Mark Thoma Lets Loose

By James Kwak

Yes, Mark Thoma is generally Democratic-leaning when it comes to policy. But his blog is justly popular because it presents a wide range of views through extensive quotations and relatively little editorial commentary. So I think it’s revealing that he provides the following postscript to an article by Jamie Galbraith:

“Every day that goes by with unemployment higher than it needs to be means that people are struggling needlessly. People need jobs. And not at some point in the future when Congress gets around to it (if they ever do), this can’t wait another day. It should have been done months and months ago.

“Congress ought to have the same urgency in dealing with the unemployment problem as it had when banks were in trouble. Collectively the unemployed are too big to remain jobless, and the millions of individual struggles among the unemployed shouldn’t be tolerated. But Congress doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to do anything about it, or give any sign that it much cares.”

27 thoughts on “Mark Thoma Lets Loose

  1. “Congress ought to have the same urgency in dealing with the unemployment problem as it had when banks were in trouble.”

    Ha! What a fantasy world Jamie lives in. The FIRE based econonmic parasite fused itself like a malignant tumor to the “brain” of Congress through money and threat. These FIRE and TBTF bank/financial leaders are financial sociopaths. They do not care about jobs and they own Congress, just follow all the bailout/backstop money, fraud, lack of prosecution, Goldman bonuses, etc. For god sakes Goldman became a “bank Holding company” to avoid blowing up and get a free lifeline from the Fed along with FDIC guarantees (read taxpayer) on their debt at the time.

    Hey Jamie Galbraith…yes your right, i agree. Now wake the hell up and attack the root of the parasitic problem with your voice and bloggy pulpit.

  2. Congress ought to have the same urgency in dealing with the unemployment problem as it had when banks were in trouble.

    The very fact that it was considered so urgent to follow Paulson’s shock doctrine blueprint and bail out the banks rackets proves the malignancy of Congress. So Thoma’s point is true but quixotic considering the “character” of this assemblage.

    If Congress had ever cared about the people, it would never have bailed out their assailants in the first place. It would have dispensed whatever aid was necessary directly to Main Street and perhaps the smaller banking institutions that actually do serve some constructive role.

    Meanwhile it would have smashed the criminals.

  3. Millions of unemployed people don’t have money to lobby Congress, and are unable to organize to vote the bastards out. We need to end the lobbying industry.

  4. Congress is busy with more important things, like reading AIG’s 250,000 emails/other documents plus for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, etc. time.

    Ever drill a dry hole? I can tell what it looks like.

  5. The world I live in, people with jobs are clutching onto them; there’s no “get a better job, move up, build for the future,” everyone’s too busy maintaining. People out of work aren’t finding jobs, which is morally and spiritually debilitating (not to mention, low-level traumatic). But instead of enacting stimulus measures big enough to make a difference, Obama is apparently content to sit back and watch an entire generation slide down the drain. Oh, he’ll make dramatic speeches and feign passion, but in fact, with his no-help plans and Alan Simpson cat-food commission, he’s actually administering a shove with the flat of his shoe on the backsides of a good number of people whose votes he depended on. The shame of it is, this used to be a pretty good country; not anymore.

  6. It’s in the Republicans interest to prevent anything being done about it so that the country is in as bad a shape as possible in coming elections. They know the party in power gets blamed even wrongly.

    It worked like a charm in Massachusetts, and the recent elevation of the filibuster into a de facto regular supermajority requirement allows them to do it, and encourages them to do it.

  7. If Congress were serious about a jobs bill, it could do the following without spending a dime:
    – Cut the minimum wage–a few hundred thousand more teenagers will get hired this summer
    – Pass the pending free trade treaties that have already been negotiated
    – Repeal the Davis Bacon Act
    – Allow drilling in Alaska and selected coastal sites (these would even be union jobs by-in-large)

    These are off the top of my head. I’d bet I could find another dozen ideas that wouldn’t touch the budget.

  8. The fascists in the bushgov, and – sadly – the Obama government subsequently funnelled 14 TRILLION taxpayer dollars to the very den of vipers and thieves that are singularly responsible, and culpable for the worst economic crisis since the “great depression”, and real horrorshow. Would that more of that treasure had been redirected toward infrastructure, green technologies, and social services and benefits that advance the poor and middleclass. I submit, – the a real – as opposed to FALSE economic recovery would be in the works, – not too mention much need repairs and improvements in our nations infrastructure and all the jobs that would result from that necessary work. Instead we have less than 1% of the population reaping obscene fortunes while the rest of the nations starves, or goes into foreclosure, or rank poverty.

    What the Obama government does not realize, and what the fascists in the gop and redneck Amerika do not care about, – it that many many many Americans are suffering very real very palpable pain! Shut off in their oppulent palaces, and drenched in oceans of illgotten wealth, – the predatorclass imagines they are superior, Olympian, untouchable, unaccountable, and exceptional.

    We are fast approaching a real conflict where that false supremist belief is openly challenged and contested in the streets.

