8/29/12

One More Term

8/28/12

Republican National Convention




Republican National Convention:
By Ezra Klein , Updated: August 28, 2012

On the Republican convention stage tonight, you’re going to see a really large clock. But
the clock isn’t for keeping time. The idea isn’t to stop speakers from going over their
allotted time, or the convention from running late. It’s a debt clock. And the idea is to
blame President Obama and the Democrats for the national debt.
But in doing so, the Republicans will end up blaming Obama for the policies they pushed in
the Bush years, and the recession that began on a Republican president’s watch, and a
continuation of tax cuts that they supported. They’ll have to. Because if they took all that off
the debt clock, there wouldn’t be much debt there to blame him for at all.
The single thing you should look at to understand the debt clock and what it is — or isn’t —
telling you is this graph from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It does something
very simple. It takes public debt since 2001 — which is when we last saw surpluses — and
breaks it into its component parts.
You can see it kind of looks like a layer cake. In fact, the folks at the Center on Budget and
Policy Priorities call it “the parfait graph.”
The top layer, the orange one, that’s the Bush tax cuts. There is no single policy we have
passed that has added as much to the debt, or that is projected to add as much to the debt in
the future, as the Bush tax cuts, which Republicans passed in 2001 and 2003 and Obama
and the Republicans extended in 2010. To my knowledge, all elected Republicans want to
make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Democrats, by and large, want to end them for income
over $250,000.
In second place is the economic crisis. That’s the medium blue. Recessions drive tax
revenue down because people lose their jobs, and when you lose your job, you lose your
income, and when you lose your income, you can’t pay taxes. Tax revenues in recent years
have been 15.4 percent of GDP — the lowest level since the 1950s. Meanwhile, they drive
social spending up, because programs like unemployment insurance and Medicaid
automatically begin spending more to help the people who have been laid off.
Then comes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s the red. And then recovery measures
like the stimulus. That’s the light blue, and the part for which you can really blame Obama
and the Democrats– though it’s worth remembering that the stimulus had to happen because
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of a recession that began before Obama entered office, and that the Senate Republicans
proposed and voted for a $3 trillion tax cut stimulus that would have added almost four
times what Obama’s stimulus added to the debt.
Then there’s the financial rescue measures like TARP, which is the dark blue line. That’s
almost nothing, as much of that money has been paid back.
If we didn’t have all that? If there’d been no Bush tax cuts, no wars, no financial crisis and
everything else had been the same? Debt would be between 20 and 30 percent of GDP
today, rather than almost 100 percent.
Now, the response you sometimes get to this graph is yes, that’s true, but Obama should
have done more about the debt. But Obama has proposed a multi-trillion dollar deficit
reduction plan. Republicans just refused to pass it. And, to be fair, he refused to sign their
plan, too. So the question then is less about what led to the debt and more about who has the
right plan to get rid of it.

8/25/12

Neil Armstrong 1930-2012


8/17/12

16 Year Old Girl Dies of Cancer After Being Refused Treatment for 3 Weeks Due to Pregnancy

By Robin Marty, Jodi Jacobson
August 17, 2012

A pregnant 16-year-old in the Dominican Republic died from complications of leukemia, according to CNN. The young woman was forced to wait nearly three weeks to begin chemotherapy to treat her disease as hospital officials initially refused to treat her fearing it could terminate her pregnancy. In the end she lost her life and the pregnancy, and may have died because of the delay in her treatment.
Under an amendment to the Dominican Republic's constitution which declares that "life begins at conception," abortion is banned, effectively for any reason. The girl's leukemia was diagnosed when she was just nine weeks pregnant.
Dominican women's health advocates told RH Reality Check this afternoon that while the doctors and the state refused to allow the girl treatment for leukemia, they made her undergo "ultrasounds to show that the baby was healthy and for her to see it moving."

Chemotherapy was begun after the end of the first trimester of pregnancy, at which time the girl began to bleed, yet still the doctors refused to interrupt the pregnancy. Advocates report that she subsequently miscarried the pregnancy and began to hemorrhage; the medical team was unable to contain the bleeding and she died.

