Friday, November 30, 2012

Romney Campaign Head Stuart Stevens Explains How Romney Won the 2012 Presidential Election – And Would Be President Today if Mr. Obama Had Not Gotten More Votes

We Are Not Laughing With You Stuart – We Are Laughing At You

It is pretty obvious that the large majority of Americans who follow politics don’t do so because they are interested in good government, although they probably are.  They follow politics for its entertainment value.  And no one has provided more entertain than Romney campaign chief Stuart Stevens, who is going around the media and explaining how Mr. Romney dominated the election, and was superlative in everything, well everything except getting the most votes.  Here is Mr. Stevens in the Washington Post on the election results and the Romney campaign. 

For example on winning the Republican nomination.

Nobody liked Romney except voters. What began in a small field in New Hampshire grew into a national movement. It wasn’t our campaign, it was Romney. He bested the competition in debates, and though he was behind almost every candidate in the GOP primary at one time or the other, he won the nomination and came very close to winning the presidency.

Yeah what a great accomplishment, beating the likes of Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, and the powerhouse Herman Cain.  What a towering achievement, comparable to Alabama’s great football victory this fall over Western Carolina University.

And it turns out Mr. Romney won the middle class voters.

On Nov. 6, Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income. That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters.

Of course that requires defining middle class voters as people who own NFL franchises or NASCAR teams, the people that Mr. Romney pals around with.

And the election was a personal triumph for Mr. Romney

In the debates and in sweeping rallies across the country, Romney captured the imagination of millions of Americans. He spoke for those who felt disconnected from the Obama vision of America. He handled the unequaled pressures of a campaign with a natural grace and good humor that contrasted sharply with the angry bitterness of his critics.

And because of that he now has a future as the spiritual and charismatic leader of the Republican party.  No wait, every Republicans wants Mitt to go away, go really far away.

So there you have it, the Romney campaign, arrogant and condescending to the end.  And a welcome end it is.

Dispute over the Age of the Grand Canyon – 6 Million Years Old or 70 Million Years Old - Is Settled by Creationists

They Know How Old the Grand Canyon Is – And Now They Are Telling

The pages of the New York Times are graced with a story of a dispute among geologists and scientists about the age of the Grand Canyon.  It seems some new dating techniques suggest the Canyon is far older than has been thought by leading science research.  Not only is there a dispute, it appears to have generated hard feelings.

A bitter controversy among geologists over this question edged into the open on Thursday, when a report published in the journal Science offered new support for the old-canyon hypothesis, which is not the prevailing one. 

First of all there is work that says the Grand Canyon is 70 million years old

An analysis of the data, the geologists said, revealed where surface erosion had gouged out canyons and how much time had passed since there was significant natural excavation in the Grand Canyon region. They concluded in the report that the western segment of the canyon was carved to within a few hundred yards of modern depths by about 70 million years ago.

And this contradicts the research that had shown the Canyon was only 5 to 6 million years old.

If the interpretation of the findings proves to be correct, it contradicts the prevailing hypothesis that the entire canyon was formed as recently as five million to six million years ago, advocated by many of the notable authorities on Grand Canyon geology. These dates were drawn from an examination of pebbles and other sediments from upstream reaches of the Colorado River system that washed up at the western exit of the canyon.

But of course both of these arguments are wrong.  The Creationist researchers believe they have positive proof the Grand Canyon is only several of thousand years old,.  Here is what a spokesman for the “Moral People for Science Based on the Eternal Word of Truth” had to say.

The Grand Canyon After Noah's Flood -  Everyone See the Market Noah Left Behind

“The Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s flood.  Prior to the Flood the Colorado River ran straight through Arizona, filled with wondrous creatures like mermaids and mermen and there were unicorns grazing on the banks.  Then there was Noah’s Flood, and the torrent of rain eroded out the Colorado River, crating the Grand Canyon.  The fish/man people and the unicorns did not survive, because Noah’s Ark had made an unscheduled stop in Last Vegas to berate the sinners, and thus were too late to pick up the mermaids, mermen and unicorns. 

But the Ark was the first vessel to transverse the Colorado River rapids through the Canyon, and this created a tourist attraction that is still operating today.  Ultimately the Ark sailed around the southern tip of South America to the Middle East where it washed up on Mount Ararat in what is today an amusement park in Israel.  Remnants of the Ark can still be found in that park, and also in a Creationist theme park in Kentucky, where flying dinosaurs dropped pieces of the Ark in order to mark the spot where the Creationist museum should be.”

The source of this science, said the spokesperson, was the Holy Bible, in an edition published prior to the King James version.  This edition is kept in a closely guarded vault in Branson, Missouri.  That Bible, so it is claimed, has actual photographs of Noah, the Ark, the Buffet on the Ark and the Shuffleboard Court on the top deck as the Ark sailed along the Colorado River.

Gay Republican Woman Fighting for Marriage Equality

And She is Still a Republican – What is She Thinking?

