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

Healthcare reform op-ed

The current uptick in ‘medical inflation’ in private sector health industry is worth a separate post. The Standard and Poor Healthcare Economic Indices can be found here.
Lifted from a note from Run 75441 on the link I sent on healthcare reform.

Recently, Matt Stoller claimed Obama had a 61 vote majority in the Senate and enough to secure either Universal or Single Payer Healthcare. We all forget the one Senator from Aetna stand which killed any other options an Medicare for those starting at 55. President Obama did not have a filibuter proof 61 votes in the Senate for any other healthcare options muchless the ACA. The Blue Dogs (Nelson(s), Bacus, Bayh, Cantwell, Feinstein, Lincoln, Pryor, Widen, Conrad, etc) wouldn’t move for any healthcare plan unless they brought home the bacon as Nelson attempted to do for Nebraska. Just plain ordinary obstructionism to block whatever this President would attempt to do. Senator Lieberman killed anything beyond the ACA. 

Former Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and others should be sorry if the entire ACA is struck down or dismembered as we will go another decade before a President and a Congress take up the issue again and heathcare costs (for which healthacre insurance is a reflection) will again rise faster than inflation. Because of the power of Medicare, it has been able to rein in rising healthcare costs so far at less than 3% than that of the commercial market at about 9% %. Standard and Poors Healthcare Economic Indices .

The last time healthcare reform was attempted was under Clinton and costs have increased multiple times. A failure to allow the ACA to go forward will allow the overall Healthcare Industry to again implement inflationary costs in a market which has no restraints. Certainly, I can not conjur up what SCOTUS will do. The kings in black robes will decide what is best for us as Congress lacks the will power to represent those who placed them there with the exception of ALEC, Koch(s), and Norquist.

Tags: , , , , Comments (5) | |

From Dan on migration to Word press

Hi folks.  I have finally initiated the process to migrate to a word press platform from the blogger platform, and will be switching to another comment system to be determined.  Blogger is getting harder to use in our experience, and of course did not develop the variety of tools to augment how Angry Bear can offer a more systematic reference by topic access to archives and allow the opportunity for individual authors to discuss topics in  their own more personal styles on author pages.  All the attendant social media and subscription access will be modernized.

In the process the look and feel of Angry Bear will change to a more polished and better used ‘real estate’.  I personally do not like the narrow middle column (two sidebars) coming in use currently.  It is perhaps geared to mobile communications, but I feel detracts if you use a wider screen and data intense posts.  An e-mail subscription with a mobile look might be necessary.

Please leave suggestions for useful functions first, and then perhaps the look of your favorite sites.

Thanks,

Dan

Tags: Comments (3) | |

Is Barack Obama Morphing Into Dick Cheney?

Barkley Rosser reports from the world ecology conference in Rio,  Michael Klare offers a a comprehensive overview of US international political policy regarding energy. (hat tip Spencer)

By Michael T. Klare,
Tom Dispatch re-posted with permission from the author

Is Barack Obama Morphing Into Dick Cheney?
Four Ways the President Is Pursuing Cheney’s Geopolitics of Global Energy



As details of his administration’s global war against terrorists, insurgents, and hostile warlords have become more widely known — a war that involves a mélange of drone attacks, covert operations, and presidentially selected assassinations — President Obama has been compared to President George W. Bush in his appetite for military action. “As shown through his stepped-up drone campaign,” Aaron David Miller, an advisor to six secretaries of state, wrote at Foreign Policy, “Barack Obama has become George W. Bush on steroids.”

When it comes to international energy politics, however, it is not Bush but his vice president, Dick Cheney, who has been providing the role model for the president. As recent events have demonstrated, Obama’s energy policies globally bear an eerie likeness to Cheney’s, especially in the way he has engaged in the geopolitics of oil as part of an American global struggle for future dominance among the major powers.
More than any of the other top officials of the Bush administration — many with oil-company backgrounds — Cheney focused on the role of energy in global power politics. From 1995 to 2000, he served as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Halliburton, a major supplier of services to the oil industry. Soon after taking office as vice president he was asked by Bush to devise a new national energy strategy that has largely governed U.S. policy ever since.

Early on, Cheney concluded that the global supply of energy was not growing fast enough to satisfy rising world demand, and that securing control over the world’s remaining oil and natural gas supplies would therefore be an essential task for any state seeking to acquire or retain a paramount position globally. He similarly grasped that a nation’s rise to prominence could be thwarted by being denied access to essential energy supplies. As coal was to the architects of the British empire, oil was for Cheney — a critical resource over which it would sometimes be necessary to go to war.

