The Aeration Zone: A liberal breath of fresh air
Contributors (otherwise known as "The Aerheads"):
Walldon in New Jersey ----
Marketingace in Pennsylvania ---- Simoneyezd in Ontario
ChiTom in Illinois -- KISSweb in Illinois -- HoundDog in Kansas City -- The Binger in Ohio
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Check it out on Snopes.com - http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/sharia.asp
Monday, July 19, 2010
Christopher Hayes July 15, 2010
If you've been paying attention this past decade, it won't surprise you to learn that the country's policy elites are in the midst of a destructive, well-nigh unhinged discussion about the future of the nation. But even by the degraded standards of the Washington establishment, the growing panic over government debt is shocking.
First, the facts. Nearly the entire deficit for this year and those projected into the near and medium terms are the result of three things: the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush tax cuts and the recession. The solution to our fiscal situation is: end the wars, allow the tax cuts to expire and restore robust growth. Our long-term structural deficits will require us to control healthcare inflation the way countries with single-payer systems do.
But right now we face a joblessness crisis that threatens to pitch us into a long, ugly period of low growth, the kind of lost decade that will cause tremendous misery, degrade the nation's human capital, undermine an entire cohort of young workers for years and blow a hole in the government's bank sheet. The best chance we have to stave off this scenario is more government spending to nurse the economy back to health. The economy may be alive, but that doesn't mean it's healthy. There's a reason you keep taking antibiotics even after you start to feel better.
And yet: the drumbeat of deficit hysterics thumping in self-righteous panic grows louder by the day. Judging by its schedule and online video, this year's Aspen Ideas Festival was an open-air orgy of anti-deficit moaning. The festival is a good window into elite preoccupations, and that its opening forum featured ominous warnings of future bankruptcy from Niall Ferguson, Mort Zuckerman and David Gergen does not bode well. Nor does the fact that there was a panel called "America's Looming Fiscal Emergency: How to Balance the Books." This attitude isn't confined to pundits. The heads of Obama's fiscal commission have called projected deficits a "cancer." The hysteria has reached such a pitch that Republican senators (joined by Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson) have filibustered an extension of unemployment benefits because it was not offset by spending cuts. Keep in mind, the cost of the extension for people unlucky enough to be caught in the jaws of the worst recession in thirty years is $35 billion. The bill would increase the debt by less than 0.3 percent.
This all seems eerily familiar. The conversationâ€”if it can be called thatâ€”about deficits recalls the national conversation about war in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. From one day to the next, what was once accepted by the establishment as tolerableâ€”Saddam Husseinâ€”became intolerable, a crisis of such pressing urgency that "serious people" were required to present their ideas about how to deal with it. Once the burden of proof shifted from those who favored war to those who opposed it, the argument was lost.
We are poised on the same tipping point with regard to the debt. Amid official unemployment of 9.5 percent and a global contraction, we shouldn't even be talking about deficits in the short run. Yet these days, entrance into the club of the "serious" requires not a plan for reducing unemployment but a plan to do battle with the invisible and as yet unmaterialized international bond traders preparing an attack on the dollar.
Perhaps the most egregious aspect of the selling of the Iraq War was its false pretext. It never really was about weapons of mass destruction, as Paul Wolfowitz admitted. WMDs were just "what everyone could agree on." So it is with deficits. Conservatives and their neoliberal allies don't really care about deficits; they care about austerityâ€”about gutting the welfare state and redistributing wealth upward. That's the objective. Deficits are just what they can all agree on, the WMDs of this manufactured crisis. Senator John Kyl of Arizona, speaking on Fox, has come out and admitted as much. All new spending increases must be offset, he said, but "you should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans." So there you have it.
Remember that the Iraq War might have been prevented had more Congressional Democrats stood up to oppose it. Instead, many of those who privately knew the entire enterprise was a colossal disaster in the making buckled to right-wing pressure and pundit hawks and voted for it. That mistake is being repeated. Despite White House economists' full realization of the need for stimulus in the face of astronomically high unemployment, the New York Times has reported that the political minds inside the White House, David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, have decided that the public has no appetite for increased spending. "It's my job to report what the public mood is," Axelrod explained. He then showed up on ABC's This Week to wave the white flag, saying that the president would continue to press to extend unemployment benefits; conspicuously omitted was any mention of aid to state governments, which had originally been included in the president's June letter to Congress asking for a new stimulus package.
There is hope, however: the public is nowhere near as obsessed with the deficit as are those in Washington. According to a USA Today/Gallup poll, 60 percent of Americans support "additional government spending to create jobs and stimulate the economy," with 38 percent opposed. A Hart Research Associates poll published in June showed that two-thirds of Americans favor continuing unemployment benefits. There is also very little public appetite for "entitlement reform," aÂ kÂ a cutting Social Security.
