A question for discussion, since I think liberals often don’t own up to it. Assume you had total control over all things budgetary in the United States. How high would taxes be as a share of GDP? Back pre-recession we got up to a combined state/federal/local spending total of 37 percent of GDP. I take my guide from the Nordic trailblazers and say that you can get taxes up close to 50 percent of GDP if you’re willing to adopt a not-so-progressive rate structure but I wouldn’t want to try going any higher than that unless some smaller country does it first.
The Obama administration has been trying to implement new regulations governing the for-profit college industry — which makes the vast majority of its revenue from the taxpayer while leaving scores of students crippled with debt and bleak job prospects — but has run into staunch opposition in the House. House Education Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), after receiving substantial donations from the for-profit college industry, has pledged that the new regulations won’t come online.
The House actually used the spending bill that it passed last month to deny funding to the Education Department for implementing the new regulations. And now the House has some allies in the Senate, as Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) — joined by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Mike Lee (R-UT) — has introduced legislation blocking the new regulations. Here’s how Risch described his effort, which he’s calling the “Education for All Act“:
“The ‘gainful employment’ rules could deny hundreds of thousands of students access to the training and skills development they need to secure a job in today’s troubled economy. It would particularly have a negative impact on the health field where nearly half of all workers are educated at proprietary institutions,” said Risch. “It is simply irresponsible for the government to throw roadblocks in front of students and institutions at a time when job creation in America should be the administration’s number one priority.
For one thing, Risch is parroting the for-profit industry’s claims about the number of health care workers it trains, even though those claims don’t stand up to scrutiny. And as Julie Margetta Morgan noted this morning, gainful employment regulations — which would cause higher education programs to lose their access to public money if their graduates fail to meet a certain debt-to-income ratio or have high rates of student loan default — would not deny federal aid to students. They would, instead, ensure that taxpayers don’t continue to throw money at programs that leave students ill-served.
Currently, just 11 percent of higher education students in the country attend for-profit schools, yet they account for 26 percent of federal student loans and 44 percent of student loan defaults. The latest data shows that 25 percent of for-profit college students default on their student loans within three years. The schools often use misleading and intimidating tactics to recruit students, many of whom would be better served, both financially and with regard to job prospects, if they attended a community college.
At the same time, for-profits schools make up to 90 percent of their revenue from the federal government, through the Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, and other federal assistance used by their students. For instance, 91.5 percent of Kaplan University’s revenue comes from the government, along with 88 percent revenue at the University of Phoenix. Executives at the schools make huge salaries, with Strayer University’s CEO pulling in $41 million in 2009.
A former for-profit school chief, writing at Higher Ed Watch, admitted that the schools use “very questionable” practices, and explained why the sector “must change its ways.” But the for-profit industry has been intensely lobbying to preserve its taxpayer largesse, and Republicans in both chambers of Congress seem more than willing to play along.
For more information, read our resport, “For-Profits, Not Students.”
Arizona GOP Bill Would Let Gov. Brewer Create An Armed Militia For Whatever She ‘Considers Necessary’
Arizona’s GOP-run legislature has taken to marginalizing and villainizing the immigrant population with zeal — be it through SB 1070, HB 2191, or SB 1070 “on steroids.” Now, the Pheonix New Times reports that state Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-AZ) is pushing a bill to give Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) a “blank check to establish a ‘state guard’ that would do her bidding, whatever that bidding might be.”
Allen’s SB 1495 not only establishes a “state guard” independent of the national guard and finances that guard with national guard funding, but it allows Brewer to created this “Armed force” for “any  reason the governor considers to be necessary”:
Section 1. Section 26-174, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended to read:
Arizona state guard; establishment; purpose; appropriations
A. If the national guard of Arizona or a major portion thereof is called into active federal service, or if the national guard or a major portion thereof is alerted for federal service or for any other reason the governor considers to be necessary, the governor may establish an armed force for the safety and protection of the lives and property of the citizens of the state which shall be known as the Arizona state guard.
B. The Arizona state guard shall insofar as practicable be governed by and subject to the laws of the state pertaining to the national guard. The governor shall issue or cause to be issued rules and regulations to govern administration and organization of the state guard.