Some stories really need no commentary, their weirdness just speaks for itself.  So without further comment here are the lead paragraphs from NYT story on how gay Republican women are operating inside the party that considers gay men and women to be an abomination on society and who should be sent to jail.

In 1996, Kathryn Lehman was a soon-to-be married lawyer working for Republicans in the House of Representatives. One of her major accomplishments: helping to write the law that bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Today, Ms. Lehman, 53, no longer has a husband, and is no longer straight. And she is a lobbyist for Freedom to Marry, which is devoted to overturning the very law she helped write, the Defense of Marriage Act.

But Ms. Lehman is still a fervent Republican.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

David Frum Has a Great Comment on Contemporary Life of the Rich in China

That Only the Rest of Us Could be This Clever

The excesses of the Chinese ruling oligarchy make me worry about the risks of a communist revolution in that country.

Martha Stewart – She Generates Mixed Feelings, but A Lot of Admiration

A Truly American Phenomenon

It is difficult to come to a conclusion about Martha Stewart.  The greedy and arrogant "I am above the law" behavior that ultimately led to her incarceration in a woman’s prison in West Virginia made many of us think she got what she deserved.  But looking at her today, and at the life that she has  led it is impossible not to be overcome with some admiration, however grudgingly that feeling emerges.

Ms. Steward was the subject of the weekly Financial Times feature, “Lunch With . . .” and what came out of that article is a definitely positive insight into her life.  First of all she had been very successful

Stewart is, after all, the former stockbroker who commoditised domestic arts, turning the pursuit of the perfect home into an empire in 1997 and taking it public in 1999, ending up on the Forbes billionaires list in 2005 (Stewart is still the company’s largest shareholder).

And she did a lot of it on her own initiative.

Stewart (who was born Kostyra) grew up in New Jersey, one of six children, and began her career on Wall Street; she didn’t embark on her adventures in public home-making until the 1970s, when she and her then-husband, publisher Andy Stewart, moved to Connecticut and – having taught herself to cook from Julia Child’sMastering the Art of French Cooking – she opened a catering business. Things soon expanded, as they have a way of doing around Stewart.

And when someone is north of 70 years old and still continue to work as she does, well that says something about her drive.

And she is 71. On the other hand, she does yoga every day, gets up at 5am to write, be it a column or a foreword to one of her many crafting/cooking/entertaining/gardening books (77 at last count) and, when I ask her if she has considered retiring, looks horrified and says, “What would I do? My mother never retired. She was a teacher, and then babysat until she was in her nineties.”

And admirably, whatever her politics are they have been kept out of her public persona, unlike someone like former GE head Jack Welch, who has made a complete fool of himself.  All of this comes after a humiliating stay in prison.

When I ask Stewart about her biggest mistake, thinking it would be to do with legal issues, she says first, “I have made so many,” then announces decisively: “Not having more children.”

Prison, on the other hand, is referred to as “the hole I fell into; luckily it wasn’t a very deep hole” and she claims the experience didn’t teach her much other than “be careful.

So here are at least two cheers for Ms. Stewart, and yes even though The Dismal Political Economist is too cheap, among other reasons, to buy Martha Stewart stuff he is willing to watch her cook every now and then and maybe learn something.

Conservatives Come Completely Unhinged and Want to Elect Mitt Romney President by Boycotting the Electoral College

The Tea Party Lunatic Fringe Just Keeps Entertaining the Rest of Us

Here’s a great idea to defeat President Obama and make Mitt Romney the President of the United States.

The article, by Judson Phillips, a former Shelby County, Tenn., assistant district attorney and founder of Tea Party Nation, posits that if 17 of the 24 states that Romney carried refuse to participate in the Electoral College, the college would have no quorum, throwing the presidential pick to the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

Wow, that’s a great idea, exploit the Constitution so that Mitt Romney and not Barack Obama is inaugurated.  Why would anyone want to do that, well here are the paranoid delusional reasons as put for by Idaho state legislator Sheryl Nuxoll.

She said, “I think it is very, very sad that we elected our current president, because he is definitely not following (the) Constitution. He is depriving us of our freedoms by all the agencies, and so … what I’m thinking is the states are going to have to stand up for our individual rights and for our collective rights.”

What a creative scheme!!  What could be wrong with this idea.

Constitutional scholar David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, said the plan is not “totally constitutional,” as touted in the article, but is instead “a radical, revolutionary proposal that has no basis in federal law or the architecture of the Constitution.” . . . .

The problem with that, Adler said, is that it’s based on a misreading of the 12th Amendment, which notes when no candidate receives a majority in the Electoral College, the decision moves to the House, where each state would have one vote and a quorum of two-thirds of the states would be required. “The two-thirds reference in the 12th Amendment is a reference not to the Electoral College but rather to the establishment of a quorum in the House of Representatives,” he said.

As for Ms. Nuxoll, well certainly the intelligent voters of Idaho, even the Conservatives would not want this idiot serving in government.

Nuxoll won a second Senate term on Nov. 6 with 64 percent of the vote in Idaho’s new legislative District 7, defeating independent Jon Cantamessa.

