Category: Domestic

The Right Doesn’t Understand Economics, and They Hope You Don’t Either

I just saw Ann Wagner, U.S. representative for Missouri’s 2nd congressional district on TV. First, she correctly pointed out “We can get more revenue is by growing the economy.” This isn’t a rare thing for a Republican to say, but it is correct. If you grow the economy, then more people will pay in taxes, and less will be unemployed and/or using government spending programs. That’s simply what happens when an economy grows (the opposite is also what happens when an economy shrinks). What she said next, though, is where a lot of Republicans get things wrong. Sometimes they get it wrong because they simply do not understand economics, but I think most of them just hope you don’t understand economics either. She continued with, “and the only way to do that is by reining in our spending.” I wanted to slam my head into the table when she said it. It’s utterly idiotic, and completely counter productive.

As I pointed out in my last post, which mainly dealt with government jobs, when you cut spending you cut someone else’s income. When the government cuts, they’re cutting directly into the profits of the private sector. The right does a lot of talk about how we should not become Greece, or not become Europe, but whenever they trot out this little line like Ann did, they are effectively telling us that we should in fact become Greece or Europe. Our media is not doing a good enough job at all in pointing out this hypocrisy. You see, when the recession hit, Europe did precisely what the Republicans are calling for. They enacted spending cuts, while the US as of now largely did not. While we didn’t spend enough to get us out of the recession quickly, we haven’t fallen into the same trap that Europe has. In 2011 alone, “Greece’s austerity package amounted to 11.1 percent of GDP. Spain’s was 3.1 percent. Great Britain’s was 2 percent. Italy’s was 1.8 percent.”

So what happened in Europe? For one, the recession deepened. “The euro zone’s fourth-largest economy, [Spain] which is grappling with the collapse of a decadelong housing boom, fell into its second recession in three years toward the end of 2011.” Spanish unemployment is 26%, and reaches as high as 55% for those under 25 years old. Greece is also struggling with 26% unemployment. The Eurozone as a whole has a 11.8% unemployment rate as of November 2012. Things have become so bad, some in Europe are being forced to pick through the garbages in order to eat.

The IMF also “found that budget cutbacks are much more damaging to economies recovering from recession than has been previously believed. The reason is that with interest rates stuck near zero, there is no room to lower them when fiscal policy is tightened, and thus no way to offset the pain of budget cutbacks.” It also said that these sorts of spending cuts in depressed economies act to deflate confidence, and that’s precisely because they can quickly decelerate economic growth or even at times turn it into an economic decline.

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Of Crabs and Men – How Economic Spite and Fear Gets Us Nowhere

“If I have it this bad, why shouldn’t they?” You’d think words like this only came from annoying toddlers, but I hear it all the time here, usually speaking about teachers, but more broadly it’s about all government employees. I had a discussion the other day with someone that claimed government employees never got hit by the recession. Not only that, but he argued that it’d be good if they did get hit even more. This isn’t the first person I’ve met with that sort of mindset, nor will it be the last.

First, this factually wrong, because pay raises were stopped and harsh budget cuts were enacted in state and local governments throughout the US. Many workers were laid off, and hiring was frozen, leaving  those lucky enough to have a job to pull things together and perhaps do the work of more than one person. The LA Times points to a report by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, “which calculates that while private-sector employment is down 3.1% from its peak in January 2008 and on the rebound, state and local government employment is down 3.4% from its peak in August 2008 and continuing to slide.” In addition to this, because of the commitment the public sector has to equal opportunity and affirmative action, the recession in the public sector is hitting women and African Americans the hardest.

It’s not only wrong, though. It’s dangerous, and there’s a great phrase for it. That phrase is crab mentality, and it refers to a scenario of crabs in a bucket. Individually they could escape, but they end up pulling each other back down. In the end none of them escape. This collective antagonism kills any chance that any will survive. It’s a very similar thing here, especially when you’re talking about a recession. Conventional wisdom is that during a recession the government will need to spend a bit more in order to jump start things and get the economy back on its feet. Conventional wisdom also says during this time, through no real fault of their own, many more people will need government programs. That’s just factually what a recession does, and that’s just factually how one gets out of a recession. Like the crabs, stuck in their bucket, though, we end up either not helping each other upward or even not letting our fellow humans climb. Like the crabs we end up pulling others downward.