C. Appropriations made to the national guard shall be deemed appropriated to both the national guard and the Arizona state guard, if and when the latter organization is established, and any funds which that are unexpended from appropriations to the national guard may be used for establishment and maintenance of the Arizona state guard.
Given the current agitation within the state’s ad hoc militias, this GOP-generated “state guard” represents an official opportunity for anti-immigrant extremists already active in Arizona. Bill Davis, the neo-nazi supported founder of Arizona’s “border vigilante group” the Cochise County Militia, has been recruiting “combat veterans, with kill records, to camp out and patrol” along the U.S. – Mexico border. He also created a “private military company” to “stop border crossers” when the Border Patrol won’t. Shawna Forde, the vigilante leader of Arizona’s Minutemen American Defense, just received the death sentence for the murder of a 9-year-old Hispanic-American girl and her father.
SB 1495 is already being touted by white supremacist and hyper-militaristic sites. What’s more, as indicated by a Southern Poverty Law Center report, there are 512 extremist “Patriot” groups across Texas, Michigan, California, Indiana, Oregon, New York, and Kentucky itching to see similar legislation. Oklahoma and Montana have already obliged. Should these efforts succeed, states risk sanctioning a level of blind hatred that will — and has — only ended badly.
People generally don’t realize this but the “standard” American mortgage—a 30 year self-amortizing fixed-rate loan that you can refinance—is a very artificial beast. It’s a beast you could create in a number of ways, but the way that we happen to create it is through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The conservative in the street seems to have gotten it into his head that Fannie and Freddie are primarily vehicles through which Barney Frank gives money to deadbeat black people. In reality, the overwhelming preponderance of what Fannie/Freddie activities are devoted to ensuring the availability of mortgage credit to middle-aged moderately prosperous suburbanites (in other words, Fox News fans and Rush Limbaugh listeners) on more favorable terms than would be otherwise available. Abolishing them would be a big deal with an array of consequences that a lot of people wouldn’t like.
But I don’t at all understand Paul McMorrow’s argument in the Boston Globe that doing so would create a specific shortfall of urban affordable housing:
With the vibrant middle priced out of homeownership, cities become deeply divided places, playgrounds for the privileged surrounded by neighborhoods full of the working, landless poor. Current city and state policies already recognize this as an intolerable outcome. Inclusionary zoning policies and affordable housing development regulations only reach so far, though. Ultimately, the greatest tool in promoting economic diversity in cities is the reliable flow of affordable, long-term housing debt. If that debt dries up, so too will the homebuyers who invest in vibrant urban spaces.
I think this doesn’t make sense on a number of levels. Most obviously, the affordability of desirably located real estate in the long run is going to be a function of the extent of new construction. But we’re leaving that sermon aside.
Here’s the rub. If you didn’t have any special credit goodies for residential real estate, the main beneficiaries would be the commercial real estate industry that’s already up and running without said goodies. And since multi-family rental apartments are a species of commercial real estate, there’d be no real problem here for cities, where we know the ecology is friendly to that kind of housing. You’d see a huge disruptive impact on suburban single-family detached homes because there’s no real existing business model for efficiently operating those kind of structures as rental housing. But cities would have a much easier time adapting.
Earlier this week, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) seemed to apologize for referring to the Affordable Care Act as a “one-size-fits-all federal government dumb-ass program” and “an awful piece of crap.” But last night, during an appearance on Fox News’ ‘On The Record,’ Hatch — who may face a Tea Party challenger in his re-election bid — doubled down on his description, saying that the law is “a lot worse than that”:
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, senator, you’ve been quoted in terms of the health care bill saying that it is an “awful piece of crap and a dumb ass program.” Now how do you really feel about it?
HATCH: I guess I should tell you how I really feel because it is a lot worse than that. It really is a bad piece of legislation, everybody knows that, including the president. I don’t see why he keeps pushing it. They know it is not going to work. If he gets reelected within a couple of years he will though his hands in the air and say it is not good. We have to go to a single payer system.