The lesson of the Iraq War is that over the long haul, good politics and good policy can't be separated. If the White House is tempted to support bad policy in the short term because it seems less risky politically, it should give John Kerry a call and ask him how that worked out for him with Iraq.
Tax Cuts for the Wealthy 101
The Bush income tax cuts for the wealthy -- specifically, his reduction of the top marginal rate from 39.6% to 35% -- cost all other taxpayers almost $70 billion every year. That means, the despised deficit is made $70 billion dollars worse every friggin year in order to let people "making" several hundred thousand dollars a year pay a few hundred or a few thousand dollars less in taxes. Remember, that's taxable income after all adjustments, exemptions and deductions.
People making between $200,000 and $500,000 in taxable income i.e., people making a lot more than that in gross income, which is what we usually mean when we talk about how much people "make," would, ">according to USA Today, see an average increase of $988 if we let the Bush tax cuts on high income Americans expire. 988 DOLLARS. On people "making" abpout $400,000 a year. The descent into socialism is rapid indeed. With such a slippery slope, we will achieve real socialism in, oh, about 10,000 years. We can't be too vigilant.
We should all keep pounding the facts in letters to our local newspapers and TV stations. Maybe eventually we will see reality gain some traction.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Evidence based Global Warming
It’s all the more powerful evidence of human-caused warming “because it occurs when the recent minimum of solar irradiance is having its maximum cooling effect,” as a recent must-read NASA paper notes.
Software engineer (and former machinist mate in the US Navy) Timothy Chase put together a spreadsheet using the data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (click here). In NASA’s dataset, the 12-month running average temperature record was actually just barely set in March — and then easily set in April and topped out in May.
It still seems likely that 2010 will be the hottest year on record, but NOAA now predicts that “La Niña conditions are likely to develop during July – August 2010.” If the La Niña comes fast and deep (as in 1998 and 2007), that could make it a close call in the NASA dataset — and even more so in the satellite record, which is much more sensitive to ENSO ( El Niño Southern oscillation).
Blue curve: 12-month running-mean global temperature. Note correlation with Nino index (red = El Nino, blue = La Nina). Large volcanoes (green) have a cooling effect for ~2 years. Source: “Global Surface Temperature Change,” by James Hansen et al., June 2010.
Interestingly, June was tied for the third hottest on record for NASA, but was essentially tied for the hottest June in the RSS satellite record (and second hottest in the constantly tweaked UAH satellite dataset).
Although I’m sure it’s just another coincidence, but Rutgers University’s Global Snow Lab again reports a record low snow cover in the entire northern hemisphere for the month of June (what appears to be a long term trend):
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
David Brooks crashes and burns
Here is Baker at his best:
Seems to me that we have a very simple theory to explain the past two years. There was a huge bubble in housing that burst beginning in 2006. This led to a plunge in residential construction that cost the economy more than $500 billion in annual demand. In addition, the loss of $6 trillion in housing wealth, coupled with the loss of around $7 trillion in stock wealth, has cost the economy more than $500 billion in annual consumption demand. This is the result of the wealth effect on consumption, a phenomenon that economists have been writing about for close to a century. In addition, there was a bubble in non-residential real estate that collapsed about a year after the collapse of the housing bubble. This cost the economy about another $150 billion in demand. That gives a total loss in annual demand of around $1.2 trillion. All of this was completely predictable and predicted by at least some demand siders.
It was also easy to see that the stimulus approved by Congress was inadequate. Demand siders rely on something called "arithmetic" to reach this assessment. After pulling out the $80 billion fix to the alternative minimum tax, which had nothing to do with stimulus, and the $100 billion or so designated for later years, the stimulus provided for roughly $600 billion in spending and tax cuts over the years 2009 and 2010. This comes to $300 billion a year. Roughly half of the federal stimulus was offset by cutbacks and tax increases at the state and local level, leaving a net stimulus from the government sector of roughly $150 billion a year.
Demand siders did not believe that $150 billion in annual stimulus from the government could offset the contractionary impact of a reduction in annual spending by the private scctor of $1.2 trillion ($1.2 trillion > $150 billion). That is how demand siders explained the failure of the stimulus to have much impact in reducing the unemployment rate. Perhaps this explanation is too complicated for Mr. Brooks (he repeatedly complains about the high IQs of the demand siders), but it actually seems fairly straightforward. If he wants to be honest, he could at least say that he doesn't understand the demand siders' explanation, rather than asserting that demand siders do not have an explanation.
