Monday, June 18, 2012
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 4:41 PM
Sunday, May 27, 2012
There is an old saying they use to have in Soviet Russia. "They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work." This bears some thinking. Capitalism works when there is autonomy leading to motivation and resulting in accountability. And in today's market, dominated by corporate entities, the common clerk or local manager has little autonomy and thus, even less motivation to make a decision. Accountability in today's market is a depersonalized annual appraisal. Office Space, the movie, shows a new kind of Marxism in action. As a moderate Democrat, I can definitely understand why some Republicans get their dander up about over-regulation in some areas. Part of our employment problem, I think, is less about money and more about the pure hassle of getting a good employee to begin with and then getting rid of bad ones. And it is all tied into this question of autonomy and accountability, which has much larger ramifications for society and economy.
Marx was quite clear about the alienation that can come from mass production. Well, we are seeing the results in spades- in the service industry. In my case, I see it most immediately in my daily interactions which usually involve retailers. But I see it my office as well. We see this lack of accountability since 2008, in banks, insurance dealers, and the like. I am afraid capitalism and communism have become in essence the same thing by another means. I am sure this will spark some long-missing, lively blog discussion. But let us consider: What is the difference between a government centralizing production and prices and corporate entities that even if they don't totally control prices or production, are so big, they no longer respond to customers (i.e citizens) and who have monopolistic tendencies?
Here are some examples from my daily life-
1) I discovered last week that someone had paid off the $38K balance I still owe on my student loan. After a hear-racing moment, I called the USDE only to discover, like many others before me, that the USDE no longer administers my loan. It has now contracted out the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MHELA)- a non-profit created specifically to get this kind of deal. This happened with no prior notice to me. Had I not chanced to log into my USDE account, I would not have known that the payment address and account number had totally changed. Good to know ahead of time, don't you think? "Doesn't my government owe me the courtesy of an explanation letter BEFORE they screw with the account", I ask the customer service rep. "Never mind," I say. It's not your fault."
2) Michaels: I was sent two coupons by Michaels, a chain craft store. One was for 50% off a regular priced item May 25-27th. The second was 20% off the entire purchase, but only good on Monday. So I took the 50% off coupon and selected my full price item. At the counter, I learn that the item is actually on sale (it wasn't marked as such on the shelf) so I can't use the coupon. The coupon would be a better deal than the sale price. "Can you take the 20% off today and I'll surrender the coupon?" "Nope. Come back tomorrow." "Forget it," I reply. They lost a $35 sale and the local and state government lost the tax revenue from the purchase. I won't be going back. No point telling the clerk off. It's not her fault. The store belongs to some distant entity, she pretends to work, and they pretend to pay her. I am sure she gets little better than minimum wage.
3) Staples: I am a photographer. I use a lot of ink. Staples use to give you $3 credit on recycled ink cartridges. You would take recycled cartridges in, buy new ink, and get an immediate price cut. No more I recently discovered. Now you have to go online, sign in, print a certificate (ironic considering you are now using the very ink you are trying to conserve, or you may not be able to print if you are out of ink) and bring it to the store when you want to buy your ink. I complain to the clerk, "So what used to be possible in one trip now takes 2 trips,and you are going to make me jump through hoops? That's not service. But I know, It's not your fault." She agreed it was dumb, and that it wasn't her fault. But it ensures that fewer people take advantage of the program. It is made to look like the company is giving you a deal, hoping that you won't actually take them up on it. It's like rebates that get advertised as sales
Get the theme? No one is a fault. We have a specal deal on boots today. Get in line. Yes, all of them are red and all them are size 12! But they are on special today! What does it remind you of?
Now let's look at how we shut a majority of people out of the system entirely- reverse discrimination. In an attempt to play by the numerous hiring rules, to avoid litigation, and to be sensitive to the less fortunate in society, we have succeeded in making hiring a nightmare for everyone. Since the very fact that I select means that I discriminate, then we prevent me from really selecting, but then try to hold me responsible for the outcome.
