There is consensus across the (sane) spectrum that the country absolutely needs to repair and modernize our infrastructure. There is widespread agreement this will help the economy now and in the future, and will create jobs. But Republicans in Congress refuse to allow infrastructure projects to proceed. Why? Because doing so will help the economy now and in the future, and will create jobs. Republicans in Congress are committing economic sabotage, and they know it.
There is a bipartisan consensus -- it even includes the Chamber of Commerce! -- that the country has fallen behind and must maintain and modernize our infrastructure for the good of our economy.
The U.S. Chamber is leading the charge to improve the quality of America’s infrastructure—whether it’s transportation, energy, or water networks—all of which directly impact our ability to compete in the global economy.
By modernizing our national infrastructure, we can improve commercial efficiency, increase U.S. competitiveness in the global economy, and create much-needed jobs in the near term.
Paul Krugman's observations on the impact of urban sprawl reminded me of "Automania 2000," the 1963 John Halas animated short the 1963 John Halas animated short I watched at Furman Univerity as part of the first Earth Day observance in 1970. (I was still in high school.) Krugman's column on sprawl is sparked by a study by the Equality of Opportunity Project. Led by economists at Berkeley and Harvard, the study finds an inverse relationship between increased sprawl and decreased social mobility. Eventually, the jobs are literally out of reach. Opportunities are simply too far across town for too many families.
And in Atlanta poor and rich neighborhoods are far apart because, basically, everything is far apart; Atlanta is the Sultan of Sprawl, even more spread out than other major Sun Belt cities. This would make an effective public transportation system nearly impossible to operate even if politicians were willing to pay for it, which they aren’t. As a result, disadvantaged workers often find themselves stranded; there may be jobs available somewhere, but they literally can’t get there.
There are so few people I actually admire these days, and one of them continues to be Paul Krugman. Put him on a panel with a bunch of right-wing talking heads, and he's usually going to be the only person who nails them on their zombie talking points. Like this morning, on This Week With George Stephanopoulos, when he put corporatist robot Carly Fiorina, George "His Hair Was Perfect" Will, and David "If Only We Could Slash Social Security" Walker in their places.
If you watch, you'll see Krugman's trademark move: He looks off to one side as if he's so exasperated, he can't even bring himself to look at someone who's so stupid - or so careless with the truth.
Today, he did three very important things. He called out Caroly Fiorina on her made-up "data shows" that people leave states with high taxes, firmly rebutted David Walker's contention that the new Social Security report proves the program is in trouble and need of overhaul, and he completely destroys George Will's vastly uninformed and careless recommendation that Social Security be indexed to life expectancy.
Obviously, he doesn't take Fiorina seriously - and neither should you. She keeps making sh*t up: She says "data shows" and then lies. Krugman just batted her away, like a cat with a mouse. Then he explained to Walker (as if Walker didn't already know) that all the Social Security report showed is that, like the rest of the country, the bad economy is affecting Social Security. (Walker, in case you didn't know it, is Pete Peterson's chief lackey and the person "centrists" keep pushing as a third-party candidate for president. His latest vehicle, Comeback America, is another version of America's Townhall, whose purpose was to build popular support for cutting Social Security and Medicare.)
And then, after prissy blueblood Will lectured that Social Security was created during a time when retirement averaged two years, and now it was closer to 20, proving that since people were living much longer and we needed to index payments to life expectancy, Krugman just knocked it out of the park.
No, it's only the upper income population that's living longer, he said. And this just goes back to the issues of income inequality.
Indeed, estimates from the consulting firm Moody’s Analytics suggest that each dollar spent on food stamps in a depressed economy raises G.D.P. by about $1.70 — which means, by the way, that much of the money laid out to help families in need actually comes right back to the government in the form of higher revenue.
Wait, we’re not done yet. Food stamps greatly reduce food insecurity among low-income children, which, in turn, greatly enhances their chances of doing well in school and growing up to be successful, productive adults. So food stamps are in a very real sense an investment in the nation’s future — an investment that in the long run almost surely reduces the budget deficit, because tomorrow’s adults will also be tomorrow’s taxpayers.
So what do Republicans want to do with this paragon of programs? First, shrink it; then, effectively kill it.
