How Dumb?

By James Kwak

In his latest column, “Dumbing Deficits Down,” Paul Krugman has harsh words for Republican nonsense about the budget deficit:

Today’s Republicans just aren’t into rationality. They claim to care deeply about deficits — but they’ve spent the past two years putting cynical, demagogic attacks on any attempt to actually deal with long-run deficits at the heart of their campaign strategy.

But he’s only slightly less harsh toward President Obama:

The president and his aides know that the G.O.P. approach to the budget is wrongheaded and destructive. But they’ve stopped making the case for an alternative approach; instead, they’ve positioned themselves as know-nothings lite, accepting the notion that spending must be slashed immediately — just not as much as Republicans want. . . .

the White House is aiding and abetting the dumbing down of our deficit debate.

In this context, this concluding passage from the book I just read seems appropriate:

U.S. political leaders now seem determined to follow Nero’s reputed example when setting budget policy. They dicker with trivial deficit reduction packages, and then on a regular basis stoke the fire by passing much larger tax cuts, while the long-term budget picture keeps getting worse. They know what is happening, as do the voters.

That’s from Taxes, Spending, and the U.S. Government’s March Toward Bankruptcy by Daniel Shaviro, a tax professor at NYU’s law school (and blogger). Despite the apocalyptic title, the book is less about actual fiscal policy and more about the language we use to debate fiscal policy — and how that language is notoriously unhelpful, except perhaps for ideologues. For example, eliminating the mortgage interest tax deduction would increase tax revenue, which conventionally is thought of as “bigger government”; but it would reduce the distorting effects of government policy, which means the government would have a smaller impact on the economy.

The book was published in 2007 — that is, before the latest turn of the wheel, in which a $900 billion tax cut is being rapidly followed by a spending cut that will range somewhere between $10 billion and $60 billion, yet could reduce GDP on the order of one percentage point this year.*

My only quibble is with the last sentence: “They know what is happening, as do the voters.” On that point, I think Krugman may be right. If voters really knew what was going on, then at some point the politicians couldn’t get away with the nonsense they continue to spout.

* The Goldman report behind that link estimates that the House spending cuts would reduce annualized economic growth by 1.5-2 percentage points in calendar Q2 and Q3, which means an aggregate reduction of 0.75-1 percentage points, ignoring any effects in other quarters.

69 responses to “How Dumb?

  1. We can tell the change in perspectives about tax when we go for a value added tax (VAT). Sure, that may signal a departure from a consumption based economy, but how else to pull the whole system/conversation from where it’s been headed–down the tubes, that is.

    I think that nothing less can do it, anymore, and the money from VAT should be put into the following: single payer health-care and national educational system. People can throw whatever (socialist) labels they wish, but the ample evidence is that national systems are those that work–I don’t know why we keep trying to re-invent round the obvious.

    And, since socialism came into discussion, why don’t we ask those supplant serious conversation with such terms to define them? Yup, start with socialism and go on to capitalism, democracy, free market, etc…

  2. Republican behavior is quite rational. The key to defeating Obama in 2012 is a poor economy with high unemployment. They can have it both ways championing reductions for the good of the country and contributing to unemployment as a result of the cuts. Similar reductions at the state level are icing on the cake of a pretty well coordinated grab for power.

  3. Herbert Wetherby

    The layers of corruption have no serious conversations because they are more concerened with analyizing the perceived risk and how long can they operate with other peoples money. Why talk about socialism when you can no longer borrow other people money. There is a timer, one that I am pressuring to be moved up, stemming from a collective morbid mentality that will bring back a supply side mark to market economy. The money to do so will drag down the stock market hard, and call loans in early to cover quick losses that can never be recouped without borrowing. The said risk takers will have had plenty of time to negotiate but never enough time to explain the situtation to those borrowers who will have to come up with said funds. It can be done the easy way or the hard way and I am prepairing for the hard way in any event.

  4. What. PK is still a go-to guy for economic commentary?

    Really?

  5. Don’t you get it yet? This is class war. That means throw out your good civics textbooks and ivory tower policy papers. It means, for example, that in our reality a VAT is nothing but a viciously regressive tax which would be used to redistribute wealth from the people to the banks and corporations.

    Why would you think the revenue from a regressive tax would go anywhere but down the corporatist rathole with every other cent of discretionary government spending?

    This government is a corporatist kleptocracy, which will never do anything with any tax other than use it to redistribute wealth from the non-rich to the super-rich.

    Any conversation still mired in notions of “better government spending”, let alone support for new taxes of all things, has certainly gone down the tubes already.

    A basic demand all the non-rich must make and enforce:

    No Taxes on the Non-Rich.

    Let the kleptocracy borrow and print for its bailouts and private wars.

  6. I think a lot of people give him a pass because he was the only MSM guy who pretended to be against the war. (That was when it was just Bush’s war and not yet Obama’s; now he has nothing to say about it.)

  7. Politicians do, I think (agreeing with Daniel Shaviro), know what is happening. There are possible a handful who are so genuinely stupid that they do not grasp facts. There is another contingent that is so genuinely delusional that they do not see facts. The likes of Scott Walker, Peter King, Sarah Palin may be in either or both of these camps.

    But the Newt Gingriches, Mitch McConnells, Orrin Hatches, are fully aware. And they are on a mission. They do not see their job as serving the people generally, but as serving a select few — the elite.

    Sadly, a huge percentage of Democrats are no different, including Mr. Obama and many among the coterie of privileged legal and economic thinkers he has gathered (including Lawrence Summers, Timothy Geithner, Elena Kagan, and so on).

