Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Lawyering Up?

Most media outlets including Fox News have called Ohio and the election for Obama. But Romney's not conceding. Will they lawyer up?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

wall street & main street got all they want...

... and we're paying. Steven Pearlstein rips corporate America today for their role in having "helped create the monsters that are rampaging through the political and economic countryside, wreaking havoc and sucking the lifeblood out of the global economy."

What started as an effort to cut their tax bill a little and maybe push back on a regulation or three has now metastasized into anti-government (not "less government," but "NO government") tea party style Republicanism. And we're all paying.

Pearlstein's column here.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

income inequality: united states worse than ivory coast

Yeah, I don't post here much anymore. But today's Washington Post had an excellent article today about income inequality, based on recently-concluded research by economists based on US tax returns.

Some of the highlights: in the 1970s, the top 0.1% of earners in the US took in 2.5% of the pay. Now, that same 0.1% take in 10.4% of the total pay - they are four times better paid, while wage earners get about 9% LESS in constant dollars.

Most of that 0.1% are executives - 60%, the breakdown being about 18% at financial firms and 42% at other businesses, so it ain't just the crooks on Wall Street getting rich.

Lawyers are only 6% of that 0.1%, and athletes and media figures only 3%. So for every LeBron James or Lady Gaga out there making big bucks, there are 20 corporate executives.

The difference - James and Gaga do not get to set their own compensation levels. Executives do.

Oh and this article failed to note another issue: the massive decline in the top marginal tax rate. The increase in take-home pay for top executives is even BIGGER than indicated in this study.

In terms of the GINI coefficient (which tracks income equality), we rank way worse than other developed countries like Japan or Germany or France. In fact, according to the CIA, the US is worse than the Ivory Coast and Cameroon.

Banana republic?


Saturday, October 16, 2010

vote for china!

Eliot Spitzer on the unseriousness of the GOP... and China wins if we allow the cultish "tax cuts rule" impulse of the Republicans to continue to undermine our economic competitiveness.

Clinton years: small increase in taxes, budget surplus, 23 million jobs

Bush years: huge cuts in taxes, massive budget deficit, 1 million jobs

Saturday, August 28, 2010

go to hell glenn beck, and take your tea partying followers with you

I awoke early this Saturday morning and decided to head to an Arlington (VA) diner for a delicious albeit unhealthy breakfast. The diner was unusually full for 7:00 AM. As I settled in with my coffee I noticed some of the customers (aged 40-60) were wearing t-shirts with messages like "Restore Honor" on them.

Outside the window of the diner, local buses headed down the main drag, en route to a shopping mall near the Pentagon which includes a subway stop. The buses were unusually full for 7:00 AM on a Saturday; not just the usual folks, largely immigrants, heading to their jobs but also well-fed white folks in baseball caps and shorts, some sporting t-shirts with messages supporting gun rights and the like, carrying backpacks, looking like they were ready to spend a day on the Mall.

As I drove back up the pike towards home, I saw a bus-stop near a motel, with a bunch more of those well-fed politically-messaged-tshirt-and-baseball-cap wearing backpack toting white folks waiting for a bus to take them to the Metro station which would take them to downtown Washington where they could go to the Lincoln Memorial for Glenn Beck's stupid Restoring Honor rally.

So I'd like to give a little message to these folks. Go to hell. You're coming to the Lincoln Memorial, the taxpayer-funded monument which commemorates the man who preserved the Union and ended slavery and at least set us on the path of treating non-Christian whites as full citizens (you know, things like the 14th Amendment that some of you want to revoke allofasudden). You ride there on the taxpayer funded bus (which runs along taxpayer funded roads) and taxpayer funded Metro rail system. You probably flew to Washington on a commercial airline; taxpayer funded airports and air traffic control systems made your trip safer or even possible. Or you drove here on taxpayer funded highways.

And you are here to protest against well just about everything it would appear and wanting to "Restore Honor," which is as far as I can tell the code word for keeping middle class (aka "white") perks and tax breaks and sending everybody who wasn't born in America back to Kenya. You don't want to pay taxes and you decry socialism (let's face it, you don't really know what "socialism" means, but that doesn't stop you) but by God we better not fuck with your Medicare and by God you want your Congressman and Senator to bring more public work projects to your town in Alabama or Wyoming or wherever the hell you come from. You demand your freedoms, including your freedom to impose your religious beliefs on others, and your freedom to deny the freedom to Muslims to build a community center in lower Manhattan. You bitch about the bail-out and stimulus package (and you are insufficiently sophisticated to realize that the bank bail-out was signed by de facto President George W. Bush NOT President Obama) but you also bitch about the Obama Administration not doing enough to save American jobs. You demand the continuation of Bush's tax breaks despite the fact that they significantly benefit something like 2% of Americans who can easily afford the return to the tax levels that prevailed in the 1990s when the American economy was booming under Bill Clinton. You carry posters linking Obama to Hitler and Stalin, but you defend right-wingers like Dr. Laura or George Allen when they sling hateful words like "nigger" or "macaca" or "raghead" around. You don't want any immigrants but you were happy to eat a great breakfast at that charming little diner which is run by immigrants and the children of immigrants. You get a chubby when Sarah Palin comes out with her sexy librarian outfit and blathers incomprehensible codewords espousing racism, violence, and patriotism, despite her venal corruption and support for Alaskan secession. You are suspicious about all people with skin darker than Conan O'Brien but you rode that taxpayer funded bus driven by an African-American person who may have harbored some thoughts about the inappropriateness of a race-baiting crowd of the sort Beck will draw speaking at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech.

