Tag Archive: Dean Baker

Mar 27 2013

Protecting Social Security from Inaccurate Accounting with an Agenda

I was asked to contribute to the Daily Kos Social Security blogathon today to draw attention to the neoliberal attack on it. I hope you visit and like my contribution.

I have referenced this before, but there hasn’t really been enough of a movement on the this issue, and it’s an important one. It’s specifically important right now when Washington DC is completely stuck on stupid in a self created crisis. This crisis started in 2010 when the debt ceiling was not secured in the Bush tax cut deal with Republicans by President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Many of us predicted it would lead to the debt ceiling debacle in 2011 which in turn led to the fiscal cliff negotiations and the sequester that is now a reality.

However, it could end anytime with House Democratic Representative John Conyer’s bill to just repeal the sequester; that is, if he got proper support. I think that needs to be a goal along with forever protecting Social Security from neoliberal economics and the politicians that support it. After all, this sequester was a conscious bipartisan decision on their part to put Social Security in danger now that a 130 billion net cut within the chained(superlative) CPI is now on the White House’s website in its proposal to stand in place of the sequester.

What we are hearing to justify it are not only exaggerations and lies about Social Security being unsustainable, those lies are based on inaccurate accounting standards that have pervaded our entire government; the CBO, and yes, even the Social Security Trustees Board itself at times over the years. Let’s face it; the Social Security Trustees Board has a broad history of being overly pessimistic.

Feb 18 2013

Schooling Thomas Friedman

Economist, author and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Dean Baker took New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman back to economics class (he may not have ever went) for his Sunday column that was “once again mass marketing misinformation on economics” and getting it “180 degrees wrong: the Friedman standard.”

Dr. Baker start off citing Mr. Friedman’s first paragraph:

It begins by telling us that Tim Cook and Apple are sitting on $137 billion that they could be investing:

“Apple is currently sitting on $137 billion of cash in the bank. There are many reasons Apple has not spent its cash horde, but I’ll bet anything that one of them is the uncertain economic and tax environment in this country. Think about how much better we’d all be if Apple, and the many other companies sitting on cash, felt confident enough in the future to spend it. These are the most dynamic companies in the world. They don’t need any government help to innovate.”

He goes on to explain how, at this time, investment in equipment and software is near pre-recession levels. He then moves on to Mr. Friedman’s wrongheadedness about consumption and the trade deficit.

Then Dr. Dean get to the real nitty gritty of how really wrong Friedman is on getting the American economy moving is this theory on investment in infrastructure and early childhood education:

Friedman just keeps getting better:

“Our choice today is not ‘austerity’ versus ‘no austerity.’ That is a straw man argument offered by both extremes. It’s about whether we phase in – in the least painful way possible – a long-term plan that balances our need to protect the most vulnerable in this generation while funding the most opportunities for the next generation, and still creating growth. We can’t protect both generations in full anymore, but we must not sacrifice one for the other – favoring nursing homes over nursery schools – and that’s what we’re on track to do.”

You have to love the line:

“We can’t protect both generations in full anymore.”

Somehow Friedman missed the fact that the problem we are facing is a lack of demand. We need people to spend more not less. How does austerity reduce unemployment and get the economy back to full employment? It hasn’t worked in Ireland, Greece, Spain, the United Kingdom or anywhere else that can be identified. How on earth does the fact that we now face a huge gap in demand mean that we are less well-situated to “protect both generations.” (Of course he doesn’t say anything about income distribution.)

Again, if Friedman could be taught some intro economics it would be hugely helpful here. Suppose Friedman gets his wish for a grand bargain and everyone working today knew that they would be seeing sharply lower Social Security and Medicare benefits in the future. All of those consumers who Friedman thinks are paralyzed by uncertainty will suddenly realize that they can be certain that they will need more money to support themselves in retirement because the Thomas Friedmans of the world have taken away their Social Security and Medicare.

As Mr. Friedman has written, he mostly travel’s by taxi. So Dr. Baker has an idea on how you can help with Mr. Friedman’s economic education if you live in New York City:

Print copies of the two graph’s the investment share of GDP and consumption as a share of disposable income;

Give then to NYC cab driver’s to give to Mr. Friedman if, and when, they pick him up.

The theory is that if enough people do this eventually Mr. Friedman will learn something about economics and we will “no longer have to see painfully wrongheaded columns on the economy in the Sunday NYT.”

I stopped reading Mr. Friedman’s columns sometime after 2006, three years into the Iraq War that was only suppose to last six months. Mr. Friedman started predicting the outcome of the war would take six months in 2003. He did it often enough that Atrios started calling the prediction a “Friedman Unit” in 2006 and it became a running joke thereafter.

