A Good Idea

This is a good idea, although this design may not be the way to go. Also, the economics are a little trick. That’s why the government should get involved. Perhaps I’ll talk more about that later.

More Resistance to Larry Summers

Larry SummersLast night, the Wall Street Journal reported, For Summers, Path to Fed Job Gets Bumpier. It is primarily about an announcement yesterday from Senator Jon Tester that he will not vote for Larry Summers if Obama nominates him to head the Federal Reserve. A spokeswoman said, “Senator Tester believes we need a consensus-builder to lead the Federal Reserve. He’s concerned about Mr. Summers’s history of helping to deregulate financial markets.” This is a big deal because it brings to 4 the number of Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee who are expected to vote against Summers. (The other three are: Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, and Elizabeth Warren.)

There are many reasons that Summers should not be made Fed chair. The Tester statement mentions two in as many sentences. First, Summers is known for not getting along well with others. He made a mess of the job as president of Harvard. Second, his economic policies have been terrible. He was indeed a very big player in deregulating the financial markets. In addition, he has long pushed a strong dollar policy. That’s a policy that supports the rich at the cost of jobs for the poor. Just based upon this, I think he shouldn’t even be considered for the post. It is an outrage that he is one of the main people under consideration. Obama should be shamed out of the country for this.

But I think there is a more important reason for Summers to not be made chair of the Federal Reserve. I am sick to death of people in the upper echelons of power being rewarded for their incompetence. It seems that these people cannot screw up badly enough to cause them to be toxic. Imagine if after World War II, instead of being hanged, Hermann Goering had been put in charge of the West German government. That seems to be where we are today. “Oh, you were wrong about every major economic issue over the last 20 years? Well, why don’t you run the Fed?!”

By all accounts, Larry Summers is a great economist. He should just go back and be an economics professor. There’s no shame in that and he may even be able to make some contributions to science that way. But in government, he should be toxic. And the fact that he isn’t is an indictment of our current system.

The Wall Street Journal also noted that overwhelmingly, economists in academia and Wall Street think that Janet Yellen would be a better choice as Fed chair. But those on Wall Street are more fond of Summers than are those in academia. That alone should be reason enough to not pick Summers. But we will have to see how this all goes. If Obama is willing to fight for Summers, it will show that my very worst fears of Obama are true: he’s too conservative and too insular. He rarely surprises me in a good way.

Liberal Hawks Need to Get a Clue

Kathleen GeierKathleen Geier over at Political Animal wrote an article I very much agree with, Syria and the Return of the Liberal Hawks. She rightly notes that liberals normally have good intentions for the policies they support, but that doesn’t mean that it leads to the right decisions. As she wrote, “Such impulses can also go awry, because they contain the seeds of moral vanity.” And that is very much what I hear when I listen to the liberal hawks.

In this most recent case of Syria, I was very disappointed with many people on the left. Most of the people I regularly read agreed with me or at least kept quiet. There were people in the middle who I found somewhat frustrating. Both Jonathan Chait and Steve Benen pushed the notion that we who were against war with Syria should still respect those pushing for it. “We all have good intentions,” was a common refrain. But I didn’t see it that way at all. The hawks on the Syria situation were talking nonsense.

John Kerry, of course, was the most prominent. And I understand that his argument seems—in a vacuum—to make sense. The Assad government had used chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war, and this caused the deaths of many children. But there were problems. For one thing, even today—a full two weeks after we were supposed to start bombing Syria—we don’t have the UN weapons inspectors report. What’s more, why did we especially care about these deaths, when already 110,000 Syrians have died in this conflict—well over 30,000 of them being civilians. But the biggest issue is the question, “Why now? Why here?” Geier sums up what’s going on perfectly:

Invariably, too, these military interventions are framed in an irrational, hyped up, very unhelpful way. Suddenly, media and political elites start fixing their gaze on some new bright shiny object—an area of the world they had, up until then, been studiously avoiding—and start trying to persuade you that the situation there is the most horrible human rights crisis ever and Something Must Be Done. Sure enough, the situation is quite horrible. But so are many other evils across the globe that they rarely tell you about.

This is the issue that I got in trouble with on Twitter. I still don’t understand why the noble position is to care about whatever the television news is obsessed with. In that case, I noted that it was wrong for people to complain that others weren’t upset about an airplane crash that killed two people; why weren’t these complainers focused on the 2,000 people who die of malaria every day? But that kind of thinking is strong among most people. If the media are focus on the horror of Syria, it must be the most important horror. But using the same example, well over ten times as many people are dying of malaria as are dying in the Syrian civil war; more people died of malaria on that one day than died in the alleged chemical weapons attack.

If we want to help the Syrians, there are much better ways to do it than by dropping bombs. Again, Geier:

The liberal hawks are obsessed with “helping.” Okay, then—how about supporting international causes where the United States, either via its government or American NGOs, could actually do some concrete, practical good across the globe? The world is full of people dying of diseases that could easily and cheaply be treated, for example, so how about advocating that the U.S. provide more aid for global health care and sustainable development? Other eminently worthy international causes include educating girls and raising international labor standards for workers. Or how about this: we know that climate change led to a drought which helped create the crisis in Syria. How about demanding that the United States devote more national security resources to addressing the problem of climate change?

I understand that public health and education programs are not as exciting as dropping bombs. But they are far more helpful. A big part of the problem with these “humanitarian” wars is that even if they are totally justified, they do more harm than good most of the time. Two thousand people die of malaria every day. That’s not news so it isn’t on the television. But it is an enormous problem—one that is far bigger and in need of our help than any war anywhere. So what the liberal hawks have to decide is if they really want to help or if they just want another “bloody good war.”

