Race, Ryan and Lazy-Day Hammocks

Commenting on Paul Ryan’s “remarks in which he attributed persistent poverty to a “culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working,” Paul Krugman points out that it wasn’t simply Ryan being inarticulate, as he later claimed, but that since the GOP can’t face the facts about poverty in America they respond to the only dog-whistle they understand: race — “the Rosetta Stone that makes sense of many otherwise incomprehensible aspects of U.S. politics.”

NY Times: Krugman

And for more on Congressman Ryan, who likes to hearken back to his famine-Irish forebears, have a look at Timothy Eagan’s justified take-down of the Ryan rhetoric about “culture of dependency”  and “a safety net that becomes a lazy-day hammock.”  It is the same stuff the British said about the famine-Irish, exactly.

The Irish historian John Kelly, who wrote a book on the great famine, was the first to pick up on these echoes of the past during the 2012 presidential campaign. “Ryan’s high-profile economic philosophy,” he wrote then, “is the very same one that hurt, not helped, his forebears during the famine — and hurt them badly.”

Said Ryan:

“We have this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.” In other words, these people are bred poor and lazy.

Where have I heard that before? asks Eagan.

Ah, yes — 19th-century England. The Irish national character, Trevelyan confided to a fellow aristocrat, was “defective.” The hungry millions were “a selfish, perverse, and turbulent” people, said the man in charge of relieving their plight.

And the hammock?

“We entered a cabin. Stretched in one dark corner, scarcely visible from the smoke and rags that covered them, were three children huddled together, lying there because they were too weak to rise, pale and ghastly … perfectly emaciated, eyes sunk, voice gone, and evidently in the last stage of actual starvation.”

The Irish Famine, 1845-1849, (1900). Artist: Unknown

The Irish Famine, 1845-1849, (1900). Artist: Unknown


Krugman: Obama Gets Real

Paul Krugman in the NY Times:

Much of the media commentary on President Obama’s big inequality speech was cynical. You know the drill: it’s yet another “reboot” that will go nowhere; none of it will have any effect on policy, and so on. But before we talk about the speech’s possible political impact or lack thereof, shouldn’t we look at the substance? Was what the president said true? Was it new? If the answer to these questions is yes — and it is — then what he said deserves a serious hearing.

*

Much of our political and pundit class remains devoted to the notion that rising inequality, to the extent that it’s an issue at all, is all about workers lacking the right skills and education. But the president now seems to accept progressive arguments that education is at best one of a number of concerns, that America’s growing class inequality largely reflects political choices, like the failure to raise the minimum wage along with inflation and productivity.

*

Says Obama: “A relentlessly growing deficit of opportunity is a bigger threat to our future than our rapidly shrinking fiscal deficit.”

I hope Krugman’s  right, that Obama has turned a corner.  He’s got himself into such a maze of compromise delusion that he’s got many corners to turn to get clear of it.


Sociopaths Explain

Paul Krugman has found some wildly over-the-top complaints from the richest sociopaths in America.

Robert Benmosche, the chief executive of the American International Group [AIG -- you remember that?]  “compared the uproar over [executive] bonuses to lynchings in the Deep South — the real kind, involving murder — and declared that the bonus backlash was “just as bad and just as wrong.”

 

Oh, there’s more!


GOP Off the Deep End

Interesting short post by Krugman on his blog:

 

In the short run the point is that Republican leaders are about to reap the whirlwind, because they haven’t had the courage to tell the base that Obamacare is here to stay, that the sequester is in fact intolerable, and that in general they have at least for now lost the war over the shape of American society. As a result, we’re looking at many drama-filled months, with a high probability of government shutdowns and even debt defaults.

Over the longer run the point is that one of America’s two major political parties has basically gone off the deep end; policy content aside, a sane party doesn’t hold dozens of votes declaring its intention to repeal a law that everyone knows will stay on the books regardless. And since that party continues to hold substantial blocking power, we are looking at a country that’s increasingly ungovernable.


Krugman Interview: Unethical Experiments on Human Beings


GOP ♥ Financial Fraud

From Krugman:

… the consumer protection bureau serves a vital function. But as I said, Senate Republicans are trying to kill it.

How can they do that, when the reform is already law and Democrats hold a Senate majority? Here as elsewhere, they’re turning to extortion — threatening to filibuster theappointment of Richard Cordray, the bureau’s acting head, and thereby leave the bureau unable to function. Mr. Cordray, whose work has drawn praise even from the bankers, is clearly not the issue. Instead, it’s an open attempt to use raw obstructionism to overturn the law.

