Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category
Here is what I would like to see. The universe needs to move along two different timelines after election day 2012. In one universe Romney wins; in another Obama. Those who voted for Romney must live in the timeline in which he won. Likewise for the Obama supporters. Let’s also assume that after four years each universe has a window into the other.
Here is my bet. Those in the Romney universe who are not wealthy, who are middle class, women, minorities, students, working people, etc., will curse the day that they voted for Mitt. They will discover that he deceived them. That his five point plan went nowhere. That it wasn’t really a plan. The government will be locked in battles as Romney tries to placate his extreme right-wing. Insurance companies will not have to cover those with pre-existing conditions. Students will have less options to pay for college. The wealthy will be doing better than ever and middle class folks will be stuck just where they are (or worse). The next generation will not be able to count on Medicare and Medicaid as they do today.
How can this be? Mitt’s a businessman, a financier. He will know how to fix the economy. Get things moving again. But there is no evidence that business skills translate into being a good president, especially in terms of the economy. Knowing how to make money in the private sector is simply not the same thing as governing. For what it’s worth, let’s look at the record here. We have had three presidents who were businessmen in the last 60 years: Jimmy Carter, George Bush I, and George Bush II. Carter was a peanut farmer. Bush I was in oil, and he also served in the government. Bush II was a businessman with the same degree from the same school as Romney. Each of these presidents had significant problems with the economy, and Bush II was a dramatic failure. (As a matter of fact, try to name one truly successful president who was a businessman. Perhaps Truman. But I don’t know if running a haberdashery for a short time counts. And farmers and landowners in the 19th century are just not what we think of today as businessmen.)
And what did Mitt’s business experience do for the people of Massachusetts? Oh, he would have you believe he helped create a marvelous economy in the state. But here is actually what happened.
“Unlike Obama, Romney took office during an economic uptick. Massachusetts had a net job growth of 1.4 percent under Romney. However, that was far slower growth than the national average of 5.3%. As Romney’s opponents have frequently, and correctly, noted, Massachusetts ranked 47th in job growth over the entirety of Romney’s term. The only states that did worse: Louisiana, Michigan and Ohio.” [Fact Check, USA Today, 1/5/12]
And what will the Obama universe look like? In the Obama timeline Medicare, Medicaid, and student loans will all be protected. Insurance companies will cover pre-existing conditions and thirty million more Americans will have coverage. Baring a world financial meltdown, the economy will continue to improve and the wealthy will pay a fairer share of the nation’s taxes. The debt will gradually decrease as a proportion of GNP as the economy turns around and reasonable cost cutting measures are put in place. We have seen this universe. It’s the one we are beginning to live in.
What Mitt is really good at doing is selling himself, and he certainly will change his positions in order to do so. But before you vote for this man for any season, try playing the parallel universe game.
[Thanks to a commentator on a newspaper article who suggested that country should split based on which states went which way in the election, that is, people should be forced to live under the president their state voted for. Not exactly my idea here, but close. Sorry that I don't recall where I saw the comment. I read a lot of them.]
When the economy tanked we all remember how Wall Street continued to give excessive bonuses to its executives in the face of huge losses in their divisions and accounts.
If there is any question that Mitt Romney is a creature of the same out of touch Wall Street culture, here is some further evidence.
The collective wisdom is that the Republican convention didn’t do much for Romney and friends, and it will most likely be remembered as the convention of the empty chair. The campaign as a whole has not been well run. But this didn’t stop old Mitt from handing out a slew of bonuses right after his nomination at the convention, when there was no evidence that his “executives” had been successful.
Another set of expenditures is likely to draw grumbles from Mr. Romney’s allies given his campaign’s current struggles: The day after accepting the Republican nomination, Mr. Romney gave what appeared to be $192,440 in bonuses to senior campaign staff members. At least nine aides received payments on Aug. 31 well in excess of their typical biweekly salaries, including $25,000 each for Matthew Rhoades, the campaign manager; Lanhee Chen, a policy adviser; and Katie Biber, the general counsel. Rich Beeson, the political director, received $37,500. (“Low on Cash, Romney Tries to Rally Donors for Final Phase,” New York Times, September 20, 2012.)