More than any of his peers, Cheney articulated such views on the importance of energy to national wealth and power. “Oil is unique in that it is so strategic in nature,” he told an audience at an industry conference in London in 1999. “We are not talking about soapflakes or leisurewear here. Energy is truly fundamental to the world’s economy. The Gulf War was a reflection of that reality.”

Cheney’s reference to the 1990-1991 Gulf War is particularly revealing. During that conflict, he was the secretary of defense and so supervised the American war effort. But while his boss, President George H.W. Bush, played down the role of oil in the fight against Iraq, Cheney made no secret of his belief that energy geopolitics lay at the heart of the matter. “Once [Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein] acquired Kuwait and deployed an army as large as the one he possesses,” Cheney told the Senate Armed Services Committee when asked to justify the administration’s decision to intervene, “he was clearly in a position to be able to dictate the future of worldwide energy policy, and that gave him a stranglehold on our economy.”

This would be exactly the message he delivered in 2002, as the second President Bush girded himself for the invasion of Iraq. Were Saddam Hussein successful in acquiring weapons of mass destruction, Cheney told a group of veterans that August 25th, “[he] could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East [and] take control of a great portion of the world’s energy supplies.”

For Cheney, the geopolitics of oil lay at the core of international relations, largely determining the rise and fall of nations. From this, it followed that any steps, including war and environmental devastation, were justified so long as they enhanced America’s power at the expense of its rivals.

Cheney’s World


Through his speeches, Congressional testimony, and actions in office, it is possible to reconstruct the geopolitical blueprint that Cheney followed in his career as a top White House strategist — a blueprint that President Obama, eerily enough, now appears to be implementing, despite the many risks involved.
That blueprint consists of four key features:

1. Promote domestic oil and gas production at any cost to reduce America’s dependence on unfriendly foreign suppliers, thereby increasing Washington’s freedom of action.
2. Keep control over the oil flow from the Persian Gulf (even if the U.S. gets an ever-diminishing share of its own oil supplies from the region) in order to retain an “economic stranglehold” over other major oil importers.
3. Dominate the sea lanes of Asia, so as to control the flow of oil and other raw materials to America’s potential economic rivals, China and Japan.
4. Promote energy “diversification” in Europe, especially through increased reliance on oil and natural gas supplies from the former Soviet republics of the Caspian Sea basin, in order to reduce Europe’s heavy dependence on Russian oil and gas, along with the political influence this brings Moscow.

The first objective, increased reliance on domestic oil and gas, was highlighted in National Energy Policy, the energy strategy Cheney devised for the president in May 2001 in close consultation with representatives of the oil giants. Although mostly known for its advocacy of increased drilling on federal lands, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Cheney Report (as it came to be known) largely focused on the threat of growing U.S. dependence on foreign oil suppliers and the need to achieve greater “energy security” through a damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead program of accelerated exploitation of domestic energy supplies.
“A primary goal of the National Energy Policy is to add supply from diverse sources,” the report declared. “This means domestic oil, gas, and coal. It also means hydropower and nuclear power.” The plan also called for a concerted drive to increase U.S. reliance on friendly sources of energy in the Western hemisphere, especially Brazil, Canada, and Mexico.

The second objective, control over the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf, was, for Cheney, the principal reason for both the First Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Although before that invasion, the president and other top officials focused on Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, his human rights record, and the need to bring democracy to Iraq, Cheney never wavered in his belief that the basic goal was to ensure that Washington would control the Middle Eastern oil jugular.

After Saddam’s ouster and the occupation of Iraq began, Cheney was especially outspoken in his insistence that neighboring Iran be prevented, by force of arms if need be, from challenging American preeminence in the Gulf. “We’ll keep the sea lanes open,” he declared from the deck of an aircraft carrier during maneuvers off the coast of Iran in May 2007. “We’ll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.”

Cheney also focused in a major way on ensuring control over the sea lanes from the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf (out of which 35% of the world’s tradable oil flows each day) across the Indian Ocean, through the Straits of Malacca, and into the South and East China Seas. To this day, these maritime corridors remain essential for the economic survival of China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, bringing oil and other raw materials to their industries and carrying manufactured goods to their markets abroad. By maintaining U.S. control over these vital conduits, Cheney sought to guarantee the loyalty of America’s key Asian allies and constrain the rise of China. In pursuit of these classic geopolitical objectives, he pushed for an enhanced U.S. naval presence in the Asia-Pacific region and the establishment of a network of military alliances linking Japan, Australia, and India, all aimed at containing China.

