Friday, September 30, 2011

Right Wing Market "Theology" vs. Econ 101

Paul Krugman, observing that "Markets Can Be Very, Very Wrong":
The Gospel According to Milton Friedman
Externalities like pollution are one of the classic forms of market failure, and Econ 101 says that this failure should be remedied through pollution taxes or tradable emissions permits that get the price right...

Today’s American right doesn’t believe in externalities, or correcting market failures; it believes that there are no market failures, that capitalism unregulated is always right. Faced with evidence that market prices are in fact wrong, they simply attack the science.
What this tells us is that we are not actually having a debate about economics. Our free-market advocates aren’t actually operating from a model of how the economy works; they’re operating from some combination of knee-jerk defense of the haves against the rest and mystical faith that self-interest always leads to the common good.

The slogan is "Yes We Can," not "Yes He Can"

Winning Progressive offers an excellent perspective on the 2012 re-election campaign, on President Obama's leadership and on the responsibilities of his supporters:

A significant challenge facing the Obama Administration as it gears up for the 2012 re-election campaign is that the President is not positively defined in the minds of many voters.  A look at the entire record of President Obama shows that he has been a pragmatist who, while far from perfect, has led our country through daunting times and achieved significant progressive victories in the face of intractable opposition.  Yet far too many progressives see him as a compromiser always ready to sell out progressive values, while many moderates see our President as a failure who has achieved very little.  Neither of these views is accurate and, consistent with the slogan “Yes We Can,” we must all pitch in to help get out to the public an accurate portrayal of the Obama Administration, its successes, and the areas where improvement is needed.

Helluva job - if you can get it...

Eric Dash @ New York Times - "Outsize Severance Continues for Executives, Even After Failed Tenures":
Graphic: Mintblog - How The Bankers Went Down
Just last week, Léo Apotheker was shown the door after a tumultuous 11-month run atop Hewlett-Packard. His reward? $13.2 million in cash and stock severance, in addition to a sign-on package worth about $10 million, according to a corporate filing on Thursday.

At the end of August, Robert P. Kelly was handed severance worth $17.2 million in cash and stock when he was ousted as chief executive of Bank of New York Mellon after clashing with board members and senior managers. A few days later, Carol A. Bartz took home nearly $10 million from Yahoo after being fired from the troubled search giant.

A hallmark of the gilded era of just a few short years ago, the eye-popping severance package continues to thrive in spite of the measures put in place in the wake of the financial crisis to crack down on excessive pay.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Where the Tea Party has taken us...

It's not likely we'll ever again have the opportunity to use a news item from the Oil And Gas Financial Journal, but here's their piece on Kentucky's Tea Party Senator, Rand Paul, and his fight to end government regulation of business:

San Bruno CA gas pipe explosion
Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is single-handedly blocking federal legislation on pipeline safety that the pipeline industry overwhelmingly supports. Paul says he opposes the regulation on “philosophical grounds.” He was elected to the Senate in 2010 with Tea Party support, and Paul and that group are committed to reducing government regulations and “downsizing” the federal government.

Paul is the lone member of the US Senate who opposes a bill that would strengthen safety rules for oil and gas pipelines, a measure that some of the largest trade associations in the pipeline industry, including the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), the American Gas Association (AGA), and the Association of Oil Pipelines, support.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Small businesses are hurt by lack of demand, not taxes or regulations

The right-wing mantra is that taxes and regulations are the biggest problems afflicting small businesses.  This contention is fabulist - as in "made up BS unsubstantiated by the evidence."  Here's a graph, courtesy of the Economic Policy Institute,  showing the relative concerns of small business people dating back to the Nixon years. The problem in today's economy is lack of demand - consumer spending - not taxes or regulations. Overwhelmingly. In fact, concern over taxes and regulations under Obama are at about the same levels they were during Reagan's second term:

The Lovely Lands of Low Taxes

Conservative economics commentator Bruce Bartlett (domestic policy advisor to Ronald Reagan and Treasury official under GHW Bush), at the NYTs, takes a look at the reality of countries where tax rates are super low:
I’m not saying that Republicans are anarchists, only that when it comes to taxes they talk as if they are. Their default position is that there is no level of taxation below which it would be unwise to go, no tax cut too large not to be taken seriously and no justification for a government any larger than one that could be drowned in a bathtub, as the Republican activist Grover Norquist once put it. The Wall Street Journal editorial page routinely refers to those who pay no taxes as “lucky duckies,” as if zero taxation is the ideal state of nature.

