Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cherry picking (fallacy)


This is probably the most common logical fallacy committed in the political realm:

Cherry picking, suppressing evidence, or the fallacy of incomplete evidence is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position. It is a kind of fallacy of selective attention, the most common example of which is the confirmation bias. Cherry picking may be committed unintentionally.[1]

Comparing Income, Corporate, Capital Gains Tax Rates: 1916-2011

From Visualizing Economics website – excellent graph:


Inequality and Growth


From Jared Bernstein blog:

“The figure below plots yearly real GDP growth and the share of income going to the top 1%, 1929-2010.  The long inequality series follows a U (as opposed to an inverted U), as broadly speaking, post New Deal reforms and institutions (collective bargaining, minimum wages, safety net, social insurance), spreading industrialization, full employment job markets, and less globalization all led to more broadly shared growth until the 1970s.”

Friday, September 28, 2012

The 386,000 jobs we didn't know about


From Steve Benen at the Rachel Maddow Show blog:

As a political matter, Pat Garofalo notes another salient angle: even if the early 2009 job losses are held against President Obama, he's now broken into positive territory for his first term. It also means more jobs were created in Obama's first four years than during George W. Bush's first four years -- and Bush didn't inherit a global economic catastrophe.

Graph: Job Growth – Overall Economy, 2008-Present

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fact 16a/7b: Temporary Spending Increases Are Not What Drives Long-Term Budget Deficits


It’s of course true that the stimulus (no quotes necessary, WSJ–it was real…and it worked) led to higher deficit spending when it was in place.  That’s the point.  In order to offset the private sector contraction, the public sector needs to TEMPORARILY ramp up economic activity, and it must do so with borrowed money (to raise taxes or cut spending to pay for stimulus would be to reverse its impact).

But the key word is “temporary.”  As seen in the figure below (or figure 1 in the link above), it’s not the stuff that gets in and out of the system that hurts you, deficit-wise.  It’s the stuff that stays in and isn’t paid for, like the Bush tax cuts, which continue to be the big story re what’s driving the medium-term budget deficit.

Above graph from Jared Bernstein: Recovery Act’s Contribution to the Deficit as Share of GDP 1009-19

Ryan's 'Secret' Tape Is Even More Extreme Than Romney's


“When they booed Paul Ryan at the American Association of Retired Persons last week, most people didn't even know he called Medicare and Social Security "third party or socialist-based systems." Or that he said he wants to privatize them in order to "break the back" of a "collectivist philosophy."”

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Corporate Profits After Tax

From FRED (St. Louis Federal Reserve):


The Koch brothers graph


From Rachel Maddow show blog:

Several people wrote and/or tweeted after last night's show looking for the source data on the chart above showing the relationship between the Koch brothers' net worth and the number of people they employ. I didn't have a single link for it in the links list because I couldn't find a single source for the information. Luckily, however, I do have the advantage of a single secondary source. I walked over and asked Mike Yarvitz who produced the segment.

The net worth of the Koch "job creators" comes from the individual profiles of the Forbes 400 list, with the worth of each brother added together. We took just the October number for each year.

The employee number comes for different souces depending on the year but basically the source is Koch Industries itself. In their current company description they say, "With a presence in nearly 60 countries and about 67,000 employees..." So that's where the 67,000 number comes from for 2011 on the chart. But the 2007 number comes from this 2007 Forbes profile of Koch Industries in which they are ascribed 80,000 employees.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mitt Tells the Truth


Like everyone else, we watched the movie of the week — that clandestine video from Mitt Romney’s fundraiser in Florida. Thanks to that anonymous cameraperson, we now have a record of what our modern day, wealthy gentry really thinks about the rest of us — and it’s not pretty.

On the other hand, it’s also not news. If you had reported as long as some of us have on winner-take-all politics and the unenlightened assumptions of the moneyed class, you wouldn’t find the remarks of Romney and his pals all that exceptional. The resentment, disdain and contempt with which they privately view those beneath them are an old story.

In 2011, Romney made $14 million while being unemployed


Can you imagine the meeting at Romney campaign HQ where they decided that Romney should pay extra taxes in order to avoid contradicting his statement that he’d paid at least 13 percent for the last decade? What were the pros and the cons like in that debate? Was there sobbing?

