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

“The Opportunity Cost of Socialism”

“The Opportunity Cost of Socialism”

Why is the Council of Economic Advisers producing party political propaganda for the GOP? As many folks have pointed out, the “report” is rather bizarre. My favorite part is Figure 1, which summarizes Milton Friedman’s argument that people spending “their own money” are “more careful how much to spend and on what the money is spent.” This, of course begs the question of how that money came to be defined as “their own.”

Let’s complicate that story, though, with a couple more matrices: First, Prisoner’s Dilemma:

 

Figure 2: Prisoner’s Dilemma

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How To Get Distracted From What Is Most Important

How To Get Distracted From What Is Most Important

Of course as the midterm elections are nearly upon us, there is a rising cacophony of issues bubbling up, especially as Donald Trump attempts to excite his extremist base with base fears, while trying to distract most voters from threats by GOPs in Congress to cut the social safety net.  But some of the the new issues bubbling up are really more important than others.

So we are now going to have a spectacle every day from now to the election of having top stories on nearly all media focusing on this caravan of Hondurans approaching the US.  Trump declares this to be a national security crisis, which his fervent followers clearly hysterically accept.  But even if this entire group were allowed into the US, it would be no big deal, probably good for our economy and society.

OTOH, we have the news over the weekend that Trump is planning to withdraw the US from the INF nuclear treaty, signed in 1987 by Reagan and Gorbachev.  The still living Gorby has declared that doing so is “stupid.”  That is putting it mildly.  This appears to be the brainchild of super-hawk John Bolton, now in Moscow, where he is also soft soaping Russian meddling in US elections.  But talk is that if INF goes, so will New START, leaving almost no nuclear arms treaties in place between Russia and the US.  Yes, Russia has been reportedly violating the INF treaty in some cases, but is just throwing out an arms control apparatus that took so long to negotiate the way to go?  Bolton clearly thinks so, but he has also talked about how maybe we should use nuclear weapons, echoing loose similar talk coming out of some Russians earlier.  There is also talk of a renewed arms race, which our military-industrial complex would love.

Really, this seems to be coming basically out of nowhere.  Are we to return to a Cold War and arms race and fearing a nuclear war?  It took decades for Thomas Schelling to convince world leaders with nuclear weapons to foreswear the first use of them.  Now he is dead, and we are suddenly hearing all this loose talk and possible unraveling.  Frankly, this is far more dangerous than this Honduran caravan, but it is back page news, and I fear most people are unaware of it, more worried about Central American immigrants than that the threat of nuclear destruction of the entire human species is suddenly increasing.  We must not be so easily distracted.

Barkley Rosser

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Abigail Spanberger Taking Dave Brat to the Wood Shed

If you have not seen this yet, take a moment, watch, and listen. It makes you feel good about being a Democrat.

This is the 7th District Virginia’s Elissa Slotkin, Abigail Spanberger running for the Congressional Representative in Virginia. After verbally wondering if Dave Brat knows which Democratic candidate she is, listen to her remind Dave Brat she is not the Democratic candidate who supports Bernie Sanders healthcare plan he attacks her for and she is the candidate who supports a public option. She closes with, as Dave Brat raises a Red Card, “I ask for your vote on November 6th, Abigail Spanberger is my name.”

Like Esquire’s Charles Pierce tells us, it reminds you of the Ali-Terrell fight—What’s my name, motherf***er?

Abigail took teabagger Dave Brat to the wood shed and just tore him apart. It is a great take down.

HT to EMichael

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Claiming Voter Fraud, Trump Is Poised To Disregard a Democratic House Victory

HuffPost Politics:

New York Times columnist Economist Paul Krugman fears that President Donald Trump’s insistent complaints of “voter fraud” are a setup to deny the legitimacy of a Democratic majority in the House should the party win in the midterm elections.

Those who don’t believe such a scenario is possible “haven’t been paying attention,” the Nobel laureate warned.

Trump has complained, without evidence, that as many as 5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election.

Hillary Clinton beat Trump in the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. Trump’s claim, if true, would wipe out that margin and then some.

Trump set up a commission to investigate the votes, but it has not substantiated his claims, nor has it issued any reports. Commission member Matthew Dunlap, Maine’s Democratic secretary of state, said the panel was the “most bizarre thing I’ve ever been a part of.”

Yet, Trump keeps raising the issue.

Myself: There has been no evidence of massive voter fraud. Examination after examination of voter fraud claims reveal fraud is very rare, voter impersonation is nearly non-existent, and much of the problems associated with alleged fraud relates to unintentional mistakes by voters or election administrators. In 2016, Trump claimed he won the popular vote besides the Electoral College if one deducts the millions of people who voted illegally. This is false and made only worse by those in his administration who would promulgate and foster his delusional stories and outright lies.

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Does fivethirtyeight process the numbers too much ?

Or not enough. Nate Silver has long performed fairly complicated calculations with (lots of) raw data. Even back when he was Poblano at DailyKos this was highly controversial. Now that he leads a huge team at fivethirtyeight.com, it is almost necessary just to decide whether to trust them, because it is very time consuming to read their explanations of their algorithms.