Finally, Cheney sought to rein in America’s other major great-power rival, Russia. While his boss, George W. Bush, spoke of the potential for cooperation with Moscow, Cheney, still an energy cold warrior, viewed Russia as a geopolitical competitor and sought every opportunity to diminish its power and influence. He particularly feared that Europe’s growing dependence on Russian natural gas could undermine its resolve to resist aggressive Russian moves in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.
To counter this trend, Cheney tried to persuade the Europeans to get more of their energy from the Caspian Sea basin by building new pipelines to that region via Georgia and Turkey. The idea was to bypass Russia by persuading Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan to export their gas through these conduits, not those owned by Gazprom, the Russian state-controlled monopoly. When Georgia came under attack from Russian forces in August 2008, after Georgian troops shelled the pro-Moscow enclave of South Ossetia, Cheney was the first senior U.S. official to visit Tbilisi, bringing a promise of $1 billion in reconstruction assistance, as well as an offer of fast-track entry into NATO. France and Germany blocked the move, fearing Moscow might respond with actions that could destabilize Europe.

Obama as Cheney

This four-part geopolitical blueprint, relentlessly pursued by Cheney while vice president, is now being implemented in every respect by President Obama.

When it comes to the pursuit of enhanced energy independence, Obama has embraced the ultra-nationalistic orientation of the 2001 Cheney report, with its call for increased reliance on domestic and Western Hemisphere oil and natural gas — no matter the dangers of drilling in environmentally fragile offshore areas or the use of hazardous techniques like hydro-fracking. In recent speeches, he has boasted of his administration’s efforts to facilitate increased oil and gas drilling at home and promised to speed drilling in new locations, including offshore Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

“Over the last three years,” he boasted in his January State of the Union address, “we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75% of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now — right now — American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years… Not only that — last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years.” He spoke with particular enthusiasm about the extraction of natural gas via fracking from shale deposits: “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years. And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.”

Obama has also voiced his desire to increase U.S. reliance on Western Hemisphere energy, thereby diminishing its dependence on unreliable and unfriendly suppliers in the Middle East and Africa. In March 2011, with the Arab Spring gaining momentum, he traveled to Brazil for five days of trade talks, a geopolitical energy pivot noted at the time. In the eyes of many observers, Obama’s focus on Brazil was inextricably linked to that country’s emergence as a major oil producer, thanks to new discoveries in the “pre-salt” fields off its coast in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, discoveries that could help the U.S. wean itself off Middle Eastern oil but could also turn out to be pollution nightmares. Although environmentalists have warned of the risks of drilling in the pre-salt fields, where a Deepwater Horizon-like blowout is an ever-present danger, Obama has made no secret of his geopolitical priorities. “By some estimates, the oil you recently discovered off the shores of Brazil could amount to twice the reserves we have in the United States,” he told Brazilian business leaders in that country’s capital. “When you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers. At a time when we’ve been reminded how easily instability in other parts of the world can affect the price of oil, the United States could not be happier with the potential for a new, stable source of energy.”

At the same time, Obama has made it clear that the U.S. will retain its role as the ultimate guardian of the Persian Gulf sea lanes. Even while trumpeting the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq, he has insisted that the United States will bolster its air, naval, and special operations forces in the Gulf region, so as to remain the preeminent military power there. “Back to the future,” is how Major General Karl R. Horst, chief of staff of the U.S. Central Command, described the new posture, referring to a time before the Iraq War when the U.S. exercised dominance in the region mainly through its air and naval superiority.

While less conspicuous than “boots on the ground,” the expanded air and naval presence will be kept strong enough to overpower any conceivable adversary. “We will have a robust continuing presence throughout the region,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared last October. Such a build-up has in fact been accentuated, in preparation either for a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, should Obama conclude that negotiations to curb Iranian enrichment activities have reached a dead end, or to clear the Strait of Hormuz, if the Iranians carry out threats to block oil shipping there in retaliation for the even harsher economic sanctions due to be imposed after July 1st.

Like Cheney, Obama also seeks to ensure U.S. control over the vital sea lanes extending from the Strait of Hormuz to the South China Sea. This is, in fact, the heart of Obama’s much publicized policy “pivot” to Asia and his new military doctrine, first revealed in a speech to the Australian Parliament on November 17th. “As we plan and budget for the future,” he declared, “we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region.” A major priority of this effort, he indicated, would be enhanced “maritime security,” especially in the South China Sea.

