Friday, November 30, 2012

The Kids Are Alright

“As a matter of election analysis, this is certainly noteworthy data, which helps explain why the president was able to do as well as he did.

But in the larger context, this has even greater salience. There's been ample talk of late about Republicans having a "demographics" problem -- the GOP is an overwhelmingly white party with pockets of regional appeal in a nation that's growing more racially and ethnically diverse.

But as Pew helps remind us, Republicans also have a serious generational problem that should also make the party nervous.

Reflecting on the Pew Center's report, Jon Chait explained that younger voters aren't just voting Democratic more than older generations; they're also vastly more liberal than their elders, which has the potential to force "a full-scale sea change in American politics."

Monday, November 26, 2012

Who the hell is Grover Norquist?


He is the lobbyist whose Svengali-like control over the GOP has forbidden them to end the Bush tax cuts for the rich, creating unpresedented gridlock and putting them in a very "uncompromising position" negotiating the fiscal cliff.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The monumental folly of rent-seeking


Like most visitors to northern India, I visited the Taj Mahal. Unlike most visitors, I asked economic questions. Reports of his tax policies suggest that Shah Jahan may have appropriated as much as 40 per cent of what we now call gross domestic product to support a lifestyle of exceptional ostentation and self-indulgence. He was overthrown by his son, who was exasperated by his father’s penchant for monumental building, anxious to maximise his own share of the loot and concerned by the scale of the levies on the population. But it was all too late. The Mogul empire was in irretrievable decline.

The activities of Shah Jahan epitomise rent-seeking – the accumulation of a fortune not by creating wealth through serving customers better but by the appropriation of such wealth after it has already been created by other people. Both are routes to personal enrichment and the tension between them has been a dominant theme of economic history. Whenever the balance shifts too far in favour of appropriation over creation, we see entrepreneurial talent diverted to unproductive activity, an accelerating cycle in which political power and economic power reinforce each other – until others become envious of the proceeds of appropriation, and the resentment of the oppressed undermines the legitimacy of the regime. Political and economic instability are an inevitable consequence.

Wealth, Income, and Power–Who Rules America

Excellent article from the author of Who Rules America, Professor G. William Domhoff.


“This document presents details on the wealth and income distributions in the United States, and explains how we use these two distributions as power indicators.”

Excerpt from Nate Silver’s Book

Excerpt from Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise. Great stuff!,,9781101595954,00.html?sym=EXC


Link for Quick Generation of FRED Graphs

This link is a must-have – if you know the data series you just type it in and voila – instant graph!


Inequality and Budget Deficits: Why is Only the Latter an Emergency?


From Jared’s blog:

I just read two sweeping reports on the state of income inequality in the US (the second link focuses on state-level inequality) and other advanced economies.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve been so ensconced in fiscal cliff discussions, but I was struck by how much more alarmed policy makers are by the budget deficit than by the inequality situation.  There are reasons for that tilt—some good, some bad—but based on magnitudes of the problem, it’s far from clear that our current sole policy focus is warranted.

The Benefits and Limitations of Income Tax Reform


“A number of recent proposals have called for broadening the individual income tax base while lowering statutory income tax rates. Such proposals would eliminate or curtail various preferential income tax provisions and use some or all of the resulting revenue to lower statutory tax rates. In this Outlook, we analyze the economic effects of this approach to tax reform.”




Taxonomy of Logical Fallacies


A "fallacy" is a mistake, and a "logical" fallacy is a mistake in reasoning. There are, of course, other types of mistake than mistakes in reasoning. For instance, factual mistakes are sometimes referred to as "fallacies". However, the Fallacy Files is specifically concerned, not with factual errors, but with logical ones.

The 2012 Statistical Abstract: Guide to Sources of Statistics


This is useful information – links from government sites containing statistical data:

Alphabetically arranged, this guide contains references to important primary sources of statistical information for the United States. Secondary sources have been included if the information contained in them is presented in a particularly convenient form or if primary sources are not readily available. Nonrecurrent publications presenting compilations or estimates for years later than 1990, or types of data not available in regular series, are also included. Data are also available in press releases.

