Tag Archives: economics

Now, here’s a conservative who gets it.

For the most part, I am not a political conservative, (though, it really depends on the issue). I think that society does have a moral responsibility to provide food, shelter and basic heathcare for those who cannot provide for themselves. I think that we—both as individuals and as a society—will be judged by the way we provide for those in need. (Or at least that’s what I read in an old book somewhere—something about sheep and goats, I can’t remember).

So it’s probably not surprising that I decry Romney’s language in the recently leaked video (above) that has stirred up such a media frenzy. I don’t even mind to take some heat for it. What is interesting is when conservatives, like David Brooks, notice the inconsistencies of the of atomistic, Nietzschean superman rhetoric that now pervades the Republican Party.

Here are just a few choice quotes from Brooks’ op-ed in the Times this week:

Romney, who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers.

But this dichotomy is just too constricting.

Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?

What’s more, as Brooks ably points out, comments like this show that Romney really misunderstands his base.

The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees.

Or maybe he understands them all to well—counts on them to commit what psychologists call the fundamental attribution error: “I need these government aids because of my very special circumstance. It’s those other lazy bastards who are picking the tax payers’ pockets.”

And the insistence that people who go-it-alone are driven, while people who receive aid become dependent, fundamentally misunderstands the psychological and sociological nature of human motivation.

Ambition is fired by possibility, not by deprivation, as a tour through the world’s poorest regions makes clear.

But look, the bottom line is this:

There’s no way the country will trust the Republican Party to reform the welfare state if that party doesn’t have a basic commitment to provide a safety net for those who suffer for no fault of their own.

Brooks gives Romney the benefit of that doubt, that he only

…says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater.

I wish I believed Brooks were right about that.

You can read the rest of his column here.



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Have Obama’s Policies Made the Economy Worse?

“The  President points out that he inherited an economic crisis. He did.  And  he promptly made it worse.” -Mitt Romney, GOP Lincoln-Reagan Dinner, March 5, 2011

Has he?

The following charts posted without comment:

Unemployment since 2004 (from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Dept. of Labor)

Gross Domestic Product since 2004 (from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, US Dept. of Commerce)

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Stock Market for Dummies

If you’re like me—you find the stock market really perplexing but you do know a thing or two about beauty pageants and kittens—then this is a really helpful, “For Dummies”-style introduction from NPR’s Planet Money. It only takes about 2 minutes to listen to or to read.

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Why I’m Ticked at Barack Obama

It’s election time and people are ticked at Barack Obama. Call it Tea Party anger. They’re mad because Obama and congressional democrats want to “take over health care.” They’re mad because they think of Obama as the President of bailouts and stimulus that has destroyed our economy, cost us jobs, and added billions to our national deficit.

Well I’m ticked at Barack Obama, too. I’m ticked because he campaigned as a “president of the people.” He held town hall meetings, and gave campaign speeches from people’s back yards. But this president that I thought was going to be such a great teacher—explaining complex policies and trends over a “fire-side chat”—has instead allowed the GOP to usurp the dialog this election. I’m ticked because, instead of hearing some good news from the stump, I had to spend hours doing research—hours that most people won’t spend—to find out that all this rhetoric is bogus.

But if Obama won’t share the facts with you, I will…


The $700 billion Bailout

Whose bill is it anyway?

It’s just like Barack Obama and these tax-and-spend-liberals in congress to increase the national deficit by bailing out big banks! But wait….

The Troubled Asset Relief Program, (TARP), was passed by congress and signed into law on October 3, 2008? Which means it was signed by…

Barack Obama?

Oh, no! President Obama didn’t take office until January 2009. Thanks for playing.

George W. Bush?

That’s right! This most dubious bill with which Obama and the democrats are ruining Americans financial system was actually President Bush’s legislation.

The fact is that the TARP, when it was passed, was an extremely popular bipartisan bill, with the support of 55 congressional Republicans.

But seriously, $700 billion?

Yes, the TARP is commonly known as the $700 billion bailout as that’s the amount of money it allotted for congress to bolster the troubled banking industry in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis. According to the Congressional Budget Office, however, the cost of the expired bill to date has been only $66 billion.

So, why did the TARP cost so much less than all the ads say?

Because the TARP seems to have worked!  The banks have paid back their TARP money, with interest at 8.2%. In fact, AIG recently announced a plan that actually gives the government a good chance of getting paid back in full, if not making money on TARP!


Jobs and the Economic Stimulus

Obama’s stimulus bill has cost us jobs!…or has it?

