India Works to Stop Global Warming — Republicans Continue to Deny

Global Warming IndiaFirst it was China. And this last week, India Unveils Climate Change Plan. So now the first and third biggest greenhouse gas polluters have come out with plans to cut their emissions. In case you were wondering, we are now number two. But when it comes to per capita greenhouse emissions, we are still number one! So let’s give a cheer for that:

We’re number one! We’re number one!

Back in August, after Obama put out new rules designed to fight global warming, the conservative reaction was not good. Marco Rubio said, “As far as I can see, China and India and other developing countries are going to continue to burn anything they can get their hands on.” Of course, since the announcements of China and India, Rubio has had nothing to say. As Steve Benen said, Rubio Needs a New Excuse to Ignore the Climate Crisis.

That’s true of all of them. Any reason they give for being against doing anything about global warming is nothing more than an excuse. It’s like my three stages of global warming denial. But I’ve since learned that there are more stages, because literally no amount of information will ever stop the deniers. They simply don’t want to do anything and the reasons are irrelevant.

But is this not the Republican Party since Reagan? They simply believe certain things and it doesn’t matter how much evidence against it piles up. They don’t accept global warming, and that is probably the most important, in the end. But they believe that tax cuts for the rich will fix the economy (I wrote about that earlier today). They believe that whatever next war they’ve gotten into their heads is going to turn out great. They believe that if only we make it easier for people to carry guns, our gun homicide rate will go down. It goes on and on and on.

It’s not surprising that most of the things they just “know” also happen to help various wealthy interest groups. That’s what it is all about. And there is no interest group more wealthy than the oil companies. So Steve Benen proposes an interesting question: what will Rubio’s new excuse be? I don’t think it is hard to predict. He’s said other things against doing anything about global warming. He’ll just pivot back to, “We can’t hurt our economy!”

There will always be an excuse. And the economy is the perfect excuse because it can always be used. I’ve written a lot in the past that we really should have been doing something about global warming the past seven years, because lots of resources were going unused. It was a time when updating our power system would have actually helped the economy. Doing so during a booming economy will hurt it. But the Republicans will never accept this thinking. They will always be able to make the “It will hurt the economy!” argument. So they will make it — at least until crop failures and decimated coastal cities make it impossible.


Actually, I know what will happen. Eventually, there will be a new generation of Republicans who accept global warming when denial of it is as publicly supportable as denial of the Holocaust. And they will tell us that they are different from the Republicans that came before. They won’t be. But the media will treat them as if they are. Because our media always does that. Because it has worked out so well thus far.

Conservatives Can’t Deal With Their Lack of Power

Jonathan ChaitI wrote that liberals have trouble handling authority. In general, we are much more comfortable fantasizing about power; the sensation of holding and using it seems to unsettle us, and we curl into ourselves with disappointment. Conservatives displayed far less grumpiness toward George W Bush than liberals have toward Obama until the very end, when Bush’s presidency collapsed so irretrievably the right had to hastily abandon its largely worshipful pose and write him out of the conservative tradition in order to contain the fallout.

Conservatives in the Freedom Caucus suffer from a similar but different problem: they do not seem capable of comprehending a world in which they exert less than total power. This failure to compute leads to bursts of angry behavior that is ineffectual by design. No scalp will satisfy, not when any new head starts to look like another scalp. No Freedom Caucus member who finds himself in the party leadership can be anything but a sellout, since betrayal is the only explanation for the failure of the right-wing agenda.

—Jonathan Chait
The House’s Right Flank Finally Got Boehner’s Scalp. So Why Doesn’t It Feel Good?

Why the Poor Aren’t Supporting Bernie Sanders

Bernie SandersMartin Longman wants us to consider, Where Bernie Underperforms. He presented some numbers from the Pew Research Center. And there are four groups that he performs badly with: non-whites, less educated, less affluent, and more religious. But as Longman noted, these are not independent. In fact, I would say that they are exactly the same thing: Bernie Sanders doesn’t do well with the poor. And poor Democrats are less educated, more religious, and less white. So let’s cut the crap and talk about why Sanders does not seem to be appealing especially well to the poor.

