Saturday, January 30, 2010

Are corporations, now allowed more influence on elections, owned by foreigners?

It's not at all clear how much ownership foreigners actually have over US corporations. So many stocks change hands so quickly, the true picture of who owns what shares of what companies is only current as of 2005.  Who has gained ownership of US corporations since then? The picture is so very complex, we can't say with any certainty, meaning that if corporations run with the US Supreme Court decision (PDF) that says they can give unlimited amounts to candidates for public office, then that money could be coming from Russia, Venezuela, China, etc.

We should be aware, however, that  election campaigns are awash in corporate campaign cash anyway. It probably is a good idea to limit corporate camapign cash, but it's unlikely that we can get a well-crafted, effective law to do that anytime soon.

And, yes, Politi-Fact  is generally a good fact-checking site, but they badly blew their assessment of the Citizen's United case here.

Bernanke re-appointed

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is re-appointed with a 70-30 vote. Here's a pro-Bernanke piece that  explains a lot about what the Fed Chairman does. But overall, it was a horrible decision, as it's highly unlikely we'll get a decent recovery with Bernanke in charge of the Fed. Of course, Bernanke's re-appointment was sold with a lot of: "Aaugh! Shriek! We're all gonna die unless we do exactly as the bankers say!1!!" "Second, the focus of his bailout was to return Wall Street to health while leaving the rest of the country reeling." The TARP bail-out helped the really high-income people while doing little or nothing for the rest of us.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bernanke’s confirmation, quite properly, is in trouble

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's confirmation is in trouble, and rightly so. Seems the Chairman prioritizes inflation-fighting above tackling a 10% unemployment rate. In his own words, he pointed out that "...the longer-run inflation expectations of households and businesses have remained very stable over recent years," in other words, inflation's really not a problem. It's not that Bernanke thinks there's nothing he can do, it's that there's nothing he thinks he should do. It's not a matter of can't, it's a matter of won't. As long as the problem was just the historical matter of how he handled the housing bubble, he was probably okay for a second term. Now, however, there are serious doubts about his suitability to continue in the job.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fun with numbers - an economics dispute

This letter was posted on the Inky's letters page:

That was some plan

So, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin believed her selection as Sen. John McCain's running mate was "God's plan" (as revealed by a McCain political strategist). Perhaps it was the plan to illustrate her simple intellect, the inability to grasp the root causes of international conflicts, or offer workable solutions to domestic problems that allowed for a crushing presidential defeat.

All of the cute winks, "gotchas," and other homespun homilies added up to a failed plan, be it God's or the McCain campaign's.

Gene Muccolini
Eastampton Twp.
In response to which:


Wow. Gene Muccolini probably thinks BHO is more qualified to be President than Sarah Palin was to be Vice-President. What arrogance. Perhaps Muccolini has been asleep for the past year. Obama makes idiotic utternaces, bows before foreign leaders, engages in so-called "smart diplomacy" that has yielded nothing, not made the US any stronger or more secure from terrorism, and has engaged in a domestic policy agenda that has tripled the deficit and crushed job-creation prospects. What a wasted LTE, Gino.

[Yeah, I love the title this guy gives himself. Gee, full of ourselves much?!?!]

Fro 75

Hey Gene, why don't you challenge Mrs. Palin to a debate? I am sure with your highly superior intellect you would clean her clock. I feel much more secure knowing that you and the president have such a firm grasp on complex situatiuons and workable solutions. What a numbskull...

A fellow progressive and then I responded to their response thusly:

Lori T.

Fro 75 - no one has to debate Palin, she was cut to shreds already by Katie Couric. Even the people in charge of "advising" her have come forward to talk about what an idiot she is...and she bailed on her Governorship, so that shows how dedicated she is as well. You have the right to disagree with others but calling others names is a low-brow way to get your point across. There is no doubt in my mind that Clarence Thomas was and is a total womanizer - my opinion. Do you think education level or what school you attend has anything to do with being a morally bereft person? If you equate those two, then no person who went to a GOOD school would ever break the law or cheat on their spouse. I don't need a doctorate to be a decent, moral person.


TCV and Fro 75 might wish to watch the video of Glenn Beck's interview of Sarah Palin. Dude, even BECK thought her answer to his "What's your favorite Founding Father?" was hopelessly sophomoric. Sorry, but Palin's opinion as to economics, that tax cuts are the magical answer to all problems, puts her in my estimation as a complete lightweight, hopelessly unsuited to ever be anything more than a Fox News personality.

[This can be seen here]

Well, the right-wingers didn't take too kindly to my comment on Palin's economic knowledge:


Hey rich2506 seems like you're questiong the effectiveness of tax cuts while calling Palin a lightweight. Maybe you should research the impact of the 2003 tax cuts on government revenues. Hint: revenues increased significantly. Hard to believe, but it looks like Sarah knows something you don't.


Rich - if you want to debate the impact of tax cuts read what Christina Romer (one of BHO's key economists) wrote on the subject before she joined the Administration. She wrote that they had a higher multiplier effect than gov't spending.

I made a response much earlier, but it didn't post. This later one posted fine:


Christina Romers paper is interesting, but she's speaking of tax cuts minus any counter-cyclical effect, i.e., it's irrelevant to our discussion here as countering the cycle is what Obama's economic policies have been all about. Forbes points out that the effect of different policies is $0.99 for every dollar of tax cuts versus $1.57 for every dollar of spending, meaning the economy loses a penny for every dollar in tax cuts and gains 57 cents for every dollar in spending. Not only did Bush's tax cuts not pay for themselves, they cost America $2.11 trillion in lost tax revenue Paul Krugman tracked Bush's tax cuts and the unemployment numbers Guess what? Yup, there was absolutely no correlation. The tax cuts did zip to help the economy.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Is the Fed able to identify housing bubbles?

Paul Krugman brings up a very troubling point. The Federal Reserve apparently doesn't have the theoretical tools needed to have identified the housing bubble. Krugman explains the distinction between "Flatland" and the "Zoned Zone," showing that one type of land use was vulnerable to bubbles and the other wasn't. He produces a chart comparing Los Angeles (A Zoned Zone because it has no room to expand, therefore a rise in demand for houses leads only to higher prices) and Atlanta (Flatland because it can just keep expanding in response to increased demand for housing) and demonstrates that Los Angeles had a bubble that began in late 2001 and started collapsing in early 2007. The Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was using charts that didn't recognize any distinction between Flatland and the Zoned Zone, therefore, he was incapable of recognizing either that a bubble had formed or that it was collapsing.

So I dunno, seems Dean Baker's constant amazement that no one appears to have recognized the housing bubble may have some reason for it other than just incomprehensible, blind stupidity. Not that "We were using the wrong chart" is much of an excuse for losing several trillion dollars in housing wealth.

Krugman also shows another chart demonstrating that those who blame Fannie/Freddie/Community Reinvestment for the housing bubble or those blaming general predatory lending are both missing the larger picture. The housing bubble was a broad-based phenomenon.