Daily Archive: 04/05/2013

Apr 05 2013

Obama Budget: From Bad to Worse

Pres. Barack Obama has released his proposed budget that include cuts Medicare and linking Social Security payments to Chained CPI in hopes (there is that ugly word again) of gaining “bipartisan” (another bad word) from Congressional Republicans. Never mind that the fact that the majority of voters do not want cuts to the top three social safety programs, the president is willing to sacrifice the disable, veterans and the elderly for a few tax changes that even if passed, would most likely be reversed in the next six months. This is not “compromise,” it is a sell out of the majority of Americans.

Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein has the breakdown of the proposal that will be releases in all its full gory details next Wednesday:

   

  • The budget would reduce the deficit by $1.8 trillion over ten years — $600 billion of this reduction would come from revenue raisers, and $1.2 trillion would come from spending reductions and entitlement reforms;
  • It would change the benefit structure of Social Security (chained-CPI);
  • It would means test additional programs in Medicare;
  • All told, it would include $400 billion in health care savings (or cuts);
  • It would cut $200 billion from other areas, identified by The New York Times as “farm subsidies, federal employee retirement programs, the Postal Services and the unemployment compensation system;”
  • It would pay for expanded access to pre-K (an Obama priority) by increasing the tobacco tax;
  • It would set limits on tax-preferred retirement accounts for the wealthy, prohibiting individuals from putting more than $3 million in IRAs and other tax-preferred retirement accounts;
  • And it would stop people from collecting full disability benefits and unemployment benefits that cover the same period of time.

Dean Baker shows that these cuts over time are worse for seniors than for the rich:

By comparison, Social Security is about 70 percent of the income of a typical retiree. Since President Obama’s proposal would lead to a 3 percent cut in Social Security benefits, it would reduce the income of the typical retiree by more than 2.0 percent, more than three times the size of the hit from the tax increase to the wealthy.

Chained CPI impact on Income photo btp-chained-cpi-obama_zpsdeb1873b.jpg

The congressional Democratic apologists insist that “certain lines won’t be crossed” which translates that if Republicans realize they can get the cuts to “entitlements’ that they want by temporarily sacrificing the tax and revenue increases this is a done deal.

The president is willing to agree to the entitlement cuts only in exchange for tax hikes in other areas.

“The president has made clear that he is willing to compromise and do tough things to reduce the deficit, but only in the context of a package like this one that has balance and includes revenues from the wealthiest Americans and that is designed to promote economic growth,” the administration official said. “That means that the things like CPI that Republican Leaders have pushed hard for will only be accepted if Congressional Republicans are willing to do more on revenues.”

This is political suicide for Democrats up for election. The Republicans will forever blame Democrats for destroying these programs.

As Paul Krugman points out, this makes no sense other than just Pres. Obama’s need to seek approval of the “Serious People:”

So what’s this about? The answer, I fear, is that Obama is still trying to win over the Serious People, by showing that he’s willing to do what they consider Serious – which just about always means sticking it to the poor and the middle class. The idea is that they will finally drop the false equivalence, and admit that he’s reasonable while the GOP is mean-spirited and crazy.

But it won’t happen.

No, that won’t happen because underneath it all this is what Obama has wanted all along and has continuously said so since 2006. It’s not the GOP that is “mean-spirited and crazy” it’s Obama.

Apr 05 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”.

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Paul Krugman: The Urge to Purge

When the Great Depression struck, many influential people argued that the government shouldn’t even try to limit the damage. According to Herbert Hoover, Andrew Mellon, his Treasury secretary, urged him to “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers. … It will purge the rottenness out of the system.” Don’t try to hasten recovery, warned the famous economist Joseph Schumpeter, because “artificial stimulus leaves part of the work of depressions undone.”

Like many economists, I used to quote these past luminaries with a certain smugness. After all, modern macroeconomics had shown how wrong they were, and we wouldn’t repeat the mistakes of the 1930s, would we?

How na├»ve we were. It turns out that the urge to purge – the urge to see depression as a necessary and somehow even desirable punishment for past sins, while inveighing against any attempt to mitigate suffering – is as strong as ever.

Eugene Robonson: The racket with standardized test scores

It is time to acknowledge that the fashionable theory of school reform – requiring that pay and job security for teachers, principals and administrators depend on their students’ standardized test scores – is at best a well-intentioned mistake, and at worst nothing but a racket. [..]

Our schools desperately need to be fixed. But creating a situation in which teachers are more likely than students to cheat cannot be the right path.

Standardized achievement tests are a vital tool, but treating test scores the way a corporation might treat sales targets is wrong. Students are not widgets. I totally reject the idea that students from underprivileged neighborhoods cannot learn. Of course they can. But how does it help these students to have their performance on a one-size-fits-all standardized test determine their teachers’ compensation and job security? The clear incentive is for the teacher to focus on test scores rather than actual teaching.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: As Europe Gets Sicker, Its Austerity Poison Is Still Our Prescription

How much sicker does the patient have to get before the doctors stop prescribing poison? [..]