What Republicans are demanding, basically, is that the protection bureau lose its independence. They want its actions subjected to a veto by other, bank-centered financial regulators, ensuring that consumers will once again be neglected, and they also want to take away its guaranteed funding, opening it to interest-group pressure. These changes would make the agency more or less worthless — but that, of course, is the point.

How can the G.O.P. be so determined to make America safe for financial fraud, with the 2008 crisis still so fresh in our memory? In part it’s because Republicans are deep in denial about what actually happened to our financial system and economy. On the right, it’s now complete orthodoxy that do-gooder liberals, especially former Representative Barney Frank, somehow caused the financial disaster by forcing helpless bankers to lend to Those People.

In reality, this is a nonsense story that has been extensively refuted; I’ve always been struck in particular by the notion that a Congressional Democrat, holding office at a time when Republicans ruled the House with an iron first, somehow had the mystical power to distort our whole banking system. But it’s a story conservatives much prefer to the awkward reality that their faith in the perfection of free markets was proved false.


Moyers and Krugman: The Deficit Dumb Down

On the Bill Moyers show, January 18, 2013

Krugman… there are I think two, two levels of opposition [to short term government stimulus ]  And one of them is just raw politics. We have a powerful political movement in this country that has a longstanding goal of rolling back all of the social programs, all the safety net that we’ve created. They want smaller government. They want reduced public services. Even the idea of public schools is very much under attack. They want it all to be switched to a system of vouchers. And they see this, you and I see a disaster, they see an opportunity. Here we have cash strapped state and local government. Good. Forced to cut back in government. They don’t want to do anything that will make it easier for them to, for government as we know it to continue. That movement controls one political party. And that political party controls one house of Congress. And that is enough to stand in the way of a lot of things we ought to be doing. Then there’s the second level, which is this odd coalescence of, I picked up the phrase from other people. Actually, from the blogger Duncan Black. “Very Serious People,” capital V, capital S, capital P.

Bill Moyers: You’re always writing that these Very Serious People. Who are they?

Paul Krugman: Yeah. The notion that someone, well, you can look are your random set of, you know Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson would be the quintessential Very Serious People. The editorial, practically the whole op-ed page, not all of them, but most of “The Washington Post.” People for whom this, it’s axiomatic that the budget deficit is the most important problem. And that what we really, really need to do right now at a time of mass unemployment is worry about the debt to GDP ratio ten years from now. And it’s a very hard thing to crack, partly because it’s not actually a rational argument. You very rarely, very rarely see on the Sunday talk shows, people asking, “Why exactly are you so concerned about the deficit right now?” That’s sort of a given. That’s a starting point. Everybody serious understands that, except that if you ask them why exactly, they can’t give you a very good answer.

Bill Moyers: What is the answer?

Paul Krugman: It’s partly that this is, it sounds serious. Never you know, never underestimate the importance of just plain what comes across. Start so it’s partly just it sounds serious, it’s the kind of thing that people who wear good suits are likely to talk about. Partly it is actually, of course, a deliberate pressure campaign


Is California the New Sign of Deficits Down?

Front page news today and yesterday of Governor Jerry Brown’s announcement of a budget in which there is no deficit.

It’s the first time since 2007 that leaders at the Capitol haven’t had a deficit to contend with and the first time since the late 1990s that the outlook over future years shows surpluses instead of deficits.

 

Paul Krugman takes note and slams the deficit scolds as he calls them:

 the deficit scolds will of course go wild. They have staked their careers on crusading against supposedly intractable deficits, and they have their hearts (and more important, their wallets) set on exploiting the alleged fiscal crisis to dismantle social insurance programs. Good news will be a blow to everything they want, and will be furiously and vigorously denied.

But once again: deficits are receding as an issue before our eyes.

Bonnie Kavoussi at Huffington Post, picks up an earlier Krugman post to expand the theme:

“Reasonable projections do not, repeat do not, show anything resembling the runaway deficit crisis that is a staple of almost everything you hear, including supposedly objective news reporting,”

showing a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities graph.