In particular, obsessive poll watchers such as your humble correspondent, have noted that Senate ratings by fivethirtyeight.com and realclearpolitics.com don’t always move together. Very often the difference between the complicated calculations at fivethirtyeight.com and the simple averages at realclearpolitics.com is greater than the change of either from week to week.

One very important (and controversial) aspect of the fivethirtyeight.com approach is correcting raw polls

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Fiscal Dishonesty from Paul Ryan (Surprise!)

Fiscal Dishonesty from Paul Ryan (Surprise!)

We earlier noted that when our Treasury Secretary wrote this:

Government receipts totaled $3,329 billion in FY 2018. This was $14 billion higher than in FY 2017, an increase of 0.4 percent…Outlays were $4,108 billion, $127 billion above those in FY 2017, a 3.2 percent increase.

He was basically lying to us hoping the public would be too stupid to realize that when the price level rose by 2.5% during the same period, we are talking about a 2% real decrease in tax revenues. And it seems that some nitwit at CNBC was indeed that stupid. Yesterday I endured an appearance by Paul Ryan on CBS This Morning. No surprise that this dishonest weasel repeated the same lie:

Revenues are up this year. Believe it or not, we cut taxes at the beginning of the year, and we have higher revenues this year. Why do we have higher revenues? Because we have faster economic growth, higher wages, more taxes are coming into the government.

But let’s give credit to John Dickerson for calling Ryan on this intellectual garbage:

Dickerson pushed back, pointing out that when you account for inflation, some of the revenues from the previous tax policy, and the revenue that would increase from population, the revenues are lower than they should be.

I would say Dickerson nailed this liar but how did Ryan respond?

Let me just say it this way. We cut taxes and we have higher revenues coming into the government today still.

Got that? He just repeated his debunked lie. After all Paul Ryan has such total disdain for the public that he simply doubled down on this incredibly stupid dishonesty.

 

 

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Win for Students Having Loans From For – Profit Educational Institutions

A Federal Court cleared the way for students who have been defrauded by for-profit institutions (I hesitate to call them schools).

“This court ruling is a major victory for thousands of students across the country who were defrauded by predatory for-profit colleges taking advantage of our broken student loan system. We commend Attorney General Maura Healey for her leadership fighting for students who were left with thousands of dollars in debt after their for-profit colleges collapsed.

The federal student loan system creates perverse incentives that enable bad actors to prey on students. Without adequate protections for students, these predatory corporations will continue to base their business models on the availability of these loans, with little commitment to providing quality education.”

These Obama-era protections and remedies were being blocked by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss rejected a request by for-profit college representatives to halt the regulations. Even with the win, the answer from the Department of Education is arrogant in response. Student loan servicers do not hesitate a moment to penalize a borrower with penalties and fees if the are late.

“DeVos and conservatives have said the Obama-era policies are unfair to colleges and too costly for taxpayers. She has proposed creating a stricter standard for fraud claims and eliminating the ban on mandatory arbitration agreements.

But DeVos’ push to finalize those revised regulations has hit an unexpected snag that will delay having a replacement policy on the books by another year. The Education Department said it won’t meet a key Nov. 1 regulatory deadline, meaning that the replacement regulations aren’t likely to take effect until July 2020 at the earliest.”

Hopefully the State Attorneys and others can convince the Judge to hold Betsy DeVos in contempt for not activating the court’s requirements in a reasonable amount of time less than 2 years.

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Who Is The Bigger Terrorist Threat: Iran Or Saudi Arabia?  

Who Is The Bigger Terrorist Threat: Iran Or Saudi Arabia?

Yesterday’s WaPo had competing headlines about Iran and KSA (Saudi Arabia): Iran is described as a “potential” terrorist threat while the likely Saudi role in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is described as threatening the US-KSA relationship.  The latter problem (likely to be smoothed over by claiming it was done by “rogue agents”) has distracted from the ongoing story of how Iran is this awful enemy and threat to the US, “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism” as organs oof the US government repeatedly tell us.  The problem is that in recent years there have been zero terror attacks by entities principally funded by Iran.

The new story reports on “potential” attacks, with the most serious possibility being in Europe, where indeed in thr 80s and early 90s Iranian MOIS apparently killed as many as 60 opponents of its regime in various attacks in Berlin and other locations. An Iranian embassy official based in Vienna has  been arrested in Bavaria in connection with an alleged plot to attack Mujahedin-el-Khalq (MEK) activists near Paris, which plot was foiled.  As it is, the MEK was labeled a terrorist group itself by the US government until 2012.  It may be that such a plot was in the making, but it did not happen.  Regarding the US two supposed Iranian spies were arrested in the US who may have been plotting something, but again, no actual attacks, and there is a related report that at least one spy supposedly supported by Iran working for Hezbollah went to the FBI to offer to become an informant but was arrested.  Ah ha!  Another terrorist!

