25 February 2010

My Congress for a Parliament

I don't like parliamentary government. No good reason, mind you, I just prefer the design of our system better (the theory, mind you, not necessarily the practice). But what the Europeans, and especially the Brits, have all over us is their debate. C-SPAN in more soporific than NyQuil, and congressional debates, such as they are, are meaningless. Members of congress read out position papers to a room more than half empty. And they literally read these things hunched over a lectern barely looking up (not that there's anyone with whom to make eye contact). You'd think none of them even took a public speaking class, much less won any kind of election.
Anyway, these thoughts percolate from time to time in my head. especially after I see something like this (from the European parliament):

I don't know who Nigel Farage is, but I wish he were my representative.

So anyone who got their drawers in a twist over Justice Alito mouthing "not true" about former constitutional law scholar Obama's patently incorrect assessment of a Supreme Court decision can just relax.

I guess boredom is what you get in exchange for false decorum.

Here's another favorite from British parliament:

& here:

23 February 2010

Contra Keynes

Why Government Spending Does Not Stimulate Economic Growth: Answering the Critics by Brian Riedl.

I haven't finished it yet, but the basics are sound. What it boils down to is that there is no such thing as a free lunch and short-term government spending intended to spur the economy merely moves money from one use to another through an intermediary (the government).

I'm not foolish enough to believe that all resources are utilized in the most efficient manner, but I think there is overwhelming evidence that most resources tend to move towards efficiency. If left alone markets will indeed clear. That is, of course, until an outside force consciously shifts resources in such a way, usually with the best of intentions, to help the public good.

It doesn't.

22 February 2010

It is 1933

All over again. Let's encourage non-productivity (or at least well-compensated poor productivity) and start messing around with prices (the legislatures' and President's antipathy towards "excessive" wages not paid to union members and government employees and agencies is also well documented).

We're not in a Great Depression or anything like it. Yet.

If we keep interfering in the markets, monkeying around with the interest rates, debasing the currency and not learing anything from our past, we'll still be addressing the two-headed monster of double-digit unemployment and inflation for several more years.

And before you know it, it will be as bad as the good old days.

My Stars & Garters

In what I hope will be the last post I ever write concerning Paul Krugman, let's close with a bang.

I agree whole-heartedly with this column.

Here are the key points:

So the beast is starving, as planned. It should be time, then, for conservatives to explain which parts of the beast they want to cut. And President Obama has, in effect, invited them to do just that, by calling for a bipartisan deficit commission.

Many progressives were deeply worried by this proposal, fearing that it would turn into a kind of Trojan horse — in particular, that the commission would end up reviving the long-standing Republican goal of gutting Social Security. But they needn’t have worried: Senate Republicans overwhelmingly voted against legislation that would have created a commission with some actual power, and it is unlikely that anything meaningful will come from the much weaker commission Mr. Obama established by executive order.

Why are Republicans reluctant to sit down and talk? Because they would then be forced to put up or shut up. Since they’re adamantly opposed to reducing the deficit with tax increases, they would have to explain what spending they want to cut. And guess what? After three decades of preparing the ground for this moment, they’re still not willing to do that.

This is the main reason I made the switch to the Libertarian Party. Sure, my guy will never have a chance to win. But when one of them get elected, they do (or try to do) what they say they're going to do. The Republicans during the 90s & 00s were a joke. They talk big when out of power and spend just like the Democrats when they're in power--except they have tax cuts, which I like, but if you continue to cut taxes and never cut spending you then raise future taxes while throwing the interest rate off kilter and crowding out private investment. In other words, they end up doing exactly what they accuse the Democrats of doing.

80% of federal agencies (and workforce) should be eliminated with an across the board 20% cut in staff (and budget) in every agency that remains (a la Jack Welch). And yes, you can cut the size and amount spent on the military while not hating America, loving communists and letting the terrorists win.

Anyway, Krugman is right. The Republicans have never specified what should be cut. When W proposed partially privatising Social Security (pusillanimous sod should have called for the elimination of it) there was one small problem. Right now the feds still collect more in FICA "contributions" than they pay out--they have since the program was started, though they won't be for long. The overage is spent on other things and "replaced," if you will, with IOUs (debt sold to other countries in the form of interest bearing bonds. Bush never proposed how the "hole" in funding should have been filled, or what was to be cut to make up the difference. So it wasn't a serious proposal and was treated as such. And this is only one of several thousand examples from the last 20 years.