Pesky Uncles, Brothers-in-Law, Etc…Thanksgiving 2012 Edition


Enjoy this yearly post from Jared Bernstein – how to defend yourself against those pesky right wing relatives. Here’s an excerpt:


“Don’t you get it!?  Our debts are in the trillions!  What kind of family could run their affairs like that?  Certainly not this one or any other responsible family I know of.”

Oooh…careful here.  She’s comin’ right attcha with the homespun aphorism about government needing to tighten its belt just like everyone else—this framing is likely to get a lot of heads nodding around the table.  It sounds right…but it’s way wrong.  So you’d better start by getting on their page.

“That makes a lot of sense, Auntie Teabag, and I’m with you 100% that when the economy is back on track and people’s paychecks are rising again, the government needs to tighten its belt, just like you said, and start getting rid of those deficits.  But the problem is this: if everyone’s tightening their belt at the same time, the economy will do much worse, people will be stuck without jobs and with no help at all.”

In fact, it’s really the opposite of where Auntie is: when families tighten, the government needs to expand.  And if that means a larger budget deficit that’s okay, as long—and folks might like this point—as it’s temporary.  I can’t stress this last point enough.  (It doesn’t help you here that politicians of all stripes, including the President, recite this damaging mantra.)

“You know what really hurts our deficits, Auntie?  Not stuff like the Recovery Act—an $800 billion belt loosener by the feds.  That’s over now—after adding millions of jobs and helping a lot of families do a little better over the downturn—and its and contributing absolutely nothing to the increase in the debt.  It’s the stuff that keeps going but isn’t paid for, like those Bush tax cuts!”

You win this argument not by denying the government ever needs to tighten its belt but by stressing the dynamics that have been understood by economists since Keynes (though many are trying hard to forget them today): fiscal policy loosens when the private economy is slack and tightens when it’s strong.

Prosperity, Not Austerity


After playing a key role in President Obama’s re-election, the labor movement must pivot immediately to a new task: moving the president away from a potentially disastrous policy of “austerity economics” and toward a second-term adoption of more worker-friendly “prosperity economics.” In the weeks after the election, Obama will negotiate with the hard-right House Republicans about the looming threat of automatic across-the-board cuts.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Post-Democalyptic World - Whine Country


Jon Stewart has a solution for where Papa John will get the money to pay for his employee’s health care!

Cheer up, Papa John’s. Obamacare gave you a good deal.


Excellent analysis from Ezra Klein:

“Still, Papa John’s can comfort itself with the knowledge that it is not being asked to do nearly as much as Presidents Clinton or Nixon wanted it to do. It doesn’t have to give its employees health care or pay them well. It just has to pay a small fraction of the cost that the public will pay to insure its employees. It’s not as good of a deal as the status quo, but it’s a better deal than it could have expected, or than it probably deserved.”

What Grover’s Tax Pledge Actually Means


Call Norquist’s pledge what it is: it’s a pledge to cut Medicare. A pledge to cut Social Security, Medicaid for seniors and the disabled, college loans, food stamps… And, it’s a pledge to raise taxes on your kids. Most of all, Norquist’s pledge is a promise to transfer wealth to the richest.

Presidential Elections Data

Fascinating website – you can see visual trends in how the United States voted in Presidential elections:


US Manufacturing Employment (1970-2010)


Friday, November 23, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Why You Shouldn’t Shop at Walmart on Friday


Walmart earned $16 billion last year (it just reported a 9 percent increase in earnings in the third quarter of 2012, to $3.6 billion), the lion’s share of which went instead to Walmart’s shareholders — including the family of its founder, Sam Walton, who earned on their Walmart stock more than the combined earnings of the bottom 40 percent of American workers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Be persuasive. Be brave. Be arrested (if necessary)


Thoughtful post about climate change:

I have yet to meet a climate scientist who does not believe that global warming is a worse problem than they thought a few years ago. The seriousness of this change is not appreciated by politicians and the public. The scientific world carefully measures the speed with which we approach the cliff and will, no doubt, carefully measure our rate of fall. But it is not doing enough to stop it. I am a specialist in investment bubbles, not climate science. But the effects of climate change can only exacerbate the ecological trouble I see reflected in the financial markets — soaring commodity prices and impending shortages.