Feb 11 2013

The Grand Discussion: Economic Recovery Part 2

After his exclusive interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, host of Up with Chris Hayes, Nobel Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist/blogger, Dr. Paul Krugman (@NYTimeskrugman) joins Chris and his panel guests Dean Baker (@DeanBaker13), co-director Center for Economic & Policy Research and author; Alexis Goldstein (@alexisgoldstein), a former vice president of information technology at Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank, now an Occupy Wall Street activist; and Heather McGhee (@hmcghee), vice-president of Demos. Enjoy the lively and informed discussion about the self imposed sequester crisis, global austerity and the role of inequality in the recovery.

Dec 15 2012

Dean Baker: The Fiscal Myth

The Biggest Myth in Obama-GOP Spending Showdown is the “Fiscal Cliff” Itself

As negotiations continue between the White House and House Speaker John Boehner, leading economist Dean Baker joins us to discuss the myths about the so-called fiscal cliff. With little more than two weeks before the deadline, President Obama insists on an immediate increase in the top two income-tax rates as a condition for further negotiations on changes to spending and entitlement programs. But Boehner said Washington’s “spending problem” is the biggest roadblock to reaching a deal and has urged the White House to identify more spending cuts. “This idea that, somehow, if we don’t get a deal by the end of the year we’re going to see the economy collapse, go into a recession, really that’s just totally dishonest,” says Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “The basis for this is that we don’t have a deal all year. And the fact that you don’t have a deal December 31st does not mean you don’t get a deal by December 31st, 2013.”

Transcript can be read here.

Dec 05 2012

No, This Fiscal Scam Won’t Be Different Than 2011. Stop Deluding Yourselves

Of course that can be easy to do with corporate media hacks parading around as “journalists” basically working to preserve the corrupt machine they feed off of. They’re feeding people revisionist nonsense about the so called fiscal cliff; nonsense like how because of the President was reelected he has more leverage this time. As if Democrats ever use leverage after they win elections like how they kept funding the Iraq war in 2006 after their opposition to the war gave them those mid term victories. Nancy Pelosi also took impeachment of the war criminal GWB off the table so future war crimes could be committed.

And then in 2008 after winning an unprecedented majority in both Houses of Congress, higher than at anytime leading up to that point on the GOP’s end, we were told we didn’t have a mandate for progressive polices despite the fact that the right’s neoconservative Laissez-faire ideology had been fully discredited.

The Mandate Manipulation Machine Enters Stage Right

As I predicted a while back, the Partisan-Industrial Complex in Washington, D.C. has deployed its quadrennial Mandate Manipulation Machine to make sure that the 65 million Americans who voted for Barack Obama remember that America giving more than 340 electoral votes to an African American billed as a Islamic Marxist terrorist means there is no mandate for real change in this, a country obviously more conservative than ever.

A cursory glance at the newspapers today shows the media teeming with stories quoting incoming Obama administration officials, Democratic Party leaders and spokespeople for corporate front groups insisting that actually, no real change can be made, and what small-bore changes can happen, will have to happen in the very distant future, not soon. My favorite was the one-two punch from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean. Upon hearing of his bigger senate majority, Reid said on Tuesday, “This is not a mandate for a political party or an ideology.

And of course we now know that was Democrats’ way of telling us they would waste the crisis that elected them, keep TBTF, not prosecute anyone who caused the crash, dump the EFCA, enact Dolecare instead of a public option or Medicare Buy In, and go half ass on all qualitative legislation. This is what actually led up to the mid term losses in 2010. And keep in mind this 2012 election victory doesn’t even compare to the victory in 2008.

And yet they tell us we will see a new reinvigorated President and Congress. They tell us they are confident this time. They tell us that this time Democrats know they have a mandate for progress so things will be different than when the debt ceiling debacle made fools of them all. No, this is actually what the White House is telling us; the same thing as after the 2008 election victory now in 2012.

Axelrod: Talk of mandate ‘foolish, generally untrue’

Obama senior campaign adviser David Axelrod downplayed talk of an election mandate on the “fiscal cliff” on Thursday.

Axelrod said presidents always talk after an election about a mandate, but he called such talk “foolish.” President Obama and congressional Republicans are bracing for talks on tax hikes and spending cuts that are now set to be implemented in January.

“Everyone’s going to have to come to the table in the spirit of getting things done, but on this issue of particularly the fiscal cliff – presidents always say, ‘I have a mandate’; that’s a foolish word and generally untrue,” Axelrod told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday.

