Monday, January 26, 2015

Teleprompter Dependence

Here is part of Sarah Palin'e incoherent ramble (I can't describe it as "her speech") at the January Iowa "Freedom Summit":
"Things must change for our government. Look at it. It isn’t too big to fail. It’s too big to succeed! It's too big to succeed, so we can afford no retreads or nothing will change with the same people and same policies that got us into the status quo. Another Latin word, status quo, and it stands for, ‘Man, the middle-class everyday Americans are really gettin’ taken for a ride.’ That's status quo, and GOP leaders, by the way, y'know the man can only ride ya when your back is bent. So strengthen it. Then the man can't ride ya, America won't be taken for a ride, because so much is at stake and we can't afford politicians playing games like nothing more is at stake than, oh, maybe just the next standing of theirs in the next election."
Her explanation for thus incoherence:  her Teleprompter broke down, so she had to improvise.

And these are the people who claim that the eloquent President Obama is totally dependent on his Teleprompter!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Reagan/Bush Deficits Continue

The Reaganistas still believe (or pretend to believe) that cutting taxes will spur so much economic growth that tax revenues will actually increase.

You'd think that the "tax cuts bring in more revenue" myth would have been exploded by the experience of Gov. Brownback of Kansas.  He followed the Reagan playbook, and cut taxes while assuring the cuts would result in an economic boom.  We have seen what happened

Here's how Kansas Republican legislator Don Hineman describes the state's budget problem:
"But think about this: the entire budgets for public safety and general government could be eliminated and we still would not have eliminated the $648.3 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2016.  The budgets for all elected statewide offices and cabinet-level departments could be eliminated, all legislative functions be defunded, highway patrol and KBI abolished, and all state prisoners let out on the streets, and we still would not have totally eliminated the hole in the budget."

Tax cuts increase revenue? Hahahaha!.

But - but - but Reagan, reply the ideologues.

Yes, revenue increased under Reagan, but the increase came despite the cuts, not because of them. (Post hoc ergo propter hoc is a common logical fallacy.)

The revenue increased for two reasons.

Firstly, Reagan came into office when the economy was depressed as Volcker was squeezing the economy to reduce inflation.  So once Volcker removed the screws, the economy took off from its depressed 1980 baseline - a growth that was going to happen anyway without the Reagan tax cuts.  So yes - the increased economic activity brought in a certain amount of tax revenue, even when the rates had been cut..

But a more significant source of increased revenue came from the increase in government spending - largely spending on unproductive military toys. This increased spending (mostly borrowed) translated into people's incomes, a proportion of which came back as taxes.  So a big part of the much-touted Reagan revenue increase came from borrowed money.

This may be hard to follow in the abstract, so let's make it concrete.  If the government spends $1 million that's unfunded, that $1 million becomes income for corporations and individuals out there in the workplace.  They will pay taxes on that new income - let's say 25%, so $250,000 comes back to the government, and voila! - an increase in revenue of $250,000.  Except that the government is out $750,000 to get that $250,000 back.

That's the story of the 1980s revenue increase - a lot of it was essentially borrowed money as Reagan and HGW tripled our national debt with irresponsibly low tax rates. If taxes had not been cut so much under Reagan, the economy would still have boomed when the Fed relaxed interest rates, but not at the expense of such heavy borrowing.

These low rates (only slightly ameliorated by Clinton) have persisted, meaning that we've had constant borrowing since the 1980s. (There were a couple of Clinton surpluses, but they arrived only as a result of the tech bubble - the underlying underfunding continued.)  Then GW made things worse by more irresponsible tax cuts, whose full disastrous effects were masked by the housing bubble.  Once the housing bubble collapsed, and the economy went into freefall, we started seeing the full effects of the Reagan/Bush tax cuts. 

Which is why blaming the resultant deficits on Obama is disingenuous and intellectually dishonest. They are still the Reagan/Bush deficits.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"....people as demented as I was are running the show."

Frank Schaeffer, son of Christian evangelist Francis Schaeffer, regrets his past  in helping the Republican Party win over the evangelicals by promising to make abortion illegal again.
We were leaders participating in various meetings with Congressman Jack Kemp, Presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush, Sr., when the unholy marriage between the Republican Party and the Evangelical Reconstructionist-infected “pro-life” community was gradually consummated. Dad and I — as did many other evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell — met one on one or in groups with key members of the Republican leadership quite regularly to develop a “pro-life strategy” for rolling back Roe v. Wade. (Senator Jesse Helms named Dad as his favorite author when asked by the American Spectator magazine to name his favorite books.)
And that strategy was simple: Republican leaders would affirm their anti-abortion commitment to evangelicals, and in turn we’d vote for them — by the tens of millions. Once Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, “we” would reverse Roe, through a constitutional amendment and/or through the appointment of anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court or, if need be, through civil disobedience and even violence, though this was only hinted at at first. In 2016, the dream we had will become a reality unless America wakes up. The Republicans are poised to destroy women’s rights.
Schaeffer has come to see how misguided he had been.  Unfortunately, similar realization has not been widespread in Republican circles.  Schaeffer laments:
As I said, in the 1970s we were outsiders asking for change. The change came and now people as demented as I was are running the show.
Yes, the demented have both houses of Congress now.....

