Does an Increase in British Economy Prove Austerity Works? (8:50) - Click for Podcast
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Why Does President Obama Refuse to Listen to Tom Price? (6:25) - Click for Podcast
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Joe Scarborough and the Situation Room Photo Conspiracy (5:38) - Click for Podcast
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Why do we have to do this, Sir? argues that the advent is less about waiting than about impatience, that John the Baptist had his anguished doubts, and that impatient, anguished doubt is accompanied by a mustard seed of humble birth.
Last Of The Millenniums notices arguments that the first amendment guarantees a position on your own reality show, and answers that highly selective cherry picking from scripture is no excuse for ignorance of what is in the rest of the Bible.
Mad Mike's America is not surprised by Duck remarks. Phil Robertson has not been shy in expressing opinions about gays for years.
The Moderate Voice quotes the great Ta-Nehisi Coates in reaction to Duck Dynasty views on happy, singing, black people who had no problem with Jim Crow in the good old pre-civil rights days.
Rumproast waits to applaud the budget play of Murray and Ryan until the second act, in which Paul Ryan announces he intends to shut down the government after all.
Jonathan Bernstein, writing for A Plain Blog about Politics, suggests that, as healthcare reform becomes a success, Obamacare will disappear from the national vocabulary. Conservatives will refer to it as something else.
Conservative James Wigderson has a straight forward report on an alderman who used his influence to sex offenders evicted in his district by threatening the landlord with investigations into code violations. The alderman is now investigated for abuse of office. James' own reaction, or lack of it, serves as a sort of Rohrshack test for the reader. Well done, James.
- Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot continues his week by week chronicle of 150 years ago, as a Union charge up a hill succeeds because it was so unexpected. It was unexpected because the charge was pretty much accidental.
The debate doesn't irritate me. It's the lack of debate about the deficit.
Republicans demand the nation's deficit be reduced immediately. Democrats respond with a boast. The national deficit has been slashed by half since President Obama took office. Republicans reply that the deficit had ballooned in the final months of the Bush administration to meet the Wall Street financial crisis, so cutting that temporary monstrosity in half means very little.
The working assumption that Democrats and Republicans share seems to be that deficit reduction is the top domestic priority and that it must be accomplished immediately.
Most economists, pretty much all mainstream economists who believe in testing theories against actual historical numbers, tell us that two simple lessons have been learned in the past 80 years.
Deficits are a good, very good, thing during hard economic times.
- Deficits are a bad, very bad, thing during prosperous times.
In 1932, Governor Franklin Roosevelt campaigned against deficit spending. But he also campaigned on a I'll-try-anything-once platform of dealing with the Great Depression. Try something. It it doesn't work, discard it and try something else.
It wasn't long after taking office that President Roosevelt began to run out of things to try. A new theory by economist Maynard Keynes held up well when tested with economic data. The government began to spend more than it took in. And people began finding jobs.
It was sort of toe-in-the-water at first. Deficit spending went against everything that seemed to make intuitive sense. Little by little, Democrats began increasing deficits. The economy began to heal.
In 1937, screams about the size of the deficit began to haunt. Roosevelt began to cut the deficit back. And the economy took a severe dip.
It wasn't until the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and World War II began that deficits really exploded. A Nazi takeover of the country was more scary, even to Republicans, than deficits. Nobody wanted an AmeriKa spelled with a K.
The Greatest Generation won the war with an interesting side effect. By the time the fighting stopped and everyone came home, the Great Depression had disappeared. Deficit spending had worked.
Economists tell us that economies do return to normal eventually, even if government policies get it wrong. Deficit spending, if it's big enough, makes big recessions into smaller recessions, and ends them much more quickly.
History is filled with examples.
President Bill Clinton followed the mainstream model. By the time he left office, the deficit had turned into a surplus. Times went from bad to great. The deficit that had been generated during harder times was now being paid back. Pretty much every projection showed that the entire national debt could be paid back in our lifetime.
Deficits in hard times, pay it back in prosperous times. It worked.
President George W. Bush went way opposite. He increased the deficit right away, even though times were good. Instead of applying the surplus to paying back, he cut taxes - mostly for the wealthy.
In 2008, everything crashed. High deficits rescued the country from full scale depression. When President Obama took office, another set of deficit spending got the country started back toward recovery. The stimulus program was a lot less than it should have been, and it was scaled back more by timid Democrats and hostile Republicans.
In the meantime, Europe went into a policy of full blown austerity. Those in charge insisted that deficit cutting right now was the path to recovery. It was Roosevelt's 1937 lesson relearned. The longest, and deepest, recession since the Great Depression still continues in Europe. Only now is a tepid recovery just beginning, five years behind the United States.