Nov 28 2012

WH Advisor David Plouffe and Goldman Sachs CEO Agree That Medicare and Medicaid Must be Cut

Yes, it’s true. If the White House would like to disavow David Plouffe’s words now is the time. Time is running short but it’s pretty obvious that he speaks for the White House given that David Plouffe is the President’s closest confidante. If you have the stomach to sit through this forum it’s right there for you to see, but I’ll post the relevant portion that matches up with Lloyd Blankfein’s mentality that the 99% need to sacrifice Medicare and retire later for the fantasy deficit crisis he, the White House, and Congress are peddling to the American people.

The President’s closest adviser is telling his base that additional cuts to pay down the deficit(not the 716 billion to Advantage, fraud, or providers from the 2010 CBO baseline on the effects of the ACA) in Medicare and Medicaid are coming and to be ready for them.

Senior White House advisor David Plouffe warns Republicans and Democrats alike must take political hits in order for deal to be had

“The only way that gets done is for Republicans again to step back and get mercilessly criticized by Grover Norquist and the Right, and it means that Democrats are going to have to do some tough things on spending and entitlements that means that they’ll criticized on by their left,” Plouffe said at his alma mater in conversation with former McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt.

[………]

Plouffe added that while the White House wants to engage in comprehensive tax reform, they know they must also “carefully” address the “chief drivers of our deficit”: Medicare and Medicaid.

Lloyd “Sell them shitty deals with the blessing of the US DOJ” Blankfein whole heartedly agrees with Plouffe. He’s also visiting the White House today. I have a feeling whatever good feelings labor and progressive groups had yesterday were perhaps misguided given the statement we just heard from David Pouffe. That and of course basically the priority of making capital whole on the backs of labor as 93% of the “recovery” goes into Lloyd Blankfein’s pocket since 2010.

Goldman Sachs CEO: Entitlements must be contained

BLANKFEIN: You’re going to have to undoubtedly do something to lower people’s expectations — the entitlements and what people think that they’re going to get, because it’s not going to — they’re not going to get it.



PELLEY: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid?

BLANKFEIN: You can look at history of these things, and Social Security wasn’t devised to be a system that supported you for a 30-year retirement after a 25-year career. … So there will be things that, you know, the retirement age has to be changed, maybe some of the benefits have to be affected, maybe some of the inflation adjustments have to be revised. But in general, entitlements have to be slowed down and contained.

Aug 23 2012

When the Next Crash Comes Remember Which Side You Were On and Learn

Cross posted at our new beta site Voices on the Square and The Stars Hollow Gazette

Yes, another crash is coming. I can’t predict precisely when as that would be a fool’s errand, but much closer than you think. It will probably be after our President is reelected and will care very little what you or I think once he and his treasury push for criminal TBTF banks to bailed out once again. Doctor Doom: the nickname for economist Nouriel Roubini: one of the relatively few outside the mainstream(part of the Got It Right (pdf) project) who predicted the last crash thinks 2013 is a perfect storm for another one which will be even worse and it makes sense.

Despite on theoretical fiscal policy limits with regard to the US, Roubini is absolutely right on the political deadlock with the coming crisis. We wasted our last crisis and that’s something Conservatives have not done whether we’re talking about the stagflation crisis of the 70s or 9/11. There won’t be as many political options this time to prop up the underlying economy in 2013 because Democrats have failed to change the Senate rules because most of them secretly like the way things work or don’t work in Washington. Sadly, if Republicans take over both houses again, they will change the Senate rules as they threatening to do in 2005 and 2006.

Anyway some might still want to scoff at Roubini’s prediction, but that will come back to bite them in the ass. Not even Roubini can predict the exact moment it will happen, but if one knows anything about the history of financial crashes, since the 80s when the 1933 banking reforms passed by FDR started slowly being dismantled, they started happening once again in a 5-7 year time-frame(and even closer than that if you count global stock crashes which count now more than ever since our markets turned dark with OTC derivatives and Information Asymmetry all around); some worse than others as the 2008 bust was on par with 1929 but you get the idea.

May 19 2011

Playing in Sand on the Economy

This video of an interview with Dean Baker, co-director for the Center for Economic Policy and Research, discussing the debt ceiling and holding the federal budget hostage is a good discussion of what could happen if the debt ceiling is not raised. Baker  clearly in the side of raising the debt ceiling but if it comes down to a choice of default and Social Security, he would choose saving Social Security.

There are those who are convinced that the GOP will not allow a default to happen and there has been a lot of pressure from Wall St and banking lobbyists to not play games with this. There is a lot of mistrust that Obama is playing some game that will end up slicing deeply into Social Security and Medicare to make it look as though he had no choice. He does have a choice to insist on a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling and take Social Security and Medicare off the bargaining table. If he doesn’t, as Paul Krugman said, “he might as well move out of the White House, and hand the keys over to the Tea Party.”