Jon Stewart supports fast-food workers' strikes, invokes the populist compassion of the new Pope and takes on the wretched, dim-witted, morally obtuse cretins of cable "business" chatter:
Friday, December 6, 2013
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
The new Pope appears to be taking the church back to basics. Reuters via NYTs:
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis attacked unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny" and beseeched global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality, in a document on Tuesday setting out a platform for his papacy and calling for a renewal of the Catholic Church.
The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, was the first majorwork he has authored alone as pope and makes official many views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.
In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the "idolatry of money", and urged politicians to "attack the structural causes of inequality" and strive to provide work, healthcare and education to all citizens.
He also called on rich people to share their wealth. "Just as the commandment
"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?"The pope said renewal of the Church could not be put off and said the Vatican and its entrenched hierarchy "also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion"."I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security," he wrote.Italian theologian Massimo Faggioli greeted the work as "the manifesto of Francis" while veteran Vatican analyst John Thavis called it a "Magna Carta for church reform"."The message on poverty sets Pope Francis on a collision course with neo-liberal Catholic thought, especially in the United States," said Faggioli, an expert on the Second Vatican Council and reform in the Catholic Church.
Breadlines are making a comeback. At the NYT's Editorial Page Editor's blog, Teresa Tritch:
The Great Recession was the worst downturn since the Great Depression. And yet, throughout the recent decline and today’s sluggish recovery, conditions have never seemed as bad as they were in the 1930s. Breadlines, for example, have not been commonplace.
That may be about to change.
In an article published on Monday, The Times’s Patrick McGeehan described a line snaking down Fulton Street in Brooklyn last week, with people waiting to enter a food pantry run by the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger. The line was not an anomaly. Demand at all of New York City’s food pantries and soup kitchens has spiked since federal food stamps were cut on Nov. 1. The cut — which affects nearly all of the nation’s 48 million food stamp recipients — amounts to a loss of $29 a month for a New York City family of three. On the shoestring meal budgets of food stamp recipients, that’s enough for some 20 individual meals, according to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.
The food stamp cuts are occurring even though need is still high and opportunity low. In a report released today, the Coalition estimates that one-sixth of the city’s residents and one-fifth of its children live in homes without enough to eat. Those numbers have not improved over the past three years. The lack of economic recovery for low income New Yorkers is at odds with gains at the top of the income ladder, reflected in soaring real estate prices, rising stock prices and big Wall Street bonuses.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
The initiative supported by Senators Tom Harkin, Sherrod Brown, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and other reliable liberals to change the conversation about Social Security from cuts to the need for increases in a program where the typical senior gets less than $1500 a month for their retirement has freaked out the "serious" people at the Washington Post. The Professor responds. Paul Krugman @ NYTs:
The Washington Post editorial board wants to cut Medicare and Social Security. That has been its consistent position as long as I can remember. And what it advocates, always, are cuts in benefits, not costs — that is, while it may give lip service to efforts to control health-care costs (which seem to be going surprisingly well, in one of the untold success stories of Obamacare), what it has pushed repeatedly are things like a rise in the Medicare age. These are the kind of moves that are considered serious inside the Beltway. And as you might imagine, the Post has gone wild over recent suggestions that Social Security should be expanded, not cut.
But perceived seriousness is not the same as actual seriousness, which depends on the facts. We now know that raising the Medicare age is a truly terrible idea, which would create a lot of hardship while making next to no dent in the budget deficit. And the central premise of the latest editorial — that the elderly are doing fine — just isn’t true.
The Post writes:
The bill’s authors warn of a looming “retirement crisis” because of low savings rates and disappearing private-sector pensions. In fact, the poverty rate among the elderly is 9.1 percent, lower than the national rate of 15 percent — and much lower than the 21.8 percent rate among children.