Battle on the Cliffs

Krugman called out the GOPsters this morning:

In the ongoing battle of the budget, President Obama has done something very cruel. Declaring that this time he won’t negotiate with himself, he has refused to lay out a proposal reflecting what he thinks Republicans want. Instead, he has demanded that Republicans themselves say, explicitly, what they want. And guess what: They can’t or won’t do it.

Bruce Bartlett reminds that the fiscal cliff is a ‘faux’ problem.  It is the debt ceiling that is being held hostage, and that Obama should ready his biggest weapons to deal with more GOP intransigence.

In short, the debt limit is a hostage that Republicans are willing to kill or maim in pursuit of their agenda. They have made this clear ever since the debt ceiling debate in 2011, in which the Treasury came very close to defaulting on the debt.

…  In a new book, “Is U.S. Government Debt Different?,” Howell Jackson, a law professor at Harvard, walks through options for prioritizing government spending in the event that Republicans insist on committing financial suicide. They are all illegal or unconstitutional to one degree or another. They would require the Treasury to either abrogate Congress’s taxing power, spending power or borrowing power.

In the October issue of the Columbia Law Review, Professors Neil H. Buchanan of the George Washington University Law School and Michael C. Dorf of Cornell Law School examine the question of what a president should do when he must act and all his options are unconstitutional. They cite Abraham Lincoln’s July 4, 1861, message to Congress in support of the idea that some laws are more unconstitutional than others and the president is empowered to violate the one that is least unconstitutional when he has no other option.

Said Lincoln, “To state the question more directly, are all the laws, but one, to go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?”

And Krugman reminds that this hostage is going to be recycled again and again by the GOP

Later this afternoon, Boehner, offered an old plan to counter what the they complained was Obama’s old offer:

Republican Congressional leaders countered President Obama’s deficit reduction proposal with a plan to cut the deficit by $2.2 trillion over the next decade by raising $800 billion in revenue and cutting $1.2 trillion in spending.

Another $200 billion in savings would come from changing the way the government calculates inflation, which would slow benefit increases in programs from Medicare to Social Security and raise taxes by slowing the rise in tax brackets.

…  Under the Republican offer, tax revenue would rise by $800 billion (1/2 the President’s effort to drive down the deficit — which the GOP knuckleheads say is their biggest priority) over 10 years, through closing loopholes and ending or curtailing deductions and tax credits. Mr. Boehner did not specify on Monday which tax breaks would be curtailed. (per usual.)

Another $600 billion in deficit reduction would come from changes to federal health care programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the president’s health care law. Cuts to other programs that are not under the purview of annual Congressional spending bills — so-called mandatory programs — would total $300 billion. And discretionary programs, already cut by nearly $1 trillion through last year’s Budget Control Act, would be reduced by another $300 billion.

Those numbers are very different from the president’s plan, which foresees $1.6 trillion in new revenue over the next decade, $960 billion of that from the expiration of Bush-era tax breaks for the affluent beginning next month. The president wants between $400 billion and $600 billion in spending cuts, largely from Medicare. But he also wants upfront spending increases to kick-start the economy through new infrastructure spending, and help to homeowners still struggling with their mortgages.

     And to prove they were serious he referred to Obama’s offer as coming from “La-la-land.”  They guy hasn’t passed mediation 101…

Posted at DailyKos is the White House response to the “offer.”

“The Republican letter released today does not meet the test of balance. In fact, it actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill. Their plan includes nothing new and provides no details on which deductions they would eliminate, which loopholes they will close or which Medicare savings they would achieve.

 


Deficit Scolds Getting Shrill as the Story Falls Apart

From Krugman…

… the deficit scolds aren’t giv­ing up. Now yet an­other or­ga­ni­za­tion, Fix the Debt, is cam­paign­ing for cuts to So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care, even while mak­ing low­er tax rates a “core prin­ci­ple.” That last part makes no sense in terms of the group’s os­ten­si­ble mis­sion, but makes per­fect sense if you look at the ar­ray of big cor­po­ra­tions, from Gold­man Sachs to the United­Health Group, that are in­volved in the ef­fort and would ben­e­fit from tax cuts. Hey, sac­ri­fice is for the lit­tle peo­ple.

So should we take this lat­est push se­ri­ous­ly? No — and not just be­cause these peo­ple, aside from ex­hibit­ing a lot of hy­poc­risy, have been wrong about ev­ery­thing so far. The truth is that at a fun­da­men­tal level the cri­sis story they’re try­ing to sell doesn’t make sense.