The girl's mother had pleaded with both doctors and authorities to give her daughter an abortion so she could begin chemotherapy immediately.

At the time that treatment started, Rosa Hernandez, the girl's mother, said she had been trying to convince doctors and the Dominican government to make an exception so that her daughter's life could be saved.

"My daughter's life is first. I know that (abortion) is a sin and that it goes against the law ... but my daughter's health is first," Hernandez said.

The law forced a gamble on the girls life to "balance" between the alleged medical rights of what was at the time of diagnosis an embryo and the girl in whose body it resided, a gamble that clearly did not pay off for either of them.

As anti-choice laws become even more radical here in the United States, we can't help but look at a story like this and wonder if this could be our future, too. We've become so extreme in our bans that a fact-checker can now say with a straight face that a politician doesn't oppose all abortions because after all, "he has supported an exception for when a mother’s life is at stake."

But what does it mean for a woman's life to be "at stake?"
"There are no exceptions in Personhood USA’s presidential pledge because there are no situations where it becomes necessary to dismember a baby,” said Jennifer Mason, spokesperson for Personhood USA, in a January press release .

"With the passage of federal or state personhood amendments, recognizing the personhood rights of both mother and child, women will still of course have access to life-saving treatments and medical care," Mason continued. "Procedures to treat both mom and baby can potentially lead to happier outcomes for both patients, whereas abortion procedures, which are dangerous as it stands already, intentionally kill a child."

Anti-choice activists continue to push the idea that a woman or teen refusing cancer treatment and dying to try to continue a pregnancy is the most beautiful sacrifice that could be made, irrespective of the desires of the girl or woman in question or the desires of her family.

President Obama on a Spending Binge?

By David K Sutton

Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republican Party love a good story. They don’t have much concern for facts and accuracy, they just like a good story. And a good story to them is one that paints President Obama as dangerous and reckless for America. And nothing could be more reckless than a spending binge with tax payer dollars, right? Well, maybe. But did President Obama really go on a spending binge? Unfortunately reality has a way of intruding on the colorful stories Republicans tell.

Below are the cold hard facts. I don’t present these facts as a way to pat President Obama on the back and say “good job.” I simply present them for what they are: facts.

Fact 1 - The 2009 federal budget year began 4 months before Obama took office. This means its the final budget year from the Bush-era. President Bush (and congress) are responsible for 2009.

Fact 2 - In 2009, federal spending increased from $2.98 trillion to $3.52 trillion. This is an increase of 18%. Again, this is Bush’s final budget year.

Fact 3 – 2010, President Obama’s first budget year, saw a decrease in federal spending, $3.52 trillion to $3.46 trillion, a reduction of nearly 2%.

Fact 4 – 2011, federal spending rose by 4.3% – $3.46 trillion to $3.6 trillion.

Fact 5 - Estimated 2012 spending currently stands at $3.8 trillion, an increase of 5.5% from 2011.

Fact 6 - The estimated spending for 2012 is 7.4% higher than 2009, President Bush’s final budget year. That’s an average annual increase of about 2.6% a year.

President Obama has averaged a 2.6% spending increase in each of his first 3 budget years. I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I define a “spending binge.” A 2.6% per year increase in spending is pretty much in line with historic rates of inflation. When you then consider we are recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression (a time when government should be spending money to stimulate the economy), it’s shocking that spending has increased so little during Obama’s first term.

Another right-wing lie put to rest.


Goodbye Demo (Paul McCartney)


7 Cavendish Road, London (McCartney's Home), February 1969. "Goodbye" would become a huge it for Apple recording artist, Mary Hopkin. Listening to Paul's demo, it is easy to see why. Written by McCartney, it was credited as a Lennon/McCartney composition. The original version was released as a single on 28th March 1969 and it reached Number 2 in the UK Singles Chart. It was kept off the top of the charts by the Beatles' single "Get Back". "Goodbye" has never been officially released by the Beatles.

