Thursday Mashup (3/21/13)

March 21, 2013
  • Last Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision of Gideon v. Wainright in which the High Court ruled unanimously that the Constitution requires the states to provide defense attorneys to criminal defendants charged with serious offenses who cannot afford lawyers themselves (this was the basis for the great TV movie called “Gideon’s Trumpet” starring Henry Fonda – here).

    As noted here, though…

    The issue is by no means settled. In his recent New York Times editorial “The Right to Counsel: Badly Battered at 50,” Lincoln Caplan contends that “After 50 years, the promise of Gideon v. Wainwright is mocked more of than fulfilled,” at times because of the lack of funding for public defender offices, in other cases due to incompetent counsel. He concludes, “There is no shortage of lawyers to do this work. What stands in the way is an undemocratic, deep-seated lack of political will.”

    Indeed – as noted here, Georgia shifted the burden of providing counsel to its 159 counties; this was an issue in particular for capital murder cases involving the death penalty (don’t know if it was an issue here or not) – apparently Georgia is responsible for more executions than any state except Texas (I think that’s what the author meant to say instead of “Houston”). And it’s not much better in the “Sunshine State” (here); New York State has issues also as noted here (lest anyone think I intend to pick on “red” states only).

    And from here

    The Supreme Court has carved out other exceptions to the right to counsel after an arrest. It has allowed law enforcement officials to have ex parte contacts with defendants to determine whether the defendant is in fact represented by counsel (sic). It has also allowed ex parte communications that are made with the consent of defendant’s counsel; those made pursuant to discovery procedures, such as subpoenas; communications in the course of a criminal investigation; communications necessary to protect the life or safety of another person; and those made by a represented person, so long as the person has knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived the right to have counsel present. These exceptions apply to all persons, regardless of whether they can afford their own attorney.

    And as noted here

    No one wants to pay for more public defenders. Or, better put, few people in political power care enough about the gross injustices being done to poor people to spend more money trying to ensure they receive adequate representation. “Inadequate funding is the primary source of the systemic failure in indigent defense programs nationwide,” concluded Harvard Law School student David A. Simon in a thoughtful law review piece published a few years ago. “Of the more than $146.5 billion spent annually on criminal justice, over half is allocated to support the police officers and prosecutors who investigate and prosecute cases, while only about two to three percent goes toward indigent defense.”

    (Criminal justice experts Stephen B. Bright and Sia M. Sanneh) don’t just blame lawmakers. “Many judges tolerate or welcome inadequate representation because it allows them to process many cases in a short time,” they write. And the problem is made worse, they contend, because the “Supreme Court has refused to require competent representation, instead adopting a standard of ‘effective counsel’ that hides and perpetuates deficient representation.” Not only that, Simon adds, but the justices have “neglected to specify which level of government — federal, state or local — must serve as the guarantor” of the right to counsel nor the “method by which states should administer their public defender programs.” No one is responsible, in other words, because everyone is in charge.

    Let us hope that this HBO documentary, due to air this summer, helps to shed some more light on this travesty.

  • Further, I give you the latest from the fake outrage factory here (ZOMG! There goes that Marxist preh-zee-dint of ours again)…

    Yesterday during the White House daily press briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked by “just a blogger” if President Obama planned to cut back on his lavish vacations and travel at a time when the country is hurting economically. Carney’s answer wasn’t “no,” but rather a long drawn out “Obama is focused on jobs.”

    This question came just one week after it was revealed the Obama’s are living at a cost of $1.4 billion per year.

    This is an attempt to re-spin the finding here from last year that the Obama White House spent $1.4 billion on vacations, which was totally ridiculous when it was first pronounced for the reasons noted here (actually, Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs did an even better job of dispensing with this nonsense here).

    Memo to clownhall.com…the purse strings of the federal government rest with the House of Representatives. Neither you nor your wingnut brethren have any right whatsoever to complain about the effects of the sequester, particularly when Obama and the Senate Democrats have been proposing alternatives that don’t totally screw over many more people than necessary in this country and leave the “pay no price, bear no burden” bunch untouched as usual.

    Meanwhile, Man Tan Boehner, that sleazy weasel Eric Cantor, Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv and the rest of the Repug “young guns” (with Mikey the Beloved pledging his supine acceptance) are bound and determined to shove austerity down our throats whether we like it or not, all to make Congressional Democrats and Number 44 look as bad as they can.

