Daily Archive: 03/04/2013

Mar 04 2013

Stuck in the Wrong Conversation

Even though I’m an “only child,” I had a large extended family that we visited quite often, especially my maternal great grandmother and her two maiden sisters. They would gather in the dining room every afternoon for tea and exchange the “news of the day.” Since they were all profoundly hard of hearing, the disconnected conversations were quite amusing and memorable, as you can imagine, even for a five year old.

The conversation about sequester and the manufactured debt/deficit crisis reminded me of the three elderly ladies sitting around that table, talking to each other but not hearing a word the others are saying. The president, congressional leaders and the press are all talking but not hearing what they need to hear and ignoring what the American people want, jobs.

In the middle of the implementation of austere sequestration cuts, we’ve had the inane distraction of the Washington Post‘s columnist Bob Woodward’s “poutrage” which is just another example, as the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent in the Plum Line puts it, of being stuck in the wrong conversation:

The Woodward flap is superficially an argument about the meaning of Gene Sperling’s email, but as Jonathan Cohn details this morning, this is just a distraction from the broader, far more consequential argument over who is to blame for the creation of sequestration. The answer, of course, is that both sides are to blame for creating it – though one side is far more to blame for the failure to avert it – thanks to the deficit mania that gripped Washington in 2011, at precisely the time we should have been focused on unemployment and economic growth.

Meanwhile, the fact that sequestration is set to hit is a concrete reminder that we’re still stuck with the consequences of that misguided 2011 mindset. Indeed, the continuing argument over how to avert sequestration – whether to replace it with a mix of spending cuts and new revenues, or with just spending cuts – is itself a sign of the continuing power of elite consensus deficit-obsession. After all, the battle is still being fought on deficit/austerity turf, at a time of near-zero growth and mass unemployment, rather than over what government should be doing to boost the economy and alleviate widespread economic suffering. As Atrios has put it, we’re not debating whether to implement more austerity; we’re debating over how much austerity to implement.

Nobel Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman told Ed Shultz, host of MSNBC’s “Ed Show, “that sequestration was “designed to be stupid” and “this is exactly what the doctor did not order”.

While the spending cuts were conceived as a fix for the federal deficit, Krugman said, this was not the time to implement that kind of measure. Instead, he said, the government should be taking advantage of low interest rates and a high number of unemployed construction workers to invest in infrastructure and education.

“What kind of spending would it take to keep us on the track that we’re on right now?” Schultz asked, noting a continued pattern of private sector job growth despite Republican resistance to a new jobs bill since the stimulus package of 2009.

“If we would just stop cutting, the growth would probably keep going,” Krugman answered. “If spending had grown as fast in this recovery as it has in past recoveries, we’d be spending something like $200 billion a year – state, local and federal – more, maybe $300 billion a year more. Maybe $300 billion a year more. We’d have about a million and a half more public sector workers than we do right now, because we’ve been laying them off at [an] unprecedented pace. So, I think $300 billion a year of additional spending would be appropriate and would mean, if we did it, that we would be pretty close to full employment at this point.”

Talking Points Memo‘s Brian Beutler says that the president has done “excellent job” of “of flipping the politics of taxation to make the GOP’s once bulletproof position a vulnerability,” but the president is still not saying what the public needs to hear about jobs and the social safety net.

Mar 04 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman; Mooching Off Medicaid

Conservatives like to say that their position is all about economic freedom, and hence making government’s role in general, and government spending in particular, as small as possible. And no doubt there are individual conservatives who really have such idealistic motives.

When it comes to conservatives with actual power, however, there’s an alternative, more cynical view of their motivations – namely, that it’s all about comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted, about giving more to those who already have a lot. And if you want a strong piece of evidence in favor of that cynical view, look at the current state of play over Medicaid.

Kurt Opsahl: The CISPA Government Access Loophole

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act-CIPSA, the so-called “cybersecurity” bill-is back in Congress. As we’ve written before, the bill is plagued with privacy problems and we’re urging concerned users to email their Representatives to oppose it.

Many of the bill’s problems stem from its vague language.  One particularly dangerous provision, designed to enable corporations to obtain and share information, is drafted broadly enough to go beyond just companies, creating a government access loophole. [..]

