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January 30, 2009

Republican leaders in congress on the wrong side of ... well, everything

Republicans in the US House unanimously voted against the stimulus bill because they’d rather not do as much for the economy and they'd rather focus on tax cuts.

What’s wrong with that?  A severe misreading of economics and taxation, the challenges of the times, and politics of America.

First, the economics are wrong.  We have neglected infrastructure and we have to get going on rebuilding our public infrastructure, from road, schools and bridges to clean water; we have to reform our healthcare system so that everyone is covered and can have greater security, indpendence and freedom to innovate;  and we have to “greentooling” our economy and energy sectors for security, financial independence and to combat global warming.

Today’s crisis was driven by a 30-year neglect of public investment, focusing on tax cuts and housing and debt-based consumerism.  But buying stuff doesn’t buid roads.  Tax cuts do not create as much economic activity as actually spending it.

The median income in America is almost flat over the last 30 years.  A housing-based and consumer service economy is simply not enough to deliver robust jobs.

The problem isn’t that taxes are too high, the problem is that income is too low and that there aren’t enough jobs.

Second, the challenges of of our times, not those of the 1970s, must be met.  Tax cuts to stimulate consumer purchases will not build bridges and rebuild schools, they will not upgrade our electric grid and convert energy production to renewables.  These public investments get paid by us banding together to build what we can’t do on our own through our taxes.  And these must be done now.  These are better jobs.  We will waste less power.  We generate more energy and economic activity ourselves, keeping more dollars here and sending less oversears.  Studies show that every dollar kept locally is worth $3 - $5 in further economic activity.

We are deep in debt already, so cutting taxes only drives that deeper.  We have a huge debt load that needs, as in the 1990s, to be paid off.

Third, Americans all know this even if the Republican leadership doesn’t have a clue.  As Republican pollster Frank Luntz recently pointed out, fully 84% of Americans want the government to spend more on infrastructure and 81% are prepared to pay 1% more in taxes to do it -- they favor a tax increase -- including 74% of Republicans.  Republican legislative leaders are playing to 25% of their base and just 15% of the US.

January 26, 2009

Infrastructure: It's Job 1 to Americans - Los Angeles Times

Republicans in Congress are saying: more tax cuts.  America says: NO, infrastructure spending.  People get it: the problem isn't that our taxes are too high, but that incomes and jobs are too low.  Progressive investment works.

Let's get to work!

Polling by Republican pollster Frank Luntz:

Infrastructure: It's Job 1 to Americans - Los Angeles Times:

Consider this: A near unanimous 94% of Americans are concerned about our nation's infrastructure. And this concern cuts across all regions of the country and across urban, suburban and rural communities.

Fully 84% of the public wants more money spent by the federal government -- and 83% wants more spent by state governments -- to improve America's infrastructure. And here's the kicker: 81% of Americans are personally prepared to pay 1% more in taxes for the cause. It's not uncommon for people to say they'd pay more to get more, but when you ask them to respond to a specific amount, support evaporates. (That 74% of normally stingy Republicans are on board for the tax increase is, to me, the most significant finding in the survey.)

This isn't "soft" support for infrastructure either. It stretches from Maine to Montana, from California to Connecticut. Democrats (87%) and Republicans (74%) are prepared to, in Barack Obama's words, put skin in the game, which tells you just how wide and deep the support is.

And Americans understand that infrastructure is not just roads, bridges and rails. In fact, they rated fixing energy facilities as their highest priority. Roads and highways scored second, and clean-water treatment facilities third.

January 22, 2009

Bush's 'War' On Terror Comes to a Sudden End - washingtonpost.com

Bush's 'War' On Terror Comes to a Sudden End:

While Obama says he has no plans to diminish counterterrorism operations abroad, the notion that a president can circumvent long-standing U.S. laws simply by declaring war was halted by executive order in the Oval Office.

Key components of the secret structure developed under Bush are being swept away: The military's Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, facility, where the rights of habeas corpus and due process had been denied detainees, will close, and the CIA is now prohibited from maintaining its own overseas prisons. And in a broad swipe at the Bush administration's lawyers, Obama nullified every legal order and opinion on interrogations issued by any lawyer in the executive branch after Sept. 11, 2001.

The Obameter: Tracking Barack Obama's Campaign Promises

PolitiFact | The Obameter: Tracking Barack Obama's Campaign Promises:

PolitiFact has compiled about 500 promises that Barack Obama made during the campaign and is tracking their progress on our Obameter. We rate their status as No Action, In the Works or Stalled. Once we find action is completed, we rate them Promise Kept, Compromise or Promise Broke

January 13, 2009

Detainee Was Tortured, a Bush Official Confirms - NYTimes.com

This is what the rule of law is all about.  We take risks as a society of letting some of the bad ones go if we can't legally prove he's guilty.  So even if he was the "20th hijacker" and that he remains extremely dangerous, just like organized crime bosses or other killers, if we can't prove it, they remain free.

That's what the rule of law means.  In order to protect the rest of us from arbitrary, indefinite detention by the state, robbing us of all liberty and constitutional protects.

It would not be a good thing to let him go.  But it would be a far, far worse thing to keep him.

