Thursday, December 29, 2011

More Year End Graphs from Jared Bernstein's Blog

The Best of CBPP Graphs: Guideposts on the Road Back to Factville

My CBPP colleagues contributed many important graphics to the debates of 2011 in lots of different areas, including fiscal, poverty, inequality, health care, and more. But which ones to highlight in this end-of-year look back at the best of 2011? I generally used a market test: these are the ones that were most widely circulated.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best 2011 Economic Charts

Several sites published compilations of the most important economic charts of 2011. I will delve into these in later posts but here they are for your reference:

The Mathematical Economics of Compound Rates of Interest: A Four-Thousand Year Overview

Professor Michael Hudson discusses the mathematics of debt accumulation:

Economic writers in earlier times were more ready than their modern counterparts to confront the problem of debts growing so large as to be unpayable. In The Wealth of Nations (V, iii), Adam Smith observed that “Bankruptcy is always the end of great accumulation of debt. The liberation of the public revenue, if it has ever been brought about at all, has always been brought about by a bankruptcy; sometimes by an avowed one, but always by a real one, though frequently by a pretended payment.”

Thursday, December 22, 2011


From the Congressional Budget Office -- really nice infographic on the budget:

The United States is facing significant and fundamental budgetary challenges. The federal government's budget deficit for fiscal year 2011 was $1.3 trillion; at 8.7% of gross domestic product (GDP), that deficit was the third-largest shortfall in the past 40 years. (GDP is the sum of all income earned in the domestic production of goods and services. In 2011, it totaled $15.0 trillion.)

Today In Dishonest Fox News Charts

From Media Matters web site: "It looks like Fox is trying to mislead its viewers on the unemployment rate. Again."

Correlation or Causation?

This is fun:

Need to prove something you already believe? Statistics are easy: All you need are two graphs and a leading question. Correlation may not imply causation, but it sure can help us insinuate it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Some Good Links on Alternative Banking Systems

Ellen Brown's Public Banking blog:

Also, Ellen Brown's Time for a New Theory of Money:

Michael Hudson on the Mathematical Economics of Compound Rates of Interest:

Michael Hudson writing in the excellent New Economic Perspectives blog:

John Nichols on Banking for the People:

Tomas Edison on Public Financing of Private Projects

The people -- all of the people -- of this country created the wealth we enjoy and are the rightful owners of it. This is an excerpt from a 1921 speech by Thomas Edison:

“Now, as to paper money, so called every on knows that paper money is the money of civilized people. The higher you go in civilization the less actual money you see. It is all bills and checks. What are bills and checks? Mere promises and orders. What are they based on? Principally on two sources—human energy and the productive earth. Humanity and the soil they are the only real basis of money.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The GOP's 'Uncertainty' Talking Point, Debunked

Not certain about the GOP's Uncertainty claim:

WASHINGTON -- With the economy in a slump for nearly four years, corporate executives and conservative politicians have repeatedly invoked "uncertainty" as a major barrier to American job-creation. The "uncertainty" jab is a go-to talking point for any congressional Republican looking to tag President Barack Obama as a tax-raising, regulation-obsessed foe of American businesses.

But according to banking data compiled by economic research firm Moebs Services, the uncertainty plaguing the American economy has nothing to do with government regulations or taxes on millionaires. It's an uncertainty driven squarely by consumers and small-businesses who are worried about their short-term financial prospects. And it's been going on since well before Obama took up residence in the White House.

The Koch Brothers, ALEC and the Savage Assault on Democracy

From John Nichols in the Nation magazine:

Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch finally got their way in 2011. After their decades of funding the American Legislative Exchange Council, the collaboration between multinational corporations and conservative state legislators, the project began finally to yield the intended result.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Book of Jobs

Great article from economist Joseph Stiglitz writing in Vanity Fair:

Forget monetary policy. Re-examining the cause of the Great Depression—the revolution in agriculture that threw millions out of work—the author argues that the U.S. is now facing and must manage a similar shift in the “real” economy, from industry to service, or risk a tragic replay of 80 years ago.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Words That Don't Work

From George Lakoff -- a response to Frank Luntz's remarks to the Republican Governor's recent gathering:

Progressives had some fun last week with Frank Luntz, who told the Republican Governors' Association that he was scared to death of the Occupy movement and recommended language to combat what the movement had achieved. But the progressive critics mostly just laughed, said his language wouldn't work, and assumed that if Luntz was scared, everything was hunky-dory. Just keep on saying the words Luntz doesn't like: capitalism, tax the rich, etc.

It's a trap.

When Luntz says he is "scared to death," he means that the Republicans who hire him are scared to death and he can profit from that fear by offering them new language. Luntz is clever. Yes, Republicans are scared. But there needs to be a serious discussion of both Luntz's remarks and the progressive non-response.

The Financial Crisis Was Entirely Foreseeable

Great post from Barry Ritholtz:

We’ve Known for Thousands of Years

We’ve known for literally thousands of years that debts need to be periodically written down, or the entire economy will collapse. And see this.

We’ve known for 1,900 years that that rampant inequality destroys societies.

We’ve known for thousands of years that debasing currencies leads to economic collapse.

We’ve known for hundreds of years that the failure to punish financial fraud destroys economies.

We’ve known for hundreds of years that monopolies and the political influence which accompanies too much power in too few hands is dangerous for free markets.

We’ve known for hundreds of years that trust is vital for a healthy economy.

We’ve known since the 1930s Great Depression that separating depository banking from speculative investment banking is key to economic stability. See this, this, this and this.

We’ve known since 1988 that quantitative easing doesn’t work to rescue an ailing economy.

We’ve known since 1993 that derivatives such as credit default swaps – if not reined in – could take down the economy. And see this.

We’ve known since 1998 that crony capitalism destroys even the strongest economies, and that economies that are capitalist in name only need major reforms to create accountability and competitive markets.

We’ve known since 2007 or earlier that lax oversight of hedge funds could blow up the economy.

And we knew before the 2008 financial crash and subsequent bailouts that:

The easy credit policy of the Fed and other central banks, the failure to regulate the shadow banking system, and “the use of gimmicks and palliatives” by central banks hurt the economy

Anything other than (1) letting asset prices fall to their true market value, (2) increasing savings rates, and (3) forcing companies to write off bad debts “will only make things worse”

Bailouts of big banks harm the economy

The Fed and other central banks were simply transferring risk from private banks to governments, which could lead to a sovereign debt crisis

Given the insane levels of debt, rampant inequality, currency debasement, failure to punish financial fraud, growth of the too big to fails, repeal of Glass-Steagall, refusal to rein in derivatives, crony capitalism and other shenanigans … the financial crisis was entirely foreseeable.