  • Next, BoBo of the New York Times is back, as noted from here

    There is a statue outside the Federal Trade Commission of a powerful, rambunctious horse being reined in by an extremely muscular man. This used to be a metaphor for liberalism. The horse was capitalism. The man was government, which was needed sometimes to restrain capitalism’s excesses.

    Today, liberalism seems to have changed. Today, many progressives seem to believe that government is the horse, the source of growth, job creation and prosperity. Capitalism is just a feeding trough that government can use to fuel its expansion.

    For an example of this new worldview, look at the budget produced by the Congressional Progressive Caucus last week. These Democrats try to boost economic growth with a gigantic $2.1 trillion increase in government spending — including a $450 billion public works initiative, a similar-size infrastructure program and $179 billion so states, too, can hire more government workers.

    Oh yes, how dare those baaad, dastardly Dems try to hire more “government workers” (police, fire, teachers – you know, those lazy, gold-bricking swine…snark). And of course, David Brooks won’t tell us that the U.S. House Repugs and their economic warfare on said workers (as part of the austerity I noted earlier) is one of the biggest drags against our economic recovery (here).

    Oh, and BoBo also tells us the following about taxes (Brooks is responding to Back to Work, the plan of the Progressive Democratic Caucus, which would indeed raise the top-end rate to 49 percent – for anyone making $1 billion or more – I’ll acknowledge that there could be a “bite” when you calculate state and local taxes with it, but I’m sorry, I don’t see that as a “game changer”; maybe try to factor in a tax credit for these folks when we return to prosperity? Just a thought…)…

    Now, of course, there have been times, like, say, the Eisenhower administration, when top tax rates were very high. But the total tax burden was lower since so few people paid the top rate and there were so many ways to avoid it. Government was smaller.

    And high earners aren’t avoiding taxes now? Really?

    And Brooks also trots out the “higher taxes will cause me to work less” argument, supported by former Bushie Greg Mankiw among others – I think it is important to consider this in response, mainly that such thinking is counter-intuitive to human nature (wouldn’t you want to work more to make up lost earnings?) – also, deferring taxation this way might end up putting more of a burden on your kids if you’re a parent.

    As noted here, though, BoBo has been wrong about income inequality for years (and as noted here, Brooks once blamed women for it – nice). And for good measure, he once defended the “one percent” here (Matt Yglesias responds also here – h/t Jay Ackroyd at Eschaton).

    In conclusion, I just wanted to note that I did a search for “unemployed” or any variation thereof in Brooks’s column, and I came up empty, which isn’t surprising I know (love to see how Brooks would do having to work one or two “McJobs” in an effort to make up for his cushy pundit paycheck and related perks).

  • And never to be outdone when it comes to self-righteous indignation, the Murdoch Street Journal whines as follows here (about Medicare Advantage, which, quite rightly, is being targeted for a budget cut)…

    The tragedy is that Medicare Advantage architecture is far from perfect and HHS could save money if it wanted to, in particular by targeting the private fee-for-service plans that mimic all of traditional Medicare’s dysfunctions except with an element of private profit. But that approach conflicts with the Administration’s political goal of strangling Medicare Advantage in the crib.

    (Conservatives just love to punctuate their literary flourishes with violent imagery, don’t they?)

    As noted here

    Medicare Advantage was started under President George W. Bush, and the idea was that competition among the private insurers would reduce costs. But in recent years the plans have actually cost more than traditional Medicare. So the health care law scales back the payments to private insurers.

    And as noted here

    Private insurance plans under Medicare Advantage are often able to attract healthier Medicare beneficiaries by offering cheap — but bare-bones — health plans. When those healthier seniors encounter a medical problem that’s too extensive for their private coverage, they switch over to the more generous traditional Medicare program in order to take advantage of its more expansive benefits. That in turn, raises spending in the traditional Medicare pool

    And just go ahead and call me a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but based on this poll from last December, I would say that most of those people polled want traditional Medicare to be left alone (despite all of its “dysfunctions,” something the Repugs would do well to get through their thick heads in light of this).

  • Finally, Irrational Spew Online bloviates as follows here

    Elizabeth Warren was slated to be the first head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Senate Republicans stopped her confirmation, so now she is leading the charge to confirm Richard Cordray to that office.

    But nobody should be the head of this monstrous Dodd-Frankenstein by-product. The structure and powers of the CFPB, as created by Congress, put it outside our constitutional system. Most significantly, Congress allotted the bureau an independent source of revenue, guaranteed its insulation from legislative or executive oversight, and gave it the power to define and punish “abusive” practices.

