003. That’s a period of just nine months, which is hardly a prolonged period of time for a master terrorist such as a Zubaydah.
Moreover, even the IG concedes that since Zubaydah was waterboarded he “has appeared to be cooperative.”
Next came Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, the mastermind of the USS Cole bombing. Nashiri was waterboarded twice before the Agency determined he had become compliant. Nashiri was then apparently moved and stopped giving up intelligence, so the Agency employed a variety of EITs, but not the waterboard, in a short period of time. After the EITs were employed, Nashiri became compliant once again. Nashiri now “provided information about his most current operational planning…as opposed to the historical information he provided before the use of EITs.”
So, the use of EITs on Nashiri led him to give up actionable intelligence on his operations. Previously, he was giving up “historical information,” which had presumably significantly less value.
Finally, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal planner of the September 11 attacks, was taken into custody and interrogated. Note that the final paragraph of the block quote reproduced above begins with “On the other hand…” The author appears to be drawing a comparison to the previous paragraph, which dealt with Nashiri’s interrogations. One possible reading is that while EITs other than waterboarding worked on Nashiri, they didn’t work on KSM, who was an “accomplished resistor.”
The IG found that before KSM was waterboarded he gave up only a few intelligence reports and “much” of that scant intelligence was bogus. However, we know from other declassified reports released on Monday that KSM became a font of intelligence on al Qaeda, giving up his fellow terrorists and specific plots. That’s why the CIA’s June 3, 2005, report calls KSM the Agency’s “preeminent source” on al Qaeda in the title.
What made KSM talk? Taken at face value, the IG’s report suggests that it was the waterboard, and the waterboard alone, that led to this gusher of intelligence. The un-redacted portions of the IG’s report do not mention any other possible reason for KSM’s change of heart when it came to dealing with his debriefers. And he wasn’t in custody very long before KSM started naming names – some of the terrorists he gave up were captured within a matter of weeks.
So, there you have it. Zubaydah gave up more intelligence after being waterboarded. The waterboard made Nashiri compliant. When Nashiri stopped cooperating, other EITs were used to make him talk. And talk he did, giving up the “operational” details of his plotting. And, finally, KSM gave up little of value prior to being waterboarded. Afterwards, he became the CIA’s most important source on al Qaeda.
Despite all of this, Hosenball concludes that the IG’s report does not “convincingly demonstrate” that the implementation of the EITs produced “useful information.” This is nonsense. How could Nashiri’s information about “current operational planning,” which he only gave up after the EITs were employed, not be useful? Nashiri was plotting multiple attacks prior to his capture.
And Hosenball pretends that KSM may have given up a significant amount of intelligence prior to waterboarding. The IG’s report plainly contradicts this assessment, saying that KSM gave up little prior to being waterboarded. Some of the pre-waterboarding intelligence may very well have been valuable, but much of it, according to the IG’s own report, was bunk. KSM would go on to become the CIA’s “pre-eminent source” on al Qaeda.
When Hosenball isn’t mischaracterizing the report, he is selectively citing it. The IG report notes that the detainees gave up vital information about al Qaeda’s plotting. But Hosenball selectively quotes the inspector general as saying that his investigation failed to "uncover any evidence that these plots were imminent."
Here is the full quote from the IG’s report:
This Review did not uncover any evidence that these plots were imminent. Agency senior managers believe that lives have been saved as a result of the capture and interrogation of terrorists who were planning attacks, in particular Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, Abu Zubaydah, Hambali, and Al-Nashiri.
Hosenball simply left out the part about saving lives.
It should be noted, too, that some of the intelligence given up by the detainees related to al Qaeda operatives who were already on American soil and plotting attacks. KSM, for example, gave up intelligence on Uzair Paracha and Iyman Faris, both of whom were plotting attacks on New York City. Faris had already cased the Brooklyn Bridge, and was exploring ways to attack landmarks in and around New York City. Uzair Paracha worked in an office in the Garment District of Manhattan. From that office, Uzair plotted attacks with his father, Saifullah. Among other nefarious plotting, the Parachas intended to help al Qaeda smuggle explosives into New York using their export/import company as a cover.
Both Uzair Paracha and Iyman Faris were arrested in March 2003, just weeks after KSM was detained. Both of them have subsequently been convicted and sentenced to prison. Saifullah Paracha is currently detained at Gitmo.
The IG may believe that their plotting did not pose an “imminent” threat, but there are plenty of good reasons to disagree with that assessment. There are other examples of what can be reasonably called “imminent” plots that were stopped as well.
Some, like Hosenball, may want to pretend that the implementation of controversial techniques did not lead to valuable intelligence and save American lives. A careful reading of the IG’s report and other documents says otherwise.
If you don't like the course being taken by Obama-Pelosi-Reid, being informed and voting IS NOT ENOUGH! All of us must speak up, speak out and reach out to make a difference. Here is one idea. $10. Even I can afford this one. If you do it, please speak up here and share it elsewhere. Maybe others will do it also. I especially hope people here who are not regular posters will join in this small action that sends a strong message to our friends in the Senate. Please copy and share with people of similar views and interests. Thank you. - Doug
Like Newt Gingrich, our friend Hugh Hewitt is a reliable source of winning ideas for Republicans. Hugh's latest brainstorm is "$10 for Tark" -- his campaign to signal opposition to Obamacare via a $10 contribution to Harry Reid's only announced opponent, former UNLV hoopster Danny Tarkanian.
