C. K. Hartman

Wherein I Register my Exasperation with the Folksy Alan Simpson

(The president never should have appointed Simpson to co-chair this commission. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

I really don't care that Alan Simpson used the word “tits” in his description of Social Security as a “milk cow with 310 million tits.” Yeah, I realize that he was being jerkily provocative. He knew that his rough language would result in a satisfying amount of pearl-clutching, while meanwhile he could hide behind an ersatz farm-boy “well out in the barnyard that's how we pronounce 'teats'” line.

The plain truth is that Sen. Simpson has made a tidy post-Senate career out of being a sort of affable country dumbass. In the mid-1990s, while he was cooling his post-DC jets at a Kennedy School sinecure here in the People's Republic of Cambridge, he even had a local TV show on WGBH with Robert Reich called “The Long and Short of It.” Ha ha, see, because Simpson is very tall while Reich is very short.

Anyway, the long-term (i.e. 75-year) shortfall in SS amounts to 0.7% of GDP. Not exactly a huge item, compared to other recent liabilities taken on by the US Govt, including a couple of wars and two rounds of tax cuts for the wealthy in 2001 and 2003. In fact, it turns out that the long-term cost of extending the Bush tax cuts for the plus-$250K crowd is roughly equal to the long term shortfall in SS. So, allow tax rates to return to those ruinous Clinton-era levels for the top 3% or so, devote the resulting dough to SS, and bada-bing, SS “crisis” solved for another 75 YEARS.

Speaking of which… did you know that the US Defense budget is scheduled to “go bankrupt” in about one month? ONE MONTH! Geez, according to current polling I guess it's more likely that E.T. will be dispensing my Ham Squishy at the Quik-E-Mart than the Defense Dept. will be fully funded for FY2011.

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Who Is Organizing the Unemployed?

Does anyone know if there is any organizing going on among the unemployed anywhere? I admittedly don't see all the news, but I haven't heard of anything. My hunch is that the Tea Party is grabbing most of them. Time for us progressives to wake up and start offering an alternative to Tancredo and Palin!

A couple of options off the top of my head:

(1) Check out your local Jobs with Justice chapter. If it seems like they have it on the ball, join up and encourage them to start organizing among the unemployed, if they aren't already.

(2) Check out your local MoveOn chapter. The MoveOn health care rally I attended a couple weeks ago was impressive in terms of its demographic diversity. I was out of town for the local organizing meeting this past weekend, but I've heard good things about it so far.

Any other ideas?

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Oregonians Decide that the Wealthy and Corporations Should Contribute More in Taxes

Some frankly amazing, to me anyway*, news out of Oregon on Tuesday. The Oregonian reports:

It looks like Oregon corporations and high-income earners will pay higher state taxes as voters weighed in Tuesday on two hotly debated measures. […]

Measure 66 raises the income tax paid by households earning at or above $250,000 a year or individual filers who make $125,000 or more.

Measure 67 raises the state's $10 minimum corporate income tax. Together they generate an estimated $727 million, which has already been budgeted by the 2009 Legislature for public schools and other state services.

The tax measures were strongly supported by the state's teachers and other public employee unions. They argued that schools and public services would face damaging cuts.

A coalition of Oregon businesses, including the state's grocers, mounted a campaign to defeat the taxes, arguing that they would cost jobs at a time when the economy is already struggling.

*Not always the best guide to what is actually amazing.

More analysis after the jump…

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Wanted at the Fed: An Inflation Dove

(Whether or not the Senate confirms Ben Bernanke for another term as Fed chairman, this diary raises a critical issue. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

I was just reading that Janet Yellen, recently mentioned as a possible replacement for Fed chair Ben Bernanke, is considered on Wall Street to be an “inflation dove,” which means that she considers maintaining full employment to be -gasp!- “as important” as controlling inflation.

I also wonder about Brad DeLong at Berkeley. He was in the Treasury Department in the Clinton Administration. He's a free trader, which I guess is neither here nor there when it comes to monetary policy (and not necessarily bad in any case), but I like that he's an economic historian.

In any case, we strongly need someone who will put reducing unemployment tops on the list. I know, from personal experience, how unemployment can convulse a family…

 

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The Fed and the Treasury: Heads Should Roll

Krugman's “one cheer for Bernanke” notwithstanding, I think some heads have to roll here. Any favorites to replace him?

I've heard Blinder, Yellin, and Volcker mentioned.

And at Treasury, am I wrong to dream of a team featuring Brooksley Born, formerly of the CFTC, Elizabeth Warren of the TARP oversight office, and maybe Sheila Bair of FDIC? Make Born the Treasury Secretary, Bair the Comptroller of the Currency, and Warren the head of what should be a new Financial Product Safety Commission.

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