What’s weird about it is why people usually don’t engage with the question. Longman asks some of the standard questions. Is it that he’s Jewish? Doubtful. A northerner? Doubtful. Not religious? Doubtful. LiberalInCamo at Daily Kos had an idea in an article back in early July, Bernie Sanders’ Two Big Problems: Race and Gender. That claim was, “Sanders silence on race and his tunnel vision on one political issue are problems.” But I don’t buy this at all. Sanders has since talked a great deal about race, but it hasn’t changed his standing among non-whites.

For people of moderate incomes, a Republican getting in wouldn’t be catastrophic. For the poor, it would be.

There is something that I commonly hear Republicans say that is actually true: members of minority groups care most about the economy. The idea that Latinos are single issue voters on immigration policy is just nonsense. Of course, these very same Republicans offer economic policy that hurts the vast majority of non-whites and whites. But that doesn’t matter. And that certainly isn’t the case with Sanders. His policies should be particularly appealing to non-white members of the society, because they are far more likely to be poor.

I’ve begun to wonder if there isn’t skepticism toward Sanders amongst poorer people because they have learned that in this society the very best you could hope for is second best — or even just something that isn’t especially horrible. Maybe Sanders’ message sounds like a fairy tale. I know that it does to me — and I’m a Sanders supporter. But for the last several years, I’ve been trying to Demand the Impossible.

But let’s consider the calculus here. Sanders would be unlikely to accomplish much more than Clinton — and might accomplish less. Both of them will be infinitely better than whomever the Republicans run. Under a Republican, things will be much worse for poor people. Given that there really are concerns about Sanders in the general election — being a “socialist” and being old and not having such a polished public persona — it’s safer to go with Clinton.

As for me, despite the fact that I’m a strong Sanders supporters, I haven’t decided for sure if I’m going to vote for him in the primary. If I feel that he has roughly as good a chance to win as Clinton by that time, I will vote for him. If I think he will bring down the party, I won’t. But I tend to think that I will vote for him. In the end, the general election will almost certainly be what it always is: a Democrat versus a Republican. If the economy continues to grow, the Democrat will win; if it doesn’t, the Republican will win.

But for normal people who don’t read political science books, the safe choice is Hillary Clinton. What’s more, for people of moderate incomes, a Republican getting in wouldn’t be catastrophic. For the poor, it would be. And I suspect that why the poor are not jumping on the Sanders bandwagon.

See also: What Risk Is Bernie Sanders Worth?

Why Supply Side Economics Doesn’t Work

Neera TandenI came upon an old article by the President of the Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden, Burying Supply-Side Once and for All. I really liked the way that she framed the issue, because I hadn’t thought about it in such stark terms. Conservatives claim that tax cuts will save us all because it will increase investment. But that isn’t the way that economic stimulus works — ever.

According to the supply side dogma, we mustn’t just lower taxes — we must lower taxes on the rich — the “makers.” Doing so will incentivize them to work more. The theory seems pretty straight forward. Imagine that you are working 20 hours per week for $10 per hour. Your boss wants you to work more hours, but you don’t want to. If she offered you $20 per hour if you worked full time, you would be far more likely to take that deal. The problem is that it isn’t like this at all income levels. And an even bigger issue is that the rich get most of their money from capital gains. They aren’t going to work more if their taxes are lower. And they aren’t going to invest more, because they are almost certainly investing as much as the investment environment dictates.

So this isn’t how stimulus works. Instead, it works by giving people more money, which they spend. Given that the rich already spend as much as they want, giving them even more money makes no sense. They will save it. And saving it will not get funneled into investments when we aren’t at full employment. (Note: we are almost never at full employment.) Thus, if we are going to give money to people, we should give it to the poor, because we know that they will spend it and thus cause the money to move through the economy, doing the actual work of stimulus.