This suggests that Social Security is doing a good job of fighting poverty as is and that those gains could be preserved in any attempt to trim the program.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Economist John Quiggan @ Jacobin:
The financial sector has grown massively since the 1970s, whether size is measured in terms of the volume of transactions, the number and remuneration of highly skilled professionals, the share of corporate profits, or, most importantly, the political power of the finance capital. As Frase observes, referencing Felix Salmon, the huge returns extracted by this sector distort the distribution of income for the economy as a whole. The market return on any activity must be adjusted for the cut taken by the financial sector. This fact makes the attempt to assign ethical status to marginal productivity academic, in the worst sense of the term.
Taking this further, any strategy for the Left that yields more than modest changes in the distribution of income, wealth and power, must involve a direct conflict with the financial sector, and must imply a substantial contraction in the size, wealth and power of that sector. A necessary condition for such a strategy to be feasible is the premise that the incomes flowing to the financial sector come at the expense of the rest of the economy, and in particular, at the expense of working people.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Professor Krugman @ NYTs:
Five years and eleven months have now passed since the U.S. economy entered recession. Officially, that recession ended in the middle of 2009, but nobody would argue that we’ve had anything like a full recovery. Official unemployment remains high, and it would be much higher if so many people hadn’t dropped out of the labor force. Long-term unemployment — the number of people who have been out of work for six months or more — is four times what it was before the recession.
These dry numbers translate into millions of human tragedies — homes lost, careers destroyed, young people who can’t get their lives started. And many people have pleaded all along for policies that put job creation front and center.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
David Cay Johnston @ Al Jazeera:
Last year the median wage hit its lowest level since 1998, revealing that at least half of American workers are being left behind as the economy slowly recovers from the Great Recession.
But at the top, wages soared — the latest indication in a long-running trend of increasing inequality, with income gains going to top earners while the majority of workers see stagnant or falling wages...
Monday, November 4, 2013
Dorothy Samuels @ NYTs:
Even as negotiations proceed in Congress over a new farm bill likely to contain a
As of today, the boost to the federal food stamps program included in the 2009 Economic Recovery Act expires, abruptly slashing benefit levels that were already inadequate for millions of poor children and their families, as well as impoverished disabled and elderly people, who will now find it significantly harder to afford adequate food.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Matina Stevis @ WSJ:
Coordinated austerity in euro-area countries has stifled economic recovery and deepened the crisis across the currency bloc, according to a new technical paper prepared by an economist at the European Commission.
Spending cuts in Germany in particular have made things worse for the weaker members of the euro area through “spillovers” – the economic impact on economies connected to Germany’s– the paper says, adding that limited stimulus programs in richer countries could help the whole of the currency bloc.The paper, which doesn’t necessarily represent the views of the powers-that-be at the Commission, presents some inconvenient conclusions for European authorities from one of their own economists. The European Union and national governments have come under fire from outside economists for pursuing austerity across the euro zone. These critics have argued that Germany in particular should be running bigger deficits to help drag the bloc’s weaker members out of their slumps.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Ryan Cooper @ WaPo Plumline explains how the Beltway is still stuck on Stupid...or worse:
With the shutdown and debt ceiling crisis over and budget negotiations beginning, it’s worth noting that we’re stuck back in the same old rut we’ve been stuck in since Republicans took the House in 2010. Republicans want cuts to social insurance, or say they do, and Democrats want a bit of new tax revenue in return. On a policy level, this is nuts. We’re trading austerity for…more austerity. Democrats and Republicans ought to consider bringing in other ideas. Almost anything else would be better.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Dean Baker @ The Guardian:
It is understandable that the public is disgusted with Washington; they have every right to be. At a time when the country continues to suffer from the worst patch of unemployment since the Great Depression, the government is shut down over concerns about the budget deficit.
There is no doubt that the Republicans deserve the blame for the shutdown and the risk of debt default. They decided that it was worth shutting down the government and risking default in order stop Obamacare. That is what they said as loudly and as clearly as possible in the days and weeks leading up to the shutdown. In fact, this is what Senator Ted Cruz said for 21 straight hours on the floor of the US Senate.
Going to the wall for something that is incredibly important is a reasonable tactic. However, the public apparently did not agree with the Republicans. Polls show that they overwhelmingly oppose their tactic of shutting down the government and risking default over Obamacare. As a result, the Republicans are now claiming that the dispute is actually over spending.
