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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – December 16, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Central Park NYC, December 12th – 2017 photo by Rommel Tan

Long-time readers know that Wrongo has a very low opinion of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), who he considers an intellectual joker. He is often given a pass by the main stream media, who suggest that he is a thoughtful and principled Republican. But once again, he looked like a partially-informed hack on Thursday when he said that Americans need to have more babies or risk a collapse of Medicare and Social Security.

His concern is about the declining US birth rate. The Boston Globe reports that:

Ten years ago, the typical American woman had about 2.1 children. Today, it is about 1.77, representing a collapse in fertility on par with the declines in other countries that yielded Japan’s rapidly graying population in the 1990s, or Canada’s massive present-day demand for immigrants.

From Ryan’s news conference: (parenthesis by Wrongo)

People — this is going to be the new economic challenge for America. People…I did my part, (Ryan has three kids) but we need to have higher birth rates in this country. Meaning, baby boomers are retiring, and we have fewer people following them in the work force…We have something like a 90% increase in the retirement population in America, but only a 19% increase in the working population in America…

It is true that birth rates in the US have declined, but that’s not necessarily bad news. For example, birth rates for teenagers hit a record low last year. Also, Wrongo recently described McKinsey’s report on jobs lost to automation that showed 75 million jobs are at risk in the US by 2030.

Perhaps we already have too many workers for the jobs revolution that is occurring all around us.

And there’s an obvious solution to the problem that Ryan ignores: Allowing more immigrants into the country, either to fill the jobs being vacated by retiring baby boomers, or as necessary to meet tomorrow’s job requirements. But Ryan shows that he’s all in with Trump’s hard line anti-immigration positions.

Should American women become brood mares? This isn’t a new concept. The fear of being outnumbered by racial and ethnic minorities is the driving force behind today’s alt-right, and the view was around in earlier white nationalist movements. HuffPo interviewed Kelly J. Baker, author of “Gospel According to the Klan”. Baker says that the need to ensure that white women were having more white babies was a key part of the Ku Klux Klan’s platform during its resurgence in the 1920s: (emphasis by Wrongo)

Baker said that the 1920s Klan was “nervous” about the possibility of widespread birth control for white women…To push back against the rising availability of effective birth control, the Klan told white women that having as many white children as possible is your job and it matters for your family and your race and for America.

And now, Ryan makes this a mainstream GOP idea. For all of the political empowerment of women in today’s headlines, the Ryan argument lands in the same place as today’s alt-right, and yesterday’s KKK.

Ryan and the GOP want to see more babies, but they won’t support young kids with health insurance through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Quartz reports that next month, 600,000 American children will lose their CHIP coverage. CHIP has been instrumental in ensuring health care coverage of children in US families that aren’t poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, but cannot afford any other form of insurance.

Republicans talk a lot about the cost of healthcare. The cost of not providing healthcare to children in an America with failing schools is impossible to calculate. It is very high, it lasts lifetimes and possibly, generations.

Yet, Ryan is saying that American women need to have more babies to Make America Great Again.

And we know that he’s asking for more white babies.

OK, it’s Saturday, and we need a break from toxic politics, and maybe from obsessing about shopping for gifts. Hanukkah began this week, so Wrongo looked for a soothing piece of music that was inspired by the celebration of the Festival of Lights. Here is “Hanukkah Overture for String Orchestra and Clarinet” by Adam Shugar.

If you look at the YouTube video, you will see that it has just 5,000 views. It should have many more. You should watch it because the music is good, and unlike most orchestral pieces, this string orchestra performs while standing. The video is shot from a high angle, and looking down allows you to see them all as they play together, almost like a choreographed dance. Here is “Hanukkah Overture for String Orchestra and Clarinet” played by the Orchestre Nouvelle Génération under the direction of Airat Ichmouratov, with Mark Simons on clarinet:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Trump Knows Budgeting

The Daily Escape:

(Iowa State Law Library)

Trump’s first budget proposal was released on Thursday, and it hews closely to both Trumpian and Republican orthodoxy:

Trump’s first budget…would increase defense spending by $54 billion and then offset that by stripping money from more than 18 other agencies. Some would be hit particularly hard, with reductions of more than 20% at the Agriculture, Labor and State departments and of more than 30% at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The White House blueprint does not address major safety net programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which the Overlord has promised to protect. While there are too many deep cuts to detail fully, here are a few from the WaPo:

It would also propose eliminating future federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Within EPA alone, 50 programs and 3,200 positions would be eliminated.

