This, incidentally, illustrates why people who say that it’s not possible for deficit spending to stimulate the economy because “the money has to come from somewhere” are mistaken. There are, right now, people not working who could be working. And there is productive capital standing idle that could be put to use. We have the capacity to produce more—to generate more wealth—than we currently are.
At the same time, call me crazy but isn’t there a long-term downward trend in this data series? Why would that be? This seems obvious enough that someone must have researched it.
In an e-mail message today titled “useful idiot watch,” right-wing talker Laura Ingraham sends a “Memo to Meghan McCain,” claiming that her “plus-sized” attack was just “one satirical line” that the left is now using “to malign outspoken conservatives.” Ingraham claims that “indignation” over her “off-the-cuff remark” is “manufactured and totally phony“:
The left’s indignation in this instance is manufactured and totally phony. If any off-the-cuff remark about a woman’s size was condemnable, then where was the outrage when President Obama made a passing reference to Jessica Simpson’s “weight battle” during his Super Bowl interview with Matt Lauer? And of course they look the other way when obvious personal attacks are levied against conservatives. Remember when Al Franken was the toast of all media for his book “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot”? Last month The View’s Joy Behar called him a “fat guy”; and when I was a guest on The View a few years back she ridiculed Ann Coulter and me as “peroxide” blondes on Fox. I laughed it off. If you can’t stand the heat…get out of the punditry business.
In a nod to ThinkProgress, Ingraham closes her e-mail by encouraging her readers to “click here to listen to the entire segment from March 13th, instead of the version that was edited and sent around by left wing smearmongers.”
Everyone is over Twitter. Or else always thought it sucked. But you know what, I think Twitter’s really fun! Less policy analysis, more stuff about what I just saw on TV available here on my public feed.
As ThinkProgress noted, in February, bailed-out Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit told a House committee that he received only $1 million in salary and “no bonus” in 2008:
PANDIT: My compensation was for the year 2008 was my salary, which was a million dollars. I received no bonus. And as I stated earlier, I plan to take a dollar per year salary and no bonus until we return to profitability.
Conservatives are in a weird posture on climate change. Their financial backers are very much against taking action to avoid catastrophe. And they perceive, correctly, that the kind of steps that could avoid catastrophe are likely to offend a large swathe of powerful interests and be met with skepticism by the public at large. But they can’t really say “massive global catastrophe is a small price to pay for short-term political gain.” So you get weird flailing like this:
We are cooling. We are not warming. The warming you see out there, the supposed warming, and I use my fingers as quotation marks, is part of the cooling process. Greenland, which is covered in ice, it was once called Greenland for a reason, right? Iceland, which is now green. Oh I love this. Like we know what this planet is all about. How long have we been here? How long? Not very long.
Iceland is really not green right now; the bulk of the island’s surface is desolate wasteland thanks to massive deforestation and topsoil erosion. But it is true that it used to be a lot warmer in Greenland than it’s been recently. One should dwell on this a bit—Greenland was settled by Norse adventurers back during a warm period, and the subsequent climate shift was a sufficiently serious problem to wipe the colony out entirely. That climate shift was out of the hands of humanity, and since we didn’t just keep getting colder and colder and colder we eventually reached a new equilibrium. But the price paid during the transition was high. Just ask the Greenland settlers. And, unfortunately, the nature of the current warming trend is that the planet could just get hotter and hotter irreversibly. The good news is that it’s not out of the hands of humanity; our activity is the main source of warming and changing our activity can prevent the worst from happening.