Oddly, one never hears Republicans praise those countries where people are lucky duckies — those where taxation is a small fraction of what it is here. Let’s take a look at some of the places.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Great Green Obama Scandal! Brace yourselves!

GOP's Issa engaged in oversight.
Joe Nocera at the NYTs on the GOP-led investigation into a failed solar panel manufacturer, Solyndra, which originally was given the green light for government loans by the Bush administration. The federally-guaranteed loan materialized after Obama took office, with the new administration's support of green energy innovation:
The company’s recent bankruptcy — which the Republicans are now rabidly “investigating” because Solyndra had the misfortune to receive a $535 million federally guaranteed loan from the Obama administration — was largely brought on by a stunning collapse in the price of solar panels over the past year or so. The company’s innovative solar panels, high-priced to begin with, became increasingly uncompetitive in the marketplace. Solyndra didn’t have enough big commercial customers to create the necessary economies of scale...

The purpose of the hearing — indeed, the point of manufacturing a Solyndra investigation in the first place — is to embarrass the president. That’s how Washington works in the modern age: the party out of power gins up phony scandals aimed at hurting the party in power.

Rick Perry might want to reconsider his threat that if Ben Bernanke shows up in Texas it'll get "pretty ugly"

Brad Plumer at WaPo "Wonkblog":
Turns out Rick Perry’s “Texas Miracle” owes much of its success to... Ben Bernanke. A new research paper from the Dallas Fed finds that Texas has rebounded from recession faster than the rest of the country thanks, in no small part, to actions by the U.S. Federal Reserve. (Yep, the same central bank that Perry occasionally deems “almost treasonous.”)

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Euro Zone Death Trip"

"Don't go down those stairs..."
"B" horror movie with subtitles?  No. It's Paul Krugman painting a bleak economic picture: "Europe’s situation is really, really scary: with countries that account for a third of the euro area’s economy now under speculative attack, the single currency’s very existence is being threatened — and a euro collapse could inflict vast damage on the world." 

For a short overview of the crisis brewing in the Euro Zone, check out his complete column in today's NYTs.

"Be afraid - very afraid."
Nouriel "Dr. Doom" Roubini - one of the few economists who foresaw the '08 disaster brewing - adds his frightening outlook HERE: "In my view there is a high likelihood that there is going to be another global financial crisis. My data suggests that most advanced economies are already entering a recession. We’re not any more in an anaemic recovery, we’re not any more at stall speed. We’re at the beginning of a contraction..."  

If you're prepared for a real scare regarding a second global economic crisis triggered by the deep problems in Europe, read the entire Roubini interview

Sunday, September 25, 2011

President Obama is fired up and ready to go!

President Obama addresses the Congressional Black Caucus:

“With patient and firm determination, I am going to press on for jobs. I'm going to press on for equality. I'm going to press on for the sake of our children. I'm going to press on for the sake of all those families who are struggling right now...

“I expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do..."

Part One

Part Two

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Austerity is not the answer...

Former CEA Chair Christina Romer on the notion that austerity, not stimulus, is the solution to current unemployment and economic stagnation:

This argument makes me crazy. There’s simply no evidence that concern about the current deficit is a significant factor limiting consumer spending or business investment. And government borrowing rates are at record lows, suggesting that financial markets are not worried about the deficit, either.

Moreover...the best evidence shows that fiscal austerity depresses growth and raises unemployment in the near term. That’s the experience of countries like Greece, Portugal and Britain, which have embarked on drastic deficit reduction plans over the last two years. Cut the current deficit and you will raise unemployment, not lower it.