  Oh, maybe not. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

News to Cheer Everyone Up – Except Republicans

From Taegan Goddard's Wonderful Political Forum

November 26, 2012

Gingrich Not Ruling Out Another Presidential Bid

Newt Gingrich -- traveling the country promoting his latest novel -- told the Naples News that he he has not ruled out running for president in 2016 -- but first the GOP must take on a "very serious analysis" of what went wrong in 2012.

Said Gingrich: "Republicans have to stop and take a deep breath."


In other news Newt Gingrich was seen shopping for a large aircraft hanger to use as storage space for his ego for the winter.

New Book On Eisenhower Praises His Foreign Policy – Omits Biggest Blunder

A Blunder That Impacts U. S. Foreign Policy Today

Evan Thomas is a former Newsweek editor who now teaches at Princeton and writes history.  He has just published another book on Dwight Eisenhower, (not yet read by this author) and President Eisenhower gets a generally favorable review in the New York Times.

Eisenhower and Secretary of State Dulles
Why Couldn't They Have Left Iran Alone?

The big accomplishment of Mr. Eisenhower, he kept the United States out of a major war, despite a number of opportunities for the U. S. to enter a major war.

Evan Thomas’s “Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World” is an examination of Dwight Eisenhower’s record that seeks to understand how he successfully kept the United States out of a major war during the eight years of his presidency. 

President Eisenhower could have involved the U. S. in the Suez crisis in 1956,

Eisenhower’s handling of the Suez crisis in the same year as the Hungarian uprising was an impressive example of this quality. Britain, France and Israel had invaded Egypt with the intention of toppling the dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser after he had seized the Suez Canal, but Eisenhower did not confuse backing allies with reflexive support for their mistakes, especially when thoughtless solidarity could draw the United States and the Soviet Union into open conflict. The crisis over the Suez was successfully resolved in part by Eisenhower’s refusal to provide assistance to America’s friends, which forced them to bear the costs and consequences of their blunder without any hope of being bailed out by Washington. Meanwhile, Eisenhower made sure that the Kremlin knew he strongly opposed any Soviet attempt to exploit the crisis.

And his refusal to help the French in Vietnam is a well documented policy that, temporarily, kept the U. S. from being bogged down in a useless, unwinnable war in Southeast Asia.

But from the review the book apparently spends little time on the colossal error of the Eisenhower administration.  That error was to precipitate the overthrow of the elected government of Iran and install the Shah as a supreme dictator.  History will show that policy was an unmitigated disaster, and even worse, the shelf life of that error is many decades, and maybe even a century or two.  It is because of that policy error that the strident Islamic fundamentalists now control Iran, and it is because of that policy error that the U. S. faces the possibility of a nuclear Iran and the possibility of being involved in another war in the Mideast

Eisenhower was very successful in keeping America out of war during his Presidency.  But after his Presidency the U. S. did engage in the useless war in Southeast Asia, and the legacy of his policy may yet doom America to a war in the Mideast with Iran.  If so, then the Eisenhower legacy will yet be re-written again, and not in a favorable way to DDE. 

What the Heck – Huge Trash Pile from Japan’s Tsunami to Wash Up on U. S. and Canadian Beaches

Just More Japanese Exports to Flood America

There are a number of problems everyone would like to think don’t exist.  One of these is what happens to all that debris that was created by the tsunami last year that was devastating to Japan.  There is a lot of debris, a whole lot.

The March 11 disaster, which killed almost 20,000 people, generated tens of millions of tons of wreckage, most of which remained on land. But it also swept an estimated 5 million tons of debris out to sea, 70 percent of which later sank.

Floating junkyard, straight ahead!
Debris left by the 2011 tsunami is piled up in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, northeastern Japan. Tsunami debris is now washing up on the West Coast of the U.S. (Credit: AP/Itsuo Inouye)

In fact, there is so much that while even only a small percentage is going to make its way across the Pacific, that small percentage is still a huge environmental problem.

The fate of the remaining 1.5 million tons is causing concern in communities from Alaska to California, amid warning that the trickle of debris arriving on US shores could soon turn into a deluge.

Japan’s environment ministry says it expects about 33,000 tons of debris washed away by the tsunami to reach the western coast of North America by next June.

What’s in this mess?  Obviously it is stuff that floats.  And in the world of garbage, stuff that floats is not good stuff.

They include lumber, buoys, plastic barrels, fishing nets and equipment, and Styrofoam. 

As for the cleanup, who gets the bill?  The American taxpayer, really did you have to ask?  And as for stopping it, Republican legislators have gone on record as blaming the impending arrival of trash as a failure of the Obama administration's immigration policies, and that Democrats favor amnesty for illegal garbage.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Los Angeles Teacher’s Union Still Doesn’t Get It

How Can People This Stupid be Teaching Our Kids

The anti public employee union movement is in full swing in the country.  Despite the fact that public employees are dedicated men and women providing vital services, the public has largely turned against them.  Part of the cause of this is greed and exploitation of the issue by Conservatives who proclaim public employees are consuming everyone’s tax dollars and preventing tax cuts.

