Saturday, January 26, 2013

Eugene C. Patterson, Editor and Civil Rights Crusader, Dies at 89


From the site:

Mr. Patterson succeeded the celebrated Ralph McGill as editor of The Constitution, and from 1960 to 1968 was a voice of conscience and progressive politics on the editorial page. He wrote thousands of columns, many of which addressed white Southerners directly, like letters from home, and cumulatively painted a portrait of the South during the civil rights struggle.

Raised on Georgia farm and serving as a tank commander in World War II, he worked at small-town newspapers in Texas and Georgia as a young man, and although he moved up to wire service jobs in New York and London, he had been steeped in the droll wit and down-home sociability of the South.

There were no simple solutions to the racial problems, and he offered none. Instead, he drew poignant scenes of suffering and loss to condemn violence and miscarriages of justice. And he explored themes of courage and questions of responsibility that went beyond mindless acts of racism to challenge a people with traditions of decency.

At the ruins of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where a bomb killed four girls on Sept. 15, 1963, he crafted his most famous column, “A Flower for the Graves.” Walter Cronkite was so moved that he asked Mr. Patterson to read it on the “CBS Evening News.”

Profits of World's 100 Wealthiest Could End Poverty Four Times Over: Report


From the site:

The profits of the world's one hundred most wealthy individuals last year would be enough to wipe out world poverty, says a new report. And not just once over, or twice over, but the vast amount of money that has flowed to the top of the world's financial food chain would be enough to eradicate the worst kind of poverty a full four times over.

Friday, January 11, 2013

On debt reduction, U.S. is nearly finished


From the site:

I've been known to publish a few charts and graphs on the debt from time to time, but this latest gem from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is especially important.

We talked earlier this week about a policy detail much of the political establishment chooses to overlook: the fact that policymakers have already adopted a series of measures that will sharply reduce the national debt. Indeed, just since the start of fiscal year 2011, President Obama has signed $2.4 trillion of debt reduction into law. If one includes the projected savings from the Affordable Care Act, that total is even higher.

For the right, which ironically was responsible for creating a fiscal mess during the Bush/Cheney era but which now inexplicably claims the high ground, the progress isn't good enough. We need more austerity, conservatives argue, to address the "debt crisis."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Freaky Clip From 1990 Shows How Nothing Ever Changes In Washington Budget Fights


From Joe Wiesenthal / Business Insider – the more things change the more things stay the same:

“You must watch this clip from 1990, where Senators debate a "balanced" budget package designed to reduce the deficit.

You have Sen. Alan Simpson talking about how there are no real cuts to Medicare, but rather a mere slowing of the growth from 11% to 10%, and that the media was being irresponsible by calling it cuts.

There's Alaska Senator Ted Stevens warning about the danger if Washington hit the "sequester."

You have Senator Pete Domenici talking about how it was a "balanced" approach because only 30% of the deficit reduction came from "revenue" (even than Republicans didn't use the word taxes). Domenici went on to say how reducing the deficit would create jobs. In the beginning you have Sentor Robert Byrd talking about how dangerous it was to leave children with a huge deficit mess if the Senate didn't act.

And meanwhile, the whole time, you have them praising each other and the other courageous centrists who didn't appease the extremes of their parties.

It's actually freaky.”

Link to clip referenced on the site:

2012: The Year in Graphs


Great graphs from Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog:

“As 2012 draws to a close, Wonkblog asked our favorite professional wonks — economists, political scientist, politicians and more — to see what graphs and charts they felt did the best job explaining the past year. Here are their nominees.”

Graph from North Dakota senator Kent Conrad:


“This chart demonstrates that additional revenue has to be part of any deficit reduction package. It shows that the last five times the budget was in surplus (in 1969, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001), revenue was near 20 percent of GDP. Revenue is now at 15.8 percent of GDP, near its lowest level in 60 years. And under the House Republican budget plan, revenue would reach only 18.7 percent of GDP by 2022, a clearly inadequate level. Even with spending cuts and entitlement changes, given the retirement of the baby boom generation and rising health costs, it is clear we are also going to need more revenue.”

“Source: Data comes from OMB historical tables and the House Republican budget proposal.”

The Economics of the Civil War


Excellent article from Roger Ransom published on web site:

“The Civil War has been something of an enigma for scholars studying American history. During the first half of the twentieth century, historians viewed the war as a major turning point in American economic history. Charles Beard labeled it "Second American Revolution," claiming that "at bottom the so-called Civil War - was a social war, ending in the unquestioned establishment of a new power in the government, making vast changes - in the course of industrial development, and in the constitution inherited from the Fathers" (Beard and Beard 1927: 53). By the time of the Second World War, Louis Hacker could sum up Beard's position by simply stating that the war's "striking achievement was the triumph of industrial capitalism" (Hacker 1940: 373). The "Beard-Hacker Thesis" had become the most widely accepted interpretation of the economic impact of the Civil War. Harold Faulkner devoted two chapters to a discussion of the causes and consequences of the war in his 1943 textbook American Economic History (which was then in its fifth edition), claiming that "its effects upon our industrial, financial, and commercial history were profound" (1943: 340).”

Policy Implications of Capital-Biased Technology: Opening Remarks


“OK, maybe that was too quick. Let me take it more slowly: a substantial part of our social insurance system — Social Security and the hospital insurance portion of Medicare — is funded through dedicated payroll taxes. If payrolls lag behind overall national income, this will tend to leave those programs underfunded given the way the laws are currently written.

But America as a whole won’t have gotten poorer: the money is still there to support the programs, it’s just coming in the form of capital rather than labor income. There would be no problem, at least in economic terms, in continuing the programs by adding revenue from general taxation, maybe even from dedicated taxes on capital income.

And consider the alternative, in which we slash Social Security and Medicare not because the nation can’t afford those programs, but merely because workers are taking a smaller share of national income. What we would be doing in that case is doubling down on the damage to workers — they’re already hurting because income is shifting away from labor, and we’re going to hurt them even more by cutting the benefits they depend upon.”

Factory Jobs Gain, but Wages Retreat


Wages for new hires in the manufacturing sector are dropping – this is an unfortunate result of the outsourcing of jobs – particularly during the last decade.


Source for above data:

George Will: You Know Who Else Had High Voter Turnout?


This article discusses a really despicable George Will column – I’m sure this is an extremely unsettling proposition for conservatives:

“George Will argues in his Washington Post column today that what he terms the Justice Department's "drive to federalize voter registration" is an unnecessarily complex answer to "the non-problem of people choosing not to vote," and that high voter turnout isn't all it's cracked up to be, citing the German elections of the early 1930s that resulted in Nazi dictatorship.”

Fixing the economy, a new focus for Congress


Largely missing is any discussion of how to fix the economy, to make it work for working people once more. Just sustaining the faltering recovery won’t get it done. We’re still struggling with mass unemployment, declining wages and worsening inequality. Corporate profits now capture an all-time record percentage of the economy; workers’ wages have hit an all-time low. A little constriction, or a lot, won’t do anything to change that reality.

Brewing Up Confusion


Howard Schultz, the C.E.O. of Starbucks, has a reputation as a good guy, a man who supports worthy causes. And he presumably thought he would add to that reputation when he posted an open letter urging his employees to promote fiscal bipartisanship by writing “Come together” on coffee cups.

In reality, however, all he did was make himself part of the problem. And his letter was actually a very good illustration of the forces that created the current mess.