The main person in charge of Britain's economy is George Osborne. His title is Chancellor of the Exchequer. He insists that the slight increase in Britain's economy after those years in the pit proves the policy of austerity was right all along.
Britain, the U.S. and others in the West do not have to accept defeat in the global race and resign ourselves to eroding living standards. The way to avoid this fate is to acknowledge two premises about the modern economy—and then take the necessary actions to surmount our nations' economic problems.
First, we are not going to get richer by borrowing more from others in the world just so that we can buy the things they make. We have to earn our own way in the world, by making our countries attractive to overseas investment, better educating our workforces, and providing a climate in which our businesses are able to produce goods and services of sufficient quality that the rest of the world wants to buy them.
Second, our governments have to live within their means, and not pile up deficits and debts that will burden future generations with the taxes to pay for them. We have to reduce entitlements and drive value for money through government, so we can focus public spending on areas likely to enhance our productivity.
- George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the Wall Street Journal, December 16, 2013
When you get around Mr. Osbourne's pejorative description of mainstream economics, "get richer by borrowing more from others in the world just so that we can buy the things they make", he makes two assumptions.
His first premise is that if more goods are produced in a country, the rest of the world will line up to buy. It's kind of like building a better mousetrap and having the world beat a path to your door. He puts it this way: "produce goods and services of sufficient quality that the rest of the world wants to buy them."
In fact, actual experience demonstrates the problem with this approach. When potential customers are struggling to survive, they tend not to buy extras. The current problem pretty much everywhere is lack of demand, not lack of production. If you can't sell what you are already producing, will tax incentives make you decide to invest and produce more?
His second assumption is that deficits must be slashed during a recession, including cutting benefits to those struggling to get by - what he calls "entitlements": "governments have to live within their means, and not pile up deficits and debts" and "We have to reduce entitlements."
In bad times, and in good times, there is a legitimate debate about the level we should tax the wealthy to help those struggling. How strong should we want the social safety net to be? My vote would be much stronger than it is, but there are arguments on the other side.
What is counter to decades of actual evidence is cutting deficits during hard times, what is commonly called austerity. In fact, austerity has so affected Britain's economy, that earlier this year it was announced that all the cost cutting, throwing the unemployed and vulnerable aside, had indeed affected the deficit. The deficit had gotten - are you ready? - bigger, not smaller. Austerity during hard times just makes hard times harder. It turns out to be no more than an attempt to starve the patient back to health.
It is worth examining a key word used by Mr. Osbourne in his piece for the Wall Street Journal. It is the word "premises" as in "acknowledge two premises about the modern economy—and then take the necessary actions to surmount our nations' economic problems."
A premise is an assumption made without examining actual evidence.
Those who insist on deficit reduction during hard times, cutting back on unemployment compensation, slashing food programs, cutting Social Security, attacking the well being of the most vulnerable, believe they will be helping the rest of us by boosting the economy.
They feel no need to look to actual history, actual evidence, what mainstream economists have learned by comparing policies to numbers.
Austerity, deficit reduction during hard times, is not a conclusion based on evidence.
It is a premise based on - well - nothing.
From the Dallas Morning News
WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz, elected 13 months ago by actual voters, said Thursday he’d prefer to see state legislators pick U.S. senators – as they were until a century ago, when the 17th Amendment came along.
Direct election of senators has eroded states’ rights, Cruz argued, speaking to a ballroom filled with conservative state lawmakers from around the country.
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From Canadian Broadcasting:
Industry Minister James Moore has apologized for saying it's not the federal government's role to ensure hungry children are fed.
"In response to a question from a reporter last week, I made an insensitive comment that I deeply regret. I apologize," Moore said in a statement on his website Monday, referring to his comment to a Vancouver radio reporter on Friday.
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From the Leicester Mercury:
More than 200 crime suspects are being urged to turn themselves in or face spending Christmas Day eating a microwave meal in a police cell.
Police began sending Christmas cards to the suspects in the past few days to warn them to contact their nearest police stations as soon as possible.
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Promo for documentary on Mitt Romney's Presidential campaign begins with the moment he discovered he was not going to win.
If you happen to have a billion dollars and you want to start a corporation, chances are you'll go to one specific place to incorporate. Many, many years ago, that used to be New Jersey. That was because New Jersey had very few regulations, very little in the way of corporate tax, and lawmakers who were quite willing to look the other way if the circumstances were right.