    Actually, this tells us that the CFPB can have its rules vetoed by something called the FSOC, and no other regulator is subject to this kind of a check (so much for operating “outside our constitutional system”). Also, this tells us how Warren has called out the Repugs on their BS over Cordray in particular and the CFPB and Dodd-Frank in general.

    And as noted here (in the matter of supposed “insulation from legislative or executive oversight”)…

    “Since his first confirmation hearing in September 2011, Director Cordray has appeared before this Committee more than any other financial regulator,” said (South Dakota Democratic U.S. Senator Tim) Johnson. “During that time, he has proved to be a strong leader of the CFPB. He has completed many of the rules required by Wall Street Reform, including a well-received final [Qualified Mortgage] rule. He listens, and has crafted strong rules that take into account all sides of an issue. He has laid the groundwork for nonbank regulation. He has brought to light the financial challenges faced by students, elderly Americans, servicemembers and their families. He has taken important enforcement actions against banks that took advantage of customers. So I ask my colleagues, what more can Richard Cordray do to deserve an up-or-down vote? I hope we can finally put aside politics and move forward with Richard Cordray’s confirmation.” – Consumerist, 3/19/13

    The Daily Kos post tells us that the U.S. Senate Banking Committee approved the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The vote was 12-10 along party lines. Every Democrat supported him. Every Republican opposed him.

    As mad as I get at the Dems at times, I get even madder at people who say they’re the same as Republicans. The latter bunch just wants to keep fleecing us, fighting unending wars for little or no purpose, fouling the environment at will, sitting on their collective hands while austerity tries to wreck our fledgling recovery, allowing weapons of death to continue flooding every school, movie theater, and gathering place of any kind in this country, and continually trying to demonize the opposition party instead of working with them on behalf of the best interests of the majority of the people of this nation (oh, but they’re “pro-life,” aren’t they? Not if you’re actually born, they’re not).

    And unless you’re rich, if you know all this and still support these fools, frauds and charlatans (at least on the national level anyway – I’ve encountered precious few good Republicans on the local level, though not recently), then I have no tolerance for your point of view.

    Your willful ignorance continues to be the ruin of this country. Heckuva job!

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    Tuesday Mashup (3/30/10)

    March 30, 2010

  • 1) I must tell you that I came across something that was utterly hilarious in the Op-Ed section of the Bucks County Courier Times today.

    Editorial Page Editor Guy Petroziello published a letter in which he wrote that the paper could not publish letters in favor of health care reform and thanking U.S. House Rep Patrick Murphy who voted for the law because Petroziello believed that the letters were orchestrated by the Democratic National Committee, and “we cannot publish letters that are part of an organized campaign” (he also pointed out that the paper’s editorial submission policy, as stated in the Op-Ed section, does not allow publishing of thank you notes; he made it sound as if he was making an exception to the policy by publishing any thank-you letters to Murphy at all).

    Which begs the question – is Petroziello actually naïve enough to believe that anti-Murphy letters actually aren’t part of an organized campaign also?

    Check out PA Water Cooler or (especially) BucksRight every so often, Guy. Right-wing social networking is very much alive in this state and can easily lend itself to letter-writing campaigns also. Besides, when you get about a hundred letters all complaining about a “Patrick Murphy/Pelosi/Reid” axis, “Obama-care,” “taking over one-sixth of our economy,” “trillion-dollar tax hike” and (in particular) “tort reform to lower health care costs,” as well as everyone complaining that Patrick Murphy didn’t hold an in-person town hall so the teabaggers could stage their antics, then I definitely do not believe that you are talking an organic phenomenon, however much you may believe to the contrary. And those letters apparently run into no obstacles at all before they are printed.

    Also, in the right-wingnuttia department, J.D. Mullane (in between recycling columns as to whether or not college is “necessary”) opined as follows on the subject of someone at a Burger King who, it is alleged, recently viewed porn on a PC provided at one of their eateries (the company’s defense is that it blocks porn sites and the individual was reading an E-mail attachment, or something)…

    What’s the big deal, when even former Sen. John Edwards has a sex tape – and he could have been president of the United States.

    I’m the last person who is going to defend the lies and stupidity of John Edwards, but as noted here, his mistress Rielle Hunter acknowledged that she created the tape (I don’t know if Edwards ever consented to the recording, for the record, not that it really matters much I suppose). And as nearly as I can tell, the tape traveled in one way or another between Hunter and former Edwards campaign staffer (and tell-all book author) Andrew Young. To my knowledge, Edwards never “had” the tape.