    America is walking the razors edge and there are fires raging in the hearts of the vast majority of the population. We lack a single focus now, and leadership, and the will to standup and DEMAND real change. The longer this crisis lasts, and the more wild and distant grow the divides between thehaves and thehavenot, and the more the predatorclass ignores, spurns, and spits on their fellow citizens for the debauched retarded devotion to wanton greed, and imponderable wealth, – the greater will be the combustion when the final spark is lit. America is dividing widly everyday. We either right this course, and that righting would demand large concessions from, and brutal accountability for the predatorclass, – or there will be blood. There’s is simply too much pain out there, too much suffering, too much stress, too much blood, too much hopelessness for this horrorshow to continue uncontested. The day is fast approaching when the predatorclass will be forced to hide in fortified well secured bunkers or pay a terrible price for their wanton greed, rank abuses, scurrilous deceptions, and grotesque criminality.

    The gop is the bane, and an arch enemy of the American people. It is long past time, for a real democratic party, and Wellstone-ian democratic party to emerge that will stand and fight the fascists, rednecks, greedmongers, and wanton profiteers in the gop, and well and truly give voice to the voiceless, and defend and advance the best interests of the American people, – and resist to the death the bribery and extortion of the predatorclass.

    Either way, we are headed for a revolution. The sooner, the better for the American people. The current panjandrum and the den of vipers in thieves in the socalled TBTF oligarchs are ruining America, and must be put down, or put back in the keep.

    Fasten your seat belts and put your trays in the upright and fixed position, – we’re about to enter some turbulence!!!

  9. You may find this link interesting:

    As you can easily surmise, Goldman Sachs, arguably the worst of the worst, has given 2 to 1, 3 to 1, and most recently 4 to 1 in financial political contributions to DEMOCRATS for decades. In fact, Goldman Sachs was one of the largest, if not THE LARGEST contributor to Barack Obama’s campaign.

    Now, you can blame everything on Republicans. But, it is not quite that simple. Democrats and Republicans are both cut out of the same bolt of cloth….you get irrational support of the trial bar and big finance with the Democrats, just as you get irrational support of big pharma and big insurance with the Republicans. Mix the two, and you have the recipe for our current mess…..

  10. Excellent point Hillbilly Darrell. You are correct the current regime masked as democrats are culpable and complicit. I contend that is the gop mindset and message that prevails and that is pernicious in spirit, but you are most correct in that the democratic party today is either a brood of rank cowards and fensewalkers, or they are complicit. I am calling for real democrats. People first democrats! Democrats who are no afraid to champion socialist policies, and entitlements, services, and policies the benefit the people, and NOT the predatorclass.

    Sadly, your are correct that in the current panjandrum “Democrats and Republicans are both cut out of the same bolt of cloth…”

    I am calling for real democrats, with teeth, fists, and courage, and the determination to fight against corporatism and the evils of the predatorclass to the bitter end, to the death.

    I recognize – that again, – sadly – there are no more Wellstones, – there are no more peoples champions, – but it is a dream I have and hold.

    In the end, these issues, – just as any cursory examination proves will be won in the streets, and a real horrorshow revolution is percolating and ready to bust. Far toomany have lost far to much, and have suffered and are suffering far too grievous unjust punishments. Sooner or later, there will be blood, and a reckoning, and a balancing. In a world where there are no laws, – there are no laws for anyone predatorclass biiiiaaaatches!!!

  11. What, Congress in no hurry? Duh!! As a part of our current plutocracy (especially considering that their supporters just got a Supreme green light to help them maintain a strangle hold on power), they would be hard pressed to be concerned with the 10% (actually 20% or more including the underemployed or discouraged) who are truly confused about to whom to give their next vote. No, they want to promote a system where there is a small, rich power elite with endless bailout potential and loopholes to support every strategy of greed. So, especially since the bogus Labor Department figures showed a slight reduction in unemployment (completely non-scientifically based), they are wont to change what they are doing, so nothing meaningful will be done because, even though their tax base continues to erode, they would rather preach restraint on spending because of the threat of future deficits (which, curiously, could be helped the most by fixing Medicare by passing meaningful health care reform).

  12. As someone aptly commented on ‘Schott’s Vocab’;

    ‘We have the best congress the money can buy.’

    National Refrendum anyone?

  13. HD you are exactly right. We have returned to the Sixties, when every word spoken by every establishment authority on the subject of Vietnam was a lie. These days, our Vietnam is financial. Anyone can see the big lie is the Washington Consensus- the idea that free unfettered capital flows produce prosperity. It all amounts to Trickle Down Redux, and it doesn’t work. The real villains are the academic charlatans and Governmental poseurs: Greenspan, Rubin, Summers, Clinton, Bernanke, Geithner, et. al., who produced the credit bubble by enabling and cheerleading on the way up, not to mention Paulson, who manipulated a castrated and moronic Congress to enrich Goldman on the way down. Now we have Obama leading the cheers for the jobless recovery, the phony statistics, the emerging bubble in soverign debt, the hedge fund stampede into the stock market, where companies produce profits through financial slight of hand, and executives immediately siphon them out through stock option and bonus looting. We have a bankrupt legal system which enables all the stealing and fails to prosecute a single criminal except for the scammer MadeOff, who confessed to save his family partners in crime, all of whom seem to have gotten away scot free.

