Friday, July 8, 2011

Last Call

David Leonhardt explores the steep cost of austerity hysteria to our economy.

In all kinds of ways — consumer demand, the federal deficit, even the weather — the medium-term future is highly uncertain. But this uncertainty, while the main problem, is not the only problem. We are also committing an unforced economic error. We’re cutting government at the same time that the private sector is cutting.

It is the classic mistake to make after a financial crisis. Hoover and even Roosevelt made a version of it in the 1930s. The Japanese made a version of it in the 1990s. Now we are making it.

Federal payrolls have been roughly flat for years (even as the population has been growing). But state and local payrolls grew over the last decade, by almost 20,000 jobs a month on average.

Since the crisis began and state and local taxes began plummeting, though, governments began to cut back. At first, the federal government stepped in, with the 2009 stimulus bill, and sent fiscal aid to states. Then the aid stopped.

In round numbers, state and local governments have cut about a half million jobs over the last two years. If they had continued to hire at their previous pace — expanding as the population expanded — they would have added about a half million jobs.

Oh, that's not the bad part.  This is.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, via Haver Analytics
In other words, the state and local austerity of the last two years has cost the economy about one million jobs.

And best case scenario the jobs that are replacing these government jobs:  teachers, firefighters, cops, etc, pay far less.  But this is exactly what state and local Republican party officials told us needed to happen.  We had to "trim the fat".  We had to "get rid of people making money off the government dime".  We were told that if we did this, the private sector would hire them.

And so we did, slashing jobs and putting these employees on unemployment and early retirement, and the private sector?  Well, let's just say they haven't added a million equally-paying private sector jobs yet.  Surprise!  The private sector is sitting on their cash waiting, or sending job overseas because that's where the demand for their products is growing.  The middle-class?  Certainly not growing in America, nope.

Once again, we're doing exactly what the Republicans say we should have done, and lo and behold, it's making the economy worse.  Shocker.  Republicans don't know a damn thing about economics.  But they're the party of fiscal responsibility, alright.

Ban-imal Cruelty

Post of the day goes to Steve M. for this:

Michele Bachmann is the first presidential candidate to sign the pledge currently being circulated by the Family Leader, a religious-right group formerly known as the Iowa Family Policy Center. The main thrust of the pledge is a vow to protect "traditional marriage" from usurping gay, "quickie divorce," and other reportedly dire threats. But as I noted in an update to my previous post on the pledge, it also includes this pronouncement (from the PDF of the text of the pledge, at the Family Leader's site):

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA‟s first African-American President.

So not only was slavery an good thing for marriage, but illegitimacy was apparently invented by the guy who was inaugurated on January 20, 2009. Bachmann reads that and says, "Yup, sounds good to me."

The source for this, according to the text of the pledge, is a paper (PDF) published under the aegis of the Institute for American Values ... in 2005. So not only is our evil Negro president destroying marriage, he's using a time machine to do so. The fiend!

Best part of the Winger defense of this nonsense?  If you don't agree with Bachmann, you hate women.  Hating gays, minorities, and President Obama's time machine?  Well, that's perfectly okay.

So glad our Republican 2012 Clown Car Kids are pledging to deal with the important issues to voters.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 30

Over at Power Line, John Hindraker is incensed that the Republicans are even considering a deal.

Republicans should have nothing to do with such banana republic proceedings. There should be no eleventh-hour cosmic bipartisan deal on the budget. The nation’s fiscal future should be debated and legislated on in an organized, transparent, legal, public manner. First choice: Republicans vote against an increase in the debt limit. Contrary to hysterical pronouncements from the likes of the discredited Tim Geithner, this would not cause the federal government to default on its bonds. Rather, the government would continue to pay principal and interest as it comes due, and would be forced to cut spending in other areas. Second choice: Republicans vote to increase the debt limit in exchange for specific, tangible spending cuts or other consideration–e.g., reductions in the continuing resolutions that fund FY 2011 spending–not in connection with a grand compromise. Third choice: Republicans vote to increase the debt limit with no conditions and no grand compromise, reserving all issues relating to the federal budget, future taxes, entitlement reform, etc. for another day and for an appropriate legislative process. Worst choice: Republicans join hands with Democrats and go over the fiscal waterfall together, to the Democrats’ everlasting political gain.