Detainee Was Tortured, a Bush Official Confirms - NYTimes.com:

The senior Pentagon official in the Bush administration’s system for prosecuting detainees said in a published interview that she had concluded that interrogators had tortured a Guantánamo detainee who has sometimes been described as “the 20th hijacker” in the 2001 terrorist attacks.
“His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution, Ms. Crawford was quoted as saying in an article published in The Post on Wednesday.
“There’s no doubt in my mind he would’ve been on one of those planes had he gained access to the country in August 2001,” Ms. Crawford said in the interview. “He’s a muscle hijacker.”

She added: “He’s a very dangerous man. What do you do with him now if you don’t charge him and try him? I would be hesitant to say, ‘Let him go.’ ”

Clinton's Exhaustive Prep Work For State Hearing Pays Off

It isn't the presidency, but I'm sure many Hilary fans feel some vindication.

Clinton's Exhaustive Prep Work For State Hearing Pays Off:

[Hilary Clinton's] confirmation hearing was a tour de force, one that demonstrated not just her breadth of understanding of the policy issues, but the meticulous preparation that she has brought to most every political task in her career -- and, likely soon, Foggy Bottom.

Pressed by her soon-to-be-former Senate colleagues, Clinton fielded questions on topics ranging from the impact of the Law of the Sea treaty on Alaska, to Russia's purchase of a Serbian gas utility, to the piracy crisis off the coasts of Somalia.

"I've never seen anybody know so much about so much," Chris Matthews, a sometimes-critical voice on the Clintons, would gush on Hardball later that day.

January 12, 2009

The mission continues

The mission continues:

[Oregon’s Governor Ted Kulongoski said,] "When it comes to fighting climate change, recently I’ve been hearing a chorus of naysayers singing a three-part harmony of – too costly, too burdensome, and too soon. But this chorus is out of tune – and out of touch – with Oregon’s future.”

January 10, 2009

Re: The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan

The Obama transition team has released a report by Chistina Romer, Chair Nominee Designate, Council of Economic Advisors and Jared Berstein, Office of the Vice President-elect on of the job impact expected from Obama's current economic investment package. This picture summarizes the impact on unemployment:

Note that even with the investment, unemployment is not expected to get back to 6% for two more years.

Paul Krugman finds their analysis consistent with his own estimates, noting:

Kudos, by the way, to the administration-in waiting for providing this — it will be a joy to argue policy with an administration that provides comprehensible, honest reports, not case studies in how to lie with statistics.

Though Krugman remains concerned that it isn't big enough, especially as the 40% tax cuts package is not nearly as effective in improving the economy as investment spending.  As I have noted many times, America's problem is not that taxes are too high, it is that incomes are too low (and, with the recession, there aren't enough jobs).

Re: The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment

A key goal enunciated by the President-Elect concerning the American Recovery and Reinvestment  Plan is that it should save or create at least 3 million jobs by the end of 2010.  For this reason, we have undertaken a preliminary analysis of the jobs effects of some of the prototypical recovery packages being discussed....

This report also presents some discussion of the trade-offs involved in choosing different elements of the package.  For example, how do tax cuts, fiscal relief to the states, and increases in infrastructure spending compare in terms of jobs created?  Similarly, how do the different types of spending differ in terms of the timing of the jobs they will create?  The report also discusses the types of jobs that will be created and the possible demographic composition of the workers who will find jobs as a result of the stimulus.

We reach several key preliminary findings:

  • A package in the range that the President-Elect has discussed is expected to create between three and four million jobs by the end of 2010. 
  • Tax cuts, especially temporary ones, and fiscal relief to the states are likely to create fewer jobs than direct increases in government purchases.  However, because there is a limit on how much government investment can be carried out efficiently in a short time frame, and because tax cuts and state relief can be implemented quickly, they are crucial elements of any package aimed at easing economic distress quickly. 
  • Certain industries, such as construction and manufacturing, are likely to experience particularly strong job growth under a recovery package that includes an emphasis on infrastructure, energy, and school repair.  But, the more general stimulative measures, such as a middle class tax cut and fiscal relief to the states, as well as the feedback effects of greater employment in key industries, mean that jobs are likely to be created in all sectors of the economy. 
  • More than 90 percent of the jobs created are likely to be in the private sector.  Many of the government jobs are likely to be professionals whose jobs are saved from state and local budget cuts by state fiscal relief. 
  • A package is likely to create jobs paying a range of wages.  It is also likely to move many workers from part-time to full-time work.

January 09, 2009

Re: Senate Allies Fault Obama on Stimulus

Re: Senate Allies Fault Obama on Stimulus:

Senate Democrats complained that major components of his plan were not bold enough and urged more focus on creating jobs and rebuilding the nation’s energy infrastructure rather than cutting taxes.

As well they should.  America's problem is not that taxes are too high for those with jobs, it is that

  • the middle class has stagnated as median income hasn't grown and
  • we need more people working.

Governor's General Fund Budget 2008 - 2011

From the Governor's Revenue Summary:

2009-2011 GF Budget 2009-2011 GF Budget chart

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