My latest Al Jazeera op-ed is available here. This is how it begins:
Occupy Wall Street: Another world is possible
Obama’s rightward shift since taking office has alienated many former supporters, helping to fuel the ‘Occupy’ movement.
Blogger David Dayen at Firedoglake hit the nail on the head last week: “The Occupy Wall Street protesters have done more to change the political dynamic in the country in a month than national Democrats have done in 30 years.”
If only the national Democrats had the wits or heart to notice or care. Yes, Obama has changed his tune and is pushing hard on his new-found jobs agenda. But it’s ultimately as superficial and opportunistic as his entire 2008 campaign turned out to be, given how disconnected it remains from the rest of his overall neo-liberal agenda. Above all, his long-term welfare state slashing priorities remain completely intact, along with the monstrously anti-democratic deficit super-committee and its mandated appetite for destruction. It’s little wonder that a poll of Occupy Wall Street participants found relatively low support for Obama’s re-election, compared with those who voted for him in 2008.
The shift in political mood has been striking, as summarised recently by Think Progress blogger Zaid Jilani. In late July, after months on end of elite drum-beating about deficits, cable news networks mentioned the word “debt” 7,583 times, compared to 427 mentions of “unemployment” and 76 mentions of “unemployed”, Jilani reported. But less than a month after the Occupy Wall Street protests began, the situation had changed dramatically: “Review of the same three networks between October 10 and October 16 finds that the word ‘debt’ only netted 398 mentions, while ‘occupy’ grabbed 1,278, ‘Wall Street’ netted 2,378, and ‘jobs’ got 2,738.”
Yet little has changed inside the Beltway. To the contrary, Democrats on the deficit super-committee just came out with a proposal that’s well to the right of previous bipartisan “deficit reduction” plans – cutting much more from the 99 per cent and asking much less from the one per cent. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) explained:…
To read the whole op-ed click here.
The New York Times has a chart that, while presumably accurate to the facts (Emmanuel Saez’s IRS data is used, along with public data about income from Forbes and other sources), is horribly inaccurate in terms of relativity.
Unfortunately, I can’t replicate the chart here, in part because one key problem is the technology the Times uses. You have to scroll up and down to see data for specific groups. In the start position, for example, with .01% highlighted, you’d think the chart says the bottom 90% of income starts at $386,000. Only when you scroll down does it become clear the focus changes, the yellow highlight background moves, and the data becomes “accurate.”
Another issue is the pyramid on the right. We’re supposed to believe the width and height of the pyramid represents the relative percentages of people in each income group. However, the bottom 90% pyramid is not 10 times as wide as the next group above, 132 million in the bottom 90% compared with the 13.2 million in the top 10%. The better image would’ve been what Paul or someone else described at Open Left awhile back, imagine a parade of people of people who represent wealth and income. The size of people would be within a somewhat narrow range until the very end of the parade when people would start to be 20 feet tall, 30 feet, 50 feet, and 100 feet tall. And then the parade would be over abruptly: the number of outsized people is so tiny relative to the rest.
While I don’t expect much from the Times, this sort of botched representation is depressing because it is what passes as the historical record. And I wonder what Saenz thinks of this use of his data? While the Times chart hides the gross disparity between the haves and have nots in this country, there is plenty of data that is not so reassuring. For example, I’ve yet to see the Times report on income for all five income groups 1945 to 1980 to compare with the 1979-2009 data the CBO released in the past week. That data comparison clearly shows the failure of US economic policy in the Reagan era. For example, here are two charts from the basic Inequality.org page, which is not hard for the Times to find and uses much the same data:
Top 1% Share of Pre-Tax Income 1913 to 2009
Source: Congressional Budget Office, Average Federal Taxes by Income Group, “Average After-Tax Household Income,” June, 2010.
Average After-Tax Income by Income Group 1979 to 2009
Source: Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, “Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118(1), 2003. Updated to 2008 at http://emlab.berkeley.edu/users/saez.
Unfortunately, I can’t find the 1945 to 1979/1980 Average After-Tax Income by Group. Maybe someone has that handy?
My latest Al Jazeera English op-ed is up. Excerpt below:
Fighting the politics of illusion
Since the financial crisis began in 2008, political discourse in the US has been awash in defence mechanisms.
For three long years since the financial crisis began, American politics has been dominated by the politics of projection, displacement and denial – three basic subconscious ego defence mechanisms that are tremendously powerful in defending the indefensible. On the personal level, such defence mechanisms – analysed by Anna Freud in her 1937 book, The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence - protect the ego from conflicts that seemingly threaten its destruction, or at the very least weaken its foundations. They are, in a sense, helpful and adaptive at an early stage, since ego survival is a precondition for everything else. But they can take on a life of their own, “protecting” the ego from things that must be dealt with in order to grow as it should. The same is true when these mechanisms function socially, “defending” large groups of people – even whole civilisations – against facing up to their most important challenges, and preventing them from resolving conflicts that threaten to destroy them.
