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

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I received this email this morning from “FedEx”:

Subject: Copy

From: fedex@service.com

Today at 10:06 AM

To: [Me]

This is to Remind you that this Parcel has arrived at our Local FedEx Office since 12th october 2015.

However, our courier dispatch was unable to deliver the parcel to you due to incorrect delivery instructions / details.

We Traced with your Parcel Specified Email address on Receipt.

Please, endeavor to be as accurate as possible to reduce time of clearance and recipient confirmation.

Find attached your shipment and tracking details

Please reconfirm your details immediately via reply to this email address

Note: we keep items for 18 calendar days before returning to sender.
Operations FedEx

FedEx Dispatch Department.

Receipt.ace         Download

I verified with the real FedEx that (surprise!) this was not sent by FedEx, and asked for an email address to report it to FedEx.  It’s  abuse@fedex.com.  I’ve reported it.

Thought I’d pass this info along.

Grrrrrrrrrr.

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Did Clinton Really Agree That Denmark Is an Inspiring Example for Democrats to Cite?

Denmark isn’t a middle-class, capitalist, entrepreneurial country?  Because it has universal healthcare, free college, free day care, and guaranteed family and medical leave?  Really, Secretary Clinton?  Really?

— Me, here, Oct. 14

No doubt surprising many of the people watching the Democratic presidential debate, Bernie Sanders cited Denmark as a role model for how to help working people. Hillary Clinton demurred slightly, declaring that “we are not Denmark,” but agreed that Denmark is an inspiring example.

Paul Krugman, Something Not Rotten in Denmark, today  OCT. 19, 2015 Paul Krugman

The subject of both of those quotes is, of course, Clinton’s already-famous statement about Denmark in last week’s debate:

We are not Denmark — I love Denmark — we are the United States of America.  We would be making a grave mistake to turn our backs on what built the greatest middle class in the history of the world.

I love Paul Krugman and I think his column today about the specifics of Denmark’s social democratic system and also its recent monetary and fiscal policies is terrific.  As is the fact that these things are, this week, very hot topics.  Thanks to last week’s debate.

But as I said in one of four posts I’ve written here at AB that mention that comment by Clinton — the first of my posts on this is here — I don’t see how those two consecutive sentences can be interpreted to mean anything but a preplanned sleight of hand intended to suggest that Denmark is not a capitalist country and has a weak middle class, and that Sanders’ proposed policies would destroy the middle class.

As I said in that post, we turned our backs on the greatest middle class in the history of the world when we elected Ronald Reagan and then spent most of the next three decades enforcing and expanding upon his ideological vision.  But agree or not with that assessment, what seems to me indisputable is that Clinton’s two-sentence comment is a statement that universal healthcare, free college, free day care, and guaranteed family and medical leave would amount to turning our backs of the American middle class.

My point here is not to beat the horse that I think I killed in those earlier four posts; in the last of the four I promised not to write another one bashing her, at least for a while.  It is instead to again express the hope that Clinton stops running the kind of campaign she’s running, and run one that is far less reliant on focus-group-tested soundbites, slogans and sleights of hand that one or another member of her army of consultants suggested to her .  After all, a big part of Joe Biden’s appeal and also Bernie Sanders’s is that they talk like ordinary people in ordinary conversations, not like Chatty Cathy dolls.

My point also is to publicly wonder why Krugman thinks Clinton agreed that Denmark is an inspiring example for Democrats to cite.  Because I think she indicated the opposite.

—-

Post edited slightly for clarity. 10-19-15 at 9:32 p.m.

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Other People Paying for What is Described as Unaffordable

In a comment to this post of mine from yesterday in which I used the phrase “affordable daycare,” reader Eric377 posted this comment:

Eric377/October 18, 2015 7:50 am

Leaves I understand as policy. Affordable daycare a whole lot less. Affordable daycare is not what is meant here. States could change regulations to allow lower cost daycare. Is that what is meant? That would be “no”. It gets affordable by roping in other people to pay what is described as unaffordable. There is a price point where providers and customers and regulators are seemingly in full agreement that the service shouldn’t be offered; won’t be profitable; and won’t be purchased. This is a non-problem.

To which I responded:

Okay, Eric, I’m gonna risk a copyright lawsuit by the New York Times and reprint here without permission Gail Collins’s entire column in yesterday’s Times, titled “What Happened to Working Women?”.

….