O goes YOYO

Great post from Jared Bernstein on YOYO (you're on your own) economics:

Here’s how I saw this back in the mid-2000s, in the heart of the GW Bush years, when the YOYOs were riding high (from my book, All Together Now: Common Sense for a Fair Economy):

… One central goal of the YOYO movement is to continue and even accelerate the trend toward shifting economic risks from the government and the nation’s corporations onto individuals and their families. You can see this intention beneath the surface of almost every recent conservative initiative: Social Security privatization, personal accounts for health care (the so-called Health Savings Accounts), attacks on labor market regulations, and the perpetual crusade to slash the government’s revenue through regressive tax cuts — a strategy explicitly tagged as “starving the beast” — and block the government from playing a useful role in our economic lives. …

While this fast-moving reassignment of economic risk would be bad news in any period, it’s particularly harmful today. As the new century unfolds, we face prodigious economic challenges, many of which have helped to generate both greater inequalities and a higher degree of economic insecurity in our lives. But the dominant vision has failed to develop a hopeful, positive narrative about how these challenges can be met in a way as to uplift the majority.

Instead, messages such as “It’s your money” (the mantra of the first George W. Bush campaign in 2000), and frames such as “the ownership society,” stress an ever shrinking role for government and much more individual risk taking. Yet global competition, rising health costs, longer life spans with weaker pensions, less secure employment, and unprecedented inequalities of opportunity and wealth are calling for a much broader, more inclusive approach to helping all of us meet these challenges, one that taps government as well as market solutions.

The Real Way to Help Small Business

Editorial from the NYT:

Research shows that a mere 1 percent of small business owners make more than $1 million per year. Only about 5.4 million of the nation’s 20 million small businesses pay any wages at all. The Republican claim about wealthy small business job creators, it turns out, is based on a convenient and overly broad definition of “small” that includes partnerships and S-corporations, like hedge funds, accounting firms, law practices and other often big businesses.

So when they claim to be protecting small business from high-end taxes, Republicans are really talking about protecting big companies whose owners fall into the one-half of 1 percent of taxpayers who are millionaires or better. A surtax would certainly not hurt them.

Boehner’s Big Stretch on Small Business

House Speaker John Boehner claimed that “small-business people” make up more than half of those who would be hit by a tax increase on “millionaires.” Not really. Only 13 percent of those making over $1 million get even as much as one-fourth of that income from small business, according to government tax experts.

GOP Objects To 'Millionaires Surtax'; Millionaires We Found? Not So Much

We wanted to talk to business owners who would be affected. So, NPR requested help from numerous Republican congressional offices, including House and Senate leadership. They were unable to produce a single millionaire job creator for us to interview.

So we went to the business groups that have been lobbying against the surtax. Again, three days after putting in a request, none of them was able to find someone for us to talk to. A group called the Tax Relief Coalition said the problem was finding someone willing to talk about their personal taxes on national radio.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cosma Shalizi - Why Economics Needs Data Mining

Cosma Shalizi urges economists to stop doing what they are doing: Fitting large complex models to a small set of highly correlated time series data. Once you add enough variables, parameters, bells and whistles, your model can fit past data very well, and yet fail miserably in the future. Shalizi tells us how to separate the wheat from the chaff, how to compensate for overfitting and prevent models from memorizing noise. He introduces techniques from data mining and machine learning to economics -- this is new economic thinking.

ALEC Deems Kids Eating Rat Poison An ‘Acceptable Risk’

From Think Progress web site:

As ThinkProgress has been reporting for some time, the corporate front group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been colluding with the billionaire Koch brothers to privatize government and eliminate environmental regulations that interfere with profits.
GOP legislators in many states have given ALEC free reign to write anti-health care reform and anti-environment legislation. Now, ALEC is fighting to kill Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules limiting the sale of rat poisons that pose a serious health threat to children and the ecosystem.

How to Create 19 Million Jobs and Push Unemployment Below 5 Percent

New study from the Political Economy Research Institute:

Robert Pollin, James Heintz, Heidi Garrett-Peltier and Jeannette Wicks-Lim show that since 2009, U.S. commercial banks and large nonfinancial corporations have been carrying huge cash hoards and other liquid assets, totaling $1.4 trillion. Small businesses, by contrast, have been locked out of credit markets. The authors examine the impact on job creation of mobilizing these excess liquid assets into productive investments, finding that U.S. employment could expand by about 19 million jobs by the end of 2014, with unemployment falling below 5 percent. The paper discusses policies to transform these hoards into job-generating investments, both for the national economy and, specifically, the Los Angeles and Seattle regions.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Activists show up to 'retake' Congress

This appears to be an effective means of protest -- I'm thankful for what these activists are doing:

By plane, train and bus, thousands of activists are converging on Washington, D.C. this week to “Take Back Our Capitol.” Though the pilgrimage borrows the some of the language of the Occupy protests, and includes a contingent of those activists, the crowd hails largely from nonprofits and political organizations.
"We came to tell members of Congress that they should represent the 99 percent not just corporations and the 1 percent," said Colleen Bugarske, 59, a volunteer from West Los Angeles with, a national nonprofit political advocacy group.

Bill Moyers Essay: Plutocracy and Democracy Don't Mix

Great essay from Bill Moyers:

BILL MOYERS: You've no doubt figured out my bias by now. I've hardly kept it a secret. In this regard, I take my cue from the late Edward R. Murrow, the Moses of broadcast news.

Ed Murrow told his generation of journalists bias is okay as long as you don't try to hide it. So here, one more time, is mine: plutocracy and democracy don't mix. Plutocracy, the rule of the rich, political power controlled by the wealthy.

Monday, December 5, 2011

How to Pay for What We Need

From the American Scholar web site -- an article by Richard Striner:

The conventions of our money supply are so arcane that explanation is daunting. Journalist William Greider once observed that the American process of money creation is “a powerful mystery to most citizens.” Indeed, he wrote, it is a mystery to most elected leaders, who tend to believe that the process is best “left to the experts, a forbidden area where politicians [are] not supposed to intrude.” In Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country, Greider quoted the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who went so far as to assert that “no President really understands these things.”

If that’s true, it’s nothing less than a major civic tragedy, one we should not allow to continue. Why should we tolerate a state of affairs in which people use economic jargon instead of giving an intelligible answer to the following conceptual questions: Where does modern money come from? And what does it consist of?

Newt Gingrich Wants To Kill CBO

Stan Collender writes in Roll Call:

Former Speaker and current GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich might well have said that he wants to kill his personal physician because he didn’t like being told his blood pressure was too high.