Such has been the establishment’s response to the financial crash of 2008 and its ongoing repercussions until now. In one short month, Occupy Wall Street has begun to change all that. While Occupy Wall Street is purportedly raucous, incoherent, and lacking in clarity, it has done more than anything else in the past three years to begin stripping away the dangerously irrational nonsense protected by and embodied in those three social defence mechanisms. In the wake of its global coming out day on October 15, it is a good idea to take stock of this remarkable accomplishment.
First, we need to consider what happened, and how those in power have tried to make it go away. What happened, in short, was the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Financial crises are built into the very nature of financial systems, as shown by the historical record compiled by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff in This Time It’s Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, and as explained by the late Hyman Minsky’s financial instability hypothesis. This historical fact has long been denied by free market ideologues, and their faith has grown particularly strong since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. That is why, in part, the US has destroyed almost all of its regulatory structures that could have and should have limited the scope of this most recent crisis, if not prevented it entirely.
Denial is, conceptually, the most basic of defence mechanisms – the refusal to accept external reality, and/or one’s own reactions to reality. And that is what I’ve just described – a breath-takingly broad example of denial. When people try to pretend that tens of millions are out of work because there is something wrong with each of them, individually, rather than with the economy as a whole, this too is an example of massive denial.
Read the whole op-ed here.
So, this weekend, Mitch McConnell made news once again by being an ass, as TPM, among many others, reported: “McConnell: Not My Job To Prevent Firefighter, Police Layoffs”
The idea of not wanting to employ teachers, firemen and police is naturally what got the most attention–and I noticed that first, as well. But what really got my attention, as I got beyond the headline, was the zombie lie here:
“I certainly do approve of firefighters and police,” said McConnell. “The question is whether the federal government ought to be raising taxes on 300,000 small businesses in order to send money down to bail out states for whom firefighters and police work. They are local and state employees.”
Obama’s proposal last week would NOT rasie taxes on 300,000 small businesses. In fact, it would not raise taxes on ANY businesses. It would only raise taxes on PERSONAL INCOMES over $1 million. If you’re a business owner, your personal income is what you take out of the business. By definition, it has no impact on the business itself. In fact, as David Cay Johnson has pointed out repeatedly, raising the personal tax rate makes it less attractive to take money out of a business, so higher tax rates on the wealthy are actually an incentive for business growth, rather than a disincentive.
What’s more, we actually have a pretty good idea of who actually would be paying those taxes, rather than McConnell’s mythical “300,000 small businesses”. This was pulled together recently by Mike Konzal at Rortybomb in a mid-October post titled “Who are the 1%, and what do they do for a living?”
He actually provided two charts–one for the top 1% and one for the top 0.1%. The $1 million level where the surtax would kick in is actually above the 0.5% level. But the two charts are generally fairly similar, I would say. See for yourself:
Those are the people who would REALLY be paying the surtax under the Democrats’ tax provision–only after the first $1 million in income. Obviously, some of them are business owners, but that’s not what they would be taxed for under the Democrats’ plan. This applies to those explicitly listed as “entreprenuers”, for example. And we should expect that a good number of those listed in law, real estate or medicine are business owners in the sense of being either sole owners or partners. But this is NOT the case for the large percentage of executives, managers and supervisors. They may own substantial shares of stock, but they are not business owners in either the legal or common sense of the term.
In short, the rhetorical world that Mitch McConnell inhabits has very little in common with the real world of actual economic activity. And the political reporters, editors, pundits, etc. who write about such things are either as ignorant as he is, or else they are otherwise derelict in the duties, with the end result that rightwing lies such as those McConnell spouts are treated on a par with actual economic facts. That can only mean that the economic policy discourse is heavily biased in a rightwing direction, treating zombies lies as if they were economic truths.
Because of her role as a spokesperson for the Occupy Wall Street off-shot, Occupy DC, NPR has fired Lisa Simeone as host of Soundprint, a radio documentary program, and is no longer distributing The World of Opera, which she also hosts. It will continue to be distributed by North Carolina-based classical music station WDAV, which produces the show. Simeone was NOT an NPR employee, but a freelance contractor. According this account in the Washington Post, it was all very cut and dried:
NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm said the network disagrees with the station on the role of program hosts but respects its position.
“Our view is it’s a potential conflict of interest for any journalist or any individual who plays a public role on behalf of NPR to take an active part in a political movement or advocacy campaign,” she told The Associated Press. “Doing so has the potential to compromise our reputation as an organization that strives to be impartial and unbiased.”
Rehm said any host with NPR attached to their title is a public figure representing the network as a whole. But she said “reasonable people can have different views about this.” She said the negotiations with WDAV were civil and amicable.
NPR’s ethics code states that “NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies” involving issues NPR covers. The code notes that some provisions may not apply to outside contributors. It uses a freelancer who primarily contributes arts coverage as an example.
Rehm said the network didn’t need to cite the code in its decision to drop the show because its position on hosts’ political activities was “even more fundamental.”
Usually, controversies involving firing over free speech are more controversial the more arbitrary they appear to be. But actually, the reverse should be true, since it underscores the deep-seated structural nature of the profound political bias that’s passed off under the rubric of “objectivity”.