    As Paul Krugman and others have noted, the United States is substantively now an oligarchy.

    As James Kwak suggests, whether the American public know it is another thing. First, attributing a mass opinion to millions of people is just a mistake. But we can talk about average Americans, and Americans — on average — seem both disinterested and monstrously ill-informed. Most Americans evidently buy the tax drivel spouted by both Republicans and Democrats. Likewise, they buy the drivel about Social Security (routinely mixed in with Medicare, Medicaid and other healthcare spending, recently by The Economist, which absolutely knows the facts).

    Americans are systematically mislead by journalists, pundits, politicians, and — sadly — by many economists (like several conservatives we could name in Cambridge, MA). Couple that to profound delusions shared by many, and we have a catastrophic, endemic problem. As Ken Rogoff (an honest American Cantabrigian) recently said on the Charlie Rose program, the average American thinks she’s bound to win the lottery. I have seen evidence of this and comment several times. It is an extraordinary testament to widespread, malicious, and in significant measure willful, ignorance.

  8. The language of the debate is absurd. Cutting taxes does not increase revenue. Look at the deficits and debt that Reagan left, despite almost doubling SS contributions which he used to plug a hole in his budgets.

    Total federal revenue under Bush was down almost $1 trillion between 2003 and 2007. If the tax rates had not been lowered from the 2000 levels then total revenue would have been $2.74 trillion more in Bush’s 8 years. Further, incomes for most Americans fell during the Bush years. http://www­.tax.com/t­axcom/taxb­log.nsf/Pe­rmalink/CH­AS-89LPZ9

    Tax revenues did not increase and would have been larger if Bush had maintained the 2000 tax levels. As for spending not only were revenues off by the $2.74 Trillion, but spending on war and war related costs were no doubt in the trillions.

    America, we have a revenue problem. Since the Bush tax cuts, tax revenues have fallen 30% in real terms from 2000 to 2010. Income taxes per capita fell 36% because there was an increase in the population­. Corporate profits were up 60% but their taxes fell 27% and 34% per capita. Lowered taxes DID NOT INCREASE FEDERAL TAX REVENUE the proof is in the numbers. http://www­.tax.com/t­axcom/taxb­log.nsf/Pe­rmalink/UB­EN-8EL2Y8?­OpenDocume­nt

    Why then do some continue to tell us that American has a spending problem and not a revenue problem? Why do they tell us that America has the highest corp tax rate in the world, when many corps pay effective tax rates of the low single digits? Why do some continue to tell us that lowering taxes increase revenue? Why do some continue to tell us the America does not have to pay for tax cuts?

    Why are the tax cuts and subsidies for the rich not identified as “Tax Entitlemen­ts”? No wonder some call us the sheeple.

    It all seems designed to remove $$ from my pocket to the pockets of the Ubers. And if not by design, then by fact. As they pay less, I pay more.

    Why are Americans so easily misled?

  9. “Why are Americans so easily misled?”

    The “math” in the judeo-christian holy book – the bible – is very bad:

    More misery for others = More money for ME ME ME

    It’s hard rock “science” and it works on a micro level as well, if not better, than at the macro level.

    The macro level of reality pushes back delusions of grandeur…

    Keep watching thy neighbor’s crotch for “spending habits”…USA “political discourse” is *vile*…

    Is there a *balance* of viewpoints – and I’m not talking rethug vs demorat – I’m talking about ANY representation of “cheese heads” where they are NOT being FORCED to say anything about anything only in the language, the majik juju WORDS, of the propagandist?

    NOTHING in my life – my life survival activity – can utilize the propagandist’s “words* to explain facts or common sense solutions. How insane is that? That we have to solve problems with *words* that have no meaning?

  10. We The People have

    NO CHOICE

    other than to re-create a currency based on life-maintenance activities

    which, btw, in the USA is known as LOCAL GOVERNMENT.

    To my way of thinking, I’m not sure, maybe they drink too much and then feel guilty about it,

    the good people of Wisconsin should have politely, peacefully, surrounded Gov. Walker and his hooligan Khaddafi-like private security forces

    and escorted them off the “leadership stage”.

    The kleptocracy is so BOLD-FACED…what the heck are they waiting for…?

  11. Herbert Wetherby

    Why are Americans so easily misled?

    Its more a case of broken promises and broken dreams. They conspire with their twins behind closed doors to make the odds of seeming guilt be riduculus to prove. And then that is all they concentrate on, missing the real world around them. When behind, (not just bars) they resort to stealing anything from money to drugs and even real estate (if a gvt man), in the name of their law. It works for them, they are responcible to no one, and refuse to talk about it. Whats not to like?

  12. “As Ken Rogoff (an honest American Cantabrigian) recently said on the Charlie Rose program, the average American thinks she’s bound to win the lottery.”

    So she seems well-informed – D.C. is one rigged slot machine, ain’t it?

  13. Yes,the deficit ‘battle’ reminds me of Global Climate Catastrophe – in each case coming to grips with the situation (‘manning up’ in Authoritarian Speak http://bit.ly/elWXsd)is beyond our individual or collective will and capability.

    Ezra Klein and others http://stripe.colorado.edu/~steinmo/stupid.htm suggest our government is so complicated as to be dysfunctional, leading most people to lose faith and interest in its ability to address their problems, so they ignore it.

    That’s the why. If we want a country – and world – now’s the Time. But how?

