CAP is actually on vacation this week, but obviously I just went on vacation so I’m in DC doing nothing and I need to work on a few freelance pieces so blogging should happen at a more-or-less regular pace starting tomorrow. Just maybe a little more whimsical than usual. After all, blogging was my favorite hobby before it was my job.
Via Brad DeLong, Luigi Zingales offers some strident criticisms of the European Financial Stabilization Fund that seem persuasive to me. However, his flourishes of rhetorical libertarianism are very annoying:
After the sub-prime mortgage crisis, politicians alleged that the market was short-sighted and irrational, and rushed to propose new regulations. While some of the criticism might have merit, what gives politicians the moral authority to criticize? After all, as the EFSF shows, their orientation can be more short term and irrational than the market’s, repeating the same mistakes because they seem not to have learned from them.
Since “politicians” are among the most-despised social groups, it’s always convenient to position oneself in opposition to politicians. However, it’s simply not the case that “let’s not have politicians do anything” is a viable solution to any kind of problem. “The market” isn’t
A few days ago, incoming Agriculture Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) announced the hire of Ryan McKee as the senior staffer to oversee the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. McKee is currently a lobbyist working for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s division dedicated to deregulating complex derivatives products. In her new role working for Lucas, McKee will be liaising with regulators in charge of implementing new rules under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law to overhaul the over-the-counter derivatives market.
As ThinkProgress reported, the Chamber, which is funded by AIG, JP Morgan, CitiGroup, and other financial interests, took the lead role in fighting to defeat Wall Street reform efforts. Last year, the Chamber organized a conference call with other financial industry lobby groups and bank lobbyists to coordinate their efforts. As Tim Fernholz reported, McKee made clear that she was fighting to “kill” financial reform:
“We want to make sure that we hold all the Republicans and are able to influence enough Democrats to have a working majority to kill this thing outright or modify it to the point where it’s palatable to the business community,” Jason Matthews, the Chamber’s director of congressional affairs, told the callers. Ryan McKee, a senior director at the Chamber’s Center for Capital Markets, was even more direct in response to a question from an caller: “We’re fundamentally trying to kill this,” she said.
To undermine the new rules created by the Dodd-Frank law, the Chamber recently launched a new website dedicated to smearing the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.
The Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo has noted that Lucas and other Republicans on the Ag Committee have already signaled that they will seek to delay implementation of new derivatives regulations. Republicans raised eyebrows recently by proclaiming that they intend to “serve the banks” rather than regulate them. By hiring bank lobbyists like McKee to oversee reform, it’s clear Republicans plan on fulfilling that promise to undermine reform.
Earlier this month, after President Obama made a deal with congressional Republicans, Congress passed a bill to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for two years, in exchange for a 13-month unemployment insurance extension. Obama and most Democrats begrudged giving the rich more tax breaks, but Republicans rejoiced. Before the deal, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) fiercely advocated for extending the cuts for the rich. Despite the more than $800 billion cost to extend them, Coburn argued that tax cuts don’t have to be paid for.
Today on Fox News Sunday, the Oklahoma senator repeatedly said the federal government should reduce spending. Host Chris Wallace pressed for specifics, but Coburn couldn’t offer up much. “That remains to be seen,” he said, and, “We haven’t even done the hard work of identifying all the duplications in the federal government.” To his credit, Coburn noted that the Pentagon needs some auditing help, but he repeatedly threw out some random amounts of money that could be cut ($50 billion, $100 billion, $200 billion, and $350 billion) without saying exactly where that money would come from. But now that the tax cut deal is done and the President signed it into law, it appears that Coburn now thinks the rich are going to have to start sacrificing too:
COBURN: We could certainly cut $100 to $200 billion and help ourself. [sic] …There cannot be anything that’s not put on the table. There will not be one American that will not be called on to sacrifice. Those that are more well to do will be called on to sacrifice to a greater extent.
We could save about $50 billion a year by eliminating programs. … [W]e have a realm of about $350 billion that will not truly impact anybody in this country that we could eliminate tomorrow.
There is one sure way that the federal government could save hundreds of billions of dollars “tomorrow”: eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the rich, which of course Coburn would never advocate doing. The Joint Committee on Taxation said that the Obama-brokered tax cut deal — most of which go to the rich — will cost the federal government more than $400 billion over the next two years.
But if Coburn needs help with ideas on specific spending cuts, the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo notes that the Center for American Progress has identified $100 billion in defense programs (that won’t compromise national security), $45 billion in subsidies to oil companies, $1 billion in tax expenditures for big agricultural firms, $2 billion in unnecessary stock ownership incentives for the rich, and hundreds of millions in redundant or duplicative education programs that could be cut.
As we enter the critical week between Christmas and New Years, it’s time for a “list of the day” feature. Today’s list is the top ten Robyn songs of 2010, in honor of her three-album year. I don’t believe in ordinal rankings, so these are just bullet points not a list:
— “Call Your Girlfriend.”
— “You Should Know Better.”
— “Hang With Me.”
— “Love Kills.”
— “Get Myself Together.”
— “The Girl and the Robot.”
— “Criminal Intent.”