Since Hugh mentioned his brainstorm yesterday during his syndicated radio show, he has received more than 500 e-mails with copies of their messages to Harry Reid and many with attached receipts of the donation to Tark. Let us take the opportunity to demonstrate to other Democrats the nature of opposition to Obamacare -- that it isn't just loud, but that it will lead to a funding burst for the GOP.
CCP: "So it is not totally unreasonable that payers have a right to some input."
Totally agree. And also to gather information and limit choices regarding behaviors that add risk to health care costs.
As a limited government advocate, I oppose expanding the gov't footprint into areas where the private customer was already satisfied with their plan. IMO people like Hannity earned the right to spend his own money on their own services, just as I have 'earned' the right to spend up to my Blue Cross coverage limits. From Canada they drive into Duluth MN and Mayo Clinic and countless other areas across the border to get the things their own panel denied or delayed. In the US, we won't just drive across the border and find a freer and richer country with wider choices and immediate availability.
Sen Kent Conrad (D) on Face the Nation: "...the country heading for the cliff, and we're headed for a cliff because costs in health care are spiraling out of control."
Yes but the mechanism that controls costs with every other product and service in every other industry is not in place - supply and demand. You cannot charge what your customers are not able or willing to pay for anything - until you open the door for third party money to make up an ever-expanding difference.
So the answer is open the rest of the system to the backing of unlimited third party pay. That is NOT how innovation flourishes or how costs are best controlled. --- Re. Death Panels: CCP, as an industry professional you know better than the rest of us that difficult choices are faced and difficult decisions are made every day every moment somewhere about the life and death of a patient. Those difficult times in our lives don't go away under any plan. The difference with this is to enter the government, uninvited, into the room during the discussions, holding all the cards, on a mission to control costs - for the children... sounds like a death panel to me.
I support liberties lost in FISA. If my number is discovered even for innocent reasons in the speed dial or recently called numbers of a captured terrorist, I expect surveillance and will live through it. Hopefully they discover it was a wrong number!
A columnist and talk show host hear put it nicely, that if the 19 hijackers were discovered to be middle-aged, balding, midwest, talk show hosts of French Canadian descent, he would expect to be slowed down a little in airports.
Over to BBG's example of abuse with armadillo. If the Police Chief orders it in front of the Mayor's rival's house for all the wrong reasons, I think we can all agree that those complicit should be fired and prosecuted.
Somebody puts their reputation and hopefully their career on the line when they order surveillance by the government of a private citizen.
Crafty: "I have my questions about Sarah, but she remains someone keeping an eye on."
Likewise. She was not the correct VP choice last time, but nonetheless has amazing talent and star-power, is an intuitive conservative and has an unknown future.
My thoughts are similar to Taranto's, but I take it further. When you look at the timing of where the pendulum really started to pick up momentum against the massive government healthcare expansion proposals, the newsworthy story was a blogpost of Gov. Palin coining the term "Death Panels".
Taken literally, death panels was assumed to refer to a mandate in Obama-Pelosi-Care that requires the government to come visit you and talk to you about your choices and your costs to society as your pathetic life starts appearing to be fading.
Palin said these will decide your fate when the legislative truth is that 'they' will just be required to come 'talk to you' - with the purpose of persuading you to maybe forego heroic efforts and save us all a lot of money. So Palin is wrong on that point by just a smidgen.
"Death Panels" as a political concept has legs and provokes a vivid visualization and more meanings which I will expand on below.
Obama chose to answer the claim, refute it and give it more legs and more publicity. His thorough and total denial was followed by a news story that the death panels will be removed from the legislation. So much for the total denial.
But "Death Panels" means much more than that. The term symbolizes the concept of rationing. If life-saving procedures will be rationed based on age, quality of life, etc, and the decisions at least in the 'public option' will be made by bureaucrats meeting and negotiating with other budgeting bureaucrats... then "Death Panels" is a perfect negative phrase to describe the cost-saving aspects of ObamaCare.
And it goes a step further. Recall how liberals 'dislike' Sarah Palin for pro-life views. Contrast that with the extreme abortion rights that are in the bill, forced on you to cover with the public option and forced on you with your private choices. This fact comes from Obama' own words.
And speaking of abortion recall that Sarah Palin in the mother of a Down Syndrome baby. Those are the ones that mostly get aborted, statistically even ahead of black babies that aborted at 3-times the rate of white babies. (Disclosure: I am uncle to a Down Syndrome baby who I have grown rather fond of.)
Currently expecting mothers are fully informed about the health and status of their unborn child including the ability to view amazing photos in the womb. One reason they inform always about Down Syndrome is to give you the opportunity to abort the 'defective' baby - and wait for a 'good one'.
Now enter government health care trying to ration and control costs, coming in to give you that same talk about the quality of life your fetus with defects can expect and how expensive the follow up surgeries can be, only to live this less than Ivy-League life. Other than death panels, what else would you call someone who comes in and advocates abortion to you in this emotionally-charged situation.
I'm sure that aborting or encouraging abortion of extra chromosome fetuses does not offend many. For liberals maybe you should instead wisualize the situation after we learn to recognize the fetuses who will be born gay. Another one of God's little life quirks, want to stomp that out too?? Better talk to your death panel about it.
Sound far-fetched?? We already abort black babies at 3 times the rate of white babies. Why? It is the result of the advice these young women are getting already, mostly in government health care, BEFORE we go to fully rationed and socialized health care.
George Stephanopolous pointed out what he considered the obvious, that a $9 trillion dollar gap will need made up with new revenues and the obvious one is a federal Value Added Tax, not instead of, but on top of all of our other federal taxes.