What am I talking about? Simple: the gaping contradiction between the LACK of free speech for a freelance arts program host, and the SUBSIDIZED (tax-exempt) speech of NPR’s corporate sponsors–specifically those in the FIRE sector, whose collective actions and practices are responsible for wrecking the economy. NPR’s corporate sponsors underwrite NPR specifically as a form of corporate image advertising meant to benefit themselves politically, positioning themselves as part of the “public interest” as opposed to their actual status as very specific special interests. The very essense of their sponsorship agreements is deception. A quick look at NPR’s list of sponsos from 2008 shows the following companies from the FIRE sector (finance, insurance, real estate) giving $1 million of more:
Progressive Casualty, Prudential Financial, State Farm, MasterCard, Natl Assoc of Realtors, Raymond James Financial, Travel Guard, Visa, and US Bank.
Cheapskapes in the $500,000 – $999,999 range included Citibank, iShares, LendingTree
T. Rowe Price and the Vanguard Group.
No one bats an eye at this situation. It never even occurs to anyone that there’s a problem here. Which, of course, is the most effective and most dangerous form of political speech imagineable. There is an exception, thankfully. Jeremy Iggers’ book Good News, Bad News: Journalism Ethics And The Public Interest. Iggers was a restaraunt critic at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, who went back to school to get a PhD in philosophy, a background he then used to write this scathing critique of the deeply bogus nature of journalism “ethics”.
Iggers argues that the essense of an ethical code is that it is disinterested. The whole purpose of an ethical code is to stand apart from and against the individual motives of specific parties. And yet, historically, journalistic codes of ethics have always been quite the opposite–codes that protect the most powerful interests–primarily by total exclusion–while focusing virtually all their attention on the least powerful of actors. This is, in effect, a codification of double standards that’s the very antithesis of a true code of ethics.
A prime example of the sort of double-standard Iggers described is exmplified here, in which individual reporters (and, in this case, completely non-political arts program hosts) are supposed to be completely free from any appearance of “bias”, while immensely powerful corporate advertisers (here called “sponsors”) are not even considered as subject to rules. (In the 1980s, thngs got so bad that critics took to calling sister organization PBS “the petroleium broadcast system”.)
One thing that’s really great about Occupy Wall Street is that it creates a political context in which this sort of routine exercise of corporate political power can be clearly seen as part of a much larger, deeply immoral system. All of the sudden, what was deeply hidden is right out there in the open for all to see.
This article speaks for itself, from the NY Times:
Some on Wall Street viewed the protesters with disdain, and a degree of caution, as hundreds marched through the financial district on Friday. Others say they feel their pain, but are befuddled about what they are supposed to do to ease it. A few even feel personally attacked, and say the Occupy Wall Street protesters who have been in Zuccotti Park for weeks are just bitter about their own economic fate and looking for an easy target. If anything, they say, people should show some gratitude.
“Who do you think pays the taxes?” said one longtime money manager. “Financial services are one of the last things we do in this country and do it well. Let’s embrace it. If you want to keep having jobs outsourced, keep attacking financial services. This is just disgruntled people.”
He added that he was disappointed that members of Congress from New York, especially Senator Charles E. Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, had not come out swinging for an industry that donates heavily to their campaigns. “They need to understand who their constituency is,” he said.
and this bit:
John Paulson, the hedge fund titan who made billions in the financial crisis by betting against the subprime mortgage market, has been the exception. His Upper East Side home was picketed by demonstrators earlier this week, but Mr. Paulson offered a full-throated defense of the Street, even going so far as to defend the tiny sliver of top earners attacked by the Occupy Wall Street protesters — whose signs refer to themselves as “the other 99 percent.”
“The top 1 percent of New Yorkers pay over 40 percent of all income taxes, providing huge benefits to everyone in our city and state,” he said in a statement. “Paulson & Company and its employees have paid hundreds of millions in New York City and New York State taxes in recent years and have created over 100 high-paying jobs in New York City since its formation.”
Mr. Paulson’s point is moot: wealth is impossible without taxpayer funded infrastructure and paying 12-15% on a billion earned is not enough to keep the wealth engine going. At the same time, no human being can spend more than $50 million a year, tops, without some kind of psychological problem. Above some number, the needs of society at large to provide health care (45,000 Americans a year die needlessly because they can’t afford it), clean water, a solid public education (so everyone has the same chance for development), and all the rest, at some point the needs of society trump Mr. Paulson’s apparent need for every last dollar.
It’s another example, perhaps, of well-educated people who are incompetent. They’re good to great at pushing money around, maybe, if you don’t count what happened in 2008. Oh, they’re great at taxpayer bailouts, especially when Wall Street wives are allowed to get in on the gravy train. That’s true.