But that’s the equivalent of what Gingrich did say during a recent debate, when he made it clear that the Congressional Budget Office has to be eliminated if health care reform is going to be repealed.

According to Gingrich, the CBO should be done away with because its analysis shows that, as enacted, health care reform reduces the federal budget deficit. This means that repealing it — as many in the GOP base to which Gingrich is appealing wants to do — will increase the deficit and, therefore, require spending cuts or revenue increases to offset the impact. That, of course, will make the repeal effort much harder and far less likely.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Newt’s War on Poor Children

Gingrich has reached a new low -- see this editorial from Charles Blow in the NYT:

I enjoyed this from one of the commenters:

Gingrich's hypocrisy on the issue of work is unbelievable, given the fact that when he himself was a student, according to an interview , his stepmother gave to Gail Sheehy, quoted in a PBS Frontline story, " The Inner Quest of Newt Gingrich", during his college years, Newt called his father and stepfather to ask for financial help. His stepmother recalls that his exact words were

"I do not want to go to work. I want all my time for my studies.."

Not only that, but according to Dolores Adamson, Gingrich's district administrator from 1978 to 1983, his wife Jackie "put him all the way through school. All the way through the P.h.D...He didn't work."

The conservative movement embodies this quote from John Kenneth Galbraith:

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

New CBO Report: Up to 2.4 Million People Owe Their Jobs to the Recovery Act

From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:|+Center+on+Budget+and+Policy+Priorities%29

A new Congressional Budget Office analysis finds that the 2009 Recovery Act (ARRA) is continuing to save jobs and protect the economy from what would have been a much deeper recession. As we describe in an updated analysis, in the third quarter of 2011 the Recovery Act:

--increased the number of people employed by between 0.4 million and 2.4 million,
--increased real GDP by between 0.3 percent and 1.9 percent (see chart below),

We have to do better on inequality

From the Financial Times:

The principal problem facing the US and Europe for the next few years is an output shortfall caused by a lack of demand. Nothing would increase the incomes of all citizens – poor, middle-class and rich – as much as an increase in demand and associated increases in incomes, living standards and confidence in institutions and the future.
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It would, however, be a serious mistake to suppose that our problems are only cyclical or amenable to macroeconomic solution. Just as the evolution from an agricultural to an industrial economy has far-reaching implications for almost all institutions, so too does the evolution from an industrial to a knowledge economy. Trends that pre-date the Great Recession will be with us long after any recovery.

The most important of these is the strong shift in the market reward for a small minority of citizens relative to the rewards available to most citizens. According to a recent Congressional Budget Office study, the incomes of the top 1 per cent of the US population, after adjusting for inflation, rose by 275 per cent from 1979 to 2007. At the same time, the income for the middle class grew by only 40 per cent. Even this dismal figure overstates the case of typical Americans, as the number unable to find work or who have abandoned the search has risen. In 1965, only 1 in 20 men between 25 and 54 was not working; by the end of this decade it will probably be 1 in 6, even if the full cyclical recovery is achieved.

The Left-Behinds

From the National Journal:

How three decades of flawed economic thinking have helped to create record numbers of long-term unemployed and undermine America’s middle class.

Senator McCain’s Economist Warns: If you Criticize Banksters They will Prolong Recessions

From the Big Picture blog:

Steven J. Davis, Senator McCain’s chief economics advisor during his presidential campaign, has written a political hit piece on the man that defeated his candidate. His co-authors were Scott R. Baker and Nicholas Bloom. For the sake of brevity I will refer to the authors as “the authors” or “Davis.” They published the piece in

Bloomberg The article purports to be a straight scientific piece, but it is a partisan screed relying on faux statistics created by Davis to support his views. Davis’ statistical methodology is not simply unscientific, it is embarrassingly bad.

Why the Rich Are Getting Richer

Excellent article from Foreign Affairs magazine:

The economic crisis of the 1970s, which heralded the end of a generation of U.S. economic dominance, helped their cause by laying bare the limitations of the New Deal order. The country's economic and social policy regime -- which relied heavily on the private provision of important social protections, such as pensions and health insurance -- may have been adequate for a globally dominant industrial economy that generated 30 years of widely shared growth and stable employment for millions of industrial workers. But in the 1970s, it began to prove thoroughly inadequate for an era of globalization, deindustrialization, and economic dislocation, as displaced workers found themselves unable to rely on the government for economic protection. This, in Hacker and Pierson's parlance, was policy drift on a massive scale.

Ascendant conservatives seized on this state of affairs to argue that the whole New Deal edifice of social protection, financial regulation, progressive taxation, and civil rights should be dismantled rather than reinforced. Beginning with the Carter administration, the expanding business lobby successfully defeated proposal after reform proposal and aggressively promoted an opening round of tax cuts and deregulation -- mere down payments on the frenzy to come.

Roger Ailes’ Secret Nixon-Era Blueprint for Fox News

Republican media strategist Roger Ailes launched Fox News Channel in 1996, ostensibly as a "fair and balanced" counterpoint to what he regarded as the liberal establishment media. But according to a remarkable document buried deep within the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, the intellectual forerunner for Fox News was a nakedly partisan 1970 plot by Ailes and other Nixon aides to circumvent the "prejudices of network news" and deliver "pro-administration" stories to heartland television viewers.

Examining the big lie: How the facts of the economic crisis stack up

Rather than attend a college-level seminar on the complex philosophy of causation, we’ll keep it simple. To assess how blameworthy any factor is regarding the cause of a subsequent event, consider whether that element was 1) proximate 2) statistically valid 3) necessary and sufficient.

Consider the causes cited by those who’ve taken up the big lie. Take for example New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s statement that it was Congress that forced banks to make ill-advised loans to people who could not afford them and defaulted in large numbers. He and others claim that caused the crisis. Others have suggested these were to blame: the home mortgage interest deduction, the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, the 1994 Housing and Urban Development memo, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and homeownership targets set by both the Clinton and Bush administrations.

When an economy booms or busts, money gets misspent, assets rise in prices, fortunes are made. Out of all that comes a set of easy-to-discern facts.