That's his plan: refuse to raise the debt ceiling, and spending cuts will simply happen.  What he doesn't mention is how deep and painful those cuts would be, especially with no revenue boosts.  In fact, as NRO's Andrew McCarthy pointed out in April, that's exactly what the Republicans want to happen.  Paying for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid would then not even leave enough to cover defense spending at the Pentagon...and that would mean the end of every single other government program.

The $395 billion can’t cover the nearly $700 billion for the Pentagon, and it certainly can’t be further stretched to cover another $115 billion or so for homeland security, $82 billion for HHS, $77 billion for Education, $42 billion for HUD, $21 billion for DOJ, $22 billion for agriculture, $14 billion for Treasury, $13 billion each for the Labor and Transportation Departments, $12 billion for Interior, $10 billion for EPA, and on and on and on (see here for relevant OMB tables — discretionary spending is table S-11). And all of that doesn’t count the prohibitive costs of Obamacare down the road.

So, no national parks.  No federal money for schools.  No Pell grants.  No money for highway repair.  No federal law enforcement.  No airport security.  No farm subsidies.  No federal unemployment benefits.  No food and drug testing.  No food stamps.  Nothing.  Drowned in the bathtub.  And that is the optimal outcome according to these guys.

So no, the notion that there's a deal coming on the debt ceiling?  I don't buy it.

Rotten Apple

Turns out there's a big security flaw in Apple's iOS (and has been for a long time now) that hackers could use to gain control of an iPhone or iPad.

The security flaw in Apple's iOS operating system came to light on Wednesday as the website released code that Apple customers can use to modify the iOS operating system through a process known as "jail breaking."

Some Apple customers choose to jail break their devices so they can download and run applications that are not approved by Apple or use iPhone phones on networks of carriers that are not approved by Apple.

Security experts warned that criminal hackers could download that code, reverse engineer it to identify a hole in iOS security and build a piece of malicious software within a few days.

"If you are a malicious attacker, it is fairly doable," said Patrik Runald, a senior researcher with the Internet security firm Websense.

Apple says they're going to fix it in a future release, but until then, who knows.  Android certainly has its share of security issues being an open system, but iOS is nowhere near bulletproof, either.  Both Google and Apple need to get to work, apparently.

Show Me Progress

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri marijuana advocates want to ask voters next year to legalize the drug and regulate its medical use.
A group called Show-Me Cannabis filed its initiative request with the Missouri Secretary of State on Wednesday.
If the state approves the ballot language for the proposed Missouri constitutional amendment, supporters would need to collect enough signatures from registered voters by next May to get the question on the November ballot.
The measure would decriminalize pot use, possession and small-scale cultivation by Missourians age 21 and older. It would also require the state to issue retail licenses to sell the drug and oversee a medical marijuana program.
Sixteen states have medical marijuana programs. Activists are targeting several other states next year.

It's interesting to see what happens in this state, because Missouri so often surprises in the polls.  However, it would have a huge impact on surrounding states.  Drug enforcement programs are losing the war on meth, this would better direct resources while budget cuts make those departments take efficiency to whole new levels.  That is putting the cart before the horse, however.  The real fun will be watching it play out and seeing who dares show support.   

Missouri's budget can't pour much more into the black hole of the war on marijuana.  When it comes to a little hippie action versus the ravaging plague that is meth, to me there is no question what should be a priority.  But as we know, the most intelligent solution isn't always the most profitable.