  14. Nihilism works both ways.

    And you can’t have it both ways, you can’t use the *Law* to protect lawlessness FOR YOU

    at the same time you expect everyone else to follow *laws* that curtail defense against theft, murder, and *deconstructionism*…

    No one CARES about each other’s “feelings” in a Nihilistic state…you care you loose, right? That’s the game…

  15. Sadly, most Americans don’t care about the reality of the situation. They want to believe that the Government has been getting more money from taxes over the past decades and has just squandered the money. They want to believe they can have more Government by spending less. So they believe it.

    Telling them that tax revenue is at an all time low has no effect because the American people don’t want to believe they have not been paying for the Government they elected.

    There is truth to the overall argument that the Government is wasting money. The inefficency in health care spending and the overspending in defense gives the American people just enough “facts” to allow them to believe the only problem is spending.

    Politicans of all kinds are willing to let Americans believe this. When was the last time you heard a politican talk about a need to pay down the $14 trillion dollar debt? They focus on the deficit and act like the debt we built up will just magically disappear.

    Now on top of everything else we have opinion polls showing Americans want their government to do more. Really? We can’t pay for the government we have now. What these polls fail to ask is how much are they willing to pay for it.

  16. I find it interesting that you even mention the Goldman-Sachs GDP report. We can trust what they say because …. ? Hmmm, what was the 13 Bankers book about?

  17. Russ, if I hear you well, you seem to say that our system could use a shakeout. I happen to think so too, but it’s a minority opinion. Things gt so much more complicated when sorting out the nature of the shakeout ( http://imotion.blogspot.com/2010/11/lincoln-or-roosevelt-moment.html ).

    Yes, we can agree that Obambi has been captured, unless he played us for hopeful kids. Suggesting the poor pay no taxes is something else, for it risks taking down the whole thing not only the fat rats on the ship. Indeed, there might be too many poor, besides the need to steer behavior through taxes. I know that we as good Americans are supposed to fight even the suggestion of somebody else interfering with our behavior, but that’s just another myth, usually associated with the Tea Party half of the country nowadays.

    Suggestion: Exempt food and clothing, up to whatever amount, from taxes, and introduce a luxury tax on top of VAT.

  18. The future of this country quite literally lies in the hands of the conservative middle class.

    If they finally wake up and realize once and for all that the Republicans don’t give a rat-crap about them and are only pandering to their irrational fears and religious leanings (guns, prayers in schools and the overturn of Roe v Wade) to secure their votes with which they can legislate the retention of maximum wealth for the wealthy, then maybe, maybe this country can get back on track and start rebuilding a healthy middle class.

    However, if they continue to act like addle-minded, pavlovian idiots who usher the Republicans into office every time they wave the flag, religion or race in front of their faces, then we are truly doomed. In other words, if they continue to be bamboozled into voting for the Republicans, the disparity between rich and poor will become so great, the country will degenerate into a state of anarchy within 5-7 years.

  19. How long must we wait for every responsible economist, political pundit, journalist and anyone else with access to public media to point out that the very best economic solution to all of our problems is to increase taxes on the wealthy both significantly and immediately?

    It is so obviously the single best economic, social and moral solution that I feel like the befuddled little boy in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes as I wait for it to happen.

  20. CBS from the West

    “Let the kleptocracy borrow and print for its bailouts and private wars.”

    Problem is, when the kleptocracy borrows, they keep the proceeds of the borrowing, and we end up owing the debt.

    And when the kleptocracy prints money, they erode the value of the money that we use (while often finding ways to protect themselves from this by de-monetizing their assets.)

    Frankly, it’s a no-win situation. As long as the kleptocracy remains in power, we get ripped off–the particulars of the fiscal manipulations make little difference.

  21. CBS from the West

    “…if they continue to be bamboozled into voting for the Republicans…”

    And what, exactly, is it that the Democrats do differently? Not what they _say_ differently–what to they _do_ that is different from the Republicans?

    No, your prophecy “the disparity between rich and poor will become so great, the country will degenerate into a state of anarchy within 5-7 years” will come true under either the Red or Blue kleptocrats.

  22. the need to steer behavior through taxes.

    You haven’t had enough of corporatism “steering our behavior”?

    So once the onslaught against economic relocalization begins in earnest, for example through more and more coerced participation in the cash economy like you’re advocating here, you’ll be on the side of the banks?

    Suggesting the poor pay no taxes is something else, for it risks taking down the whole thing not only the fat rats on the ship.

    That’s the point. You think the poor should respond with anything but jubilation to greet the destruction of a system which from their point of view is nothing but predatory? That’s the way all the non-rich must view it. Unfortunately, it’s clear we’re going to have to hit rock bottom first.

    I know that we as good Americans are supposed to fight even the suggestion of somebody else interfering with our behavior, but that’s just another myth, usually associated with the Tea Party half of the country nowadays.

    I don’t know what you mean by “good American”, nor do I understand your point of view.

    I’m an adult human being capable of managing my own political and economic behavior in cooperation with fellow humans. Therefore, there’s no need for subhuman criminal “elites” at all, from any human point of view.

  23. The money’s “value” is inexorably eroding anyway. They already printed and digitized vastly more of it than represents any real economic productivity.

    Why does everyone want to continue enslaving himself by clinging to such mirages the way the kleptocracy wants us to?

    Why would we owe the debt? The technical term for such embezzlement is odious debt. Once we grow up, assume adult responsibilities, and get rid of the criminals, that will be the end of the debt they ran up as well.