That’s the full column.  I’m going to add this: The purported justification for federal subsidies to industries such as the oil and gas industry and agriculture is that it has a significant positive effect on the economy.  Agree or not with those policies, that is the stated justification for it.

Just as that is the stated justification for a slew of other policies that the American taxpayer is forced to pay for.  Such as highway and bridge construction and maintenance, before the Tea Party gained control of Congress.

I understand that it requires abstract reasoning to understand this.  And that people who incessantly rage about the American taxpayer having to pay for this or that don’t DO abstract reasoning.  But really, some things are interconnected. The health of the economy and government subsidies for daycare are two of those things.

Seems there’s an actual difference between what is unaffordable for individuals and families and what is unaffordable for, say, the national government.  In other countries as well as ours.  The public in other countries has figured this out.

Just wanted y’all to know.

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Does Clinton think some workers are lazy and shouldn’t be entitled to, say, family and medical leave or affordable daycare? That sure is what she seems to suggest. Again and Again.

Hillary Clinton never, ever says the word “families” without prefacing it with the adjective “hardworking.”  It’s downright Pavlovian.  And every time I hear her say “families”—which is often—and therefore “hardworking” in reference to families, I wonder whether she’s dividing workers into hardworking ones and ones who slough off their work onto their colleagues, or something.

It’s right up there with children’s right to fulfill their God-given potential.  Thank God.

Joking aside, this is the kind of thing that reminds people of Clinton’s worst attribute as a candidate: that she seems never to say anything that has not been vetted or suggested by one or another of her many very-highly-paid consultants.

Every adjective, every phrase, is straight from some list of consultant-suggested words or phrases.  These two, “hardworking” and “God-given”, date—surprise!—to the ‘90s.  She’s too programmed—too clueless, really—to recognize that this stuff gets in the way of her actually communicating about her policy proposals.

If she’s talking about policies that would apply only to working families, then she should say “working families.”  If she’s talking about families generally, then she should just say “families”. She’ll sound less like a Chatty Cathy doll.

But that would require the mental agility to recognize the nature of the political moment we’re in, not the one we were in 20 years ago.  Or even eight years ago.  It also probably would require her to ditch most of the consultants.  And think all by herself.

I’ve just given her some very good advice.  I’ll send her a bill.

****

Okay. This is my last Clinton-bashing post here for a while.  I’ve just burned out on it.

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John Boehner’s Student Loan Legacy

Guess Post by Alan Collinge, Founder of The Student Loan Justice Organization

When I first started researching the student loan issue over a decade ago, it quickly became obvious that there was one congressman the student lending industry loved more than anyone else: John Boehner.

Sallie Mae (the nation’s largest student loan company), through its PAC, gave Rep. Boehner (R-Ohio) more money than anyone else. Boehner enjoyed trips to Boca Raton and other vacation spots aboard Sallie Mae’s private jet. At a meeting of the Consumer Bankers Association, Boehner told the student loan industry crowd;

“Know that I hold you in my trusted hands. I’ve got enough rabbits up my sleeve…”

Boehner even got one of his family members a job at a student loan collection company over a game of golf!

Looking at legislation passed while Boehner was chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, it becomes clear why the student loan companies were so generous to him. He was instrumental in killing the ability of borrowers to refinance their loans with competitors of Sallie Mae at lower interest rates. He fought hard to preserve hugely generous subsidies to lenders who assumed zero risk for the loans they made to students.

Most significantly, however, Boehner was instrumental in removing bankruptcy protections from private student loans in 2005. This shocking move was couched in promises from the banks that removing bankruptcy protections would allow them to lend to more needy students and at better rates. After Boehner and friends successfully pushed this through Congress, the banks not only broke these promises, they actually began demanding cosigners (with assets to come after) for over 90 percent of the private loans they made. This crushed many people financially and tore apart untold thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of families.

Whatever Boehner’s motivations for destroying long-standing, fundamental, free-market protections for student loans, the facts are very clear: When Boehner took leadership of the House education committee, the nation owed about $100 billion in student loans. When he passed the baton in 2006, the amount had risen to over $400 billion. Boehner will be leaving office with the nation owing close to $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. Those numbers speak for themselves.

Wittingly or unwittingly, Boehner leaves behind a Department of Education that is just about the worst, big-government monstrosity one can imagine. It is immune to the bankruptcy protections for which every other public or private lender must contend. There are no statutes of limitations on its entire portfolio. It has a completely captive market of more than 44 million citizens, more than half of whom are currently unable to pay on their debt. It actually makes a healthy profit on defaulted loans. This should make all economists, all conservatives, and all citizens very, very worried.