No more, though. In 1899, Delaware decided to out-New Jersey New Jersey with an even more friendly environment of tax benefits, almost no regulation, and corporate favoring liability laws. There are no limits on interest rates, which attracts credit card companies. Delaware even provides an office to advise corporations on how to best take advantage of Delaware laws. Who needs a lawyer when you have such an ally willing to provide free legal guidance?
So why this degree of governmental generosity? Ever hear of the car sales rep who insists that the dealer makes no money at all from each sale, but makes it up in volume?
Cutting income from each corporation that operates from Delaware means lots and lots of corporations will do business from Delaware. In fact, most companies on the two major stock exchanges are Delaware corporations. Not quite two thirds of all Fortune 500 companies are incorporated in Delaware. They really do make it up in volume.
Even if a company's stockholders are all from other states, even if all of the customers of a business are from other states, a corporation is governed by the laws of Delaware.
It's as if states are encouraged to participate in a race to the bottom, in terms of consumer protection or charging corporations a proportionate share of taxes. Delaware wins the race to the bottom.
Insurance providers are a different sort of company. They are regulated by the states in which they actually do business. One of the most feared offices in the insurance industry is that of the state insurance commissioner. The degree to which insurance commissioners actually protect consumers varies from state to state. Junk policies that charge for almost no real protection do proliferate in state markets.
But you stand a better chance of getting a fair deal with a state insurance commissioner than with most state corporate regulators. That's because insurance is regulated by the state the insured lives in, rather than where the corporation has a postal mailbox to serve as a home office. There is no incentive in insurance for states to race to the bottom.
I was thinking of the contrast between Delaware and insurance commissioners when I came upon a statement by an angry Republican member of Congress. President Obama has slammed Republicans for refusing to come up with ways to insure every American. He has expressed a willingness to listen to good ideas when they come from from Republicans.
Representative Tom Price (R-GA) says that simply has been untrue.
We've actually called him. We've contacted the White House repeatedly, and silence. It's crickets. The fact of the matter is they don't want to have to talk about the quality of health care, accessibility to health care, affordability of health care. What they want is the government to control health care.
- Representative Tom Price (R-GA), Fox & Friends, December 16, 2013
The plan offered by Representative Price begins with what he refers to as "buying across state lines."
We will go the Delaware route, ending the practice of regulating insurance by the state where the insured lives, replacing it with regulation only where the insurance company is located. I'm thinking of how well Delaware has protected consumers like you and me, when we have a dispute with a credit card company.
A race to the bottom is what most experts predict. The incentive of attracting huge insurance corporations to a friendly state host will overcome the incentive to protect consumers in some other state.
In addition to allowing insurance corporations to shake off state regulations by selling insurance without local state regulation, Representative Price proposes to offer a voucher system through tax deductions. The formula will tend to help the wealthy more than the middle class.
Finally, Tom Price calls for the end of lawsuits when doctors get negligent with the lives of patients. Representative Price calls this an end to costly defensive medicine.
Let's see what Representative Price suggests, in his own words:
Purchasing across state lines, making sure that you equalize the tax treatment for individuals so that folks have the same tax incentive to purchase health coverage as businesses.
You make it so that every single American has the financial feasibility to purchase coverage through deductions and credits and advancable credits and refundable advancable credits.
Then there are wonderful ways to save literally hundreds of billions of dollars in healthcare by ending the practice of defensive medicine.
- Representative Tom Price (R-GA), Fox & Friends, December 16, 2013
So Representative Price has a three point plan:
End what state protections exist for consumers by allowing only whatever regulation is provided by whatever state an insurance corporation selects for a home office.
purchasing across state lines
End what legal protections now exist in case of medical negligence.
ending the practice of defensive medicine
Provide a voucher plan through another tax deduction aimed at the very wealthy.
deductions and credits
and advancable credits
and refundable advancable credits
Surely, we can see why the Representative has become so irritated. The Obama administration has not seriously considered replacing the Affordable Care Act with a reduction in protection combined with substantial reductions in taxes for the wealthy.
How very odd.
Sent by Alert reader PD
From Woolworth's in Pretoria, South Africa
Watch the Soweto Gospel Choir sing an incredible tribute to Madiba in our Parkview store.
On Saturday, 7 December 2013, Woolworths had planned a performance at our Parkview store in Pretoria to support our Operation Smile Christmas campaign. The Soweto Gospel Choir's planned a rendition of James Brown's I Feel Good. But, after Madiba's passing the choir decided on a tribute instead. They chose Johnny Clegg's Asimbonanga.
A tweet by Matthews Sen. Bob Rucho comparing Obamacare to the toll of America’s wars set off a firestorm on the social networking website on Sunday.