How Republicans are being taught to talk about Occupy Wall Street

From Yahoo's The Ticket blog:;_ylt=Al8yBVMwvNZh49E17Ewt1NibCMZ_;_ylu=X3oDMTFna3UycmU1BG1pdANCbG9nIEluZGV4IGJ5IEJsb2cEcG9zAzMwBHNlYwNNZWRpYUJsb2dJbmRleA--;_ylg=X3oDMTFvcGs0cnBnBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANibG9nBHB0A3NlY3Rpb25zBHRlc3QD;_ylv=3

The Republican Governors Association met this week in Florida to give GOP state executives a chance to rejuvenate, strategize and team-build. But during a plenary session on Wednesday, one question kept coming up: How can Republicans do a better job of talking about Occupy Wall Street?
"I'm so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I'm frightened to death," said Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist and one of the nation's foremost experts on crafting the perfect political message. "They're having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism."
Luntz offered tips on how Republicans could discuss the grievances of the Occupiers, and help the governors better handle all these new questions from constituents about "income inequality" and "paying your fair share."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Economics and Inequality

From the Boston Review:

The notion of a well-running market is applicable to manufactured goods; different items are produced to be alike and can be evaluated by consumers. But the products of the finance and health industries are individualized and complex. The consumer cannot seriously evaluate them—a situation that economists call “asymmetric information.”

This casts light on the claim that the problem is one of personal ethics, of greed. After all, the search for improvement in technology, and consequently in the general standards of living, is motivated by greed. When the market system works properly, greed is tempered by competition. Hence, most of the gains from innovation and good service cannot be retained by the providers.

But in situations of asymmetric information, the forces of competition are weakened. The individual patient or financial client does not have access to all the relevant information. Indeed, when the information is sufficiently complex, it may be impossible to provide adequate information.

In these circumstances, greed becomes more relevant. There arises an obligation to present the relevant information as fully as possible, an obligation that has been violated in the financial industry. In the medical field, this challenge has to a considerable extent been met historically by standards of proper practice. These may involve revelation of all information, or at least the requirement that differences in information not be exploited.

It is clear that the financial industry is well behind the medical in this respect. A proper sense of responsibility has to be enforced by legislation, as it was in the 1930s. There has been some erosion in the law, for example under the Clinton administration, and in enforcement. The Dodd-Frank law is a step in the right direction, but the influence of the financial industry watered it down and created unnecessary complications.

It is not superfluous to argue that steepening the income tax progression, removing a number of blatant loopholes, such as the special treatment of capital gains, and reducing the exemption level for estates would add considerably to post-tax equality.

Raise Taxes on Rich to Reward True Job Creators: Nick Hanauer

Great link courtesy of Jared Bernstein:

It is a tenet of American economic beliefs, and an article of faith for Republicans that is seldom contested by Democrats: If taxes are raised on the rich, job creation will stop.

Trouble is, sometimes the things that we know to be true are dead wrong. For the larger part of human history, for example, people were sure that the sun circles the Earth and that we are at the center of the universe. It doesn’t, and we aren’t. The conventional wisdom that the rich and businesses are our nation’s “job creators” is every bit as false.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

National Debt Chart

Climate Scientist Calls Hacked 'Climategate' Emails 'Truly Pathetic'

"A truly pathetic episode," Mann added. "Agents doing the dirty bidding of the fossil fuel industry know they can't contest the fundamental science of human-caused climate change. So they have instead turned to smear, innuendo, criminal hacking of websites, and leaking out-of-context snippets of personal emails in their effort to try to confuse the public about the science and thereby forestall any action to combat this critical threat."

End Herbert Hoover-style ‘trickle-down economics’ to pay off nation’s debt

Trickle-down economics has not worked since Herbert Hoover tried it. It is a myth that adding money to the wealthy through tax cuts stimulates jobs and grows the economy. Under Democratic presidents since 1930 who have emphasized people programs and resisted tax breaks for the richest, annual growth in GDP has averaged 5.4 percent, according to Commerce Department and Office of Management and Budget statistics.

Richard Trumka, American

The American worker has been getting thrashed for thirty years. Jobs leaving the country, wages flat, his boss getting rich. One coal miner from Pennsylvania knows exactly what to do about it.

When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?

From David Frum -- the article appeared in New York magazine recently. Interesting to read the Republican perspective -- very insightful:

I’ve been a Republican all my adult life. I have worked on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, at Forbes magazine, at the Manhattan and American Enterprise Institutes, as a speechwriter in the George W. Bush administration. I believe in free markets, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and limited government. I voted for John ­McCain in 2008, and I have strongly criticized the major policy decisions of the Obama administration. But as I contemplate my party and my movement in 2011, I see things I simply cannot support.

The GOP’s dual trigger nightmare in one graph

From Ezra Klein (excellent graph):

To get a sense of how progressive, here’s a graph comparing the spending cuts and tax increases in all of the major deficit-reduction packages proposed thus far. (Note: I’m measuring revenues against the tax code as it it is right now, and I’m not including savings on interest payments.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Republicans’ Latest Supercommittee Offer: $181 in Spending Cuts for Each $1 in Revenue Increases

Would you say there's a slight imbalance here -- $181 in spending cuts for each $1 in Revenue increases??? Graph courtesy of Jared Bernstein and story linked below:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why doing nothing yields $7.1 trillion in deficit cuts

From E.J. Dionne:

In my column today, I note that because certain things will happen automatically if Congress does nothing, inaction would lead to $7.1 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade. For that reason, I argue, failure by the supercommittee to reach a deal would not necessarily be a bad thing for those who want a balanced approach to deficit reduction.

The Rising Age Gap in Economic Well-Being

From the Pew Research Center:
Households headed by older adults have made dramatic gains relative to those headed by younger adults in their economic well-being over the past quarter of a century, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of a wide array of government data.

Funny Video from Stephen Colbert

After dealing with Occupy Seattle protestors, the police insist that pepper spray is no more dangerous to a 10-year-old than to an 80-year-old.

How Alan Greenspan Helped Wreck the Economy

The following is an excerpt from Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present by Jeff Madrick.

Ayn Rand Part II -- On Capitol Hill, Rand's 'Atlas' Can't Be Shrugged Off

More on conservative idol Ayn Rand -- sad that rather than being debunked, these ideas are now the bedrock of conservative ideology. I think we were smarter in the fifties -- see the following quote from the article:

At the time, Rand's novels were almost universally panned. Her ideas were called "the height of immorality." Her followers, the objectivists, were seen as a radical sideshow in politics and economics.

Back in that 1959 interview, Wallace asked Rand why — if her ideas were so right — Americans, in their democracy, hadn't voted to protect the all-important producer class.

Her answer? Because the people hadn't been given that choice.

"Both parties today are for socialism, in effect — for controls. And there is no party, there are no voices, to offer an actual pro-capitalist, laissez-faire, economic freedom and individualism," she said. "That is what this country needs today."

If Rand were alive today, she might be pleased to see that, more and more, Americans do have that choice. And her ideas are alive and well-represented in the U.S. Capitol.

What caused the financial crisis? The Big Lie goes viral.