Boehner says he is not concerned with his legacy; but, millions of citizens of all stripes have suffered by his handiwork and millions more are queued up for decades of financial misery at the hands of both government and banks. At a minimum, the standard bankruptcy should never have been removed from any lending instrument involved with student loans.

Boehner says he’s not worried about his legacy. But on this issue, he should be.

Reference: John Boehner’s Student Loan Legacy Alan Collinge, The Hill, October 14, 2015

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Why does Clinton keep getting away with saying that gun manufacturers are the only industry in America that is immune from being held accountable for criminal acts by the purchasers of their products? Almost NO manufacturers are, by law, accountable for criminal acts by purchasers of their products. Someone should ask her to name one that is.

Senator Sanders did vote five times against the Brady Bill. Since it was passed, more than 2 million prohibited purchases have been prevented. He also did vote, as he said, for this immunity provision. I voted against it. I was in the Senate at the same time. It wasn’t complicated to me. It was pretty straightforward to me that he was going to give immunity to the only industry in America — everybody else has to be accountable but not the gun manufacturers. And we need to stand up and say, “Enough of that.”

 Hillary Clinton, at Tuesday night’s debate

It was pretty straightforward that Sanders was going to vote to give immunity to gun manufacturers for crimes committed by purchasers of their guns.  It also, I assume, was pretty straightforward to her that no other industry is liable for crimes committed by customers using their products.  She does, after all, have a law degree from Yale, and practiced corporate law in Arkansas.

It also, of course, was straightforward to her that although most people do know that, she could make this statement, unchallenged, in a debate forum in answer to a question that she knew Sanders would have no opportunity to respond to, since she was being asked to respond to his answer to a question.  And she knew that, in the moment, it would sound correct to the public.*

But, folks, gun manufacturers are not the only industry in America — actually, almost nobody else has to be accountable.  Maybe in the next debate, the moderator will ask her to name, maybe, two or three manufacturing industries that are held liable for wrongful use of their products by customers.  Can’t wait to hear the answer.

This is, of course, a different issue than the one O’Malley mentioned: that gun shop owners and others who sell guns and ammunition are not held liable when they themselves commit acts of gross negligence by selling several guns and huge amounts of ammunition to a single person, or failing to conduct a background check before selling guns or ammunition to someone.  I believe that this is what O’Malley said occurred in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting in 2012.

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A Tight Labor Market

Kevin Drum notes that the 4 week average ratio of new unemployment insurance claims to employment is the lowest ever recorded

He wonders if it has anything to do with tighter standards for receiving unemployment insurance. I think it is just that the labor market is authentically tight. The Job vacancy rate is roughly tied for the highest on record (within 0.2%). The record only goes back to December 2000 but that was during the late 90s boom before the 2001 mini-recession.

Jolt

Other indicators aren’t so strong — there are still a lot of long term unemployed and involuntary part time workers and hiring is not back up to the all time peak. Still I think the explanation is mainly just that the labor market is tight.

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Shorter Mitch McConnell: “Zero Social Security COLA Too Generous”

Way to rally the base Turtle Neck!

NY Times: No Social Security Raises Even if Medicare Soars

WASHINGTON — The 60 million people on Social Security will not receive any cost-of-living increase in their benefits in 2016, the government said Thursday, but because of a quirk in federal law, nearly one-third of Medicare beneficiaries could have record increases in their premiums unless Congress intervenes.

CNN: Sources: McConnell floats entitlement changes in high-stakes fiscal talks

McConnell is seeking a reduction in cost-of-living adjustments to Social Security recipients and new restrictions on Medicare, including limiting benefits to the rich and raising the eligibility age, several sources said.

Now it is true that Social Security policy geeks like me and maybe some other readers/contributors to Angry Bear can have an informed discussion on the pro’s and con’s of CPI-U vs CPI-W vs CPI-E vs Chained CPI-W and their respective effects on Social Security “actuarial imbalance” and “unfunded liability over the infinite future horizon”. God knows I am up for that discussion any time and feel free to weigh in on the comment thread.

But you have to be pretty politically brain dead to propose holding the Debt Limit hostage to demands for COLA reductions in the same damn week that SSA announced that COLA would be zero for 2016. Boy that should rally seniors to the polls to vote Republican next year.

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