Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Refuse to Be Afraid

Q:  "What should people be thinking about in the aftermath of an attack like this?"

A: "They should refuse to be terrorized. Terrorism is a crime against the mind. What happened in Boston, horrific as it is, is theater to make you scared. That’s the point. The message of terrorist attacks is you’re not safe, and the government can’t protect you — that the existing power structure can’t protect you.

I tell people if it’s in the news, don’t worry about it. By definition, news is something that almost never happens. The brain fools you into thinking the news is what’s important. Our brains overreact to this stuff. Terrorism just pegs the fear button. . .

This is a singular event, and not something that should drive policy. Unfortunately, you can’t prevent this sort of thing 100 percent. Luckily, terrorism is a lot harder than people think, and it happens rarely. The question people asked after 9/11 is what if we had three of these a year in the United States? Turns out there were none. People get their ideas on terrorism from movies and television. . .

The damage from terrorism is primarily emotional. To the extent this terrorist attack succeeds has very little do with the attack itself. It’s all about our reaction. We must refuse to be terrorized. Imagine if the bombs were found and moved at the last second, and no one died, but everyone was just as scared. The terrorists would have succeeded anyway. If you are scared, they win. If you refuse to be scared, they lose, no matter how much carnage they commit."

Read the Washington Post, 'If you are scared, they win. If you refuse to be scared, they lose.'

Friday, April 12, 2013

Finally, Calling the Republi-CON Bluff and Breaking the Republi-CON Fever

UPDATE IV:  "It’s time to entertain the possibility that President Obama is a right-wing extremist. After all, look at where he’s taking the country over his second term. . .

His budget should put to rest those crazy claims that he is some sort of Norwegian socialist."

Read The New York Times, Bold on Both Ends.

UPDATE III:  The Republi-cons are lying again, but what's new.  Read The Atlantic, Reality Check: Obama Cuts Social Security and Medicare by Much More Than the GOP

UPDATE II:  "If the White House’s political goal in calling for Social Security cuts in its budget was to reveal the GOP as the intransigent, uncompromising party in Washington, it’s having the desired effect."

Read the Washington Post, GOP leaders: By all means, cut Social Security, but don’t tax the rich

UPDATE:  "Over these last few months, the White House has been engaged in a systematic effort to call the GOP’s various bluffs. . .

This budget sets up that debate. Republicans are, at this point, out of excuses. They can’t say the president isn’t reaching out to them. They can’t say he’s not willing to make painful concessions — or, to rephrase, they can say that, but given all the on-the-record quotes of Republican leaders demanding the White House accept means-testing Medicare and chained-CPI, no one will take them seriously. The White House is calling their bluff. The question is whether, as the pressure mounts, they double down against compromise, or they begin to fold."

Read the Washington Post, Obama’s budget calls the GOP’s bluffs

For years I've suggested calling the Republi-con bluff.  And that may be the focus of Obama's second term.

"The president's hard line on the Bush tax cuts represents the first major test case for his theory that the GOP 'fever' can be broken in his second term." Read The Atlantic, Obama Won't Play That Way, Fiscal Cliff Edition, which notes of Obama:  "Goodbye, conciliator. Hello, Mr. Tough Love."

And you might remember, almost a year ago I discussed 'the GOP's dual trigger nightmare' (now commonly called the 'fiscal cliff') and asked: Did Obama Con the Republi-CONs?   So it appears that Obama has been planning this little show down for some time.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Republi-CON 'Obama Phone' Myth

A "28-year-old federal program known as Lifeline . . . was begun not by President Obama but under Ronald Reagan. It expanded to include cellphone service during the presidency of another Republican, George W. Bush."

Read the Washington Post, 'Obama phones' subsidy program draws new scrutiny on the Hill

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Great Keynesian Experiment

Will it result in industrial growth on the back of a weaker currency, an improving economy and deficit picture, and "a goldilocks economy of prices rising about 2 percent a year and debt to GDP levels coming down", or the mother of all sovereign debt crises?

Read the Washington Post, Why Japan is the most interesting story in global economics right now

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Watch What You Wish For, You Might Lose Your Job, The Sequester Edition

UPDATE IV:  The March jobs reports shouldn't surprise anyone, it's Republi-con déjà vu, 1930s edition, all over again.  Read The New York Times, The Urge to Purge, which begins:

When the Great Depression struck, many influential people argued that the government shouldn’t even try to limit the damage. According to Herbert Hoover, Andrew Mellon, his Treasury secretary, urged him to 'Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers. ... It will purge the rottenness out of the system.' Don’t try to hasten recovery, warned the famous economist Joseph Schumpeter, because “artificial stimulus leaves part of the work of depressions undone.”

Like many economists, I used to quote these past luminaries with a certain smugness. After all, modern macroeconomics had shown how wrong they were, and we wouldn’t repeat the mistakes of the 1930s, would we?

How naïve we were. It turns out that the urge to purge — the urge to see depression as a necessary and somehow even desirable punishment for past sins, while inveighing against any attempt to mitigate suffering — is as strong as ever. Indeed, Mellonism is everywhere these days. Turn on CNBC or read an op-ed page, and the odds are that you won’t see someone arguing that the federal government and the Federal Reserve are doing too little to fight mass unemployment. Instead, you’re much more likely to encounter an alleged expert ranting about the evils of budget deficits and money creation, and denouncing Keynesian economics as the root of all evil.

Now, the fact is that these ranters have been wrong about everything, at every stage of the crisis, while the Keynesians have been mostly right. Remember how federal deficits were supposed to cause soaring interest rates? Never mind: After four years of such warnings, rates remain near historic lows — just as Keynesians predicted. Remember how running the printing presses was going to cause runaway inflation? Since the recession began, the Fed has more than tripled the size of its balance sheet, but inflation has averaged less than 2 percent.

