I regret to give you this legislative update

I wrote a post-Thanksgiving blog post about the Republican’s big “fuck you” to the disadvantaged in the United States, while insisting on less taxes for those who don’t need it and contemporaneously insisting–in a contradictory fashion–that now is the time to address the federal budget deficit. Today we have an update on how the then-pending legislation ended up faring:

  • Increased spending on health care for 9/11 first responders: today Senate Republicans blocked the vote to end debate and allow the Senate to vote on it. If that’s not anti-American, I’m not quite sure what is.
  • Child Nutrition Act: at the beginning of December the House passed the Senate version of the bill, that funded the $4.5 billion bill with a $2.2 billion cut in food stamps funding (a.k.a. robbing Peter to pay Paul–now inadequate nutrition will just be centered in the home rather than schools.)
  • Extension of unemployment benefits: blocked by Senate Republicans late last week….because it’s not “paid for.” Yet…
  • Republicans continued to insist on giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. In fact, they went a few steps further, first essentially blackmailing Congress by pledging to block every piece of legislation that came up–including issues of national security like the START Treaty–until they get their tax cuts, and second, going even further than that by agreeing to extend unemployment benefits so long as they get their tax cuts for the rich. Looks like the Republicans aren’t actually all that interested in cutting the deficit after all, then, since the $75 billion tax cuts for the rich add billions onto the deficit, are far less stimulative than the $56 billion UI bill (they actually cost more than they stimulate), and there’s no good reason to buy the Republicans’ claim that the rich will use the cuts to add job, since jobs aren’t created out of the goodness of people’s heart but are added when they are economically necessary to businesses.

The GOPs true colors are blazing bold and clear–are Americans’ eyes opened yet?

(Cross-posted to The Reaction)

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Published in: on December 10, 2010 at 12:04 am  Leave a Comment  

GOP screws 9/11 responders, unemployed, and poor: Happy holidays to the rich and corporate elite!

I’m really struggling to prevent my head from exploding over the very revealing juxtaposition of bills, policies, and positions swirling around the end of the 2010 legislative session.

The economy is still bad. There is only one job opening* for every 5 people looking for work, which means that even if all jobs were filled and none were lost, unemployment would only decrease by 20%.

After spending over a trillion on our wars in the Middle East, the GOP is suddenly concerned with deficits.

So what’s on the table right now?

Extending Unemployment Insurance: the clock is ticking on extending unemployment benefits; the bill must be passed next week or unemployed workers’ benefits will begin to stop. The unemployed are accused of being lazy even though there are objectively not enough jobs for everyone looking. In fact, there usually aren’t–100% employment is bad for capitalists because then the employees, not the owners, have the leverage. But typically there are 1-2 people looking for every job opening, not 5-6 as we’ve had in this recession, which makes the negative impact of unemployment on the rest of the economy that much greater. Unemployment benefits are needed not only to help the human beings in need, but to mitigate the negative economic impacts of mass unemployment.

Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010: the Child Nutrition Act gets reauthorized every 5 years. The Senate version passed in August, only after paying for the $4.5 billion program with program cuts, most of which ($2.2 billion) came from the food stamps program (SNAP). The House version did not include those cuts, and has been stalled for that reason. The cuts in SNAP essential shift the locus of inadequate nutrition from the lunchroom to the dining room. If the bill isn’t passed before the break, the process begins all over again.

The 9/11Illness Payout Bill: a bill providing funds to cover the medical costs for 9/11 first responders. the bill passed the House (even surviving a Republicans threat to add an amendment that would bar undocumented workers from receiving the benefits, as if their suffering from helping our fellow citizens wasn’t worth paying for), but the bill is now stuck in the Senate. I can’t believe this is even an issue, but the GOP has made it one: the bill will be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes, and Republican senators are framing it as a tax increase.

So let’s sum this up:

  • We have Republicans who have spent over $1 trillion on wars this decade wanting to cut the deficit, but refuse to fund the health care of those who risked their life in the events that were the so-called reason d’entre for those wars. They also refuse to cut military spending.
  • Republicans also want to increase the deficit by giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, but refuse to allow more adequate child nutrition–that would lower health care costs and improve cognitive functioning of our poorest children, not to mention their basic quality of life–without robbing Peter to pay Paul.
  • Republicans want the wealthiest in the United States to get tax cuts, and are holding middle class tax cuts hostage to do so, while the unemployed, who by definition cannot become employed, are stripped of their poverty-level average UI benefit of $290/week ($15,000/year). Tax cuts for the rich are heralded by the GOP as a economy booster and job creator, even though unemployment benefits and the aforementioned food stamp program provide more economic stimulus than tax cuts of any sort. Businesses do not hire out of the goodness of their heart or because people need jobs. They hire when there is a need for more labor. Giving them a tax break doesn’t increase their need for more labor. Unemployment and food dollars being spent does. Those programs are not only right (or just), but they are effective.