Anywhere outside of Washington DC and totalitarian states, you don't get to rewrite history. However, given the national media's concept of impartiality, they now feel an obligation to accept that the Republicans' claim that this is a dispute over spending levels.
But that is only the beginning of the reason that people should detest budget reporters. The more important reason is that they have spread incredible nonsense about the deficit and spending problems facing the country, causing most of the public to be completely confused on these issues. If budget reporters were held to the same standards as school teachers, with the expectation that they would be able to convey information, they would all be fired in a minute.
Contrary to the widely repeated stories of out-of-control deficits and spending, deficits have plunged in the last four years falling from 10.1% of GDP in 2009 to just 4% of GDP in 2013. The Congressional Budget Office projects the deficit to be just 3.4% of GDP in 2014. The latest projections show the debt-to-GDP ratio falling for the rest of the decade.
Saturday, October 12, 2013
This is too much fun not to post. Matthew O'Brien at Atlantic on Niall Ferguson's latest:
Here are three facts about how the 10-year budget outlook has changed in the past year: 1) the fiscal cliff deal raised $600 billion in new revenue; 2) the sequester, if left in place, cut spending by $1.2 trillion; 3) the CBO revised its projection for federal healthcare spending down by $600 billion.
Harvard historian Niall Ferguson has a counterfactual take. Here's how he described how our debt trajectory changed the past year:
A very striking feature of the latest CBO report is how much worse it is than last year's. A year ago, the CBO's extended baseline series for the federal debt in public hands projected a figure of 52% of GDP by 2038. That figure has very nearly doubled to 100%. A year ago the debt was supposed to glide down to zero by the 2070s. This year's long-run projection for 2076 is above 200%. In this devastating reassessment, a crucial role is played here by the more realistic growth assumptions used this year.
This isn't a difference of opinion. It's incorrect. But it's incorrect for reasons that will escape casual readers.
Monday, October 7, 2013
Niall Ferguson, the egregious blowhard Harvard professor who gets everything wrong, strikes again via the Wall Street Journal with remarkable stupidity. Increasingly it appears Ferguson isn't simply in error, so much as a right-wing troll of the FOX & FRIENDS school of aggressive disinformation. UC economist Brad DeLong takes Fergie apart:
Niall Ferguson: The Shutdown Is a Sideshow. Debt Is the Threat:
Only a fantasist can seriously believe "this is not a crisis." The fiscal arithmetic of excessive federal borrowing is nasty even when relatively optimistic assumptions are made about growth and interest rates. Currently, net interest payments on the federal debt are around 8% of GDP…DeLong responds: Um…. No. Not 8. Only 1/6 of 8.
Look at: http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/44521-LTBO2013.pdf. Currently, net interest payments on the federal debt are not 8% but only one-sixth that--1.3% of GDP:
The fantasy is the 8% number, and the belief that the debt is, right now, a crisis.
Moreover, 1.3% is the wrong number to look at. We want to adjust for inflation at 2%/year, and that gets us to 1.3% - 2% x 80% = -0.3% of GDP. We want our concept of budget balance to be not a stable real value, but a constant debt-to-GDP ratio. Making that adjustment tells us that right now the U.S. could run a primary deficit of 0.3% + 2.5% x 80% = 2.3% of GDP without seeing any increase in the debt-to-GDP ratio.
That's right: rather than the debt forcing us to cut spending on programs below the level of taxes (i.e., run a primary surplus) in order to keep the debt-to-GDP ratio from growing, right now the United States can have spending on programs exceed taxes by 2.3% of GDP (i.e., run a primary deficit) and still keep its debt-to-GDP ratio stable. In terms of real resources, right now the debt is not a burden. It does not reduce how much the U.S. can afford to spend on programs. It is a profit center. It is providing a net addition to federal resources to the tune of 2.3% of GDP.
That's how far the federal debt is today from being a burden on the economy.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
"We're not going to be disrespected, We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."
-- Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), quoted by the Washington Examiner, on the government shutdown.
-- Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), quoted by the Washington Examiner, on the government shutdown.