9 Things to Know About Mitt Romney's Tax Returns


The Romney campaign released what it says are the effective tax rates Romney paid for the past two decades. His effective tax rate was calculated based on his Adjusted Gross Income. That's standard, but in Romney's case, it doesn't tell the whole story. The Romney campaign is reporting the percentage of Romney's AGI that he paid to the government, explains Brian Galle, an associate professor at Boston College Law School who is an expert on individual and corporate income tax. AGI is the number you get after you take certain, limited deductions. The most relevant of these deductions for Romney are losses from the sale or exchange of property. That could include stock or partnership interests in Bain Capital and associated companies that were sold at a loss. The Romney campaign is disclosing the percentage of tax he paid "on the amount he got after he subtracted out all those losses," which could have been very substantial, Galle says—perhaps even enough to almost eliminate Romney's tax liability. That means that although Romney paid at least something in previous years, it could have been a very small amount. "He could have been paying 13.66 percent of $100 in 2009. He might have paid $13.66," Galle continues. We won't know unless the Romney campaign releases more information.

Bill Clinton Daily Show Interview Includes Remarks On DNC Speech, Criticism Of Mitt Romney


Bill Clinton looked back on his energizing speech from the 2012 Democratic National Convention on The Daily Show Thursday night.

“I was just determined to get the facts right and to simplify the argument without being simplistic,” Clinton told host Jon Stewart. “I didn’t want to talk down to people. I wanted to explain what I thought was going on.”

Friday, September 21, 2012

Romney Offers New Tax Details


The WSJ published this – proves that Romney (in his own words) is NOT qualified to become president:

David Kautter, managing director of the Kogod Tax Center at American University, estimates that if the Romneys had taken the full $4 million deduction for their charitable contributions instead of the $2.25 million they took, their effective tax rate would have been about 10.5%. Mr. Kautter estimated that Mr. Romney overpaid his federal income tax by nearly $500,000.

In a July interview with ABC News, Mr. Romney said he had paid all that he owed, but no more. "I've paid all the taxes required by law," Mr. Romney said. "I don't pay more than are legally due and, frankly, if I had paid more than are legally due I don't think I'd be qualified to become president."

Number of Unemployed Persons per Job Opening

Chart from Jared Bernstein’s blog:


Paul Ryan talks Medicare, gets mixed reception at AARP convention


The crowd was silent for most of Ryan’s speech and applauded him as he took and left the stage. But some attendees responded with loud disapproval of Ryan’s criticisms of Obama as well as during some of his descriptions of his own Medicare plan.

At one point, when Ryan told the ballroom that “all that we need now is leaders who have the political will to save and strengthen Social Security,” one man loudly quipped: “Got one!”

At other points in his speech, scattered attendees yelled out, “No vouchers!” and “Tax the one percent!”

Paul Weyrich's Troika Reunited: ALEC Partners with Republican Study Committee at Heritage Foundation



Three right-wing organizations founded nearly forty years ago by conservative activist Paul Weyrich are rediscovering their shared origins. The Republican Study Committee, a caucus of 169 right-wing Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, is establishing a partnership with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the controversial "corporate bill mill" for state legislators, and their first meeting is scheduled at the Heritage Foundation headquarters. Each of those three organizations -- the RSC, ALEC, and the Heritage Foundation -- were founded in 1973 by Weyrich. (Weyrich passed away in 2008.)

Prosperity Economics - Building an economy for All


The United States faces two pressing economic prob-
lems. The first is immediate: Almost five years after
the financial collapse, joblessness remains rampant
and the economy is recovering far too slowly. The
second problem is deeper: the breaking of the his-
torical connection between growing economic output, on
the one hand, and middle-class wages and income, on the
other. Over the last generation, the productivity of
American workers—output per hour of work—grew
substantially. Yet, in a sharp break with the past, wag-
es for most workers stopped rising in tandem with
productivity. The gains of economic growth instead
accrued disproportionately to affluent Americans.
Along with these increased economic gains, wealthy
Americans, large corporations, and Wall Street also
gained greater political clout relative to the American
middle class.



