Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Joseph Stiglitz on WNYC ‘Here’s the Thing’


“This week on Here’s the Thing, Alec talks about the financial crisis with Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist. Stiglitz shows no restraint when unleashing criticism of presidential policies -- on both sides. Of President Barack Obama’s financial-industry rescue plan, Stiglitz said that whomever designed it was "either in the pocket of the banks or … incompetent." Stiglitz talks to Alec about growing up in Gary, Indiana and how that impacted his decision to become an economist.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Nate Silver backlash


“It seems to happen every few weeks. The race tightens or widens or simply continues on exactly as it’s been, and some pundit or reporter declares it a staggering humiliation for the burgeoning world of election quants.”

Monday, October 29, 2012

How Did Things Get So Screwed Up?


Thoughtful column from Jared Bernstein’s blog:

But again, what bothers me about the Romney campaign and the current moment is not just the policy agenda.  It’s their ability to completely deny that agenda and gain ground in the polls.  It’s Romney’s ability to very successfully argue that he doesn’t really have a big tax cut (the first debate), that the tax cut he doesn’t really have can be paid for by magic math, that his foreign policy is the same as the President’s (the last debate), that his plan will add 12 million jobs—the number that forecasters tell us we’re likely to see regardless of who wins.

How did we devolve to a country where someone like this can just assert things with virtually no backup from reality and not only be taken seriously but be allegedly gaining ground on a President with a solid, if not inspiring, record?  A President who can, with building evidence, make the case that were heading out of the economic woods, who’s got a budget that’s been scored by the CBO to stabilize the debt within the next decade, who plans to implement historic health care legislation that will unquestionably help tens of millions of people?

Blaming Obama for George W. Bush’s Policies


“Although it was quickly overshadowed by his choice of Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate, Mitt Romney released an important document last week by his principal economic advisers that deserves more attention than it got. It is an audacious attempt to blame Barack Obama for the economic mistakes of George W. Bush and Republicans in Congress.”

What Do the Polls Tell Us?


“With 9 days to go before election day, I thought I’d take a moment to go over where the polls are as of today and what if anything they can tell us about what the headlines will be on November 7th.

If you’re a polling or data diehard a good bit of what follows may seem obvious. But not everyone’s a data nerd. So I want to go through a lot of data points and basic questions we get in one go. So here goes.”

Suddenly Centrist Romney Repeatedly Praises Obama’s Foreign Policy In Debate


“If you didn’t know better, you would think at times in the third and final debate that Governor Mitt Romney was actually an Obama campaign surrogate. For someone who once said, “This is the first time we’ve had a president that doesn’t have a foreign policy,” Romney agreed in part or in totality with an astonishing number of the President’s policies.”

Campaign enters final stretch as Obama takes final debate


“President Barack Obama put Republican challenger Mitt Romney on the defensive on foreign policy in the final presidential debate Monday night, with analysts and an immediate poll giving Obama the victory.”

Sparring Over Foreign Policy, Obama Goes on the Offense


Picking up where he left off in last week’s debate, Mr. Obama went on offense from the start, lacerating his challenger for articulating a set of “wrong and reckless” policies that he called incoherent. While less aggressive, Mr. Romney pressed back, accusing the president of failing to assert American interests and values in the world to deal with a “rising tide of chaos.”

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Finally Liberated From Facts, Mitt Romney the Pure Bull Artist Takes Flight


“You know those Balsa wood airplanes – not the glider-types but the deluxe models, powered by rubber bands, with little propellers on the nose? I thought of those planes watching Mitt Romney debate Barack Obama the other night.”

In debate, Romney struggled on substance


“They say that to tell who won a debate, watch it with the sound off. What I learned after the last debate, however, is that to tell what was actually said at a debate, you don’t want to watch it at all. You want to read it.

After the first debate, President Obama’s supporters comforted themselves by saying Obama’s deficiencies were stylistic, and Romney’s victory was the result of confident lying. But reading the transcript, it quickly came clear that President Obama’s stylistic shortcomings were connected to his substantive shortcomings. His answers were rambling, his case for his candidacy was vague, and his attacks on Romney were often confused.