As it stands, CISPA is dangerously vague, and should not allow for any expansion of government powers through a series of poorly worded definitions.  If the drafters intend to give new powers to the government’s already extensive capacity to examine your private information, they should propose clear and specific language so we can have a real debate.

In the meantime, we urge Internet users to join us in opposing this bill.

Robert Reich; Sequestration Nation, and Remembering Robert Kennedy

With the sequester now beginning, I find myself thinking about Robert F. Kennedy — and 46 years ago when I was an intern in his Senate office.

1967 was a difficult time for the nation. America was deeply split over civil rights and the Vietnam War. Many of our cities were burning. The war was escalating.

But RFK was upbeat. He was also busy and intense — drafting legislation, lining up votes, speaking to the poor, inspiring the young. I was awed by his energy and optimism, and his overriding passion for social justice and the public good. (Within a few months he’d declare his intention to run for president. Within a year he’d be dead.)

The nation is once again polarized, but I don’t hear our politicians talking about social justice or the public good. They’re talking instead about the budget deficit and sequestration.

At bottom, though, the issue is still social justice.

David Woolner: FDR Put Humanity First; the Sequester Puts It Last

Eighty years ago this month, at the height of the worst economic crisis in our nation’s history, Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered on his promise to launch a New Deal for the American people. Not wedded to any one program, idea, or ideology, the New Deal was founded on the very simple premise that when the free market failed to provide basic economic security for the average American, government had a responsibility to provide that security. [..]

As it turns out, FDR’s decision to put “humanity first” was not only the right moral decision, it was also the right economic decision. For the deficit spending that he finally unleashed in World War II, coupled with the social and economic reforms put in place during the New Deal, led to one of the longest periods of economic prosperity in America’s history and the birth of the modern American middle class.

Sadly, all of the evidence to date suggests that our leaders in Washington are quite happy “to pass by on the other side” and let the sequester proceed without so much as a fight. With roughly 16 million people across the country still unemployed, this is surely “a crime against the American people.”

Margaret Kimberly: Hollywood’s Propaganda

“Movies have become a happy arm of the United States government as they advocate for violence and war crimes.”

There isn’t any part of popular culture which allows the citizens of this country to escape the glorification of American imperialism. One can’t watch a football game without seeing an honor guard present the colors, or soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, or in the worst case scenario a flyover of military jets. Commercials advertising everything from cars to dog food present endless images of soldiers returning home from the battlefield.

The movie industry has embraced the glorification of militarism and American violence practiced abroad as eagerly as professional sports or advertising. There is scarcely a big budget action movie whose plot doesn’t include a scene on an aircraft carrier and even children’s cartoons and games are brought back to life with story lines made in cooperation with the Department of Defense.

Michael Gould-Wartofsky: The Logic of Legalization

The political calculus behind immigration reform was supposed to have changed after the elections of 2012. The outcome of the elections, along with some basic economics, were supposed to have made the logic of legalization all but inevitable, setting the stage for the passage of comprehensive immigration reform early this year.

And yet, we remain mired in the same tired debates we were having back in 2007. [..]

The logic of legalization implies three simple steps. The first step is one the President could take tomorrow:  a national moratorium on deportations. The second is one that Congress could take the very next day:  universal adjustment of status, from “illegal alien” to legal permanent resident, for all 11 million. The third step is one that follows directly from the second:  a clear path to citizenship for legalized immigrants, including the Dreamers, along with a path to empowerment for excluded workers, equal access to education for immigrant students, and reunification for mixed-status families.

Mar 04 2013

On This Day In History March 4

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 4 is the 63rd day of the year (64th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 302 days remaining until the end of the year.

In this day in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is inaugurated as the 32nd president of the United States. In his famous inaugural address, delivered outside the east wing of the U.S. Capitol, Roosevelt outlined his “New Deal”–an expansion of the federal government as an instrument of employment opportunity and welfare–and told Americans that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Although it was a rainy day in Washington, and gusts of rain blew over Roosevelt as he spoke, he delivered a speech that radiated optimism and competence, and a broad majority of Americans united behind their new president and his radical economic proposals to lead the nation out of the Great Depression.

The only American president elected to more than two terms, he forged a durable coalition that realigned American politics for decades. FDR defeated incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover in November 1932, at the depths of the Great Depression. FDR’s combination of optimism and activism contributed to reviving the national spirit. Working closely with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin in leading the Allies against Germany and Japan in World War II, he died just as victory was in sight.