Close to half of U.S. households currently do not owe federal income tax.  The Urban Institute-Brookings Tax Policy Center estimates that 46 percent of households will owe no federal income tax for 2011. 1  A widely cited figure is a Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that 51 percent of
households paid no federal income tax in 2009.2  (The TPC figure for 2009 also is 51 percent.) 3 These figures are sometimes cited as evidence that low- and moderate-income families do not pay sufficient taxes.  Yet these figures, their significance, and their policy implications are widely misunderstood.

Reassessing the impact of finance on growth


This paper investigates how financial development affects growth at both the country and the
industry level. Based on a sample of developed and emerging economies, we first show that
the level of financial development is good only up to a point, after which it becomes a drag on
growth. Second, focusing on advanced economies, we show that a fast-growing financial
sector can be detrimental to aggregate productivity growth. Finally, looking at industry-level
data, we show that financial sector growth disproportionately harms industries that are either
financially dependent or R&D-intensive.

Why Some Tax Units Pay No Income Tax


About 46 percent of American households will pay no federal individual income tax in 2011,
roughly half of them because of structural features of the income tax that provide basic
exemptions for subsistence level income and for dependents. The other half are nontaxable
because tax expenditures— special provisions of the tax code that benefit selected taxpayers or
activities—wipe out tax liabilities and, in the case of refundable credits, result in net payments
from the government. Most important of those tax expenditures are provisions that benefit senior
citizens and low-income working families with children. While those factors particularly affect
lower-income households, different provisions eliminate taxes for other households. Itemized
deductions and credits for children and education are more important for middle-income
households, while the relatively few high-income nontaxable households benefit most from
above-the-line and itemized deductions and reduced tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

Bullies At The Ballot Box: Protecting The Freedom To Vote Against Wrongful Challenges And Intimidation


Protecting the freedom to vote for all eligible Americans is of fundamental importance in a democracy founded upon the consent of the governed. One of the most serious threats to the protection of that essential right is the increase in organized efforts, led by groups such as the Tea Party affiliated True the Vote and others, to challenge voters’ eligibility at the polls and through pre-election challenges. Eligible Americans have a civic duty to vote, and government at the federal, state, and local level has a responsibility to protect voters from illegal interference and intimidation.

Bill Clinton Was Right That Dems Create More Jobs Than GOPers -- and Here's the Scoreboard for Good Jobs Making Real Things


“Since President Bill Clinton’s September 5 speech to the Democratic National Convention, a great deal of attention has centered on his claim that, since 1961, the “jobs score” during seven Republican and six Democratic presidential terms amounts to 24 million for the Republicans and 42 million for the Democrats. The fact checkers have given these numbers their approval (see, for example, the Bloomberg verdict and The Tampa Bay Times PolitiFact evaluation), although some critics (e.g., The Washington Post) have questioned whether they are meaningful as a verdict on policy differences between the two parties.”

Joseph Stiglitz Calls to Abolish the Capitalist Church of Self-Interest


“Every society grapples with moral issues,” said Johnson as he introduced Stiglitz. “And Joe might be our ‘Grappler-in-Chief.’”

The Grappler-in-Chief got interested in economics not because he was dazzled by mathematical equations, but because he wanted to find a way to solve the sociological problems he saw growing up in Gary, Indiana, where he noticed that discrimination stood in the way of America’s ideal of equal opportunity for all. His parents told him that the two most important things in life were to use your mind and see what you could do to serve others. And so he did both.

Lately Stiglitz has focused on the alarming gap in the U.S. between those at the top and everyone else, an interest which led to a prescient Vanity Fair article on the dominance of the 1 percent in May 2011, and most recently to a new book, The Price of Inequality. Commenting on Mitt Romney’s declaration that 47 percent of the nation was nothing more than freeloaders, Stiglitz said, “the real divide is between those who see the country as a community and those who don’t.”

Chaos on Bulls**t Mountain–Jon Stewart on The Daily Show


“In the 48 hours since the Romney video first gained wide exposure, turd containment crews at Fox News have been working overtime on Bulls**t Mountain.”