That's Some Fine Police Work There, Lou

ST. LOUIS • With police on high alert from a spike of car break-ins — and Mayor Francis Slay demanding gates and guards at public parking lots — authorities fumbled an unusual opportunity last weekend to catch a thief red-handed.
A cellphone swiped from a car near Union Station late June 24 contained a tracking device that lets its owners follow every movement. But they said they were unable to get St. Louis police interested for hours, until after the phone's battery died and the chance was lost.
This is more than just a phone, however.  There was approximately $4,000 in property stolen as well.  Thanks to an app on their iPad, the victims were able to watch their property move from house to house in real time. Police are now watching the neighborhood because yet another phone was tracked there.  But here is the kicker, the couple was advised to go track the phone themselves, and then call the cops when they got there.  They exposed a family to known criminals on flaky advice, and the police didn't show up for ten hours.  It's a miracle they weren't spotted and harmed.

Upon realizing they had found a direct link to the probable thief, the couple called the beat officer who responded earlier. He transferred them to the 6th District, where they spoke to someone on the desk whom police officials have not been able to identify. The couple said that person told them officers were too busy and that they should drive to the location themselves the next day — because calling from there would ensure a response.
They followed the instructions, driving out after their son's Saturday morning baseball game. By the time officers arrived, 10 hours had passed since their call.
The mayor decided to blame the security at the parking lots, claiming they had failed to put up proper lighting and fencing, and insufficient guard coverage.


June unemployment numbers are in, and they are not good.

Nonfarm payrolls rose only 18,000, the weakest reading since September, the Labor Department said on Friday, well below economists' expectations for a 90,000 rise.

The unemployment rate climbed to a six-month high of 9.2 percent, even as jobseekers left the labor force in droves, from 9.1 percent in May. 

"The message on the economy is ongoing stagnation," said Pierre Ellis, senior economist at Decision economics in New York. "Income growth is marginal so there's no indication of momentum. 

The government revised April and May payrolls to show 44,000 fewer jobs created than previously reported. 

That laser-like focus on jobs the Republicans promised when America voted them into power?  Yeah, still waiting on that.  Remember, the GOP jobs program is to cut corporate taxes on corporations already paying zero taxes.  Jobs bills, zero.  Abortion bills?  Dozens.  Focus, people!

Meanwhile, U-6 is up to 16.4% again.  Not good.

Check Out The Set Of Pipes On This One

Science, you continue to be awesome.

For the first time, a patient has received a synthetic windpipe that was created in a lab with the patient's own stem cells and without using human donor tissue, researchers said Thursday.

Previous lab-generated transplants either used a segment of donor windpipe or involved tissue only, not an organ.

In a laboratory in London, scientists created a trachea, which is a tube-like airway that connects at the voice box and branches into both lungs.

On June 9, doctors implanted this synthetic windpipe into a 36-year-old man with late-stage tracheal cancer at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm. The patient is doing well and is expected to be released from the hospital Friday, said Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, professor of regenerative medicine there.

Hey, stem cells for the win, too.  Biomaterials science is really taking off here as of late, and stem cells are a big part of it.  Hopefully this guy will pull through with little or no complications and the technique can help other folks too.

Down The Hatch

Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch is either dense or just mean or both.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is going after Sen. Orrin Hatch for saying that the poor need to "share some of the responsibility" for shrinking the debt.

"The top 10 percent are paying 70 percent of all income taxes. The top 50 percent pay something like 98 percent of all income taxes. Fifty-one percent don't pay anything," Hatch said.

"Democrats say they [the 51 percent] pay payroll taxes. Well, everybody does that because that's Social Security. They pay about one-third of what they're going to take out over the years in Social Security," Hatch said. "Obamacare -- a family of four earning over $80,000 a year -- gets subsidies. Think about that. That's what we call the poor?"

Well, plus that 51 percent pay sales tax and gas tax too.  But think about it, Hatch complaint is that the millionaire needs a tax break, but the family of 4 where the breadwinner is earning $8 bucks an hour and can barely feed their kids needs to be paying more in taxes?  Really?  What percent of their income is the person making $15,000 a year spending on sales taxes for food, clothing, and essentials?  What about housing?  Could the person bringing in seven figures possibly be able to afford a bit more in taxation?

Republicans will do anything to preserve tax breaks for the people who own them and donate to them, and anything to hurt those of us at the bottom of the ladder instead.  America's most precious resource is rich political donors, you know.


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