Paul Krugman’s right: This isn’t a recession. It’s Europe’s Second Depression, and it’s on track to last even longer than the first one. Austerity economics has been imposed across most of the Eurozone, to a greater or lesser degree, with devastating economic results:  This is Europe’s sixth consecutive quarter of economic contraction.

Europe’s Austerity Recession (or Depression) has now lasted longer than the one brought on by the financial crisis of 2008.

Dean Baker: Nevermind: Headline of Correction for NYT Piece on Projected Cost of Dementia

The New York Times ran a front page piece warning readers that the cost of treating dementia is “soaring.” The piece tells readers of the findings of a new study by the Rand Corporation that shows the cost of dementia doubling by 2040 from its 2010 level.

Are you scared? Are you shaking in your boots? Thinking about pulling the plug on these costly old-timers?

Well our friend, Mr. Arithmetic, reminds us that the Congressional Budget Office projects (pdf) that the size of the economy is projected to roughly double over this period. This means that the Rand study’s finding implies that dementia will impose pretty much the same burden on the economy in 2040 as it does today.

Dave Maass and Trevor Timm: Are You a Teenager Who Reads News Online? According to the Justice Department, You May Be a Criminal

During his first term, President Barack Obama declared October 2009 to be “National Information Literacy Awareness Month,” emphasizing that, for students, learning to navigate the online world is as important a skill as reading, writing and arithmetic. It was a move that echoed his predecessor’s strong support of global literacy — such as reading newspapers — most notably through First Lady Laura Bush’s advocacy.

Yet, disturbingly, the Departments of Justice (DOJ) of both the Bush and Obama Administrations have embraced an expansive interpretation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) that would literally make it a crime for many kids to read the news online. And it’s the main reason why the law must be reformed.

Apr 05 2013

‘Electoral Victory’ My Ass

Why are Democrats even suggesting the inflation adjustment be reduced? Republicans aren’t asking for it. Not even Paul Ryan’s draconian budget includes it.- Robert Reich

Sigh. So Obama is going with the "chained CPI" thing in his latest proposal – changing the price index used for Social Security cost adjustments. This is, purely and simply, a benefit cut.

Does it make sense in policy terms? No.



So what’s this about? The answer, I fear, is that Obama is still trying to win over the Serious People, by showing that he’s willing to do what they consider Serious – which just about always means sticking it to the poor and the middle class. The idea is that they will finally drop the false equivalence, and admit that he’s reasonable while the GOP is mean-spirited and crazy.

But it won’t happen. Watch the Washington Post editorial page over the next few days. I hereby predict that it will damn Obama with faint praise, saying that while it’s a small step in the right direction, of course it’s inadequate – and anyway, Obama is to blame for Republican intransigence, because he could make them accept a Grand Bargain that includes major revenue increases if only he would show Leadership (TM).

Oh, and wanna bet that Republicans soon start running ads saying that Obama wants to cut your Social Security?- Paul Krugman

And why not Paul?  Obama really does want to cut your Social Security.  He just said so.

When what little history we have left is written it will be recorded the Democratic Party had a chance to crush the crazy racist Republican Party like a bug.

And they refused to do it because they basically agree with it’s plutocratic policy of theft from regular citizens.

Any legislator who votes for this will lose their job and THEY DESERVE IT!

‘Electoral Victory’ my ass.

Apr 05 2013

On This Day In History April 5

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.

April 5 is the 95th day of the year (96th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 270 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1774, Benjamin Franklin publishes “An Open Letter to Lord North”.

On this day in 1774, Benjamin Franklin writes an open letter to Great Britain’s prime minister, Frederick, Lord North, from the Smyrna Coffee House in London. It was published in The Public Advertiser, a British newspaper, on April 15, 1774.

Franklin’s tongue-in-cheek letter suggested that the British impose martial law upon the colonies and appoint a “King’s Viceroy of all North America.” Franklin satirically went on to suggest that such centralized power over “Yankee Doodles,” who had “degenerated to such a Degree” from their British ancestors, “that one born in Britain is equal to twenty Americans,” would allow the crown to collect its taxes, then sell their impoverished colonies and colonists to Spain.

Smyrna Coffee House on St. James Street in London had been a meeting place of Whigs, or political liberals, since the 17th century. For Franklin to sign a letter drafted at Smyrna’s “A Friend of Military Government” was an obvious use of irony. The details of his purported plan for a military government, including the exclusive use of military courts in colonies known for their commitment to trial by jury, and “One Hundred to a Thousand Lashes in a frosty Morning” for offenders made Franklin s disdain for Lord North and his heavy-handed tactics clear.

An Open Letter to Lord North

For The Public Advertiser.

To Lord North.