But another part of the problem, in fact a large part of the problem is the public employee unions themselves, particularly some of the teachers’ unions.  These unions have said to the public in no uncertain terms that they are putting their own well being ahead of the well being of their students.  And no matter how sympathetic and supportive any citizen is of the public teaching profession, no one will tolerate this attitude.

The Los Angeles United School District recently applied for a $30 million Federal grant.  But they did not get it, and here’s why.

Participation by the teachers union was required and United Teachers Los Angeles would not sign on, citing concerns that Race to the Top could commit the school system to long-term spending not covered by the grant. Union leaders in L.A. and elsewhere also were concerned such a grant could commit them to the use of student test scores as part of a teacher’s evaluation.

Now how exactly does this help anyone but the teacher’s union in LA?  And how does it send any message except that the teacher’s union, and by extension public school teachers don't really care about getting more resources for the school district?  And finally, how does it not do anything except engender dislike, distrust and anti-teacher feelings with parents and taxpayers alike?  One wonders if the union ‘high fived’ itself after it defeated an attempt to get a $40 million grant for the school system?

Oh yes, and what about the competition?

Green Dot Public Schools, which operates 18 charter schools, remains in the running for a “Race to the Top” grant, the U.S. Department of Education announced Monday. If successful, Green Dot could receive $30 million over a four-year period. . . .

No union issue arose with Green Dot, whose teachers voted in May, after much debate, to accept student data in teacher evaluations. 

In Wisconsin, a progressive state the citizens voted in an anti-union Governor, and voted to keep him in despite a huge union campaign to recall him.  Are you getting the message teachers union?  If not, here it is,


There, something simple enough even a misguided teacher's union should be able to read.

Republicans: They Don’t Have an Hispanic Problem – They Have a Rick Santorum Problem

And They May Not Be Bright Enough to Realize It

In the aftermath of the election loss many Republican leaders have said that the party must change its stance on things like “self-deporting” Hispanics, or invading the privacy of people’s lives or stridently dismissing anyone who disagrees with their philosophy of tax cuts for the wealthy.  These leaders are not saying this because they believe it, but because they want to adjust their public persona to what will win elections.

But hold on here, the Republican party is not controlled by these leaders, it is controlled by the radical right, the men and women who will vote to nominate the most extreme Conservatives even if those candidates are destined to lose.  And now that extreme right is striking back, with the comforting notion (comforting to them at least) that the Republicans need to be even more extreme to win elections.

Evangelical leaders and conservative activists have a simple message for establishment Republicans about Mitt Romney’s failed presidential bid: We told you so.

After nearly two weeks of listening to GOP officials pledge to assert greater control over the party and its most strident voices in the wake of Romney’s loss, grass-roots activists have begun to fight back, saying that they are not to blame for the party’s losses in November.

Yes, contrary to the evidence right in front of them these people think the problem with the Republicans is that they were too moderate.

“The moderates have had their candidate in 2008 and they had their candidate in 2012. And they got crushed in both elections. Now they tell us we have to keep moderating. If we do that, will we win?” said Bob Vander Plaats, president of the Family Leader. Vander Plaats is an influential Christian conservative who opposed Romney in the Iowa caucuses 10 months ago and opposed Sen. John McCain’s candidacy four years ago.

Remember Rick Santorum, the ‘man on dog’ candidate whose near total focus was to enact legislation that removed the rights of gay and lesbians, well he’s not going to go away.

We do not need to have the "rebranding" vs. "purity" debate. That false choice is not what this is about. It's about the fact that a vast majority of Americans want a better life for themselves and their families. 

And what about the new Hispanic leaders in the party like Texas Senator-elect Ted Cruz, as far right a person as anyone in the Party.

Cruz falls squarely in the camp that thinks Romney was not conservative enough and did not fully articulate a conservative contrast to President Obama, except during the first presidential debate.

“It was the one time we actually contested ideas, presented two viewpoints and directions for the country,” he said at the Federalist Society’s annual dinner in Washington. “And then, inevitably, there are these mandarins of politics, who give the voice: ‘Don’t show any contrasts. Don’t rock the boat.’ So by the third debate, I’m pretty certain Mitt Romney actually French-kissed Barack Obama.”

Yep, Texas and America is going to find out that people like Mr. Cruz are what they say they are.  And in that nobody wins. 

Did Creative Destruction Destroy Hostess?

And If So is That Good or Bad?

One of the less appealing features of the Romney campaign, a campaign that had a large number of less appealing features was the argument that Mr. Romney’s buyout firm was involved in the ‘Creative Destruction’ of some companies.  The argument was that this was a good thing, which it was for Mr. Romney’s company, not so much for the other investors, creditors and workers of those companies.

Creative Destruction is the term that refers to the process of a business or industry disappearing because its products and services are no longer desired by the market place.  Polaroid and Kodak are examples in the imaging business, as the need for both instant cameras and film created images was obliterated by the development of low cost digital imaging equipment.