Excellent article on the origins of the financial crisis:

A Big Lie is so colossal that no one would believe that someone could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. There are many examples: Claims that Earth is not warming, or that evolution is not the best thesis we have for how humans developed. Those opposed to stimulus spending have gone so far as to claim that the infrastructure of the United States is just fine, Grade A (not D, as the we discussed last month), and needs little repair.

Wall Street has its own version: Its Big Lie is that banks and investment houses are merely victims of the crash. You see, the entire boom and bust was caused by misguided government policies. It was not irresponsible lending or derivative or excess leverage or misguided compensation packages, but rather long-standing housing policies that were at fault.

Indeed, the arguments these folks make fail to withstand even casual scrutiny. But that has not stopped people who should know better from repeating them.

Architect of Romney's healthcare law says it's 'the same' as Obama's

Jonathan Gruber, a key intellectual architect of President Obama's overhaul of the American health care system, is a little frustrated.

"I'm frustrated that the future of the American health care system rests in the hands of one or two of these unelected people who might make the decision based on political grounds," Gruber, an M.I.T. professor, told me in a phone interview on Monday, a few hours after the Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to hear challenges to the Affordable Care Act. "It's very disturbing."

Lawrence O'Donnell Shreds Racist Ron Paul Re. Civil Rights Act

I enjoyed seeing Ron Paul squirm in this clip from August 2011 Lawrence O'Donnell interview:

The Truth About GOP Hero Ayn Rand

A good reminder of the type of ideology from the right that is so misguided...Mike Wallace's interview with Ayn Rand in 1959 is still relevant today.

Paul Ryan’s solution to inequality helps the rich, does nothing for poor

From WaPo's Greg Sargent:
Yesterday Paul Ryan released a very serious looking report entitled: “A deeper look at inequality.” Ryan’s effort — a rebuttal to that recent CBO report on growing inequality that got so much attention — was applauded by conservatives as an important contribution to the debate.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The End of Loser Liberalism

Courtesy of Jared Bernstein (who provided the link on his blog), this book by Dean Baker is available free in PDF format at this link:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Second Gilded Age: Has America Become an Oligarchy?

Excellent article from Germany's Der Spiegel news magazine:,1518,793896,00.html

Through the 1970s, income for Americans across all social classes rose nearly in lockstep, by an annual average of roughly 3 percent. Starting in the 1980s, however, this trend underwent a fundamental transformation. Granted, the economy continued to grow -- but almost exclusively to the benefit of the country's top earners. The major economic expansion under President Ronald Reagan benefited only a few, and the problem only grew worse under George W. Bush.

Can Anyone Really Create Jobs?

From the NYT:

Can Anyone Really Create Jobs?
The fact is that creating them in a far-too-sluggish economy is practically impossible in our current capitalist democracy. No corporate leader is rewarded for hiring people who aren’t absolutely required. Most companies hire only when its workforce can no longer keep up with the demand for its products.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Super Dupes

From Robert Kuttner:

"With the Congressional Super Committee required to produce a bipartisan budget-cutting plan by November 23, the best possible outcome would be for the committee to collapse of its own weight.

With no deal, automatic cuts would kick in beginning in 2013. Those budget cuts would be excessive, but that question could—and will—be reopened after the election. And in the meantime, $4 trillion in Bush tax cuts will expire, solving most of the deficit problem.

If Democrats win, it’s all up for grabs. If Republicans win, the cuts will be even deeper.

The 2012 election will be a referendum on whether we want growth or austerity, and whether we want tax fairness."

Monday, October 31, 2011

Paul Ryan’s frown should make Democrats smile

Great article from E.J. Dionne:

"Ryan spoke of his “disappointment” that “the politics of division are making a big comeback.” He accused Obama of using “divisive rhetoric” and of “going from town to town, impugning the motives of Republicans, setting up straw men and scapegoats, and engaging in intellectually lazy arguments.”

“Instead of working with us on . . . common-sense reforms,” Ryan declared, “the president is barnstorming swing states, pushing a divisive message that pits one group of Americans against another on the basis of class.”

Now it takes some temerity for a Republican to charge Obama with divisiveness, given the GOP’s willingness to promote or countenance assaults on the president as “a socialist,” as someone not even born in the United States, as a supporter of “death panels,” and on and on. Republicans calling Obama divisive is the equivalent of those of us who are Red Sox fans criticizing another team for folding under pressure.

But what’s most instructive is that Ryan would not have given this speech if the Republican Party were not so worried that it is losing control of the political narrative. In particular, growing inequalities of wealth and income — which should have been a central issue in American politics for at least a decade — are now finally at the heart of our discourse. We are, at last, discussing the social and economic costs of concentrating ever more resources in the hands of the top sliver of our society.

Ryan offered the classic defense of inequality, arguing that what really matters is upward mobility, and that the United States has more of it than those horrible welfare states in Europe. “Class is not a fixed designation in this country,” he declared. “We are an upwardly mobile society with a lot of movement between income groups.”

The only problem is that upward mobility has declined as inequality has grown, and social mobility is now higher in Europe than it is in the United States. That’s shameful. And don’t believe me on this: Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum brought this up at a recent debate, backed by a study from the Economic Mobility Project."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Transcript of Fareed Zakaria GPS Panel Discussion

Steve Forbes and Bret Stephens square off against Paul Krugman and Chrystia Freeland. The group discusses the Occupy Wall Street movement -- among other things:

The Right Word

This glossary is lots of fun!

"ConservativeSpeak has so infiltrated the language that we now need a glossary."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

CBO Report on Household Income

This is the report that everyone has been talking about lately. From the CBO, conclusive evidence that the rich have been getting richer over the last 30 years!

From Barry Ritholtz's Big Picture blog:

This matters a great deal — but not for the silly political reasons you have been led to think. No, its not about class warfare. No, its not about redistributing the wealth.

The reason this matters is quite simple: Healthy societies have modest, but not extreme wealth and income inequalities. There are inequalities because not everyone has the same skills and capabilities, and some inequality in wealth and income provides an incentive system.

However, massive, widely disparate economic inequality has historically led to bad — and in some cases, extremely bad — outcomes. It contributes to social unrest, excessive political populism, and mob violence.

I write this as someone who, due to a fortuitous combination of luck and work, developed a skill set that is highly valued by modern society. This is in part to an accident of birth, to have an excellent education, to some serendipity. Overcoming some adversity didn’t hurt; figuring out how to turn some deficits to an advantage was hugely beneficial. Thus, I find myself in that top 1% economically; but I know deep down in my soul that if I was born 100 years earlier — and maybe even 30 years earlier — I would not have been. This makes me acutely aware of the risks and dangers of our current wide disparity of wealth and income.