Mitt (Leopard) Romney won’t be changing his spots anytime soon. You can take that to the bank.
When the Normans conquered a region of present day Italy in the eleventh century they engaged in extortion. They would start to burn the crops of the natives and then demand payment for putting the fire out.
This form of extortion parallels what the citizens of the U.S. face today from the GOP, with one noteworthy exception. You see, they helped create the economic mess that we have been in, that is, they set the fire. They did so through deregulating Wall Street and the banks, along with lax enforcement of existing regulations, which led the economy to tank at the end of the Bush years. (Yes, the Democrats did go along with some of these measures but the initiative to deregulate Wall Street and the banks has been based on Republican dogma.) But unlike the Normans, they can’t put the fire out. For the tools they would use to extinguish the fire are the same ones that helped start it in the first place.
Now you say this is unfair. The Normans intended to extort by setting the fires. The Republicans believed that what they were doing was good for the economy. They did not plan to extort. Fair enough. But we have now reached a point in which it doesn’t really matter what the Republicans’ intentions were or are. The fact is that they set the fire and they want to use the same flame thrower to put it out.
What does this actually amount to for us non-wealthy folk? We will have less protections against various kinds of fires, for example, illness, unemployment, lack of resources for retirement, etc. And we will be asked to pay more for any protections that are left. We will be told that this isn’t so by the GOP. They will tell us that by lowering taxes and deregulating we will unleash the as yet unleashed forces of the market. Well, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. There are no free lunches. As the vast majority of experts on the economy will tell you, we can’t get out of our current fiscal situation without prudent entitlement policies and new taxes. This was the recommendation of the Simpson Bowles Commission, a recommendation which free market fanatics like Ryan helped tank because it suggested new taxes (although Ryan dishonestly has tried to blame Obama).
If the GOP wins this election and manages to push through more deregulation and tax cuts, especially for corporations and the rich, we and our children will end up having to pay more to cover the enormous debt and suffering that will be created by these policies. We will have to pay for the fire that they have started, once again.
If you haven’t read Krugman’s piece in the NY Times today on Ryan, “An Unserious Man,” it’s worth a read, even if you don’t always agree with Krugman. It’s no news to people who have been following trickle-down Paul that his numbers don’t work. But in this relatively short piece Krugman spells out some of the reasons why.
Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate led to a wave of pundit accolades. Now, declared writer after writer, we’re going to have a real debate about the nation’s fiscal future. This was predictable: never mind the Tea Party, Mr. Ryan’s true constituency is the commentariat, which years ago decided that he was the Honest, Serious Conservative, whose proposals deserve respect even if you don’t like him.
But he isn’t and they don’t. Ryanomics is and always has been a con game, although to be fair, it has become even more of a con since Mr. Ryan joined the ticket…………..
[NOTE: This post was originally made on March 23, 2009. But with the recent discussion of Paul Ryan's long-standing commitment to Rand's thought--which he now appears to be trying to deny in spite of evidence to the contrary--I thought this post worth a rebroadcast. On Ryan's commitment to Rand, see the article in The Atlantic Wire, “Audio Surfaces of Paul Ryan’s Effusive Love of Ayn Rand.”]
In times such as these, our times, when unregulated capitalism has once again proven that it can bring down the house, literally, it’s worth reminding ourselves about the voices that have spoken so eloquently in favor of selfishness over the years. (Not Adam Smith, by the way; he thought that sympathy was a basic feature of human nature.) Here is Colbert discussing one of the leading lights of selfishness, Ayn Rand.
The Word – Rand Illusion | March 11th | ColbertNation.com
On Capitalism Run Amok, readers might want to check out Sullivan’s site today, March 23rd, “Are The Jacobins At The Gates?” Let’s just say, a bit over the top, but worth a look. (Btw, Sullivan thinks of himself as a conservative.)
P.S. Interesting fact: Stephen Colbert was a philosophy major at Hampden-Sydney College. Training in philosophy has its uses.
Well, here we are again. Elections around the corner and about to let the FOX guard the henhouse, yet again.
Yes, we are all angry. But let us not forget how we got into the present economic mess as we listen to the Republicans promising new ideas, once again. Stewart and friends nail this one.