Hatch voted against the law, but was initially part of a group of bipartisan senators headed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) who sought to build agreement for comprehensive reform. Hatch left the group out fear that they would endorse a public option and full-blown employer mandate, both of which were not part of the proposal or the existing health law. Then, as now, Hatch warned that those provisions would lead to single-payer health care. “If we go to a government-run system, I’ve got to tell you, everybody in America is going to be very sad,” he told Van Susteren in 2009.
During that appearance, Hatch also emphasized his willingness to work across partly lines saying, “I’ve negotiated with everybody from Henry Waxman, who is one of the most liberal members of the House, to Ted Kennedy, one of the most liberal members of the Senate. I’ve negotiated with both President Clinton and President Obama. I like every one of them.” Indeed, Hatch even supported an individual requirement to purchase health insurance in 1993, a measure he now vehemently opposes.
Conservative billionaire David Koch, co-owner of the $110 billion dollar Koch Industries chemical and petroleum conglomerate, provided a “lengthy” interview to Boston Globe reporter Stephen Smith yesterday. Smith asked about Ian Murphy’s prank call to Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI). Walker, who thought he was speaking with David Koch, bragged about his union busting campaign, joked about using a baseball bat against his opponents, and confessed that he had considered planting trouble makers in the protest crowd. According to Smith, Koch was both “amused and bemused” by the prank, but said he has “no relationship with the governor and didn’t directly support him.” But through political action committees and right-wing front groups, Koch has actually provided much of the muscle for Walker’s election and his current anti-labor power grab:
– Koch Industry’s PAC provided $43,000 in funds to Walker’s gubernatorial campaign, and funneled $1.5 million to the Republican Governor’s Association, which in turn spent $65,000 supporting Walker and $3.4 million in ads attacking Walker’s Democratic opponent.
– David Koch is the founder, financier, and chairman of Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing “grassroots” front group. Americans for Prosperity, according to the New York Times, pressured Walker before he was even sworn in to take on public sector unions. Americans for Prosperity bused in Tea Party activists to support Walker’s current power grab, organized a major rally to support Walker, and has purchased $342,200 in ads supporting Walker and attacking his liberal critics. Earlier this week, Americans for Prosperity announced a ten city bus tour of Wisconsin to hold rallies to bolster Walker. Neither Koch nor Americans for Prosperity has revealed how much they are spending on this bus tour or rallies.
– Koch’s other front groups have marshaled support for Walker. The American Legislative Exchange Council, a group financed with nearly $500,000 in Koch money and lead in part by a Koch executive, has pushed anti-public sector union legislation to Walker and the Wisconsin GOP. A wide range of Koch-tied groups, like the Reason Foundation and the Cato Institute, have also sung Walker’s praise in the media.
Despite Koch’s contention that he has not “directly” supported Walker, during the prank call between Murphy and Walker, Walker said he was coordinating with “your guy on the ground” — presumably referring to Tim Phillips, a top political deputy to David Koch and current president of Americans for Prosperity. Phillips, a former associate of Jack Abramoff, has a history of anti-Semitic smear campaigns and lobbying work on behalf of a forced-abortion sweatshop owner.
Koch was recently in Boston to unveil the new David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. The donation to cancer research deserves high praise. However, Koch’s charitable donations should not give him a free pass for his right-wing lobbying or business practices. Koch Industries is one of the country’s worst air polluters, responsible for millions of pounds of cancer-causing chemicals. As the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer has reported, Koch Industries has lobbied aggressively to stop the government from recognizing their chemicals, like formaldehyde, as carcinogenic. Moreover, Koch’s political operation came close to defeating health reform — running millions of dollars in ads, organizing rallies, disrupting town hall meetings. For those who have not inherited an oil company, and cannot afford health insurance or have what an insurance company deems a “preexisting condition,” Koch’s political operation has worked to ensure that they continue to suffer.
I’m glad we’ve reached the point in the Western revival where we’re making not just loan gunmen movies but pioneer movies. It’s one thing to battle lawlessness within the loose context of civilization—it’s another thing entirely to be the sole remnants of civilization, beyond the law, beyond the map, beyond the English language:
I haven’t seen any of Kelly Reichardt’s previous movies, mostly because the emotions in her movies seem to me to be so precise and specific that I feel like I’d have to be in the right mood at the right moment to see them, and in the time I have budgeted for entertainment, that moment and that mood doesn’t often occur at the right moment. This strikes more chords for me, as the girl who loved the Little House books but never saw the series, who loves the strange, violent deserts of A Study in Scarlet and the isolation of Red Mars. We’ll never experience anything like this in the United States again, but frontier stories carry a germ of our far future in them.