1)In my office, I want to hire someone to do a job. But I can't just hire someone who is qualified. This person must log on to a special website. Spend 60 minutes posting their information (we used to call it a "resume") and then wait for a confirmation number. This process has been streamlined substantially by the Obama Administration by the way. It used to take several hours. Then some computer system will filter all the candidates who applied for the job. I will get a list of people ranked based on their points. Points are given for veterans and current competitive service employees, disabilities, and god knows what else. After that, an only after that, do your qualifications count. Then we are told that we don't hire enough people with disabilities. And that while we don't have quotas, we have a goal of having 20% disabled on the staff. But we aren't allowed, I point out to ask on a form if someone is disabled. Yes, we are told, but the person can volunteer to declare themselves disabled. So, I point out, if you actually could get everyone currently on staff who is on Prozac to admit it, then we might actually exceed the "goal". I am told that this is true. So rather than selecting and being responsible for the selection, I need only ask for a list containing, excuse me for the crassness, a veteran with a gimpy leg or head injury of minority status. And then I can randomly choose 5 people an hope for the best. Because, after all, it won't be my fault. Who cares if the government gets stuck with some one of lesser qualifications, that they then can't fire even if performance is poor.
So I am looking around, and asking myself who is responsible? We have centralized so much, that some mystical, Kafkaesque emerald castle runs everything and we aren't sure who is behind the curtain. For any system to work, but particularly for capitalism to work, there must be a sense of responsibility and a sense of autonomy and accountability based on individual decisions. What we have now is defeatism, and a surrender of responsibility to computer systems and organizations where everyone is responsible, so no one is responsible. And don't even think of challenging the system too much. The Occupy Movement was the closest we got and it seems now invisible- the way the green revolution is in Iran, the protesters are in Russia now that Putin is elected.
When there is no autonomy, no one is responsible, and therefore, we pretend, and they pretend. How is it really differently from the system we claimed to defeat in 1989?
Posted by USWest at 1:26 PM
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Recently the California State University announced that unless a referendum passes that will partly restore their funding levels, they cannot afford to admit more students. So they won't. They're going to freeze admissions.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 7:38 AM
Friday, March 23, 2012
While the French media ask how a man who was under surveillance managed to amase a weapons cache, I have a bigger question, one that I am sure the French will be asking themselves once the memorals are over and the bodies burried: What social forces push these people toward delinquency that would land them in jail to be radicalized? Did this young man, and his brother who seems to also be radicalized, feel marinalized? These are questions we ask every thime there is an attack.
Toulouse is heavily populated with Pieds Noirs, North African born French who are often resented in France, or at least noted as something “Other”. Mohamed Merha was French, born of Algerian immigrants. This also made him an “other”. And being "other" in France means exclusion. The French media focuses on his troubled teen years, his delinquency, and even refers to him as the “madman”, but that is just too easy. Madmen aren't born. They are made. They are products of their homes and communities.
Toulouse is a agriculture region that, true to form, votes conservative. Le Pen or his party reps usually do pretty well in conservative Southern France. However, in the last elections, the socialists took the Midi-Pyrenees, the department where Toulouse dominates. This is in large part because Muslim voters, who made up about 5%of voters in the 2007 election, went socialist. That doesn't sound like a large share, but made a huge difference. Sarko’s get-tough on immigrants talks scared many of them away. Toulouse is a first and foremost, a city of immigrants.
Today on the streets of Toulouse there was a “million person march” in honor of the victims. And this weekend, there will be another silent march to the Jewish school where the students and teachers were shot. Among the banners being unfurled in Toulouse today were two in particular that were noted in the Depeche Du Midi, the regional daily newspaper. The two were written in French, Arabic, Hebrew, and Occitan (regional dialect). One said: “Live Together: equality, solidarity, dignity” and the second said: “Jews, Christians, Muslims, same God:Love”. The meta message beyond the multilingualism is clear and strikes me as a changed attitude. In my days in Toulouse, in the late 1990s, such a thing would not have been seen. Let's hope it will continue.