  24. “My only quibble is with the last sentence: “They know what is happening, as do the voters.” On that point, I think Krugman may be right. If voters really knew what was going on, then at some point the politicians couldn’t get away with the nonsense they continue to spout.”

    Sadly, I have to disagree with James. This implies that there are political leaders around who are not spouting nonsense. Where are they? On the one hand, we have the Grand Old Party of no ideas. They seem to exist for one purpose – to defeat Obama. Defeating Obama is not the answer to our problems.

    On the other hand, we have the mule-ish party of no backbone. Obama was elected because voters like his “change” platform. Unfortunately, the platform has not really translated into reality. Our banks are still TBTF. Our health care system has been “reformed” but not in ways that will help cut costs – or even provide universal coverage.

    Now Newt Gringrich – he of three marriages – is running around talking about the state of his current marriage – as solid as the wife’s hairdo, apparently – so quite solid. A man who cares little about his contract with his wives #1 & #2 cannot really be trusted to deliver on his contract with America.

    We need politicians who care deeply about America – and are willing to put in the effort to actually change the current landscape for the better. Shaving public employees of their collective bargaining rights is not the answer…

  25. You bet; and they know exactly and precisely what they are doing. Dems are complacent in the Repub scheme.

  26. Recreating local communities will be made that much harder to whatever extent we’re still artificially shacked to the financialized commodity economy.

    That’s why we need to find alternative currencies and other arrangements and wean ourselves off the zombie dollar.

  27. Save the honey bees! :-)

    Instead of spinning out a “risk assessment” for what happens to Mother Nature’s methods of food production without honey bees

    franchise the hives so that bees can LIVE and WORK locally like they are created to do – scheesh…

    Sorry, but the focus has to be on the FACT that there is absolutely no reason – none zip zilch nada – why anyone is hungry in USA.

    Start there – seriously.

    First do what is necessary, then do what is possible, and soon you are doing the impossible.

    Every day the human species has the same NEEDS for survival – clean air, water, food, shelter…AKA infrastructure…

    Not sure 7 billion hasn’t tipped the man to land ratio for a certain standard of living, but thousands get wiped out by natural events now – proportionally – % of people wiped out vs. total species number – it’s exponential…

    Community gardens everywhere there’s unused and abandoned space in big northeast cities…every little bit certainly does help…

    Issue new currency ($$$) because the Matrix sucked up all the fiat stuff…

  28. Look, the Democrats are largely a bunch of ineffectual buffoons. I’ll grant you that.

    But here’s the thing: AT LEAST THE DEMOCRATS MEAN WELL. And that’s what gives us a better chance than being at the mercy of the Republicans, who are clearly a bunch of cold-hearted, calculating, rapacious scumbags.

    Bottom line, if I gotta make a choice, I’ll go with the ineffectual buffoons.

  29. Bruce E. Woych

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/14/us/politics/14caucus.html/?_r=1

    The propaganda and prime mover behind the “deficit” balloon of doom is non other than Peter G. Peterson who started his calculated ranting about how the retirement pension plans of “entitlements” (fused with derogatory
    inferences…he should talk about living off the fat of the land!)…were going to destroy America. Your apocalyptic carpetbagging started right here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/14/us/politics/14caucus.html/?_r=1

  30. Bruce E. Woych

    http://www.economywatch.com/economy-business-and-finance-news/the-10-richest-people-on-the-planet-where-all-that-stimulus-money-went.11-03.html

    11 March 2011.
    (excerpt: Economy Watch )
    “As Michael Moore recently pointed out, America is not broke, it is just that the rich are getting richer. Everyone else faces stagnating or declining incomes – if they are lucky enough to have a job. Ten to twenty percent unemployment levels have come to feel normal in many advanced economies.

    So, if you are wondering where all your bailout and stimulus tax dollars have gone, it is a fair bet to think that a good chunk of it has gone to the growing list of billionaires. Forbes, compilers (and cheerleaders) of the annual rich list, has announced that the number of billionaires has increased by 214 to a record 1,210.”

    See the complete list on Forbes (linked from Economy Watch article)

  31. In a sense politicians are like action heros , they are part of the Kabuki Democracy we have in this country. The concept is also the title of a new book which I haven’t read but seem to understand . I would say we have a “no party candidate centered ” system where interest groups and not the needs of the country determine the debate. The Democrats are a theater of Kabuki actors ,smart enough to raise money but not smart enough to mobilize their members to press an agenda that’s good for their members and the general public.

  32. With mounting evidence of increasing degrees of entropy in this diseased society, coupled with the pernicious stranglehold of the billionaire class on the “government” there to protect us, the only denouement I can see is one of unhappiness, further stripping of our rights, more pain for the USA worker, less everything for the poor, and more slavery.

    Such conditions may lead to social unrest on a wider scale.

    @ Bruce, thanks for the link on that ghoul, part of a larger effort aimed at asset-stripping everyone who isn’t rich.

  33. Bayard Waterbury

    Sadly, Krugman is no favorite of mine. I think he has little to complain about, since he seems to engage in the same rhetorical struggles which detract from a discussion of our appropriate rational approach. It is clear that the Republicans are acting rationally, if their goal is to control the debate by hyperbole and obfuscation. In the absence of clarity regarding an opposing viewpoint, and with the cooperation of the political press (inside the Beltway pundits and national news outlets), there is little chance that a rational approach will emerge to tug this country away from future failure. The Republicans (and many Democrats, or Plutarchs, if you wish to be accurate), must want to ultimately have power to rule a failed nation. At least it would seem so.

