Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Rural Bias in the Senate

Robret Waldmann

Gang of 6 senators who correspond to 6.5 representatives.

The US senate has an extreme rural bias. It has outdone itself by allowing Max Baucus to empower a bipartisan group of 6 senators to redesign health care reform. The states represented by the 6 senators (Iowa, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming) have a total of 13 representatives so the committee consists of half of the senators from states with 13 representatives and corresponds to 6.5 representatives, that is, less than 1.5% of the house and roughly 1.5% of the population.

The 6 are a tad embarrassed by this and say they have tried to take urban concerns into account (that’s Democracy at its best — people counting on the consideration of people they didn’t elect). According to Washington rules it is much more important that the bill have bipartisan support than that it have input from people elected by a significant fraction of the population.

Given that priority, it’s not all that surprising that they have come up with the worst financing idea ever.

Comments (0) | |

Worst Tax Ever

Robert Waldmann

The AP writes on the current state of negotiations in the 6 member Baucus Bipartisan ad hoc committee. Their plan includes an idea that is worse than I imagined possible. I mean that literally.

Officials also said a bipartisan compromise would not subject companies to a penalty if they declined to offer coverage to their workers. Instead, these businesses would be required to reimburse the government for part or all of any federal subsidies designed to help lower-income employees obtain insurance on their own.

This would be the most regressive tax ever. If I am an employer and I don’t provide health insurance then my tax liability is higher if the family income of my employee is lower. More regressive than a poll tax (Baroness Thatcher must be put out that she didn’t think of it). What’s worse it depends on family income.

Let’s say I don’t provide insurance and have two job applicants, one who is a single mother and the other a man with a low salary but a high income wife (say Bill Clinton when he was working as governor of Arkansas for $30,000 per year). I hire the guy, because he can’t get subsidized health insurance, so I don’t have to give him insurance or pay him a dime.

This is the Baucus Grassley jobs only for people who don’t need jobs preliminary draft bill of 2009.

I swear even if I tried, I couldn’t come up with an policy proposal that bad.

Oh gracious conference committee save us from the idiocy of these Northmen (and Snowe).

Comments (0) | |

Maybe There IS a Reason Ross Douthat Exists

I have generally decided that the NYT’s attempt at becoming the WSJ on its editorial page is not worth the trouble of discussing. An editorial staph that replaces the despicable but somewhat coherent Bill Kristol with the execrable incoherence of Ross Douthat is clearly suffering a fatal infection, and therefore not deserving of support.

But then the Lovely and Talented Susan of Texas gets loose. And, while there is still no reason to bother with the original, the interpretation is a standard against which all others should be judged:

Shorter Ross Douthat: I tried to have some sort of intercourse about Iraq but the Left was like a chunky Reese Witherspoon, masticating on Colin Powell’s UN presentation and spilling its breasts out of its protests. I wanted to surge into Iraq but the Left wanted a premature withdrawal. If we withdraw, Iraq will swell into violence and give birth to a Middle Eastern abomination, one that even the Left can’t abort.

If you can’t do that, folks—and most of us cannot—don’t bother with the backlinks. It will only delude the NYT that they have some reason to exist that is not named Bob Herbert or Paul Krugman.

Tags: , Comments (0) | |

What a Pack of Blue Faced Liars

Robert Waldmann

A courageously anonymous blue dog explains to Shailagh Murray and Paul Kanewhy they are blocking health care reform

several dozen anxious House Democrats who are wary of the more liberal course their leaders have taken on health care. Feeling burned by a tough vote on climate-change legislation that is languishing in the Senate,

What a pile of Bulldog Sh*t. Most blue dogs voted against H.R.2454, that is, Cap and Trade. Only 17 of 52 voted yes, 34 voted no and one didn’t vote at all.

Diatribe and documentation after the jump

The vote enabled them to reassure their constituents that they are on the side of global warming. If they let the bill reach the floor, they can reassure their constituents that they support keeping the uninsured uninsured too.