Of course, there is the usual complaint that Iranian forces are in Syria and Iraq, but they are in both nations at the invitation of their governments.  Iran supports Hezbollah in Lebanon, but like Iran itself it ceased engaging in terror attacks in any serious way back in the 90s and is now too busy ruling Lebanon to mess with such stuff.  There are also claims they arm the Houthis in Yemen, but most evidence says they do little of that, and the main problem there comes from the US-Backed Saudis bombing the Yemenis, including civilians.

Which brings us to the Saudis.  So now people are suddenly questioining the close US alliance with them after this Khashoggi business.  But they are the ones bombing and killing civilians in large numbers in Yemen.  They have supported al Qaeda related groups in Syria.  It was fro KSA that most of the bombers on 9/11 came from.  And while the Saudis may now have allowed women to drive, women were never kept from driving in Iran.  The  Saudi-funded madrassas all over the world have been major breeding grounds for Sunni terrorists of various factions and stripes.  Really, this is a no-brainer.  It is the KSA that is a much more serious terror threat than Iran.

Barkley Rosser

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Trump Administration Proposes Limiting Protests Near White House

The Trump administration has proposed changes to limit demonstrations near the White House and National Mall. The limits include closing 80% of the White House sidewalk, placing limits on spontaneous demonstrations, and imposing a “First Amendment fee” for protests (gotta make up for the deficits he created).

✓ The public has until October 15 to comment on the plans.

✓ Under current policy, the National Park Service charges fees for special events (e.g., concerts and weddings), but not for First Amendment demonstrations (e.g., marches and protests).

✓ The American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP, Hispanic Federation, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Women’s Law Center, Human Rights Campaign, Sierra Club and a number of other organizations oppose the change.

Trump clearly wants to limit protesting outside of and near the White House; but, it would not cover protests coming from inside the White House.

Donald Trump continued his tirade against the Federal Reserve in a late Wednesday television appearance, laying into the central bank’s policy decisions and suggesting it is to blame for Wednesday’s sharp market decline. Saying he is “not happy” with the Fed, Trump explained why he was not happy with the Fed in a broad based economic review of Fed policy of continuing increases in Fed Rates to stave off the threat of inflation.

“The problem I have is with the Fed. The Fed is going wild. I mean, I don’t know what their problem is that they are raising interest rates and it’s ridiculous. The problem [causing the market drop] in my opinion is the Treasury and the Fed. The Fed is going loco and there’s no reason for them to do it. I’m not happy about it.”

Earlier Wednesday, Trump suggested; “They are so tight. I think the Fed has gone crazy.”

To date, this has not been a wage driven inflationary spiral as YOY hourly income increases in nonsupervisory has been stuck at 2.7%. Trump does not appear to grasp that his and Republican policies have created the an inflationary spiral which the Fed is trying to slow and which constituents will suffer from soon enough.

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A Book Called “Eggshells”

Each morning, she awoke at 4:45 a.m., pulls on her blue janitor’s smock and heads over to the college to clean from 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Then she returns home to take care of her 14-month-old daughter, Alice. The day she got the call over the summer telling her she had won a prize and Alice was being fussy.

“I’d been having a rough day — up early for my cleaning job, tearing home to mind the baby, baby wouldn’t nap and was making her feelings known,”

Caitriona Lally had written a book, a book called “Egg Shells.” As described to the Post,

“Eggshells’ is about a socially isolated misfit who walks around Dublin searching for patterns and meaning in graffiti or magical-sounding place names or small doors that could lead to another world.

I spent the guts of a year wandering around Dublin in 2011, the year I was unemployed. I had been laid off from my job in the recession and was walking the streets myself looking for ‘staff wanted’ signs, and came up with the idea of my character, Vivian, who’s just looking to belong, to connect with someone.”

This I can not describe better than she, having spent a year gaffing up trees in Wisconsin, cutting them down, and chipping the wood in a malfunctioning chipper which I had to clean the chute out by hand. I still have my fingers. For one year, I managed to keep home and family in a home until I found a better job.

Caitriona’s path to literary acclaim has been marked by plenty of rejection and job hopping.

Caitriona attended Trinity College Dublin as an undergraduate student and studied English. She worked as a custodian for the college when she was a student to offset expenses.

“I spent a couple of summers working as a cleaner in Trinity,” she wrote to The Post. “I spring-cleaned student residences after they vacated them, then worked as a chambermaid when guests came to stay in the college in the summer months. The spring cleaning was tough work — a year’s worth of grime doesn’t shift easily!”

Once Caitriona realized that she won the award and that it came with a 10,000 euro prize (about $11,500), she described it as “just pure magic.”

Caitriona hadn’t applied for the award; the prize committee selects the nominees. Winners over the years have become some of Ireland’s best-known writers, including Anne Enright and Frank McGuinness.

The benefactor of the prize is Peter Rooney, who took over from his uncle, Dan Rooney, former U.S. ambassador to Ireland and chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who died last year.

Caitriona said her janitor job works for her schedule as a mother and is a great fit for writing. She’s finishing up her second novel, and she’s not planning on giving up her morning work.

The author who works as a janitor had won a prestigious literary prize from the university she cleans.

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