Friday, August 31, 2012

Clint Eastwood at the RNC: Bashing W?

OK, they didn't intend him to make comments that any reasonable observer would take as a slam of the most recent Republican President, did they?

When Clint Eastwood was addressing the RNC, did he forget the chair wasn't supposed to be W? ("We didn't check with the Russians to see how did it -- they did there for 10 years. But we did it")

That sure sounded like a slam on Bush II. Did Eastwood forget that it was a Republican President who took us into Afghanistan and oversaw most of the length of the operations there? If one were going to make a dig against the wisdom of going into Afghanistan, the only administration that can reasonably be a dig against is the Bush II administration.

"But we did it ..." Yes, Republicans did that.

While perhaps it could have been handled differently, there were valid reasons for going into Afghanistan despite the way it turned out for Russia. Going after Al Qaeda at their training camps was one of W's more reasonable actions, something which can't be said for the Iraq diversion. But whether one finds it wisdom or folly, going into Afghanistan was most certainly on the plate of Bush II.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Unemployment Rate Changes Put In Perspective

Let's put the levels of unemployment at this point in the Presidential cycle into perspective.

Chart tracking the point changes in the unemployment rate since the first full month of each of  the current and previous Presidents' terms. For President Obama, the numbers show unemployment brought back down to where it was as his watch was just getting started. For President Bush II, the numbers at the equivalent point in his first term show unemployment significantly worse than where it was as his watch was just getting started.

The above chart tracks the point changes  in the unemployment rate since the first full month of each of  the current and previous Presidents' terms. For President Obama, the numbers show unemployment brought back down to where it was as his watch was just getting started. For President Bush II, the numbers at the equivalent point in his first term show unemployment significantly worse than where it was as his watch was just getting started.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Clinton Warned Us The Republican Tax Cuts Would Do This

Clinton called it: "The Republican tax cuts, he warned with eerie prescience, would return America to a period of 'deficit upon deficit' that culminated in 'the worst recession since the Great Depression.'"

Where Have Those Mittens Been?

From Matt Taibbi's "Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital":
"And this is where we get to the hypocrisy at the heart of Mitt Romney. Everyone knows that he is fantastically rich, having scored great success, the legend goes, as a "turnaround specialist," a shrewd financial operator who revived moribund companies as a high-priced consultant for a storied Wall Street private equity firm. But what most voters don't know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America's top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Payrolls During President Obama's Term

What's the direction of the jobs picture?

Total non-farm payrolls (the early/mid 2010 spike in the curve is because of temporary census activity):
Total non-farm payrolls: All Employees: Total nonfarm from February 2009 through July 2012, showing turn-around in decline in February 2010 and job growth since February 2010

Private payrolls:
Total private payrolls: All Employees: Total Private Industries from February 2009 through July 2012, showing turn-around in decline in February 2010 and job growth since February 2010

Government payrolls (trend of state/local budget cuts bringing govt employment down):
Total Govt Payrolls: All Employees: Government from February 2009 through July 2012, showing state/local budget cutting impact in declining government employment that slightly diminishes the growth since February 2010 in total jobs

Monday, August 27, 2012

Updated Job Picture Under President Obama

How's the job picture look under President Obama's term in office so far? Not only did payrolls stop the inherited plummeting but also private sector jobs have strongly, steadily grown since turning around in February 2010. Meanwhile, aside from the Census spike, steady govt cuts -- mainly at the state and local levels -- have taken government payrolls in the opposite direction.

Graph of the monthly levels of US private job totals versus US government job totals from February 2009 through July 2012

We have here a good, solid private recovery that's impeded by heavy govt cuts diminishing it from how good it'd be otherwise. Below, we can see roughly the hypothetical difference that govt cutbacks (aside from the brief census surge) have made to the overall employment picture by looking at total employment assuming private sector hiring had still followed exactly the path it did and govt payrolls had held steady at February 2009 levels.

The adjusted line likely understates how much it would have helped to avoid the govt cutbacks. After all, those laid off govt workers couldn't buy as many goods and services, so there would arguably have been more demand fueling more private sector jobs and making the private component grow faster if we hadn't had cutbacks. But for the chart above, the only adjustment reflected in the green line versus the blue line is a freezing of govt payrolls at precisely the February 2009 level. A more complete picture of the difference cutbacks made would reflect an estimate of anticipated higher private payrolls resulting from avoiding the govt layoffs.

Friday, August 24, 2012

When Republicans Were Great: The Once and Future GOP?

