Wednesday, October 27, 2010
While this is true of all of us (myself included, and anyone else who finds it funny), it is more true of some than others. Take the GOP controlled Texas legislature's response to a common problem...
Problem: not enough money coming in from taxes due to economic slump and excessive tax cuts.
Not the smart solution: cutting funding for education.
Really not the smart solution: cutting funding for education when your state is already LAST IN THE NATION!
Education is the only thing that can make us great. It is our future. You want a strong economy in 20 years? You need a well educated population to make it. Stupid, thy name is "Texas Legislature." In all fairness, this seems to be the response of most state legislatures, but particularly ones controlled by Republicans.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
People generally don't mind MD's making lots of money. But in this country MD's pretty much need to make a lot of money to justify the insane outlay that is paying for medical school.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
The "problem" with quantitative easing is that it doesn't directly create jobs. It just makes money more available, and the idea is that those who have access will start spending more, which will increase demand, which means that companies will need to hire more to boost supply making nice positive feedback.
So how about doing things that more strongly encourage extra spending?
I would like to see a quantitative easing program that bought people's debt (especially student loans), then continued accepting payments as before but refunded some fraction--say 50-100%--into an account tied to a government issued debit card. The account would be cleared away each billing period, so if someone didn't spend it all, it balance would revert to the government.
Now, this isn't a dollar for dollar increase, as people could easily shift their normal spending to this account, but it has a few advantages. First, it allows people to have extra money each month, some fraction of which they are likely to sepend. Second, the account clearing out means that people will be motivated to spend more and faster so that they do not lose it. Third, and this is my favorite point, it directly helps people over banks...particularly if student loans are the purchase of choice.
On top of this, it could be done in a way to maximize spending. My student loan payment minimum is ~$350 /month, but I tend to pay it off faster than that would do. If the government plan stipulated that the accounts would only be active for one or two years, and that balances remaining would not be forgiven (i.e. you pay off the remaining debt as you would normally) then there would be an added incentive to pay it off even faster. This is true even at the expense of savings. With deposit interest rates low, I am much better off paying off extra student loan debt than I am saving extra. If the government were to buy that loan then pay me back my own payments that would become even more true. The incentive would be to pour as much money as possible into that debt, and then to spend as much of the return that I could manage. This would reduce my debt load much faster than I can afford to do now, and would also dramatically increase my spending.
The only real problems I see with this are 1) that it won't do as much to help rich people (they don't have loans because they can afford college) which I like, but the current political environment seems to equate not giving rich people more money with socialism, and 2) that it would not help many poor people (they don't have loans because so few go to college). It also doesn't help much for people that are unemployed as they don't have money to spend. Of course on those last two points: if it works well and leads to a large increase in demand, jobs would return.
These same things could be applied to other debt forms, but I have more of an issue with the fed buying people's (including my) houses than I do with them buying educations, which I think the government should provide anyway.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Third Way, an organization of centrist Democrats, produced a study showing that liberals are the smallest share of the electorate and not enough to keep Congress in Democratic hands. Citing Gallup polling data, the study said self-described conservatives made up 42 percent of the electorate, compared with moderates who make up 35 percent and liberals who make up 20 percent, a shift of several points to the right in the last two years.That, of course, has no meaning. It would be one thing if how people self-identified actually lined up with how U.S. congresscritters legislated, but it doesn't. My mom self-identifies as a moderate. She is more liberal than probably 80% of the House and 90% of the Senate. She is, however, exactly as she describes, pretty much dead center of the nation.
This horseshit pushed by Third Way is largely responsible for the clusterfuck in DC. People are mostly moderate so they say so. The words "Conservative" and "Liberal" don't mean politically conservative or liberal. This is pretty easy to figure: a large majority wanted a public option, a large majority likes social security and medicare, a large majority believes the rich should be more heavily taxed than they are, a large majority believes we should pay workers honest wages and make sure their work environments are safe, a large majority believes that companies should not be allowed to pollute. Those are all "Liberal" political opinions held by people who statistically must describe themselves as liberal...and moderate and even conservative. (No, I'm not looking up all the polling data to link.)
That someone would describe themselves as conservative, while taking advantage of medicare and not wanting to see it cut should tell politicians that the political designations of conservative vs liberal are pretty fucking meaningless. Unfortunately it seems not to work that way.
People want what they want, but rather than find that out and see about giving it to them we obsess over designations that are almost completely disconnected from their meaning on another level. Probably 90% of my political beliefs fit with the majority in this country. The remaining 10% is probably 70:30 left:right, but if I were to position myself in the US Senate it would probably be about where Bernie Sanders is (way left of "center") and in the House probably between Nancy Pelosi and Dennis Kucinich (again, way left of "center"). In the U.S. as a whole, however, I'm probably at about the 65% point overall (I balance out some pretty hard left beliefs on tax policy with some pretty right ones on personal responsibility).
Sunday, October 03, 2010
Healthcare advocates are disappointed because of the lack of a a public option; women's rights advocates seethe at the very mention of the name of Stupak; environmental advocates have their own issues regarding the administration's handling of the crisis in the gulf; the LGBT community is incensed by the repeated mixed messages of a president who claims to want to end DADT, but fails to take the numerous opportunities available to him to do just that; advocates for the Latino community are disappointed about the inaction on immigration issues and the DREAM act; peace activists are dumbfounded by the escalation in Afghanistan; civil libertarians are outraged by the fact that the administration is claiming executive powers that in some cases seem to surpass those demanded by President Bush. If you have a pet issue and you lean to the left, chances are that the administration has done something to tick you off.Still no explanation as to why this is the way things are, or if people with the power really believe that punching hippies is so worthwhile that they should do it at the expense of the nation (and at the expense of popular positions).
Friday, October 01, 2010
...Unfortunately, they are still ignoring the (alleged) ones in the George W. Bush administration. Fortunately for all of us, they are looking for help:
How to Report a Human Rights Violator
The Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section actively seeks out information that may assist the U.S. Government in identifying human rights violators who may have entered the United States.
If you know of anyone in the United States or of any U.S. citizen anywhere in the world who may have been involved in perpetrating human rights violations abroad, please contact HRSP either by email at email@example.com or by postal mail at:
Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (Tips), Criminal Division United States Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20530-0001
You do not have to identify yourself when providing information. Please provide as much detail as possible, such as:
* the suspect's name, place and date of birth,
* physical description, and current location;
* the suspect's alleged human rights violations including the locations and dates of those activities;
* how you learned of the suspect’s alleged activities and when and where you saw the suspect.
We are unable to reply to every submission; however, your information will be reviewed promptly by HRSP.
Information on non-U.S. citizen suspects living in the United States may be provided to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Department of Homeland Security, at 1-866-347-2423 (a toll-free call).
So do your patriotic duty (Asst Attorney General Lanny Breuer said "It's something we have to do. We owe it to our citizens and we owe it to the world.") and report Human Rights Violators. And remember: torture is a violation of human rights.