What on earth is the logic here? The only one I can find is chilling: demanding to maintain military might by misunderstanding the source of terrorism and adherence to economic ideology despite the facts is worth more than helping those in need. Both GOP positions are self-serving. Especially at this holiday time of the year, this ought to be a stinging indictment of GOP policies and positions, if people would only see the forest, rather than the individual trees.

*The Cato Institute has criticized this number, saying that there are jobs available that aren’t advertised, and therefore that number is misleading. Even still, I highly doubt there are enough unadvertised jobs to even get close to filling the gap. further, these jobs are obtaining through personal networks, or what sociologists call social capital, something largely part of the privilege of one’s upbringing, as opposed to human capital, such as one’s education. This begs the questions, are these jobs really “available” to the millions of job seekers, or just those who are already well-connected?

(Cross-posted to The Reaction)

Published in: on November 28, 2010 at 5:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thoughts on “This Week…” or, If You Say it Enough it Will Become True

A few thoughts on today’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos

1) Interview with Eric Cantor: Cantor repeats, as many Republicans have, that stimulating the economy via government spending is not what the American people want, that Americans think we are spending too much…yet polls continue to show that Americans put their support behind Obama’s ideas over the Republicans’ ideas 61% to 26% (see clip for cited polling data). Cantor seems to be hoping that if he says it enough, it will become true. (Also, his statement that the best that government spending can do is redistribute wealth and that “it can’t create jobs” is simply not true, and perhaps is in line with that axiom as well.) (more…)

Published in: on March 1, 2009 at 4:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Will economic conservatives learn any lessons from this crisis?

Merits and analysis of Obama’s housing plan aside, I’m particularly interested in this bit of Republican rhetoric I’m seeing.

From Politico.com:

The GOP, perhaps predictably, was less enthusiastic. House Republicans released statements, suggesting Obama’s plan rewarded irresponsible borrowers at the expense of the vast majority of homeowners who pay their monthly bills on time.

[…]

He objected most to the main theme of the foreclosure plan – using monetary incentives to spur lenders and borrowers to do the right thing.

“The biggest outrage is that the president’s plan actually will use taxpayer money to pay people to do what they are already supposed to do – pay their mortgage,” Shelby said. “It also uses taxpayer money to pay banks to do what they should already be doing – modifying mortgages.”

So the mass job layoffs aren’t their fault, but people who are struggling to pay their mortgages are “irresponsible” and aren’t “doing what they’re supposed to do” by paying their bills–in other words, their non-payment is “their fault”? I guess in their perspective, you ought to be able to pay your bills with or without a job!

The Republicans seem willing to say that the economic downturn (and thus layoffs, increased credit card rates, and lower lines of credit) is beyond people’s control, but the impact of the economic downturn (housing foreclosures) somehow isn’t.

Their rhetoric also removes any blame for the abusiveness of the mortgage industry on the industry and solely in the hands of “irresponsible” Americans.

I also find it interesting that they claim that this is what the mortgage industry should be doing anyway, yet they don’t want any regulation making them do it and in the absence of such regulation, don’t want the government to incentivize good behavior they “ought to” be doing anyway? If it’s less advantageous to them financially, why on earth would they do it? Since when did the financial industry grow a conscience?

These statements are fascinating to me as well, because I have been wondering myself if our current economic crisis might change the way we think about, talk about, and approach public policy regarding the unemployed and working poor. (more…)

Published in: on February 19, 2009 at 2:15 pm  Comments (1)  

Bipartisanship for bipartisanship’s sake makes for poor economic policy

Is anyone else sick of the bipartisanship overkill? Sure, bipartisanship is a nice idea. But the economy is falling apart–fast. The stimulus bill needs to actually stimulate; a half-assed job is not good enough. Including non-stimulating or less-stimulating items (i.e. a lot of tax cuts) . Wrong policy for the sake of bipartisanship is not going to fix our economy. And it puts the Republicans in the position to be able to blame the Democrats and Obama when/if it doesn’t work like it ought to–enabling them to claim that there is too much spending, when in reality, there are too much tax cuts and not enough spending.