There is the simple arithmetic that puts the lie to the notion that the stimulus “failed.” It simply was not enough. Total demand declined just since 2007 by $1.2 trillion: $500 billion annually in lost residential construction, $150 B in lost commercial real estate construction, $500 B in lost demand due to $13 trillion – yes, $13 trillion – loss of housing bubble and stock market “wealth” as it existed in 2007. The genuine stimulus amount was $300 billion annual in 2009 and 2010, reduced by $150 billion each year in necessary cutbacks at state and local levels. $150 billion in extra demand from government spending and tax reductions was clearly inadequate to attack a $1.2 trillion demand shortfall.
Consider further that the bubbles were encouraged and permitted to promote borrowing against that inflated wealth in order to keep the Bush economy alive – it was hoped, at least into 2009 -- in the face of fundamental loss of demand in the Bush years due to flat incomes for the great majority of Americans. Wealthy Americans, who spend a smaller proportion of additional income than average Americans, took virtually a 100% share of the growth in gross domestic product between 2000 and 2007. GDP grew roughly 20% in that period. The median household, had it shared appropriately in GDP growth, would make approximately $10,000 more per year now. That's a lot of demand lost – with a multiplier to reflect turnover of that money through several sequences of transactions, very likely considerably more than the $1.2 trillion in phony bubble-supported demand identified by Dean Baker.
Of course, it also would have generated a lot more tax revenue, as would a higher marginal rate on the wealthy as there was before the Bush tax cuts. Funny: before the incomes of ordinary Americans stagnated and the the share of national taxation for the wealthy was reduced, both under the auspices of the Bush administration,we had close to full employment and a budget surplus.
Tell the deficit hawks to shut up. Besides the fact that they are phonies who said nothing when Bush was racking up huge deficits, they are now causing incalculable damage to the country.
Friday, July 02, 2010
Another Right Wing Smear Proven Baseless
July 1, 2010
Climate Scientist Cleared of Altering Data
An American scientist accused of manipulating research findings on climate science was cleared of that charge by his university on Thursday, the latest in a string of reports to find little substance in the allegations known as Climategate.
An investigative panel at Pennsylvania State University, weighing the question of whether the scientist, Michael E. Mann, had “seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting or reporting research or other scholarly activities,” declared that he had not.
Dr. Mann said he was gratified by the findings, the second report from Penn State to clear him. An earlier report had exonerated him of related charges that he suppressed or falsified data, destroyed e-mail and misused confidential information.
The new report did criticize him on a minor point, saying that he had occasionally forwarded to colleagues copies of unpublished manuscripts without the explicit permission of their authors.
The allegations arose after private e-mail messages between Dr. Mann and other scientists were purloined from a computer at the University of East Anglia, in Britain, and posted on the Internet. In one, a British researcher called a data-adjustment procedure Dr. Mann used a “trick.”
The e-mail messages led climate-change skeptics to accuse mainstream researchers, including Dr. Mann, of deliberately manipulating the findings of climate science in order to strengthen their case that human activity is causing the earth to warm up.
“I’m aware, and many researchers now are keenly aware, of the depths to which the climate-change disinformation movement is willing to sink, to the point where they’re willing to criminally break into a university server and steal people’s personal e-mail messages,” Dr. Mann said in an interview.
Like the earlier report from Penn State, the new one was assailed Thursday by advocacy groups skeptical of the case for human-induced climate change.
“It’s no surprise that it’s a whitewash of Dr. Mann’s misconduct, because it was designed to be a whitewash,” said Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington advocacy group. He accused the panel of failing to interview important witnesses.
The panel did not try to vet the accuracy of the science published by Dr. Mann, including a famous finding that the temperature of the earth had jumped recently, compared with past climate inferred from indicators like tree rings. Instead, it examined his methodology — his analytical techniques, his willingness to share data with those skeptical of his findings and the like. The panel unanimously found his approach “well within the range of accepted practices.”
Two inquiries in Britain have largely exonerated the scientists there who were caught up in Climategate, though one report did offer minor criticism of statistical techniques.
Dr. Mann remains under investigation by the attorney general of Virginia for research he did at the University of Virginia.
Can we for once stop conceding ground to the idiots?
- Cutting back on spending now will throw millions more out of work
- That's unbelievably stupid because millions more out of work and not paying taxes will only make the long-term deficit worse
- Refusing to spend now to put people back to work and re-build a thriving economy is like refusing to go on a job interview because you will have to spend money on transportation
OK, you understand that? Then how the hell can any fool say the biggest immediate problem we face is growing deficits and long-term national debt – that the most important thing we can do is throw more people out of work? Maybe they aren't fools, because mass unemployment brings many benefits for those already holding the economic cards – like shutting up those knocking on the door for a fair share of the national product and a seat at the table where things are decided.
But they do count on the rest of us being fools. In the case of reporters and editors for the national press, who routinely ascribe Solomonic stature to deficit crusaders like the fantastically wealthy Pete Petersen always recommending economic hair shirts for the little people – which means anyone making less than, oh, $500 K per year or so -- that has been a fantastic bet.