Like many other countries, the United States has two terrible problems: a devastating lack of jobs right now and an unsustainable budget deficit over the longer run. The right question is not whether we can reduce unemployment by lowering the deficit (we can’t), but whether we can make progress on both problems.

With 14 million Americans unemployed and no prospect of rapid recovery on the horizon, we really have no choice: we must take additional measures to create jobs. What policy makers need to discuss is which measures will be most effective in putting people back to work, and in hastening the day when government support is no longer needed.

How bad is it?

Here's a chart from "Calculated Risk" that puts the current Great Recession in context of all of the post-WWII recessions the US has faced:

As you can's pretty bad.  Far worse than anything since the Great Depression, as we now well know.  Small comfort, but via Ezra Klein there is this:  Even given the slow, staggering recovery and the prolonged unemployment, compared to big economic meltdowns that have hit comparable industrialized countries in recent decades, "the U.S. labor market has performed better than 4 of the previous Big 5 crises.”

Former President Bill Clinton put the Obama administration's performance managing the crisis in perspective last week:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More on tax fairness...

Paul Krugman:
40 percent of taxpayers with incomes between 30K and 40K pay more than 12.9 percent of their income in income and payroll taxes; meanwhile, 25 percent of people with incomes over $1M pay less than 12.6 percent of their income in these taxes.
This suggests that there are a lot of very-high-income guys paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries.

"Non-Labor Income" - it's even better than it sounds...

Everyone loves the idea of making money without having to do actual work for it. Not that there's anything wrong with that.  Investment helps make the economic world go round.

But the beauty of non-labor income isn't just that you make more money by already having money - rather than by working harder, working smarter, working longer hours or increasing the value of your labor through education, skills, experience and performance. The real beauty of this "non-labor" income  is that you pay lower tax rates on it than on any income generated by actual work.  Lots lower tax rates! This works out especially well the more money you make from your "non-labor."

Source: Tax Policy Center data - chart via Jared Bernstein

And lest we forget, any attempt to shift the tax rates so that "non-labor income" is treated the same way as income gained by actual work is Class Warfare, motivated by envy and resentment.

I don't know about the "warfare", but I'll admit to more than a little, make that "resentment"...of folks who make money from having money and for their efforts get to pay lower tax rates, on average, than the rest of us poor suckers. Frankly, it feels a bit like "class warfare" coming from their direction.

More Elizabeth Warren...and why her candidacy is important for American politics

Senatorial candidate Warren takes on the deficits, taxation and "class warfare":

Greg Sargent of WaPo "Plum Line" comments on Warren's political skills and message:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Elizabeth Warren on Morning Joe

What a terrific candidate!  Did you notice how deftly she handled the ridiculous Mark "The President's a Dick" Halperin's lame attempt at a "gotcha"? (What's that jerk doing on my TeeVee?)
HERE's her website, if you want to contribute or volunteer.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

David Brooks laments Obama's "mean and intransigent" attacks on the super-rich and feels "used"

The fragile Mr. Brooks at NYTs:
The White House has clearly decided that in a town of intransigent Republicans and mean ideologues, it has to be mean and intransigent too...
(B)y God Obama’s going to raise taxes on rich people who give to charity! We’ve got to do something to reduce the awful philanthropy surplus plaguing this country!

The president believes the press corps imposes a false equivalency on American politics. We assign equal blame to both parties for the dysfunctional politics when in reality the Republicans are more rigid and extreme. There’s a lot of truth to that, but at least Republicans respect Americans enough to tell us what they really think. The White House gives moderates little morsels of hope, and then rips them from our mouths. To be an Obama admirer is to toggle from being uplifted to feeling used. 
Tim Noah comments on Brooks' pain at TNR:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Three quarters of Americans support higher taxes in most recent poll

Conservative economics commentator and former Reagan Treasury official, Bruce Bartlett, has it:
I have previously posted a table showing that people support raising taxes as part of deficit reduction by a 2-to-1 margin over the Grover Norquist/Club for Growth/Tea Party position that the deficit must be reduced only by spending cuts without a penny of higher taxes. 
In light of President Obama's new budget plan, which includes higher taxes, I am posting an updated table, including a poll on Friday showing that three-fourths of people support higher taxes and only 21 percent support the doctrinaire right-wing position.