    If you’re going to shamelessly demagogue as you attack Dems, J.D., at least go to the trouble of getting your facts straight.

  • 2) And if that isn’t enough yuks for you, Pantload Media’s Helen Smith tells us here how Jeff Goldstein and others of the right-wing world of bizarro reality should deal with “the Left’s disrespect and lack of empathy.”

    This is what Goldstein said when Ben Domenech, co-founder of the blog Red State, was nailed in 2006 on allegations of plagiarism after Domenech was given a forum for his diatribes at the Washington Post…

    Ben has owned up to his mistakes. He has, as I anticipated he would, taken that most difficult first step to rehabilitating his credibility. Now it’s time for other folks to do the same: Molly Ivins; Larry Tribe; Stephen Ambrose; Dan Rather; Jason Leopold; Joe Biden; Micah Wright; Ward Churchill; Eason Jordan; CNN’s agreement with Saddam’s Iraq; Joe Wilson; Steve Erlanger—we’re looking at you.

    And of course, Goldstein provided no citations for his charges (and as Atrios points out, historian Stephen Ambrose died in 2002).

    I report, you decide.

  • 3) And finally, N. Gregory Mankiw appeared in last Sunday’s New York Times and told us the following (here)…

    When I was chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 to 2005, I spoke openly about the need to reform regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I did not know when or how these government-sponsored enterprises would come crashing down, but I thought they posed undue risks for the economy and for taxpayers.

    I was not alone in that judgment. While working on the issue, I consulted privately with an economist who had held a high-ranking position in the Clinton administration. He shared precisely my concerns, as did Alan Greenspan, who was then the Fed chairman.

    I would say that this exchange between Greenspan and Henry Waxman, then head of the House Oversight Committee speaks volumes (deflating Greenspan’s “magical thinking” on the markets).

    Continuing with Mankiw…

    Why was nothing done (about reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac)? Many members of Congress were worried less about financial fragility than about expanding access to homeownership. Moreover, lobbyists from these companies assured Congress that there was no real problem, while the sheer complexity of these institutions made it hard for legislators to appreciate the enormity of the risks.

    I recount this story not because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were the main cause of the recent financial crisis — they were only one element — but because it shows the kind of problem we’ll encounter on a larger scale as we reform oversight of the financial system.

    I have to reluctantly point out that Mankiw is correct when he says that he warned of risks to so-called government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs (here, primarily Fannie and Freddie…of course, Mankiw cheered the deficit and offshoring at the same time also, but those are subjects for another day). The problem, as noted in this Wikipedia article about Congressman Barney Frank, is as follows…

    In 2003, while the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, Frank opposed a Bush administration proposal, in response to accounting scandals, for transferring oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from Congress and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to a new agency that would be created within the Treasury Department. The proposal, supported by the head of Fannie Mae, reflected the administration’s belief that Congress “neither has the tools, nor the stature” for adequate oversight. Frank stated, “These two entities…are not facing any kind of financial crisis…. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”[50] Conservative groups criticized Frank for campaign contributions totaling $42,350 between 1989 and 2008. They claim the donations from Fannie and Freddie influenced his support of their lending programs, and say that Frank did not play a strong enough role in reforming the institutions in the years leading up to the Economic crisis of 2008.[51] In 2006 a Fannie Mae representative stated in SEC filings that they “did not participate in large amounts of these non-traditional mortgages in 2004 and 2005.” [52]In response to criticism from conservatives, Frank said, “In 2004, it was Bush who started to push Fannie and Freddie into subprime mortgages, because they were boasting about how they were expanding homeownership for low-income people. And I said at the time, ‘Hey—(a) this is going to jeopardize their profitability, but (b) it’s going to put people in homes they can’t afford, and they’re gonna lose them.’” [10]

    So Bushco, including Mankiw, wanted to further remove Fannie and Freddie from visibility by sticking them in Treasury away from congressional oversight because they were supposedly in trouble, and pushed them towards higher risk home mortgages at the same time to make sure they would be in trouble.

    And here is something else to consider (from Wikipedia)…

    Frank further stated that “during twelve years of Republican rule no reform was adopted regarding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2007, a few months after I became the Chairman, the House passed a strong reform bill; we sought to get the [Bush] administration’s approval to include it in the economic stimulus legislation in January 2008; and finally got it passed and onto President Bush’s desk in July 2008. Moreover, “we were able to adopt it in nineteen months, and we could have done it much quicker if the [Bush] administration had cooperated.”[54]

    Also, I thought this post was amusing, in which Mankiw claimed that people with “good genes” make lots of money and pass their intelligence off to their kids who then get high SAT scores.

