Daily Archives: 12 Jan 2015

Thoughts on Romney as I Move

Mitt filmMy business partner Will and I have finally decided to get an actual public business address. As a result, we have been working most of this day and will probably work much of tomorrow as well. That is why posting here will be on the light side for the next 24 hours. But I will give it the good college try.

The main news I’ve heard today that, Mitt Romney Is Getting Ready to Be the GOP Establishment’s Conservative for 2016. How exciting Republicans must be nationwide! There is nothing like a guy who lost the last election by four percentage point during an election where the political fundamentals weren’t that bad for him. He’s the guy you want to hitch your wagon to!

I have great questions as to whether Romney can really get the nomination. Maybe the party has gotten a little loopy from watching the documentary Mitt. A lot of people have commented that they had no idea that Romney was so charming until they saw the film. So the idea may be buzzing around that this time the public will see the real Mitt Romney. Is the Republican Party ready to fall in love again?

The problem is that the American people didn’t vote for Romney in the 2012 general election. And the reason they didn’t has very little to do with the fact that they didn’t want to have a beer with him (while he drank soda pop because he’s such a fun loving guy). It had everything to do with the fact that the economy was doing okay and Romney ran on the fact that Obama was totally mismanaging the economy — which everyone knew was a total lie.

Let’s remember: Romney’s great idea was to allow more “free market” policies that led to the crisis of 2008. And he wanted to give huge tax cuts to his fellow insanely rich friends. And I fully expect him to run exactly the same campaign in 2016. It will be more “Plutocracy will save us!” As I wrote this morning, the Republicans don’t have any new ideas — at least any that their ideology will allow them to take serious. So it’s gonna be tax cuts for the rich and savaging environmental and workplace regulations.

So I do hope that Romney gets the nomination. He isn’t even a particularly strong Republican candidate. But as always: if the economy tanks, even Mitt Romney could become president. But overall? Mitt Romney running for president is a joke. If I were a Republican, I would be shaking my head in shame.

Republicans Want to Increase Income Inequality

Raise the Minimum Wage?

Balz and Rucker over at The Washington Post argued that, Both Parties Agree: Economic Mobility Will Be a Defining Theme of 2016 Campaign. Their evidence? Basically just that some Republicans are talking about wage stagnation. And here’s the killer quote, “And Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee who was portrayed by Democrats as insensitive to and out of touch with the lives of middle- and working-class Americans, has told friends he considers poverty a topic du jour as he weighs another run in 2016.” That’s right: for insights, they turn to Mitt Romney, friend of the working man.

Ed Kilgore was not impressed, Are We All “Populists” Now? He argued primarily that there are all kinds of “populism” on the right that are totally consistent with “worship of corporate job-creators.” (He should have put “job-creators” in scare quotes.) But he also mentioned what I think is the main issue here: Republicans “tend to adapt the same old agenda to the newly defined problem.” I would only disagree with this in that he says “tend.” This is all Republicans ever do about any issue whatsoever.

Look at Obamacare. I have written about this a lot, but most specifically in, Republicans New Healthcare Distraction. The Republicans never have any new healthcare ideas. It’s the same old thing. They want, for example, tort “reform.” But countless studies have shown that this will not bring healthcare costs down. Republicans want it because they have always wanted it for different reasons: it is a way of giving more power to the rich at the expense of the poor. It’s as simple as that. As I wrote a year and a half ago, “Basically, the Republican Study Committee’s answer to the healthcare crisis in this country is the same as it always is: the magic of the marketplace will fix everything.”

The same thing is true when it comes to economy. And this too is an issue that I’ve harped on for a long time. Every time Democrats and Republicans talk about income inequality, the nitwit “centrist” pundits start talking about how finally the two parties are going to work together. But the two parties mean entirely different things. The Democrats talk about increasing the minimum wage and Republicans not only don’t want to do that, many of them want to get rid of the minimum wage all together. But the Republicans even disagree with the Democrats’ lame neoliberal ideas like “job training.” When Republicans talk about “income inequality,” what they mean is that the “job creators” are being oppressed. Their argument is that if the rich are made more rich and we remove any business regulation that allows them to get even more rich, then they will bless us all by hiring some people. Business doesn’t work this way. Regardless, the Republican answer to the income inequality they claim to care about is to increase income inequality.

This is why it is insane to think that there is going to be any real discussion of income inequality in the 2016 election. The Democrats will doubtless be talking about it to some extent — I’m not expecting a lot, but there will be discussion of it — especially the minimum wage. But the Republicans will be talking about what they always talk about: cutting taxes on the “job creators” and ending regulation on the “job creators.” They may say that it is the all about cutting income inequality, but their policies will be the same as ever. And those policies will lead to things getting worse, not better.

A Less Positive View of Paul Volcker’s Recession

Dean BakerNote when the inflation rate began its long sharp decline. That’s right, it was in June of 1981, roughly six months before Volcker’s high interest rates threw the economy into a recession. This means that inflation was already falling rapidly when Volcker decided to make the tough call of throwing millions of ordinary workers out of their jobs.

The most obvious explanation for the drop in inflation is the drop in world oil prices. These had gone from less than $10 a barrel to 1978 to a peak over $40 a barrel in 1979, as Iran’s oil was pulled off world markets due to the Iranian revolution. In response to the surge in oil prices, new sources of oil came on line all over the world and people began to consume less, both in response to higher prices and government conservation measures (e.g. fuel mileage standards).

The drop in oil prices would have lowered inflation regardless of what Volcker did, although the recession undoubtedly did push down inflation further and faster than would have otherwise been the case. This was at the cost of a sharp drop in wages for most of the workforce and also the permanent loss of employment for many. Even a decade after the Volcker recession, employment among prime age men (ages 25-54) was still a full percentage point below the pre-recession level.

—Dean Baker
Robert Samuelson Wants to Give Reagan Credit

Frances Brooke

Frances BrookeOn this day in 1724, the great writer Frances Brooke was born. She was a successful English novelist, although she wrote a few plays as well. Her husband was a military chaplain, stationed for a time in Canada. As a result of this, Brooke ended up writing the first novel written in that country, The History of Emily Montague. And it is this novel that I want to discuss.

The History of Emily Montague was an epistolary novel. I haven’t read it. To be honest, I’m not that fond of the genre. But according to Wikipedia, the novel was used as an example of the the hyperbolic use of the word “literally” in the original Oxford English Dictionary. The sentence was, “He is a fortunate man to be introduced to such a party of fine women at his arrival; it is literally to feed among the lilies.” And this gives me an excuse to attack grammar snobs.

Many people go crazy when others use the word “literally” to mean “figuratively.” So after hearing the sentence above, the grammar snob will say, “It isn’t literally like feeding among the lilies — it’s figuratively!” But grammar is descriptive, not definitional. The time to have the fight about this was at least 250 years ago. Clearly, Brooke knew what she was doing. When she used “literally” as “figuratively” in the novel — two times — she italicized the words after it. She seems to have meant to be commenting on how the language was used by certain people of that time. It was clearly quite common even then.

So grammar snobs, get over yourselves! If Frances Brooke could make gentle fun of this grammatical silliness 250 years ago, you can at least do the same today. You aren’t impressing anyone with your knowledge. You’re just saying, “When I was in fifth grade, my teacher told me this!” And you don’t want to look that pathetic.

Happy birthday Frances Brooke!