Nine Wall Street Journal Op-Ed Writers Who Weren't Disclosed As Romney Advisers


“The Wall Street Journal has published op-eds from nine writers without disclosing their roles as advisers to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. The op-eds attack President Obama and his administration or discuss Romney on a range of topics like the economy, health care, education and foreign policy.

According to a Media Matters review, the Journal published a total of 20 pieces from the following Romney advisers without disclosing their campaign ties: John Bolton; Max Boot; Lee A. Casey; Paula Dobriansky; Mary Ann Glendon; Glenn Hubbard; Paul E. Peterson; David B. Rivkin Jr.; and Martin West. In several instances, the Journal failed to disclose an op-ed writer's connection despite its own news section reporting that the writer is advising Romney.”

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Romney’s theory of the “taker class,” and why it matters


“My job is not to worry about those people,” Mitt Romney said of the 47 percent of Americans who are likely to vote for Barack Obama. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

There will be plenty said about the politics of Romney’s remarks. But I want to take a moment and talk about the larger argument behind them, because this vision of a society divided between “makers” and “takers” is core to the Republican nominee’s policy agenda.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

SECRET VIDEO: On Israel, Romney Trashes Two-State Solution


“Here's Romney's full response; he starts out saying he has "two perspectives," but as he answers the question, it turns out that's not really the case:

I'm torn by two perspectives in this regard. One is the one which I've had for some time, which is that the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish. Now why do I say that? Some might say, well, let's let the Palestinians have the West Bank, and have security, and set up a separate nation for the Palestinians. And then come a couple of thorny questions. And I don't have a map here to look at the geography, but the border between Israel and the West Bank is obviously right there, right next to Tel Aviv, which is the financial capital, the industrial capital of Israel, the center of Israel. It's—what the border would be? Maybe seven miles from Tel Aviv to what would be the West Bank…The other side of the West Bank, the other side of what would be this new Palestinian state would either be Syria at one point, or Jordan. And of course the Iranians would want to do through the West Bank exactly what they did through Lebanon, what they did near Gaza. Which is that the Iranians would want to bring missiles and armament into the West Bank and potentially threaten Israel. So Israel of course would have to say, "That can't happen. We've got to keep the Iranians from bringing weaponry into the West Bank." Well, that means that—who? The Israelis are going to patrol the border between Jordan, Syria, and this new Palestinian nation? Well, the Palestinians would say, "Uh, no way! We're an independent country. You can't, you know, guard our border with other Arab nations." And now how about the airport? How about flying into this Palestinian nation? Are we gonna allow military aircraft to come in and weaponry to come in? And if not, who's going to keep it from coming in? Well, the Israelis. Well, the Palestinians are gonna say, "We're not an independent nation if Israel is able to come in and tell us what can land in our airport." These are problems—these are very hard to solve, all right? And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say, "There's just no way." And so what you do is you say, "You move things along the best way you can." You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem. We live with that in China and Taiwan. All right, we have a potentially volatile situation but we sort of live with it, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it. We don't go to war to try and resolve it imminently. On the other hand, I got a call from a former secretary of state. I won't mention which one it was, but this individual said to me, you know, I think there's a prospect for a settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis after the Palestinian elections. I said, "Really?" And, you know, his answer was, "Yes, I think there's some prospect." And I didn't delve into it.”

Mitt, Meet the 47%


“Just who was Mitt Romney referring to in his secretly recorded comments at a Boca Raton, Fla., fundraiser as people who don’t “take personal responsibility and care for themselves”?

    61 percent of them work but don’t earn enough to owe income tax.
    17 percent are students (who will pay plenty of taxes once they’re out of school), military families, people with disabilities and people who have lost their jobs—including victims of outsourcers like, well, Mitt Romney.
    22 percent are elderly.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The U.S. Is Selling More Stuff Than Ever To The Rest Of The World


“The economy is not doing well. Unemployment is high, homes are worth what they were in 2003, and growth is weak.

But one sector is doing great: exports. They've been growing about four times as fast as the overall economy since the beginning of 2010.

This is part of a longer-term trend. Despite the myth that the U.S. doesn't make anything anymore, U.S. exports have actually been contributing a larger and larger share of the U.S. economy since the 1970s.”

