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

What to Do about Conservative Rationality in Addressing Climate Change?

What to Do about Conservative Rationality in Addressing Climate Change?

Two business-friendly conservatives, both former senators, Trent Lott and John Breaux, have an op-ed in today’s New York Times announcing the formation of new group, Americans for Carbon Dividends.  Now out of office, they recognize climate change as “one of the great challenges of our generation.”  To counteract it they propose a bipartisan coalition to institute a carbon tax, with all the revenues returned to the public on per capita basis.  The carbon price would cut emissions and spur the development of alternatives to fossil fuels; the rebates would redistribute income progressively and protect the incomes of the majority of the population.

What’s a progressive climate policy activist like myself to do?

Basically, I’d like to say, “Welcome to the party.  Let’s sit down and work out the details.”  While I believe resistance from capital is the underlying reason the last three decades of climate activism have been so dismal, I don’t see any purpose in drawing lines of ideological exclusion.  On the contrary, if the deepest problem is the role of wealth (at risk from rapid shifts in energy prices) and not divergent philosophies as such, we should be happy to form broader coalitions so long as they don’t require unacceptable compromises.

(I don’t subscribe to the Marxist base-superstructure formulation as a matter of theoretical commitment, but I think it applies pretty well to the problem of climate change.  There is no intrinsic conflict between political conservatism and climate action, except insofar as conservative ideology is a cover for the interests of owners of capital—which it typically is.)

I am in full agreement with the two fundamental principles laid down by Lott and Breaux, putting a price on carbon and rebating the revenues through equal dividends to all citizens.  Of course, I differ on other matters:

Comments (7) | |

THE DAMNATION OF THE PROFESSIONAL REPUBLICAN POLICY INTELLECTUALS

by Bradford DeLong   (originally published at Grasping Reality with Both Hands)

THE DAMNATION OF THE PROFESSIONAL REPUBLICAN POLICY INTELLECTUALS

I have long known that the thoughtful and pulls-no-punches Amitabh Chandra has no tolerance for fuzzy thinking from Do-Gooder Democrats. He is one of those who holds that not even a simulacrum of utopia is open to us here, as we muck about in the Sewer of Romulus here in this Fallen Sublunary Sphere. ”There are always trade-offs“, he says. “Deal with it“, he says. But here he leans to the other side, and, well, snaps: Amitabh Chandra: “GOP thinktanks https://twitter.com/amitabhchandra2/status/1007261629547982849 are the biggest milksops. From healthcare policy to environmental policy, from national security policy to fiscal policy, they have tacitly endorsed a mountain of anti-market + anti-growth + anti-America policies so as not to not upset their political masters…

…There was a time when I could go to a GOP thinktank and debate Peter Bach or Henry Aaron or Mark Pauly. We agreed on lots of things, and disagreed on many others. Now, it’s completely fine to just shout socialism and markets, disparage expertise, and everyone claps. I don’t consider myself a Democrat, but the quality of the conversation at CAP or Brookings is orders of magnitude richer, and more sophisticated, than what is happening at GOP thinktanks. And I say this is someone who often disagrees with both of them. You still can debate Henry Aaron or Mark Pauly perfectly pleasantly and productively. (I don’t know Peter Bach.) We need to focus on the many intellectually honest folks along the political spectrum and try to ignore the fools. Honestly, my academic discussions haven’t changed…

You could never have a fruitful discussion with people from Heritage. They were focused on (1) political effectiveness for their high politicians and (2) pleasing their funders. Nothing else mattered. And so nothing they said could be taken at its face intellectual value. And no evidence you could bring forward would change their minds—or, rather, would change what they said and wrote. Maybe it did change their minds. But how the hell could anyone ever know, since their words were completely determined by triangulating between their political masters and their funders?

I think Cato, AEI, the American Action Forum, and others have now entered the Heritage zone. Yes, they are happy to have your endorsement to make whatever they say as they triangulate between their funders and their political masters. No, they do not want to listen to any evidence. No, they do not care about policy effectiveness—or if they do still at some level care about policy effectiveness, it is the effectiveness of the policies they will be able to work for two decades in the future after sucking up to funders and political masters has gained them enough credibility that somebody will actually listen to them on the substance. And, no, they are not interested in marking their beliefs to market—because knowing and reflecting on how false their promises were would make them sad without any ability to do anything, because for at least 20 more years they will have no room to do anything other than utter the words that best triangulate between the demands of their funders and their political masters.