The shrinking part comes from the latest farm bill released by the House Agriculture Committee (for historical reasons, the food stamp program is administered by the Agriculture Department). That bill would push about two million people off the program. You should bear in mind, by the way, that one effect of the sequester has been to pose a serious threat to a different but related program that provides nutritional aid to millions of pregnant mothers, infants, and children. Ensuring that the next generation grows up nutritionally deprived — now that’s what I call forward thinking.
It goes without saying that the explosion of long-term unemployment is a tragedy for the unemployed themselves. But it may also be a broader economic disaster.
The key question is whether workers who have been unemployed for a long time eventually come to be seen as unemployable, tainted goods that nobody will buy. This could happen because their work skills atrophy, but a more likely reason is that potential employers assume that something must be wrong with people who can’t find a job, even if the real reason is simply the terrible economy. And there is, unfortunately, growing evidence that the tainting of the long-term unemployed is happening as we speak.
One piece of evidence comes from the relationship between job openings and unemployment. Normally these two numbers move inversely: the more job openings, the fewer Americans out of work. And this traditional relationship remains true if we look at short-term unemployment. But as William Dickens and Rand Ghayad of Northeastern University recently showed, the relationship has broken down for the long-term unemployed: a rising number of job openings doesn’t seem to do much to reduce their numbers. It’s as if employers don’t even bother looking at anyone who has been out of work for a long time.
To test this hypothesis, Mr. Ghayad then did an experiment, sending out résumés describing the qualifications and employment history of 4,800 fictitious workers. Who got called back? The answer was that workers who reported having been unemployed for six months or more got very few callbacks, even when all their other qualifications were better than those of workers who did attract employer interest.
So we are indeed creating a permanent class of jobless Americans.
And let’s be clear: this is a policy decision. The main reason our economic recovery has been so weak is that, spooked by fear-mongering over debt, we’ve been doing exactly what basic macroeconomics says you shouldn’t do — cutting government spending in the face of a depressed economy.
It’s hard to overstate how self-destructive this policy is. Indeed, the shadow of long-term unemployment means that austerity policies are counterproductive even in purely fiscal terms. Workers, after all, are taxpayers too; if our debt obsession exiles millions of Americans from productive employment, it will cut into future revenues and raise future deficits.
Our exaggerated fear of debt is, in short, creating a slow-motion catastrophe. It’s ruining many lives, and at the same time making us poorer and weaker in every way. And the longer we persist in this folly, the greater the damage will be.
So like Young Ezra, Krugman hears that the White House is offering the chained CPI to "prove" he's willing to compromise. (As if that wasn't obvious already.) I don't pretend to understand Obama's psyche, but I can't help but notice how much he reminds me of my friends who had alcoholic parents: "Please, Mommy, Daddy, please don't fight! I'll be good!"
The question is, to whom are these things being “proved”?
Since the beginning, the Obama administration has seemed eager to gain the approval of the grownups — the sensible people who will reward efforts to be Serious, and eventually turn on those nasty, intransigent Republicans as long as Obama and co. don’t cater too much to the hippies.This is the latest, biggest version of that strategy. Unfortunately, it will almost surely fail. Why? Because there are no grownups — only people who try to sound like grownups, but are actually every bit as childish as anyone else.
After all, if whoever it is that Obama is trying to appeal to here — I guess it’s the Washington Post editorial page and various other self-proclaimed “centrist” pundits — were willing to admit the fundamental asymmetry in our political debate, willing to admit that if DC is broken, it’s because of GOP radicalism, they would have done it long ago. It’s not as if this reality was hard to see.
But the truth is that the “centrists” aren’t sincere. Calls for centrism and bipartisanship aren’t actual demands for specific policies — they’re an act, a posture these people take to make themselves seem noble and superior. And that posture requires blaming both parties equally, no matter what they do or propose. Obama’s budget will garner faint praise at best, quickly followed by denunciations of the president for not supplying the Leadership (TM) to make Republicans compromise — which means that he’s just as much at fault as they are, see?
So let’s nominate Michael Bloomberg, who will offer the exact same policies but, you know, really mean it (and supply Leadership (TM)).
No, seriously (but not Seriously): who do you think could possibly be persuaded by this budget who hasn’t already been persuaded?