Can/Should the Budget Deficit Be Reduced with Spending Cuts Alone or Should There Be Some Increase in Taxes?
Some/All Taxes
No Taxes/
All Spending

Tax rates & job growth, aka "Class Warfare" deconstructed

The GOP rejoinder to President Obama's jobs and budget plans is, in short, a reversion to their mantra of tax cuts "uber alles."  They're engaged in hysterics about "Class Warfare!"  Their plan?   Lower taxes create jobs! 


Center for American Progress' Director of Tax and Budget Policy Michael Linden:
(I)f you ranked each year since 1950 by overall job growth, the top five years would all boast marginal tax rates at 70 percent or higher. The top 10 years would share marginal tax rates at 50 percent or higher. The two worst years, on the other hand, were 2008 and 2009, when the top marginal tax rate was 35 percent. In the 13 years that the top marginal tax rate has been at its current level or lower, only one year even cracks the top 20 in overall job creation.

President Obama unveils his long-term budget strategy

The complete speech

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Getting a handle on the scandal

While the White House is taking heat for the failure of one of solar panel company, originally green-flagged for assistance by the Bush administration and constituting 1.3% of the Department of Energy's green-energy investment guarantee portfolio, Governor Rick "Good-Hair" Perry of Texas has shown leadership in forging a path for true believers in Free Enterprise to encourage the development of emerging technologies in the Lone Star state.  Via the conservative Frum Forum:
As Governor, Rick Perry presides over a fund that has doled out over $200m in grants to private firms. While Obama is in trouble because his aides might have begged the Energy Department accelerate lending to one promising solar panel maker, Perry is laughing his boots off.

The Texas Emerging Technology Fund (ETF) is practically Perry’s own, personal multi-million dollar fundraising machine. When it comes to doling out money to private firms he doesn’t have to beg anyone for anything.

The fund, signed into law largely by and for Perry in 2005, is controlled by his office and operates largely in secret. Many states have similar investment programs, but the concentration of power in the Governor’s office under Perry’s program is unique.

Bernanke, inflation...and the GOP Crazies!

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke - a Bush appointee held over by President Obama - has been attacked relentlessly by every Republican presidential aspirant.  Most notable was Rick Perry's calling Bernanke's monetary expansions "treasonous"  for supposedly doing damage to the dollar and for acting politically rather than prudently.  Perry - demonstrating his usual grace and sophistication - talked about "getting ugly" with Bernanke if he set foot in Texas.

Mitt Romney attacked Bernanke for "over-inflating the amount of currency he's created" and Newt Gingrich, in their primary debates, asserted that Bernanke is "the most inflationary, dangerous and power-centered Fed Chairman in history."  The entire GOP field wants Bernanke sacked.

The brief against Bernanke by Governor Good-Hair  and the rest is that the Fed Chairman is stoking inflation by printing money, presumably to help "Obama" get some dollars flowing into the economy to secure re-election.  More sober voices among professional economists who service the right-wing - but are as evidence-challenged in the real world as the GOP pols - simply decry the threat of inflation "inherent" in Bernanke's monetary expansions.

The truth, of course, is that Bernanke's monetary policies are nothing if not prudent.  (Milton Friedman, conservative economics icon, argued that the biggest problem during the Great Depression was tight money. Bernanke's philosophy and policies as Fed Chair are influenced directly by his reading of Friedman.)