Trump’s budget will eliminate thousands of government jobs, and that is a serious problem for Washington, DC. Moody’s chief economist, Mark Zandi, estimates that Trump’s proposed cuts would impact the Washington area bigly. It will reduce employment in the region by 1.8%, slash personal income by 3.5% and lower home prices by 1.9%.

Zandi reasons that cuts in non-defense spending would fall disproportionately hard on the Washington region, while the increase in military spending would be spread across the nation. Good paying defense jobs in your district, mostly non-union, and a defense contractor who kicks back to your campaign fund while building weapons that kill the baddies. What’s not to like?

The budget chops funding for the NIH by $5.8 billion, or close to 20%, and low income Americans will also lose:

And the Trump administration proposed to eliminate a number of other programs… [Including] the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which disburses more than $3 billion annually to help heat homes in the winter. It also proposed abolishing the Community Development Block Grant program, which provides roughly $3 billion for targeted projects related to affordable housing, community development and homelessness programs, among other things.

Some of this represents Trump’s campaign agenda. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney explained on Wednesday:

In fact, we wrote it using the president’s own words. We went through his speeches. We went through articles that have been written about his policies…and we turned those policies into numbers.

You know, things like cuts to the State Department, because diplomacy is for wimps.

But most of Trump’s budget is just a Republican’s wet dream of a “drown the government in a bathtub” program. Having said that, Trump’s recent executive order to restructure the entire executive branch means the White House has broad latitude to make these huge cuts effective by simply shifting priorities of what to actually do with the money.

This budget represents fundamental change. Medicine, education and defense have received the lion’s share of government spending in the past. Any town with a hospital, a college, or a defense contractor had a stable income base upon which to grow their local economy.

Now, the Republican Party no longer believes the government has any role in the first two, so defense contractors will become the only Keynesian game in town.

This will be a terrible new baseline for Democrats to work from, assuming they ever get back into power. Trump means to end all of the New Deal era programs, and growing the tax base to support a return to higher levels of government spending will take decades.

Now, another Irish musical selection for St. Patrick’s Day. Calling modern Irish music “punk” sounds redundant, but there are quite a few punkish Irish bands. Black 47 is Wrongo’s favorite, but today we feature Thin Lizzy with “Whiskey in the Jar”, a traditional Irish song that they updated in 1972.

Phil Lynott was the front man for Thin Lizzy. He was once asked how it felt to be black and Irish, and he answered: “Like a pint of Guinness”. Lynott lived fast, and died at 36 from heart failure in 1986. Here is “Whiskey in the Jar”:

This makes Wrongo want a bottle of Bushmills 21 year old single malt. Oh wait, here’s one!

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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February 23, 2018

The Daily Escape:

(Yukon Bear before hibernation)

From the WSJ:

The Trump administration has drafted preliminary economic growth forecasts for its federal budget planning that rely on assumptions that are far rosier than projections made by independent agencies and most private forecasters, according to several people familiar with the discussions.

Imagine. The Trump Team ordered government economists to cook up rosy economic forecasts upon which to base the latest Republican fantasy sales pitch about trickledown economics.

Trump’s “the economy will be great” promises made during the election are now turning into policy and legislation. The problem is that the future they are cooking up for us is most likely unobtainable. Consider that recent GDP growth has been around 2%, while Trump is telling us to expect growth of between 3.0% and 3.5% for the next 10 years. But the Trumpets have a plan:

Trump officials believe a regulatory rollback and a tax-code revamp will unleash growth that drives a recovery in productivity, sends business investment higher and draws idled workers back to the labor force. They also assume interest rates would remain low because the US would become a more attractive place to park money.

Most economists believe sustained growth at more than 3% will be difficult to achieve unless there is a sharp rebound in productivity growth, while the US labor force also grows. Few are projecting that both of those will happen. Worker productivity growth has slowed to 0.7% a year since 2010, a sharp slowdown from rates exceeding 3% in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

So the simultaneous equations to achieve growth include increased spending on military and infrastructure, tax reform, cuts in regulations, and not touching granny-starver Paul Ryan’s favorite target of cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

The WSJ says that the Trump team gave the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) staff the growth targets that their budget should produce, and asked them to backfill other estimates to justify those numbers.