Anyone at Cato, AEI, that AAF, or any of the others that this does not describe? Damn few.

Case in point: last winter’s tax cut bill. Professional Republican economist after Republican economist was falling over himself to get a 0.4% boost to annual economic growth in 2018 and 2019 from higher investment triggered by the tax bill. Do the arithmetic and that means an extra 800 billion dollars a year of investment in America. Six months later are we getting that extra investment? No. Are any of the professional Republican economists worried about why we are not getting that extra investment? No. By how much will the fact that we did not get that extra investment they projected change what they write in the future? Zero.

Comments (2) | |

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Cartoonist Rob Roberts Fired for Depicting the Real Trump

Cartoonist Rob Rogers was fired from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for refusing to do cartoons extolling the virtues and accomplishments of Trump. According to The Association of American Cartoonists; “Rob Rogers is one of the best in the country and his cartoons have been a wildly popular feature of the Post-Gazette. Readers looked forward each morning to opening their papers to see Rogers’ latest pointed commentary.”

Things changed for Rob when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette hired Keith Burris as its Editorial Page Editor. Just weeks earlier and before Rob Rogers was let go, Editor Keith Burns had written about meeting a self-proclaimed classical liberal; ”To be a liberal: five principles

2) Free speech is essential.

Freedom of speech and expression is the sine qua non of tolerance and pluralism — the grammar of tolerance; the way we make the principle work.

Liberals fight for the right of every thinker and seeker to pursue his truth, to share it, and to be heard.

The greatest liberal thinker of the 20th century, Isaiah Berlin, said: “The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds.”

Perhaps this rational by Mr. Burris did not apply to Rob Rogers and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had a different idea of what liberalism meant within the confines of its employment. One commenter to Burris’s editorial claimed “Keith wants us to be the ‘right’ kind of liberals” and another said “Keith Burris defining a liberal is like Donald Trump defining femininity.”

Keith Burris in an editorial for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette came out in defense of Donald Trump calling some nations “shithole countries.” Entitled “Reason as racism,” Keith Burris argued that calling someone a racist is “the new McCarthyism” defending the sentiment behind President Donald Trump’s reported suggestion the United States take immigrants from an overwhelmingly white country such as Norway rather than “shithole countries” like Haiti or from continents such as Africa.

Representing 150 employees at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh in a letter to the editor it was “collectively appalled and crestfallen by the repugnant editorial.”

It may be that Rob Roberts no longer meets the qualifications of being a cartoonists at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by not conforming to the political stance taken by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Keith Burris and the publisher John Robinson Block. “Cartoonists are not illustrators for a publisher’s politics,” Rogers quips in reply to Blocks and Burris’s critique of his performance at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“If I drew Trump more often than Block would have liked, it was because I base my cartoons on the most urgent topics at hand. Sadly, Trump provides that fodder every day.”

Some recent cartoons by Rob Roberts the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette would not publish:

Originated and authored by Rob Roberts

Publisher John Robinson Block is a Trump supporter who said during a 2013 community forum on racism that people of color need to pull themselves up “by their bootstraps” like they did in the “old days.” Both Block and Burris met with Trump on his private plane at Toledo Express Airport in September 2016 after a campaign rally.

It is pretty obvious which way the wind blows today at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Tags: , , Comments (6) | |

Sessions Quoting Scripture to Us?

AG Jeffrey B. Sessions: “‘I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,’ he said. ‘Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.'”

I would quote back to the hypocrite Sessions.

Leviticus 19:33-34:

33 “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.
34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”

or perhaps?

Matthew 25: 41-45:

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’
42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,
43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”

We were all once foreigners . . . except for Sessions, Trump and many politicians who despise Mexicans and others.

Tags: , , Comments (8) | |

Healthcare Insurance Companies Lose in Court on ACA Risk Corridor Program

Healthcare Insurers Lose in Court Over Risk Corridor Funds

I have written a couple of times about Sessions, Upton, Kingston, and Republicans sabotaging the ACA Risk Corridor Program with the insertion of Section 227 in the CRomnibus Bill signed in December 2014. Not only did Senator Sessions, Representative Upton (MI), and Representative Kingston (CO) block the funding of the Risk Corridor Program; with the insertion of Section 227 by Representative Kington, they blocked any transfer of funding from other programs as well. A rehash of the results of Republican sabotage shows, it caused a rise in premiums for the unsubsidized (others were picked up), Coops to go bankrupt, and insurance companies to withdraw from the healthcare exchanges.