Join Walmart Workers for Black Friday Actions


Walmart store workers are asking people nationwide to support them on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. They ask that supporters take action that spreads the word about their strikes and demonstrates to Walmart a wave of support for workers who are speaking out about poor working conditions, low wages, irregular hours and more.

Climate change, not the national debt, is the legacy we should care about


The reality, of course, is straightforward. The large deficits of recent years are due to the economic downturn caused by the collapse of the housing bubble. If the economy were back near its pre-recession level of unemployment, then the deficits would be close to 1% of GDP, a level that could be sustained indefinitely.

But the deficit scare-mongers are not interested in numbers and economics; they want to gut key government programs – most importantly, social security and Medicare. That is why they are pushing the fear stories about the debt and deficit. This is the rationale for the Campaign to "Fix" the Debt, a collection of 80 CEOs ostensibly focused on getting the budget in order.

The single best graph on what’s driving our deficits


What these three charts tell you is simple: It’s all about health care. Spending on Social Security is expected to rise, but not particularly quickly. Spending on everything else is actually falling. It’s health care that contains most all of our future deficit problems. And the situation is even worse than it looks on this graph: Private health spending is racing upwards even faster than public health spending, so the problem the federal government is showing in its budget projections is mirrored on the budgets of every family and business that purchases health insurance.

Poetic justice: Romney likely to finish at 47 percent


When all the votes are counted, could Mitt Romney really end up achieving perfect poetic justice by finishing with 47 percent of the national vote? Yup. Dave Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report says new votes in from Maryland put Romney at 47.56 percent. He predicts with certainty that with all of New York and California counted, Romney will end up below 47.5 percent of the vote.

Exclusive: Lee Atwater’s Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy


“It has become, for liberals and leftists enraged by the way Republicans never suffer the consequences for turning electoral politics into a cesspool, a kind of smoking gun. The late, legendarily brutal campaign consultant Lee Atwater explains how Republicans can win the vote of racists without sounding racist themselves.”

CEOs' pay as a multiple of the average worker's pay, 1960-2007



Monday, November 19, 2012

Life Expectancy of the Living Dead


“Gains in life expectancy have been very strongly correlated with income and class; those with lower incomes and lower status — the very people who depend most on Social Security — have seen very small gains in life expectancy.”

The Moocher Majority


“But as many commentators have pointed out, Romney was just encapsulating the prevalent worldview on the right. Some of us see an increasingly, radically unequal America, with rising inequality actually reinforced by public policy, with tax rates on the rich lower than they have been in many decades and the overall redistributive effect of government down substantially since the 1970s. But the right sees an entitlement epidemic, in which the big problem is that too many people are getting free stuff.

It’s important to understand the roots of this stuff. It began as a deliberate appeal to racism, with explicit condemnation of Those People as welfare moochers. Then it became more coded; Rick Perlstein posts the original, famous Lee Atwater interview containing the memorable passage,

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
What Mitt Romney is now complaining about is the horrifying reality that many people who aren’t black see themselves as victims of those “economic things” — and as a result anti-government rhetoric is turning into a way to lose elections rather than win them.

And I don’t think the Republican party as currently constituted can change this: after 45 years of the Southern strategy, this stuff is what defines the party’s soul.”

Keep Tipping Your Servers


The No. 1 consequence of Obama’s re-election is that it essentially guarantees his signature health care law will be implemented. And not everyone is happy about it. Zane Tankel owns about 40 Applebees franchises. He says that as a result of the law’s penalties on employers who don’t offer health insurance to their workforce “we won’t build more restaurants, we won’t hire more people.” John Metz owns about 40 Denny’s outlets, several Dairy Queens, and is the brains behind the Hurricane Grill & Wings chain is even blunter. He says he’ll be tacking a 5 percent surcharge onto customers’ bills in order to defray the costs of Obamacare.