Business school logic says that could work if the baseline target is realistic. Matt Yglesias at Vox points out that under Trump’s budget, the deficit would be larger; but the economy would be 17% larger and therefore, the deficit as a percentage of GDP would be smaller (perhaps small enough for the GOP to again say “deficits don’t matter?”).

So, Trump has an overly optimistic budget based upon phenomenal growth which no one else believes will happen, and he will hand off this budget grenade to Congress. If Congress balks, or does not find a way to make Trump’s budget happen, accusations will be tweeted from The White House regarding how Congress can’t get anything done.

It will be everybody’s fault except the Donald’s.

This reminds Wrongo of his days in the Fortune 500. Corporate HQ orders an extremely aggressive budget number. The number is missed, and people are terminated. Things continue to slide, and a new CEO is hired, who gets another “stretch” budget that is again missed.

How many times do we need to watch this movie? Trump has declared bankruptcy six times.

Will this make seven?

Here is Alex Dezen with “A Little Less Like Hell”:

Lyric:

Tell me who I gotta talk to
Tell me who I gotta kill
Just to make this place
Feel a less like hell

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Congress Returns to Do (Not) Much

From Roll Call:

After the longest summer break in modern times, lawmakers are required to accomplish a single legislative task before leaving again. But it’s a job far more politically fraught than it is procedurally simple: Assuring normal government operations continue through the end of this budgetary year and into the new one.

That’s right, once again, it’s time to fight about funding the government. And as Booman says,

This ridiculous election season would not be complete without the threat of another government shutdown, and how much money would you be willing to risk betting on Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan to find a way to pass a continuing resolution that either the majority of their own caucus would support or that relies (again) on mostly Democratic votes?

The potential stalemate over spending is a headache for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) who would like to avoid a shutdown threat just weeks before the election.

The Tea Party and GOP conservatives want to kick the can ahead for six months with a temporary resolution. But Democrats and some Republicans want to finish the annual budget work in the lame duck session after the election.

Both sides are digging in for a fight.

This could become an object lesson on why Republicans shouldn’t be in the majority. The party with the majority in the House is supposed to produce the bills and along with the Senate, supply the votes to pass appropriations. But, John Boehner couldn’t do it, because the Freedom Caucus and the other conservative R’s wouldn’t work as a coalition with other Republicans and/or Democrats to actually pass spending bills.

Ryan was able to do it last time, but it isn’t looking like those Republican factions will roll over again.

If Ryan and McConnell want to buck their own members on the length of the continuing resolution, the Dems are free to refuse to provide any votes. And the Democrats do not have to protect the sitting president, so they can watch as the GOP twists in the wind.

Fun times on Capitol Hill!

Here are a few links to news you may have missed over the holiday:

Experimental new opioid blocks pain without being addictive or deadly in primates. In monkeys, the drug is a highly effective pain reliever without downsides. It needs more trials, including in humans. Meanwhile, the DEA is attempting to ban a natural, safe herb which has been used for thousands of years to do the same thing.

Holy Labor Day: On Friday, an estimated 150 million workers refused to show up for work in India and instead took to the streets to demonstrate against labor conditions. The unions involved issued 12 demands to Prime Minister Modi, including raising the minimum wage, introduction of universal social security, and a minimum pension.

Is an end to the Asian sweatshop in sight? A recent report from the International Labor Organization found that more than two-thirds of Southeast Asia’s 9.2 million textile and footwear jobs are threatened by automation. Here are the numbers: 88% of those jobs in Cambodia, 86% in Vietnam, and 64% in Indonesia. Will this be good for the workers? Doubtful.

13 Tips for reading election polls like a pro. After Labor Day, the polling deluge will begin. A guide to making sense of it all.

Boeing gets $2B in bonuses for flawed missile-defense system. From 2002 through early last year, the Pentagon conducted 11 flight tests of the nation’s homeland missile-defense system. The interceptors failed to destroy their targets in six of the 11 tests — a record that has prompted independent experts to conclude the system can’t be relied on to foil a nuclear strike by North Korea or Iran. Yet the Pentagon paid Boeing, the prime contractor, $1,959,072,946 in performance bonuses for a Job? Well? Done?

Maybe we shouldn’t complain: The US government is spending money. Money = jobs. Of course, money also = corruption. And isn’t it a good deal if Boeing’s shit doesn’t work?

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The Pant Suit vs. The Pant Load – Budget Edition

Now that both presidential conventions are history, the real discussion about the merits of the candidates and their programs begins. The first question to answer is: What are the costs of the promises made to America by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton?