The Closing of Allan Bloom

Allan BloomOn this day in 1737, the composer Michael Haydn was born. He was the brother of Joseph Haydn. I’m not at all sure why Joseph has become such a staple of classical music while Michael has not. He’s very good as you can see in his Symphony No. 41:

Italian Romantic composer Luigi Cherubini was born in 1760. Beethoven thought he was the best composer of that period—except for Beethoven himself, of course. Here is his Symphony in D Major:

The illustrator Charles Dana Gibson was born in 1867. He was the creator of the “Gibson Girl.” Birth control activist Margaret Sanger was born in 1879. Film producer Hal B. Wallis was born in 1898. Co-writer of “Heartbreak Hotel,” songwriter Mae Boren Axton was born in 1914.

Economist Lawrence Klein is 92 today. Chekov from Star Trek, actor Walter Koenig is 77. Actor Sam Neill is 66. And Canadian actor Callum Keith Rennie is 53.

The day, however, belongs to a man I really don’t like, Allan Bloom who was born in 1930. He is best known for his bestseller The Closing of the American Mind. It’s not that I totally disagree with him, but the man annoys me. The only reason I am giving the day to him is that I have a fairly long history of confusing him with Harold Bloom, who writes about a lot of the same stuff and is often annoying in exactly the same way. I will try to keep the two distinct from now on.

Happy birthday Allan Bloom!

Republicans Don’t Care About Economy

Jonathan ChaitMost people in the mainstream press claim a level of obtuseness that I just don’t buy. And that includes a lot liberal commentators. Imagine a German journalist in the lead-up to World War II. He writes, “The Nazis have really turned the economy around. Why do they continue to vilify the Jews and what’s all this about invading Poland?” The implication is that the Nazis really cared about the economy and that all that business of the supremacy of the Aryan race was just a side issue. The truth, of course, was just the opposite; Nazism was at its very core a racist movement and the rest was just piled on because you can’t spend all of your time killing “undesirables.”

Yesterday, Jonathan Chait wrote the modern equivalent of an article wondering why the Nazis were so all fired interested in annexing Poland, The Arguments of the Great Recession Are Over. Hooray. In it, he discusses the Republican economic platform and wonders why it hasn’t changed over the last 5 years. After all, it has been demonstrated that austerity—cutting government spending—really is bad for the economy. And all the concern that government debt was going to cause inflation has vanished. So why are the Republicans still trying to cut funding for food stamps?

I wonder! Could it be that the Republicans never cared about improving the economy? Could it be that they were only ever using the economic crisis to push for the same old things they always want? Could it be that these questions are unknown to Chait?

I was just looking at the 2012 Republican Platform. Their ideas on the economy are telling. The whole thing is filled with misinformation like, “American businesses now face the world’s highest corporate tax rate.” That’s technically true, but they do not face the world’s highest corporate tax. Taxes are not just determined by tax rates—our tax code have lots of deductions so American corporations really aren’t paying that much. But even setting all the distortions aside, their plan is not about improving the economy. Their plan is to cut taxes on the rich and cut spending on the poor. That’s it. There are some other things like getting rid of regulation, but that again is just a way of giving to the rich and taking from the poor.

Do you see the pattern here? Conservative “intellectuals” may write articles that argue that this or that conservative policy is good for the economy. And politicians will from time to time quote those articles. But that is not the reason that the Republican Party is for these policies. Their primary interest is to be Robin Hood in reverse. And the reason they are interested in that is that they are old school aristocrats. They think that the rich are simply better than the poor.

Look at voter ID laws. These are not just a tactical maneuver. They speak to the deeply held belief among conservatives that democracy is a bad thing. The people cannot be trusted to elect its leaders. So if we can stop “those people” from voting, so much the better! And this is why the rich side with the Republican Party, even though they make more money under Democratic administrations. They know that the Republicans think as highly of the rich as the rich think of themselves.

So it is galling to me when commentators pretend that the Republican Party cares about things like improving the economy and providing “equality of opportunity.” They don’t. They are like a traditional political party: constituency based. But in their case, their constituency is very very small. And pretending that the Republicans are looking out for the good of the nation only provides them with undeserved political cover.

Back to the Grind

Back to RealitySummer is over, school is in full swing and it’s time for me snap out of vacation mode and Back to Reality. I had a hard time writing this summer, don’t know why so here’s my first go at it!

My son is now in 4th grade and after attending Back to School Night and meeting his teacher, I know it’s going to be a difficult year with lots of homework, getting organized and being responsible and held accountable. I’m trying to nip things in the bud though, and meeting with the school’s inclusion team and his teacher this coming week, making sure his accommodations are being met and his teacher has read his report and to put some strategies into place.

The first week of school my son got 3 ‘Homework Infraction’ slips sent home due to incomplete homework, homework done on incorrect paper and/or not done at all! My feeling are these slips are an insult to any child and sure to lower self-esteem and confidence, especially a child with ADHD and dyslexia, who is already struggling with self-esteem and self-confidence.  His weekly homework is 2-3 hours of homework over the weekend then 1 1/2 hours of homework every night, this might work for a some of your kids but not mine! He needs to be able to be a kid too, playing sports and with friends, therefore homework will be on the top of my list in my upcoming school meeting, will keep you posted.

Have a great weekend!