What they mean is that they could have blocked Waxman Markey in committee (it was marked up by the energy and commerce committee) and only demanded that it be 80% giveaway in exchange for graciously allowing a floor vote.

This tells us three things. First US legislators are acting as if it is a gesture of support to allow an up or down vote, and as if it is normal to use parliamentary tricks to thwart the majority in their house. Second it shows they mean “special interest contributors” when they say “constituents;” It is obvious that ordinary voters do not even check the roll call (as I did) let alone keep track of parliamentary tactics. Third it means they don’t want any compromise at all in energy and commerce. They had a huge impact on Cap and trade and are still complaining.

Of course the fact that they haven’t presented an alternative plan (and couldn’t) and make contradictory demands, makes it clear that they want the issue to just go away. For sure they don’t just want to keep their hands untainted by reform, because they were outraged at the possibility of a vote on the bill already reported out with no input from energy and commerce.

This means that most of them could just vote no again (they can take turns voting yes or they can wait until there are 218 yes votes before they vote no as they did on Waxman Markey). They don’t want cover. They want attention. They aren’t even hacks they are immature egocentric egomaniacs.

Here is the annotated blue dog caucus. The caucus is from Melancon’s site. The votes are from the official roll call.

By the way, Rep Melancon (???-LA) might want to brush up on his arithmetic as his site says “Currently there are 51 members of the Blue Dog Coalition.” and provides a link to a list of 52 names.

Also he wants to be a senator, so he is vulnerable to pressure. It’s important that at least some of the pressure comes from the left. Obviously no angrybears are going to support diaper Dave Vitter (now Sotrmy Daniels is another matter hmmm) but a contest on the Democratic side is possible.

We have Erick LeFleur whose main accomplishment is a shoot to kill to defend your homestead bill supported by the NRA (NO).
Chris John, lost to Vitter six years ago. Currently top lobbyist for The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (NO)
J.M “Jim” Bernhard Jr who appears to be CEO of the Shaw Group construction company which appears to be under investigation by the SEC (Definitely no)

Rats. Looks like the only way I can put pressure on Rep[rehensible] Melancon is to send money to Stormy Daniels without even getting a DVD in return (I have never watched a Stormy Daniels DVD and would watch them only to learn about her policy positions).

Blue dogs

Blue Dog Members votes on H.R. 2454 = American Clean Energy and Security Act = Waxman-Markey = Cap and Trade
“n” means no “y” means yes “a” means did not vote

17 y 1 a 34 n

Altmire, Jason (PA-04) n = voted no on hr2454
Arcuri, Mike (NY-24) n
Baca, Joe (CA-43) not n
Barrow, John (GA-12) n
Berry, Marion (AR-01) n
Bishop, Sanford (GA-02) y = voted yes on hr2454
Boren, Dan (OK-02) n
Boswell, Leonard (IA-03) y
Boyd, Allen (FL-02) y
Bright, Bobby (AL-02) n
Cardoza, Dennis (CA-18) y
Carney, Christopher (PA-10) n
Chandler, Ben (KY-06) y
Childers, Travis (MS-01) n
Cooper, Jim (TN-05) y
Costa, Jim (CA-20) n
Cuellar, Henry (TX-28) a means no vote on hr2454
Dahlkemper, Kathy (PA-03) n
Davis, Lincoln (TN-04) n
Donnelly, Joe (IN-02) n
Ellsworth, Brad (IN-08) n
Giffords, Gabrielle (AZ-08) y
Gordon, Bart (TN-06) y
Griffith, Parker (AL-05) n
Harman, Jane (CA-36) y
Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie (SD) n
Hill, Baron (IN-09) n
Holden, Tim (PA-17) n
Kratovil, Jr., Frank (MD-01) y
McIntyre, Mike (NC-07) n
Marshall, Jim (GA-03) n
Matheson, Jim (UT-02) n
Melancon, Charlie (LA-03) n
Michaud, Mike (ME-02) n
Minnick, Walt (ID-01) n
Mitchell, Harry (AZ-05) n
Moore, Dennis (KS-03) y
Murphy, Patrick (PA-08) n
Nye, Glenn (VA-02) n
Peterson, Collin (MN-07) y
Pomeroy, Earl (ND) n
Ross, Mike (AR-04) n
Salazar, John (CO-03) n
Sanchez, Loretta (CA-47) y
Schiff, Adam (CA-29) y
Scott, David (GA-13) y
Shuler, Heath (NC-11) n
Space, Zack (OH-18) y
Tanner, John (TN-08) n
Taylor, Gene (MS-04) n
Thompson, Mike (CA-01) y
Wilson, Charles (OH-06) n