But they’re incompetent when it comes to the big picture: no mention that 80% of income gains from 1980 to 2005 went to the top 1%, no mention from 1945 to 1980 all income groups doubled their income while 1980 to 2008 all but the top 1% saw income gains above 50% (and the top 1% had income gains from 240% to 400%). No mention of the many ways wages have been suppressed for three decades. No mention that these greed heads exist in any society larger than themselves. That’s incompetence.
Maybe it is time for a revolution. Sadly, and completely needlessly.
But I do love the unnamed money manager (the Times, practicing excellent journalistic skills again!) calling out New York’s two Senators for not kissing Wall Street’s ring. And notice the Times can’t bother to note Paulson (“the hedge fund titan,” an uncritical suckup phrase) was Treasury Secretary who screamed for and got taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street, presumably working for Wall Street all the while paid by taxpayers, presumably knowing about alternatives to bailouts that historically have yielded better results, for example, letting banks fail then nationalizing them and bringing in new management then selling the banks off in 5-10 years.
That’s de-luxe journalism right there. Shame on their editor. Then again, maybe the Times editor lives in the same building as Mr. Paulson, who knows? Comic is from the Times, too, their sense of humor apparently being better than their journalism in this case.
From a new book published by the Library of America, with a piece by Susan Orleans:
Question: Why don’t more babies work? Excuse me, did I say more? I meant, why don’t any babies work? After all, there are millions of babies around, and most of them appear to be extremely underemployed. There are so many jobs—being commissioner of major-league baseball, say, or running the snack concession at the Olympic synchronized-swimming venue—and yet it seems that babies never fill them. So why aren’t babies working? I’ll tell you. Walk down any street, and within a minute or so you will undoubtedly come across a baby. The baby will be lounging in a stroller, maybe snoozing, maybe tippling a bottle, maybe futzing around with a stuffed Teddy—whatever. After one good look, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that babies are lazy. Or worse. Think of that same baby, same languid posture, same indolent attitude, but now wearing dark sunglasses. You see it all the time. Supposedly, it has to do with UV rays, but the result is that a baby with sunglasses looks not just lazy but lazy and snobby. Sort of like an Italian film producer. You know: “Oh, I’m so sorry, Mr. Baby isn’t available at the moment.
No, Mr. Baby hasn’t had a chance to look at your screenplay yet. Why don’t you just send coverage, and Mr. Baby will get
back to you when he can.”
and this bit:
One recent summery morning, I walked across Central Park on my way to my own place of employment—where,
by the way, I have to be every day whether I want to or not. The Park was filled with babies, all loafing around and look-
ing happy as clams. They love summer. And what’s not to like? While the rest of us, weary cogs of industry, are worry-
ing about an annual report and sweating stains into our suits, the babies in the park are relaxed and carefree and mostly
nude—not for them the nightmare of tan marks, let alone the misery of summer work clothes. And what were they doing
on this warm afternoon? Oh, a lot of really taxing stuff: nap ping, snacking on Cheerios, demanding a visit with various
dogs, hanging out with their friends—everything you might do on a gorgeous July day if you were in a great mood, which
you would be if you didn’t have to work for a living. That morning, I was tempted to suggest a little career counselling
to one of these blithe creatures, but, as I approached, the baby turned his attention ferociously and uninterruptibly
to one of his toes and then, suddenly, to the blade of grass in his fist. I know that look: I do it on buses when I don’t want anyone to sit next to me. It always works for me, and it worked like a charm for this I-seem-to-remember-telling-
you-I’m-in-a-meeting baby. I was out-foxed and I knew it, so I headed for my office. As I crossed the playground,
weaving among the new leisure class, I realized something. The reason babies don’t work? They’re too smart.
Perhaps Mr. Dimon, Mr. Blankfein, and the other little loafers simply need their nappies changed? Or perhaps they should switch to a career like professional baby where their behavior is more accepted, less notable, and far less dangerous to the rest of us. God knows they have more than enough money to change careers.
David Frum: My Party Is Wrong On The Most Urgent Issue Of The Day… But I’m Sticking With It Anyway [New]
“Yes I am dismayed that my party is wrong on the most urgent issue of the day. But in addition to what is most urgent, I am guided by concerns that if less immediate remain very important – and on which I trust the GOP more than I trust the party of Barack Obama.”
This post has 3 parts. First, let’s backtrack to a previous post, where Frum runs down a whole list of ways in which the GOP is wrong, which is the setup for the paragraph above. Then let’s advance to the reasons he gives for off-setting the fact that his party is wrong! wrong! wrong! Among other things, this comes down to his blind faith that Romney might somehow escape from total wrongness on the economic crisis. So our third part will concern another major Romeny boo-boo. So, here we go:
(1) Amazingly enough, from a post titled, “What Romney Gets Right” is the detailed listing of what the GOP gets wrong:
On the most urgent economic issue of the day – recovery from the Great Recession – the Republican consensus is seriously wrong.
It is wrong in its call for monetary tightening.
It is wrong to demand immediate debt reduction rather than wait until after the economy recovers.
It is wrong to deny that “we have a revenue problem.”
It is wrong in worrying too much about (non-existent) inflation and disregarding the (very real) threat of a second slump into recession and deflation.