Just by the numbers, inflation is a phantom fear in the current economy. The chart below. from David Leonhardt at the New York Times, shows where Fed Chairmen rank in terms of the inflation during their tenure. Bernanke has been overseeing the lowest inflation in 40 years.  The GOP Presidential aspirants are, true to form, making crazy stuff up...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Swiss banking giant UBS loses a bunch of money

The world's greatest news source has the story:

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In the wake of the UBS "rogue trading" loss, Barry Ritholtz argues the problem isn't "rogue traders," but "rogue banks" that are carelessly managed while operating inside the magic circle of "too big to fail":

Friday, September 16, 2011

Our hero hits the campaign trail

Elizabeth Warren, the brain behind the new consumer protection bureau, is running for Ted Kennedy's old Massachusetts Senate seat, in an effort to oust Republican Scott Brown who was elected on the strength of Tea Party support at the height of the right- wing anti-"Obama health care" hysterics.

Jill Lawrence at The Atlantic reports on Warren's first round of outreach to voters:
Warren is by far the biggest name in the Democratic primary and is already pulling in national money from Democrats determined to oust Brown. By midday Thursday, she was the "busiest recipient" at the fundraising clearinghouse, with more than $310,000 in contributions. EMILY's List sent out a fundraising email on her behalf headlined "It's on in Massachusetts," asking members to "stop Scott Brown and the Tea Party in their tracks."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The GOP is selling "crazy" on climate change

NYTs columnist Thomas Friedman - who IMHO misses the mark more often than not - hits it dead on in discussing climate change and "the crazy" being sold by the GOP's presidential hopefuls, as well as the best path to sustainable green energy and green jobs:

Every time I listen to Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota talk about how climate change is some fraud perpetrated by scientists trying to gin up money for research, I’m always reminded of one of my favorite movie lines that Jack Nicholson delivers to his needy neighbor who knocks on his door in the film “As Good As It Gets.” “Where do they teach you to talk like this?” asks Nicholson. “Sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here.”

Thanks Mr. Perry and Mrs. Bachmann, but we really are all stocked up on crazy right now. I mean, here is the Texas governor rejecting the science of climate change while his own state is on fire — after the worst droughts on record have propelled wildfires to devour an area the size of Connecticut. As a statement by the Texas Forest Service said last week: “No one on the face of this earth has ever fought fires in these extreme conditions.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The austerity agenda as path to more unemployment...

The Promise of Increased Unemployment
The International Monetary Fund issued a new report on the impact of austerity policies - i.e. cutting government spending during a recession - on increasing unemployment. This "prolonged unemployment through austerity" is the heart of the GOP's economic program.  According to the historical research of IMF economists, it is a recipe for making the existing disaster worse:
Fiscal contractions raise both short-term and long-term unemployment, as shown in Chart 3, but the impact is much greater on the latter. Long-term unemployment refers to spells of unemployment lasting more than six months. Moreover, within three years the rise in short-term unemployment due to fiscal consolidation comes to an end, but long-term unemployment remains higher even after five years.

Fiscal consolidations thus add to the pain of those who are likely to be already suffering the most—the long-term unemployed. This is a particular worry today since the share of long-term unemployed increased in most Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries during the Great Recession. And even in countries where it did not increase—such as France, Germany, Italy, and Japan—the share had already been very high even before the recession.

Job loss is associated with persistent earnings loss, adverse impacts on health, and declines in the academic performance and earnings potential of the children of displaced workers (see “The Tragedy of Unemployment,” in F&D, December 2011). These adverse effects are exacerbated the longer a person is unemployed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Capital gains & Capitol games - how the rich avoid paying fair taxes on money generated by...uh...being rich

Excellent primer on the capital gains tax, a loophole that exempts the wealthy from paying the same tax rates on income as ordinary folk pay on wages, by Steven Mufson and Jia Lynn Yang at The Washington Post:
"Dear Mark...Merry Christmas!"
The K Street office of Mark Bloomfield, president of the American Council for Capital Formation, is full of knickknacks collected in three decades of lobbying for cutting the capital gains tax.
The coffee table has campaign buttons that read “Capital Gains = Better Jobs.” One wall displays a blown-up cartoon retracing the steps that led President Jimmy Carter to reluctantly sign a cut in the capital gains tax rate. On a shelf sits a framed, handwritten note from President George W. Bush in December 2003 that says: “Dear Mark, I got your treatise on taxes — many thanks. I will look it over with keen interest. Merry Christmas.”