Starting in his “first hundred days” in office, which began March 4, 1933, Roosevelt launched major legislation and a profusion of executive orders that gave form to the New Deal, a complex, interlocking set of programs designed to produce relief (especially government jobs for the unemployed), recovery (of the economy), and reform (through regulation of Wall Street, banks and transportation). The economy improved rapidly from 1933 to 1937, but then went into a deep recession. The bipartisan Conservative Coalition that formed in 1937 prevented his packing the Supreme Court or passing much new legislation; it abolished many of the relief programs when unemployment practically ended during World War II. Most of the regulations on business were ended about 1975-85, except for the regulation of Wall Street by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which still exists. Along with several smaller programs, major surviving programs include the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which was created in 1933, and Social Security, which Congress passed in 1935.

As World War II loomed after 1938, with the Japanese invasion of China and the aggressions of Nazi Germany, FDR gave strong diplomatic and financial support to China and Britain, while remaining officially neutral. His goal was to make America the “Arsenal of Democracy” which would supply munitions to the Allies. In March 1941, Roosevelt, with Congressional approval, provided Lend-Lease aid to the countries fighting against Nazi Germany with Great Britain. He secured a near-unanimous declaration of war against Japan after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, calling it a “date which will live in infamy“. He supervised the mobilization of the US economy to support the Allied war effort. Unemployment dropped to 2%, relief programs largely ended, and the industrial economy grew rapidly to new heights as millions of people moved to new jobs in war centers, and 16 million men (and 300,000 women) were drafted or volunteered for military service.

Roosevelt dominated the American political scene, not only during the twelve years of his presidency, but for decades afterward. He orchestrated the realignment of voters that created the Fifth Party System. FDR’s New Deal Coalition united labor unions, big city machines, white ethnics, African Americans and rural white Southerners. Roosevelt’s diplomatic impact also resonated on the world stage long after his death, with the United Nations and Bretton Woods as examples of his administration’s wide-ranging impact. Roosevelt is consistently rated by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.

Mar 04 2013

Austerity Could End The Death Penalty

Someone has finally found the argument that could finally put an end to the death penalty, it costs too much. In the age of austerity, the cost to the state of Maryland to litigate the appeal of inmates on death row is three times higher than the cost of life in prison without parole:

In its 2008 report, the (Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment) wrote that the average cost of prosecuting and imprisoning a Death Row inmate was $3 million, nearly three times higher than the cost of convicting and sentencing a murderer to life imprisonment. Of that $3 million, $1.7 million is spent in the courtroom and $1.3 million is spent in a Supermax prison, the commission wrote. [..]

The commission determined that the state spent $1.8 million dollars for every failed attempt to impose the death penalty, including $950,000 in prison costs and $850,000 in adjudication costs.

Maryland’s Gov. Martin O’Malley said since the death penalty is not a crime deterrent and the exorbitant cost, it is time to end the death penalty in his state.

On Friday, the Maryland state Senate once again began debating a bill to repeal capital punishment in the state. It needs 24 votes to pass and 26 senators have already said publicly that they support the repeal.

Rather than funnel all of their focus into moral and social arguments, the bill’s supporters have been making their point partly in economic terms. The cost of prosecuting a death row case in Maryland can be as much as three times what it costs for a case seeking a life sentence without parole.

On Sunday’s Up with Chris Hayes, Bryan Stevenson, founder & executive Director of Equal Justice Initiative, professor at New York University School of Law, addressed how the savings could benefit public safety. He and Up host Chris Hayes were joined by panelists Mattea Kramer, the National Priorities Project; David Sirota, contributor to Salon.com; and Roberto Lovato, writer for New American Media, contributor to The Nation.

Mar 04 2013

Extreme wealth inequality in America illustrated. A must see.

This video/infographic was published on YouTube last November.  I hadn’t seen it before today.  I think it’s incredibly well done and a must watch. I recommend maximizing the size (the bracket/square in the bottom right corner of the video) to get the full effect.  At the end of the video, the creator, politizane,  states that the work is being placed in the public domain.

Wealth Inequality in America

Published on Nov 20, 2012

Infographics on the distribution of wealth in America, highlighting both the inequality and the difference between our perception of inequality and the actual numbers. The reality is often not what we think it is.