  34. jeff simpson

    That main stream journalists fail to question the inane and insane premises put forth by Chicago-school adherents shows how far the ‘center’ of the debate has shifted from the days when Jimmy Carter spoke to us on how we might take charge of our future. Reagan gave us broad brush strokes championing small government which was, in retrospect, a clear call for the undoing of the New Deal.

    Our military hegemony has become more entrenched so as to better keep the price of oil low.

    We might talk a good game about liberty and freedom, but we cosy up to the Saudis who are no champions of human dignity. The world, much to our annoyance (and perhaps because they don’t ascribe to our crappy educational belief system, or to Fox News, for that matter), has finally dared to speak up and comment on the true character of the emperor’s new threads.

  35. the Republican mantra has worked for the last 40 years now. The Public does NOT understand. there is no organized anything pointing out how bad the Republican theft/TBTF scam is.

    the use of black vs. white, abortion, guns, gays, immigrants and all those “divide and conquer” topics has worked so well as to be almost impossible to stop and counter.

    there are no Media willing to betray their Wall St./Washington DC owners by telling the ignorant American what’s what.

    as Clinton said there is too much money to stop the War on Drugs.
    the same is true for the future of America. We are cooked.

    it would require a lot of “leaders” to begin and start putting the Oligarchs into prisons. As Wisconsin shows, money rules everything.

    Obama is a part of the problem as are all the Democrats who want their “share” of the Corporate theft.

    this is a lot like Las Vegas and we all know the House is designed to win.

    the poor know the Rich own them and the rest of America as well. it is just the idiot Middle Class who refuse to admit that and other facts.

    unless you tax the Rich, where are you going to get the money?

    the poor and dwindling Middle Class don’t have money any more. Everybody knows that only the poor pay taxes, but that was when they had some money.

    so when do we wait to put out the fires while Nero/Obama fiddles? the crash may save America, but i doubt it. Weimar Germany turned into Nazi Germany.

    what will America devolved into. i bet it won’t be pretty if today is any indication.

  36. “Sadly, I have to disagree with James. This implies that there are political leaders around who are not spouting nonsense. Where are they?”

    They are gone, for example Ted Kaufman.

  37. Herbert Wetherby

    must want to ultimately have power to rule a failed nation. At least it would seem so.

    How is that different from say a KKR buying a failed company with the intention of turning it around so it is a more profitable company. Just switch company with country, arrive with all the right tools, and presto chango your back on the road to real recovery. You are going to break a few wallets and hearts but the pond will be larger.

  38. Russ, had it not been for your last paragraph, I would have thought of you in the condition of some Robinson Crusoe. However, since you state that:

    I’m an adult human being capable of managing my own political and economic behavior in cooperation with fellow humans.

    How can you do it without taxation, the only way we could indeed build societies throughout the whole known history? I think of it as oversimplification to imagine contemporary activity within a natural economy of some exchange. I would leave that to the naives and populists.

    You went on and said:

    Therefore, there’s no need for subhuman criminal “elites” at all, from any human point of view.

    Yes, I can agree that our elite has failed us MISERABLY, and that’s why I’d hold them responsible! Yes, they need to lose their place. The question is, HOW? Your alternative economy is not going to cut it, moreover, another elite will emerge and you may not like the results.

    As you, and I elsewhere, have said, we need to hit some sort of bottom first. Being such a diverse crowd, we Americans cannot have a collective epiphany unless a catastrophic event brings it about. Re-read what I said, do you want it all to sink just to exact revenge on the fat rats?

  39. Bruce, Moore’s position should be echoed by anybody who’s somebody in our land, especially those who need our approval–be they politicians, actors, public figures, etc.

    I hope Russ is reading!

  40. Here’s a definitive resource on anarchism, AKA democracy.

    http://anarchism.pageabode.com/afaq/index.html

    Positive democracy has worked everywhere it’s been tried, and has only been destroyed by external hostility and violence.

    So it follows that it will work once the people resolve to sweep out the criminals once and for all.

    another elite will emerge and you may not like the results.

    Not if the people live up to their citizen responsibilities this time around. Freedom, democracy, citizenship, require constant vigilance against the subversions of elitist crime.

    But unlike the congenitally timid, I’m willing to run any risk. And what outcome could be worse than this accelerating plunge into terminal slavery under the lowest filth which has ever infested history? There’s no question about what’s the best bet here. It’s the guaranteed destruction of humanity vs. the high-risk, high-reward struggle to avert that total death and redeem humanity.

  41. Anarchism requires by far so much more ethical commitment than we usually see in our time and place. I’d make the argument that if we were a fraction as ethical as that things would have looked much better.

    Bruce is sharing a link with us below, I’m duplicating it here:
    http://www.economywatch.com/economy-business-and-finance-news/the-10-richest-people-on-the-planet-where-all-that-stimulus-money-went.11-03.html

    How come Mr. Moore and the folk in Wisconsin are so lonely? Where are the other public figures we’ve invested our trust in? I’m glad that Simon & James host the conversation here; what are the rest of the social scientists doing?

    You see, Russ, we may be just in the beginning, and calls like yours have their merit. It won’t be before we burn through the fat and indolence accumulated in past +15 years that bottom up change can happen. You/the events may prove me wrong, which would be better…

  42. you know where to stuff your PAID propaganda about the “idiot” middle class, “Bernard”…

  43. “Paid propaganda”, gosh i wish i were. lol, but thanks anyway.

  44. Adam Washington

    I despair at our conundrum. We want more than we are willing to pay for. Or, perhaps more to the point, I want more than I’m willing to pay for but I want you to pay for it.