When people are frustrated with their own lives they have a tendency to lash out at others. This translates to a feeling that government employees should be cut down even more. Let’s go over exactly why such a reaction would be terrible. Right now we’re not in the midst of a recession, but our unemployment still sits at 7.9%, and a lot of people are wondering exactly why we can’t lower that. Well, if you look at this chart you can see at least one reason:


And here’s what the Economic Policy Institute says about that graphic:

How many more jobs would we have if the public sector hadn’t been shedding jobs for the last three years? The simplest answer is that the public sector has shed 627,000 jobs since June 2009. However, this raw job-loss figure understates the drag of public-sector employment relative to how the economy functions normally.

Over this same period, the overall population grew by 6.9 million. In June 2009 there were 7.3 public-sector workers for every 100 people in the U.S.; to keep that ratio constant given population growth, the public sector should have added roughly 505,000 jobs in the last three years. This means that, relative to a much more economically relevant trend, the public sector is now down more than 1.1 million jobs. And even against this more-realistic trend, these public-sector losses are dominated by austerity at the state and local level, with federal employment contributing only around 6 percent of this entire gap.

Paul Krugman points out a very similar thing here:

His assessment is that if public employment mirrored the growth under Bush that by the time he wrote this (April 25, 2012) we’d have 1.3 million more government workers, and our unemployment rate would be less than 7 percent. That’s a almost a full point lower than it is now, and he wrote this a year ago!

In Wisconsin this fight against public workers came down to a fight about collective bargaining. Despite the fact that there’s really no correlation between collective bargaining and state budget deficits, that right just had to go.

Here’s what The New Republic says about the rollback in rights:

What proponents of the rollback in public-sector bargaining rights are unable to explain is how taking rights away from some American workers will improve the lot of others. How will denying collective bargaining rights for teachers, social workers, or parks employees in Wisconsin create good jobs in the private sector? How will taking away the rights of prison guards to bargain collectively in Ohio keep manufacturing jobs in the United States? How will reducing the pensions promised to government workers (often in return for their agreement to forego salary increases) create retirement security for private sector workers whose paltry 401Ks are unable to support them? How will holding down public-sector pay stop the erosion of the American middle-class—of which public-sector workers constitute a significant proportion?

What proponents of cutting government employment are unable to explain is how taking away jobs and cutting pay will help improve the lot of others. How will it helps a small business owner to have one more potential customer lose his job? How will it help him to have another potential customer get a cut in pay? What needs to be explained to everyone who proposes something like this is the interconnectedness of our entire economy. We are not islands with no relation to each other. Your spending is my potential profit. A cut in your pay is a cut in my potential profit. If that teacher you’re so jealous of gets her job cut, then that means every business she shops at gets their business cut. It’s all connected.

A solid example of this is found in the numbers released last week that show the US economy shrunk by .1 percent late last year. The reason for this? Government spending cuts. A lot cheered because those are spending cuts in our bloated defense budget, and I’d likely agree, but we shouldn’t cheer about an all around cut at this point. Cuts should still be made up elsewhere with spending, so that someone can at least chase that profit and we can all experience more hiring and more growth. Every cut we make at this point represents a cut to someone’s income or job somewhere.

Krugman goes further in blaming that shrinkage on the shrinking government sector. He says that “transfer payments like Medicare and Social Security are rising (although unemployment benefits are falling), but government purchases of stuff — mostly at the state and local level, where the stuff in question includes hiring schoolteachers — has been in fairly rapid decline.”


What this shrinkage translates to is, according to him, a possible 1.5 percentage point higher unemployment than what we should have right now.

The result of his absolutely historic spite and fear throughout our state, local, and federal governments is seen here:

We’ve hit a historic decline in our government at one of the absolute worst times to do it.

John T. Harvey does a good job of pointing out exactly why the private sector needs the government to spend. He points out that the real drivers of economic growth are in Investment and Government Spending. Since WWII, government spending has been an affective counterbalance to business cycle falls in investment. When a recession hits, government spending, without any sort of legislation attached, goes up simply because of less tax receipts and more people qualifying for things like unemployment. It’s this spending that makes these recessions less severe and damaging to the country overall, and it’s at least partially why we didn’t experience another Great Depression.