    And if they’re really lucky, they get a column in the Sunday Times from which they can create partisan mythology about once or twice a month.


  • Wednesday Mashup (2/17/10)

    February 17, 2010

    (Trying to clear out a bit of a backlog here, I know…)

  • 1) In the Sunday New York Times, N. Gregory Mankiw wrote the following here…

    The president seems to understand that the fiscal plan presented in his budget is not sustainable and, as such, is not really a plan at all. That is why the budget prominently calls for a fiscal commission that will be charged with “identifying policies to improve the fiscal situation.” The goal, the budget says, is “to stabilize the debt-to-G.D.P. ratio at an acceptable level once the economy recovers.”

    In other words, President Obama’s long-term fiscal strategy is to appoint a commission to figure out a long-term fiscal strategy.

    Yep, kind of like the commission Mankiw’s former boss formed to come up with his Social Security privatization scam (here). And it’s funny to hear Mankiw’s criticism of Obama’s budget commission idea (which I don’t agree with either for now, truth be told) when this tells us how generally unserious conservatives are on this issue (how can you propose to balance a budget over time without discussing tax increases or other revenue enhancement)?

  • 2) Also last Sunday in the Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg engaged in the following bit of wankery (here, criticizing President Obama for balancing his work schedule with that of his family)…

    So far at least, Washington does not seem to have raised any eyebrows. When Mr. Obama told lawmakers why he was leaving the health talks, “We all said, ‘Absolutely, get out of here, go,’ ” said Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat, who was there.

    Yet even in today’s father-friendly world, Mr. Obama’s balancing act is not risk-free — especially in an economy where so many ordinary Americans are struggling. Critics could accuse him of slacking off when the country is in need.

    And of course for emphasis, Stolberg includes a quote favorable to that notion from Republican political strategist John Feehery.

    Meanwhile, this tells us that Obama’s predecessor absolutely shattered the vacation record set by The Sainted Ronnie R (still awaiting comment on that from Feehery).

    For the first time in a long time, we have a president helping to raise one or more kids (the two Bush daughters were already grown), and that makes family time particularly important.

    Besides, the one legitimate vacation Obama got was last summer, and right in the middle of it, Ted Kennedy died. So I think it’s particularly crappy to begrudge the man of the precious family time he is able to enjoy.

  • 3) And finally, the Times Sunday Magazine carried a story titled “How Christian Were The Founders,” in which our corporate media remains preoccupied with trying to find some proof that the individuals who truly risked their lives, fortunes and sacred honor during our country’s genesis (oops) intended this country to be a Christian nation.

    We could come up with anecdotes forever to argue one way or the other as to how tolerant these people really were on this subject, but I would merely like to put out the following from the Nobel Prize-winning book “John Adams” by David McCullough, pg. 222, in which McCullough describes how Adams addressed the subject in the first Constitution of Massachusetts…

    …While it did not guarantee freedom of religion, it affirmed the “duty” of all people to worship “The Supreme Being, the great creator and preserver of the universe,” and that no one was to be “hurt, molested or restrained in his person, liberty or estate for worshipping God in the manner most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience,” provided he did not disturb the public peace.

    If “live and let live” was good enough for John Adams, then it’s good enough for me too.


  • Wednesday Mashup (12/16/09)

    December 16, 2009

    Trying to get caught up a bit here with some stuff…

  • 1) Yesterday at the LA Times, former Laura Bush employee Andrew Malcolm observed as follows (here)…

    It seems President Obama is not quite there yet in fulfilling his hopeful campaign promise to change the harsh partisan tone in the nation’s capitol.

    This Media Matters post reminds us that Malcolm criticized Obama for lighting the White House Christmas Tree. And leaving it lit.

    Seriously.

    So I would say Malcolm has some work to do on the whole “partisan tone” thing also.

  • 2) Also, Matthew Continetti resurrected the zombie lie that tax cuts create jobs here at The Weakly Standard yesterday…

    If the Democrats were smart, they would read Greg Mankiw’s op-ed in the Sunday Times, where he points out that “successful stimulus relies almost entirely on cuts in business and income taxes. Failed stimulus relies mostly on increases in government spending.”