The sales tax is a government revenue source that currently belongs to the states and localities if they choose to use it. We won't have power and control at the state level when the revenues are controlled by the feds.
"Anything that law enforcement does has the potential for abuse. Is the answer then to not have law enforcement?"
No. We want it both ways, we want to be not investigated when innocent and we want all crime stopped before it is even contemplated. So good luck pleasing everyone. Seriously thank you for bringing your experience and professionalism to a sometimes impossible job.
One beef I have from the story is that they defined success as either arresting the drug dealer or getting them to leave the neighborhood. They don't leave the city and they don't leave the business. Assuming they are known criminals committing crimes, it is not an equivalent success IMO to have them move on rather than marked with an arrest, a conviction and a sentence.
"the increase in life expectancy from around 70 to close to 80 since the 1970s"
We may not know precisely the reasons for increased longevity but it also weakens the arguments that our food supply, drinking water, air quality, CO2 level and climate change are increasingly unhealthy to human life.
Scary data, Obama's own estimates are $9.1 trillion starting 2010 (up $2 trillion today while leaving for Martha's Vineyard) plus this year's new debt...and that is without healthcare?? Who can comprehend new debt into the tens of trillions much less find someone in a position to lend it.
The Fed is printing the paper money first and selling bonds second. If one of us financed major debt with float, we would be guilty of a federal felony of check kiting. With Madoff, they called the same thing a Ponzi scheme.
We can follow the Mexican example where the nuevo peso in place of a thousand old pesos; as they did, we will need a new dollar $ign to signify the new, devalued American currency.
CCP, agree but... it is the middle with the moderates that he was suckering, not so much the right.
Obama had huge support but didn't get all his 53% or 57% or more to buy fully into the agenda. His coalition requires him to wink to ACORN and the far left and talk reasonably to the center, like Sotomayor did - totally different to activists than in confirmation.
Campaigns might be run on generalities but these bills cannot be written without specifics and the specifics fly in the face of the reasonable and prudent sounding salesmanship.
In other words, the radical 'war' worked from the outside but is exposed in victory. Now the pendulum swings the other way and right wingers will hopefully be exposed for trying to ram freedom, liberty and a constitutionally-based version of limited government down our throats, lol.
(Crafty: Lets continue this conversation on the Politics thread.) - Ok, but as I proof read this looks a lot like a rant.
CCP:"...unless we all start sacrificing now this country is headed for a total collapse...all this spending will destroy us...We need to stop giving life ling pensions to people who retire at 50 and then get other jobs...Medicare and social security ages will have to increase to 70...some skeptics decry that THIS IS the MO of BO. Destroy the country so it has to be rebuilt from the bottom up - as a socialist state. I am short of personally subscribing to this but I don't discount it altogether." --- As GM pointed out, Obama is tanking and support for the policies tanked earlier and stronger. You don't re-acquire to Messiah status or hope and change euphoria after being exposed as a mere mortal and an ordinary liberal / Marxist. I agree that Obama doesn't know his policies will tank the country and our economy. I think liberals and anti-capitalists take our amazing past economic successes for granted. I have long challenged any supporter or Obama biographer to tell me any book the young leader has read about economics that wasn't in opposition to capitalism. He thinks investors will invest anyway, even if you threaten, berate them publicly and punish them. After empirical result after empirical result to the contrary, this Ivy League elitist still believes building up the public sector and tearing down the private sector shows good promise for the country.
Obama also has shown more adherence to his convictions than former Pres. Clinton who was happy to jump ship and sail a different direction whenever his poll analysts gave him the green light. Obama instead will cling to incrementalism toward his goals versus abandonment.
Tanking public support affects congress and Obama's ability to get things done. Democrat majorities exist because some liberals are representing conservative leaning districts. For example, R's would win at the Presidential level in South Dakota by 30 points while Tom Daschle would hold his senate seat by 30 points, bringing power and money to the state. But cross the line with the electorate and he is gone. (I wonder if Harry Reid knows that story, lol.) In North Dakota, 2 senators are liberal in a state that is typically a 30 point margin to the conservative side. They can't stay in lock-step with a tanking, exposed agenda and hold power. Small states sound trivial, but their senator's vote has the same weight as Boxer, Schumer, Kennedy, Durbin, et al. Same goes for house districts. Watch these representatives squirm at their townhall meetings and ACORN invented the show up and voice your concern tactic. I heard one new D-congressman assuring his outraged townhall that he won't vote for the healthcare bill if it contains liberal provision x or y.
The current power structure in this country took hold on election night of Nov. 2006, when Pelosi-Reid-Hillary-Barney Frank, with Obama took control, not in Jan. 2009 when Pres. Obama took office, (and this mess was not created by free markets "running wild"). The liberal machine also controlled certain aspects of Washington before that to the extent that willing Republicans sided with the liberal agenda on spending and the atrocities of Fannie Mae etc.
CCP, I agree with your point about control the spending and I think that has the crossover appeal, not tax cuts or social issues at this juncture.
To finish Cheney's famous alleged interrupted statement that deficits don't matter, a family making good money might run a deficit when a couple of the kids are off to college. Same goes for my daughter in braces, lol, but I won't be running a deficit on her forever or without limits. Reagan brought down a Soviet empire and re-built our economy, and his legacy is that this growth led to balanced budgets (Bill Clinton aligned with Newt Gingrich) within a reasonable time. The aftermath of 9/11 had similar emergency conditions, but just like Obama, R's took their eyes off the emergency and paid the price economically and politically.
So we have a spending and debt-caused crisis and were told the solution is new spending on steroids with new debt beyond anyone's comprehension.