They were at it again. The so-called "mainstream media" on their Sunday news shows, telling the American people what's going on in an objective, journalistic manner.
Oh, sorry, April Fools Day was last week....
Instead, we were treated to more fools on the hill, talking foolish nonsense.
As Nicole Belle explains:
It’s really tempting to talk about the establishment media as a monolith, even though it really isn’t true. But listen to these chuckleheads and tell me that they are not actively colluding to hurt the country.
Jim Cramer, who famously had his stock picks analyzed and found to perform worse than the market average, is convinced he has the answer to our economic and job woes: the Keystone Pipeline!
It's part of the media game that they'll put up somebody who knows nothing about anything relevant against someone who does as if they're all the same.
The 'know nothing' being Joe Scarborough and the 'who does" is Paul Krugman. Now the only thing The Scar knows about these days is how to use the camera. Krugman's weakest attribute at times in his career is his debating style on TV. There's nothing wrong with that, but Paul's 'Denver moments" allowed Joe to effectively evade most of the night's 'debate' in favor of gotcha's and the unforeseen catastrophe.
Well, we’ll see how it comes out after editing, but I feel that I just had my Denver debate moment: I was tired, cranky, and unready for the blizzard of misleading factoids and diversionary stuff (In 1997 you said that the aging population was a big problem! When Social Security was founded life expectancy was only 62!) Oh, and I wasn’t prepared for Joe Scarborough’s slipperiness about what he actually advocates (he’s for more spending in the near term? Who knew?)
Joe@NBC actually made a passionate argument for addressing the debt now because of the possibilty of some unforeseen catastrophe happening. Yea, that's what drives him in this debate. maybe another meteor will crash down upon us, cracking the planet and ending all life on the planet too.
And who knew that The Scar doesn't mind gov't spending in the near term to help our economy to grow? The only thing I ever hear from him and conservatives like him is that we have to cut government spending NOW. That bullshit flew out of Joe's mouth like a frothy ale. And that laid the foundation for his typical conservative whopper about life expectancy:
Every Monday morning, C&L's own Nicole Belle joins me on my Radio or Not show for a segment we call "Fools on the Hill". We watch the Sunday shows so you don't have to, and we two Nicoles bring you the best of the best (or as is often the case, the worst of the worst).
Today, Nicole Belle brings us this:
There’s a famous phenomena in psychology known as “Flashed Face Distortion”. When a pair of perfectly attractive faces are flashed in front of a viewer, aligned at the eye level, all their dissimilarities are heightened and distorted to the point of being perceived as grotesque.
There’s a similar parallel in politics. When liberal ideas are merely flashed out to audiences, they appear distorted and unnatural, because we never get a good look at them. I blame the media in this, because for all their talk of “both sides doing it,” they rarely give us any more than a cursory glance at liberal ideas, thus distorting them completely to their viewers. I’m convinced that if most Americans got to take a nice long look at them, they wouldn’t find them grotesque at all.
But there is no shortage of conservative ideas given full coverage on the Sunday shows. Would that they appear as distorted as the short shrift they give liberal ideas.
On the other end of the spectrum, Eric Cantor tells David Gregory that he doesn’t know what the DREAM Act is any more, but he thinks we need to work on a pathway to citizenship for children. Psst….Cantor, that is *exactly* what the DREAM Act addresses.
To hear Republicans talk about immigration at all is an exercise of “Who do you want to believe? Me or your lying eyes?” Case in point: John “Build the dang wall” McCain challenging Republicans to not block giving undocumented workers a pathway to citizenship: “What do you want to do with them?”
McCain’s BFF Lindsey Graham never misses an opportunity (or a Sunday, come to that) to play partisan politics and criticize the president. Ignoring completely the infamous 7 minutes that George W. Bush read “My Pet Goat” while the worst terrorist act on our shores occurred, Graham accuses President Obama of being “disengaged” on the anniversary of 9/11 and therefore, personally responsible for the deaths in Benghazi.
The Nicole Sandler Show airs live Monday through Thursday mornings from 10-noon ET and is always available for listening via podcast at RadioOrNot.com. Nicole Belle joins in for Fools on the Hill every Monday morning at around 11:20 ET.