Today a Federal Appeals Court ruled; “the U.S. government does not owe health insurers $billions in unpaid risk-corridor funds meant to offset losses during the early years (3 years) of the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

More than three dozen insurers claimed the federal government owed them more than $8 billion in risk corridor payments. Ruling 2-1 the COA determined the payments were not necessary since Congress deemed the program had to be budget neutral after the legislation was passed.”

In other words, the court decided a different Congress and/or the administration made up of different political interests can change the intent of another Congress or Administration.

A similar Risk Corridor Program exists in the Medicare Part D program for drugs which has no life time limit and was put in place by Republicans and Bush to cover any risk which may occur from getting too many higher cost insured.

Tags: , , Comments (4) | |

A comment on Ballance

 

(Dan here…lifted from Robert’s Stochastic Thoughts.)

 

by Robert Waldmann

In a generally good article on how Trump got nothing out of Kim in Singapore, David Nakamura, Philip Rucker, Anna Fifield, and Anne Gearan make a false claims “Deals reached between Washington and Pyongyang under Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama collapsed after North Korea conducted additional missile and nuclear tests.” This implies in particular that the deal reached between Washington and Pyongyang under President Bill Clinton collapsed after North Korea conducted additional missile and nuclear tests. which is a totally false claim. the deal reached under Clinton collapsed when Bush decided to abandon it, because North Korea had bought centrifuges from Pakistan. Bush said this meant that the fact that spent nuclear fuel contaning plutonium was under seal was irrelevant, since N Korea would just enrich uranium.

Later, after N Korea broke the seals and began extracting plutonium, he declared that N Korean exploration of possibly enriching uranium was no big deal & they were going back to the deal. Then N Korea tested a nuclear bomb.

The known facts are totally consistent with the possibility that the Clinton – Kim Jong Il agreement would have lasted and prevented N Korea from developing a bomb if Bush hadn’t treated Clinton as Trump treats Obama.

In any case, the assertion of historical fact made by Nakamura, Rucker, Fifield, and Gearan is undeniably false. It shows a determination to give a Ballanced assessment of Clinton and Bush even if the facts are different — N Korea detonated at least once nuclear device while Bush, Obama and Trump were president and did not detonate a nuclear device while Clinton was president. This is a relevant fact which is contradicted by their false claim which was clearly made to Ballance the very different cases of Clinton and Bush

Comments (20) | |

The disastrous German Emperor who was a doppelganger to Donald Trump: Kaiser Wilhelm

The disastrous German Emperor who was a doppelganger to Donald Trump: Kaiser Wilhelm

You know the drill. It’s Sunday, so I write about whatever else is on my mind.

I am presently reading Miranda Carter’s “George, Nicholas, and Wilhelm,” her 2009 biography of the three grandchildren of Queen Victoria who were respectively, the King of England, Tsar of Russia, and Kaiser of Germany at the time of the outbreak of World War 1.

I was gobsmacked by her portrait of of Kaiser Wilhelm’s character, for it is a virtually identical doppelganger to that of Donald Trump.

The best way to show that is via a few excerpts, presented with no embellishment.

First, a look at his “stable genius”:

“[Wilhelm] liked to think of himself as another Frederick the Great: politician, soldier, strategist, philosopher, cultural arbiter …. [But s]ome of those who had known him as a prince, however, worried a little about what kind of king he would make…. “He thinks he understands _everything_, even shipbuilding.” Bismarck [ ] muttered about Wilhelm’s inflated opinion of his own abilities … and his minuscule attention span: he would “take a little peek … learn nothing thoroughly and end up believing he knew everything.” “

(pp. 75-76)

“Wilhelm considered himself an expert on many things and was not shy about saying so. In later years, he would personally inform the Norwegian composer Edward Grieg that he was conducting Peer Gynt all wrong; tell Richard Strauss that modern composition was “detestable” and he was “one of the worst”; and, against the wishes of its judges, withdraw the Schiller Prize from the Nobel Prize-winning German dramatist Gerhart Hauptmann, whose downbeat Ibsen-esque social realism he didn’t like.

Comments (8) | |

Sanction Trump not Bourbon

This post “America’s allies should respond to steel tariffs with targeted sanctions on the Trump Organization” by Matthew Yglesias is brilliant (even though he is mainly agreeing with the prior brilliant article by Scott Gilmore “Trade sanctions against America won’t work. Sanctioning Trump himself might.”