Posted by USWest at 4:47 PM
Friday, February 24, 2012
Every day we see more and more bizarre statements from Santorum, Gingrich, and Romney that are so far removed from reality it is hard to know how to respond. All three say that President Obama is going to turn the United States into a socialist state. There is no evidence for this idiotic statement, and none is ever adduced. At the same time, and without irony, they complain that the new health care law reduces funding for Medicare. Santorum said this morning that the United States is alienating every ally and appeasing every enemy. It is hard to know where this comes from. The only ally whose relationship is not MUCH stronger now than it was under Bush is Israel and Pakistan, and that is only because Obama have a much more irascible Netanyahu to deal with and Paksistan is such a freaking mess. The charge of appeasement of enemies is hard to fathom. Killing Osama Bin Laden on Pakistani soil was appeasement? Apparently an apology for soldiers stupidly burning the Koran is appeasement, which is nonsense. A moral person apologizes for his own wrongs even if others have also committed wrongs against him. What else?
What you have from these Republicans is blind hatred of Barack Obama for reasons more or less unrelated to the man or his policies, or anything in reality. This is not how you win an election with persuadable independent voters. This is why the primary is so volatile and strange. It is not based in reality.
This is, at heart, an inside debate by a core Republican electorate that is reacting from the unspoken, unacknowledged feeling that something is going very wrong if a black man is President of the United States of America.
Posted by The Law Talking Guy at 2:08 PM
Monday, February 06, 2012
There has been a lot of news the last couple of weeks about changes to medical policies that directly affect women’s health. The most recent has been the Obama Administration’s declaration that all medical care providers who receive federal funding and who serve diverse populations will have to offer birth control. Before that, it was the Susan G. Komen For a Cure foundation. That foundation was going stop paying Planned Parenthood for mammograms.Before that, we've had political discussion about HPV vaccinations.
Everyone just needs to stop politicizing women’s health. I can’t think of a single men's heath issue that is politicized or made such an open subject for public scrutiny. No one is talking about offering condoms or vasectomies to men, both opposed by the Catholic Church. Nothing about Viagra or testosterone supplements. What about reproductive services? Unless something has changed, the Church doesn’t like infertility treatments either. All of these health decisions that MEN and women make daily are private choices. They should not be fodder for religious and political games.
Freedom of religion means that you have the right to choose to practice your faith or not. And you can choose to practice any faith you wish. That said, forcing religiously affiliated institutions to offer an array of health services and reproductive services does not violate religious rights. It simply allows people to have a choice. If I am a practicing Catholic, then I can choose not to use birth control. So what these institutions are really saying is that they don’t want to offer choice because most people would choose “wrongly”.
Religiously affiliated medical facilities and universities should be medical facilities and universities FIRST and religious organs last.
Posted by USWest at 6:44 PM
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Iran has been threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz- again. They do this periodically. I doubt very much it will actually happen. I think this is “North-Koreaesq”/”Saddamesq” game playing of a desperate regime. What they really want is a spike in energy prices to further weaken Western economies. They are using the tools they have.
The Iranian government is weak and slowly collapsing. There have been reports of tensions between the Ayatollahs and Ahmadinejad. The latest round of sanctions is aimed at the Iranian Central Bank and seeks to hasten the process. And while we haven’t heard much publicly about the Green Movement, it is alive and well underground. It still threatens the regime. Choking off money with these sanctions will fan the coals. That is what we want.
Some have speculated that the saber rattling over Hormuz is intended to draw first fire from the US or its allies, which would then re-entrench the current government and its Ayatollahs. I doubt they are hoping to get the US to shoot first, but they may be baiting Israel. With the Syrian regime weakened, Israel is probably feeling queasier than usual. But Iranians are intelligent gamblers. They know we won’t strike militarily in an election year. We don’t have the money. They do know what a spike in Energy prices would do. The mere threat has already caused a spike. But then, it doesn't take much to cause an oil price hike.
Another news commentator on NPR said that Saudi is increasing its oil production and that we are hoping for Libya’s oil to come back on line as well as Iraqi oil. I wouldn’t count on that. Iraqi security is obviously a problem and the Iraqi government isn’t going to do too much to anger its Shia cousins in Tehran. We may have live with higher oil prices and take the hit.