It is wrong to blame government regulation and (as yet unimposed) tax increases for the severity of the recession.
It is wrong to oppose job-creating infrastructure programs.
It is wrong to hesitate to provide unemployment insurance, food stamps, and other forms of income maintenance to the unemployed.
It is wrong to fetishize the exchange value of the dollar against other currencies.
It is wrong to believe that cuts in marginal tax rates will suffice to generate job growth in today’s circumstance.
It is wrong to blame minor and marginal government policies like the Community Reinvestment Act for the financial crisis while ignoring the much more important role of government inaction to police overall levels of leverage within the financial system.
It is wrong to dismiss the Euro crisis as something remote from American concerns.
It is wrong to resist US cooperation with European authorities in organizing a work-out of the debt problems of the Eurozone countries.
It is wrong above all in its dangerous combination of apocalyptic pessimism about the long-term future of the country with aloof indifference to unemployment.
Frum proceeds to hang his Romney hopes on the slender thread that Romney’s hedged a bit here and there. Sure he’s drunk the kool-aid, but he might have had his fingers crossed: Read the rest of this entry »
Ezra Klein has just written a 6700 word piece looking back at how we failed to cope with Great Recession, “Could this time have been different?” The title is a reference to the book This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly by Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff, who published most of their book’s significant findings in a series of papers in the months before the book appeared.
Reinhard and Rogoff’s work is based on a large database of financial crises, and takes note of the fact that people never seem to learn—they always assume that the crises they’re dealing with will be different from past crises, for some damn reason or another. At the same time, another crucial point of their research is that financial crises are not like ordinary recessions that don’t originate in the financial sector—they are much more severe and difficult to recover from.
Klein’s conclusion, after much huffing and puffing is that “There were many paths that could have been taken in January 2009, and any one would have made this time a bit different. But not different enough. Not as different as we wish.” This is hardly surprising, given Klein’s wonkishness and fixation on “politically feasible” policy options or their near kind. Yet, if one didread Reinhart and Rogoff at the beginning of Obama’s presidency, it should have been obvious then that nothing “politically feasible” would work—the only thing that would work would be to redefine what was politically feasible—you know, the sort of thing that transformational leadership is supposed to be all about. (Remember when Obama was hailed as a “transformational leader”???) If Obama had encouraged his supporters back then to take the kind of sustained, shift-the-goal-posts action that Occupy Wall Street is taking now, then, yes, we very might have made this time different. At the very least, we would have avoided the sort of drastic regression that we’ve witnessed so far.
It’s not as if this couldn’t have been foreseen. I should know: one person who did take Reinhart and Rogoff serious back then was me. In my slightly early 100-day assessment of Obama at Open Left, “Hundred Days: Four Major Political Themes” I wrote:
As the 100-day mark approaches, I see four major political themes. These are:
(1) Obama’s sustained popularity, despite GOP polarization.
(2) The GOP’s collapse into political incoherence.
(3) The Democrats’ inability–even unwillingness–to capitalize on the GOP’s collapse into political incoherence.
(4) The gathering of storm-clouds beyond the immediate reality of (1)-(3) that could spell big trouble for the Democrats, and actually allow the GOP to get back in the game as early as 2010 or 2012, but definitely by 2016. OTOH, if the Democrats did pay attention to these gathering clouds and do something about them, then another 30-40 years of electoral dominance could easily become possible.
I went on to list a number of specifics under (4):
(4a) Global Warming….
(4b) A law-based, “beyond war” foreign policy….
(4c) Sacrificing the rule of law for “political peace” will leave us with neither. This has been a failed calculus ever since Watergate. There’s no reason to expect this work any better this time than it did in the past….
(4d) Universal health care as a human right. Accepting the corporate capitalist definition of the problem and acceptable solutions dooms Obama’s efforts to partial success at best….
(4e) Employee Free Choice Act. This is crucial for any sort of long-term political realignment, as well as reversing the 30-year economic polarization trend….
And, most importantly for the purposes at hand:
(4f) A myopic economic policy that fails to take seriously the true magnitude of the crisis we’re in. This is a theme that economists such as Krugman and Stiglitz have harped on repeatedly. I’d like to offer a few different charts to drive home the point.
First is this series of charts from “The Aftermath of Financial Crises” (Dec 19, 2008 draft) by Carmen M. Reinhart (University of Maryland. NBER and CEPR) and Kenneth S. Rogoff (Harvard University and NBER). It consists of an analysis of a set of severe banking crises, in order to provide a reasonable framework for understanding what we are currently going through. At the beginning of their paper, the authors say:
A year ago, we (Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2008a) presented a historical analysis comparing the run-up to the 2007 U.S. subprime financial crisis with the antecedents of other banking crises in advanced economies since World War II. We showed that standard indicators for the United States, such as asset price inflation, rising leverage, large sustained current account deficits, and a slowing trajectory of economic growth, exhibited virtually all the signs of a country on the verge of a financial crisis-indeed, a severe one. In this paper, we engage in a similar comparative historical analysis that is focused on the aftermath of systemic banking crises.