Healthy societies allow their citizens to have a realistic chance at fulfilling their potential. This is done through a combination of economic freedom, enforcement of laws and contracts, legitimate democratic elections, basic education for its citizens, tax fairness, regulatory oversight of influential corporations an other entities, and the institutional value of protecting individual liberty.

Repubs are Getting Nervous!

Repubs are getting nervous -- and with good reason. The OWS movement is continuing to popularize the message of economic inequality. I sense that the tide of public opnion is changing on this subject. So they dispatched one of their best (in their opinion) to give this speech:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More About 9-9-9

Tax Policy Institute's Analysis of 9-9-9 plan:

Summary from Ezra Klein's Wonkbook (10/19/11):

They found that the proposal would raise taxes on 84 percent of households -- and, broadly speaking, those 84 percent of households would be the bottom 84 percent. A family in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution can expect their tax bill to rise by more than $1,600. A family smack in the middle will be paying will be paying $3,238 more. It's not until you get to households making more than $200,000 that you begin to see tax cuts. If you're in the top one percent, your tax bill will drop by $307,000. The top 0.1 percent? A tax cut of almost $1.7 million.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Long Ties to Koch Brothers Key to Cain's Campaign

Wow, those Koch brothers find a way in no matter who the candidate is:

Lo and behold, the Koch-funded AFP (Americans for Prosperity)!

Here's the 'economist' who came up with the 9-9-9 plan -- his LinkedIn profile shows he's on the advisory board of -- guess who -- Americans for Prosperity!

CNBC Debate on 9-9-9 Tax Plan

Jared Bernstein and Rich Lowrie debate the 9-9-9 tax plan. Rich is the 'economist' who worked out the details of the plan with Herman Cain.

Check Rich Lowrie's LinkedIn profile -- note that he is on the advisory board for Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity. Hmmm, I wonder which income strata would most benefit from the 999 plan? Hint, it's not the middle class...

Huffington Post article on Lowrie:

Was SimCity game the inspiration for 9-9-9:

Infographic on US Manufacturing

From Forbes Magazine:

Corporate Profits Versus Employee Compensation

Nice chart -- courtesy of Paul Krugman:

Great Vanity Fair Article on Elizabeth Warren

The Woman Who Knew Too Much

Millions of Americans hoped President Obama would nominate Elizabeth Warren to head the consumer financial watchdog agency she had created. Instead, she was pushed aside. As Warren kicks off her run for Scott Brown’s Senate seat in Massachusetts, Suzanna Andrews charts the Harvard professor’s emergence as a champion of the beleaguered middle class, and her fight against a powerful alliance of bankers, lobbyists, and politicians.

By Suzanna Andrews Photograph by Nigel Parry

Erick Erickson Whines About His Brand New House and Well-Paid CNN Gig

Mounting a clever public relations gimmick to conceal the fact that nearly every American pays taxes in the form of payroll taxes, sales taxes, and fees, CNN’s Erick Erickson helped start the “We Are The 53%” website. The website, a parody of the popular We Are The 99 Percent Tumblr, features Americans posting messages about how they work hard and do not complain about diminishing living standards or the phenomenon that a tiny segment of the population is slowly accumulating most of the nation’s wealth.

Erickson’s message is a scribbled rant that reads:

I work 3 jobs./I have a house I can’t sell./My family insurance costs are outrageous./But I don’t blame Wall Street./Suck it up you whiners./I am the 53% subsidizing you so you can hang out on Wall Street and complain.

The three jobs Erickson wants you to believe he scrapes by on include occasional paid opinion blogging at, a lucrative television contract with CNN, and a radio gig that paid the previous host $165,183 a year (Herman Cain’s financial disclosures show he was paid this amount before Erickson took over his spot). The house Erickson can’t sell? Bibb County, Georgia records reveal that Erickson just bought a new $374,900 house in February of this year, and owns another that, according to an estimate by the website Zillow, might be worth slightly less than the amount he paid for it in 2001. And its likely that Erickson’s CNN job alone provides him with a personal driver and covered travel expenses when he needs to appear on the show.

Moreover, when Erickson says he doesn’t blame Wall Street, who could be surprised? Erickson should be grateful to big corporations since they sponsor his blog and provide him with content:

– Shilling For Banks: During the congressional battle over the Durbin Amendment, a rule that limits the amount banks can charge businesses to process debit-card fees, Erickson came out fiercely on the side of big banks. According to Bloomberg, Erickson had spoken with public relation firms employed by bank lobbyists while writing his posts. In his defense, Erickson told Bloomberg he became “leery” that bank lobbyists were excited about his March 14 post supporting the banker position. But later that month, he kept hawking banker talking points.

– Shilling For Walmart: The first major evidence of RedState’s corporate sock-puppetry came in 2006 when the New York Times broke the story that Mike Krempasky, a RedState founder and blogger, was being paid by Walmart to orchestrate online attacks on the company’s critics. Krempasky had secured the Walmart deal through his job at the public relations firm Edelman, which maintained a major contract Walmart at the time. Since the first reports of Krempasky’s corporate contract, RedState has been a stalwart defender of Walmart.

– Selling Erick Erickson ‘Video Endorsements’: An email uncovered earlier this year from Eagle Publishing, the owner of RedState, sold not only traditional advertisements and sponsorship opportunities, but also a “video endorsement” from Erick Erickson. “Organizations with issues, candidates and viewpoints that are in line with Erick’s positions can truly benefit from his endorsement,” read the sales pitch. Erickson has rented his list to, a telecom front group funded by industry, as well as the American Petroleum Institute, an oil lobbying association.

– Representatives For Corporate Lobbyists Guest Blog For Erickson’s Website: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a lobbying association for top firms like Goldman Sachs, Chevron, AIG and Dow Chemical, has partnered with RedState for blogger briefings and guest posts. Pat Cleary, a longtime communications person for the Chamber, is a regular front page writer for RedState.

–Erickson’s Blog Caught In Pay-For-Blogging Scheme Orchestrated By Malaysian Lobbyists: The most unusual example of RedState’s fraudulent blogging may be the case of Josh Trevino, RedState’s co-founder. The government of Malaysia paid a consulting firm owned by Trevino and other regular RedState contributors to promote the ruling party using various conservative websites. Trevino, who recently collaborated with Erickson to created “We Are The 53%” site, even sponsored blogger meet and greets and fake media town halls with the current Malaysian prime minister.