Then again, Democrats keep promulgating taxes on "the rich" and then punch it full of loopholes so that only the very dimmest of wealthy people would actually pay the tax. And guess what happens? Revenues usually drop. They add the loopholes so that neither they nor their friends or patrons actually have to pay the tax--only the "bad" rich people will pay it or be excoriated for avoiding the tax; never mind that tax avoidance is not only legal and logical, but responsible behavior (anyone who didn't exercise every legal option to retain as much of his legally obtained property and avoid having it confiscated would be considered mad, or at least "irrational" in the jargon of economists).

So there it is, Paul Krugman and I are in agreement...Republicans are just as scummy and self-serving as their Democratic brethren. Screw 'em all. Now if Krugman would only go away.

19 February 2010

Krugman Don't Know Health Insurance

I could have told you that, but this guy does it so much better. (More here).

I love the video he links to...

18 February 2010

To be Honest as This World Goes...

A reporter is fired to striving for objectivity. Mr. Cardinale's explanation/response is priceless.

At a very fundamental, core level, Springston did not share our vision for a news publication with a progressive perspective. He held on to the notion that there was an objective reality that could be reported objectively, despite the fact that that was not our editorial policy at Atlanta Progressive News. It just wasn’t the right fit.

And it gets better...

“Progressive news is news that brings us closer to universal health care, living wages, affordable housing, peace, a healthy environment, and voting systems we can trust.

We provide news of concern to working families, and therefore, our writing is geared toward a specific audience. Fortunately, our audience–working families–comprises a majority of people in the United States who are largely ignored by corporate media sources.

We believe there is no such thing as objective news. Typically, mainstream media presents itself as objective but is actually skewed towards promoting the corporate agenda of the ultra-wealthy.

APN, on the other hand, does not pretend to be objective. We believe that our news coverage is fair and that our progressive principles are fair. We aim when possible to give voice to all sides, but aim to provide something different than what is already provided by corporate sources.”

(emphasis added by me).

At least he's honest. He's an idiot, but an honest one, and I guess I'll have to take it.

03 February 2010

Get Out Your Red Pens

My guess is no less than 85% of the agencies listed here serve no federal purpose whatsoever, other than showing people that the government "cares" and is "working on it."



Last month Paul Krugman lamented the Dangerous Dysfunction in the senate given the ahistorical use of the filibuster by Republicans. In this effort, Krugman quotes a political scientist whose data show that the filibuster was used ("affected") 8% of major legislation in the 1960s; 27% in the 1980s and then mushroomed up to 70% since 2006 (when Republicans returned to the minority). So it looks like use of the filibuster jumped 63%. And it did if you skip the 1990s and mid-2000s when guess which party was in the minority. Then the filibuster was used 51% of the time.

Why does Krugman skip this time period? One can only guess. Maybe it's because back in 2005 he was afraid of extremists trying to eliminate the filibuster.

He also states that "the Constitution sets up the Senate as a body with majority-not supermajority-rule." No, it doesn't. Article I, Section 5, clause 2 says "Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings." I know I've mentioned this before, but he keeps insisting on getting this wrong. The best part is, if you want to change the filibuster rule, it takes 67 votes. It would be nice to bring this to his attention, but he would probably just ignore it now anyway, and thank the good heavens it there in a few years when he wants it to keep the evil Republicans from jamming things down our throats.

I shouldn't be shocked by his intransigence at this point. I don't know why I am. I also don't know why anyone would take him seriously.

Oh My

Behold Keith Olbermann equating Dred Scott v Sanford with Citizens United v Federal Election Commission. This is stunning. "Hyperbole" doesn't do this justice. Neither does "idiotic."

My favorite part, among many, is where he describes MSNBC and his show as an "independent" news source.

Just one thing for shits and giggles, though. He equates Chief Justice Roberts with Cheif Justice Taney and this decision with Dred Scott. No, really. That's his thesis, such as it is. This is stupid in so many ways, but let's just look at the most obvious. Taney wrote Dredd Scott; Roberts joined the holding opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy (he also wrote a concurring opinion joind by Justice Alito).

Further, Olbermann hates the "personhood" bestowed upon corporations. And one might think that this opinion did that. It didn't. Corporate "personhood" predates John Roberts, Keith Olbermann, Roger Taney, John Marshall, Thomas Jefferson, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. It is a common law tradition. Just because individuals, exercsing their right to assemble and following their applicable state laws in incorporating, form a corporation doesn't grant the government any more power over them than what the government had before incorporating.