    In response, I give you the following from The New Yorker written in 2003 (sounds prescient now)…

    the President’s tax cuts may in the end destroy more jobs than they create. As tax revenues fall and the deficit increases, interest rates will rise, and the higher cost of borrowing will impede business investment and hiring. The reborn supply-side economists who devised the President’s plan would dispute this, except that many of them were fired or encouraged to quit in the Administration’s recent purge of its financial team.

    The article also tells us that Mankiw himself noted the damage caused by the deficits inevitably resulting from tax cuts (yes I know, water wet, sky blue…).

    And as noted here by Brad DeLong, Mankiw recently claimed that you can’t measure jobs saved from an economic stimulus, though Mankiw claimed exactly the opposite in 2003.

    Also concerning economic policy, Joe “You Lie!” Wilson told us the following at The Hill today (here)…

    In the past two years, the debt ceiling has been raised four times. This week, Congress debated raising the debt ceiling by $1.8 trillion. Congress continues spend, spend, and spend – ultimately passing our debts onto our grandchildren.

    That’s funny when you consider what happened when Wilson’s party ran our government nearly into the ground in the earlier part of this decade; as noted here…

    During 2002, debt subject to limit increased enough to reach the current statutory debt limit, $5.95 trillion. Legislation increased the limit to $6.4 trillion in June 2002.

    In December 2002, the Administration asked Congress for another increase in the debt limit. As the limit was approached in February 2003, the Treasury resorted to accounting measures at its disposal to avoid exceeding the limit. The adoption of the FY 2004 budget resolution conference report by Congress in early April 2003 triggered legislation in the House increasing the debt limit by $984 billion, deemed passed by the House, and sent to the Senate. In May, the Senate passed the increase, which the President signed on May 27, 2003…

    By the spring of 2004, the Treasury began asking for another increase in the debt limit. Congress did not act to raise the debt limit before recessing in mid-October 2004. The Secretary of the Treasury soon notified Congress that he was taking allowed actions to avoid exceeding the debt limit. He also said that these actions would suffice only through mid-November when the Treasury would exhaust its ability to finance all federal activities. In an after-election session, Congress passed and the President signed legislation raising the debt limit by $800 billion.

    And not that it would do him any good on health care at this point, but Harry Reid should note the following…

    In 2005, Congress included debt limit raising reconciliation instructions in the FY 2006 budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 95). The adoption of the budget resolution also triggered the automatic passage in the House of a debt limit increase (H.J. Res. 47). No action on raising the limit was taken during calendar year 2005. The Secretary of the Treasury sent letters to Congress on December 22, 2005, and February 6 and March 6, 2006 asking for a debt-limit increase and warning that the Treasury would exhaust its options to avoid reaching the debt limit by mid-March. The Senate passed H.J. Res. 47 on March 16, after rejecting several amendments. The President signed it into law (P.L. 109-182) on March 20. The law increased the debt limit by $781 billion to $8.965 trillion.

    So, as you can see above, the debt limit increased by $3 trillion under Repug “governance” from 2002 to 2006 (and we went from a $230 billion surplus when Clinton left to a $2.8 trillion deficit by ’06).

    And by the way, the best way to get back at Wilson for his demagoguery (to say nothing of his rudeness) is to contribute to his opponent Rob Miller, who is competing for Wilson’s seat in Congress; to help Miller, click here.

  • 3) And finally, I haven’t said much lately about developments concerning Tiger Woods, since his story isn’t something I typically comment on, I know.

    However, I noticed that he was dropped as a corporate spokesman by Accenture, the consulting and outsourcing/offshoring company that spun off from the Arthur Andersen accounting firm in January 2001.

    And before we feel sorry for Accenture over this, consider the following (from February 2008, here)…

    Techdirt brings us the news that in January, the U.S. Patent Office granted a patent to two scientists who work for the consulting firm Accenture for “rapid knowledge transfer among workers.”

    Specifically, transferring knowledge from “experts” in one location to “apprentices” in another, via a Web-based set of templates. As the patent reads: “One application is a system for transferring knowledge in the context of outsourcing job functions of workers.”

    So, no more of that icky hands-on training of the foreign worker who will then perform your job for a fraction of your wages — a “level of personal interaction [that] has proved to be very costly.” Now, it can all be done online, for a fraction of the cost.

    Apparently, Accenture has come up with some means to facilitate the transfer of information from this country to someone offshore who can (in theory) do the job for less. And as we know, such knowledge is the life blood of not only a business, but someone’s career as well.