We should not underestimate the game Iran has been playing over the last 30 years. They have been more effective that Libya ever was at creating terror cells. They have kept their population poor by turning their oil money into guerrilla movements, like Hezbollah and Hamas. But they have also funded several other groups in places like Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and India. This is well known and documented. I myself have commented on it several times in this blog. Wherever there was an opening for insecurity and mayhem, Iranian money could be found. It’s a rogue state- but a very ancient civilization that has survived by skillfully playing diplomatic and military games. So while we should be wary, we should not panic. We need to see this for what it is. The worst thing we could do is to attack or allow our allies to attack!
Posted by USWest at 1:09 PM
Monday, December 05, 2011
UBS chief economist Deo, has even gone so far as to estimate that 20 to 25 percent of GDP might be realistic in the first year after a German exit alone. That would translate to a per capita cost of between €6,000 and €8,000, with costs of between €3,500 and €4,500 in subsequent years. By comparison, if, after Greece, Portugal and Ireland each had to be given a debt haircut of 50 percent, Deo estimates it would only cost around €1,000 per German citizen -- and it would be a one-time cost.
In other words, the German government has a choice between a really bad outcome and a truly horrendous one. Similar choices face the governments of the other Euro-zone countries. So long as European leaders are not so foolish as to put this choice (or more likely part of it) to a popular referendum, I'm fairly confident that each government will be wise enough to chose the really bad option and avoid the truly horrendous outcome.
Another reason I think the EU will become more centralized has to do with what the German government will demand in return for financing these bail outs. As the EU leaders begin to talk about reforming the treaties that govern the EU, the proposals all seem to be in the direction of more integration and more central control over national spending. One would be forgiven for thinking that the Germans are insisting that if they get stuck with the lion's share of the bill, then they should be allowed to remake the European Central Bank more in the image of the German Bundesbank. That is a powerful and independent central banking institution that acts to restrain inflationary government spending policies.
Furthermore, if we think about the incentives to a country like Greece to ditch the Euro, the choices have been badly misunderstood in the press. The way the story is reported in most media, it is assumed that the Greek people are being made to suffer more for the sake of staying in the Euro. This is most likely not the case. If Greece left the Euro, it will still be obliged to pay off its debts. Having left the Euro, it would have to do this by printing Drachmas... A LOT of Drachmas. Predictions of hyper inflation are not unreasonable in this event. That would hit Greece at exactly the same time that it gave up the trade advantages and attractiveness to Northern European investors that came with the Euro. In other words, Greece has a choice between painful austerity and painful austerity plus stagflation! Greek politicians have already indicated their choice... they'll take the austerity and pass on the stagflation.
Finally, even though all these changes will require heroic compromises between governments with often opposing interest, I think a deal for long term reform will happen. The consequences of failure to reach a compromise will be so dire that the governments will make the deal happen. It will be messy, lurching, awkward and push things to the final final deadline, but I think a deal will happen. And although the Germans will end up paying most of the bills for this mess, the price they will charge in return will be in the form of major reforms to the EU itself. In five or ten years we will be talking about the de facto Bundesrepublik Europa.
I should also emphasize that I'm not predicting a rapid economic recovery in Europe. I still think the EU will be hit with a nasty recession. I'm just surprised that so many people think that this recession will destroy the Euro and the EU. I get the impression that most commentators simply do not understand how firmly established the EU really is. They seem to think of it as some kind of European version of NAFTA with a currency union tacked on to it. It is far more institutionalized and deeply rooted than that.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 7:26 PM
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
I have often blogged or commented about my opposition to direct democracy. Usually, my ire is directed at Prop 13 and other examples of how direct democracy undermines good government in California. But today I'm going to direct my disapproval at the proposal of the Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou's, that the EU debt deal be subjected to a popular referendum in Greece. In particular, Mr. Papandreou, a social democrat from the PASOK party, is arguing that since the deal requires further austerity measures in Greece, he cannot implement them without the mandate of a popular referendum. I shall make three arguments against this step. The first is institutional: that Mr. Papandreou could in fact implement these measures immediately. The second is practical: that the average Greek citizen is not qualified to understand the implications of rejecting this plan and is even unlikely to understand which alternatives are genuinely viable. The third argument is moral: that since a significant contributing cause of the crisis is the widespread tax evasion of ordinary Greeks, they do not have the moral authority to plunge the entire European Union and the world with it, into another Great Recession.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 2:55 PM
Friday, October 28, 2011
It has been reported that the President wants to change the student loan program. One change that is being touted is that students are allowed to consolidate private and public student loans.