Central to the Obama plan — like that advanced by Dick Cheney in 2007 — is the construction of a network of bases and alliances encircling China, the globe’s rising power, in an arc stretching from Japan and South Korea in the north to Australia, Vietnam, and the Philippines in the southeast and thence to India in the southwest. When describing this effort in Canberra, Obama revealed that he had just concluded an agreement with the Australian government to establish a new U.S. military basing facility at Darwin on the country’s northern coast, near the South China Sea. He also spoke of the ultimate goal of U.S. geopolitics: a region-embracing coalition of anti-Chinese states that would include India. “We see America’s enhanced presence across Southeast Asia,” both in growing ties with local powers like Australia and “in our welcome of India as it ‘looks east’ and plays a larger role as an Asian power.”

As anyone who follows Asian affairs is aware, a strategy aimed at encircling China — especially one intended to incorporate India into America’s existing Asian alliance system — is certain to produce alarm and pushback from Beijing. “I don’t think they’re going to be very happy,” said Mark Valencia, a senior researcher at the National Bureau of Asian Research, speaking of China’s reaction. “I’m not optimistic in the long run as to how this is going to wind up.”

Finally, Obama has followed in Cheney’s footsteps in his efforts to reduce Russia’s influence in Europe and Central Asia by promoting the construction of new oil and gas pipelines from the Caspian via Georgia and Turkey to Europe. On June 5th, at the Caspian Oil and Gas Conference in Baku, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan read a message from Obama promising Washington’s support for a proposed Trans-Anatolia gas pipeline, a conduit designed to carry natural gas from Azerbaijan across Georgia and Turkey to Europe — bypassing Russia, naturally. At the same time, Secretary of State Clinton traveled to Georgia, just as Cheney had, to reaffirm U.S. support and offer increased U.S. military aid. As during the Bush-Cheney era, these moves are bound to be seen in Moscow as part of a calculated drive to lessen Russia’s influence in the region — and so are certain to elicit a hostile response.

In virtually every respect, then, when it comes to energy geopolitics the Obama administration continues to carry out the strategic blueprint pioneered by Dick Cheney during the two Bush administrations. What explains this surprising behavior? Assuming that it doesn’t represent a literal effort to replicate Cheney’s thinking — and there’s no evidence of that — it clearly represents the triumph of imperial geopolitics (and hidebound thinking) over ideology, principle, or even simple openness to new ideas.
When you get two figures as different as Obama and Cheney pursuing the same pathways in the world — and the first time around was anything but a success — it’s a sign of just how closed and airless the world of Washington really has become. At a time when most Americans are weary of grand ideological crusades, the pursuit of what looks like simple national self-interest — in the form of assured energy supplies — may appear far more attractive as a rationale for military and political involvement abroad.

In addition, Obama and his advisers are no doubt influenced by talk of a new “golden age” of North American oil and gas, made possible by the exploitation of shale deposits and other unconventional — and often dirty — energy resources. According to projections given by the Department of Energy, U.S. reliance on imported energy is likely to decline in the years ahead (though there is a domestic price to be paid for such “independence”), while China’s will only rise — a seeming geopolitical advantage for the United States that Obama appears to relish.

It is easy enough to grasp the appeal of such energy geopolitics for White House strategists, especially given the woeful state of the U.S. economy and the declining utility of other instruments of state power. And if you are prepared to overlook the growing environmental risks of reliance on offshore oil, shale gas, and other unconventional forms of energy, rising U.S. energy output conveys certain geopolitical advantages. But as history suggests, engaging in aggressive global geopolitical confrontations with other determined, well-armed players usually leads to friction, crisis, war, and disaster.

In this regard, Cheney’s geopolitical maneuvering led us into two costly Middle Eastern wars while heightening tensions with both China and Russia. President Obama claims he seeks to build a more peaceful world, but copying the Cheney energy blueprint is bound to produce the exact opposite.

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular, and the author most recently of The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources (Metropolitan Books). To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Klare discusses imperial geopolitics as the default mode for Washington since 1945, click here or download it to your iPod here.

Tags: , , Comments (12) | |

Confidence Indicators Deteriorated Significantly This Week

by Rebecca Wilder

Confidence Indicators Deteriorated Significantly This Week
 
This week national confidence surveys rolled in with just one story: the economic infection in Europe is spreading. Business confidence indicators in France and Germany declined 1.1% and 1.6%, respectively, in the month of June. In Italy consumer confidence hit another record low since 1996 of 85.3 after falling 1.4% in June.