Nostradamus meets the Grim Reaper
This is an actual headline from an article posted on Bloomberg (News) at 7:21 this evening, September 1st, 2010: Economy Avoids Recession Relapse as Data Can’t Get Much Worse
The first lines of the article explain:
The U.S. economy is so bad that the chance of avoiding a double dip back into recession may actually be pretty good. The sectors of the economy that traditionally drive it into recession are already so depressed it’s difficult to see them getting a lot worse, said Ethan Harris, head of developed markets economics research at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research in New York. Inventories are near record lows in proportion to sales, residential construction is less than half the level of the housing boom and vehicle sales are more than 40 percent below five years ago.
This is not from a skit on Stewart of Colbert. This is from a leading publication on business on a day that the Stock Market rallied. (I wonder what they will be writing when it retreats, again.) So, let’s get this straight. We are not going to have another recession, the dreaded double-dip, because things are already too bad to have one. How then do we characterize our current economy? Oh, I could think of a few words, but so can you, dear reader.
Things can get worse. Here’s the ticket: The Republicans win the House this fall and things completely stall out as the GOP offers (once again) the panacea of tax breaks for the wealthy as the cure for our economic ills.
(Btw, the name of the person featured on this $10,000 bill is Salmon P. Chase. If you don’t believe me, click here. He was a Secretary of the Treasury and a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Coincidence. I think not.)
Was I correct in suggesting two weeks ago that Mad Men is in danger of letting style override content? Many of you agreed. Many disagreed. Today I offer a visual update. Two photos. Both taken on an iPhone on Thursday evening, August 5th, at the reasonably upscale Westchester Mall. Mad Men fans will recognize the three posters in the left photo. (The word “Style” on the center window, with a seated former Mrs. Draper, is a bonus.) The photo on the right is drumming up business for Long Island University.
America has turned to style to replace substance (real income and growth) in tough times before. Perhaps we are beginning to see a replay (although in the 1930′s at least the fashion was original).
……Cadillac (1960), Winchester, Virginia, June 2010…… Ubik, first hardcover.
In his novel Ubik, Philip K. Dick imagines a world in which corporations employ telepaths to undermine the interests of their competitors. In turn, the competition hires firms with anti-telepaths in order to defend themselves against their adversaries and protect their privacy. Dick is having a good time. The use of psychic powers by companies merely mimics the dirty tricks employed by current corporate spies. It’s still chess whether played in two or three dimensions. New frontiers, same games. (The best science fiction always makes the implicit present explicit.)
It seems that we face the world of Ubik today but on an even more personal level. The World Wide Web is a marvelous thing. But it doesn’t forget. If you say something you might regret or post an unflattering picture, it is caught by the Web and freeze dried. Employers, friends, strangers, those wishing you ill, or old-fashioned voyeurs will have you under their gaze with the click of a mouse for the foreseeable future. It’s hard living in a Facebook culture when we can’t always control how we appear. Different sorts of answers to this dilemma have been proposed. Some legal: prevent the firing of employees based on information that does not reveal illegal activity. Some technological: posts that automatically self-destruct after a number of months or years. Some positively Dickean: neutralize those who would do you harm by hiring a company to transform your presence on the Web. Here is how the latter strategy is explained in a current New York Times Magazine article by Jeffrey Rosen, “The Web Means the End of Forgetting.” (Catch the name of the company below, ReputationDefender. Dick might have called the company PsycheDefender.)
[W]ith the help of the kind of search-optimization technology that businesses use to raise their Google profiles, ReputationDefender can bombard the Web with positive or neutral information about its customers, either creating new Web pages or by multiplying links to existing ones to ensure they show up at the top of any Google search. (Services begin from $10 a month to $1,000 a year; for challenging cases, the price can rise into the tens of thousands.) By automatically raising the Google ranks of the positive links, ReputationDefender pushes the negative links to the back pages of a Google search, where they’re harder to find.
Perhaps this is akin to how the anti-telepaths worked in Dick’s novel. But Dick’s concerns were not just with corporate dirty tricks. The issues were deeper. If one is always being watched, tracked in some fashion, defined by the gaze of others who one does not control, how does one become a person? Being a person involves the possibility of changing the course of one’s life, of making choices to be (somewhat) different from how one has been. The Web presents a real danger. We can find ourselves permanently defined by past words and deeds, some from the long past. Americans have always been especially attuned to the idea that we could remake ourselves, change our lives, start all over again, perhaps by going West. But the Frontier option is no longer available, according to Rosen.