Both candidates have made political promises that, if implemented, have both costs and benefits to the nation. While the analysis of benefits may be difficult to assess, the costs are not.

The Committee for a Responsible Budget (CRB) has issued a report, “Promises and Price Tags: A Fiscal Guide to the 2016 Election” that estimates how our national debt would rise under the programs of both presidential aspirants. It shows that gross debt held by the public would rise from about $19 trillion today to $23.9 trillion by 2026 under Hillary Clinton’s plan and to $35.2 trillion under Donald Trump’s plan.

They based the estimates on the public positions taken by each campaign as of June 24, 2016. They also generated a low, central, and high cost estimate of the fiscal implications of Trump’s and Clinton’s proposals.

We need to stop and say that our gross debt will rise no matter who is elected, since under existing law, gross debt is projected to rise from about $19 trillion today to about $29.1 trillion by 2026, about a 50% increase. With that in mind, here is CRB’s summary of the impacts of both candidate’s plans on the national debt:

Debt Under Candidates Proposals

Donald Trump has expressed concern about the dangers of our current $19 trillion debt. Yet his plan would increase that number significantly. Under CRB’s central estimate of Trump’s plan, gross debt would more than double from $19 trillion today to $39.5 trillion by 2026.

The increase in gross debt under Clinton’s plan would be smaller but still significant. Under the central estimate of Clinton’s plan, gross debt would rise by more than 50%, from $19 trillion today to $29.6 trillion by 2026, in line with the current law. So, her promise to pay for new spending seems to be true.

Digging a little deeper, here is CRB’s breakdown of both candidates’ plans by revenue, costs and spending. Most of Hillary Clinton’s increased costs come from spending in non-health, non-retirement programs:

  • She would spend $350 billion more on college education, $300 billion more on infrastructure, another $300 billion on paid family leave, and nearly $500 billion on a variety of other initiatives.
  • Clinton would also make several health-related changes that would cost about $150 billion.
  • To offset these costs, Clinton proposes a variety of tax increases – mostly on higher earners and businesses – totaling $1.25 trillion.

The largest share of Trump’s deficit impact comes from his proposed individual and business tax reforms, which would reduce revenue by about $9.25 trillion:

  • His plan to reform the veteran’s affairs system and increase veterans’ access to private doctors would cost about $500 billion.
  • And his plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and reduce illegal immigration would cost about $50 billion each.

So, what happens to the total amount of our national debt?

Donald Trump wants to dramatically reduce taxes for most Americans while maintaining spending relatively near its current levels. As a result, under CRB’s central estimate, he would add $11.5 trillion to the debt through 2026.

Hillary Clinton wants to increase both spending and taxes, adding about $250 billion to the debt over 10 years under CRB’s central estimate. Under their low cost estimate, Clinton’s plan would reduce 10-year deficits by $150 billion.

Increases in debt are not always a bad thing, particularly in times of economic slack, if the debt accumulation is driven by stimulative fiscal policy. But a 40 percentage point of debt to GDP increase, from 87% of GDP to 127% of GDP, seems unlikely to give us a positive outcome.

But, if we elect The Pant Load, that’s what we will get. Trump said to the WaPo in May:

I am the king of debt. I do love debt. I love debt. I love playing with it.

This should worry you. Trump went on to say:

Look, I have borrowed, knowing that you can pay back with discounts. And I have done very well…I would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal, and if the economy was good, it was good, so, therefore, you can’t lose.

So, Trump would stiff the nation’s creditors. Haven’t we had enough of Republican mis-leadership on the nation’s finances?

Haven’t we had enough of Republican tax cuts for the most comfortable among us at a cost to the least comfortable among us?

Remember that it was the GOP-led Congress that threatened not to raise the debt ceiling in 2011. That led to the Standard & Poors rating agency’s lowering of the US credit rating.

Think carefully about what Trump’s glib plans imply for America.

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How Not to Cut the Deficit

Congress returned from the Independence Day break on Monday. They will leave again on Friday, and won’t return until after Labor Day. From The Hill:

Congress is poised to leave Washington…without passing funding to combat the Zika virus or completing work on spending bills to avoid a government shutdown.

One bill that might get passed is the re-authorization for Federal Aviation Administration programs that expire on Friday. Since Congress likes to fly, most think they will pass an extension that will last through September 2017.