The National Bank of Belgium and Statistics Netherlands released their balance measures of consumer confidence. Both balances fell 2 points over the month of June. Notably, consumer confidence in the Netherlands is depressed, hitting a record low since 1986 at -40 in June.

These are highly credible indices with robust correlations with hard data like real retail sales and production. Given the precipitous decline in confidence, it’s hard to imagine how European economic sentiment will turn around without truly innovative policy action.


Rebecca Wilder

crossposted with The Wilder View…Economonitors

Tags: , , Comments (0) | |

Substantively misleading reporting on winners in oil manipulations

Yves Smith writes to blast more ‘reporting’. I also follow Angry Bear Robert’s Stochastic Thoughts whom Mark Thoma has recently been linking, who has a unique style for his thoughts, on ‘ballance’ in reporting.

It isn’t until paragraph 14, when cursory readers have already checked out, that we get a mention of who really wins from the continued lack of transparency:

In an initial report in March, the organization said it was concerned prices could be manipulated if traders submit false prices or volumes. Among a list of proposals, the organization said it was considering establishing an industry regulator as well as requiring mandatory reporting of trades…. 

Some traders have been accused in the past of abusing the pricing system, but the number of cases has dropped significantly in recent years. In 2000, U.S. refiner Tosco Corp. sued Arcadia Petroleum, a London-based oil-trading firm, accusing it of manipulating oil prices. Arcadia later settled the suit for an undisclosed sum. 

In 2007, Marathon Oil Corp. agreed to pay $1 million to settle oil-manipulation charges by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. 

Arcadia and Marathon neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing. 

Now these four paragraphs are the sum total of the mentions of possible and actual abuses by traders. By contrast, the information vendors are the focus of a full eleven paragraphs of the article. The mention of fewer cases of pricing abuses being filed might be taken to mean there is less bad behavior, when it might also be a function of weaker oversight. 

Readers might think I am making overmuch of this story, but it is precisely this sort of objective-sounding but substantively misleading reporting that lulls the public to sleep on important issues. A more vigilant public is less likely to be conned.

Tags: , , Comments (2) | |

Exchange rate pegs getting a new look?

This article at Voxeu reminded me that exchange rate pegs might come back in vogue. Voxeu has an article on the “trilemma” of ’emerging’ economies:

Do sterilised interventions allow countries a way around the fundamental trilemma of international finance by providing them with a means of systematically affecting exchange rates independent of their monetary policies? Japan, Switzerland, and China provide some lessons…

The fundamental trilemma of international finance maintains that a country cannot simultaneously peg an exchange rate, maintain an independent monetary policy, and permit free cross-border financial flows (Feenstra and Taylor 2008). At best, only two of the three are feasible.

Lifted from a note, Rebecca Wilder writes in an informal e-mail:

I found it rather difficult to read. But this idea of trilemma is not broadly applicable to developed markets except Switzerland – they did address that. I don’t know, the one thing that I do notice, is that the trade ‘imbalances’ are not really moving back into ‘balance’ neither in Europe nor globally. Thus, something’s gotta give at some point; I suspect that it’ll be exchange rate pegs.

Tags: , , , Comments (2) | |

Report From Rio…Barkley Rosser

by Barkley Rosser
re-posted from Econospeak with the authors permission

Will A Thousand CEOs Save The Planet? Report From Rio

Just back from presenting paper at International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE) conference in Rio that preceded the main UN Sustainable Development conference that has started today there, the Rio + 20 show.  What is going on there is much more than the UN part, which will probably amount to a lot of fine resolutions signifying very little.  Demos are going on; we saw a bunch of landless marching, an “Occupa” group in tents protesting an arrest in Uruguay, and in the local paper feminists marching topless and a fancily made up Indian blocking traffic with his bow and arrow.
 
But the real show is all the other stuff, not just ISEE, but 500 side conferences.  I saw a claim that 60,000 people are in Rio for all this, with 1000 of those being CEOs, yes, CEOs.  Indeed, in our hotel I saw all kinds of business people, all dressed up and going to conferences.  The weirdest were Russian oil men from Siberia.  Now that has got to lead to green capitalism!   Another guy in a suit was attending a list of alphabet soup I did not recognize, although he did say he works for International Business Phones, whoever they are.  Saw a sign for something called ISGIE (could not track down on google who they are), but they were all in suits, and there was a big sign welcoming the Thai delegation for that one.  Indeed, for the main event, supposedly there are reps from over 130 countries.
 