    And of course, this also adds to the deficit, though our corporate media will never bother to inform us of that, of course.

    So considering the news that this company has severed its advertising relationship with someone who is probably the pre-eminent golfer of easily the last ten years because it turns out that he was also a serial philanderer, I have only this to say.

    I think Woods is too good for them.


  • Our Corporate Media’s Tortuous “Trillion Dollar” Obama Tale

    August 26, 2009

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    This story tells us the following…

    WASHINGTON – In a chilling forecast, the White House is predicting a 10-year federal deficit of $9 trillion — more than the sum of all previous deficits since America’s founding. And it says by the next decade’s end the national debt will equal three-quarters of the entire U.S. economy.

    But before President Barack Obama can do much about it, he’ll have to weather recession aftershocks including unemployment that his advisers said Tuesday is still heading for 10 percent.

    (Funny, but I don’t recall hearing stories like this about 10-year budget projections when Obama’s predecessor took up space in An Oval Office.)

    But concerning the story, we find out the following near the end…

    At the same time, 10-year budget projections can be “wildly inaccurate,” said (former BCO official Stan) Collender, now a partner at Qorvis Communications. Collender noted that there will be five congressional elections over the next 10 years and any number of foreign and domestic challenges that will make actual deficit figures very different from the estimates.

    And of course, since we’re talking about the AP after all, God forbid that they omit the “Ooga Booga!” scare graf in the lede, right? And who cares whether it’s 100 percent factually correct.

    Yes, this is bad stuff, I know. But considering that Obama inherited a $1.3 trillion dollar deficit, only a teabaggin’ fool would believe he could turn that around in a mere matter of months.

    And of course, for good measure, former Bush economic advisor N. Gregory Mankiw chimes in here that it may be $14 trillion (past Mankiw ignominies on behalf of the former Bushco cabal are documented here).

    Also, I fail to understand yet again why Mankiw is considered some kind of an economic sage, since he surely should have known what would happen to the deficit as a result of Dubya’s Medicare Part D scam, noted by Brad DeLong here (and wasn’t it “Deadeye Dick” Cheney who told us here that “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter”).

    Fortunately, we have the reality-based commentary of Paul Krugman (here)…

    As I’ve pointed out, (the deficit is) bad, but it’s not horrific either by historical or international standards. On a comparable basis, federal debt hit 109 percent of GDP at the end of World War II, and hit a second peak of 49 percent at the end of the Reagan-Bush years. And a number of European countries have hit substantially higher debt levels without crisis.

    The only reason to fear these numbers is if you believe that our political system is broken, and that markets will soon come to see it that way. Then we could become a debt-intolerant country, and all bets are off. So it’s not really the debts per se, or even the economy; it’s the politics, stupid.

    Meanwhile, what everyone should be focused on is the sheer awfulness of the economic projections. OMB has unemployment still at 9.7% at the end of 2010; still at 8% at the end of 2011. These numbers cry out for a more aggressive economic policy. If that’s politically impossible, we’re really in terrible shape.

    “Stimulus Two,” anyone?


    “Doctor” Mankiw’s Public Plan Propaganda

    June 29, 2009

    Doctor_Cartoon_mban814l
    In yesterday’s New York Times, former Dubya Council of Economic Advisors Member N. Gregory Mankiw tells us the following (here)…

    IN the debate over health care reform, one issue looms large: whether to have a public option. Should all Americans have the opportunity to sign up for government-run health insurance?

    President Obama has made his own preferences clear. In a letter to Senators Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Max Baucus of Montana, the chairmen of two key Senate committees, he wrote: “I strongly believe that Americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option operating alongside private plans. This will give them a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep insurance companies honest.”

    Even if one accepts the president’s broader goals of wider access to health care and cost containment, his economic logic regarding the public option is hard to follow. Consumer choice and honest competition are indeed the foundation of a successful market system, but they are usually achieved without a public provider. We don’t need government-run grocery stores or government-run gas stations to ensure that Americans can buy food and fuel at reasonable prices.

    And from here, Paul Krugman of the Times tells us…

    Both George Will and Greg Mankiw basically argue that we don’t need a government role because we can trust the market to work — hey, we do it for groceries, right?

    Um, economists have known for 45 years — ever since Kenneth Arrow’s seminal paper — that the standard competitive market model just doesn’t work for health care: adverse selection and moral hazard are so central to the enterprise that nobody, nobody expects free-market principles to be enough.