So, we really should not give in to fear and spite. I realize that a lot of people now are working themselves to the bones, perhaps with two or three jobs, and not seeing much in the way of raises. Seeing someone else doing ok can be hard, but we must not let that mean we should take it from them. That hurts us all in the long run. It’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Pulling down your fellow humans as they try and escape from the bucket into the middle class during this recession does nothing but doom us all to continuing stagnation. Instead of looking to one another to see what we should cut down at this time, we in the private sector should really be looking to one another and seeing how we can come together to demand better. After all, the “U.S. corporations’ after-tax profits have grown by 171 percent under Obama, more than under any president since World War II.” The money is there. We just have to demand it. And then things will grow, because we all have more to spend.

Immigration and the Republican Divide

Image Source: Reuters

Image Source: Reuters

This past Monday, a group of eight senators, four Democrat and four Republican, announced a legislative plan to address the eleven million illegal immigrants who currently reside within the United States. Not only is the makeup of those making the announcement bipartisan, but the ideas within the proposal are as well. The legislation would create a path to citizenship for those who are already within the United States while making significant increases to border security. The following day, President Obama essentially endorsed the Senate proposal. Achieving true immigration reform is something that is politically beneficial to both parties, as it’s an issue that Democrats have sought to address for some time and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the GOP’s disastrous support among Latinos is a recipe for defeat on a national level, something Senator John McCain admitted.

Senator McCain’s public admission of their dire electoral situation highlights the feeling among establishment Republicans who see the writing on the wall that says that unless they do something to address the 3-to-1 advantage Democrats have with Latinos, they are going to be in trouble in future elections. Despite this reality, the base and the non-elected, de-facto representatives of the Republican base are not so pleased with this idea.

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Unusual New Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage


Gay Marriage has come a long way over the past years. It seemed the 2012 election especially spelled the turning of the tide toward equality for same-sex couples. The past had been shaky for voting in gay marriage, but finally it won in 3 states, Maine, Maryland and Washington state. Minnesota voters also weighed in by defeating a possible “traditional” marriage amendment. In addition to all that, we elected our first openly gay U.S. senator, Tammy Baldwin.

Factually, the best is yet to come. History seems to be on the side of same-sex marriage. It’s just a matter of time. Advocates have been wondering, though, whether that time would come much sooner than anyone had predicted. Back in December the Supreme Court decided it would take up two separate cases on the matter. One is on California’s Prop 8, which could either accept or reject a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The other is on the Defense of Marriage Act, the law signed by Bill Clinton that says no state is required to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state, and for federal benefit purposes same-sex marriage is not recognized.

People are wondering whether Chief Justice Roberts will be primarily concerned with his legacy or what one normally thinks of as conservative principles. What makes speculation on this so interesting is that he actually did pro bono work on a landmark gay rights case. That might not mean anything, though. He could have just been representing his clients to the best of his ability. We don’t really know. There’s also a lot of wiggle room to decide. It could push same-sex marriage as a right throughout the country, or rule much more narrowly for California.

The arguments the lawyers defending DOMA and Prop 8 came out last week, and the justification feels especially bizarre. Here’s what Paul D. Clement, lawyer for the House Republicans wrote:

“[Traditional Marriage Laws] reflect a unique social difficulty with opposite-sex couples that is not present with same-sex couples — namely, the undeniable and distinct tendency of opposite-sex relationships to produce unplanned and unintended pregnancies. Unintended children produced by opposite-sex relationships and raised out-of-wedlock would pose a burden on society.”

That’s right, the argument is no longer that same-sex marriage is immoral. It’s not that same-sex marriage would be a menace on our society or a slippery slope to “man on dog,” or marrying a table or a clock. No, now it has nothing to do with the apparent ridiculousness to conservatives of same-sex people being able to fall in love. It doesn’t even have anything to do with the myth that children are better with opposite-sex couples than same-sex ones, something which has been disproven. Now the argument is that opposite-sex coupling is actually inherently so dangerous to society as a whole that we need to incentivize them to bond more permanently. We can’t trust them to figure things out themselves. The idea is, apparently, that same-sex couples have to plan to have a child, and thus they don’t need marriage. Shall we call this the shotgun traditional marriage defense?