The blame for what appears to be the demise of Hostess Foods, makers of Twinkies and Ding Dongs is being placed by many commentators on the refusal of the company’s unions to accept massive cuts in wages and benefits.  Other observers say the company’s management is to blame.  But one commentator, the New Yorker’s James Surowiecki calls attention to the fact that the company’s products had outlived their useful, marketable lives.

The company has been steadily losing money, and market share, for years. And its core problem has not been excessively high compensation costs or pension contributions. Its core problem has been that the market for its products changed, but it did not. Twinkies and Ding Dongs obviously aren’t anyone’s idea of the perfect twenty-first-century snack food. More important, the theoretical flagship of Hostess’s product line, Wonder Bread, has gone from being a key part of the archetypical American diet to a tired also-ran.

Because the brand name still has appeal the expectation is that Hostess products will continue to fill the supermarket and convenience store shelves, as investors purchase the rights to the brands from the corpse of the parent company.  But the lesson here really is to management, and it is this.

                        Change with the Times or Die

because Wonder Bread is no longer the loaf of choice.

Monday, November 26, 2012

More on Sen. Marco Rubio (R, Fl) and His Stupid Comments on the Age of the Earth

Some Gifts Just Keep on Giving

Since the news continues to be slow we can re-visit the comments that Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio made with respect to the age of the Earth.  Sen. Rubio, inaugurating the 2012-13 Pandering Season for Republicans opined that the age of the Earth was a big mystery, no one knows how old it is or if it were made in 7 days about 7,000 years ago.

Even the bland newspaper USA Today takes on Sen. Rubio with a barely concealed degree of smirking.

The fun kicked off when GQ Magazine quoted political hot property Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., saying in an interview that our planet's age was "one of the great mysteries." Acknowledging the many believers in the biblical account of creation, Rubio said, "Whether the Earth was created in seven days, or seven actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that."

Uh, Sen. Rubio even the reporters at USA Today know the real score.

Lost amid the political back-and-forth is the answer to the question of how we know the age of our planet. And that is a shame, because the scientist who figured it out, Patterson, also provided the planet more than just its birth date. He saved many of us alive today from the scourge of lead poisoning.

So how old is the Earth?

Clair Patterson
Caltech geochemist Clair C. Patterson.(Photo: Caltech archives

So, by reporting the ratio of lead types found in these pristine meteorites and comparing them to lead ratios found in the other rocks on the Earth and other meteorites, Patterson could calculate the age of the solar system, when the Earth formed, to be 4.55 billion years old, give or take 70 million years. "Except for a few minor disagreements, this paper is probably a concrete expression of the attitudes of most investigators in the field," Patterson noted in the study.

The estimate, now refined and narrowed by other investigations, has stood for five decades, Eiler says, "and has only gotten more solid over time."

Of course, Sen. Rubio could have found out the age of the Earth by just attending its next birthday party, and counting the candles on the cake.

And no one should think this display of science stupidity will harm Mr. Rubio should he choose to run for the Republican Presidential nomination.  A majority of Republican primary voters think stupidity and ignorance is a good thing in a candidate.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Federal Takeover of Health Care

The Funny Thing – It Didn’t Happen

The fun part of watching Conservatives pontificate, assuming there is a fun part, is watching them assert things that are just not factually correct.  For example to listen to Conservatives the Obama health care law was a complete and total Federal control of health care and health care decision, where un-named Federal bureaucrats would decide life and death.

The reality of course is that none of this is true, and it turns out the Obama administration is allowing the states a huge amount of flexibility in designing their health care systems under the new law.

The Obama administration Tuesday issued new rules to implement several key provisions of the health-care-overhaul law, giving states some additional discretion over plans sold within their borders.

The long-awaited rules underscore that the millions of customers who get new insurance through the law will see their plans vary from state to state.

Wow, that can’t be right, that sounds like something Conservatives would support and we know they don’t support any health care reform that doesn’t take money from households and give it to insurance companies or take health care funding that is provided by government and shift it to households.  But it is right.  For example, there is this.

. . . the administration said it would let states choose whether to ban insurers from taking into account consumers' tobacco use when setting prices for their policies.

And also there is this.

The federal government also expanded requirements for prescription-drug coverage from previous proposals, but it left states with different options to choose from, as well as responsibility for enforcement.

And in another provision sure to anger Conservatives the Administration made even more concessions to the states.

The new requirements also are likely to leave up to states questions such as the breadth of habilitative services for people with disabilities that insurers must cover, and whether family plans sold on the exchanges should be required to cover relatives such as grandchildren or stepchildren who may be living in a household.

And why would Conservatives be angered by all of this?  Because it nicely refutes their positions on health care reform.  But there is good news for Conservatives, like every other issue they don’t have to have reality based positions, they can keep on peddling their un-truths because, well because that’s what they do.