So I sat down tonight with a rush transcript of tonight’s debate. The same thing was true. The candidate who struggled on style also struggled on substance. But this time, that candidate was Romney.”

Footnoting the debate!


“Think of this as real-time context for the various statistics and ideas the two candidates talked about this evening. We let you know where you can find more information and whether there were any red flags for how candidates are using various pieces of evidence.”

For the President, Punch, Punch, Another Punch


“President Obama, who concluded that he was “too polite” in his first debate with Mitt Romney, made sure no one would say that after their second. He interrupted, he scolded, he filibustered, he shook his head.”

The Self-Destruction of the 1 Percent


“In the early 14th century, Venice was one of the richest cities in Europe. At the heart of its economy was the colleganza, a basic form of joint-stock company created to finance a single trade expedition. The brilliance of the colleganza was that it opened the economy to new entrants, allowing risk-taking entrepreneurs to share in the financial upside with the established businessmen who financed their merchant voyages.”

Bill Moyers: Plutocracy Rising


“The One Percent is not only increasing their share of wealth — they’re using it to spread millions among political candidates who serve their interests. Example: Goldman Sachs, which gave more money than any other major American corporation to Barack Obama in 2008, is switching alliances this year; their employees have given $900,000 both to Mitt Romney’s campaign and to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. Why? Because, says the Wall Street Journal, the Goldman Sachs gang felt betrayed by President Obama’s modest attempts at financial reform.”

Monday, October 15, 2012

Franklin D. Roosevelt Refutes Romney Ryan Tax Plan

I am often struck by the fact that some things NEVER change – here’s a wonderful example of that:

Romney’s Unraveling Claim That Six Studies Validate His Tax Plan


From the site:

“In response to the persistent and substantial questions about the math of his tax plan not adding up, Mitt Romney and his campaign frequently argue that six independent studies back him up by ratifying the arithmetic of the centerpiece of his domestic agenda.

But the talking point about the talking point is unraveling.

More and more mainstream outlets are pointing out that they fail to validate its soundness. And on Sunday Romney senior adviser Ed Gillespie was challenged on Fox News by Chris Wallace, who questioned whether the studies are really nonpartisan.

“Those are very questionable. Some of them are blogs. Some of them are from the AEI [American Enterprise Institute], which is hardly an independent group,” Wallace said. “One of them is from a guy who is — a blog from a guy who was a top adviser to George W. Bush. These are hardly nonpartisan studies.”

“These are very credible sources,” Gillespie said.

Of the six studies, two are blog posts by the conservative American Enterprise Institute; one is a report by the Republican-friendly Heritage Foundation; one is a paper by Princeton professor and former George W. Bush adviser Harvey Rosen; the fifth and sixth are a paper and Wall Street Journal op-ed by Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, an adviser to the Romney campaign.”

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Smilin’ Joe and the Janesville Kid


“But from a purely strategic point of view, Biden came out ahead by doing what he had to do – reestablishing some credibility for the Barack Obama White House and defibrillating Democrats and progressives who a week ago lay prostrate after the president’s less-than-stellar performance during his first encounter with Mitt Romney.”

Moody’s Chief Economist: Romney’s Tax Plan: ‘The Arithmetic Doesn’t Work’


From the site:

The fact that Mitt Romney’s tax plan is mathematically impossible was reinforced again on Friday, when Mark Zandi, a former John McCain campaign adviser and Chief Economist at Moody’s Economy, admitted as much.

Speaking on CNN’s “Starting Point,” Zandi acknowledged a study by the Tax Policy Center that shows Romney’s plan to lower taxes by 20 percent across the board, while making up those losses in government revenue by closing loopholes on the wealthy, doesn’t add up. Zandi even went so far as to say that “the arithmetic doesn’t work as it is right now”:

ZANDI: Yeah, I think the Tax Policy Center study is the definitive study. They’re non-partisan, they’re very good. They say given the numbers that they’ve been provided by the Romney campaign, no, it will not add up. Now, the Romney campaign could adjust their plan. They could say okay I’m not going to lower tax rates as much as I’m saying right now and they could make the arithmetic work. But under the current plan, with the current numbers, no it doesn’t. I’ll say one other thing, though. I think it is important that we do focus on the so-called tax expenditures in the tax code. Those are the deductions, and credits, and loopholes in the code. We need to reduce those, because if we do we’re going to make the tax system fairer, easier to understand and ultimately lead to stronger growth. So that’s the right place to focus. But, no, the arithmetic doesn’t work as it is right now.