Why ‘Fix the Debt’ Is Trying to Scare You About the Fiscal Cliff


“Most of the people trying to persuade you that the “fiscal cliff” is some kind of ticking doomsday clock for the economy aren’t trying to save the economy or even to ensure the long-term solvency of the budget. They are trying to ensure that the budget deal that does occur lands as close as possible to their own preferred terms.”

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Victory Over Suppression?


Despite their considerable efforts the Republicans were not able to buy or steal the election after all. Their defeat was of almost Biblical nature. The people, Democratic supporters of the president, whose votes they had plotted, schemed, and maneuvered—unto nearly the very last minute—to deny rose up and said they wouldn’t have it. If they had to stand in line well into the night to cast their vote they did it. The lines were the symbol of the 2012 election—at once awe-inspiring and enraging. 

Michael Tomasky on How Mitt Romney Finally Killed Reaganomics


“Here’s something that happened in this election that has been largely overlooked but I think is a very big deal indeed. Trickle-down economics died last Tuesday. The post-election chatter has been dominated by demographics, Latinos, women, and the culture war. But economics played a strong and even pivotal role in this election too, and Reaganomics came out a huge loser, while the Democrats have started to wrap their arms around a simple, winning alternative: the idea that government must invest in the middle class and not the rich. It’s middle-out economics instead of trickle-down, and it won last week and will keep on winning.”

Romney attributes loss to 'gifts' Obama gave minorities


“Mitt Romney said Wednesday that his loss to President Obama was due in large part to his rival's strategy of giving "gifts" during his first term to three groups that were pivotal in the results of last week's election: African Americans, Latinos and young voters.

"The Obama campaign was following the old playbook of giving a lot of stuff to groups that they hoped they could get to vote for them and be motivated to go out to the polls, specifically the African American community, the Hispanic community and young people," Romney told hundreds of donors during a telephone town hall Wednesday. "In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups."

Friday, November 16, 2012

From the 47% to ‘gifts’: Mitt Romney’s ugly vision of politics


“When Romney thinks he’s behind closed doors and he’s just telling other people like him how politics really works, the picture he paints is so ugly as to be bordering on dystopic. It’s not just about class, but about worth, and legitimacy. His voters are worth something to the economy — they’re producers — and they respond to legitimate appeals about how to best manage the country. The Democrats’ voters are drags on the economy — moochers — and they respond to crass pay-offs.

Romney doesn’t voice these opinions in public. He knows better. But so did the voters. That’s what you see in the overwhelming rejection Romney suffered among African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and young voters. They sensed that Romney fundamentally didn’t respect them and their role in the economy, and they were right.”

Top Georgia GOP Lawmakers Host Briefing on Secret Obama Mind-Control Plot


“President Obama is using a Cold War-era mind-control technique known as "Delphi" to coerce Americans into accepting his plan for a United Nations-run communist dictatorship in which suburbanites will be forcibly relocated to cities. That's according to a four-hour briefing delivered to Republican state senators at the Georgia state Capitol last month.”

Private equity-owned Hostess blames striking workers as it liquidates


“Get your Twinkies and your Wonder Bread now, because what you see in stores is the last of them. (At least until the brands are sold at auction and revived.) Hostess Brands has announced that it will liquidate, blaming a strike by workers in one of its unions as they rejected a contract that called for them to make major concessions on wages and benefits. The workers had taken concessions to help the company survive a previous bankruptcy, and this time around when the call for cuts came, members of the Teamsters narrowly accepted them while members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers union overwhelmingly said no and went on strike. According to the company, it's all the workers' fault.”

The coming debt battle


“In the tense run-up to Hurricane Sandy, I clicked on one of those headlines that appears on the right side of the screen: “Civilization May Not Survive This, Economist Says.”