I suspect the vast majority of these are wannabe rent seekers, out to get government subsidies for this that or the other thing.  I do not know.  Many I am sure have little real interest in improving the environment (see Russian oil men above).  OTOH, it does occur to me that when the green movement gets real, it is when one really gets business people doing stuff about it and making money from it.  Will any of those there seeking to make money out of all this actually accomplish anything worthwhile?  I really do not know.   I suspect the vast majority will not, but maybe some of them actually will, and I suspect that they will be the participants there not making any headlines.
 
As for ISEE, it is an uber green outfit also notable for taking heterodox positions regarding economic analysis, at least its founders and leaders.  One of the plenary speakers was the Prime Minister of Bhutan, the place where they first started saying they want to emphasize happiness over GDP.  Some of the papers and sessions were simply awful, the sort of thing that I suspect is going on at many other of the 500 side events (and maybe the main one as well), people going on about meta-analysis of how to implement the format for assessing how to discuss sustainability. I am not kidding.
 
But then there were papers on very specific things going on in very specific places that gave me some hope, such as the efforts to provide credits for reforestation in developing countries through the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Desertification (REDD) UN project.  Unsurprisingly the bottom line often gets down to details.  Seems to be working in Kenya, mixed bag in Senegal (depends on which trees are planted), not doing so well in Nicaragua because central government grabs 3/4 of the credits, and in West Bengal the better off peasants in upper castes are doing much better out of the program than the poorer scheduled castes and scheduled tribal groups.  Messy reality out there, but worthwhile things are actually happening on the ground in some places, even if Nature journal is right that overall humanity deserves Fs on climate change, biodiversity, and income inequality since the last Rio conference 20 years ago.

Tags: , , Comments (0) | |

Lying Liars: The Winner Is…

Or: Chris Mooney Should Really Learn to Use Graphics More

He’s got a great piece (“Reality Bites Republicans“) up over at The Nation on the rise of fact checkers, the perception that they’re bend-over-backward (or forward…) “even handed” in the face of blatant falsehood asymmetry, and long-term analysis of results from PolitiFact.

But he also gives use some Brand New Data analyzing the Washington Post Fact Checker column, pulled together with his research assistant Aviva Meyer.

Here’s how he presents it:

Republicans got nearly three times as many “four Pinocchio” ratings as Democrats (thirty-three versus twelve), according to our analysis. They were also overrepresented in the “three Pinocchio” category (forty-two versus thirty-one) and the “two Pinocchio” category (seventy-six versus fifty-five), the most frequent category used.

But, interestingly, this trend did not hold up in the “one Pinocchio” category, in which Democrats predominated (forty versus twenty-six).

Here’s how I present it (click for larger):

Everybody fudges. And all politicians lie, including Democrats. But matters of degree do matter, no?

The Washington Post is just a bunch of east-coast liberal media elitists, of course (facts nothwithstanding), so we can ignore this.

Cross-posted at Asymptosis.

Tags: Comments (4) | |

Should the Fed Buy Munis?

Mike Konczal floats a very interesting idea emailed to him by Richard Clayton, the Research Director of Change To Win (my bold for quick scanning).

under Section 14 b 1 the Fed has the authority to purchase any obligation of a state or local government of 6 months maturity or less. This provision seems clearly to permit a mass refinancing of state and local government debt at the current 6 month interest rate (very close to 0), which would save state and local gov’ts approximately $75 billion a year (going by the flow of funds #s for state and local interest payments). Moreover, since state and local govts do the bulk of infrastructure investing, the fed could create a program to fully fund such investment through purchases of newly issued 6 month bonds

I really love this idea (the alternative being the very iffy notion of the Fed buying REITs, ETFs, etc.), but I do wonder if it’s practical. Munis would have to issue new bonds, and they’d be in the position of having to roll them over six months hence. Could they do that? Would the Fed still be there in six or twelve months? Could the whole distributed machinery really be built quickly? Would muni managers get on board? Would the political pressure on the Fed resisting what looks like a very fiscal move make it difficult to implement? Is there a large and liquidly trading existing stock of short-term munis out there that the Fed could just buy (pushing down short-term muni rates)? Those are just a few of many questions that come mind. Thoughts?

Cross-posted at Asymptosis.

Tags: Comments (7) | |