Crafty wrote recently that we have to offer more than just 'no' (to healthcare in particular). To govern with a mandate and accomplish positive things in the future that is true, but to immediately stop this train wreck I think the message, outside of the far left, we can all agree on is just - 'NO'!
I found this link and paper on the census site while writing a libertarian appeal to oppose government healthcare. I was to just post my suspicion that they would be nosing at your door into your private affairs and wouldn't miss the chance to peruse your coverage. As noted previously, your participation in the 'questionnaire' is mandatory and your refusal is a felony(?)!
"In March 2000, the March Current Population Survey (CPS) added an experimental health insurance "verification" question. Anyone who did not report any type of health insurance coverage was asked an additional question about whether or not they were, in fact, uninsured. Those who reported that they were insured were then asked what type of insurance covered them. This paper takes an initial look at the characteristics of people who report coverage in these questions, assesses the quality of the information collected, and provides a preliminary estimate of the effect of this question on March CPS estimates of the number and percentage of Americans without health insurance coverage." --- "The Verification Questions
The universe for the March CPS verification questions consists of all households with at least one uninsured person. (The March CPS employs household-level screening questions, so the question universe has to be described in household terms.) The ultimate aim of the questions was to find out which of the 42. 6 million people classified as uninsured from the sequence of questions that ask about specific insurance types are, in fact, uninsured. For all households that fall into this universe, a version of the question below is asked.1
I have recorded that (read names) were not covered by a health plan at any time in 1999. Is that correct?
If the answer is "NO", we ask: Who should be marked as covered?
For all those people, we then ask: What type of insurance was (name) covered by in [year xxxx]?" ---- IIRC, the Census was constitutionally assigned to ask how people in your household - period - for congressional district and electoral college purposes, not to 'sample' populations or design or support new government programs.
Left behind on the board and left behind by the country is the libertarian aspect of government-run healthcare. A questioner of soon to be former Sen. Arlen Specter put it bluntly and accurately: ""I have spent 35 years in information technology. I read this bill very closely. You are about to concentrate more information about more Pennsylvanians and Americans in this bill in one place in the computers of Washington that has ever occurred."
If anyone out there is undecided about 'universal' coercive, healthcare or against it but haven't communicated that strongly to all your representatives yet, did you know:
* Besides asking about bike helmets, your pediatrician already asks your kid if there are guns in the house and puts the note in the file, soon to be government file.
* The IRS that some wanted to eliminate is the enforcement agency written into the healthcare bill.
* The U.S. Census will be asking in your MANDATORY questionnaire about your health insurance VERIFICATION and the coverage you carry for all in your household (in spite of the fact that they will communicate nothing they find about illegal immigration to the INS.) http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/hlthins/verif.html "In March 2000, the March Current Population Survey (CPS) added an experimental health insurance "verification" question. Anyone who did not report any type of health insurance coverage was asked an additional question about whether or not they were, in fact, uninsured. Those who reported that they were insured were then asked what type of insurance covered them."
"The Verification Questions
The universe for the March CPS verification questions consists of all households with at least one uninsured person. (The March CPS employs household-level screening questions, so the question universe has to be described in household terms.) The ultimate aim of the questions was to find out which of the 42. 6 million people classified as uninsured from the sequence of questions that ask about specific insurance types are, in fact, uninsured. For all households that fall into this universe, a version of the question below is asked.1
I have recorded that (read names) were not covered by a health plan at any time in 1999. Is that correct?
If the answer is "NO", we ask: Who should be marked as covered?
For all those people, we then ask: What type of insurance was (name) covered by in [year xxxx]?" ----- Quoting straight from the Census link above. I will re-post in Census thread, but I felt a strong need to link this to the issue and principle of citizen liberty and government-invaded privacy. - Doug
Big Government, Big Recession There's no evidence for the theory that state spending has shortened this or any other slowdown.
By ALAN REYNOLDS (WSJ)
‘So it seems that we aren’t going to have a second Great Depression after all,” wrote New York Times columnist Paul Krugman last week. “What saved us? The answer, basically, is Big Government. . . . [W]e appear to have averted the worst: utter catastrophe no longer seems likely. And Big Government, run by people who understand its virtues, is the reason why.”
This is certainly a novel theory of the business cycle. To be taken seriously, however, any such explanation of recessions and recoveries must be tested against the facts. It is not enough to assert the U.S. economy would have experienced a "second Great Depression" were it not for the Obama stimulus plan.
Even those who think government borrowing is a free lunch can't possibly believe the government has already done enough "stimulus spending" to explain the difference between depression and recovery.
CNNMoney recently calculated that the stimulus plan has spent just $120 billion—less than 1% of GDP—mostly on temporary tax cuts ($53 billion) and additional Medicaid, food stamps and unemployment benefits. Less than $1 billion has been spent on highway and energy projects. Commitments for the future are much larger, but households and firms can't spend commitments.
Proponents of Big Government can't say we avoided the next Great Depression due to hypothetical stimulus money that is mostly unspent. So they argue it's more important that the federal government merely continued spending and didn't "slash" spending as in the early 1930s. But the federal government didn't slash spending in the early '30s. Federal spending rose by 6.2% in 1930, 7.7% in 1931 and 30.2% in 1932. Since prices were falling, real increases in federal spending were huge during the Hoover years.
President Obama clearly believes Big Government is the antidote to this and perhaps all recessions. At his first news conference in February, the president said, "The federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back to life." Yet that raises a key question: If the U.S. economy could not recover without a big "jolt" of deficit spending, then how did the economy recover from recessions in the distant past, when the federal government was very small?
