Monday, October 25, 2010

Worse set of prorities is hard to imagine

The Obama Administration seems to be convinced that deficit reduction is a worthwhile thing to do and that tax cuts are the only tool left in the bag that they're able to use. Of course, neither course of action is going to win any Republican cooperation. Republicans don't have any interest in cooperating or in governing, so a government shut-down is more or less guaranteed no matter what the administration does. It's just so sad to see our government give up on meaningful policy changes, especially when cooperation and making concessions has proven to be such an utter loser of a strategy.

Heck, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has admitted flat-out that:
"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

Cat Food Commission admits irrelevance

So now, as it nears its final months, the Cat Food Commission admits that there's really no reason for it to exist in the first place. By suggesting they might put out separate reports and by, very predictably, suggesting that eliminating tax cuts are off the table, they're making clear what progressive critics have claimed all along. The commission is a complete joke in terms of actually accomplishing anything useful, but might possibly achieve its' less publicized goal of cutting spending on programs that the public likes, but that more elite institutions don't, i.e., Social Security.

Disband the damned commission and send everyone home!!! 

Friday, October 15, 2010

The utter impracticality of Tea Party ideas

Rock, meet hard place! Tea Partiers of South Carolina were convinced, convinced, I tell you!!! that earmarks were really, really, just awful and terrible and no good. That was before South Carolina's Republican leadership was confronted the possibility of getting a deepwater port for ships that would use a widened Panama Canal.

All of the sudden, the deeply-felt principles that "Spending is bad, earmarks are bad, taxes are bad" ran headlong into the fact that a deepwater port could bring lots and lots of money into South Carolina.  And gee, wow, amazingly enough, these principles were suddenly being treated as optional, as a "nice to have" sort of thing and not as a critical, mandatory element of a new economy.

The Tea Party folks are having a bit of trouble reconciling their philosophy with the real world.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Clear as mud

Americans are essentially equally divided in their views of the role of the federal government, with one-third tilting toward a preference for a government that actively takes steps to improve the lives of its citizens, one-third preferring a limited government that performs mostly basic functions, and the remainder in the middle.


As the Daily Kos piece that I took this quote from says, this is as "clear as mud." Reading the Gallup piece, the definitions don't get any more specific. Unsurprisingly, opinions form a bell curve, with small numbers at either end and the majority nestled in the middle. This has been a several-decades-old problem with the whole idea of limited government. The Republican/Tea Party candidate for Kentucky Rand Paul and his opponent, Democrat Jack Conway, had a debate on October 2nd. What are Paul's ideas on how to fix the economy? Well, Conway stated that the election was a choice between someone who "has said that he is against the American Disabilities Act, between someone who is going to stand up and protect Medicare and someone who says Medicare needs a $2,000 deductible.” Paul at first defended his view on the Medicare deductible, even though Conway ran a video that quotes a senior citizen saying "That's crazy. I can't afford that." Paul then put out a new ad that "declares that 'Rand Paul doesn't support higher Medicare deductibles for seniors' and accuses Conway of distorting Paul's views."

So, in the battle of ideas, when it came to defining government responsibility concerning how much Medicare patients would pay in out-of-pocket costs and how much the government should pick up, the Republican/Tea Party candidate at first declared that patients should pay for a really big proportion of Medicare costs, but quickly relented and wants to keep deductibles where they are.

So what exactly does it mean when even the Tea Party candidate wants to keep Medicare deductibles where they are? Does it mean that he supports a "government that actively takes steps" or does it mean he supports "limited government"? This is not a new problem. This has been a problem with the whole concept of "limited government" since well before Ronald Reagan became President. 30 years later, the problem hasn't moved a single inch. Everybody, his brother, Aunt Margaret and even little Suzy loves the idea of "limited government," as long as that doesn't mean cuts to his or her favorite program.

Friday, October 1, 2010

See, here’s the problem…

A short video explains in clear terms just what's wrong with today's economy and how to fix it.

Republican Senate candidate and World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon (CT) demonstrates she doesn't have the vaguest clue about how the economy works or, of course, how to even begin fixing it.

Basic problem that the video focuses on is the problem of insufficient consumer demand, which means that capitalists have no reason to invest in new production as there's no indication that any new products will ever get purchased. McMahon wants to give businesspeople veto power over whether to increase the minimum wage or not ("I think we ought to look at all of those issues in terms of what mandates are being placed on businesses and can they afford them. I think we should get input from our business community"). As businesspeople have wanted to lower or eliminate the minimum wage ever since it was instituted, it's clear beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt what the "input from our business community" would be.

Problem is, lowering the minimum wage would be precisely the wrong thing to do at this time! That would have the effect of reducing consumer demand at exactly the time when the economy desperately needs maximum consumer demand to spur more production.

A few months back, a commenter on my local newspaper's message boards said that only businesspeople have the competence to comment on political issues. McMahon is a businessperson, but very clearly, she has absolutely no idea about how economics works. Now, I don't believe businesspeople should be denied a seat at the table where political decisions are made, but no, I very strongly disagree that businesspeople have any special competence at political or economic issues.

Update: McMahon's opponent, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) is of course jumping all over McMahon's faux pas, drawing a connection between her history as a businessperson and how she'd run Connecticut: "Linda McMahon laid off ten percent of her workers and takes home $46 million a year so it's no surprise she's thinking about lowering the minimum wage."