Monday, September 17, 2012

Inside the campaign: How Mitt Romney stumbled


“Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s top strategist, knew his candidate’s convention speech needed a memorable mix of loft and grace if he was going to bound out of Tampa with an authentic chance to win the presidency. So Stevens, bypassing the speechwriting staff at the campaign’s Boston headquarters, assigned the sensitive task of drafting it to Peter Wehner, a veteran of the last three Republican White Houses and one of the party’s smarter wordsmiths.

Stevens junked the entire thing, setting off a chaotic, eight-day scramble that would produce an hour of prime-time problems for Romney, including Clint Eastwood’s meandering monologue to an empty chair.”

Do Tax Cuts Lead to Economic Growth?


“Today, Mitt Romney and Mr. Ryan are promising another cut in tax rates and again predicting that good times will follow. But it’s not the easiest case to make. Much as President Obama should be asked to grapple with the economy’s disappointing recent performance (a subject for a planned column), Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan would do voters a service by explaining why a cut in tax rates would work better this time than last time.

That was precisely the question I was asking Mr. Ryan when I brought him the chart last year. He wasn’t the vice presidential nominee then, but his budget plan has a lot in common with Mr. Romney’s.

“I wouldn’t say that correlation is causation,” Mr. Ryan replied. “I would say Clinton had the tech-productivity boom, which was enormous. Trade barriers were going down in the Clinton years. He had the peace dividend he was enjoying.”

The economy in the Bush years, by contrast, had to cope with the popping of the technology bubble, 9/11, a couple of wars and the financial meltdown, Mr. Ryan continued. “Some of this is just the timing, not the person,” he said.”

SECRET VIDEO: Romney Tells Millionaire Donors What He REALLY Thinks of Obama Voters


“During a private fundraiser earlier this year, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a small group of wealthy contributors what he truly thinks of all the voters who support President Barack Obama. He dismissed these Americans as freeloaders who pay no taxes, who don't assume responsibility for their lives, and who think government should take care of them. Fielding a question from a donor about how he could triumph in November, Romney replied:

    There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.”

Sunday, September 16, 2012

GOP Sours on Romney


I greatly enjoyed this:

“Republicans are up in arms about QE whatever. The big complaint seems to be that it may actually make things better. Funny part is imagining what Romney would want if he were president; surely he wouldn’t want the Fed choking off his recovery by tightening up. (Bit that no one picked up on: Hubbard talking about how great a job Bernanke had done and was doing, only to have Romney turn around a week later and say no way would he reappoint Bernanke as Fed chairman. Either the campaign is clueless and disorganized, or Romney really will say anything to be president.)”

The State of Working America


“The State of Working America, an ongoing analysis published since 1988 by the Economic Policy Institute, includes a wide variety of data on family incomes, wages, jobs, unemployment, wealth, and poverty that allow for a clear, unbiased understanding of the economy’s effect on the living standards of working Americans. Cornell University Press will publish the hard edition and e-book in late November.”

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Matt Taibbi on Mitt Romney's Crooked, Dirty Game


“The following is a transcript of HuffPost Live, in which host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin interviews Rolling Store editor Matt Taibbi about his latest piece exposing the ugly ways Mitt Romney built his massive forture. The transcript has been edited for clarity.”

FYI: Why Is Bill Clinton So Good at Speaking to a Crowd?


“There is a reason why so many of you were enthralled by former President Clinton the other night. It’s the same reason why Barack Obama had a tough act to follow last night at his own convention. The art of speechwriting and speech-giving -- and it is an art, no doubt -- is also, in many ways, a science. A good speech flows sort of like a backward scientific method; it starts with a preconceived idea, and is supported by evidence reinforcing the idea. And politics aside, there may be no one better at doing this than William Jefferson Clinton.”

Erskine Bowles: an object lesson in Wall Street influence on Washington


“So Erskine Bowles gives us a real trifecta. He used his position as co-chair of President Obama's deficit commission to protect Wall Street. He pockets millions as part of a flawed system of corporate governance that allows CEOs to rip off the companies they run. And he wants to reduce social security benefits for seniors who are already living on the edge.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cruel Conservatives Throw a Masquerade Ball


“MESSAGE: They care.Republicans care deeply. They really do.They care deeply about making us think that they care deeply.That’s why they knocked themselves out producing a convention that was a colossal hoax.”