Robert Shrum on the Vice Presidential Debate: Biden’s Win Was a Big F@$&ing Deal


“It’s no contest—Biden nailed it. But Obama still needs to seal the deal. Robert Shrum on the three things that will determine the outcome of the presidential race—and why they all point toward a Democratic victory.”

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Even Forbes loved Joe at the VP Debate!

Wow, even Forbes loved Joe’s debate performance!  Great, GREAT job by the VP – congratulations Joe!


“Ryan also seemed nervous due to early and frequent sipping of water. Biden looked like he was having the time of this life and could go another two hours. Biden spent just the right amount of time looking directly into the camera. Ryan seemed less comfortable and energetic. Conservatives will make much over the fact that Biden laughed, smirked and interrupted Ryan. Liberals found that the best part of the evening.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On the Distributional Effects of Base-Broadening Income Tax Reform


“This paper examines the tradeoffs among three competing goals that are inherent in a revenue-neutral income tax reform—maintaining tax revenues, ensuring a progressive tax system, and lowering marginal tax rates. As a motivating example, we estimate the degree to which individual income tax expenditures would have to be limited to achieve revenue neutrality under the individual income tax rates and other features advanced in presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax plan, and how the required reductions in tax breaks could change the distribution of the tax burden across households. (We do not score Governor Romney’s plan directly, as certain components of his plan are not specified in sufficient detail, nor do we make assumptions regarding what those components might be.)”

Fact-checking financial recessions


Paul Krugman made me aware of this excellent article co-authored by Schularick and Taylor:

“The central part played by credit in the deep downturn and weak recovery fits a recurring historical pattern. Financial crises correlate with more painful recessions. This column takes a close look at 14 advanced economies over the past 140 years and shows that larger credit booms during expansions have been systematically associated with more severe and prolonged slumps. In short, credit bites back. Measured against the historical benchmark, the recent US recovery has been far better than could have been expected.”

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Romney Proudly Explains How He's Turned Campaign Around


Loved this from The Onion:

“I’m lying a lot more, and my lies are far more egregious than they’ve ever been,” a smiling Romney told reporters while sitting in the back of his campaign bus, adding that when faced with a choice to either lie or tell the truth, he will more than likely lie. “It’s a strategy that works because when I lie, I’m essentially telling people what they want to hear, and people really like hearing things they want to hear. Even if they sort of know that nothing I’m saying is true.”

The case for raising taxes on capital gains


From Ezra Klein’s column:

As Dylan wrote on Monday, most — though not all — economists will tell you there’s a good theoretical case for taxing capital gains and investment income at a lower rate than normal income. Mitt Romney, in other words, should be paying a low tax rate.

But it’s also worth understanding why more and more tax wonks are wondering if the case holds up under current conditions. For one thing, the low rate on investment income has been an important contributor to rising inequality. In fact, it’s worked so well that if you want to tax the rich without ratcheting their earned income tax rate to extremely high levels, or reform the tax code without massively cutting taxes on the rich, the best option might be to raise capital gains taxes.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fact Check: Romney Told 27 Myths in 38 Minutes During the Debate


“Pundits from both sides of the aisle have lauded Mitt Romney’s strong debate performance, praising his preparedness and ability to challenge President Obama’s policies and accomplishments. But Romney only accomplished this goal by repeatedly misleading viewers. He spoke for  38 minutes  of the 90 minute debate and told at least 27 myths.”