Why American Keynesians Are Right and the Rest of the World is Wrong

Only the United States Has an Economy Higher Than it Was Five Years Ago

Paul Krugman of the New York Times points us to a brief commentary in The Economist which illustrates economic progress or lack thereof since the fourth quarter of 2007.

WE ARE now in the middle of the fourth quarter of 2012. That means that it has been five full years since the American economy first tipped into recession amid a gathering financial storm. How have we done since that time?

Okay, that is an easy question to answer, since economic data unlike politics cannot be spun.  Numbers can not be denied.

 Five years later, only America has surpassed its pre-recession output. For now, it appears to be on a steady, if disappointing, growth trajectory. Japan had the worst recession of the bunch but rebounded quickly. It has since struggled amid seismic disasters and various China troubles. Britain and the euro area have until recently followed very similar trajectories, but British output turned up nicely in the third quarter while the euro area officially re-entered recession.

The data of course confirms what Mr. Krugman and others have been saying, that a recession that combines a financial institutions breakdown, a bursting of an asset bubble and a traditional collapse of aggregate demand will take a long time to recover from.

It also confirms that just believing that austerity will bring economic growth is not sufficient to bring economic growth.  Economic growth results from traditional Keynesian economic policies, in short the type enacted by the Obama administration.

This is not to say that the Obama economic policy gets anything better than a C+.  It was insufficient and poorly designed. But what the above chart does say is that maybe given the political constraints and lack of economic knowledge on the part of the President and others this was the best that could have been done.  It is certainly better than what would have taken place under Republicans, whose policy prescriptions were much closer to those put in place in Europe and whose results would then have been very close to the ones in Europe.

America has dodged an economic bullet by electing Mr. Obama and by re-electing him.  But Republicans want to try to fire the austerity gun again, and this time if they get the shot off it may go right through the heart of the recovery. Everyone will be wounded unless the President takes the firm stand he should have taken last time around. (Note the shooting metaphor as a tribute to the opening in these parts of deer murdering season.)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

House Speaker John Boehner (R, Oh) Risks Looking Like a Fool – Wants to Repeal Health Care Reform

Does He Not Want to be Taken Seriously?  (Ok, He Hasn't Before This, So Why Now?)

For a couple of years now the House of Representatives has regularly voted to repeal the Obama health care reform law.  The repeal always passes, after which the bill dies in the Senate.  Repeal was made a center piece of the Republican election campaign, which the Republicans decisively lost.  The Supreme Court ruled on the Constitutionality of the law, and found almost all of it passed muster.  It is now the law of the land.

So it is somewhat surprising, and largely inexplicable that Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives asserts that the law must be repealed.

The tactics of our repeal efforts will have to change. But the strategic imperative remains the same. If we’re serious about getting our economy moving again, solving our debt and restoring prosperity for American families, we need to repeal Obamacare and enact common-sense, step-by-step reforms that start with lowering the cost of health care.

Gosh Mr. Speaker, that is almost word for word the mantra of the Romney campaign, you know, the one that just lost by a massive amount of electoral votes including your own state of Ohio.

And speaking of Ohio, here is what the Speaker had to say about his home state and the law.

One state that has acted clearly and decisively with respect to Obamacare is our own state of Ohio. Gov. John Kasich announced Friday that Ohio will not implement one of the government-run exchanges mandated under the president’s health care law, and will preserve our state’s ability to regulate health insurance on its own.

I’m proud of our governor and lieutenant governor for taking this stand and resisting the federal takeover of health care in Ohio. Repeal of the president’s health care law is critically important to the economic future of our country.

Well that’s just fine John, but apparently you didn’t read or understand the bill, which states that if the states do not set up the health care exchanges the Federal government will do it for them.  And again, look at the vote in Ohio, doesn’t that tell you something.

So the Speaker will continue to insist that 2 + 2 = 5, that night is day, that the Bills won four straight Super Bowls, that Cincinnati borders the Gulf of Mexico and that the Obama health care reform act will be repealed.  But isn’t a requirement for being Speaker of the House of Representatives is that the occupant of that office must be a legal resident of the state of Reality?

Just kidding John, just like  you were with this April Fool’s inspired piece.

Britain’s Austerity Programs to Reduce the Budget Deficit Are Not Working – Surprised Anyone?

No Conservatives in Britain, No One is Surprised

The economic policy of the Conservative dominated British government is built around the goal of reducing the budget deficit in order to stimulate growth by a visit of what Paul Krugman calls the “confidence fairy’.  The confidence fairy is what bestows economic prosperity on countries that cut spending and raise taxes in an attempt to stimulate economic growth.  The confidence fairy is just as real as the tooth fairy.

The latest news out of Britain is that revenues are down and the budget deficit is up.

The bad October figures put borrowing £5bn higher in the seven months of the 2012-13 financial year to date compared with last year.

All is not bad in Britain, as consumer spending has kept employment at relatively stable levels, and despite words to the contrary the government has not really cut spending very much.  But lack of a complete disaster is only because of the natural economic recovery that takes place, and in Britain’s case public pressure has prevented government spending from declining as much as Conservatives wanted it to. 