A 1999 study in The Journal of Economic Perspectives by Christina Romer (now head of the Council of Economic Advisers) found that "real macroeconomic indicators have not become dramatically more stable between the pre-World War I and post-World War II eras, and recessions have become only slightly less severe." Ms. Romer also noted that "recessions have not become noticeably shorter" in the era of Big Government. In fact, she found the average length of recessions from 1887 to 1929 was 10.3 months. If the current recession ended in August, then the average postwar recession lasted one month longer—11.3 months. The longest recession from 1887 to 1929 lasted 16 months. But there have been three recessions since 1973 that lasted at least that long.
The relative brevity of recessions before the New Deal is particularly surprising since the U.S. economy was then dominated by farming and manufacturing—industries far more prone to nasty cyclical surprises than today's service-based economy.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, nobody thought the government could or should do anything except stand aside and let the mistakes of business and banking be fixed by those who made them. There were no Keynesian plans to borrow and spend our way out of recessions. And bankers had no Federal Reserve to bail them out until 1913. Yet recessions after the Fed was created soon turned out to be much deeper than before (1920-21, 1929-33, 1937-38) and often more persistent.
It's clear that U.S. history does not support the theory that Big Government means shorter and milder recessions. In reality, recessions always ended without government prodding, long before anyone heard of Keynes and long before the Fed existed. What's more, recessions ended more quickly before the New Deal's push for Big Government than they have in the past three decades. The economy's natural recuperative powers before the 1930s proved superior to recent tinkering by Big Government economists, politicians and central bankers.
The recent experience of other countries provides another way to test the Big Government theory of economic recovery. If it is true that Big Government prevents or cures recessions, then countries where government accounts for the largest share of GDP should have suffered much smaller losses of GDP over the past year than countries where the private sector is dominant.
The chart nearby lists 13 major economies by the size of government spending relative to GDP using OECD figures for 2007 (the U.S. is well above 40% by 2009). Europe's big spenders are at the top, the U.S. and Japan are in the middle, and fiscally frugal countries like China and India are at the bottom.
The last column shows the change in real GDP over the most recent four quarters—ending in the second quarter for the U.S., U.K., Germany, Japan, France, Italy, Sweden and China, but the first for the rest. Four of the five deepest contractions happened in countries with the biggest governments—Sweden, Italy, Germany and the U.K. Japan's government spending in 2007 was about like ours, but Japan's tax rates are far more punitive and the economy has suffered endless "fiscal stimulus" packages. China's central government spent 22% of GDP, but 30%-plus with local government included.
To believe Big Government explains why this extremely long recession was not even longer, we need to find some connection between the size of government and the depth and duration of recessions. There is no such connection in U.S. history, or in recent cyclical experience of other countries.
On the contrary, recessions have become longer as the U.S. government (and the Fed) became larger, more expensive, and more involved in the economy. Foreign countries in which government spending accounts for about half of the economy have also suffered the deepest recessions lately, while economic recovery is well established in countries where government spending is a smaller share of GDP than in the U.S.
In short, bigger government appears to produce only bigger and longer recessions.
Mr. Reynolds is a senior fellow with the Cato Institute and the author of "Income and Wealth" (Greenwood Press, 2006).
I wonder if it will it be 'cars for clunkers' that ultimately brings down Obamacare and the version of selective socialism so many people were sold by the leftist political machine currently in power in this country.
Yes people responded to the 'free' offer of 4500 bucks of transfer money, pretend money that everyone knows we don't have, to stimulate the economy through a selected consumer to a selected business for a limited time.
Just like the efficiency of Amtrack, DMV and the Post Office and the public-private partnership that brought us the bridge collapse, a couple of things went wrong with cars for clunkers: They underestimated the demand for free money, so they tripled the budget and put up a new deadline. Not so different than the budget errors in the trillions we saw for all of our current entitlement programs, all in projected bankruptcy.
Then the government computers went down so the select few didn't see the money anyway, just sitting on a government promise. If they have to upgrade the computers, then they really underestimated the cost. What about adding permanent staff for a 2 week program? Who knows when they might want to do it again.
My biggest beef seriously is the mockery it makes of the concept of equal protection under the law. What about a consumer of a different product? What about a dealer of a different product? What about a citizen-environmentalist who did something else for the earth not covered in the bill? And what about the person who complies completely but doesn't get his application in until late Aug. or Sept. or Oct. as originally covered, passed and signed into U.S. Law?! Sorry, nothing for you.
If you believe in cash for clunkers as a worthwhile endeavor, in spite of destroying the charities that relied that business - also based on the tax code, then our omniscient bureaucrats priced it wrong. If we wanted to spend one billion until the end of October, the correct amount of the 'incentive' wasn't $4500. Maybe it was $1000 or $2167 or some other number that only a market could figure out, not congressional aide in a cubicle or a lobbyist who is paid to get it done, not to get it right.
What have we learned? The real clunker was the bureaucracy with their elitist leaders that don't know their own limits, and just like the next heart stint needed to save your life - offer expires Monday.
So often our topics overlap but BBG's post about ACORN felony prosecutions on voter registration demands the question of whether the same folk now posing as paid US Census workers will be committing a felony each time they conspire to report any bit of data that is knowingly inaccurate?