This is an excellent way to think about supply side dogma. It shows why it doesn’t work. But also, it explains why conservatives say things that seem — on their face — to be ridiculous claims. When Trump and Bush and Rubio put out tax “reform” plans that are just big giveaways to the rich, it looks different to them. They think this is how you stimulate the economy. They implicitly accept the Say’s Fallacy that supply creates its own demand and that any money given to the rich will automatically be invested. So it isn’t like they are totally unhinged. They just have a deeply flawed theory of how the economy actually works. (Or they only care about the rich. Or both.)

The other side of this is that we have empirical data. Paul Krugman dealt with the issue in his column on Friday, Voodoo Never Dies. Supply side economics didn’t even work under Ronald Reagan. The economy was good under him because of Federal Reserve policy and good old fashioned Keynesian stimulus. Under Clinton, the economy was supposed to fall apart when he raised taxes, but it didn’t. It was supposed to boom because of George W Bush’s huge regressive tax cuts — but instead we got anemic growth. And the economy was again supposed to die when Obama allowed top tax rates to go back up and Obamacare to start. Instead, the economy did even better.

So supply side is nonsense. But I do think it is important to understand so that you can counter conservatives. It won’t do for us to talk past each other. They need to have their nonsense confronted directly. Because it is literally killing Americans.

Actually, it turns out that I had read Tanden’s article before. But the article I wrote about it (and another) are worth checking out, Supply Side Dogma.

Morning Music: Hear the Wind Howl

Mudlark - Leo KottkeIn 1971, Leo Kottke had his major label debut with Mudlark. I’m very inclined to present his 12-string version of Eight Miles High. But you can check that out on your own. Instead, we can listen to another song where he sings, “Hear the Wind Howl.” The truth is, I’m not that fond of him singing. It’s not that it’s bad, but he is the kind of musician where you want him to just shut up and play his guitar. Of course, his playing is as great regardless of what else he’s doing. That’s true here where he does some beautiful slide work.

Anniversary Post: Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Monty Python's Flying CircusOn this day in 1969, the first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus appeared on BBC One. I remember when I first discovered it, although I’m unclear what year it was — 1977 most likely. It was astounding. But I have to admit that a lot of it worked for me just because it was silly. I especially remember, Climbing the North Face of the Uxbridge Road. How could I not love that?

As I got older, I turned off to it. I started getting more of the inside humor and it seemed somewhat pretentious and always overdone. But about a year ago, I decided to revisit it. I watched the entire series in a short period of time. My first take on it was right: astounding. It’s more the subtle points that impress me now. For example, the first episode of the second season, “Face the Press.” It is most known for The Ministry of Silly Walks. But right at the start of that sketch, Cleese walks by a long line of delivery men — a payoff to the earlier New Cooker Sketch. It’s a marvel, even today; but at that time, this approach to comedy just wasn’t done.

There are things that have become so ingrained in the culture so as to be annoying. I really do find the Cleese “list” sketches hard to take. They depend entirely upon Cleese’s acting, which is superb, but old hat now. These include some of the “best loved” sketches like the Dead Parrot sketch and Cheese Shop sketch. The Dead Parrot sketch has a bit right in the middle where Terry Jones says, “It’s not easy to pad these up to 30 minutes.” Exactly! People remember the beginning of it, but not all the wasted time of going to the brother’s shop and all that. As for the Cheese Shop sketch, it ends stupidly. But I must admit it’s brilliant when Cleese loses it with the musicians.

What works best for me now is when episodes hang together. I didn’t know what to make of “The Cycling Tour” when I was young, but now it is one of my favorite episodes. It reminds me very much of what Palin and Jones would go on to do in Ripping Yarns. But the main thing is that in any episode — Any! — there is a tremendous amount to love. And then, of course, they went on to make three great films. Although, if you ask me, they’re horrible live.