As for the future of that policy,

While the rapid spending growth in October compared with the previous year might reflect a different pattern of timing of payments due to the government introducing a new system of budgeting for expenditure, the shortfall in important tax revenues is likely to be another blow to the chancellor’s preparations for the December 5 statement.

He is likely to have to admit that it will take take three years’ more austerity than originally planned to bring public borrowing under control and that his fixed rule to see public sector net debt falling as a share of national income by 2015-16 will be broken.

So here’s a surefire prediction, the Conservatives will in Britain declare their programs a complete success.  Which it is as long as facts and figures are ignored.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Random Comments on the Economics and Politics of the Day

Filling in the News Vacuum

As the holiday weekend slowly crawls to an end, there are no real major stories to comment on.  So here are the snarky comments on the minor stories of the day.

The Republicans just will not let the election go.  They want to make political points on the tragedy in Libya.  There is no political story here, there was nothing to cover up and most Americans want to move on.  Republicans hear only the base.  They need to stop that.

And speaking of Republicans, a number of prominent members of that clan have said they need to stop saying stupid things.  But Republicans are not getting the message, and it may be that they are not capable of not saying stupid things, like questioning how old the Earth is.  The problem here, stupid people are the ones who generally say stupid things.  Really Republicans, think about it.

President Obama has the chance to repeat the second term of the Clinton administration.  If the economy recovers, the deficit declines and employment is up the President may be able to avoid the 6 year losses that incumbent parties tend to suffer. 

College football is much more entertaining than pro football, just as college basketball is much more entertaining than pro basketball.  The cost of this entertainment to the higher education process though is getting to be unacceptable.

A top Romney advisor, Dan Senor has severely criticized Republicans who have turned against Mitt Romney.  In a “Profiles in Cowardice” moment Mr. Senor has refused to identify who he is talking about.

A lot of people think the billionaires who supported the Republicans in the last election suffered by spending tens of millions of their own money.  They didn’t, this was pocket change to them.

The world should breathe a small, very small sigh of relief over the restraint showed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Gaza conflict.  Mr. Netanyahu is very hawkish, but in this case was also very realistic.  He may be a better leader than he sounds like, but then he would almost have to be wouldn’t he?

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did himself a world of good for his re-election chances by his response to the President and the hurricane.  His national ambitions now rest of a huge re-election margin and his hopes that the Republicans have a short memory.  The first of these is probably in the bag, the second, we don’t think so.

Two big political issues that loom for the 2014 Senate elections.  Will Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss ( R) get a primary challenge and lose, and will South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham(R)  get a primary challenge and lose.  The betting here, yes and yes.

There is not just one fiscal cliff looming, there are two.  The first is the expiration of all of the tax cuts and the automatic reduction in military and social program spending.  Everyone is aware of this.  The second is that the debt ceiling needs to be raised.  The President caved pretty badly last time these two issues were on the table.  The most fascinating story of the next six month will be to see what Mr. Obama does this time.

Real Clear Politics has a piece about how Mitt Romney lost the race between no one other than very rich people believed he cared about them.  If so, then Mr. Romney never had a chance, because in reality he doesn’t care and he was not a good enough of a politician to convince people that he did care.  But the millionaires that thought he did care about them should not have thought that.  The election campaign made clear that Mitt Romney cares only about Mitt Romney.

Virginia’s Democratic Senator Mark Warner has decided not to run for Governor of the state and to stay in the Senate.  This probably means he won’t be running for President in 2016.  He is one of the leading candidates to be the VP nominee on a Hilary Clinton ticket if that happens.

John Podhoretz is one of the more irrational Conservative commentators, and that assessment is confirmed in this essay where he tries to spin Mr. Obama’s huge win into a huge loss.  We guess than helps him sleep at night.  But he does get the award for the best punchline on the Romney nomination, how Mr. Romney beat the likes of Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and the like.

As someone said, Romney got the job because he was the only one who came to the job interview in a suit.

A good way to end this, because even The Dismal Political Economist cannot come up with a better quip than that.

Friday, November 23, 2012

This Just In – Movie Whose Plot is North Korea Invading Spokane, Washington is Not an Onion Article – It is a Real Movie

No, We Didn’t Believe It At First Either

In the ‘life is stranger than fiction is stranger than life’ category this Forum brings news that yes, a movie called “Red Dawn” that depicts the attack by North Korea on Spokane, Washington is a genuine movie, down to its review in the New York Times.

The ideal viewer for “Red Dawn,” a slicked-up redo of the 1984 John Milius war flick about a Soviet invasion (with Cuban and Nicaraguan support) of the United States, has to be Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea. That’s because by changing the attackers to North Koreans, the filmmakers have paid him a great compliment by making his country a Hollywood villain. Thinking adults will find a North Korean invasion the stuff of wing-nut fantasies, which — with kids who just want to see guys shoot stuff up — is probably what the distributor is banking on. Everyone else interested may want to go with the campy flow, like a colleague who snorted of the invaders, “What, did they paddle over in canoes?”