Unfortunately, Erickson’s phony economic victim act is slowly catching on. In what has become a strange display of American feudalism, people are now contributing messages to Erickson’s 53 Percent site and boasting about being screwed by the economy. As Gawker notes, one 53 Percent post features a man who proudly says that he works hard yet lacks health insurance and can “barely afford” his rent. Another, a “former marine,” says he hasn’t had “4 consecutive days off in 4 years.” Blogger Max Read thinks Erickson has exposed “where the best of American values meet their most masochistic applications.” Reading through the contributions to the 53% site, Read concludes: “‘paid time off’ and ‘health insurance’ and ‘a living wage’ are apparently the demands of an unreasonably entitled parasitic class.”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Rabbit-Hole Economics

Great column from Paul Krugman:

Reading the transcript of Tuesday’s Republican debate on the economy is, for anyone who has actually been following economic events these past few years, like falling down a rabbit hole. Suddenly, you find yourself in a fantasy world where nothing looks or behaves the way it does in real life.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Must-see Charlie Rose Interview

William Buster, Jared Bernstein, Marshall Ganz, and Paul Krugman are guests -- great show!

Great Rachel Maddow Interview

"And this idea that Herman Cain said that, you know, if you're not rich, blame yourself - this is what bothers me about rich people. They don't, first of all, as Elizabeth Warren said, they don't cotton to the idea they wouldn't be rich if they didn't have this great country that provides the roads and the schools and all the other things that allow them to be rich. But also this idea, they never understand it's a fluke mostly, that what you do is something that made you rich....Yes, Herman Cain was good at business. Great. He became very rich from it. But what about teachers and cops and firemen? You know those people we always say are our heroes. They're such heroes that we pay them like crap. Well, they do what they do very well. It doesn't happen to be something that is ever going to make you rich. So, this idea that if you're not rich, blame yourself - oh, really bugs me. But I tried to hide it." -Bill Maher, host of "Real Time with Bill Maher," on the wealth divide and how people become rich

Ezra Klein: There is no such thing as the 9-9-9 tax

Which gets to perhaps the main way in which there is no 9-9-9 plan: This plan wouldn’t work. Not as policy and, as I expect Cain will soon find out, not as politics. Moving to an 18 percent consumption tax is, among other things, very bad for older voters, who make up a substantial portion of the Tea Party base. Jacking up taxes on the poor and the middle class even as you sharply reduce them on the rich and completely eliminate them on overseas income for corporations isn’t popular among anyone in the political system who isn’t specifically paid by the Club for Growth. The 9-9-9 plan is a great slogan. But the more seriously Cain gets taken, the more seriously the plan is going to get taken. And as that happens, it will soon become clear that it’s very poor policy.

Oh, And We're Also Gonna Raise Your Bank Fees

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bush-Era Economic Adviser Calls Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan A ‘Monstrosity’

Here's what Bush Economic Adviser Bruce Bartlett has to say about Herman Cain's '9-9-9' Tax plan:

Cain’s plan would do away with the complex system of deductions and loopholes that currently plague the tax code, but it would also redistribute the tax burden from the wealthy to middle and low income Americans, Bartlett states.

Bartlett said that under the 9-9-9 phase of Cain’s plan, the only phase the GOP presidential candidate usually mentions, the poor and middle classes will “unquestionably pay more,” while the rich, who pay most of their taxes though the capital gains tax that Cain would eliminate, will pay “almost nothing.”

Here's a link to Bartlett's NYT editorial:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pithy Comment regarding 'Uncertainty' in respose to post on Brad Delong's Web Page

Enjoyed reading this comment regarding 'uncertainty' in the business environment:

"Having lots of experience with big business and big business management I can uncharactristally say things like "regulatory uncertainty" and fear of future taxes just do not enter in at anything but the most cursory level. Large business, at least in the "real economy" (I cannot speak for the leaches in the financial industry) simply do not factor these sort of details into their business plans and certainly would never say, not hire or buy because of it.

I think most talking here have little experience with the inner workings of real corporations and moreover give far too much credit to the analytical processes that go on. Like most Americans, they just aren't looking that far ahead, in part for the same reason most do not - it is a useless exercise given the variables involved and the ever present change of political climate.

Mostly however they are are focused, appropriately I may add, on the day to day processes of running their corporations and the shorter term returns demanded by their shareholders.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fear of Taxes and Regulation Are Not Our Biggest Problem

From Economic Policy Institute -- via Brad Delong:

We Are the 99 Percent

Check out the 'We are the 99 Percent' Tumblr blog:

Occupy Wall Street Protesters Meet Champagne Sippers

Could This Time Have Been Different?

Must reading from Ezra Klein's Wonkblog:

"Reinhart, for one, thinks the Bush and Obama administrations don’t get sufficient credit for all they did.

“The initial policy of monetary and fiscal stimulus really made a huge difference,” she says. “I would tattoo that on my forehead. The output decline we had was peanuts compared to the output decline we would otherwise have had in a crisis like this. That isn’t fully appreciated.”

In that way, Reinhart says, this time really was different — at least from the Great Depression, when output shrank by 30 percent and a quarter of the workforce was unemployed. “If the choice was this or the ’30s,” she says, “I’d take this hands down.”

Give policymakers some credit: They really have learned from the Depression. So did the Japanese. In the 1990s, they pumped monetary and fiscal stimulus into their economy, too, and they didn’t suffer a depression. But they never found themselves in a recovery. They stagnated for a decade, and then for another.

What we’re in looks more like Japan in the ’90s than the United States in the ’30s. Reinhart doesn’t think that’s an accident; she thinks it’s a product of the initial successes. “The same policies that serve you well in limiting the output collapse do not serve you well in speeding the time it takes to get out,” she says.

By saving the banking system, you end up with banks that are quietly holding on to toxic assets in the hope that one day they’ll be worth something. By limiting the output gap, you keep the economy from getting so bad that truly radical solutions, such as wiping out hundreds of billions of dollars of housing debt, become thinkable. You limp along.

The question, of course, is why do governments limp out of recessions when the weight of history tells them to run?

“Now knowing how much worse the storm was, people look back and say, you guys undershot,” sighs Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. “But we didn’t think we were undershooting at the time. We thought that the dominant strategy had to be massive, overwhelming force. There were political limits to what we could do, but we thought we were operating to expand the scope of those limits. I used to say to people, ‘Which mistake is harder to correct: doing too much, or doing too little?’ ”

Yet the Obama administration did too little. Its team of interventionist Keynesians immersed in the lessons of the Depression and Japan did too little. Everyone does too little, even when they think they’re erring on the side of doing too much. That’s one reason “this time” is almost never different."

The Regressive Tax That Does the Work -

Nice article explaining payroll taxes:

The Regressive Tax That Does the Work -

"The Social Security part of the payroll tax is about 12 percent of the first $106,800 of employee earnings in a year. The Medicare part is about 3 percent of all payroll earnings (regardless of whether and how much employees make over $106,800).