  45. well, here’s an impressive pair of know-nothing comments: yes, paul krugman is still a go-to guy for economic commentary. only right-wing thugs and morons disagree.

    and yes, krugman still thinks we are wasting blood and treasure in iraq and afghanistan: clearly you don’t actually bother to read krugman, just live in your fantasy version of him.

  46. Bruce E. Woych

    We need to action up on this idea of a BANKING TAX!
    IT IS CALLED THE ROBIN HOOD TAX:

    *
    Stop arguing austerity budgeting and deficit doom; the buble was caused by speculators not blue collar working people. Start the right discussion: start the Call for a serious 2012

    Robin Hood Tax | Robin Hood Tax in 2012 !!!

    robinhoodtax.org/ – Similar
    *
    The big idea | Robin Hood Tax

    In a nutshell, the big idea behind the Robin Hood Tax is to generate REVENUE to pay off the debt and create more real wealth based on invested capital… …churning into a selective infrastructural recovery based on production and exchange…

    robinhoodtax.org/how-it-works – Similar
    *
    Robin Hood tax – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The Robin Hood tax is a package of financial transaction taxes,…

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Hood_tax – Similar

    *
    YouTube – The Banker

    Feb 9, 2010 … this robin hood tax idea is a band-aid on a system that has … Added to queue Robin Hood Tax Rappersby JustinJamesUK23 views · 1:03 …

  47. I’ve written over a dozen posts documenting Thugman’s propaganda crimes: His support for the Bailout, his shilling for the health racket bailout, his defense of Obama’s secret use of paid hacks to pose as “journalists” (the Gruber case, identical to Bush and Armstrong Williams, which Krugman made a big deal about at the time), his explicit denial that the elites are waging class war, his explicit denial that corporations are at the root of this war on democracy, his attempted ringleading of the China-bashing misdirection ploy, his tepid and purely tactical criticism of austerity, and more recently his call for more regressive taxation so more money can be redistributed from the people to the corporations, his seconding the NYT attempt at misdirection in the health care crisis by claiming provider-side issues are what’s really important, his denial that speculators are driving food stagflation, his denial that food stagflation is an issue anyway (“core inflation is the important measure”). I’m probably forgetting some things.

    And then there’s his crimes against humanity as one of the main globalization propagandists back in the 90s, long beyond the point where the core evil of it was evident. A characteristic manifesto was entitled, “In Praise of Low Wages”.

    Documentation of all this available at my blog.

    Yes, that record is enough for me. I’d put him in the dock at the next Nuremburg.

    And it’s funny that you use the word “fantasy”, since if you think you’ve been continuing to read those eloquent condemnations of Bush’s war since the day it became Obama’s war, you must be laboring under severe hallucinations.

    But then it’s evident you’ve either never read a word of this hack, or else failed to understand a single word you read. Or else you’re just a pro-Democrat, pro-health insurance racket shill.

  48. Webster Tarpley, a progressive-FDR-New Deal type, speaks a lot about the Wall Street TransX tax on his radio program, on http://www.gcnlive.com

    “The Wall Street Sales Tax the Key to Labor Victory—

    There is: it is the financial transactions of banks, hedge funds, and brokerages, in the form of derivatives, foreign exchange, stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments which are universally exempted in this country from the state sales taxes which everyone else pays when they purchase the necessities and amenities of daily life, from consumer electronics to a car or a pair of shoes. A 1% tax on all financial transactions, which is well within the power of the state of Wisconsin to impose, would provide hundreds of millions or billions of dollars of new revenue and remove any pretext for the current assault on state workers. Right now, we repeat, bankers and hedge fund operators pay absolutely no tax on their daily turnover of trading volume, which can easily reach into trillions of dollars, even in a state like Wisconsin. They need to start paying a Wall Street Sales Tax.

    Governor Walker says the state is broke and cannot afford to pay current wages and benefits. Since we are in a world economic depression, his argument is plausible. He also says that businesses and families cannot pay more in taxes. In many cases, although not all, this is also true. But the transactions of financial firms and banks represent a cash flow which is currently not taxed at all. Surely, if Governor Walker and so many commentator wants to talk about shared sacrifice, a 1% Wall Street sales tax on this turnover cannot be too much to ask.

    Simply put, if the Wisconsin cops, firemen, teachers and other state workers forcefully demand the Wall Street sales tax as an indispensable reform, they can win. Without the Wall Street sales tax, they are very likely to be defeated. If you tell a reactionary that state workers should not have their wages and benefits reduced, the reactionary is likely to ask where the money should come from. The Wall Street Sales Tax is the one answer which puts the reactionary on the defensive, and forces him to defend the most hated group in American society today – the Wall Street zombie bankers who have shown no gratitude for the bipartisan $4 TRILLION bailout they received from the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve.”

    http://tarpley.net/2011/02/20/wisconsin-union-busting-drive/

  49. Herbert Wetherby

    I don’t know so much about the Robin hood tax, but I do have a Robin Hood Wink tax. It goes like this, it takes the energy of 1000 gallons of gasoline to make a car, rather than invest tons of money to save 2-3 mi/gal, you save the carborated engine and car for 2 to 3 times as long as a regular car (@ 8-10 years) and save your energy that way. That would bring down the cost and increase the longevity producing a win-win scenero for any willing benificiary. Too efficient for todays money makers.

  50. So if you’re not being *paid* to

    GENERALIZE

    and call an entire complex society of PRODUCERS

    *idiots*

    well, be creative, call yourself a *generalized* name for such antics…how did you get ahead in life with calling PRODUCERS *idiots*?