Around 8 a.m., Rucho’s account tweeted: “Justice Robert’s pen & Obamacare has done more damage to the USA then the swords of the Nazis,Soviets & terrorists combined.
After viewing this heartwarming story, narrated by Ringo Starr, about a little train in a cartoon village, we have to wonder.
Is there anyone with heart so cold who can watch it to the end without uttering a gasp of horror?
It began in Brooklyn, New York, with a photograph in a small newspaper devoted to Jewish mysticism and fundamental faith. USA Today carried an account.
Now you see her, now you don't.
A Hasidic newspaper set a landmark in the history of doctored photos this week when it airbrushed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton from the photo of President Obama's national security team monitoring the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound.
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The orthodox paper has a policy of never, ever, ever running photographs of women. It is an attempt to deliver the faithful out of temptation. USA Today quoted the small publication as wanting to avoid what might be "sexually suggestive," which was confirmed by the Hasidic publication itself
Hillary Clinton served on the special Senate investigation that looked into the Watergate scandal and provoked the resignation of a President. She served as First Lady with the election of another. She was elected as United States Senator from New York. She has served as Secretary of State.
She has been vilified by those in the outermost circles of the right to a degree that was unique in history until the election of President Obama presented a new family to target with new, record breaking, levels of vitriol.
I have never heard, even in the wildest meanderings of extreme conservatives, Hillary Clinton described as a hedonistic photographic temptation.
After the publication, we had two iconic photos, identical in every other respect. One contained the sultry Secretary of State. The other did not.
Conspiracy theory turns out to be a stronger temptation than even our prospective next President. Those on the fringes had found a new deception. It was not that someone had been removed from the photo. An insertion had been made.
Oddly, it was not the Secretary of State. President Obama turns out to be a stronger temptation as well. The new theory was that he had not been there at all. The photograph had been digitally manipulated to show him.
Religious commentator Byron Fischer took time from attacking the existence of Muslims to explain that the size of the President's head was smaller than others in the photograph.
Look at the size of his head compared to the size of the head of everybody else in the room. Even people standing in the back of the room, their heads are bigger than his head. And it looks teeny-tiny next to the people that he's sitting next to. He looks kind of hunched over and small. I mean I think that, frankly, I think that got photoshopped in after the deal.
- Byron Fischer, on Focal Point, August 15, 2013
This is not noticed by most of the millions who saw the photo, possibly because the photograph was taken from the opposite corner of the situation room, so the President really was farther away.
Fischer may be forgiven, in part. It took thousands of years, right up to the early 1400's for artists to get perspective right. Even slight distance makes things look smaller.
Lately, the White House has been sending out official photos of events that did not include photographers from mainstream journals. Making the case that non-White House photographers should be included, reporters discovered that the situation room photo, the one that included the small head of the President and the sexy Secretary of State actually had been altered before it was released.
It seems there were classified documents on the table in front of Secretary Clinton. The White House photographer tried, at first, to get those documents declassified. Then he ordered the documents removed from the photo. There may have been some feeling that past journalistic practices made that necessary.
As we aoll may remember, spy had infiltrated what is left of al Qaeda. He sneaked out information that disrupted the use of a new kind of bomb the group was about to use to bring down another airliner. Associated Press publicized the spy and the plot and blew his cover. He was pulled out. A top North Korean source had similarly been compromised by Fox News.
Photo access remains a point of contention.
But the various Situation Room controversies have been answered. Secretary Clinton had been there. President Obama had been there. The photo had been altered, but only to remove a small, clear image of classified documents.
So we can move on, right?
Maybe not. Joe Scarborough, who seems not to read past the conspiracy theories informs the national audience watching his show on MSNBC:
The dangers of this are so obvious, including doctored pictures that the White House sends out. They doctor pictures of meetings, I think most famously the bin Laden raid, those famous pictures around there and, you know, airbrush things out of there. This is ridiculous.
- Joe Scarborough, on Morning Joe, December 13, 2013
Yes, that's Joe Scarborough, considered one of the most sensible of conservatives.
He might be even more sensible if he would keep up with the news.
9:00 AM, December 15, 2013
St. Mark's United Methodist Church
314 Graham Rd
Florissant, MO 63031
|In a distant corner of a brutal empire,|
|in an occupied land of hopeless oppression,|
|a small baby is about to be born, unnoticed|
|by the same world he will change forever.|
|In a forgotten part of the human heart,|
|in every soul tormented by bitterness,|
|a tiny ray of light begins to shine,|
|a whisper of hope that can transform a life.|
|More than a child has come into our world.|
Found on Line:
More Than A Child