Where would you guess the following quote came from?
"We are proud of and shall continue our far-reaching and sound advances in matters of basic human needs—expansion of social security—broadened coverage in unemployment insurance —improved housing—and better health protection for all our people. We are determined that our government remain warmly responsive to the urgent social and economic problems of our people."
If you guessed the 1956 Republican Party Platform, congratulations! Once upon a time, Republicans stood for far-reaching advances in matters of basic human needs. Once upon a time, Republicans stood for expansion of social security. Once upon a time, Republicans stood for broadened coverage in unemployment insurance. Once upon a time, Republicans stood for improved housing. Once upon a time, Republicans stood for better health protection for all our people. Once upon a time, Republicans stood for being warmly responsive to the urgent social and economic problems of our people.

Over the past several decades, the "Reagan Revolution" political dogma stamped out what was left of those golden days when traditional, proven, sensible, responsible, balanced policy drove the Republican party. The party leadership and much of its base turned against the policies that built our economic strength on a larger middle-class as the engine of commerce. At this point, Republicans stand for ignoring basic human needs. Current Republicans stand for privatizing social security and turning seniors over to the topsy-turvy stock market as fodder for those who would like nothing better than to gamble with those funds. Now Republicans stand in the way of extending unemployment insurance. Today's Republicans seek every opportunity to repeal better health protection for more of our people. Contemporary Republicans stand for leaving the urgent social and economic problems of our people to the whims of the short-sighted, momentary-profit-driven market. And if answering their social and economic problems should happen to be thought unprofitable in the short-term, post-Reagan Republicans see no reason not to sacrifice the long term good of the people.

It doesn't have to be that way. Obviously. The Grand Old Party really was grand before the Reagan Revolution. It could be again. All it would need to do is rediscover traditional American values -- the old-school Republican values -- and repudiate the "starve the beast" platform of ever lower taxes in an effort to force abandonment of social and economic progress. Balancing the budget in the average year isn't bad and was even embraced in the 1956 platform too, but today's GOP pitches snake oil when it claims the only way to balance the budget is to cut. The party used to know better. There are values it should rediscover from it's past, such as:

  • "Republican action created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare as the first new Federal department in 40 years, to raise the continuing consideration of these problems for the first time to the highest council of Government, the President's Cabinet."
  • "The Republican Party will renew its efforts to enact a program based on sound principles of need and designed to encourage increased state and local efforts to build more classrooms."
  • "Stimulate improved job safety of our workers, through assistance to the States, employees and employers;"
  • "Protect by law, the assets of employee welfare and benefit plans so that workers who are the beneficiaries can be assured of their rightful benefits;"
  • "Assure equal pay for equal work regardless of Sex;"
  • "Provide assistance to improve the economic conditions of areas faced with persistent and substantial unemployment;"
  • "We have supported the distribution of free vaccine to protect millions of children against dreaded polio."
  • "Republican leadership has enlarged Federal assistance for construction of hospitals, emphasizing low-cost care of chronic diseases and the special problems of older persons, and increased Federal aid for medical care of the needy."
  • "We have asked the largest increase in research funds ever sought in one year to intensify attacks on cancer, mental illness, heart disease and other dread diseases."
  • "We have supported measures that have made more housing available than ever before in history, reduced urban slums in local-federal partnership, stimulated record home ownership, and authorized additional low-rent public housing."
  • "We shall continue to seek extension and perfection of a sound social security system."
Traditional American values. Every one of them. Those are values the Republican party once knew. The heartless ideologues of the Reagan Revolution have lead the GOP astray. But parties change. There's still time for the GOP to reclaim those traditional values and learn to rediscover the art of appropriate taxation instead of always starving our government and undermining its work of building infrastructure, commerce, and a growing, prospering middle class. Building a safety net under our people, working to lift up the least affluent, and strengthening the middle class leads to strong, lasting, stable prosperity for us all. Wealth grows best on a diet of steady commerce from a rising middle class. To get there, we must pull our heads out of the hole that is cutting at all costs. Budgets must be balanced by growth ... not by slash and burn. As the 1956 GOP platform quoted President Eisenhower, "America does not prosper unless all Americans prosper. Government must have a heart as well as a head."

Friday, August 17, 2012

What Part Was The Mistake Rep Ryan? The Jobs Perhaps?

"Representative Paul D. Ryan said on Thursday it was a mistake to have requested funds in 2009 from the federal stimulus bill after voting against it."

So what part of that was a mistake? Could it be the effort to help create jobs for his constituents?

"The Congressional Budget Office said the stimulus increased employment by 1.3 million to 3.3 million people."