As a result, people earning over $106,800 pay a lesser percentage of their earnings in payroll taxes than do people earning less than $106,800.

The highest-earning third of United States households pay more individual income tax than payroll tax. But the other two-thirds are paying more payroll tax than income tax."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

IMF Reports -- Equality Sustains and Promotes Growth

"In recent work (Berg, Ostry, and Zettelmeyer, 2011; and Berg and Ostry, 2011), we discovered that when growth is looked at over the long term, the trade-off between efficiency and equality may not exist. In fact equality appears to be an important ingredient in promoting and sustaining growth. The difference between countries that can sustain rapid growth for many years or even decades and the many others that see growth spurts fade quickly may be the level of inequality. Countries may find that improving equality may also improve efficiency, understood as more sustainable long-run growth."

Who Rules America: Wealth, Income, and Power

Who Rules America: Wealth, Income, and Power

The 2012 GOP Field: Not Even Ronald Reagan Could Get This Nomination | People For the American Way Blog

The 2012 GOP Field: Not Even Ronald Reagan Could Get This Nomination | People For the American Way Blog

Whatever Happened to the American Left? -

Whatever Happened to the American Left? -

Friday, October 7, 2011

It's the Inequality, Stupid | Mother Jones

It's the Inequality, Stupid | Mother Jones: Eleven charts that explain what's wrong with America.

Great article from New Yorker Magazine

Great article about Art Pope and his attempt to buy the North Carolina legislature.

This is how Pope makes his money -- he runs Dollar Stores -- low income shoppers and low income employees! What a jerk!

About | Institute for New Economic Thinking

About | Institute for New Economic Thinking

Rick Perry Emails: Messing with Texas - Take 2

John Washburn is doing a great job with keeping Governor Perry honest!

Rick Perry Emails: Messing with Texas - Take 2

Good link about this here:

Confronting the Malefactors -

Confronting the Malefactors -

Good column from Paul Krugman about the Occupy Wall Street movement. This movement has the potential to do a lot of good!

Koch Brothers Flout Law Getting Richer With Secret Iran Sales - Bloomberg

Koch Brothers Flout Law Getting Richer With Secret Iran Sales - Bloomberg

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Top 10 Logical Fallacies in Politics

Sometimes I think ALL politics is nothing but fallacious arguments. This site seems to agree!

The human brain is wired all wrong. Those not versed in logic are blissfully unaware of how much our brain messes up the most basic of arguments, leading to the mess of random thoughts, non-sequiturs, cognitive dissonance, white lies, misinformation, and syntax errors that we call consciousness. Luckily, there is one place where all of these logical misteps can be exemplified: politics. What follows is a crash course in some of the most prevelant fallacies we all make, as they appear in modern American politics. And though I consider these the "top 10" logical fallacies in politics, they are not in order, for reasons that should become clear rather quickly.

Interesting Rasmussen Poll

From the site (note that I would look for corroboration of this -- Rasmussen polls are always skewed towards right wing / conservative viewpoint -- although allegedly an impartial poll):

The number of Republicans and Democrats in the country is just about even. In fact, the gap between the parties is the smallest it has ever been in nearly nine years of monthly tracking.

During the month of September, 33.9% of Americans considered themselves to be Republicans while 33.7% consider themselves Democrats. For both parties, those numbers are up less than a single percentage point from August. As a result, the number of voters not affiliated with either party fell from an all time high of 33.5% in August back to 32.4% in September.

DOJ Inspector General: Yeah, We Were Wrong About Those $16 Muffins

The $16 muffin that wasn't -- oh, well...O'Reilly certainly got a lot of mileage out of doesn't have to be true!

The $16 muffin myth is officially debunked.

The Justice Department's Inspector General -- the very same entity which cooked up the $16 muffin figure in their audit of DOJ's conference spending -- issued a statement to Bloomberg Businessweek backing out of their original claim.

"Since our report was issued, the Capital Hilton has stated that other food and beverage items, such as coffee, tea, and fruit, were included in the charged amount," the statement said.

That wouldn't do much to quash the $16 muffin figure, which has already spread like so much frosting and even caused Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IW) to call for someone to be fired (check out some of Grassley's expenses here).

All this doesn't mean that the IG report didn't flag some potential issues. As Bloomberg reports:

Muffins aside, the IG's report points up other instances where the Justice Dept. overpaid for sweet treats. At a 2009 Justice conference in San Francisco, the government was billed $32 per person for a snack of popcorn, Cracker Jack, and candy bars. Department officials didn't jump up to dispute that part of the audit. Says Gina Talamona, a Justice spokeswoman: "We agree that excessive spending of the types identified in the OIG report should not occur."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio

Despite the dramatic expansion of viewing and listening options for consumers today, traditional radio remains one of the most widely used media formats in America. Arbitron, the national radio ratings company, reports that more than 90 percent of Americans ages 12 or older listen to radio each week, “a higher penetration than television, magazines, newspapers, or the Internet.” Although listening hours have declined slightly in recent years, Americans listened on average to 19 hours of radio per week in 2006.

Among radio formats, the combined news/talk format (which includes news/talk/information and talk/personality) leads all others in terms of the total number of stations per format and trails only country music in terms of national audience share. Through more than 1,700 stations across the nation, the combined news/talk format is estimated to reach more than 50 million listeners each week.

As this report will document in detail, conservative talk radio undeniably dominates the format:

Our analysis in the spring of 2007 of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners reveals that 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive.
Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk—10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk.
A separate analysis of all of the news/talk stations in the top 10 radio markets reveals that 76 percent of the programming in these markets is conservative and 24 percent is progressive, although programming is more balanced in markets such as New York and Chicago.

Black and White and Re(a)d All Over: The Conservative Advantage in Syndicated Op-Ed Columns

This project did something that has never been done before: It amassed data on the syndicated columnists published by nearly every daily newspaper in the country. While a few publications, most notably Editor & Publisher, cover the syndicated newspaper industry, no one has attempted to comprehensively assemble this information prior to now. Because the syndicates refuse to reveal to the public exactly where their columnists are published, when Media Matters for America set out to make a systematic assessment of the syndicated columnist landscape, we had no choice but to contact each paper individually and ask which syndicated columnists are published on their op-ed pages.

The results show that in paper after paper, state after state, and region after region, conservative syndicated columnists get more space than their progressive counterparts. As Editor & Publisher paraphrased one syndicate executive noting, "U.S. dailies run more conservative than liberal columns, but some are willing to consider liberal voices."1