The Kennedy succession story says: "The hypocrisy is astounding". Quite an understatement. Not just double, full-circle hypocrisy, but the arrogance they must have to do it so openly and so repeatedly. Should make the Chicago political mafia blush. They played around the rule to save a seat for Teddy before he turned 30. Then they changed the succession rule for John Kerry to ascend to the President. Oops, not needed and they fully exposed themselves for the mockery of principles they possess. Now they fear losing the 60th vote so they don't want to wait for those clumsy voters to name a replacement when it turns out ironically and hypocritically that the D-Governor could do it just as well, and so much faster. Coercive healthcare could be on the line to them so the ends easily justify the means.
BBG, thanks for posting the ACORN case update. They mix their commitment to take down liberty and capitalism with a lot of do-gooding like helpin' folks register to vote and taking over the census. Unfortunately they demand our public money to take down our system, and getting the wrong people to vote can be a felony.
BBG, What a great letter! Crafty wrote earlier that "Simply going NO to BO's liberal fascist agenda will not be enough." This is true of course but the first step is to persuasively and emphatically say NO to Obama' liberal, fascist agenda.
FWIW I believe the cell call was from the talking points people at leftist machine headquarters and they are very well aware of these town hall meetings. If they had something for her to add I assume that they were watching and listening to a live feed or someone texted them for help.
Can you imagine the uproar if the puppet masters were Rove or Cheney intervening with an ongoing constituent meeting in a representative's home district?
The fact that the reporter knew and did not report a key fact and the paper sneakily removes a known falsehood without issuing a correction, explanation or especially without blowing it open themselves into a big new story themselves, casting doubt on the staged, propaganda event ... it reflects on why organizations like the Houston Chronicle are bankrupting themselves. These events are part of the electoral process and a fraud was certainly perpetrated on anyone caring enough to watch. Frankly I resent having to always go beyond mainstream publications to get the rest of the story.
CCP, I don't believe him but I agree with the premise that we could have a scary strong and effective military for a little less money if the process did not involve lobbyists and bureaucrats ranking ahead of clear thinking, modern military strategists.
B.O: "If Congress sends me a defense bill loaded with a bunch of pork, I will veto it."
Yeah, sure he will, just like he did with the 'defense of banking' bills and shovel ready stimulus bullsh*t.
He sounds like he is campaigning for the office instead of leading and he sounds like he competing not against Pelosi-Barney Frank-Durban-Schumer but against a Republican congress, which maybe he already sees coming...
As more and more people choose to live further and further from fresh water, a few trivia facts about a largely unnoticed American-Canadian water asset the size of New England and up to 1300 feet deep.
http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/superior/superiorfacts.html Lake Superior is, by surface area, the world's largest freshwater lake. The surface area of Lake Superior (31,700 square miles) is greater than the combined areas of Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. Lake Superior contains as much water as all the other Great Lakes combined, even throwing in two extra Lake Eries. Lake Superior contains 10% of all the earth's fresh surface water. There is enough water in Lake Superior (3,000,000,000,000,000--or 3 quadrillion-- gallons) to flood all of North and South America to a depth of one foot. The deepest point in Lake Superior (about 40 miles north of Munising, Michigan) is 1,300 feet (400 meters) below the surface.
The average underwater visibility of Lake Superior is 27 feet, making it easily the cleanest and clearest of the Great Lakes. Underwater visibility in places reaches 100 feet.
Migrating birds of prey funnel down Lake Superior's north shore in great numbers each fall. On a single day at Duluth's Hawk Ridge as many as 100,000 birds of prey might pass by.
(Meanwhile, human population in the port city of Duluth MN peaked with the mining, shipping and industrial boom about 50 years ago and is still slightly declining.)
Marc, I don't understand the remaining question on "2) What happens now when an insurance company discontinues insurance when someone develops a problem?"
I carry a catastrophic policy. I bought it and have been paying for it since I was young and healthy. If I am tomorrow discovered to have a hugely expensive disease, I assume that I have coverage for as long as I keep the policy up to the limits of my coverage. If not, there is certainly a role for government regulation because anything short of paying according to the agreed terms is IMO theft by swindle. Why would anyone buy health insurance while healthy if coverage is canceled when diagnosed?
On point 1), very few people and no serious, electable politicians oppose some sort of a safety net. We already have that. The point would be that if you decline insurance while healthy you may have to exhaust your own resources before submitting your bill to the other taxpayers. I know there are those who think ordinary people shouldn't be troubled to pay their own living expenses like college or health care. Margaret Thatcher put it best: "Margaret Thatcher quote: "The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."
3) Health care exchanges could be a way to energize a free market that is sorely lacking in health care or could be just another way to bring the heavy hand of government down on health care, dependinig on how they are set up. From a jurisdictional point of view, I would like to see a federal plan written to help consumers-patients-providers that allow states to OPT-IN rather create more coercion from Washington. This recent discussion sheds only a little light on the subject:
Transcripts: "Reviving the Economy"-Health Insurance Exchange Friday, June 05, 2009 (PBS Nightly Business Report)
PAUL KANGAS: Next week, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are expected to roll out proposals to overhaul the country's health care system. President Obama wants to hold down costs and provide health coverage for 50 million uninsured Americans. To help make that happen, one idea in the works is what's called a health insurance exchange. In tonight's installment of "Reviving the Economy," Dana Bate explains what that exchange might look like and how it would work.
DANA BATE, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Whether it's shopping on eBay or searching for a phone plan, Americans love a good deal. But if you decided to shop around for a health care plan today, chances are it wouldn't be easy. Health economist Linda Blumberg says that's because the health insurance market is broken.
LINDA BLUMBERG, HEALTH ECONOMIST, URBAN INSTITUTE: It's kind of the wild, wild west out there, particularly in the non-group insurance market, but also in the small group market and people who are making purchasing decisions don't have the information they need to make good choices.