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Glenn Grothman is a Terrible Human Being


The man who represents me in my state of Wisconsin is a terrible human being. You’ve probably heard his name more than a few times. I know I did before I moved here and had to accept the fact that he’s now my link to my state government. It seems every time Republican state Senator Glenn Grothman opens his mouth he promptly puts his foot in it. Usually he doesn’t stop with just the foot. Nope, he goes whole-hog and shoves the entire thing in until he’s left coughing, wheezing, and spouting nonsensical noises some people apparently seem to misinterpret as rational speech. I say some people, because I clearly can’t distinguish anything remotely close to rationality coming from him, but I suppose butt cheeks tend to muffle speech patterns when your face is sandwiched between them. Maybe some people have better hearing than I do. I don’t know. I do wonder how he breathes from up there, though.

Here he is the other day suggesting that Planned Parenthood is a racist organization that targets Asian Americans for sex selective abortions because… well, apparently they just hate minorities!

Sure Planned Parenthood operates in minority neighborhoods a lot of the time, but you don’t think that might have something to do with minorities being disproportionately poor? As their mission statement says, “Planned Parenthood believes in the fundamental right of each individual, throughout the world, to manage his or her fertility, regardless of the individual’s income, marital status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, or residence.” Now, who do you think has a harder time managing their fertility? Who do you think needs more resources than the poor? Who do you think has a harder time driving distances in order to get these resources? That’s right, the poor. This has nothing to do with being racist and everything to do with locating yourself where you’re most needed.

And what does Planned Parenthood actually say specifically about sex selective abortions? They condemn it:

“Gender bias is contrary to everything our organization works for daily in communities across the country. Planned Parenthood opposes racism and sexism in all forms, and we work to advance equity and human rights in the delivery of health care. Planned Parenthood condemns sex selection motivated by gender bias, and urges leaders to challenge the underlying conditions that lead to these beliefs and practices, including addressing the social, legal, economic, and political conditions that promote gender bias and lead some to value one gender over the other.

This isn’t the first time Glenn Grothman has been completely and utterly wrong, as you can probably tell from my contempt up in the first paragraph. No, I reserve that level of contempt for people like Glenn who consistently prove beyond a shadow of a doubt they don’t have the brain cells it should take to converse and sympathize with their fellow human beings. Let’s look at what else Glenn has proudly proclaimed from inside his backside.

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Opinion: Socialist Politics – Aim for a Quiet Revolution

Red Flags

Socialism. Its a word that when people hear they either jump up in joy or run for their lives. There are none that are in between when it comes to this word, you either have a clear opinion of it or you do not. I personally cannot blame people to much. Over the twentieth century so many things used the socialist title that its pretty diluted from its true meaning. Socialism is defined as the means of production being in the public hands instead of the private. In laymans term this means that industries such as your local energy company and your job are under your control. Usually through democratic means. In theory it often involves a mixture between the common persons control over their work-life and how resources are allocated through the nation. Unfortunately far left, and just leftist policies in general have been succumbed to witch hunts in recent years and all have but completely left the political frame work.

There is still very much a reason for focus on empowering the modern worker and giving them much more control over the elite. The growing inequality in the first world, the handling of the Great Recession, the growth and power of the modern corporation. All these things need no explanation.

However it is incredibly obvious that performing such a change in a rapid manner can be very dangerous as demonstrated throughout history. I feel that I do not need to explain the horrors that occurred in many of the iron curtain nations. Yes you can say “Well that was hardly socialism” or “It was just a flavor of it”, but I think what people should take away from the iron and sickle era was the dangers of mixing untested extreme ideas with groupthink. A bloody revolution may sound cool and sexy, but at the end of the day modern history has shown that this isn’t how things should be done.

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Is The Era Of Liberalism Really Back?

This week, Mitch McConnell declared the “era of liberalism is back” in response to President Obama’s Inaugural Speech on Monday.  Conservatives in the media and online have gone ballistic over the speech; one that they claim is overly partisan and mixed with a highly liberal agenda.  But is this actually true?