    Further, this somewhat tongue-in-cheek post from Matt Yglesias brings us this excerpt from a Q&A session President Obama held on the matter…

    QUESTION: Wouldn’t (a public option for health insurance) drive private insurance out of business?

    OBAMA: Why would it drive private insurance out of business? If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care; if they tell us that they’re offering a good deal, then why is it that the government, which they say can’t run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That’s not logical.

    Now, the — I think that there’s going to be some healthy debates in Congress about the shape that this takes. I think there can be some legitimate concerns on the part of private insurers that if any public plan is simply being subsidized by taxpayers endlessly that over time they can’t compete with the government just printing money, so there are going to be some I think legitimate debates to be had about how this private plan takes shape. But just conceptually, the notion that all these insurance companies who say they’re giving consumers the best possible deal, if they can’t compete against a public plan as one option, with consumers making the decision what’s the best deal, that defies logic, which is why I think you’ve seen in the polling data overwhelming support for a public plan.

    Indeed, as noted here, 72 percent of those polled favor a public option in the health care bill (with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appearing to waffle a bit on that, though she did come out strongly in favor of the public option on a Fix Noise program, as noted in an Update to the post).

    And Mankiw has been critical previously of compiling information on life expectancy in this country, saying it’s “schlocky” to compare such numbers in the U.S. versus other countries here; Mankiw proposes instead that we compare the number of, say, hip replacements and cancer survivors (yes, that information is important I’ll admit, but specialized surgeries and treatments are just a part of what health care is about – to ignore the “big picture” here reflected in the life expectancy numbers is willful stupidity).

    Besides, the whole issue of “choice” in health care coverage, as far as I’m concerned, is a “red herring”; as more and more employers see that they’ll be better off by paying the tax in lieu of actually providing coverage for their employees, you’ll see them choose to not offer coverage, thus forcing their employees to choose the public plan anyway.

    And again, here is a Think Progress post from former Bush confidant Turd Blossom himself (and once more, I must ask this question) echoing much of what Mankiw wrote in his column yesterday. In the “Truth” statements, we learn (among other things) that, contrary to the talking points, private insurer participation in Medicare Part D has actually increased costs for plan participants instead of reducing them (as claimed by Rove).

    Finally, I leave with the following from Krugman, in response to both Mankiw and Will (the former at least has some degree of economic “cred,” but I’ll never know how anyone could presume that of Will)…

    To act all wide-eyed and innocent about these problems at this late date (concerning the lack of health insurance in this country for so many) is either remarkably ignorant or simply disingenuous.

    Equal parts of both would be my guess.


    More Taxing Punditry From Greg “Gas N’ Go” Mankiw

    January 21, 2009

    horsesassvu0(Note: The title is a nod to this prior post in which the author joined the chorus of those advocating a “gasoline tax” to punish those wasteful drivers; sorry, but I’m not real big on social engineering at someone else’s expense, and I’m certainly not big on that when it comes to my own – make cheaper, more fuel-efficient cars and give employers greater tax incentives to support telecommuting first, to say nothing of increased mass transit funding, OK?).

    The New York Times today published a list of questions that financial industry experts would like to ask Treasury Secretary Designate Timothy Geithner today (Geithner’s confirmation hearing was today, as noted here).

    And one of the Times’ questioners was a certain N. Gregory Mankiw, who posed the following…

    1. The income tax code favors those with employer-provided health insurance over those who buy their own health insurance or pay medical bills out of pocket. It also favors homeowners over renters, through the mortgage interest deduction. Is this tax treatment efficient or fair? Might you favor a more level playing field?

    Yes and No, people – we’re done with this, OK?

    Don’t screw around with my mortgage interest deduction! Also…

    2. President Obama supports the estate tax. Why should a person who leaves his money to his children pay more in taxes than another person with the same lifetime income who spends all his money on himself?

    Ah yes, a common Mankiw theme returns once more, namely, that of taxation versus his “willingness to work,” or, at least, engage in some other honorable venture such as investing wisely (he also harped on that in this post, where he believes his hypothetical earning of a dollar will yield his kids $4.81 under John McCain, had he won in November, but only $1.95 under Barack Obama; I am hardly an econ expert, but as I read through the comments to Mankiw’s post, I’m starting to wonder if he is either).

    And of course, Mankiw is one of the gaggle of pundits who sat on his hands doing nothing while all econ indicators in this country pointed towards disaster, as noted here (actually, on second thought, that’s not correct; they did do something…and that was to ridicule other industry professionals such as Paul Krugman who turned out to be right all along!).


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