So why would it be a mistake to increase employment? Could that be because the Republicans figure that anything that helps employment during President Obama's term hurts their 2012 election chances? Could that be because they've cynically decided that helping the American people is against their political interests? Could that be because they've fanatically decided that they know what's best for us so much that they figure it's OK to hurt us for a while as long as it helps them get back in power in the long run?

Grunwald Clarifies Exactly Where Ryan Stands

Highlights from Grunwald on Ryan in "Paul Ryan and the Stimulus: A Match Designed to Make My Head Explode":
"Funny, Ryan somehow forgot to mention that he was one of those proponents. He had voted for the Bush stimulus, along with the Bush tax cuts, the Bush wars, the Bush security spending binge, the Bush prescription drug benefit, the Bush highway bill that included the Bridge to Nowhere, and the Bush bank bailout. Fiscal conservatism!"
"Republicans never explained how $715 billion worth of tax cuts and spending could be good public policy while $787 billion worth of tax cuts and spending was freedom-crushing socialism. In the minority, they didn’t have to. And Paul Ryan? As usual, he fell off both sides of the horse. He voted for the ideological tax-cut bill that would have increased the deficit, and the political spending bill that would have increased the deficit. And then he railed about Obama and the Democrats increasing the deficit."
Grunwald, of course, gave more detail around the above, but those're the real biting crux of it. For all of his reputation, Paul Ryan really turns out to be about nothing more than GOP partisan politics. His records shows that he's got the typical Republican history of ranting about Democrats and deficit spending out of one side of his mouth while voting for Republican budget-busting policies with the other.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The CFTC, Dodd-Frank, and LIBOR

Apparently, there's some good use being made of Dodd-Frank despite Republican efforts to block, defang, and defund. According to Ben Protess in "Libor Case Energizes a Wall Street Watchdog," the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) under former Goldman Sachs banker Gary Gensler is aggressively pushing adoption of dozens of new rules under Dodd-Frank.

Protess writes that
"The agency’s revival stems from the wave of new regulation. Dodd-Frank, passed in 2010, greatly expanded the responsibility of the agency, stretching its reach to the dark corners of the $300 trillion derivatives market. Before that, the agency oversaw the $40 trillion futures business."

While it remains to be seen how much further they'll be able to run with the LIBOR investigations beyond the Barclays settlement, a $450 million settlement sure seems a good start. If the CFTC can parlay further investigation and enforcement of LIBOR into an ongoing crack-down empowered by Dodd-Frank that makes the financial industry start shaping up, then maybe -- just maybe -- Dodd-Frank might go down in history as the real crackdown on the financial industry that so many on the left say we've been lacking.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Colbert on Ryan's Budget Versus Religious Doctrine

Colbert covers Ryan's inspiration from Ayn Rand versus Catholicism and interviews Reverend Thomas Reese on related Catholic doctrine relating to Paul Ryan's budget and to taxes.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Doing the Math on the Auto-Bailout

ABC news June, 2011 estimate of how much the auto bailout will have cost after they finish selling the shares: c. $14 billion. Low-ball estimates figure 1,000,000 jobs that would have evaporated without the bailout. Many estimates, such as that from the Center for Automotive Research, figure significantly more than a million. So at $14 billion for 1 million jobs, that's about $14,000 per job that -- thanks to the auto industry rescue -- didn't evaporate overnight.

Consider how much the unemployment and other consequences would have cost us if we hadn't prevented those job losses. Obviously there'd be unemployment checks. Also food assistance and probably medicaid. Then there'd be the lost revenue from not having those jobs to tax. Any guess as to how much we collect from auto-industry worker income taxes in a year?

Odds are pretty darn good it was a bargain, even just considering the cost over one year of all those lost jobs ... and a good many of 'em would likely have been unemployed longer than a year.

Multiply the average weekly unemployment benefit by the average duration of getting unemployment and -- even assuming that adding another million to the unemployed wouldn't up the average, you get a cost of almost $12 billion. Since at least a million workers would have lost their jobs if GM and Chrysler had collapsed, we can figure that unemployment alone would have cost at least that much.

So, that'd leave us just $2 billion to account for from the estimated cost of rescuing the auto industry. $2,000 per worker. So for the bailout to have not saved us money, the combination of what we collect from the average one of those workers in annual income tax plus what it would have cost in food/medical assistance would have had to have been less than $2,000. That seems very unlikely. It's implausible that our costs wouldn't have increased beyond what the bailout cost us if we had not implemented the bailout.

That's even before considering the economic ramifications of all those lost paychecks decimating consumer spending and demolishing what was left of the already crippled housing market.