If you’ve taken a flight this summer, you’ve likely been tied up in long TSA security lines. But you may not have focused on the real reason: Funding for the TSA has been sliced by 8.5% over the past five years, leading to a 5.5% drop in the number of screeners.

Yet, in the same period, the number of air travelers has increased by more than 15%. And those business wizards in Congress should be forced to tell the rest of us how a labor-intensive business can successfully process increasing numbers of customers with a smaller work force.

Steven Rattner in the NYT:

This year, discretionary spending — which encompasses airport security, infrastructure, education, research and development and much more — will be lower than it was in 2005. (Adjusted for inflation.

The discretionary portion of the federal budget, including education, research, infrastructure and other programs, has been falling, while spending on mandatory programs (including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) has been going up. Rattner reports that total government spending is up by 23% since 2005, while mandatory spending is up 45% in the same period, and discretionary spending is down 3%.

Here are some examples:

  • Since 2003, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have seen their funding fall by 23%, forcing an 8% reduction in grants to researchers even as grant applications were rising by 50%.
  • In the past 10 years, spending on all education has fallen by 11% percent.
  • Since 2010, the IRS’s budget has been slashed by about 18%, even as the IRS was given new duties in connection with the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The result: The enforcement staff has shrunk by 23%, leading to a similar reduction in the number of audits. Fewer audits have meant additional uncollected taxes, estimated at $14 billion over the past two years. And almost a million pieces of unanswered correspondence from taxpayers need responses.
  • The EPA’s budget has been cut by an enormous 27% — about $3 billion since 2010. As a result, the agency had to eliminate more than 2,000 workers, bringing its staffing to the lowest level since 1989.

Last fall, a bi-partisan group added $80 billion in new discretionary spending over the next two years. Then, Congress doubled the cost of the deal by giving more money to the military and to Medicare, taking the deal to $154 billion while paying for about half the tab with legitimate savings.

A few months later, Congress retroactively extended a raft of expired tax provisions — without even a pretense of paying for them.

As a result of Congress’s fudging, the projected 2017 deficit rose to $561 billion, from the $416 billion that was estimated just six months earlier.

We shouldn’t expect that Congress will make any big decisions involving taxes or spending in an election year. But at the least Republicans need to stop using the appropriations tool to take aim at agencies such as the IRS and the EPA, whose missions they reject.

In the case of the TSA, Republicans want it privatized. Not because privatizing will save any money or make the TSA more effective, but to help a few of their corporate sponsors have another feed at the government trough. Republicans want to see schools, prisons, and the postal service privatized. The people who are employed by these private, profit-making companies will not be paid as well, and will not receive benefits they have today.

This is what you get when you believe that government should be “run like a business.” Certainly, we need a more efficient, better managed bureaucracy, but the deficit-cutting value of their fix is peanuts compared with the simple act of generating revenue.

You know, that would be raising taxes sufficient to pay for the critical tasks we require of the government.

The GOP would like you to think that Donald Trump represents a threat to Republican tax and deficit-cutting orthodoxy. To the extent Trump has revealed his thinking on tax policy, it looks consistent with the Republican Party. Trump’s grand accomplishment is to create an alliance between the true economic interests of the Republican Party and that segment of the American electorate largely marginalized and displaced by the actions of that same elite.

Welcome to the Republican paradise.

 

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There Is No Hope For The GOP

While we are busy obsessing about the Donald and Hillary, the Congress is supposed to be governing in the background. They aren’t.

After Paul Ryan (R-WI) replaced John Boehner as House Speaker, the idea was that Republicans would have more of a united front. And specifically, when it came to Ryan’s specialty, the federal budget, the idea was that Republicans would have an “ah-ha” moment, craft a budget, and then put pressure on Obama to go along.

But the change in leadership changed nothing for those divided House Republicans. Despite months of budget negotiations, the House Freedom Caucus, the 40 Republicans that ousted Boehner as Speaker, have now rejected Paul Ryan’s budget, probably leaving the Republicans with no budget to pass this year. More from HuffPo: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The budget, a non-binding resolution laying out spending priorities for the next 10 years, is little more than a press release, except in one key area: It sets the spending limits for the next fiscal year. And without those individual allocations, there’s little point in Republicans trying to go through appropriations process.

If there is no budget, there won’t be appropriations bills. A return to the regular legislative process for appropriations was a key tenet of Ryan’s program for the Speakership. Republicans overwhelmingly support the process of sending up individual spending bills so that they can add policy riders to legislation, putting the squeeze on Mr. Obama to choose between funding parts of the government, or keeping the Democrat’s social policies intact.