BATE: That's why she and many others in the health care community want to bring a sheriff to town in the form of a health insurance exchange. The idea is to create one-stop shopping for health insurance. Consumers could go to this insurance marketplace, compare local plans, find out what government aid is available and figure out which plans are best. Former Medicare director Mark McClellan says an exchange would spread risk across plans so that it's easier and cheaper to insure more people.
MARK MCCLELLAN, DIR., HEALTH CARE REFORM, BROOKINGS: So the idea is to try to set up a system in which people could have guaranteed access to coverage that they can afford, that doesn't necessarily charge them more just because they have existing health problems.
BATE: So who would be eligible to use this exchange? That's for Congress to decide. But to start, the exchange would probably focus on small businesses and individuals who can't get insurance through their employer. How much the government will regulate the exchange is also a question.
MCCLELLAN: On the one hand, you want to try to give people clear, comparable choices, so anything that you can do to simplify the range of choices and the number of choices can potentially help with that. On the other hand, the point of competition is to encourage people to be able to sign up for plans that do health care better.
BATE: Blumberg worries too little regulation could lump high risk people together, defeating the system's purpose.
BLUMBERG: The way that insurers behave is in their interest to have the lowest cost, lowest risk enrollees in their plans. The more that they can differentiate the plans that they're offering, the more they can attempt to attract individuals of different risk.
BATE: Lawmakers also need to decide who would run a health care exchange, whether there would be a single national marketplace or whether states would create their own. And, of course, there's the question of whether the government will offer its own health plan to compete with private insurers. Dana Bate, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, Washington.
Rachel to GM: "Why are you asking why I dislike Sarah Palin? You already know the answer."
A little cryptic for any newcomer. Unless it was the wardrobe issue I think it means Sarah Palin (outrageously) believes human life begins at conception. That supercedes Palin's support for Israel, disregards a fact Rachel posted that Jewish Law forbids the 98% of American abortions that are done for reasons of convenience, and brushes off Crafty's point that the issue constitutionally belongs with the states.
This could fall under 2nd amendment or religion but to me the issue is the reporter. Like the obnoxious Lawrence O'Donnell interview with Peter Schiff this poor lady just couldn't grasp what she was being told while the midwest businessman was calm and explanatory with her.
I recall after some past GOP victory a famous radio host said the NY Times would need to send foreign correspondents to the heartland in search of understanding of what had happened. This CNN morning host didn't leave her studio to gain these insights:
Thank you Crafty and thank you Charles Murray for important points very clearly and constructively: "Our democracy is corrupted when some voters think that they won't have to pay for the benefits their representatives offer them."
Pres. Reagan unfortunately needed to make the following point to help fend off the charge that across-the-board rate cuts were really just tax cuts for the rich: he showed how 6 million or so of lower income working people would become free of the federal income tax altogether. This was a winning point politically and worth it at the time to rescue our collapsing economy and win the cold war, but also a critical mistake for the future.
Flat tax and the Fair tax proposals make the same mistake. To compare favorably with the current tax system, these proposals typically exclude the first 50k or so of income.
The current spending 'discussion' is a farce. Start all kinds of new entitlements with no mechanisms to ever control costs and then demagogue about someone else needing to pay for it.
If we had a rational tax code and at least a goal of a balanced budget then we could begin a national dialog about spending.
Getting everyone to pay their share of the tax on EVERY dollar earned is an illustration of what they mean by the expression of putting the toothpaste back in the tube. Once these people become total non-contributors, any change is a tax increase on the poor.
On the expense side, remember the story about 10 people going into a restaurant. 1 is going to pay 40% of the bill and maybe 4, 5 or 6 of them will pay nothing at all no matter what is ordered and consumed. Now have a rational discussion about costs and take a majority-rules vote... As Murray points out so well, our system is corrupted.
If we had a true flat-rate tax on all income, no matter who earned it or how, then the proverbial restaurant table could have a rational discussion about ordering hors d'oeuvres and desserts. The rich would still pay far more than their share but everyone would have a stake in the outcome.
Murray's solution is more politically palatable, which I will re-quote. I was going to add to his that we should end withholding too so people see what they pay but as I read deeper into his proposal, but it is already in there! Some politician should take his idea verbatim and run with it.
"Fold payroll taxes into the personal tax code, adjusting the rules so that everyone still pays the same total, but the tax bill shows up on the 1040... End withholding, and require everybody to do what millions of Americans already do: write checks for estimated taxes four times a year."
With due respect for the lack of liberal viewpoint represented on this board, I post the following drivel about right wingers unconcerned about income inequality. If anyone can find a valid point in this piece, please point it out; I will to try to refute it.
Opposing income "inequality" (is income supposed to be equal regardless of training, effort and ability) is the centerpiece of liberal economic thought, as pointed out by this author. In that case, liberals should be THRILLED with the recent collapse of investment values and asset prices as that serves to 'mind the gap' better than any economic expansion in history.
Meanwhile I am headed over to the PGA where income inequality is truly celebrated. A few golfers will split up about $9 million for 4 days work not counting the real money in sponsorships. The worst of the best will make zero, half will get sent home early and all other golfers in the world will be restricted to the gallery or the television audience. Should Tiger Woods and Gerald Ford make the same for playing golf?
