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