My LORD, All your small Politicians, who are very numerous in the English Nation, from the patriotic Barber to the patriotic Peer, when big with their Schemes for the Good of poor Old England, imagine they have a Right to give Advice to the Minister, and condemn Administration if they do not adopt their Plan. I, my Lord, who have no mean Opinion of my Abilities, which is justified by the Attention that is paid to me when I harangue at the Smyrna and Old Slaughter’s, am willing to contribute my Mite to the public Welfare; and have a Proposal to make to your Lordship, which I flatter myself will be approved of by the Ministry, and if carried into Execution, will quiet all the Disturbances in America, procure a decent Revenue from our Colonies, make our royal Master (at least there) a King de facto, as well as de jure; and finally, as it may be managed, procure a round Sum towards discharging the national Debt.

My Scheme is, without Delay to introduce into North America a Government absolutely and entirely Military. The Opposition which some People suspect would be made by the Colonies, is a mere Bugbear: The Sight of a few Regiments of bold Britons, appearing with Ensigns displayed, and in all the Pomp of War, a Specimen of which may be seen every Summer at the Grand Review on Wimbledon Common, with that great Commander G —— l G —— e at their Head, accompanied with a Detachment from the Artillery, and Half a Dozen short Sixes, would so intimidate the Americans, that the General might march through the whole Continent of North America, and would have little else to do but to accept of the Submission of the several Towns as he passed. But as the Honour would be too great for one Man to reduce to absolute Subjection so great an Extent of Territory, I would propose that a separate Command be given to L —— d G —- G —— e, who by his animated Speeches in the House, and coinciding so entirely with your Lordship’s Opinion on the proper Methods for humbling America, deserves a Share in the Fame of such a grand Exploit. Let him have one half of the Army under his Direction, and march from New York to South Carolina. No one can object to the Nomination, as his Military Prowess is upon Record. The Regiments that are in America, with those who are about to embark, will be amply sufficient, without being at the Expence of sending more Troops. Those who served in America the last War, know that the Colonists are a dastardly Set of Poltroons; and though they are descended from British Ancestors, they are degenerated to such a Degree, that one born in Britain is equal to twenty Americans. The Yankey Doodles have a Phrase when they are not in a Humour for fighting, which is become proverbial, I don’t feel bould To-day. When they make this Declaration, there is no prevailing on them to attack the Enemy or defend themselves. If contrary to Expectation they should attempt an Opposition, procure Intelligence when it happens not to be their fighting Day, attack them and they will fly like Sheep pursued by a Wolf. When all North America have thus bent their Neck to the Yoke designed for them, I would propose that the Method made use of by the Planters in the West Indies may be adopted, who appoint what they call a Negro Driver, who is chosen from among the Slaves. It is observed that the little Authority that is given him over his Fellow Slaves, attaches him to his Master’s Interest, and his Cruelty would be without Bounds were he not restrained; but the Master is certain, that the utmost Exertion of Strength will be exacted by this cruel Task-master for the Proprietor’s Emolument. Let all the Colonists be enrolled in the Militia, subject of course to Martial Law. Appoint a certain Number of Officers from among the conquered People, with good Pay, and other Military Emoluments; they will secure their Obedience in the District where they command. Let no other Courts be allowed through the whole Continent but Courts Martial. An Inhabitant, who disobeys an Order, may by a Court Martial be sentenced to receive from One Hundred to a Thousand Lashes in a frosty Morning, according to the Nature of his Offence. Where Punishment is thus secure, this Advantage will accrue, that there will not be the same Necessity of hanging up so many poor Devils as in this free Country; by which Means the Service of many an able Man is lost to the Community. I humbly propose that the General and Commander in Chief be vested with the Power, and called by the Name of the King’s Viceroy of all North America. This will serve to impress the Americans with greater Respect for the first Magistrate, and have a Tendency to secure their Submission. All Orders issuing from this supreme Authority to have the Force of Laws. After this happy Change of Government, how easy to collect what Taxes you please in North America. When the Colonists are drained of their last Shilling, suppose they should be sold to the best Bidder. As they lie convenient for France or Spain, it may be reasonably expected one of those little Powers would be a Purchaser. I think Spain is to be preferred, as their Power hath more of the Ready than France. I will venture a Conjecture, that the Ministry might get at least Two Millions for the Soil, and the People upon it. With such a Sum what glorious Things might he not atchieve! Suppose it should be applied towards the Payment of one hundredth Part of the National Debt, I would give him an Opportunity of drawing down upon him the Blessing of the Poor by making him to take off the Halfpenny Duty on Porter. Considering the probable Stability of the present Ministry, this Honour may be reserved for your Lordship.

My Lord, excuse the Crudity of these indigested Hints, which your Wisdom is so capable of improving; and believe me, with infinite Respect, Your Lordship’s Most obedient Humble Servant, A Friend to Military Government.

Smyrna Coffee-House, April 5.

The Public Advertiser, April 15, 1774