Rating Wednesday Night's Debate Whoppers


From Mother Jones magazine:

Pundits largely took two things away from the debate last night: President Obama turned in a lackluster performance, and moderator Jim Lehrer let Mitt Romney walk all over him. A presidential debate moderator's job is not unlike a parent with two squabbling six-year-olds: While it's important to maintain neutrality, it's also necessary to find out which kid is lying about cutting the legs off all the Barbie dolls. Because Lehrer could hardly get a word in last night, let alone call out any questionable truths, we've done it for him: by comparing the statements made by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on "The Whopper Scale." Five Whoppers means that the statement is complete baloney. One means that the statement is kind of tasteless, but basically real: So…like the beef you'll find in fast food restaurants!

The First Debate: Mitt Romney's Five Biggest Lies


“Mitt Romney turned in a polished performance in last night's presidential debate – and revealed himself to be an accomplished and unapologetic liar. In an evening where he sought to slice and dice the president with statistics, Romney baldly misrepresented his own policy prescriptions, made up numbers to fit his attacks and buried clear contrasts with the president under a heaping pile of horseshit.”

Chris Matthews Goes After Jack Welch In Brutal Battle Over Unemployment Numbers

Chris Goes After Jack Welch

I enjoyed seeing Chris make Jack Welch look like the total fool he is:

“Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews on Friday to defend his assertion that the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey which surge in employment forcing the unemployment metric down from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent is flawed. The interview between Matthews and Welch quickly descended into a heated debate over the veracity of the BLS figures and the charge that there was a corrupt effort to rig the unemployment rate to help President Barack Obama win reelection.”

The boy in the bubble


Nice profile of journalist Ezra Klein:

He’s impossibly young, infuriatingly accomplished, and impressively wonky. In a town full of journalistic flop sweat, he glides instead of glistens, handsome enough to make the ladies turn their heads, and affable enough that their boyfriends compete for his attentions, too. Like ripples around a stone, influential circles appear seemingly wherever he dips his toe. Washington insiders seek his ear, New York magazines compete for his byline, and older journalists puzzle over how he could master journalism’s technological revolution and the northeastern media corridor well shy of his 30th birthday.

Paul Krugman Takes a Flamethrower to Romney’s Lies About the Economy


Krugman knocks it out of the park today on ABC’s This Week. His main line of attack was to challenge the verity of statements Romney made during the debate. It turned out to be a heated discussion, which is evidence that Krugman hit close to home. Great to see Mary Matalin and Peggy Noonan get so upset. It’s exhausting and frustrating to have to continue to defend Romney’s lies! Way to go Paul!

The Rumble 2012: Bill O'Reilly vs Jon Stewart (Full)

Bill O’Reilly vs Jon Stewart–The Rumble 2012

This is great – a must watch! If only the Presidential debate had been like this…sigh…

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The return of fuzzy math


Quoting from the site – excellent analysis:

The contemporary Republican party faces a fundamental political problem and it is this: the policy position to which the party is most committed is very unpopular. Over the last decade the single most urgent, durable domestic priority of the Republican Party is reducing taxes on wealthy Americans. If there is one thing you can bank on when the Republicans are in power, it's that.

So if you're a Republican seeking the highest office in the land, you've got a real problem. On the one hand you absolutely have to advocate for and push through tax cuts for the wealthy, knowing full well the electorate as a whole does not like or want them. So what do you do?  Well, up until this point, Mitt Romney has floundered a bit, but Wednesday at the debate, he fully embraced the very effective strategy used by the last man to successfully pull off this particular bait and switch: George W. Bush. The centerpiece of Bush's campaign was a large tax cut, skewed heavily to the wealthy. But rather than defend this principle of tax cuts for the wealthy, he simply obfuscated and hand waved and misled about his tax cuts' effects.

Bush: Everybody who pays taxes ought to get tax relief. After my plan is in place, the wealthiest Americans will pay a higher percentage of taxes then they do today, and the poorest of Americans, six million families, seven million people won't pay any tax at all.

Notice the sleight of hand. The wealthiest Americans will pay a higher percentage of taxes than they do today. Not a higher percentage of their income in taxes, since that would be an outright lie. This is a very common bit of conservative misdirection used to hide the distributional unfairness of their tax cuts. 