8/16/12

8/13/12

Understanding "The Deficit"

By Paul Krugman


In 2011, as in 2010, America was in a technical recovery but continued to suffer from disastrously high unemployment. And through most of 2011, as in 2010, almost all the conversation in Washington was about something else: the allegedly urgent issue of reducing the budget deficit.

This misplaced focus said a lot about our political culture, in particular about how disconnected Congress is from the suffering of ordinary Americans. But it also revealed something else: when people in D.C. talk about deficits and debt, by and large they have no idea what they’re talking about — and the people who talk the most understand the least.

Perhaps most obviously, the economic “experts” on whom much of Congress relies have been repeatedly, utterly wrong about the short-run effects of budget deficits. People who get their economic analysis from the likes of the Heritage Foundation have been waiting ever since President Obama took office for budget deficits to send interest rates soaring. Any day now!

And while they’ve been waiting, those rates have dropped to historical lows. You might think that this would make politicians question their choice of experts — that is, you might think that if you didn’t know anything about our postmodern, fact-free politics.

But Washington isn’t just confused about the short run; it’s also confused about the long run. For while debt can be a problem, the way our politicians and pundits think about debt is all wrong, and exaggerates the problem’s size.

Deficit-worriers portray a future in which we’re impoverished by the need to pay back money we’ve been borrowing. They see America as being like a family that took out too large a mortgage, and will have a hard time making the monthly payments.

This is, however, a really bad analogy in at least two ways.

First, families have to pay back their debt. Governments don’t — all they need to do is ensure that debt grows more slowly than their tax base. The debt from World War II was never repaid; it just became increasingly irrelevant as the U.S. economy grew, and with it the income subject to taxation.

Second — and this is the point almost nobody seems to get — an over-borrowed family owes money to someone else; U.S. debt is, to a large extent, money we owe to ourselves.

This was clearly true of the debt incurred to win World War II. Taxpayers were on the hook for a debt that was significantly bigger, as a percentage of G.D.P., than debt today; but that debt was also owned by taxpayers, such as all the people who bought savings bonds. So the debt didn’t make postwar America poorer. In particular, the debt didn’t prevent the postwar generation from experiencing the biggest rise in incomes and living standards in our nation’s history.

But isn’t this time different? Not as much as you think.

It’s true that foreigners now hold large claims on the United States, including a fair amount of government debt. But every dollar’s worth of foreign claims on America is matched by 89 cents’ worth of U.S. claims on foreigners. And because foreigners tend to put their U.S. investments into safe, low-yield assets, America actually earns more from its assets abroad than it pays to foreign investors. If your image is of a nation that’s already deep in hock to the Chinese, you’ve been misinformed. Nor are we heading rapidly in that direction.

Now, the fact that federal debt isn’t at all like a mortgage on America’s future doesn’t mean that the debt is harmless. Taxes must be levied to pay the interest, and you don’t have to be a right-wing ideologue to concede that taxes impose some cost on the economy, if nothing else by causing a diversion of resources away from productive activities into tax avoidance and evasion. But these costs are a lot less dramatic than the analogy with an overindebted family might suggest.

And that’s why nations with stable, responsible governments — that is, governments that are willing to impose modestly higher taxes when the situation warrants it — have historically been able to live with much higher levels of debt than today’s conventional wisdom would lead you to believe. Britain, in particular, has had debt exceeding 100 percent of G.D.P. for 81 of the last 170 years. When Keynes was writing about the need to spend your way out of a depression, Britain was deeper in debt than any advanced nation today, with the exception of Japan.

Of course, America, with its rabidly antitax conservative movement, may not have a government that is responsible in this sense. But in that case the fault lies not in our debt, but in ourselves.

So yes, debt matters. But right now, other things matter more. We need more, not less, government spending to get us out of our unemployment trap. And the wrongheaded, ill-informed obsession with debt is standing in the way.