Unanswered, at least as far as the review is concerned (all The Dismal Political Economist will do with respect to this movie is read the NYT review) is why Spokane.  The Dismal Political Economist has never been to Spokane, but knows of its existence and despite voluminous research he can think of absolutely no reason why North Korea or any other foreign enemy would want to attack this city.  It seems like a nice place and there is certainly no reason why that city should be picked on by slick Hollywood film makers.  

In fact, one can easily imagine an American populace tired of world conflict by non-entities like North Korea saying, “Hey, stay in Spokane, open up some great restaurants and other businesses and give up all of your other provocations on the world stage and we got a deal”.   Yep, sounds like a win-win for everyone.

Joe Scarborough, A Sometimes Nice Man, Apologizes to Nate Silver

Conservatives Need to use Joe as a Role Model

An overnight sensation, after more than 5 years, the quantitative political analyst Nate Silver is receiving huge attention these days.  Mr. Silver and his mathematical models consistently forecasted to a high degree of certainty the re-election of Barack Obama.  This followed his success, much less noticed, in the 2010 and 2008 elections.

Conservatives were furious with Mr. Silver because they thought (1) he was cooking the books and (2) he was doing so in order to promote the re-election of Mr. Obama.  Both of these points were not only wrong, but very stupid.  Exactly why a person whose whole persona and career were based on objective mathematical models would fudge the numbers is unanswerable.  And why anyone would think that an obscure (to the vast majority of the electorate) math genius would have any affect on the election outcome is also beyond a reasonable answer.

Joe Scarborough was one of the conservatives who questioned Mr. Silver, and now he has had the basic human decency to admit he was wrong.  And he does so in a nice gentle, even slightly humorous way that reflects positively on not only Mr. Silver but on Mr. Scarborough as well.

I won’t apologize to Mr. Silver for predicting an outcome that I had also been predicting for a year. But I do need to tell Nate I’m sorry for leaning in too hard and lumping him with pollsters whose methodology is as rigorous as the Simpsons’ strip mall physician, Dr. Nick. For those sins (and a multitude of others that I’m sure I don’t even know about), I am sorry.

Politics is a messy sport. And just as ball players who drink beer and eat fried chicken in dugouts across America can screw up the smartest sabermatrician’s forecast, Nate Silver’s formula is sure to let his fervent admirers down from time to time. But judging from what I saw of him this morning, Nate is a grounded guy who admits as much in his book. I was too tough on him and there’s a 84.398264% chance I will be less dismissive of his good work in the future.

There, that’s nice, a word that is almost never used with ideologues of any persuasion.  Yep, nice going Joe.   And everyone should continue to watch Joe and Mika, not because of what they say or because of the positions they take, but because they actually allow all sorts of views on their program, and provide a forum for people with whom they disagree.  A totally Un-Conservative position.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Conservatives Story of Thanksgiving

The Pilgrims Fled Oppressive Health Care Coverage in England to Come to America

One of the great things about Thanksgiving is that it is a secular holiday, bereft of sectarian characteristics.  It celebrates the bounty of American life. 

But one can imagine that Conservatives do not like that, they want everything to be about politics and government and taxes.  So here is how this Forum imagines Conservatives would tell the story of the first Thanksgiving.

In England there lived a group of people who longed for the freedom to impose their will and their values on everyone else.  They felt that their religion required low taxes and a battle against any government support for people less fortunate than they were.  They argued that if people were poor or sick or illiterate or ill or unable to care for themselves without help this was their own fault and that to tax people who had the good fortune to inherit wealth to support those people was morally wrong.

These people wandered from country to country looking for sympathetic views and for a government that would impose their views on the rest of the population.  Lacking any support they sailed for America, where they could set up their own society and force any new residents to adhere to their views.  On the way over they wrote a Mayflower Compact which set out their political philosophy.  Some of the highlights were these.

            Only adult males could vote.

Any adult male trying to vote who was not a Pilgrim had to show three forms of photo ID.

Those who did manual labor would pay all the taxes.

Everyone was free to worship how they wanted to, as long as they worshiped in the church of the Pilgrims.

Harvard College would be founded and open to everyone except Jews, Blacks, Indians, Muslims, Women or foreigners.

After reaching the new world, the Pilgrims learned that while Indians inhabited much of where they wanted to live, the Indians did not have registered deeds to the property and so the Pilgrims were free to take whatever land they wanted.  The did allow the Indians to keep some property, but without the mineral rights.

After a year of near failure and near starvation, the Indians saved the Pilgrims by giving them food and support.  In return the Pilgrims hosted a great dinner of Thanksgiving, and allowed some of the Indiana to be servers, thinking that this career training as waiters would serve the population in the future where jobs like that would be the only career path for the indigenous people. 

In a final gesture to native American culture the Pilgrims advocated the nicknames of sporting teams to be derogatory terms for native Americans, believing that this more than anything else would allow the natives to assimilate into the right culture.