You can go to the original post to see the charts I used. They clearly show that what we’re experiencing now is TOTALLY NORMAL for the sort of financial crises we just went through. If only Obama had been the least bit reality-oriented, instead of hippy-punching those who were, he might not be in such bad shape just now. And—more importantly—neither would the rest of us.
p.s. One chart tracks the increase in public debt over three years following the crisis. The average increase is 86%. The US debt in August, 2008, just before the bubble burst, was just under $10 billion. It’s now about 14.8 billion–an increase of 48%. So actually, by historical standards, we’re doing pretty well. OTOH, if we had spent another $2 billion, to put us right at the historical averge, we’d probably be a great deal closer to a reasonable recover by now.
A brief update on the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). The NAR’s intellectual godfather, C. Peter Wagner appeared for a Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross this past Monday, Oct 3 (transcript, audio), which was quite revealing in some ways, and quite deceptive in others.
As Talk2Action’s Rachel Tabachnick wrote:
Wagner downplayed the meaning of “taking dominion” over society and was dishonest about the movement’s well-established demonization of other religions. He even claimed to support religious pluralism.
This in inconsistent with years of Wagner’s teaching that other religions and belief systems are demonically controlled, and that those demons must be removed from communities in order to bring about the curing of social ills and to advance the “Kingdom on earth.”
Tabachnick went on to compare & contrast Wagner’s cover story with what he tells the faithful. First, here’s what Wagner said to Terry Gross, when she asked about the NAR’s agenda for taking “dominion” over the “Seven Mountains”:
“In terms of taking dominion, we don’t – we wouldn’t want to – we use the word dominion, but we wouldn’t want to say that we have dominion as if we’re the owners or we’re the rulers of, let’s say, the arts and entertainment mountain.”
And here’s what Wagner said in 2008, when speaking at a NAR conference:
“Dominion has to do with control. Dominion has to do with rulership. Dominion has to do with authority and subduing and it relates to society. In other words, what the values are in Heaven need to be made manifest here on earth. Dominion means being the head and not the tail. Dominion means ruling as kings. It says in Revelation Chapter 1:6 that He has made us kings and priests – and check the rest of that verse; it says for dominion. So we are kings for dominion.”
So, he lied. You can pretty much scratch that commandment against bearing false witness. Wagner’s the sort of “Christian” who believes in the “Nine Commandments”… or less.
But he just HAD to lie. You see, if he’d told the truth, people would run away from him in droves–and not just e-vile secular humanist types, but pretty much all Americans.
A recent CNN poll found that theocracy is an amazingly unpopular idea. Even the soft-peddled form that Wagner hides behind when he’s put on the spot gets no more than TWO PERCENT SUPPORT, according to the poll, whose numbers were virtually identical to the same question asked back in June, 2007 (figures in parens):
29. Thinking specifically about the role that religion plays in government, which of the following statements comes closest to your views:
Religion should be the only factor the government uses to decide its policies
Religion should be a major factor in the government’s decisions but not the only one
Religion should have some influence on the government’s decisions but should not be a major factor in those decisions
Religion should have no influence at all on the government’s decisions
So, why is the corporate media complicit in helping Wagner (and the rest of his crew) pull a fast one on the American people? It’s not like they’re doing this to protect evangelicals. Quite the contrary, they’re setting up evangelicals to be taken advantage of, since evangelicals are the prime targets for the NAR’s lies.
Found some more interesting coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests, in case you’ve not seen these stories.
First, from the NY Daily News, some great context for NYPD arresting 1,000 people and counting so far, in Denis Hamill’s piece, Different rules for Occupy Wall Street marchers & that makes me mad as hell:
I thought of [Paddy] Chayefsky when MAD-AS-HELL young people filled the streets of the Middle East in the Arab Spring, toppling scummy leaders, as we in the west cheered. The same way we cheered when brave young people filled Tiananmen Square. The way we saluted the East Germans breaching the Berlin Wall.
But when a swelling tide of harmless MAD-AS-HELLERS calling themselves Occupy Wall Street overtakes Zuccotti Park to inveigh against the swindlers, fat cats and “banksters” of Wall Street we arrest them.
Pundits mock them for not having leaders, a united message, a political platform. Maybe that’s because it was egghead economists with grand plans and crooked politicians with self-serving platforms that got us where we are today. Forgive these angry young people if they don’t follow the beat of the same broken drum.
They’re just MAD-AS-HELL.
Misunderstanding their scattered frustrations is one thing. But did we really have to pen them like flounder in orange nets and bus them to Rikers because they dared to march across the Brooklyn Bridge?
Excuse me, when I was a young reporter in the mid-1970s I remember cops marching across the Brooklyn Bridge to protests Mayor Abe Beame laying off cops and other municipal workers.
On Sept. 16, 1991, I covered a mob of 10,000 furious city cops storming across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall to protest the establishment of a police monitor. Some of those cops stomped across parked cars, jumped police barricades, assaulted journalists, and mobbed the steps of City Hall chanting, “Take the Hall, Take the Hall,” some referring to Mayor David Dinkins as “a men’s room attendant.”