Well, this isn't a change. This is a long standing policy. I had both private (i.e. Sallie Mae) and USDE loans (Public). I consolidated them with the USDE in 2000. What they do is average out the interest rates on all your loans to get a new interest rate for your current loan. The benefit is that you make one payment to one lender at one interest rate. Usually this means a single lower monthly payment. Credit counselors have used this trick for years to help "restructure" the debt of their clients. This type of consolidation is not new nor does it represent a change to the current student loan systems.
Assuring that student loan payments don't exceed more than 10% of someone's disposable income doesn't represent much of a change either.The student loan program introduced an "income contingent" repayment plan back in the early 2000s. They take your pay stub and based your monthly student loan payment on your gross salary. The bad news here is that if your income is low, then your monthly payment under the income contingent program may not be enough to cover the interest that accumulates over the moth. Interest that is not paid is capitalized, meaning added to the principle of the loan. So there is a whole cycle there. Interest needs to amortized like they do with home mortgages to really be fair and help students pay down the loans. Building bigger principle is simply a desperate measure to alleviate today's pain. Income contingent re-payment only keeps people under the boot of debt longer.
I am not sure if the Obama Administration is being misunderstood by the media, or if it really is selling a load of crap to the "Occupy" crowd and the voters. I would hate to believe that the Obama Administration is that cynical.
Really the best deal for students and lenders is what I already proposed in my earlier post.
Posted by USWest at 2:36 PM
Thursday, October 20, 2011
It's official, Lybia is now well rid of Moammar Gadhafi. This may seem like a minor event to most Americans who - justifiably - may be focussed on more pressing economic troubles at home. But this could have enormous, mostly positive implications not just for the Middle East for Africa and the rest of the developing world.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 1:27 PM
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Some Occupy Wall Streeters are calling for student loan forgiviness. This sounds like a great idea, especially for people like me with high debt. However, I disagree with this proposal. Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI) has sponsored a bill to forgive student loans and MoveOn.or is sponsoring a petition in support of this.
I do not agree with complete loan forgiveness. Nor do I think it should be discharged in bankrupcy court. They tried that once and young people ended up filing for bankrupcy at alarming rates. 1) moral hazard arguments still stand 2) So long as the price of education is inflating faster than that of medical care, student loans are going to be a necessary and permanent evil. We cannot create disincentives for lenders or further barriers to qualified students. 3)Currently, there is a new bubble forming around student loans as they are packaged and sold as derivatives. The chain reaction has been sent into motion just like the housing market. This will encourage larger loans to lesser qualified students, and further fuel rising tuition costs.
But the program rules should be changed to make the loans more fair on borrowers. I have some more moderate suggestions that I would like lawmakers to consider.
Some background: I graduated with my MA in 1999 with over $60K in debt- of which about half was used for tuition and the other half for housing and expenses. I took on this debt freely, but out of necessity. The job market requires a graduate degree, I needed the money to help pay for it. I consolidated my debt with the USDE at 7.26% interest, low compared to many of my predecessors.
When interest rates began to fall in the mid-2000s, I called the USDE to see about re-financing and was told that this was not legally possible. Once consolidated, borrowers are not allowed to refinance unless they are willing to take out a private loan, usually a second mortgage. I didn't own a home and couldn't afford one with my debt levels froms school, and even in 2004 most lenders were not going to provide a loan without collateral. Therefore, I continue to pay an interest rate more than twice the current market rate.
I do receive a tax deduction on the interest I pay. However, this is little help throughout the year as monthly bills come due. Nor does it adequately address the inherent unfairness (almost usury) in how interest is handled in the student loan programs. And let's face it, it isn't an asset-backed necessity like housing. So I'd be willing to sacrifice it for some real reforms.