You know what else I’m sick of? Is the Republicans saying (complaining and whining, really) that the bill isn’t bipartisan and that it doesn’t have enough of what they want (is this an attempt of tyranny of the minority?). Bullshit. There is a better than 60/40 spit between spending and tax cuts. Just because the bill is not being supported in a bipartisan fashion doesn’t mean the bill isn’t itself inclusive of both Democratic and Republican economic approaches. The Republicans are digging in their heels and claiming a lack of bipartisanship. No, it’s not really bipartisan–is anyone claiming it actually is?–because the Republicans refuse to vote for it despite efforts by the Democrats and the White House to include Republican one-solution-fits-all of tax cuts. As Rachel Maddow noted in her show yesterday, the compromise by the bipartisan group of Senate moderates has approximately the same ratio of spending: tax cuts and there are Senate Democrats: Republicans. It seems as though the Republicans will only call this bill bipartisan when tax cuts dominate and spending is minimal; in other words, when it becomes absolutely partisan in their favor. Seriously, they are whining that it’s not being done the way their ideology demands, despite the slew of economic experts who disagree, but why should they get their way when they’re wrong and they lost. (more…)

Published in: on February 7, 2009 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Frank defense of ideological disagreement

Lots of blogs have been circulating video clips and transcripts from Feb.1st’s “This Week” (ABC), hosted by George Stephanopoulous, with guests Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Federal Express CEO Fred Smith, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). The show featured an ideological (some might say “partisan”) battle between Frank and DeMint.

A few interesting tidbits to point out (transcript here): (more…)

Published in: on February 3, 2009 at 4:55 pm  Comments (1)  

Republicans’ tax cut rhetoric is misplaced

After hearing so many Republican ideologues spouting their “tax cuts are always the solution for stimulus” rhetoric, I want to scream. Or maybe cry.

Perhaps there are other economic situations where tax cuts might be the way to go. This is not one of them, and it doesn’t take an economist to explain it. (more…)

Published in: on February 1, 2009 at 5:22 pm  Comments (3)  

Excellent Bethany McLean interview on PBS’ NOW

On this week’s NOW, host David Brancaccio interviews Bethany McLean (the journalist who broke Enron) about the current financial crisis.  I thought it was a really excellent interview, very clear and detailed, and addresses the complexity of the issues involved.  

Also, her Vanity Fair article on the topic (which I haven’t read yet) can be found here

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Billions in Bogus Bonuses? . NOW on PBS“, posted with vodpod

Published in: on January 31, 2009 at 2:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Bailouts and the corporate form

Some things have really been bothering me about the auto bailout talk vis-a-vis the financial sector bailout, and especially the recent Citigroup bailout.  

First, I agree with Rachel Maddow that something seems off when the (white collar) financial sector can get a quick bailout with few strings attached with no blame placed on employees and CEOs compensation structure (or any suggestion that it be revamped to take the federal funds), but in the case of the auto manufacturing sector, the quick blame is placed on the unionized workers, with their outrageous expectation for health care and decent wages.  These worker “demands” are unreasonably passed on to consumers in the form of higher vehicle prices, according to conservatives like Cal Thomas, and that’s the real reason US car manufacturer’s cannot compete. Meanwhile, CEOs still rake in overly inflated incomes, benefits, stock options, and other perks instead of lowering vehicle prices so as to not “pass on” health care costs to the consumer.  Be sure to check out this excellent analysis of the cost-per-employee figures being used to blame union labor.  

Class warfare, indeed.  I don’t mind criticizing compensation structure, but how is unionized labor being blamed for the failure of the auto industry?  What about the auto CEOs?  And finance CEOs compensation is irrelevant to their bailout?  This is akin to blaming welfare to the poor for the economic strain on the middle class, while the average compensation for an S & P 500 CEO in 2007 is projected to have been $14.2 million; in 2006 the average Fortune 500 CEO received $10.8 million, which is 364 times the average worker.  In 2007, the Ford CEO’s total compensation was $21,670,674, and GM’s CEO’s was $14,415,914.  The average of auto worker’s wages (not the pay of the average worker, but the average of workers’ pay) is $20.53/hour, or $42, 702/year–just below the median income.  And it’s the unions’ fault?

  Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

Second, (more…)

Published in: on December 4, 2008 at 8:07 pm  Comments (3)