Earlier today, Huffington Post’s Sam Stein noted that as the guest host of Bill Bennett’s radio show on March 6, RNC Chairman Michael Steele compared President Obama to Richard Nixon. “What you are seeing here, folks, unfold is nothing short of the Nixon administration played out in a different era and a different style,” declared Steele:
“I’m going to tell you something,” Steele replied. “You make such an important point, because I had a conversation earlier this week about the very point you just made about the Nixon administration. What you are seeing here, folks, unfold is nothing short of the Nixon administration played out in a different era and a different style. But the results and the effects are the same. You have H.R. Haldeman and Rahm Emanuel, these guys, the master manipulators, the master controllers in the background, moving and shaking the pieces, creating an enemies list, putting together the targets on our side. The whole strategy of demonizing Rush Limbaugh, which has been exposed now…”
Steele’s comparison of Obama to Nixon is ironic given the fact that just a month earlier Steele enthusiastically compared himself to one of Nixon’s most prominent henchmen, G. Gordon Liddy. During a February 5, 2009 appearance on Liddy’s radio show, Steele told the former political dirty trickster, “I follow the footsteps of guys like you”:
STEELE: So, I, you know, I follow the footsteps of guys like you who, you know, who, you know, set the bar and pushed and pushed and pushed and made sure that we could obtain the results that would benefit people in communities, fighting for the rights of individuals and making sure that, you know, we don’t back down. Our opponents don’t back down. Why do we?
Which principles would those be? The ones that told Liddy it was fine to break into the office of the Democratic National Committee to plant bugs and photograph documents? The ones that made him propose to kidnap anti-war activists so they couldn’t disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention? The ones that inspired him to plan the murder (never carried out) of an unfriendly newspaper columnist?
Last week, Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) said he would ask the Obama administration if he could redirect $700 million in federal stimulus money to pay down the state’s debt — instead of for its original purpose of school funding and public safety. The Obama administration today rejected his request, saying that the legislation doesn’t allow Obama to “make an exception for that cash”:
The $787 billion stimulus legislation sets strict rules for the $53.6 billion being sent to help state budgets, Orszag wrote. It calls for 82 percent of the money to be used for public schools and colleges and 18 percent on public safety and other government services. “Congress has not authorized the executive branch to waive any of the above statutory requirements,” Orszag’s one-page letter said.
Sanford has said he will outright reject part of the stimulus money if the administration says no to him. Last week, state Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman — a Republican — introduced legislation allowing the state to spend the money in spite of Sanford’s opposition.
Lurking in the background of the cap & trade debate is a quasi-technical issue. Capping the amount of allowable carbon dioxide emissions creates a new source of wealth in the economy—permission to emit carbon dioxide. This, in turn, raises a question about how to allocate that resource. One suggestion, popular with industry and its tame dogs in congress, is to allocate it to industry. Give the permits away, and let companies either use them themselves or sell them to others. Another suggestion, more popular with environmentalists and economists, is to auction the permits and then use the funds thereby raised to accomplish something useful. David Roberts observes that recent Congressional Budget Office testimony has produced some important analysis of this issue that’s conveniently summarized in the following mostly-legible graphic:
On the top you see the distributional impact of three different policy options. On the bottom, you see the macroeconomic impact. The middle option is to auction the permits and use the funds to cut corporate taxes, this is something I’ve never heard anyone propose but maybe Doug Elmendorf thinks it’s a good idea because it scores well on the macro measure, albeit with catastrophic distributional consequences. The options on the left and on the right, by contrast, are options that are under consideration. They have the same macroeconomic impact, and presumably the same ecological impact. But the cap-and-rebate proposal results in gains for the bottom 40 percent of households, a tiny loss for the median quintile, and small losses for the top 40 percent. The cap-and-giveaway proposal results in large losses for the bottom 80 percent of the population and a large gain for the top 20 percent.
Naturally “moderate” Democrats such as Jeff Bingaman prefer the cap-and-giveaway out of what they deem pragmatism, but what looks a lot like fanatical devotion to the interests of the well-off to the exclusion of other concerns. Larry Bartels has done research that seems to indicate that members of the Senate are responsive to the views of their middle-class constituents, very responsive to the views of their well-off constituents, and not-at-all responsive to the views of their poor constituents. So if a cap-and-trade bill does pass, I assume it’ll take a cap-and-giveaway form, and you can bet that opponents of auctions will specifically cite the interests of the economically struggling as their main motive for screwing the economically struggling over.
The current recession is “the worst since the Great Depression” but it’s still a good deal better than the Great Depression. Justin Fox has a chart that makes the point:
The data’s not directly comparable because farm employment was a bigger deal back then, but this is about as close to an apples-to-apples comparison as you can find and the apples of the 1930s were much, much, much worse than our apples.