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Obama 2014

Real Clear Politics brings us polling data on Americans' view of President Obama's performance

PollDateSampleApprove Disapprove Spread
RCP Average12/3 - 12/22--42.752.5 -9.8
CNN/Opinion Research12/18 - 12/211011 A4850 -2
Gallup12/20 - 12/221500 A4451 -7
Rasmussen Reports12/20 - 12/221500 LV4851 -3
The Economist/YouGov12/13 - 12/15698 RV4454 -10
ABC News/Wash Post12/11 - 12/14RV3957 -18
NBC News/Wall St. Jrnl12/10 - 12/141000 A4550 -5
Reuters/Ipsos12/10 - 12/142096 A3754 -17
GWU/Battleground12/7 - 12/111000 LV4350 -7
FOX News12/7 - 12/91043 RV4253 -11
Associated Press/GfK12/4 - 12/81010 A4158 -17
McClatchy/Marist12/3 - 12/9923 RV4352 -9
USA Today/Pew Research12/3 - 12/71507 A4251 -9
Bloomberg12/3 - 12/51001 A3952 -13

Recently, I would have put myself in the disapprove column, when I've been considering how many ways I've been disappointed by President Obama:  failure to address the crimes of the Bush administration, failure to push for a stronger stimulus to bring more people back in to the  work force (and giving college graduates the opportunity to start their careers), giving in to the counterproductive deficit reduction mania and supporting the damaging sequester, nominating Wall Street hacks to important policy positions....  I have a long list of disappointments..  

(Some believe that disapproval of the president's performance translates into support for the Republican Party.  No sir!  Mr. Obama may have disappointed me, but at least he hasn't been crazy damaging like the Republican Party has been and wants to be.)

And now Andrew Sullivan comes along to help restore some sense of proportion:
There has long been a pattern to Barack Obama’s political career on the national stage. There are moments of soaring moral clarity and inspiration; there are long periods of drift or laziness or passivity; and there are often very good fourth quarters. The 2008 campaign was an almost perfect coda: the sudden initial breakout, then a strange listlessness as he allowed the Clintons to come back in New Hampshire, turning the race into a long and grueling battle for delegates, then a final denouement when he made up with the Clintons and stormed into the White House. Or think of healthcare reform: a clear early gamble, followed by a truly languorous and protracted period of negotiation and posturing, and then a breakthrough. Or marriage equality: an excruciating period of ambivalence followed by a revolution. On climate: a failed cap and trade bill … followed by real tough fuel emissions standards, new carbon rules from the EPA and an agreement with China.
 When he was elected, I had hoped Mr. Obama would prove to be one of our great presidents like Lincoln and FDR.  I guess I have to settle for pretty good.

Update 12/24/2014      Yglesias weighs in as well
Update  1/12/2015        So does Chait

Republican Humor (Oxymoron Watch)

This reminds me of this - the "comedy" news show that had to add a laugh track.
And what about that set and audience briefly shown at the beginning?   It clearly wasn't where the program was actually recorded.  Misleading, you say?  Well, what did you expect?  It is Fox News, after all.....

Monday, December 15, 2014

Reverse This Requirement Now!

 From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Gov. John Kasich's $10 million plan to bring mentors into Ohio's schools for students now has a surprise religious requirement – one that goes beyond what is spelled out in the legislation authorizing it.
Any school district that wants a piece of that state money must partner with both a church and a business – or a faith-based organization and a non-profit set up by a business to do community service.
No business and no faith-based partner means no state dollars.
But in the meantime, from the comments on this story:

 We can only hope.....

Worth Reading In Full

A black judge responds to Josh Marshall on the recent publicity over police violence towards people of color.

 We supporters don’t “miss” the “deep wells of support and trust” police have in the majority population. They have always had such support and trust. It just doesn’t matter here. What you seem to miss is that the reason that such support and trust exists is due to the fact that what they are protecting the majority population from, in the minds of far too many in that population, is us!
I have seen the disparity in criminal charges and sentencing up close and personal. I have seen the biased perceptions of our police result in imprisonment, beatings, mistreatment and yes, even death. But it is not only the overt physical violence that minorities are subjected to, it is the presumption of guilt that we confront on a daily basis. 
But listen to the defenders of the police in these latest cases… do you really want to live in the world they are promoting? One where you must immediately acquiesce to any request/order give by anyone in a uniform, without question or complaint… under penalty of death if you don’t comply, or comply too slowly for them? Do you really mean to give people in uniform the power to kill, maim, imprison any person simply because they questioned why they were being confronted or resisted rough treatment? Is the uniformed officers word to be deemed absolute, without recourse… and his/her power to punish to be deemed limitless? 
So, we don’t miss the support and trust police have in the majority population… t’was always thus… we just don’t care to let that support and trust kill more of our sons and daughters. We are tired of letting their subjective “fears” be reason enough to make us bury another child.