  51. 1% trickle down from 4 trillion for cheese heads?

    hardball response, “too much – we have to squeeze them more – .01%

    I’ll be willing to call off the war if we can throw mollyrose and mondo into the volcano on the Big Island – seems to me you need to believe in the product you’re selling enough to use it yourself

    :-)

  52. michael doerr

    I’m beginning to believe in it. The “vast right wing conspiracy”. Mitch McConnells goal is a “one term Obama presidency.” Everything flows from that. Tax cuts for the wealthy, which increase the deficit, spending cuts which reduce jobs, which can be blamed on the dems. Bust the unions, and cut jobs at the state level, which will ultimately be blamed on dems. Obstruct every effort at “mortgage or foreclosure relief” which would help the housing market, and will ultimately be blamed on the dems for “not helping the housing market”. It is. The republican party’s goal is to wreck the economy, whatever the cost to ordinary Americans, and use that wrecked economy to seize control in 2012,blaming dems. And then, like in Wisconsin, Florida, Indians, Pennsylvania and Ohio strip the unions and middle class of any power and any economic viability. They will take away that tea partiers Medicare, Social Security and any other federal benefit he may have been eligible to receive. Nothing is more important than a 0ne term Obama. And they will do ANYTHING, including wreck the nation, to achieve that.

  53. ain’t power grand?

    yes yes yes

    clap clap, whistle whistle

    ah, to be one of the “elite”…sustained hatred and greed through MENTAL happiness at the hurt you cause – hmmmm, sounds like sadism to me, and those who just blog about it (secretly worshipping the masser) must be masochists…

    There is a book called The Wrecking Crew…

    No one is depending on masochists to become sane in time to save themselves…

  54. @ michael doerr

    I’m an independent (big deal, ok, but?) – personally Obama must go, but for who or whom? Democrats have nobody…there a party of self destruction, period! Once they win the “coin toss”, along with “home field advantage” they blow it…pathetic bunch (JMHO).

    My selection is a past republican governor from a state I lived most my life – his name – Mitt Romney (Mass), and I like his business/ administrative discipline savvy.

  55. hmmm, it might be too late to add probability and statistics to a national secondary school curriculum.

  56. If you want to know what is wrong with politics in the US go no further than here. The quality of the dialog deteriorates with each new comment.

    I find the debate here no more or less than what happens in Congress. How can you expect Congress to be more rational that what is currently exhibited, presumably by a group of people supposedly better informed about the facts of the case?

  57. Herbert Wetherby

    Okay lets start here, congress is nothing more than a trust of the American people. One that has been badly broken and needs repair. I know for sure that you have all the overnite answers because you just insulted your intelligence by that latest rage rather than calmly telling us that the repair job is in progress. And may still take furhter time to sort out the details for it is a hugh mess.

    So turn your soon to be carcuss around and go back to where ever it is that you did come from and trust over there, you big bad confedence man.

  58. @ Earle, you must be in some sort of stupor, promoting Romney, a man convinced his job was best fulfilled by the hapless Lt. Govinator, Jane Swift.

    Incidentally, Mitt left the state in dire financial straits; as for his business acumen, he made his fortune screwing people, by laying them off, a classic asset-stripper if there ever was one.

    Earle, stick to basketball, pal.

  59. Herbert Wetherby

    Some people are worthy just by name only, what they do with it perhaps is asset stripping though.

  60. Thank you for confirming my point

  61. true that – with bible math as the primary school foundation…

    but it’s USA’s madness – imagine the turning away you’d get if you went and told the shell-shocked Japanese that God sent them punishment for being the country with the most equitable distribution of “wealth”…

  62. Moses Herzog

    I’m tempted to say something outrageous/rude just to see if the other posters can guess who this old baseline commenter is. I like Krugman generally. The problem with Krugman is, although Krugman is smart, he’s not 1/1000th as smart as HE thinks he is. Another problem is he always wants to put down others in the process of making his point. Make no doubt about it right or wrong Krugman’s claptrap would disallow him from being in an official capacity in any presidential administration. Smart-aleck’s on blogs, like me, can get away with it. People who want to affect policy long-term cannot.

  63. @ Woop

    “The Emperor has no Clothes” – Democratic’s, or be it Republican’s stripped naked are identical twins, since 1963 of the 20th century, and certainly won’t change our modern 21st century, regarding american politic’s!

    President (LBJ/ 1963-69 [Dem]) Johnson – the “Viet Nam War”, and the original can-opening-up master of the “Social Security Trust Fund” as “The Great Society Fund Raiser”…was the “IOU” retirement liquidator “King”!

    President (RMN/ 1969-74 [GOP]) Nixon – decommissions “Bretton Woods” the US Gold Standard to pay for the Viet Nam War…using funny fiat money now and forever – opens up relations with China via Kissinger for the Chinese help in stopping the war (which ended shortly after Kissinger’s visit?). We all know the outcome of the trade-off today?

    President (GRF/ 1974-77 [GOP]) Ford – totally useless – let’s crimes go unabated…excuse, not to drag the country down any further. This was the start of “slaps on a wrist” regarding political policy in America if you can read through the lines?

    President (JEC Jr./ 1977-88 [Dem]) Carter – totally useless, period. Stagflation, Stagflation, Stagflation..with the worst foreign policy in american history. Set the democrats back fifteen years!