Mayoral candidate Rudy Giuliani addressed them like a firebrand, using the word “bull—-,” to describe Dinkins policies.
But I didn’t see cops rounded up in orange nets like the catch of the day. Didn’t see 700 of them bussed off to Rikers in cuffs.
In 2001 cops again marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest against Mayor Giuliani who’d used the NYPD cops, the best in the world, to mark his place in history by cutting crime in half and then stiffed them on a pay raise.
Funny, I don’t remember the NYPD locking up police protesters that day either.
I don’t think they should have. As a child of the ’60s I’m all for anyone marching and protesting to be heard.
But why the hell is NYPD brass so afraid of these nonviolent, MAD-AS-HELL Occupy Wall Streeters?
This is terrific context people should highlight early and often with these protests: there is a huge double standard at work here. The police, who are part of the 99% being oppressed by the status quo, were only too eager to do what they’re locking people up for today. The police should be held accountable. Read the rest of this entry »
Bad Sport, Wrong Sport: Hank Williams Jr. Touches All The Rightwing Pity Party Bases As CNN Cans Him For Comparing Obama To Hitler [New]
CNN’s brief blog post on ESPN’s firing of Hank Williams Jr. has the singer touching all the rightwing bases. And since we’re talking football, not baseball, there were way more bases than four.
ESPN tried to be as neutral as possible (Hornet? What hornets? I don’t see any hornets.):
“We have decided to part ways with Hank Williams, Jr. We appreciate his contributions over the past years,” a statement on ESPN’s site said. “The success of Monday Night Football has always been about the games and that will continue.”
Williams? Not so much.
(1) Pretending to be in charge when he’s not? Check:
Williams gave a very different statement: “After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision….
At the same time, (2) pretending to be the victim? And (3) casting any private sector consquences of his own assinine actions as a violation of the First Amendment? Check and check:
By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE. It’s been a great run.”
CNN goes to quote from Williams’ earlier statement in a similarly mendacious vein. (4) More on self as innocent everyman/jus’ folks victim? Check:
“I have always been very passionate about politics and sports and this time it got the best or worst of me.
(5) Non-apology apology? Which included a (6) rewriting of a (7) very partisan, personal slur as a (8) populist outcry (9) against all political elites? Check, check, check, check and check:
“The thought of the leaders of both parties jukin’ [sic] and high fiven’ [sic] on a golf course, while so many families are struggling to get by, simply made me boil over and make a dumb statement,
(10) I’m sorry if it offended anyone (that’s your problem untermenchen!)? Check:
and I am very sorry if it offended anyone.
He may be a total ass. But the concise way he puts all these despicable tropes on display in such short order really is a service we should be thankful for.
Have you noticed the Occupy Wall Street protests have suddenly gone mainstream? Maybe there is some hidden 14 day or 15 day or 18 day trigger that only the media knows about before they’ll cover protests that challenge their view of the world.
More seriously, here is a quick round up of what I’ve seen that people may want to discuss. Feel free to add yours in comments or posts.
First, a silly meme from MSNBC, Wall Street rallies could be left’s Tea Party:
Born on the streets of New York, growing protests aimed at the heart of capitalism have sparked hope among liberals that they’re witnessing the birth of a movement to counter the conservative Tea Party.
The pieces are all there: ordinary citizens banding together for a cause; signs and protests announcing their grievances. Could the nation be witnessing the creation of a new political uprising?
The “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations started last month in New York and have since spread across the country, born out of anger toward the financial community’s success during a time of prolonged economic hardship.
Liberals are optimistic that those protests will translate into the kind of lasting political movement achieved over the last two years by the Tea Party, which helped reshape the trajectory of American politics, particularly within the Republican Party.
Yeah I saw the Koch brothers on the street the other day, passing out wads of money to the protestors, didn’t you? And there’s an astroturf organization with some clever Orwellian name that organizes these protests, right? This meme seems a great fit for Fox where I also heard at least one talking head saying this with a straight face. However, getting Bernie Sanders to say Obama should co-opt these protests is bizarre and out of touch with what is happening with the protests and in the country. Obama is part of the problem. Read the rest of this entry »
I can’t believe I’m writing yet another post about this, but the stupid just refuses to die. And by that, I’m referring to Melissa Harris-Perry, from The Nation [emphasis added]:
Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama
President Obama has experienced a swift and steep decline in support among white Americans—from 61 percent in 2009 to 33 percent now. I believe much of that decline can be attributed to their disappointment that choosing a black man for president did not prove to be salvific for them or the nation. His record is, at the very least, comparable to that of President Clinton, who was enthusiastically re-elected. The 2012 election is a test of whether Obama will be held to standards never before imposed on an incumbent. If he is, it may be possible to read that result as the triumph of a more subtle form of racism.