Monday, September 10, 2012

Peter Orszag Is Surprised Neither That the Sun Rose in the East This Morning Nor That Paul Ryan and Robert Samuelson and the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Have No Idea What They Are Talking About: Medicare Spending Edition


Peter Orszag:

    Private-Market Tooth Fairy Can’t Cut Medicare Cost: The vast bulk of health-care costs arise from an extremely small share of patients, whose insurance will inevitably bear a substantial share of their expenses. That’s why competition in health care doesn’t work as well as in other sectors, and it’s also why the key to keeping costs to a minimum is to encourage providers to offer better, less costly care in complex cases. Unfortunately, proponents of moving Medicare to a private “consumer-driven” system, including Republican vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan, seem to instead believe in a health-care competition tooth fairy -- that if we just increase the patient’s share of costs and bolster competition among insurance companies, the expense will come down….

    What did the budget office conclude?:

        A private health insurance plan covering the standardized benefit would, CBO estimates, be more expensive currently than traditional Medicare.

    The reason was that:

        both administrative costs (including profits) and payment rates to providers are higher for private plans than for Medicare.

    And that effect was larger than any cost savings achieved by people getting less health care. In any Rove-versus-CBO debate that involves economic analysis, I’d put my money on the CBO….

Truth, Lies, Politics, and the Press, in Three Acts


Catching up on several related indicators, which together might point toward a positive and potentially major development in journalism and public life.

1) An excellent item this week by The Atlantic's Garance Franke-Ruta, in turn citing one by Alec MacGillis in The New Republic. Both explain why the realities of modern "post-truth" politics will sooner or later force the press out of its preferred, comfortable pose of "balance," if it is to come close to doing its fundamental job of describing reality. When some people in public life are willing to lie, and to keep on lying even when the bald falseness is exposed, the press should take on an affirmative responsibility to remind readers what the "truth" is. So these items argue, and I agree.

Financial Intermediaries in the United States: Development and Impact on Firms and Employment Relations


Private equity firms (PE), hedge funds (HFs), sovereign wealth funds (SWFs), and other private pools of capital form part of the growing shadow banking system in the United States, where these new financial intermediaries provide an alternative investment mechanism to the traditional banking system. PE and HFs have their origins in the Unites States, while the first SWF was created by the Kuwaiti Government in 1953. While they have separate roots and distinct business models, these alternative investment vehicles have increasingly merged into overarching asset management funds
which encompass all three alternative investments. These funds have wielded increasing power in financial and non-financial sectors – not only via direct investments but also indirectly, as their strategies – such as high use of debt to fund investments – have been increasingly adopted by investment arms of banks and by publicly-traded corporations. In this chapter we outline the changes in the US regulatory environment which have facilitated the rapid growth of alternative investment funds (AIFs) and then examine the specific features of these funds, including their growth, business models, and implications for firms and employees.

Inflation Isn't About The Price Of Corn. It's About Wages.


Corn prices are going through the roof. The price of gasoline is rising again. Inflation, though, is still low.What's more, as Bloomberg notes today, investors are betting that inflation will remain low for years to come.

Ayn Rand: Patron saint or soulless capitalist?


SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — “Atlas Shrugged” is Ayn Rand’s most popular work. And Paul Ryan’s favorite. In the book, the hero, a mysterious rebel leader John Galt saves America from economic collapse. But before we rise from the ashes, before the redemption, the past must be blown up.

For that, let’s turn to my favorite, “The Fountainhead,” where Rand offers a subtle hint to capitalism’s eventual self-inflicted shot-in-the-foot.

In “The Fountainhead,” Howard Roark is the ultimate individualist, an idealistic architect and archetypal free-market capitalist: Architecture was my first degree so Roark naturally became my hero. Enraged when second-rate competitors compromise the integrity of his plans for a modern building, Roark seeks revenge, takes the law into his own hands, sneaks onto the construction site in the dead of night … dynamites the building … kaboom … destroyed.

Flash forward: What a perfect metaphor for Rand’s extreme ideology now spinning out of control, turning against mainstream America. You are witnessing the drama from within, as the new Ryan Budget approaches critical mass, set to explode Adam Smith’s Great 1776 Cathedral of Capitalism, self-destructing on an overdose of high-octane ideology.