Seriously, the idea of equal outcomes should scare you: "So why not take some of that income away", he writes. I say, what incentive would there ever be to do well or do better if there is only one number available on your career pay scale? Should the high school drop out hanging out on the street and the medical resident working 80 hours a week to enter his/her profession make EXACTLY the same, now or later?? Only in a non-existent, Soviet Socialist Utopia. Not in a real world, efficient economy! - Doug
The New Republic Mind the Gap by Jonathan Chait What the right wing really thinks about inequality. Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Should we care about economic inequality? That question is the subtext for most debates in American politics. It just remains below the surface because the party that thinks we shouldn't care about inequality--I'll give you one guess--has an endless string of obfuscations ("death tax," "small business," "tollgate to the middle class") to avoid admitting that it doesn't care about inequality.
There are, however, some real reasons not to care about income inequality, and right-wingers who don't have to run for public office are happy to admit it. A new paper by the Cato Institute's Will Wilkinson, which compiles all the reasons why we shouldn't worry our pretty little heads about inequality, has drawn a lot of attention. It's a usefully honest and relatively persuasive iteration of the belief system that undergirds right-wing thought.
Alas, it still isn't very persuasive. Wilkinson begins by pointing out that, while the gap between how much the rich and the non-rich earn has exploded, the gap between how much the rich and the non-rich consume has remained fairly stable. And that's true. But Wilkinson misunderstands the implications of this fact. "Suppose you made a million dollars last year and put all but $50,000 of it in a shoebox," he writes. (He must have enormous feet.) "Now imagine you lose the box. What good did the $950,000 do you?"
Wilkinson's point--money only has value if you eventually spend it--may be true. Yet most rich people don't put their money in shoeboxes. They invest it so they, their children, or young trophy wives can one day spend even more of it. And, indeed, the gap in wealth (how much money you have) has grown even faster than the gap in income. Meanwhile, the middle class has tried to keep pace with the rich by spending beyond its means, sending average household debt skyrocketing. Tell me why this should make us feel better about inequality?
Wilkinson's most interesting argument holds that material inequality between the rich and the non-rich lags behind the wealth and income gaps. For one thing, he argues that the luxury goods rich people own offer only marginal improvement over the cheap stuff that poor people own. For instance, he compares the luxurious Sub-Zero PRO 48 refrigerator to a standard IKEA fridge. Despite the vast difference in cost ($11,000 vs. $350), he writes, "The lived difference ... is rather smaller than that between having fresh meat and milk and having none." He also notes that rich people have used some of their increased income merely bidding up the price of positional goods, like fancy real estate or elite college tuition, forcing them to buy the same stuff at higher prices. Wilkinson thinks this goes to show that there's "an often narrowing range of experience" between being rich and being poor, so inequality isn't that big a deal.
In fact, Wilkinson is inadvertently bolstering the strongest liberal argument against inequality: it's inefficient. In case you're unfamiliar with this argument--as Wilkinson seems to be; he doesn't rebut or even mention it anywhere in his paper--it runs like this: Taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor helps the latter more than it hurts the former (at least until you create serious work-incentive effects, a point which most liberals think we're not close to). Wilkinson is saying the rich are getting little (in the case of luxury goods like refrigerators) or zero (in the case of real estate and higher tuition) actual benefit from their rising incomes. So why not take some of that income away and use it to buy extremely useful but currently unaffordable things for the non-rich, like, oh, basic medical care?
Watch Chait and Wilkinson face off over the inefficiency of inequality (and check out the rest of the debate here)
One liberal complaint about inequality holds that it increases the political influence of the rich, thereby locking in even more inequality. Wilkinson scoffs at this prospect, pointing to rich voters' support for Barack Obama over John McCain. Oddly, Wilkinson confines his analysis to campaigning and pays no attention to governing. While it's true that many rich people used their money to help bring about Democratic control of Washington, every day brings a new example of the rich using their money to ensure that Democrats pose the least possible harm to their interests. Democrats in Congress have abandoned Obama's sensible call to limit deductions for the top bracket, backed away from an upper-income surtax to pay for health care despite favorable polls, shot down bank nationalization, and on and on.
The deeper problem with Wilkinson's argument is that it assumes the natural correctness of all market-based outcomes. This is a premise you either take on faith or don't, and which undergirds most of his argument. Wilkinson assumes that inequalities arising from the market are inherently fair. Therefore, he asserts that just about the only unjust forms of economic inequality are those that spring from non-market circumstances: "t's not enough to identify a mechanism of rising inequality. An additional argument is required to show that there is some kind of injustice involved."
If such injustices persist, he further argues, it's usually because the American people like it that way. Wilkinson recognizes that some liberals blame "wealthy elites," not public opinion, for the persistence of injustice. But he dismisses this complaint as a "'false consciousness'" argument by liberals "frustrated to find that [their] convictions are in the minority." So we should stop whining. Yet, later on in the same paper, Wilkinson blames the state of education on teachers' unions, and hawkish foreign policy on "special interests that stand to benefit from war." Wait, what about that false-consciousness business? Apparently, it's fair to complain about special interests when they subvert the libertarian agenda but not otherwise.
Wilkinson concludes by asserting that people should only care about their absolute well-being, not their relative well-being. But comparisons are among the best measures we have to gauge our material well-being. Ten years ago, I felt perfectly happy with my low-definition television, because high-definition hadn't come out. Today, that same television gives me slightly less enjoyment because I realize that I'm missing out on a better picture.
"How are a poor, inner-city kid's life chances affected," asks Wilkinson, "by the fact that some Web entrepreneur makes billions of dollars as opposed to just millions?" They're not. But if the Web entrepreneur has to pay a slightly higher tax rate so the inner-city kid can afford to attend a decent college, or so the kid's parents can see a dentist, how are the entrepreneur's life chances affected?
Jonathan Chait is a senior editor of The New Republic.