Comments (0) | |

TARP, Neil Barofsky, Rep. Alan Grayson and Transparency

by divorced one like Bush

Via Glenn Greenwald and his article The war being waged on the TARP watchdog’s independence comes an interview with Neil Barofsky the man charged with over seeing TARP. It appears the White House is not keeping true to the President’s campaign of a more transparent government.

…the Obama administration is now attempting to induce the Justice Department to issue a ruling that Barofsky’s office is not independent at all — but rather, is subject to, and under the supervision of, the authority of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

Seems Mr. Barofsky’s latest report states that the grand total of all money currently paid out and pledged totals $23.7 trillion.

This is the original article to go along with the interview.
Click here to download and listen.

Via Naked Capitalism comes Rep. Alan Grayson asking Ben Bernanke who got the 1/2 trillion in US dollars as part of a swap. He notes $24 billion in 2007 is now $553 billion yr end 2008. Who got the money? “I don’t know…the loans go to the centeral banks and they then put them out…We are lending to all US financial institutions in exactly the same way.” That is, the fed is making no distinction between our nation and the rest of the world. Bernanke notes the law gives them the right to do this. (Sec 14 of the Federal Reseve Act.) Rep. Grayson issue is; at what point is using this “power” to move 1/2 a trillion dollars is infringing on Congresses control of the Treasury.

(Rep. Grayson has further comment at the link regarding this video.)

Transparency. The Federal Reserve and the Treasury say this money can’t be traced after it passes to the first receiver. Mr. Barofsky has shown that it can be by simple sending out a questionnaire. Bernanke is treating the lending, regardless of recipient as all the same and thus none of it can be traced and that they have a right and authority to use the Peoples Money as they see fit. Rep. Grayson thinks they are overstepping Congress.

Who was it here that noted we had not bailed out the banks, but instead the banks just bought the Treasury?

Tags: , , , , Comments (0) | |

Golgotha program update

Robert Waldmann

Looks like there are still people interested in Marx.

I guessed Brad would be interested (OK so I link begged but just a little) but I wouldn’t have guessed that James Wimberley would be.

Mainly this post is about an e-mail from Ben Ross which I print (with permission) after the jump

Ben Ross to me
show details 11:15 PM (2 hours ago) Reply

I was very taken by your post on Marx’s “to each according to his needs.”
It sounded plausible – I’m nowhere near enough of an expert on this stuff
to say for sure whether you’re right – but if you’re correct about the
direction that Marx was pointing, I’d like to suggest that he was
pointing there in a somewhat different way than you indicate.

I went back to the Critique of the Gotha Program which I read, of course,
a very long time ago. I couldn’t make sense of Marx’s arguments against
the “Iron Law” then and I didn’t have the time to try now. My history
books suggest that maybe nobody else can figure them out either – Michael
Harrington says Engels later conceded that Lassalle had gotten the Iron
Law from the Communist Manifesto.

If you’re right that Marx is arguing here *against* utopianism, here’s
what I think is going on. Marx is not explicitly saying that “to
each…” will not come until a year after never. What he’s doing is
critiquing Lassalleanism from the right – pointing out how Lassalle’s
slogan of equal division is impractical – and dressing it up as a left-
wing argument. He’s saying that Lassalle falls short because his version
of the ideal future is still contaminated with the left-overs of
capitalism. But he’s twisting that argument into a condemnation of
Lassalle’s immediate program, by concealing the even less utopian nature
of his own immediate program.