    President (RWR/ 1981-89 [GOP]) Reagan – trickle-down king via professional actor. Switched parties, and ironically president of “actor’s union guild”. “Star War’s” ,Master of the Universe, being the best friend the “Military Complex” could have ever had. Had nothing to do with East Germany and Russia tearing down the “Berlin Wall”! Russia was broke, and their army was addicted to heroine and alcohol from the Afghanistan War which America was instrumental in helping the Al-Qaeda- Hizbul Mujahideen/ Pashtuns, win our behind-the-scenes war! Russia was broke from “War’s”…sound familiar? The National Debt increased, and lest I forget, the “Iran Contra Debacle” that should have gotten him impeached…once again the “slap-on-the-wrist”?

    President ( GHWB #41/ 1989-93 [GOP]) Bush – total failure with read my lips…and “The New World Order”! Raised our Nat’t Debt and got us into Kuwait fighting Iraq! Saddam was correct..the Kuwaiti’s were slant drilling but Bush was an oilman from Texas and cared little about the general public other than his oil friends helping to keep america addicted …and Iraq was unfriendly to the Saudi’s so Bush used that as an excuse for war. Totally, an oil-man president, with absolutely no talks of an independent energy program after first Iraqi War, pathetic!

    President (WJC/ 1993-2001 [Dem]) Clinton – Biggest shill that ever held office. Did nothing for the average people…sure he put the welfare people to work, but he also created NAFTA/ CAFTA via Hillary baby (Vince Foster?) and opened floodgates for illegals taking (Reagan also didn’t help matters either) american jobs. Gave away declassified military secrets by the boat-loads to the Chinese sleepovers, and only God knows what his main (Sandy the Sleeper?) guy stole from the american archives/congress library and destroyed? He also raised the Nat’l Debt – but, with the immediate impact of Free Markets it would take years for the imbalance to show its ugly face! He loved big business guys and surrounded himself with them, pathetic!

    President (GWB #43/2001-09 [GOP]) Bush – The worst president to date but had a democrat congress so whose fault could be laid at his feet! VP Cheney basically ran the WH – and who can forget Cheney’s secret meeting in the White House with all the big energy czar’s 2001? Never disclosed who or what transpired regarding america’s energy program – though because of it, he had the supreme court rule on his side…never forget the timing, Never! Bush was perhaps the worst president to date. Brought america to its fiscal knee’s nearly causing another depression?

    President (BHO II/ 2009-? [Dem]) Obama – He is a Republican in drag, period. Has flipped-flopped on every pledge and promise, making no bones about it! Absolutely terrible leader with absolutely no pragmatic experience. Has increased our Nat’l Debt more than Bush #43 in two years plus and has force-fed the american public the worst health-care program (only K-Street could have written this POS!) ever, period! He’s gotten us in Afghanistan forever, with Iraq never wanting us to go for an imminent “Civil War”…surely too follow once were moved to America’s next global war? He’s a “War President” and loves it, along with Wall Street’s money!

    So yes, I like Romney! Since when do I have to be a “Cut-n-Stone-Democrat” to post on this board, you,…?

    PS. Try reading a few books other than those that don’t peek your prejudiced curiosity?

    God Bless You – Julian Assange

  64. Earle, I love you, man! You’re certainly one of the best ever, and prescient as all-get-out. Keep on truckin, my brother!

  65. Love ALL of the comments, I’m a died-in-the-wool moderate/centrist/independent and think the argument’s that continue to go on between left and right take time and energy away from identifying the problems and coming up with real solutions.
    I’ve been saying since the Reagan years this country is due for a revolution, trickle-down, really, on who?
    I think we all know now.

    The truth has always been the same, the wealthy “elite” vs. the rest of us, labels, parties, race and religion are all irrelevant and just used to confuse, divide and conquer. It’s time for all of us to get our neighbors and friends off our collective arses and demand that Washington returns to it’s stated duty, serving those that empower it, not those that pay it.
    Time for non-violent revolution, a war of ideas and ideals, not baseless rhetoric that solves nothing but keeping those in power in power.

  66. I don’t know what it will take for Democrats, and I am one of them, to see that are debt and deficit situation is unsustainable and that in the end we will all have to make sacrifices including the middle class and the rich. With debt to GNP at 100% and deficits at about 10% GDP, we are well on our way to debasing our currency to fix the problem with huge consequences to the world economy which is dependent on a relative stable reserve currency. Both Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton say our greatest national security problem is the national debt and I agree with them. The situation is so bad now that we will have to both raise taxes and cut spending, you simply are not going to get anywhere by doing one or the other. The problem is just too big. I agree that Healthcare is the biggest problem but guess what, their going have to be some compromises to get the Healthcare cost under control and if that means defunding NPR (it can fend for itself), reforming social security (although its three decades from running out, fixes to the system have to be done decades ahead to ward off any future problem) and cutting the National Endowment for the Arts then so be it. Democrats are going to have to grow up and stop throwing tantrums and blaming the President every time one of their pet programs gets put on the block. We don’t have the money and we don’t have a perfect political environment to have our cake and eat it too.

  67. Herbert Wetherby

    Actually there is a big movement against anymore QE. And should that occur the experts say that the human instinct to need at least food, will bring neighbor to steal from neighbor in a brutal attempt to survive the elements. If there is more QE, then commodities shoot thru the roof making everything more expensive and increaseing the number of 99ers transitioning to a more survivalist mode. It will be fun to watch.

  68. Amen, Woop.

    Mitt in 2012 and then the Magic Wand can get passed to Harry Potter.

  69. Harry Potter in 2020 – forgot to do the math for everyone.