Unemployment is high, really high. And what’s more, we’re still losing jobs. Supposedly, massive job loss is due in great part to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the economic stimulus bill, which was enacted February 2009.

I head through a source that I can no longer remember that the popular sentiment is that over half of the stimulus spending didn’t work, which I thought was an interesting number, since nearly one third of the bill was tax cuts! It’s true, you can read the bill.

So, I wanted to know whether the rest of the rhetoric was true: are we really losing more jobs as a result of the stimulus bill? What I found shocked me. Seriously, you won’t believe me, but that’s okay. You can check the Bureau of Labor Statistics, too see for yourself what I found out:

  • From the month the recession began, according to the people who officially determine these things (we’ll get there in a minute), December 2007 until January 2009, one month before the stimulus bill was enacted, we lost 4.4 million jobs.
  • That rate climaxed during the three months prior to the bill being enacted, November 2008 to January 2009, during which time we lost an average of 726 thousand jobs per month.
  • During the same three months the following year, November 2009 – January 2010 the average job loss was down to about 35 thousand jobs per month.
  • Analysis: We’re still losing jobs, a lot of them. But since the stimulus bill was enacted the rate of loss has slowed to approximately 691 thousand fewer jobs lost every month.

Good news: the recession is over!

Did you know that there is an independent organization, called the National Bureau of Economic Research, which officially determines when we are in periods of say, economic growth, slowdown, recession or recovery? It is because of the tremendous slowing of job loss listed above, that according to their calculations, our most recent recession began in December 2007 and officially ended June 2009, a mere 4 months after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was enacted.

It still feels like a recession to me.

And it will for a while. That’s because a recession is characterized by the economy rapidly getting weaker. The fact that the recession is over does not mean that our economy is healthy yet, it simply means that it’s not getting weaker at anywhere near the rate that it was before the economic stimulus was passed.



We all know the benefits of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

  • 30 million people who couldn’t afford health insurance before, are now able to get insured,
  • Including 3.8 million children over the next four years.
  • Insurance companies can no longer deny you because of pre-existing conditions,
  • Nor can they drop your coverage when you get sick, as long as you’ve been paying premiums,
  • Nor can they set lifetime limits on your benefits.
  • And kids getting out of college or the military who can’t afford outrageous heal insurance premiums can stay on their parents insurance until they’re 26-years-old.

But don’t take my word for it—read the bill.

But at what cost, really? Isn’t this bill is going to destroy small business with penalties?

It’s true that during the debate leading up to the health care law, members of Congress considered a mandate requiring employers to offer health care to workers and imposing penalties if they didn’t. But this mandate didn’t make it into the final bill.

Instead, starting in 2014, there will be a fine for large employers—defined as business with 50 or more employees—who don’t offer health care, but only if their workers qualify for tax credits from the government to buy health care. So, according to research the Small Business Administration compiled using data from the U.S. Census, the fine will not affect the vast majority of businesses in the United States. The research showed that in 2007, 5,814,584 firms had fewer than 50 employees, compared with a total just over 6,049,655 firms. In other words, 96 percent of U.S. small businesses are specifically exempted from fines even if they don’t offer insurance to their employees.
As it turns out, some small businesses can actually qualify for tax credits under the new law.

Any employer who has fewer than 25 employees, who are paid average annual wages of less than $50,000, and pays for at least half of the insurance for the workers, qualifies for a tax credit for part of the contributions.

In review:

  • There is no provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that fines on any business that does not provide health insurance for its employees.
  • There will be a fine for large businesses (defined as having 50 employees or more) who do not provide health insurance for their employees, but only if the employees qualify for health care tax credits. This applies to less that 4% of business in the United States.
  • The other 96% of business are exempt from any fines, even if they don’t provide health insurance to their employees.
  • Some small businesses that do chose to offer health insurance for their employees may even qualify for tax credits.

Seriously, you can read the bill!

Alright, but I don’t want to have to go through a panel of government bureaucrats to get to my doctor?

Okay, the panel is real. It’s called the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), and its set to activate January 2014. But with only 15 members, if every American is going to have to go through them to get to her doctor, these are going to be some very busy bureaucrats. The fact is: the IPAB is an advisory board, they don’t see patients. Further, the IPAB deals only with Medicare, which is already a government-run program.

Great, so these are the politicians who choose whether Granny gets to live or die?

Ahh the ominous “death panel”! It’s a legitimate concern, so let’s ask the question: what does the Independent Payment Advisory Board do, exactly?