The proposal is so brilliant and the case for it so clear, that, I think, each title is enough to convey the idea.

Yglesias elaborates while quoting another Canadian

In light of the unusual combination of geopolitical absurdity and delicacy that the situation poses, at a press conference last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reached into the bag of rhetorical clichés we normally see American officials deploy against authoritarian regimes abroad:

I want to be clear on one point: Americans remain our partners, our allies, and our friends. The American people [are] not the target of today’s announcement. [skip]

While it’s a good speech, the reality is that Trudeau’s policy countermeasures are aimed at the American people, [skip]

A better path would be to take Trudeau’s analysis seriously — America’s allies should come together and retaliate against Trump rather than retaliating against the American people.

So why are they missing trump and hitting Harley’s and Bourbon ?

The argument of Gilmore and Yglesias is obviously correct. Not only would sanctions directed at Trump be effective, they would also be fair. Bourbon distillers and motorcycle workers bear no guilt, so it is unfair to punish them (also standard practice in trade wars but still unfair).

I’m afraid that what this really shows is that in the struggles among the powerful, the little people are pawns. Sanctions on Trump personally would cause pain to fewer people (I think a (modest) majority of US citizens woud actually be pleased). They would be vastly more effective, because Trump is totally egocentric. But they would be, and are perceived to be, a dangerous escalation.

Directing the punishment at innocent peons is a way of showing it is nothing personal (while saying it is personal). Just a normal policy debate.

Sanctions on Trump personally would be less extreme in that they would directly hurt fewer people, but they would be perceived as very extreme, because the person hurt is present at the G-7 meeting.

Sanctions on individuals are not part of normal trade conficts. There are sanctioned individuals, but they are not members of the club (many are Iranian some are Russian).

after the jump, I move on to a 2 tweet long philosophical digression (which focuses on what I imagine to be the topic of Yglesias’s senior thesis).

Comments (11) | |

When Big Sur Met Silicon Valley: Remembering The Santa Cruz Nonlinear Dynamical Systems Collective

When Big Sur Met Silicon Valley: Remembering The Santa Cruz Nonlinear Dynamical Systems Collective

I spent Memorial Day weekend with extended family members in Santa Cruz, near where many of them live, but with none of them right there  It was most pleasant, but explaining the nature of the place and the University of California branch there led me to think more deeply about the place.  I am not aware of anybody else saying this before, but it struck me that Santa Cruz is a place where some decades ago Big Sur met Silicon Valley.

The place remains a very pleasant Northern California beach town, where tourists like to go and long have.  It was fully crowded this past weekend, difficult to get to the Wharf and Boardwalk downtown and Natural Bridges State Park.  All of this has little to do with these other matters.  But sharp local  observers note that there is an “old” and a “new” Santa Cruz.  The old is symbolized by older wooden houses, some with funky sculptures in the yard and funny mailboxes. This all has a touch of Big Sur somewhat further south along the coast.  One can run into Air Bnb landlords who are cameramen for the Dalai Lama and talk about how well they knew Timothy Leary and own 41 acres in Big Sur and so on.  Yes, really.

The new Santa Cruz is symbolized by newer more expensive places, some with funky mailboxes, but they are not falling over.  Many of these people earn often substantial their money over the Coast mountain range in Silicon Valley a half an hour away.  Big Sur may have been there first, but Silicon Valley is fully there now, and the place is gentrifying fast,.

As it was, from the time that Silicon Valley first got itself going in the 1960s and 1970s, there was a parallel development in Santa Cruz that both fed off of that and in its own way fed into it, if not as much as Stanford University did.  This was the founding in 1966 and subsequent early history of UC-Santa Cruz, sitting on top of a hill northwest of the center of town.  From the beginning it combined an ideal of innovative and progressive education with a highly mathematical, scientific, and technical focus with much emphasis on computers, perfect for its proximity to the developing Silicon Valley.  The former fed off the nearby Big Sur with such places as the Esalen Institute, which was always about serious intellectual and philosophical matters (and still is) as well as the more famous artistic and beat/hippie carryings on there.  On the technical side a curious aid for UCSC upfront was the propitious proximity of the Mount Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton, then second only to Mount Palomar in size, which helped attract top astronomers, who helped bring in the physicists and the mathematicians and computer scientists.

Comments (37) | |