    Understanding all this doesn’t help one bit. One cannot make money by riding it, without risking the loss of all one has. One cannot oppose it by educating a mass of financial and economic illiterates who understand only whether or not their own bellies are full or their own mortgages are under water, and who quickly fall for every flag operation and every nonsensical trumpet blast about the deficit. Perhaps, one can oppose it only by driving every single Democrat from office and letting some idiot like Palin or Jindal do their worst. Of course, we tried that in 1968 by electing Nixon, and that didn’t work either. Perhaps we will somehow muddle through despite a parasitic leadership class. That has happened before too. I don’t thing we have had a financially honest president since Garfield, and some of you probably know how long he lasted and what happened to him.

  14. Except that drilling, as an industry, is not all that labor intensive, and has long lead times that makes it a poor answer to cyclical labor market weakness.

    Putting aside the fact that there is no such thing as a “free trade treaty”, trade measures don’t create jobs in the short term. In the short term, there is an adjustment which leads to what in the intro text is called “falling off the production possibility frontier” – fancy words for job loss.

    Except that there is little evidence that minimum wage adjustments have a big impact on employment, though there is some evidence that minimum wage increases during recession can impair hiring. So let’s not increase the minimum wage right now.

    This list off the top of Canned Heat’s head reads a little like a right-wing wish-list, not much like a serious effort to deal with labor market weakness.

  15. I can believe that this list is off the top of your head because it’s pathetic. We need about 10 million jobs, and we need them soon.

  16. “Congress ought to have the same urgency in dealing with the unemployment problem as it had when banks were in trouble.”

    The reason is simple, and obvious: The banks organized and protested, the unemployed did not.

  17. I recall in the days prior to the passage of TARP, candidate McCain expressed some reservations over the package and was nearly decapitated by the nation’s news media. He probably would have not made a great President, but it isn’t just Congress in bed with finance, it is big media too.

  18. You’re precisely right, but that begs the question: why are the unemployed unable to organize? I’d say it’s mostly that they trust news corporations owned by those with an interest in keeping the big banks profitable and (consequently) have become too atomized and too distrusting of academics (like Simon Johnson), whom they should be trusting.

    TARP was a compromise between
    (1) letting the banks go bankrupt (Shelby Republicans)
    (2) temporarily nationalizing them in a Swedish fashion (Krugman Democrats).

    As a result, both the left and the right are unhappy with it,…even though it’s literally all that could pass in our current Congress. Everyone should keep fighting for what Congress should be doing, but don’t let that stop you from dispassionately looking at what Congress is currently able to do. When everyone stops short at railing against Congress, we all lose because nothing gets done. And the truth of the matter is, as bad as TARP was, it demonstrably prevented unemployment from getting worse than it would have had we done nothing at all and allowed all the banks to go the Lehman route.

    This is the same deal in healthcare reform. Both the left and the right have reasons to be against it. I’d ask everyone to put your academic hats on, turn off the TV, listen to smart people like Jon Gruber and Paul Krugman (and James Kwak!), and just take the compromise bill. The consensus in the academic community is that the current healthcare bill is worth passing, even in its compromised state.

    Too many reasons to be against something…Too many idealists out there…too many cynics. Too much emotion and populism altogether…

  19. The best thing Congress could do for employment, and for the economy in general, would be to adjourn and go home.

  20. Unfortunately, doing nothing is not an option. It only guarantees more of the same. Someone needs to wake up Obama, take him back to the streets where he organized, demonstrate to him how widespread the suffering has become and provide him with real alternatives he can use to bludgeon the oligarchs and their supporters.

    Neither he nor the democrats should focus on the tea-partiers and their ilk. Racism is a widespread if unspoken motivator of that movement.

    Instead he should be honest, tell folks how bad things really are, and while deficits may be undesirable in the long run, we have no choice but to spend on jobs programs and job creation in the near term. Only full employment will allow America to pay down the debt. And that will only work if we control health costs and introduce efficiencies to pharma and the health delivery system.

    As a token to preventing a reoccurance of financial disaster and reducing the deficits he should allow Bush tax cuts to expire on those earning more than $150,000/$250,000; impose much higher tax rates on those earning more than $2 million and phase out all deductions and loopholes available to the latter group; repeal the tax deductibility of corporate expeditures for political speech and donations to groups that engage in political speech, including all lobbying expenses; require full corporate disclosure of all expenses for political speech and provide shareholders that oppose such speech easy access to the proxy process; re-introduce a modern version of Glass-Steagall; require investment banks to operate as partnerships without limits on borrowing; make derivative/swaps markets totally transparent and limit all zero-sum products to use for hedging purposes only (if folks want to gamble they can go support Vegas or the indians); charge fees/tax all investment transactions above $50,000; etc.

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