According the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, an independent health care research organization, the IPAB’s roll is to “submit legislative proposals containing recommendations to reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending if spending exceeds a target growth rate.” The IPBA is prohibited, however, from “submitting proposals that would ration care, increase revenues or change benefits, eligibility or Medicare beneficiary cost sharing (including Parts A and B premiums), or would result in a change in the beneficiary premium percentage or low-income subsidies under Part D.”

In review:

  • The new health care law creates a panel called the Independent Payment Advisory Board.
  • The IPBA prevue is limited to Medicare, a program that is already government-run.
  • The IPBA has no decision making power—its roll is limited to advising on how to reduce the rate of growth in healthcare spending.
  • The IPBA’s advising power is even limited: it cannot make suggestions that would ration care or reduce benefits.
  • Finally, no member of the IPBA will ever see a patient.

All of which you would know if you’d read the bill.

But then there’s the elephant in the waiting room: How much is all this going to cost us?

As if our national deficit isn’t already high enough, I’d hate to hear how much all this spending is going to increase it.

Wait… What’s that? Because the government will have to pay less to pick up the people who currently can’t afford health insurance, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will actually reduce the national deficit?

That’s right! The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the new law will cut the national deficit by $143 billion over the next 10 years. In fact, the CBO doesn’t like to make predictions beyond ten years, there are just too many variables that cause the predictions to be highly speculative, but it is plausible that the bill would cut the deficit by over one trillion dollars over the next 20 years!

Yeah, it will just increase our premiums, right?

Wrong again! Premiums are not rising due to the new health care legislation.

Quite the opposite is true: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides states with $250 million over five years to improve how states review proposed health insurance premium increases.

In August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that the first allotment of that money: $1 million each in grants to 45 states whose insurance commissioners have the power to regulate rate hikes or to provide meaningful oversight, to help them “crack down on unreasonable health insurance premium hikes.”

Again, allow me to suggest that you READ THE FRACKING BILL!


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Buy Nothing Day! – November 27

Now in its 17th year, Buy Nothing Day is celebrated every November by environmentalists, social activists and concerned citizens in over 65 countries around the world. Over the years, Buy Nothing Day (followed by Buy Nothing Christmas) has exploded into a global movement, inspiring the world’s citizens to live more simply and buy a whole lot less.

Designed to coincide with Black Friday (which this year falls on Friday, November 27) in the United States, and the unofficial start of the international holiday shopping season (Saturday, November 29), the festival takes many shapes, from relaxed family outings, to free, non-commercial street parties, to politically charged public protests, credit-card cut-ups and pranks and shenanigans of all kinds. Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending.

Featured by such media giants as CNN, USA Today, MSNBC, Wired, the BBC, The Age and the CBC, Buy Nothing Day has gained momentum in recent years as the climate crisis has driven people to seek out greener alternatives to unrestrained consumption.

This year, Buy Nothing Day organizers are confronting the economic meltdown head-on – asking citizens, policy makers and pundits to examine our economic crisis.

“If you dig a little past the surface you’ll see that this financial meltdown is not about liquidity, toxic derivatives or unregulated markets, it’s really about culture,” says the co-founder of Adbusters Media Foundation, Kalle Lasn. “It’s our culture of excess and meaningless consumption — the glorified spending and borrowing of the past decade that’s at the root of the crisis we now find ourselves in.”

Economic meltdown, together with the ecological crisis of climate change could be the beginning of a major global cultural shift — the dawn of a new age: the age of Post-Materialism.

“A simpler, pared-down lifestyle – one in which we’re not drowning in debt – may well be the answer to this crisis we’re in,” says Lasn. “Living within our means will also make us happier and healthier than we’ve been in years.”

So this November 27 (November 28 in Europe and overseas), we’re calling for a Wildcat General Strike. We’re asking tens of millions of people around the world to bring the capitalist consumption machine to a grinding – if only momentary – halt.

We want you to not only stop buying for 24 hours, but to shut off your lights, televisions and other nonessential appliances. We want you to park your car, turn off your phones and log off of your computer for the day.

We’re calling for a Ramadan-like fast. From sunrise to sunset we’ll abstain en masse, not only from holiday shopping, but from all the temptations of our five-planet lifestyles.

Take the Plunge!

 You know what they say: a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. You feel that things are falling apart – the temperature rising, the oceans churning, the global economy heaving – why not do something? Take just one small step toward a more just and sustainable future. Make a pact with yourself: go on a consumer fast. Lock up your credit cards, put away your cash and opt out of the capitalist spectacle. You may find that it’s harder than you think, that the impulse to buy is more ingrained in you than you ever realized. But you will persist and you will transcend – perhaps reaching the kind of epiphany that can change the world.

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