Once there, I knew I’d been had.  It was about … the public debt. It cited one Lawrence Kotlikoff of Boston University, one of America’s most talented artificers, who “estimates the true fiscal gap is $211 trillion when unfunded entitlements like Social Security and Medicare are included.” Compared to that, what’s a thousand mile-wide hurricane?

That the looming debt and deficit crisis is fake is something that, by now, even the most dim member of Congress must know.  The combination of hysterical rhetoric, small armies of lobbyists and pundits, and the proliferation of billionaire-backed front groups with names like the “Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget” is not a novelty in Washington. It happens whenever Big Money wants something badly enough.

Big Money has been gunning for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for decades – since the beginning of Social Security in 1935. The motives are partly financial: As one scholar once put it to me, the payroll tax is the “Mississippi of cash flows.” Anything that diverts part of it into private funds and insurance premiums is a meal ticket for the elite of the predator state.”

America: Love it or be left behind


“The most delusional and divisive claim about President Obama’s election victory came, not surprisingly, from the disgraced Karl Rove, who told Fox News on Thursday that Obama “succeeded by suppressing the vote.” Make no mistake: Rove was talking about the white vote. Earlier that day Real Clear Politics writer Sean Trende had written a piece wondering about “disappearing” white voters, claiming white voter turnout had dropped significantly, by roughly 7 million votes, as whites rejected both parties. Since blacks, Latinos and Asians increased their turnout, as did women and young people, Rove couldn’t be talking about anybody but whites, and particularly older white men.”

Paul Ryan Was Not the GOP’s Savior. He May Even Have Been its Albatross.


“Most of what you need to know about why Ryan was kryptonite for the GOP is contained in the pages of the so-called Path to Prosperity, his proposal to roll back government spending, de-fund Medicaid, and hack up Medicare while cutting taxes on the wealthy. Although smaller government polls reasonably well in the abstract—as it did in Tuesday’s exit polls—the most specific elements of Ryan's plan are calamitously unpopular. It’s no surprise that voters decisively rejected it the one chance they had before this week, handing a reliable Republican congressional seat in New York to a little known Democrat in 2011.

Before Romney made Ryan his running mate, conservatives persuaded themselves that the problem wasn’t the plan itself. It was that Ryan, possessed of both a righteous cause and irresistible powers of persuasion, had never had a chance to sell the plan on a national stage. Elevating him to the GOP ticket would correct that particular injustice.”

Mitt Romney's America: Why Makers, 'Gifts', and Takers Is a Losing Vision


“If you're running for elected office and find yourself in the business of blaming the voters, stop. Odds are, you're losing. Or you've just lost.

It was true for millions of Bush-era Democrats, who rallied around What's the Matter With Kansas and its ilk when it seemed the party had lost middle America to allegedly duped "values voters" forever. And it was true of Mitt Romney, who told donors in an unscripted moment this summer that he had written off the 47% of the country that doesn't pay federal income taxes because they were "dependent on government" and would "vote for the president no matter what."

And there Romney went again yesterday, using his first public words since the election to blame his loss on minorities receiving "gifts" from the Obama administration.”

McCain Erupts At Reporter For Asking Why He Missed Classified Benghazi Briefing


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Papa John doesn’t want you to have health care, lives in 40K square foot home, 22 car garage, underpays his employees


“John’s house:

    This large and over the top mansion is owned by the founder and CEO of Papa John’s, John Schnatter. The house is 40,000 square feet and it resembles a castle. One interesting feature on this 16-acre estate is the 22-car underground garage, complete with an office for valet parking, a car wash and even a motorized turn table to move limousines. The home also has a state-of-the-art exercise suite and a huge 6,000 square foot carriage house. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any information on the inside of this interesting estate.

But, I’m sure he pays his employees well, amirite?

Good ol’ John doesn’t pay his employees enough to rent my 2×2 closet, in my teeny tiny (but comfy!) apartment. A delivery driver makes a whopping $6.41 per hour.