Helga Grebing’s History of the German Labour Movement has a somewhat
similar read on the Critique. She doesn’t discuss “from each…” at all,
but points us to the last section where Marx conceded that “we have not
the courage – and wisely since the circumstances demand caution – to
demand a democratic republic…” and then criticized the Gotha Program
for making demands that are tantamount to a democratic republic. Surely
that’s not a utopian critique! Grebing goes on to observe that “These
contradictions cannot be resolved; at best, we may try to explain them.”

The left-wing debate tactic of dressing up a critique from the right
as if it came from the left is not rare. Readers familiar with French
history may recall Leon Blum’s use of the concept of “occupation du
pouvoir” during the popular front. He fended off calls for more left
policies with the argument that his opponents are satisfied with
a mere “occupation du pouvoir” and are abandoning the ultimate goal of
“conquete du pouvoir.”

There are many other examples. I’m personally sensitive to it from
long-ago arguments with proto-neoconservatives who made Marxist
arguments in favor of the Vietnam War. I imagine one could find some
astonishing intellectual gymnastics used to justify China’s post-1980
economic policies.

Ben Ross

All I can say is that Marx had it easy. Marx had to deal with social democrats who thought they could compromise with Bismarck, but Ross tried to reason with Social Democrats who supported the US involvement in the war in Vietnam. Lassalle would never have done that. Hell Bismarck would never have done that, he was ruthless and cynical but he was not stupid.

Comments (0) | |

Small business is? And who speaks for them?


The term small business is bandied about a lot, and often includes employers with 10 employees as in here and similar with Republicans.

Yet it appears these little companies are not represented by SBA, nor Manufacturers of America, yet account for a large portion of our economy. Is that accurate??

A small business is

A small business is an concern that is organized for profit, with a place of business in the United States, and which operates primarily within the United States or makes a significant contribution to the U.S. economy through payment of taxes or use of American products, materials or labor. Further, the concern cannot be dominant in its field, on a national basis. Finally, the concern must meet the numerical small business size standard for its industry. SBA has established a size standard for most industries in the U.S. economy. The most common size standards are as follow:

500 employees for most manufacturing and mining industries
100 employees for all wholesale trade industries
$6.5 million for most retail and service industries
$31 million for most general & heavy construction industries
$13 million for all special trade contractors
$0.75 million for most agricultural industries
About one-fourth of industries have a size standard that is different from these levels. They vary from $0.75 million to $32.5 million for size standards based on average annual revenues and from 100 to 1500 employees for size standards based on number of employees.

Stats about small business include more below the fold:

The estimated 27.2 million small businesses in the United States:

Employ about half of the country’s private sector workforce

Hire 40 percent of high tech workers, such as scientists, engineers and computer workers

Include 52 percent home-based businesses and two percent franchises

Represent 97.3 percent of all the exporters of goods

Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms

Generate a majority of the innovations that come from United States companies

Source: U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, September 2008

Comments (0) | |

Useful Models for Reform?…Mayo and Cleveland Clinics

by Tom aka Rusty Rustbelt

Useful Models for Reform?

President Obama often cites the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic as models for providers in a new era of health care reform.

Question: Can these two models be replicated throughout the country?

Answer: Not likely.

The Mayo Clinic is unique but has replicated itself a few times, and the Cleveland Clinic is unique and to the best of our knowledge has not been replicated.

Even if these models could be replicated, it is unlikely they could be replicated in any but some urban areas. And if they could, the transition cost in most markets would be immense, and who would pay for that? (the new Mayo Clinics are in high growth and very prosperous areas, Florida and Arizona) The cost of merging tens of thousands of physician groups into hospital entities would be gi-normous.

Can we learn anything from these organizations. Yes. Can we duplicate these models in other areas? Not likely, and certainly not in the near term.
Tom aka Rusty Rustbelt

Comments (0) | |