For the very richest Americans, low tax rates on capital gains are better than any Christmas gift.
As a result of a pair of rate cuts, first under President Bill Clinton and then under Bush, most of the richest Americans pay lower overall tax rates than middle- class Americans do. And this is one reason the gap between the wealthy and the rest of the country is widening dramatically.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"Pass this bill!"

President Obama unveils the American Jobs Act:

"Stop talking so crazy"

Jared Bernstein's appeal to reason:

I’d like to impose a new fiscal measure.  Whenever you say either “America is Greece!” re our fiscal debt—or anything like that—or “Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme!” you have to send $10 to the US Treasury.

Today’s bond markets have the yield on the 10-year Greek bond at 23.54 and on the US ten-year note at 1.95.  So enough about that…OK?

Social Security is pay-as-you-go. 
Ponzi’s scheme was not as it depended on continuous doubling the ratio of contributors to investors (read this wonderful treatment by Social Security’s historian).
As the above link concludes: “The first modern social insurance program began in Germany in 1889 and has been in continuous operation for more than 100 years. The American Social Security system has been in continuous successful operation since 1935. Charles Ponzi’s scheme lasted barely 200 days.”...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"The magical world of voodoo economics"

Steven Pearlstein at WaPo:
If you came up with a bumper sticker that pulls together the platform of this year’s crop of Republican presidential candidates, it would have to be:

Repeal the 20th century. Vote GOP.

It’s not just the 21st century they want to turn the clock back on — health-care reform, global warming and the financial regulations passed in the wake of the recent financial crises and accounting scandals.

Reckless, Dumb and Scared: Growing Up in Dysfunction Post-9/11

Ezra Klein deconstructs the 9/11 Decade, in Washington Monthly:
You know how we know the terrorists didn’t win? It’s not because we killed Osama bin Laden. It’s because we killed him and we didn’t really care.

Which is not to say that we won, either. It’s more to say it’s been a weird decade.

According to the Gallup Poll, President Barack Obama’s “Osama bump” in his approval rating was about five points and lasted about five weeks. Think about that for a second: President Obama ordered a daring SEAL raid that ended in the execution of America’s deadliest foe and the president’s approval rose five points for five weeks. The president can get five points for five weeks by switching from white bread to whole grains. He could probably get twice that from a single appearance on “American Idol.”

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Channel-surfing we can believe in...

More people watched President Obama's jobs speech Thursday evening than tuned into the NFL's season kickoff game that followed.

Via Balloon Juice

Mark Zandi, founder of Moody's and an '08 advisor to John McCain, does the numbers on the Obama Jobs Act

This is useful analysis, given the "non-partisan," "business elite economist" resume of Moody's Analytics' chief Mark Zandi.

Jared Bernstein has it:
Here’s (Zandi's) projected impact of GDP and jobs:
–President Obama’s jobs proposal would help stabilize confidence and keep the U.S. from sliding back into recession.
–The plan would add 2 percentage points to GDP growth next year, add 1.9 million jobs, and cut the unemployment rate by a percentage point.

Source: Zandi, Moody’s Analytics

The view from a moderately liberal Keynesian economist of good intentions who is filling in for "the Left" on America's bizarre, Tea Party-tilted political spectrum

Paul Krugman, long a leading liberal critic of the President on economic strategy, was both impressed by the jobs plan Obama laid out before Congress and depressed by a toxic political landscape that is likely to kill the legislative proposals:
I was favorably surprised by the new Obama jobs plan, which is significantly bolder and better than I expected. It’s not nearly as bold as the plan I’d want in an ideal world. But if it actually became law, it would probably make a significant dent in unemployment.