Dave Dayden said in the Fiscal Times:

The Freedom Caucus essentially wants to control government from a base of 40 members of the House, with only a few allies in the Senate and no president willing to agree to their demands. They want to…balance the budget through massive spending cuts, dismantle government healthcare programs, and overturn every executive order of the past eight years…

For months, Ryan has attempted to broker a deal on a budget resolution, which sets topline numbers for the appropriations committees to use to fund government operations. A bipartisan deal with the White House had set those numbers in stone, at $1.07 trillion for the next fiscal year. But the Freedom Caucus wants to cut that by $30 billion, back to the level mandated by Sequestration, the automatic spending cuts implemented in 2011.

Nevertheless, the Freedom Caucus formally opposed the deal, unable to stomach the nominal $30 billion spending increase (all of which was offset by cuts elsewhere). While Ryan had offered them votes on individual elements on the budget, members dismissed the additional votes as meaningless, because the Senate was unlikely to take them up.

Because Democrats don’t usually agree to budget resolutions from the other side, losing a 40-member bloc is enough to ensure that Ryan’s budget won’t have enough votes. That means it’s likely the government will be funded with a Continuing Resolution (CR) at current levels for the near future. And Democrats will have to supply most of the votes for the CR to pass.

And the lack of a budget is just a sidelight to the continuing irreconcilable differences between GOP factions. The GOP cannot fix this. Only a purge of one side of the Party, or the other, will do it.

If Paul Ryan cannot mediate this intra-party dispute, who can? Is Trump believable as a mediator?

If they can’t agree on something as simple as a topline budget number, what can they agree on?

The Trump phenomenon may succeed, or it may not. But the Freedom Caucus phenomenon seems far more consequential to the GOP and the country than Trump. And it’s hard to figure out how Republicans will get to where they are trying to go with the Tea Party or with Trump.

So, here’s a Wake Up Call for the GOP: Your “Big Tent” strategy with the Tea Party has failed. You gotta split up with the Teahadists and return to your roots, the roots that allowed you to govern back in the day. Then you can begin working to take back the seats you have lost to the Freedom Caucus.

To help the GOP wake up, here is a song by Girlyman, a group that broke up in 2013 at the height of their powers. Girlyman called their musical style “harmony-driven gender pop.” They had a strong following in the gay community. Here is “Joyful Sign” recorded in NYC at City Winery on April 16, 2011. And, its a break up song:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 20, 2015

You are not going to read the entire 2000 page Omnibus Budget Bill, but you don’t have to. The thing that you need to know is that despite years of preaching budget austerity, and preaching that expenses must be paid for, the GOP-controlled House passed nearly $700 billion in unpaid-for tax cuts, none of which were paid for by budget cuts or other tax offsets.

Now, get it out of your head the GOP is fiscally responsible. Remember that Reagan quadrupled the Debt. Bush cut taxes while we went to war. Obama has run up the debt as well, but if ANYONE tells you the Republicans are fiscally responsible, laugh in their face.

In other news, the GOP really needs Santa’s help:

COW GOP List for Santa

Terror is driving the season:

COW Bearded Foreigner

 

Terror is driving the season Part II:

COW Fear of Terrorism

 

And Grinches are multiplying:

COW Grinches

 

Star Wars franchise wants to sell merchandise:

COW Starwars Xmas

 

And the Fed raised interest rates for the first time in seven years:

COW Janet Rides Again

 

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Monday Wake-Up Call – October 19, 2015

Page A21 of Friday’s New York Times carried the news that our budget deficit for the fiscal year that ended on September 30th was $439 billion, or $44 billion less than the prior year, and nearly $1 trillion less than its peak during the Great Recession. Oh, and it equaled just 2.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Wall Street Journal reported that the budget shortfall was 9% lower than last year, and at its lowest level since 2007.

If the “paper of record” buries this story, don’t expect to see it on the nightly news, or the Sunday bloviator shows. Yet, it was not very long ago that the media was obsessed with the budget deficit, egged on by Republicans who returned incessantly to Talking Points 101 from their slash Social Security and Medicare playbook . The WSJ provides a history of recent deficits:

Deficit History

The surplus on the top graph occurred during the Clinton administration. That would be about the same time that “spending” began exceeding “revenue” on the second graph.