Via David Leonhardt, a disturbing chart from the Hamilton Project suggesting that the wage picture for men is worse than it appears:
The red line is the customary one. It shows the wages for male full-time workers. But the share of working-age men who are employed full-time has been falling, with the reduction coming disproportionately from lower-skilled men. So the blue line, which represents the wages for all men and offers what’s arguably more of an apples-to-apples comparison, shows a much darker picture.
I think this is a reminder that we don’t see enough discussion of feminism as an economic phenomenon. What’s been the macroeconomic policy response to a substantial increase in the potential labor force? Is this decline in male workforce participation a sign of bad labor market conditions, or the statistical manifestation of social change in gender roles? What’s the workforce participation rate we want to have?
Anthony Watts urges WattsUpWithThat readers to disrupt Forbes blog: “shout them down in the comments section”
Yes, discredited former TV weatherman Anthony Watts can’t stomach even a couple of scientists posting reasonable comments about an error-riddled piece from Heartland on a blog already over-run by the pro-pollution crowd. He must marshall his readership to “shout them down in the comments section.”
Watts has, perhaps more than any other leading anti-science blogger, viciously smeared scientists — and tried to get his followers to game online voting and pile onto other people’s comments sections (see Scientific American “horrified” by “the co-opting of the poll” by users of “the well-known climate denier site, Watts Up With That”).
In a new post, he reprints another piece smearing climate scientists by Joe D’Aleo. By way of history, Watts and D’Aleo coauthored a “report” accusing top U.S. scientists of various kinds of misfeasance and malfeasance in the global temperature record. It was utterly debunked last March (see Wattergate: Tamino debunks “just plain wrong” Anthony Watts). As Tamino wrote, “your use of false claims to accuse NOAA scientists of deliberate deception was not just mistaken, it was unethical.”
Watts never retracted the attacks. Instead, last Memorial Day, Watts directly questioned the patriotism of both Tamino and Rabett (see “Peak readership for anti-science blogs?“) leading Tamino to write, “This just might be the most loathsome thing Watts has yet done with his blog.”
Watts often feigns a demeanor of reasonableness, as when he had the chutzpah to write in June:
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal that was published today, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) explained that House Republicans, when they unveil their 2012 budget, plan to include cuts to so-called entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. But in a moment reminiscent of Republican promises to cut spending while not naming any specific spending cuts, Boehner said that the Republican budget won’t actually include specifics for how to achieve those entitlement cuts:
House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that he’s determined to offer a budget this spring that curbs Social Security and Medicare, despite the political risks, and that Republicans will try to persuade voters that sacrifices are needed…Mr. Boehner made it clear the Republicans are not themselves offering a detailed plan anytime soon. Rather, the budget is likely to contain cost containment goals, but no specific ideas on how to achieve them.
“We’re all living a lot longer than anyone ever expected,” Boehner said in a meeting with the editors of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “And I think that raising the retirement age — going out 20 years, so you’re not affecting anyone close to retirement — and eventually getting the retirement age to 70 is a step that needs to be taken.”
Boehner’s justification for this regressive cut to Social Security is based on the faulty premise that America’s life-expectancy is increasing (when, in reality, its only increasing for upper-class Americans who don’t work in debilitating, labor-intensive jobs). And let’s not forget, Boehner demagogued the Affordable Care Act for its provisions slowing the growth of Medicare, saying that the “government takeover of health care bill would cut seniors’ Medicare benefits by $500 billion.”
A New NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday “suggests Republicans significantly overestimated the public’s eagerness to tackle the federal deficit by cutting programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.” 77 percent of respondents said that cuts to Social Security are unacceptable, while 76 said the same for Medicare and 67 for Medicaid. So it seems the path that Boehner has chosen is to assert that cuts will occur, score those savings in the House Republican budget, but not actually explain what those cuts would mean in practical terms.