Your inconsistencies and miscomprehensions are exceeded only by your ugly hatreds and narrow-minded beliefs.

So go to hell Glenn Beck, and take your crowd today with you.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

an embarrassed conservative

Professor Bainbridge lists his reasons to be embarrassed about being a conservative. He has a good point, and the fact that he comes up with such a list shows something in him (sanity and honesty to start) that you can't find among the Palins and Fox Newses of the world. Though Bainbridge and others must accept some guilt by association for as long as they condone or vote for the bad kind of conservatives...

The list, from Bainbridge's blog:

Let's tick off ten things that make this conservative embarrassed by the modern conservative movement:

1. A poorly educated ex-sportwriter who served half of one term of an minor state governorship is prominently featured as a -- if not the -- leading prospect for the GOP's 2012 Presidential nomination.

2. Tom Tancredo calling President Obama “the greatest threat to the United States today" and arguing that he be impeached. Bad public policy is not a high crime nor a misdemeanor, and the casual assertion that pursuing liberal policies--however misguided--is an impeachable offense is just nuts.

3. Similar nonsense from former Ford-Reagan treasury department officials Ernest Christian and Gary Robbins, who IBD column was, as Doug Marconis observed, "a wildly exaggerated attack on President Obama’s record in office." Actually, it's more foaming at the mouth.

4. As Doug also observed, "The GOP controlled Congress from 1994 to 2006: Combine neocon warfare spending with entitlements, farm subsidies, education, water projects and you end up with a GOP welfare/warfare state driving the federal spending machine." Indeed, "when the GOP took control of Congress in 1994, and the White House in 2000, the desire to use the levers of power to create “compassionate conservatism” won our over any semblance of fiscal conservatism. Instead of tax cuts and spending cuts, we got tax cuts along with a trillion dollar entitlement program, a massive expansion of the Federal Government’s role in education, and two wars. That’s not fiscal conservatism it is, as others have said, fiscal insanity." Yet, today's GOP still has not articulated a message of real fiscal conservatism.

5. Thanks to the Tea Party, the Nevada GOP has probably pissed away a historic chance to out=st Harry Reid. See also Charlie Crist in Florida, Rand Paul in Kentucky, and so on. Whatever happened to not letting perfection be the enemy of the good?

6. The anti-science and anti-intellectualism that pervade the movement.

7. Trying to pretend Afghanistan is Obama's war.

8. Birthers.

9. Nativists.

10. The substitution of mouth-foaming, spittle-blasting, rabble-rousing talk radio for reasoned debate. Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Hugh Hewitt, and even Rush Limbaugh are not exactly putting on Firing Line. Whatever happened to smart, well-read, articulate leaders like Buckley, Neuhaus, Kirk, Jack Kent, Goldwater, and, yes, even Ronald Reagan?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

king of america

Talking about the absurd demands that President Obama spend all his time punching out BP executives and cleaning oil off of seabirds, Nicholas Kristoff identifies a real problem for the American political system.

The lack of a separate head of state. For you non-political-science majors, a "head of state" is the person who is top dog in a country; this is distinct from "head of government," the person in charge of the actual governing apparatus. The easiest way to explain this is by turning to Britain. Queen Elizabeth II is the "head of state." David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, is the "head of government." Head of state can handle ceremonial duties and represent the country; head of government gets much less pomp and circumstance, and focuses on policy and governing.

A head of state does not have to be a royal or hereditary position; in Germany for example, an elected president is head of state, and a chancellor (prime minister) is head of government. The best model for a head of state is one with extremely limited powers. The British monarch is a good example, as is the German president. They can take certain actions on their own in extremely limited circumstances; otherwise, they concentrate on representing Britain/Germany as nations, not on representing the Cameron or Merkel governments.

In the US of course, the president must handle both duties, the ceremonial and the political/governmental. As Kristoff observes, this eats into a president's time. It also has the unfortunate aspect of politicizing even ceremonial, supposed-to-feel-good things the president does with his head of state cap. For example, some complained that President Obama was not going to Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day (never mind that Reagan never went, Bush the Elder never went, and Bush the Younger usually but didn't always go. AND never mind that instead Obama was going to attend similar ceremonies at ANOTHER military cemetery in Chicago, also the final resting place for American servicemen.) The criticism was mostly from the right wing, and it was mostly just another chance to dis Obama. But if it had been an American head of state doing this, the "let's score political points" angle would not have been a factor.

I'm not a fan of absolute monarchy or hereditary power. But a constitutional monarch or similar head of state would have great advantages. Ronald Reagan I thought was a pretty poor head of government - disconnected, possibly not quite all there at the end, and overall a poor set of policies. Reagan, however, was a wonderful head of STATE. He was classy, enjoyed the ceremonial duties, could project empathy (which nowadays would disqualify him from consideration for the Supreme Court according to some Republicans). Reagan was great in consoling family members and the nation at the memorial for those killed on the Challenger.

I don't expect we will ever had a separation between head of state and head of government. But it would be nice.