It’s wonderful that this man has been able to realize the American dream — some of it, on the backs of his workers, who are insufficiently paid. But, nevertheless, I applaud his success — but his partisan views made while living in his sprawling mansion, clearly are not in the interest of the middle class.

John, people die without health care.”

The Problem With a Really Tiny Tent


“In the meantime, here’s the thing: If guys like O’Reilly, or Jack Welch, Donald Trump, Sheldon Adelson, the Koch Brothers, et. al., had a demographer in their employ some 15 or so years ago (probably even earlier), none of what has transpired would have come as a surprise to them.

In fact, they didn’t even need a demographer. All they needed to do was read this 1996 report (third from bottom) from Census, some of the highlights of which foretold our current situation and, in fact, what is yet to come. (I hope to check the 1996 forecasts against where we actually are today, which should be an interesting exercise, and which will also give me some idea of what we can expect in the years to come.)”

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Delusions of Reason


“What’s so strange about this is that everything — everything — that has happened for the past decade has demonstrated the opposite. Modern Republicans are devotees of faith-based analysis on every front. On economics, in particular, they are devoted to supply-side fantasies that keep being refuted by evidence — and their reaction is to try to suppress the evidence. They’ve spent pretty much the whole past four years issuing dire warnings about inflation and soaring interest rates that keep not coming true; they cling to the belief that if only a Republican were in office we’d have a 1982-style recovery even though economists who actually studied past financial crises predicted the slow recovery in advance.

And don’t even get me started on climate change.

The truth is that the modern GOP is deeply anti-intellectual, and has as its fundamental goal not just a rollback of the welfare state but a rollback of the Enlightenment. Yet there are some wannabe intellectuals who delude themselves into believing that they have aligned themselves with the party of objective (as opposed to Objectivist) analysis.”

Megyn Kelly Calls Bill O’Reilly’s Racial Resentment ‘Interesting Theory’


From the site:

As we have previously posted, Bill O’Reilly spewed some shocking sour grapes on Election Night that were filled with racial resentment. The thoughts, albeit in more delicate form, have been reiterated all over Fox News. Two days ago, Megyn Kelly joined the Fox-News-Sore-Losers-With-Racial-Insinuations Club.

Although the election was far from over when O’Reilly offered up his commentary, it was clear he knew the night was not going well for Romney. With a sour face, he said:

    It's a changing country. The demographics are changing. It's not a traditional America any more. And there are 50% of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama. He knows it and he ran on it. And, whereby twenty years ago, President Obama would have been roundly defeated by an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney. The white establishment is now the minority. And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You are going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama, overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?

This was an out-and-out complaint that the country is no longer “white” enough. Shocking to many people - but “interesting” to Kelly. She said:

    This is an interesting theory. O’Reilly’s been talking about this on his show, in his Talking Points before (Election) night about how he feels like we are morphing into a society in which large sectors of the public are too dependent on the government and believe the government is there to solve their problems, and the government has a responsibility to solve their problems and not self-sufficient enough.

Eighty-Eight Percent of Romney Voters Were White


“In the end, the racial bubble of Mitt Romney's campaign was a little too small. According to exit polls, he won 59 percent of the white vote, just short of his 60 percent target. But even a 60 percent showing with white voters wouldn't have won him the popular vote.

That’s because the GOP bubble remained as tight as ever: Only white people voted for Mitt Romney.”

Friday, November 9, 2012

Redistricting Makes Taking Back the House Difficult for Dems


“Following the Democrats' recent win in a Republican-leaning district in upstate New York, there's been a steady drumbeat of speculation regarding the party's chance of winning back the House in 2012. Polling seems to confirm that the opportunity is there for Democrats: The RCP Average for the generic ballot shows Republicans with a slender 1.5 percent lead. I think the House is in play, but that the Democrats' road back to the majority is a steeper climb than many analysts apparently believe. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the number one reason has been receiving surprisingly little play: Democrats are getting their clocks cleaned in the 2012 redistricting.”