— “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do.”
For the past two years, conservatives have repeatedly attacked President Obama for supposedly endangering American lives by not being aggressive enough in going after terrorists. But a year after the failed bombing attempt on Christmas Day for which Obama received immense criticism from the right, a key Bush intelligence official refuted these right-wing attacks today on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley. Retired Vice Admiral Mike McConnell, who served as the Director of National Intelligence under President Bush, said the Obama “administration has been as aggressive, if not more aggressive in pursuing” terror threats:
MCCONNELL: Both general Hayden and I served in the previous administration and we got a lot of criticism for being aggressive, and so on. … My observation is that the new administration has been as aggressive, if not more aggressive in pursuing these issues, because they’re real. And so, regardless of which side of the political spectrum –
CROWLEY: And you commend them for that?
MCCONNELL: I do commend them for that.
Meanwhile, retired Gen. Michael Hayden, who served as the head of the CIA under Bush and appeared along with McConnell on CNN today, warned against overreacting to the “low threshold” attacks that Al-Qaeda and their ideological allies now employ. “We cannot allow our response to that kind of event to turn a tactical success for Al-Qaeda into a strategic defeat for us,” Hayden said, by “overreacting to it by suppressing our commerce and our convenience.”
Many conservatives, including Camp, believe that although most Americans should be paying lower taxes, more Americans should be paying taxes. The fact that 46.7 million earners pay no income tax creates moral hazard — incentives for perverse behavior: Free-riding people have scant incentive to restrain the growth of government they are not paying for with income taxes.
“I believe,” Camp says, “you’ve got to have some responsibility for the government you have.” People have co-payments under Medicare, and everyone should similarly have some “skin in the game” under the income tax system.
As usual, this is based on the clever magic trick of pretending that poor people don’t pay state and local taxes. But whatever the merits of the position, it’s tactical important to keep in mind that this is the position. Lurking behind conservative rhetoric about the evils of government spending, is the reality of conservative hostility to taxes. And lurking behind conservative rhetoric about the evils of taxes is the reality of conservative hostility to taxing rich people. Which means that Republicans are likely to insist that any revenue-enhancing deficit-control package rely heavily on regressive measures. I think it’s important for climate hawks to be a player in this drama.
Many of us don’t share the right-wing’s view that poor people are the real lucky duckies in American society and thus have been somewhat reluctant to argue straightahead for carbon taxes unless they’re offset in a way that makes the vulnerable whole again. And that’s the right posture to have in an ideal world. But given that you can’t always get what you want, it’s important for us to insist that if new regressive taxes are put into place that taxes on greenhouse gas emissions be right square in the middle of the table. If the political system is prepared to impose a new regressive tax, that’s got to be a carbon tax or something similar.
With the strong backing of the tea party movement, Maine Gov.-elect Paul LePage (R) rode a wave of discontent over bull semen taxes to a surprising victory last month, telling President Obama to “go to to hell” and warning a reporter that he would punch him in the face. On the campaign trail, LePage raged against a what he considered a corrupt state government and “pledged to surround himself with ‘the best and the brightest’ and to avoid political cronyism.” But on Thursday, LePage announced that he had hired his own 22-year-old daughter for a position in the “upper echelon of his administration,” with a salary of $41,000, the Bangor Daily News reports:
Lauren LePage, 22, will serve as assistant to the governor’s chief of staff, John McGough — a position that administration officials describe as entry-level and is commensurate with her experience, work history and education.
LePage, a recent college graduate, will be a salaried political appointee earning approximately $41,000 a year, according to Dan Demeritt, incoming director of communications in the LePage administration. [...]
Maine governors have wide discretion in creating staff positions within their offices, filling those positions and setting salaries. Because such appointments are political positions — known as “special assistants to the governor” — there are no rules barring Maine’s chief executive from hiring family members.
And as Maine progressive blog Dirigo Blue points out, LePage’s daughter will also be moving into the governor’s mansion with her father. With taxpayers footing the bill for her rent, utilities, food, and other expenses, “Not only will Lauren be earning $41,000 in direct income, but she’ll be making another $12,000 or more indirectly.”
Paul Krugman mentioned the other day that one of the most welcome trends of the past 15 years has been the turnaround in the once-inevitable-seeming collapse of urban America into Escape From New York-style dystopia. As Krugman says, I think we don’t know exactly what was responsible for the turnaround. But clearly on some level the issue is that it turns out that crime control can be done better and can be done worse, and it’s something we’ve gotten better at.
In his excellent book When Brute Force Fails Mark Kleiman talks a great deal about an innovate program out of Hawaii called HOPE that could make us even better at it. The way this works is that instead of relying on a mix of brutal, expensive incarceration and nearly useless parole, we try to actually make parole work. Offenders spend less time in jail, and instead face a version of fairly intensely supervised parole where they need to engage in regular drug testing, and if they flunk they a brief, quick, certain punishment of a few days in jail. It seems to work well, it’s much cheaper than traditional prison, and it’s a good deal more humane to boot. And according to Adam Serwer, Mitch Daniels wants to bring it to Indiana, which is excellent news.