The budget deficit is less of a problem than it has been since 2007, and since our economy is larger, it is also even less as a share of US GDP. Indeed, at 2.5% of GDP, our current deficit is less than the average of the past 40 years. The increase in tax receipts from higher tax rates, an improving economy (and stock market), combined with marginal cuts in federal spending (the Sequester) have all helped drop the deficit by almost 75% from its 2009 high.

So the deficit is falling, but the total debt of the US government is still increasing.

The debt is the total amount of money the US government owes. It’s the amount borrowed to cover all the deficits over the years. When the fiscal year ended on September 30, the US government owed $13.124 trillion to the public (a measure that includes Treasury securities held by the Federal Reserve.) To see the current tally, see the Treasury’s “The Debt to the Penny and Who Holds It” website.

To increase our debt, we have to increase the debt ceiling. But, once again, Congress can’t agree to increase the debt ceiling unless the Tea party faction of the Republican Party can score a few political points about Medicare, Social Security and Planned Parenthood.

Why does the Beltway media continue to fall for the Republican trope that they are the fiscally prudent party? We now have 35 years and five Presidents of proof that Republican Presidents spend like teenagers with their parents’ credit card.

But the “meh, so what?” emoji from the Beltway media after we cut $1 trillion from the deficit is truly disappointing. So today’s wake up is for the media who think that cutting the deficit is a low value target for our collective consciousness.

Today’s Wake Up is “For What It’s Worth”. Even though it is associated with Vietnam and Kent State, it isn’t an anti-war song. It was written about the “Sunset Strip riots” in November, 1966. From Wikipedia:

On one evening, 1,000 demonstrators gathered to protest against the enforcement of the curfew laws. Although the rallies began peacefully, trouble eventually broke out among the protesters and police. The unrest continued the next night and periodically throughout the rest of November and December forcing some clubs to shut down within weeks.

Here are Buffalo Springfield with “For What Its Worth”:

50 years later, this song is still relevant. That speaks to the song’s genius.

Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for our media and politicians.

For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 17, 2015

The “knowing what we know now” argument from the right wing talkers was all over the news this week. They are trying to help Jeb Bush walk back his brother’s decision to invade Iraq. It is a revisionist attempt to explain the past decisions of the Bush administration with the added benefit of indicting Hillary Clinton. After all, while a Senator from NY she voted to invade.

The reframe says that a decision based on “what we knew then” was righteous, that everyone who looked at the same information would have come to the same decision. These guys continue to defend the invasion, despite the fact that we know it was based on lies. Iraq was not a good faith mistake. Bush and Cheney didn’t sit down with the intelligence community, ask for their best assessment of the situation, and then reluctantly conclude that war was the only option.

They decided before the dust of 9/11 had settled to use it as an excuse to go after Saddam. As evil as he was, he had nothing to do with the attack. To make a case for the short little war they expected to fight, they deliberately misled the public, making an essentially fake case about Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and insinuating that Saddam was behind 9/11. From Lambert Strether:

And we played whack-a-mole with one fake WMD story after another: The yellowcake. The drones. The white powder. Judy Miller. Curveball. Cheney at the CIA. As soon as we would whack one story, another would pop up. And then Colin Powell, bless his heart, went to the UN and regurgitated it all (to his subsequent regret). Only subsequently did we come to understand (from the Downing Street Memo) that “the facts and the intelligence were being fixed around the policy,” and that the reason it felt like we were playing whack-a-mole is that we were; Bush’s “White House Iraq Group” was systematically planting stories in our famously free press.

Yet the Neo-cons, including Jeb Bush, say they would still make the same decision.

Bush harkens back to a government that believed its own spin doctoring to the point where it wasn’t able to see the difference between a sales pitch and the hard evidence coming from the Intelligence community. Given the totality of the outcome of these decisions: America nearly bankrupted, hundreds of thousands dead, total conflagration in the Middle East, he spent the week dancing around, saying the intelligence was faulty, but everyone believed it. And saying while you wouldn’t do it now, you would have done it then, is moral depravity.

According to the neo-cons, Obama did it:

COW Obama Did It

Jeb mansplains:

COW Jebs Answer

This week, Obama met with our ME “allies”:

COW ME Strategy

Amtrak off the rails indicts America:

COW Train Wreck

GOP’s new budget is springtime for the 1%:

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trade Deal is still up in the air:

COW Trade Deal

 

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