In the 20th century, however, the ideal of the self-made man came under siege. The end of the Western frontier led to worries that Americans could no longer seek a fresh start and leave their past behind, a kind of reinvention associated with the phrase “G.T.T.,” or “Gone to Texas.” But the dawning of the Internet age promised to resurrect the ideal of what the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton has called the “protean self.” If you couldn’t flee to Texas, you could always seek out a new chat room and create a new screen name. For some technology enthusiasts, the Web was supposed to be the second flowering of the open frontier, and the ability to segment our identities with an endless supply of pseudonyms, avatars and categories of friendship was supposed to let people present different sides of their personalities in different contexts. What seemed within our grasp was a power that only Proteus possessed: namely, perfect control over our shifting identities.
But the hope that we could carefully control how others view us in different contexts has proved to be another myth. As social-networking sites expanded, it was no longer quite so easy to have segmented identities: now that so many people use a single platform to post constant status updates and photos about their private and public activities, the idea of a home self, a work self, a family self and a high-school-friends self has become increasingly untenable. In fact, the attempt to maintain different selves often arouses suspicion. Moreover, far from giving us a new sense of control over the face we present to the world, the Internet is shackling us to everything that we have ever said, or that anyone has said about us, making the possibility of digital self-reinvention seem like an ideal from a distant era.
One crucial point that the article does not address is that we appear to be shackling ourselves to a digital past at a time when real income for most Americans simply hasn’t been rising in line with the American Dream. We believed, and were led to believe, that economic progress would provide us with opportunities in which we could realize ourselves in new and different ways. The objects of our material desires, like the Cadillac pictured above, were objects that allowed our fantasies to play out. If I buy one of those, I can be like those who own them. If I buy this, and this, and this….I will be different. I will be free. Free of my past. Free of the past.
But now that the party appears to be over, the new technology of the Internet has stepped in. Give me an avatar and freedom will ring. Yet the Web may have as many bobby traps in store for us as the unfettered materialism of the go go economy myth. Unless of course we can call on a new company, ReputationCreators, that will give us whatever persona we would like. The catch…for a price that many of us won’t be able to pay.
Since the days of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists our Republic has always been, more or less, a house divided, and it will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Even wars don’t typically unite us. To move the nation often requires an economic crisis, and then we argue about how to respond. What then is a politician to do if he or she believes that change is necessary, for example, in health care? Move too far to the right or left at any given time–unless there is a grave crisis, for example, the Depression–and your legislation is unlikely to make it through Congress or face repeal down the road. And even if it isn’t repealed, there is the risk that it will not generate enough support to move the legislation off the books and into the real world.
When Obama said that he offered change that we can believe in, most on the right and left took him to mean change that was so different, we could believe in it. The argument seemed to be about whether we wanted dramatic change. But this is not what someone with his temperament and political philosophy would emphasize. It wasn’t the dramatic nature of the change that we were being asked to believe in, but its staying power, its resiliency, its endurance.
Am I pleased with all of the moves that Obama has made. No. Do I think that he has gone back on his campaign pledge? Hardly. What he asked us, and is asking us, to believe in is legislation that will stick, in policies that will have staying power, ones that will take root over time and lead to other changes. But this is the route of the sell out, those on the left say. Of one who has given up on principles. No. It is a reasonable way of trying to get as much of the cake as possible given the nature of our political and economic system, which is not changing in a fundamental way any time soon. Of course those on the left may disagree about how much of the cake might be acquired. This, however, is a debate about the possible, which is just how Obama approaches these matters. In this regard, the slogan was always there for all to see. Come the next presidential election I don’t doubt that one of Obama’s major themes will be: I brought you change that was positive and sustainable. (If you think it is a weak message, I ask you to consider how many “mainstream” Republican politicians are furious about health care. I submit that one reason, and a big one, is that they know his plan can stick and it will be a game changer, and not a good one for them over time.)