Interest on student loans accrues daily. And no matter how much you pay beyond your fixed amount, the interest is always paid first and it usually eats up most of the payment. And what’s worse, it's a moving target. The amount I pay in interest changes constantly and is nearly impossible to budget for, calculate, or get around. To date, the amount I have paid back in interest is nearly equal to the principle balance I started with and I still have $42K to go. Currently, if I were to make payments so that I could pay the remaining balance in 10 years, I would have to pay over $750 a month, down from the over $800 I would have paid 10 years ago. Either
way, that's not possible. But the debt is still my responsibility, students still need loans, and the USDE needs the revenue stream these loans create.
Rather than forgive debt entirely, I would suggest the following:
1) that the law be amended to allow for refinancing of all student loans down to current rates
2) once the amount paid back in interest exceeds more than say 20% of the original principle, the interest should be curtialed entirely while the remaining principle is paid down.
3) if #2 is not feasible, then the interest should be regulated in the same way has home loans.
4) outlaw the selling of derivatives on student loans.
These changes would lessen the burden on borrowers without the moral hazard associated with total loan forgiveness or the loss to the lenders, which includes the USDE. They may be enough to prevent fueling education inflation. Making the terms a bit more fair would be welcome and would help the longer term economy and a generation of young people trying to get started in a jobless economy who will default in droves if we don't do something.
Posted by USWest at 12:15 PM
Friday, October 14, 2011
This is a short post, but this article, Looting of Social Security posted on Fed-Smith.com today is the clearest explanation of what has happened to Social Security funds that I have yet seen. It is a quick and easy read.
Basically, the 2.7 trillion surplus that was to be invested in Social Security has been poured into the general fund and spent. It's gone. There is nothing but a literal cabinet filled with IOU statements.
Now, will the government repay this money?? Well that is a good question. From where will it get the money? Since it wasn't invested as promised.
Again, I remind everyone that this isn't news. Remember Al Gore and his "lock box". So we are all investors who have been swindled. So, in light of this, I agree with the President that the 2% cut in payroll taxes should be continued. And it's all legal. Because in a democracy, you can pass all kinds of laws to make what you want or need to do legal. In another context, this would be termed "corruption".
Because money paid for social security is going into the general fund, it amounts to a 2% income tax hike on the salaried class. Another reason we are the 99%.
Posted by USWest at 10:13 AM
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Herman Caine is surging in the polls as the latest "Not Romney" As he is, the media is falling all over themselves to do halfassed analyses of his 9-9-9 tax plan. As you may have heard this refers to a 9% flat income tax, 9% flat corporate tax and a 9% national sales tax. Most of them focus on whether it will raise or lower the over all tax burden on the average family or whether it will generate enough revenue to cover existing spending. It is probably not surprising that a plan put forward by a Republican reduces revenue and further shifts tax burden away from the wealthy and corporations and onto middle class families. But the problems with the 9-9-9 are, if anything, even more catastrophic than simply yet another screwing the middle class the Grand Old Plutocrats. That 9% sales tax is a like a bomb let off in the heart of the US economy.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 3:18 PM
Monday, October 10, 2011
Friday, October 07, 2011
Last night, Harry Reid exercised what is known as the "nuclear option" in some circles over Senate rules. He led a majority of Democrats to overrule a parliamentarian and cut off the right of the minority to call for multiple votes on amendments after cloture. It happened rather unexpectedly in an attempt to an amendment to the Chinese-currency-kvetching bill. McConnell wanted to force a vote on an amendment containing Obama's original jobs bill (not the current version with the millionaire's tax) to embarrass the president and cause more delay. This restricts post-cloture maneuvering by the minority. Of course, this is not really a nuclear option in the sense that that term was created to talk about outlawing the filibuster altogether in 2005. (Note, according to The Hill, a similarly arcane such use of the majority-overrule took place in 2000 under Bill Frist's leadership to eliminate votes on "sense of the senate" resolutions under such circumstances.)