As I’ve said before, many times, no one should doubt the persistence of white racism. And liberals, of course, are not immune. No one is. Even those who are themselves victims of racism. Internalized racial self-hatred is a serious problem, so it would be absurd to claim that liberals are somehow exempt. But it’s equally absurd to claim that liberal racism is the reason Obama’s approval ratings are down, when those ratings remain far higher than his ratings from most other groups–including others who originally gave him ratings almost as high as liberals did, but now rate him signicantly lower. Such as, young voters, 18-29, for example. Or, to a lesser extent, Hispanics. Both groups have soured on Obama mort than liberals have, and for a very straight-forward reason: He has seriously disappointed them on the issues. Not so much because he didn’t get things done, but because he didn’t even try. Or–particularly obvious with Hispanics, because he did things that spat in their faces. And, using Gallup’s weekly polling data, here’s what the results look like:
In short, Obama’s approval ratings among liberals are down, because he has disappointed them, and some of them, at least, are starting to notice. Melissa Harris-Perry, a huge Obama fan, may not like that. And she’s entitled to her own feelings. But she’s not entitled to her own facts. There is simply no data to support her accusation that liberals are abandoning Obama because of subtle racism on their part. Not unless she wants to make even stronger accusations against a whole lot of other people as well.
Obama ran as one person, and he has governed as quite another. And it hasn’t worked out well at all. And that’s the reason why almost everyone outside the black community has cooled on their views of how well he’s doing his job. Some of that may well be due to racism. But liberals have cooled on him less than others have, and still approve of him more. The real problem with liberal criticism is that it’s not that easy to just blow off. Which is where Melissa Harris-Perry’s Nation piece comes in. But, as the chart above makes clear, just crying “racism” when there are no facts to support the claim, isn’t such an easy way to blow off liberal criticism either.
Can you tell I’m annoyed Andrew Cuomo has high favorable ratings as he rabidly pursues Republican policies to cosset the extremely wealthy and torment everyone else? To bring you up to speed, Cuomo told a public employees union to vote to cut their future pay and pay more in health care premiums or else he would fire 3,500 of them. Well they voted their interests and voted no. Now Cuomo is firing them. He calls it layoffs but it is removing people from good, presumably living wage, jobs out of spite.
The best part, according to David Cay Johnston, a real reporter formerly of the New York Times, there’s plenty of money available if only NY politicians would go after it, Ignoring Tax Cheats:
Each year New York State lets real estate investors evade at least $200 million of taxes. In peak years the figure likely rises to $700 million, if known tax cheating in another state is any indication. Some of the investors who cheat New York State also cheat New York City out of at least $40 million annually.
Back in the 1990s Jerry Curnutt figured out how to finger such cheats when he was the top partnership specialist at the Internal Revenue Service. Curnutt’s computer sifted through tax returns until he learned how to separate thieves from honest taxpayers. The tax-evasion estimates of $200 million and $40 million are his.
Six New York state tax auditors took classes Curnutt taught in June 2000 and gave stellar evaluations. California’s top tax auditor praised Curnutt’s course as “effective, relevant and most importantly, appreciated and understood by our auditors.”
Why has nothing been done for more than 11 years to make the cheats in New York pay what the law requires?
New York state and city are strapped for cash, slashing services for the poor, disabled and elderly. With penalties of up to 50 percent plus interest at penalty rates, the state is easily due more than $5 billion from years still open to collection, I calculate. (my emphasis)
Every state has similar issues, but New York matters most as the epicenter of highly leveraged real estate investment pools.
Curnutt found that real estate investment partnerships with depreciated properties often misreport gains when they sell. That such cheating is widespread screams about tax law enforcement looking the other way when those at the top steal. In contrast, New York State has a well-deserved reputation for going after people whose mistakes cost the state as little as three dollars.
Johnston even calls out the specific NY politicians who could easily call in some (or all) of this tax money by threatening to investigate, by publicizing the issue. Andrew Cuomo is at the top of the list. So is the Lieutenant Governor, Bob Duffy, a former street cop, and state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. Only Schneiderman might do something but it’s a test for him: he’s supposedly hot after banks who cheated homeowners but maybe not so much with rich people who fund campaigns?
Bottomline, firing 3,500 workers is a needless exercise for Cuomo. He could get the savings by asking for a tax amnesty. Or enforce the law and go after these wealthy politically connected tax cheats. It’s bad enough that Cuomo refuses to make extremely wealthy New Yorkers pay anything extra as he cuts desperately needed jobs and funding for the middle class and the poor. The tell, for me, is that Rupert Murdoch’s Post apparently is a huge fan of Cuomo and his policies. Presumably you have to be a Republican win that “honor.”
As with the Amazon sweat shops in eastern Pennsylvania, I also wonder where the unions are on this issue? You’d think they’d be touting Johnston’s findings as push back. You’d think they would define Mr. Cuomo as a Republican (which he is, at the policy level) and drive up his negatives. Instead I only hear crickets (actually, literally, it’s night and the windows are open). At what point do unions realize this is a cage death match with Republicans like Cuomo and they have to fight back or lose everything? Politesse has gotten them nowhere, except harassed and now fired.