Well, Obama’s speech didn’t talk much about the fiscal issues of the day and really seemed to focus on a much more social agenda.  These issues seemed to be focused on the rights of gays, climate change, immigration, and even a small nod to guns control.  And you know what?  Mitch McConnell and the Republicans are right to say that this was a very liberal speech.

For 1950.

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It’s Okay to Research Video Game Violence

Last week, when President Obama made his sweeping gun control proposals, one of the items mentioned was a request for Congress to fund research to determine the “effects violent video games have on young minds.” This comes after Vice President Biden met with figureheads of the video game industry before making his proposals to the President. In December, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia proposed a piece of legislation that would request the National Academy of Sciences do just that.

Many in the gaming community are not happy about this. Across various gaming message boards, people equate the violence in a first-person shooter to having as much in common with gun violence as Hot Wheels have with automobile accidents. Some have stated that just by meeting with the Vice President, the industry is admitting that it’s part of the problem.

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Obama’s Modern Liberalism & The Pursuit of Happiness

In his 1978 State of the Union address, President Jimmy Carter said “Government cannot solve our problems, it can’t set our goals. It cannot define our vision. Government cannot eliminate poverty or provide a bountiful economy or reduce inflation or save our cities or cure illiteracy or provide energy. And government cannot mandate goodness.” In 1996, just months before signing a bill into law that dramatically changed how the government helps the poor, President Bill Clinton stated “The era of big government is over.” By reading those quotes, you’d think they would’ve come from Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, not two of the three most recent Democratic Presidents. It’s felt like many of our recent Democratic Presidents have had to run away from being Democrats in order to be politically viable.

This changed Monday morning, when President Obama, in his second inaugural address, made the strongest and most vocal defense of liberalism and expansive government action since President Lyndon Johnson and his Great Society initiative. In his speech, he made a passionate defense of government “entitlement” programs, saying “the commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.” He devoted an entire paragraph of his speech to climate change, a topic that many have felt is politically unviable for some time. He alluded to his initiative to curb gun violence. By all accounts, this is the most progressive speech of his Presidency.
Much of President Obama’s speech hinges on references to our nation’s history. One of the most prominent connections between this President and another one of our past Presidents comes through their historical allusions.

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Is Obama a Magician? New Negotiating Tactics for his 2nd Term

When you’re dealing with a master of sleight of hand, even the simplest activity may be a complex deception. To understand the complexity of a magician’s life, according to Penn in this video, you need to know the seven basic principles of magic.

Palm – To hold an object with an apparently empty hand
Ditch – To secretly dispose of an unneeded object
Steal – To secretly obtain a needed object
Loan – Secretly move the needed object to where its needed
Simulation – To give the impression that something that hasn’t happened has
Misdirection – Lead attention away from the secret move
Switch – Secretly exchange one object for another

Those are the seven principles of magic, and with them you can do wondrous things. Now, what if I told you they could not only be applied to magic, but also to negotiating? When the new year rolled around, quite like magic, we witnessed a party begrudgingly going along with something they clearly didn’t want to. They enacted what was, while technically speaking a tax cut, in essence a tax raise in their minds with almost nothing in return for it. This was the same party refusing beforehand to vote on “what we all agree on,” as Obama put it. This was the party of no.

So, how did Obama perform this trickery? Like a well-trained magician, he had to know his audience. The audience in this act was threefold. One piece of this audience, the Republicans would always look to attack him on nearly anything and everything. Again, they’re the party of no. So, going into this he knew it would be no. No compromise. Nothing. Like the magician that must be keenly aware of what and where his audience will be watching and questioning, Obama had to know this. He had to finally understand this. Another of his audiences, the media, would always try and see things from the middle, and they’re obsessed with very serious people, as Paul Krugman puts them, and as such a push for a grand bargain that has tax raises and spending cuts would be just the sort of thing they could get their panties wet for. And last, he had to know us. That is, he had to know both the liberal and the republican base.

Next, quite like Teller, he used a bit of sleight of hand. Like the magician about to saw a lady in half, he stood atop the stage during his campaigning and proclaimed, “I will raise taxes on those making above $250,000 per year.” And, despite how popular this plan was, we all didn’t really know how it could be done with the Republicans likely still having control of the house. Their pledges to Grover Norquist make this feat about as hard as making an elephant disappear before your very eyes.

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