This is actually a very big deal. It is the first time Harry Reid has ever done anything to stand up to the minority in the Senate worth a damn. It is the first time he has reacted seriously to the way McConnell has flouted tradition to all but shut down the Senate. Republicans are threatening direly about possibly messing with the filibuster when they're in the majority as retaliation. I have no doubt they will do so no matter what Reid does. I hope we see more of it. Part of what made it work was the Reid sprang this on McConnell unexpectedly and got the 51 votes without much fuss and bother. No showdown, just a win.
Posted by The Law Talking Guy at 1:45 PM
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
In light of the last post about the Occupy Wall Street protests and how they might be an emerging contrast to the Tea Party I thought I would post two links to the Democratic version of the "us vs elites" meme and the Republican version of the "us vs elites" meme.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 8:44 AM
Saturday, October 01, 2011
Something interesting is happening in response to a year of Republican austerity measures imposed by the 2010 elections at the state level and by House Republican blackmail over government shut downs and government debt defaults. A new wave of protests have emerged modeled on the "Occupy Wall Street" protests in NYC. The protests are spreading to cities across the country. What's more, while unions were not the initial driving force, they are quick to see the potential of allying themselves with these protesters. Several big unions are planning to join the protesters.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 5:09 PM
Thursday, September 22, 2011
President Obama has adopted a new approach to going after the Republicans. Rather than bending over backwards to compromise with uncompromising jerks, he is focussing the spot light on meaningful policy differences that most people can readily understand. This is a good idea. The deficit/debt problem is fundamentally a distributive one. Specifically there is no solution that makes all interested parties better off without making someone worse off. That means that any debate will ultimately boil down to WHO is going to be made to be worse off that the others may benefit. Republicans are insisting that it should be the middle class and poor who are made worse off so that the wealthy and corporations benefit. That's a hard position to defend when it is revealed for what it is.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 3:57 PM
Friday, September 16, 2011
There is an emerging talking point among Republicans that the way to create jobs is not to spend government money on infrastructure projects or even to cut payroll taxes or give tax breaks to companies that hire new people. All of these things have been supported by Republicans in the past. But now they swear that the only policy worth pursuing is eliminating a wide range of existing regulations. I was watching CNN this morning as I ate breakfast and it is clear that American journalists are simply not equipped to report on this subject. Instead of engaging in a discussion of what regulations are and how they are enacted, CNN ran a human interest style story where they interviewed the owner of a small car painting business in California. He swore that he was personally committed to protecting the environment etc but that some regulations were simply unreasonable intrusions into his business. He described these as regulations that did nothing but force him to “cross t’s and dot I’s.” The point of the story was clear: Regulations are silly because they make well intentioned business owners waste their time filling out paper work instead of creating new jobs. This interview reminded me of a conversation I once had with a group of small business owners at a yacht club in Santa Barbara. They are standing around grousing about exactly this sort of regulation. They hated it and blamed “socialists” in Sacramento and Washington for the whole thing. Here is the gist of what I told them.
The complexity of the paperwork is not a result of “socialist” dominance. On the contrary, the excess of paperwork is a direct result of a regulatory system that depends overwhelmingly on self-reporting. The self-reporting approach was insisted upon by conservatives who were able to force it through the necessary compromises so common in American politics. In more centralized democracies, such as the UK, there is a good deal less paperwork to fill out. However, such countries have a good deal more inspectors barging into businesses and snooping around. I asked the cluster of businessmen at the yacht club if they would rather have paperwork or government inspectors and they all said, “Paperwork!” without hesitation.
Clearly the Republicans are trying to use the persistent economic troubles as an excuse to undo a century of regulations entirely. They want to return us to a Dickensian dystopia of the 1890s. If we eliminate the paperwork without hiring thousands of new inspectors at the state and federal agencies that enforce environmental, workplace safety and other regulations, we would effectively eliminate the original regulations. These regulations were not imposed to make life difficult for business. Rather they were put in place because businesses were making life unlivable (literally) for the workers who were getting sick and injured in dangerous workplaces, the neighbors who were being poisoned by industrial run off and the many species that were being driven to extinction by the same (such as the bald eagle that Republicans love to fetishize).
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 4:58 PM