Of course, it isn’t likely to become law, thanks to G.O.P. opposition. Nor is anything else likely to happen that will do much to help the 14 million Americans out of work. And that is both a tragedy and an outrage...

(I)t’s worth noting just how much that opposition has hardened over time, even as the plight of the unemployed has worsened.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

President Obama's Jobs Speech - 9/8/11

I was impressed with the speech and appreciated the fact that the package was about 50% larger than had been anticipated in early reports.  The proposal falls short of the ideal, i.e. what is needed to recover quickly from the unemployment crisis - but the President was clearly trying to put a concrete legislative challenge to Congress on the table that would be realistic if a significant segment of the Beltway GOP was serious about anything other than sinking his chances for re-election.  He was asking his opposition to put country before petty politics.  Bitter experience, of course, suggests that they won't.

The speech was a substantive appeal to reason that could persuade moderate and/or confused voters that Obama is serious and his opposition is not, as well as offering the Democratic base some plausible agenda around which they can rally. The tone was passionate and convincing.  It represents a turning point, both for uniting Democrats and setting a marker for the coming campaign.

"Taking the temperature" among restive Democrats, here's one early reaction from economist Mark Thoma, who has been an outspoken liberal critic of the President on these issues: "(T)he speech was bolder than expected, showed political savvy (though it will still face stiff resistance), and there appears to be a commitment to keep pushing new legislation until the unemployment problem is eased."

FDR on Unemployment

No country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources.  Demoralization caused by vast unemployment is our greatest extravagance.  Morally, it is the greatest menace to our social order...

I stand or fall by my refusal to accept as a necessary condition of our future a permanent army of unemployed. On the contrary, we must make it a national principle that we will not tolerate a large army of unemployed and that we will arrange our national economy to end our present unemployment as soon as we can and then to take wise measures against its return.       FDR - 9/30/34

(Thoughts for a much-anticipated speech tonight by President Obama. Via "Freakonomics.")

"Republicans are crazy..."

"We're all Bozos on this bus!"
In the wake of Willard "Mitt" Romney rejecting Governor "Good Hair" Perry's nutty Ponzi Scheme rhetoric regarding Social Security during last night's GOP debate, Romney is getting kudos from the Beltway punditry as the "not crazy" candidate hoping to hustle his way to the Republican Presidential nomination.

Unfortunately, that's not true. Romney's crazy too...

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:
Jared Bernstein notes that if he's elected president, Mitt Romney has promised to "immediately move to cut spending and cap it at 20 percent of GDP." That's crazy with the economy so sluggish, but in fact, it's even crazier than that. Here are budget projections for 2013 from the OMB:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The public supports, by large margins, a strong federal jobs program and tax increases on the economic elite

Whether they recognize it as such, the public supports a strong liberal economic agenda on key issues, according to major polls. Beltway politicians of both parties would do well to pay attention.

Think Progress:
President Obama will lay out his latest jobs plan before a joint session of Congress on Thursday, in the wake of a report that showed zero net jobs were created last month. Unemployment has remained above 9 percent, while unemployment amongst African Americans is at a 27-year high...

But while the GOP may be firmly against progressive job creation measures, the public is assuredly not. According to two polls released today, the public supports government-backed measures to bring down the unemployment rate.

"Should Democrats play by Republican rules?"

At NYTs "Economix" Former Reagan Treasury official Bruce Bartlett - a long-time Republican and moderate conservative who has defected from the reactionary radicalism of the GOP - offers some good advice to Democrats to counter The Crazy, i.e. ideological dominance of Tea Party fundamentalism:
Republicans are predisposed to blame government for every problem regardless of the circumstances, and Democrats tend to view government as necessary to deal with economic and social problems...

Right now, it is clear that the right side of the political spectrum is dominant. Virtually all policy debate these days is based on the premise that the conservative position is at least valid. For example, we have heard for months from Republicans that government regulation is a major, if not the primary, factor holding back economic expansion and employment growth.

Just last week, the House majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, posted a memo to House Republicans detailing specific regulations whose repeal would create jobs.