Even in Herman Cain's regressive world of a 9-9-9 flat tax, you can imagine that with enough concetration of income at the top, the wealthiest households would still pay the majority of total income-tax revenue. That doesn't reflect how progressive or fair the taxation system is, it reflects just how unequal incomes are. Bush did it again in the next debate, too.

Under my plan, if you make -- the top -- the wealthy people pay 62% of the taxes today. Afterwards they pay 64%. This is a fair plan. You know why? Because the tax code is unfair for people at the bottom end of the economic ladder. If you're a single mother making $22,000 a year today and you're trying to raise two children, for every additional dollar you earn you pay a higher marginal rate on that dollar than someone making $200,000, and that's not right.

At the time, this drove observers to distraction. Bush was running on a huge tax cut for the wealthy and refusing to admit he was running on a huge tax cut for the wealthy. Paul Krugman nearly broke his keyboard writing column after column pointing this simple fact out. "The big lesson of this year's campaign," he wrote, "a lesson that we can be sure politicians will take to heart -- is that a candidate can get away with saying things that are demonstrably untrue, as long as the untruths involve big numbers."

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Real Referendum


Paul Krugman writes in the NYT regarding what’s at stake in the upcoming election:

Voters are, in effect, being asked to deliver a verdict on the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society, on Social Security, Medicare and, yes, Obamacare, which represents an extension of that legacy.

And this is why President Obama should not re-negotiate (to quote Krugman) a “Grand Bargain over the budget deficit:”

First, despite years of dire warnings from people like, well, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, we are not facing any kind of fiscal crisis. Indeed, U.S. borrowing costs are at historic lows, with investors actually willing to pay the government for the privilege of owning inflation-protected bonds. So reducing the budget deficit just isn’t the top priority for America at the moment; creating jobs is. For now, the administration’s political capital should be devoted to passing something like last year’s American Jobs Act and providing effective mortgage debt relief.

Second, contrary to Beltway conventional wisdom, America does not have an “entitlements problem.” Mainly, it has a health cost problem, private as well as public, which must be addressed (and which the Affordable Care Act at least starts to address). It’s true that there’s also, even aside from health care, a gap between the services we’re promising and the taxes we’re collecting — but to call that gap an “entitlements” issue is already to accept the very right-wing frame that voters appear to be in the process of rejecting.

Finally, despite the bizarre reverence it inspires in Beltway insiders — the same people, by the way, who assured us that Paul Ryan was a brave truth-teller — the fact is that Simpson-Bowles is a really bad plan, one that would undermine some key pieces of our safety net. And if a re-elected president were to endorse it, he would be betraying the trust of the voters who returned him to office.

What’s Proposed in the American Jobs Act



Robert Samuelson Wants the Government to Stop Trying to Help People Into the Middle Class


I always enjoy Dean Baker’s Beat the Press column – here’s he’s commenting on a Robert Samuelson Newsweek column --

This piece also includes a line about the risks of the Fed's expansionary policy:

"The most significant [risk] is that the Fed’s efforts heat up economic growth in a way that unleashes inflation, which would eat away at middle-class incomes."

Actually it is very difficult to imagine inflation taking a form that would "eat away at middle-class incomes." If the economy heats up in the way described, it means that unemployment would fall sharply, leading to more rapid wage growth. This rapid wage growth would be the factor driving inflation. Since most middle income people get most of their income from wages, if wages are rising rapidly, it is unlikely that their income would be eroding. Most middle income retirees get most of their income from Social Security which is indexed to inflation, so these people would be largely protected as well.

The big losers from higher than expected inflation would be lenders, like the Wall Street banks, who have large amounts of loans outstanding that would suddenly be worth much less in a higher inflation environment. This is a reason why Wall Street is generally a forceful lobby against higher inflation.

At one point the piece refers to Bernanke's "grueling" years at the Fed. It is worth pointing out that the main reason the years have been grueling is that Bernanke and Greenspan failed to recognize the housing bubble (Bernanke was a Fed governor from 2002 to 2005) and to take steps to deflate it before it grew large enough to do so much damage to the economy. In other words, he is cleaning up his own mess.