Yes, soon the commanding inner voice of Ayn Rand’s extreme capitalism that’s now imbedded deep in America’s emerging conservative conscience will, as did Roark’s building, blow up Adam Smith’s grand design, the Cathedral of Capitalism, taking down the financial markets, triggering an economic collapse bigger than 2008 and profoundly handicapping America’s political destiny as the global super-power. At least that’s the liberal narrative.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Romney’s Success at Bain Capital: The Business as Scam Model

In short, Bain Capital is not about producing wealth but rather about siphoning off wealth that was produced elsewhere in the economy. There is no doubt that one individual or one company can get enormously wealthy if they are able to do this successfully. However you cannot have an entire economy that is premised on the idea that it will siphon off wealth produced elsewhere. It is not clear that Mitt Romney understands that fact, but certainly the general public should when it goes to vote this fall.


Full Show: The Resurrection of Ralph Reed

Great expose on Reed, Abramoff, and Norquist – what pure hype! Also great interview with Mike Lofgren – ex-Republican staffer towards the end of the show.

BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company, political zealot Ralph Reed is back from the wilderness firing up the faithful to support conservative candidates and raking in campaign cash.


Are We Better off Now than in 2008? You Betcha!

“A reasonable question to ask in any election year is whether we are better off today than we were four years ago. This year, the question happens to be remarkably easy to answer. Yes, by almost any measure, we are better off now than we were in the fall of 2008. Today our economy is growing, but back then it was shrinking. Today we’re adding new jobs every month, but back then we were shedding them at an alarming and increasing rate. Today businesses are boasting record profits, but back then they were awash in red ink.”


Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital

“By making debt the centerpiece of his campaign, Romney was making a calculated bluff of historic dimensions – placing a massive all-in bet on the rank incompetence of the American press corps. The result has been a brilliant comedy: A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place. That same man then runs for president riding an image of children roasting on flames of debt, choosing as his running mate perhaps the only politician in America more pompous and self-righteous on the subject of the evils of borrowed money than the candidate himself. If Romney pulls off this whopper, you'll have to tip your hat to him: No one in history has ever successfully run for president riding this big of a lie. It's almost enough to make you think he really is qualified for the White House.”


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Social Mobility in U.S. is a Myth, Study Claims

The rhetoric is as classic as it is cliché: The American Dream is achievable with enough hard work and more than enough determination. Famously known as the "Land of Opportunity," America has made a reputation as that soil from which a single seed can spring a garden.

But the reality, according to researchers from the University of Michigan, is that the inequality gap between socioeconomic statuses is so pervasive that upward social mobility is very improbable.

"In the United States, people underestimate the extent to which your destiny is linked to your background," says Fabian Pfeffer, a sociologist at the U-M institute for Social Research (ISR). "Research shows that it's really a myth that the U.S. is a land of exceptional social mobility."

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Decade of Decline–Pew Research Center

Recent study from Pew Research Center chronicles Median Household Income and Median Net Worth.


CNN Host Dismantles Grover Norquist’s Anti-Tax Argument: ‘This Is A Wish, Not A Plan’

“CNN’s Fareed Zakaria challenged Grover Norquist’s opposition to tax increases during an interview on Sunday, insisting that the anti-tax zealot’s opposition to higher taxes — gospel which the GOP has adopted — could lead to financial collapse and turn the nation into “another Greece.” “In other words, I don’t like high taxes, but the question is if you want lots of government services, you have two options. You can either have high taxes, or you can borrow the money,” Zakaria said.”


REPORT: How The Media Covered Two Romney Falsehoods

“CNN, MSNBC Debunked Romney's Welfare Claim In Most Segments; Fox News Did Not. Media Matters examined how CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, and the print outlets discussed below treated Romney's false claim about Obama removing the work requirement from welfare between the day Romney's ad was released, August 6, and August 26. CNN debunked the claim in 69 percent of its segments that mentioned it, and MSNBC debunked the claim in 87 percent of such segments. Fox News, however, debunked the claim in only 17 percent of such segments.”