But the Mellonites just keep coming . . . [demanding] liquidationism, with a strong goldbug streak. . .

But that prescription is, of course, anathema to Mellonites, who wrongly see it as more of the same policies that got us into this trap. And that, in turn, tells you why liquidationism is such a destructive doctrine: by turning our problems into a morality play of sin and retribution, it helps condemn us to a deeper and longer slump.

The bad news is that sin sells. Although the Mellonites have, as I said, been wrong about everything, the notion of macroeconomics as morality play has a visceral appeal that’s hard to fight. Disguise it with a bit of political cross-dressing, and even liberals can fall for it.

But they shouldn’t. Mellon was dead wrong in the 1930s, and his avatars are dead wrong today. Unemployment, not excessive money printing, is what ails us now — and policy should be doing more, not less. "

If ya forgot, Hoover was a Republican.  

UPDATE III:  The March jobs report was "is a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad jobs report." Read the Washington Post, Today’s jobs report is a disaster. But why?

As first predicted two months ago, 'sequester will sock a vulnerable economy.'

Too late for the election, but all part of the Republi-con effort to tank the economy

UPDATE II:  "Partisan gridlock is the law of the land for the foreseeable future. . .

In short, if you think this is as bad as things can get, just wait awhile."

Read the Washington Post, After the sequestration stalemate, things will only get worse.

UPDATE: "It may be hard to believe, given the intense partisan strafing already ignited by the automatic government spending cuts that begin on Friday, but this year’s budget wars have yet to get fully under way.

In the next month, Democrats and Republicans, so at odds with one another that they are not even negotiating to avert the across-the-board cuts set to kick in at the end of the week, will have to find a way to agree on spending levels for the remainder of this year. If they fail, they could risk a government shutdown starting March 27, when the current authorization for spending runs out."

Read The New York Times, Fight Over Spending Cuts a Prelude to Budget Battles Ahead.

As I said at first back in October 2010, there is an old proverb, author unknown: "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it."

"The federal government, the nation’s largest consumer and investor, is cutting back at a pace exceeded in the last half-century only by the military demobilizations after the Vietnam War and the cold war.

And the turn toward austerity is set to accelerate on Friday if the mandatory federal spending cuts known as sequestration start to take effect as scheduled. Those cuts would join an earlier round of deficit reduction measures passed in 2011 and the wind-down of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that already have reduced the federal government’s contribution to the nation’s gross domestic product by almost 7 percent in the last two years."

Read The New York Times, Austerity Kills Government Jobs as Cuts to Budgets Loom.

Also read the Washington Post, Sequester will sock a vulnerable economy.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Health Care (Industry) Scare Talk

UPDATE V:  "Turns out it was just the tip of the iceberg."  Read the Washington Post, Readers respond to the $1,206 toenail clipping for more about our fee-for-service health care industrial complex.

UPDATE IV:  The following article, first posted about four years ago, reminded me of the editorial cartoon below about the relationship between the Republi-con party and the health care industry.   Read the Washington Post, The case of the $1,206 toenail clipping.

You might also remember the $1,500 stitches.


UPDATE II: How will health care be reformed? For one possibility of what will be accomplished, and how, read The New York Times, You Be Obama.

The article is a good primer on how the "skinny guy with big ears" 'gits r done.'

Also, another interesting point of view from The New York Times, Keeping Them Honest, which argues that health reform will fail without serious cost control, which will require a fundamental change in the way the insurance industry behaves.

And for more on SGWBE, read The New York Times, The Chicago View, which describes Obama's idealistic facade on a realist structure perplexity.

UPDATE: Read The New York Times, Following the Money in the Health Care Debate, and enjoy this editorial cartoon:

Talk again of reforming health care. If you want to continue to spend more and get less than you should, then don't read this informative article describing how one woman’s medical experience in Canada can teach the United States about health care reform at The New York Times, This Time, We Won’t Scare.

If this example is true and typical, then something really is wrong with the American health care industry that puts obscene profit ahead of care.

It is also interesting to note that the Canadian financial industry didn't collapse like it did in the U.S. and Britain. "Canada [is] — a mostly English-speaking country, every bit as much in the American cultural orbit as Britain, but one where Reagan/Thatcher-type financial deregulation never took hold. Sure enough, Canadian banks have been a pillar of stability in the crisis."

Maybe I'll move to Canada, at least it will be temperate as the American energy industry fights sensible environmental regulation.

Can you guess the common theme -- industry doesn't really care about you, only profit. So why have sooooooo many people fallen for the Republi-con-health care industry BS hook, line and sinker? Go figure.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Embracing Your Obligations

"I don’t think we’ve paused sufficiently to celebrate the wonderful recent defeat for the cause of personal freedom. After all, these sorts of defeats don’t happen every day. . .

But last week saw a setback for the forces of maximum freedom. A representative of millions of gays and lesbians went to the Supreme Court and asked the court to help put limits on their own freedom of choice. They asked for marriage.

Marriage is one of those institutions — along with religion and military service — that restricts freedom. Marriage is about making a commitment that binds you for decades to come. It narrows your options on how you will spend your time, money and attention.

Whether they understood it or not, the gays and lesbians represented at the court committed themselves to a certain agenda. They committed themselves to an institution that involves surrendering autonomy. They committed themselves to the idea that these self-restrictions should be reinforced by the state. They committed themselves to the idea that lifestyle choices are not just private affairs but work better when they are embedded in law. . .

[I]f it wins, same-sex marriage will be a victory for the good life, which is about living in a society that induces you to narrow your choices and embrace your obligations."

Read The New York Times, Freedom Loses One.