Sunday, May 29, 2011

How Ignorant Are Americans?

This article from Newsweek (link below) gets at the crux of the matter. Most Americans are uninformed about their government (i.e. ignorant), and they generally make no effort to become informed despite this being more possible than ever because of the Internet. This is how we get fooled by slogans, by fear-mongering, and by outright falsehoods. No one takes the time to investigate. There is no excuse for this -- average Americans can do much better.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What goes into a budget deficit?

What's A Middle-Class Income?

The GOP’s jobs agenda: Now more than ever - Ezra Klein

What is "now-more-than-everism" --

"“Here’s how it works,” Autor wrote in am e-mail. “1. You have a set of policies that you favor at all times and under all circumstances, e.g., cut taxes, remove regulations, drill-baby-drill, etc. 2. You see a problem that needs fixing (e.g., the economy stinks). 3. You say, ‘We need to enact my favored policies now more than ever.’ I believe that every item in the GOP list that you sent derives from this three step procedure."

Quoting from Ezra in the article -- he really nails it:

"The best evidence that Washington has forgotten about the jobs crisis is to look at the plans emerging to address it. Yesterday's House GOP plan was a perfect example. It was, as MIT economist David Autor told me, a classic case of "now-more-than-everism": Everything on the agenda was also on the GOP's agenda in 2006, in 2002, in 1987, etc. It's lower taxes, less spending, fewer regulations, more trade agreements, more domestic oil production. You can argue about whether these proposals are good for the economy. But as Autor says, there's "no original thinking here directed at addressing the employment problem."

But that's because the document doesn't admit the existence of a particular unemployment crisis that might require a tailored response. The only problem it admits is, well, Democrats. “For the past four years, Democrats in Washington have enacted policies that undermine these basic concepts which have historically placed America at the forefront of the global marketplace," the document explains on its first page. "As a result, most Americans know someone who has recently lost a job, and small businesses and entrepreneurs lack the confidence needed to invest in our economy. Not since the Great Depression has our nation’s unemployment rate been this high this long.”

You don't have to admire the Democratic policy agenda to wonder if someone in Speaker Boehner's office shouldn't have raised his hand and pointed out that George W. Bush was president four years ago and he was a Republican, and perhaps there should be a pro forma mention of Wall Street and the financial crisis somewhere in this narrative. Sadly, the most significant employment crisis in generations has stopped generating new thinking and has become simply another opportunity to bash the other party while pushing your perennial agenda. That's a shame, because with 15 million unemployed and the recovery sputtering slight, we really do need new thinking and a sense of urgency on behalf of both the unemployed and the economy. In fact, we need it now more than ever. "

Monday, May 23, 2011

8 of China's Top 9 Govt. Officials Are Engineers - Slashdot

8 of China's Top 9 Govt. Officials Are Engineers - Slashdot

Taxes No Barrier to Growth in 1990s

Republicans say tax increases are off the table -- this graph disputes the notion that tax cuts create jobs -- in fact, in recent history it's been just the opposite!

Link to this graph:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rate of Uninsured in Home State

Thank you Mitt for enacting your health care plan for Massachusetts -- this bodes well for the implementation of health care on a national level!

Link to this graph:

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Oil Prices vs. Big Five Oil Company Profits


Great Post from James Fallows

I greatly appreciate this right-on-the-money quote from James Fallows:

"Yesterday, about half of all Republicans thought Obama was foreign born, and therefore an illegal occupant of the White House. How many Republicans will think the same thing one week from now? My guess is: about half. We've reached that stage on just about everything. It's probably been true of human beings throughout time, but is more obviously significant in politics now, that generally people don't act like scientific investigators, or judges in moot-court competitions, when parsing the logic and evidence behind competing arguments to come up with political views. They go on loyalty, and tradition, and hope, and fear, and self-interest, and generosity, and all the rest -- as the second half of my recent article on the new media discussed.

Here we have a wonderful real-world test: if "actual knowledge" mattered, the number of people who thought Obama was foreign-born would approach zero by next week -- with exceptions for illiterates, the mentally disabled, paranoid schizophrenics, etc. My guess is that the figures will barely change."

The key point here is that people "don't act like scientific investigators...when parsing the logic and evidence behind competing arguments."

Here's an excellent article at Mother Jones that makes the same points:

A quote from the article:

"In other words, when we think we're reasoning, we may instead be rationalizing. Or to use an analogy offered by University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt: We may think we're being scientists, but we're actually being lawyers (PDF). Our "reasoning" is a means to a predetermined end—winning our "case"—and is shot through with biases. They include "confirmation bias," in which we give greater heed to evidence and arguments that bolster our beliefs, and "disconfirmation bias," in which we expend disproportionate energy trying to debunk or refute views and arguments that we find uncongenial."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An Empty Offer from the Super Rich

"It drives economist Bruce Bartlett crazy every time he hears another bazillionaire announce he’s in favor of paying higher taxes. Most recently it was Mark Zuckerberg who got Bartlett’s blood boiling when the Facebook founder declared himself “cool” with paying more in federal taxes, joining such tycoons as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Ted Turner, and even a stray hedge-fund manager or two.

Bartlett, a former member of the Reagan White House, isn’t against the wealthy paying higher taxes. He’s that rare conservative who thinks higher taxes need to be part of the deficit debate. His beef? It’s a hollow gesture to say the federal government should raise the tax rate on the country’s top wage earners when the likes of Zuckerberg have most of their wealth tied up in stock. Many of the super-rich see virtually all their income as capital gains, and capital gains are taxed at a much lower rate—15 percent—than ordinary income. When Warren Buffett talks about paying a lower tax rate than his secretary, that’s because she sees most of her pay through a paycheck, while the bulk of his compensation comes in the form of capital gains and dividends. In 2006, for instance, Buffett paid 17.7 percent in taxes on the $46 million he booked that year, while his secretary lost 30 percent of her $60,000 salary to the government."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Seth Meyers at 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner

Seth Meyers was great at the White House Correspondents' Dinner -- here's his monologue -- check out the expression on Trump's face at 12 minutes in:

Econstories -- Hayek vs. Keynes

Very nice link -- courtesy of Fareed Zakaria's GPS show:

Most People (except Republicans!) believe that the Government Should Guarantee Health Care for the Poor and Elderly

Democrats and Independents are joined in favoring government health care guarantees that Republicans oppose: