Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ezra Klein Reminds Us That Conservatives Had Permed Mullets

Ezra Klein reminds us that conservatives  had permed mullets. He wrote:

Of course, this battle isn’t really about the constitutionality of the individual mandate. Members of the Republican Party didn’t express concerns that the individual mandate might be an unconstitutional assault on liberty when they devised the idea in the late 1980s, or when they wielded it against the Clinton White House in the 1990s, or when it was passed into law in Massachusetts in the mid-2000s. Indeed, Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), arguably the most conservative Republican in the Senate, touted Romney's reforms as a model for the nation. Only after the mandate became the centerpiece of the Democrats’ health-care bill did its constitutionality suddenly become an issue.

More on The Broccoli Argument

From Beverly Mann:
The answer to the title’s question—Can your state mandate that you buy broccoli or join a gym?—depends upon which of the two possible grounds the 5-4 Supreme Court majority overturns the ACA’s individual-mandate provision.  And which grounds the majority selects also will determine whether under the Court’s new “liberty” jurisprudence, Social Security and Medicare also are unconstitutional. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Republican Party: Adios Alexander Hamilton?

I think if you read some Nineteenth Century history, you will discover that the Republican Party, in those days, was heavily influenced by the ideas of Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton had a very heavy influence on the old Whig Party, particularly on some of its leaders like Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. When the Whig Party died out, many former Whigs joined the newly formed Republican Party. The old Whigs had a great amount of influence on the early Republican Party's economic thinking. In short, the Republican Party was the party of Alexander Hamilton in the Nineteenth Century.

The Broccoli Argument

Conservatives argue that if Congress could require a person to buy health insurance, then Congress could also require a person to buy broccoli as well. Hence, the individual mandate must not be constitutional. This is known as the "broccoli argument", which is a favorite of the John Birch Society Tea Party.

Graf Generalfeldmarschall Mitt von Romney On Things Military

The Mittster says:
"The most extraordinary thing that's happened with this military authorization is the president is planning on cutting $1 trillion out of military spending," Romney said. "Our Navy is smaller than it's been since 1917. Our Air Force is smaller and older than any time since 1947. We are cutting our number of troops. We are not giving the veterans the care they deserve. We simply cannot continue to cut our Department of Defense budget if we are going to remain the hope of the Earth. And I will fight to make sure America retains military superiority."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Baron Generalfeldmarschall Paul von Ryan Tells Service Chiefs They Are All Wrong

Just because you went to West Point, the Naval Academy, or the Air Force Academy and rose through the ranks to become a general or admiral, don't be thinkin you're smarter than Paul Ryan, the Republican Party's "big thinker".  See Ryan read Atlas Shrugged, and you didn't, so that makes him smarter than you in all things.

Why Top Marginal Rates Don't Matter That Much

The idea that lower top marginal tax rates will produce greater economic growth seems plausible enough.  I guess that is why so many people think that tax cuts to top marginal rates are the road to the promised land. But, here is the problem for the "tax cuts all the time every time" crowd. There doesn't seem to be a lot of evidence that economic growth is affected much by what the top marginal rates are. If cutting top marginal tax rates are so effective, then why did the economy perform so poorly under the Bush years? And why did the economy do fairly well under President Clinton when the top marginal rates were increased?

There Is No Social Security Crisis

One of the things that makes me really angry is when politicians, usually of the Republican variety, conflate the problems of Medicare with Social Security.  Medicare has some big problems, and we have a lot of work to do in order to fix it. But, Social Security has only a few minor problems. In other words, there is no crisis with Social Security.

Austerity In England: Last Quarter In 2011 Revised Downward

From Bloomberg:

Britain's economy shrank by more than anticipated in the fourth quarter of last year as households reined in their spending, official figures showed Wednesday. 
The Office for National Statistics said Britain's economy contracted by a quarterly rate of 0.3 percent between October and December, up from the previous estimate of a 0.2 percent decline. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Video of George Zimmerman After Arrest

Here is a video of George Zimmerman after his arrest.

video platform video management video solutions video player

Source is ABC News.

Is The Issue Over The ACA Really About Substantive Due Process?

Most of us, who have been following the ACA litigation, see the case as being about the Commerce Clause. In other words, the debate has been about whether the individual mandate is permissible under the power granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause. Beverly Mann, however, has an interesting and different take on the litigation over the ACA. She says that is not really about the Commerce Clause, but it is instead about the Substantive Due Process under the Fifth Amendment.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

Here are some comments over at Faux News about the Trayvon Martin case:
1. Zimmerman felt threatened by Martin’s gang’s actions…this could have possibly lead to these terrible circumstances. Gang violence MUST BE STOPPED OBAMA!
Huh? Was there any allegation that Trayvon was participating in any sort of gang activities? Not any that I have heard of.   
2. Gated communities exist because people are afraid….& negros thrive on crime…Look at our prisons.
Stereotype much? 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grand Old Platitudes: Healthcare Edition

Harry Truman once said that the GOP stood for "Grand Old Platitudes". Apparently, not much has changed since Harry's day, except for the fact that the GOP has become much more right wing, since he was president. Whenever the issue of healthcare comes up, Republicans like to argue that the "market knows best", which is, of course, one of their favorite platitudes. 

Can Stimulus Boost Long Term Growth?

One of the criticism against Keynesian style stimulus is that it increases long term debt. The extra long term debt, it is argued, acts as a drag on future economic growth. Accordingly, conservatives argue that fiscal stimulus is not wise in the long term. Keynesians often respond to this criticism by quoting Keynes who said "in the long run we're all dead."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Unfortunately Zimmerman Has A Strong Legal Defense

There is no doubt in my mind that George Zimmerman acted irresponsibly. And because he acted irresponsibly, Trayvon Martin is dead. Because of Trayvon's death, it seems to many people that it must be the case that Zimmerman is criminally liable.

But, here is the thing. Whether Zimmerman has any criminal liability depends on what the law in Florida actually says and not what seems to be just. There are too many people deciding Zimmerman's criminal liability without looking at the law first.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Admitting That Austerity Is Not Working In Europe

European austerity has been pretty much a disaster. Of course, liberal economist have long been leery of austerity. But, right leaning economist have often extolled the virtues of austerity as means of combating Europe's current economic problems. So, it is nice to see at least one right leaning economist admit that austerity has not been successful.

The Etch-A-Sketch Flim Flam Ticket

America's most famous randroid, Paul Ryan, says he would consider being Mitt Romney's running mate. If the Etch-A-Sketch Flim Flam ticket were to get elected, then I guess its hello Nineteenth Century.

Here is the video of the flim flam man himself being interviewed by Chris Wallace:

Source is Crooks and Liars.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Who Exactly Are The 'Elites' And How Do They Vote?

"The elites" are a favorite bogeyman of conservatives. Of course, conservatives never really define what they mean by the term "elites".  That is because what most people think the term "elites" means is different from what conservatives mean by the term. The average person thinks that wealthy people are the elites. To conservatives, however, the "elites" are academics, intellectuals, and government workers. The "little guy" in conservative world is corporations and the wealthy. By never explicitly defining what they mean by the term "elites", conservatives are able to portray themselves as good old fashion populist. Conservatives are the masters at playing semantic games. 

So who do the wealthy tend to vote for? And how about the well educated? Professor of Statistics and Political Science, Andrew Gelman, has studied the data, and he concludes that the wealthy do tend to vote Republican. Voting patterns by education is a bit more complicated, according to Professor Gelman's analysis, but even controlling for education, wealthy people tend to vote Republican.

Professor Gelman writes:

Within any education category, richer people vote more Republican. In contrast, the pattern of education and voting is nonlinear. High school graduates are more Republican than non-HS grads, but after that, the groups with more education tend to vote more Democratic. At the very highest education level tabulated in the survey, voters with post-graduate degrees lean toward the Democrats. Except for the rich post-graduates; they are split 50-50 between the parties.
What does this say about America’s elites? If you define elites as high-income non-Hispanic whites, the elites vote strongly Republican. If you define elites as college-educated high-income whites, they vote moderately Republican.
There is no plausible way based on these data in which elites can be considered a Democratic voting bloc. To create a group of strongly Democratic-leaning elite whites using these graphs, you would need to consider only postgraduates (no simple college grads included, even if they have achieved social and financial success), and you have to go down to the below-$75,000 level of family income, which hardly seems like the American elites to me.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hoodie Did it, Ya That's It

I always thought that Geraldo Rivera wasn't a bad guy and that he was one of the few people over at Faux News that had some brains. So, I was really horrified when Rivera tried to blame Trayvon Martin's death on the hoodie that Trayvon was wearing.

When Austerity Is Defeating and When It Is Not

Matt Yglesias has a pretty good article about austerity. He explains when austerity makes sense and when it does not. Here is the link.

Well Known Legal Scholar Michelle Malkin Opines Health Care Law Uncositutional

As far as I know, Michelle Malkin is no expert on the Constitution. She has never been to law school, nor, as far as I can tell, has she developed any sort of reputation as being a well respected and knowledgeable authority on Constitutional Law.

Malkin fancies herself as a great constitutional scholar. According to her, the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional because it is government overreach. Yet the internment of all United States citizens of Japanese descent into concentration camps was just perfectly fine. No constitutional problems there.

I wonder how she arrives at her most astute legal opinions. Maybe she consults with the legal scholars over at Glenn Beck University.

Soure is Media Matters.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Do Republicans Really Hate Big Gubment?

From the rhetoric that comes from Republican politicians, it seems that your average Republican voter hates just about everything government does, except for national defense and law enforcement. But, it turns out that things may not be so simple as the seem. There is some interesting data from that shows how Republican voters feel about government spending.

Here is the link.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Ayn Rand Debt Reduction Plan

Ayn Rand fan boy and perennial dork, Paul Ryan, is at it again. He has submitted another debt reduction plan. Apparently, he didn't learn a lesson from his last debt reduction plan. But, given the Democratic Party's history of lacking a back bone, I guess we can't really blame Washington's favorite Randanista for trying again.

The Democratic Party should tell the Republicans that anything that comes from Ryan is dead on arrival. They should tell the Republicans that there will be no negotiations and no deals over any budget submitted by Ryan.

Ryan is considered to be the "big" intellect of the Republican Party. Guess that is because he read Atlas Shrugged.

Ryan's budget is fraught, of course, with the same old conservative and Supply Side cliches that we have all heard before. Tax cuts for the rich are the solution to all our problems because, you know, that worked so well under George W. Bush. And of course the poor are poor because they are lazy and lack virtue. The economic hardship, that many former members of the middle class are facing, is not due to the malfeasance of Wall Street. Because in Ryan's world view, John Galt can never be wrong, since being rich means you're virtuous and being virtuous means you shall be rich. In other words, A<=>A.

Commenting on Ryan's Randian view of the world, Robert Reich writes:
Well, I have news for Paul Ryan. Almost 23 million able-bodied people still can’t find work. They’re not being lulled into dependency. They and their families could use some help. Even if the economy continues to generate new jobs at the rate it’s been going the last three months, we wouldn’t see normal rates of unemployment until 2017. 
In other words, Ryan might want to check his premises.

An easy to understand analysis of Rand's budget (oops, I meant Ryans's budget) is given by Ezra Klein. Here is the link.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

John Calvin and Ayn Rand

What would happen if John Calvin and Ayn Rand got together and had unprotected sex? Answer: You would get Rick Santorum.

Santorum Doesn't Care About Unemployment

Sometimes, I can't think what to write about.  Writer's block sucks. But, there is an easy cure for it. All I got to do is look up Rick Santorum's most recent comments. Rick truly is "special".

Rick's latest comment is that he doesn't care about the unemployment rate. Because for Rick, things like pornography are a much bigger issue. The trouble for Rick is that most Americans really don't care if somebody watches Debbie Does Dallas, but they do care about unemployment.

Via Crooks and Liars, here is an excerpt from Rick's "I don't care about unemployment speech":
"I don’t care what the unemployment rate’s going to be,” he continued. “Doesn’t matter to me. My campaign doesn’t hinge on unemployment rates and growth rates. It’s something more foundational that’s going on. We have one nominee who says he wants to run the economy. What kind of conservative says that the president runs the economy? What conservative says I’m the guy, because of my economic experience, that can create jobs?”
Now, I know some conservative is going to protest and say,"but the gubment can't create jobs, only the private sector can". Yeah, um, like whatever. Just keep repeating the same old tired right wing platitudes. The type of people that make this sort of statement are the same people that think they understand economics because they read Atlas Shrugged. 

This is the kind of attitude that conservatives had back in the days of the Great Depression. And they wonder how they got their butt kicked by Franklin Roosevelt so many times.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rick Santorum - Sometimes He Wants To Be A Libertarian, But Other Times He Wants To Be A Theocrat

Rick Santorum, like most Republicans, loves to go on John Bircherish rants about "big gubment". According to Rick, the Affordable Care Act is the "Road To Serfdom", even though much of the ACA was lifted from the Heritage Foundation (who knew that the boys and gals down at the Heritage Foundation were a bunch of Marxist?). That's right, Rick Santorum hates big government, except, um, when it comes to what you do in the privacy of your bedroom.

See, Rick believes that pornography, and your access to it, is a big problem. In fact, it is one of the biggest problems facing America.  

From Talking Points Memo,
A recently added section on the candidate’s website declares that America is “suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography,” and laments that the “Obama Administration has turned a blind eye to those who wish to preserve our culture from the scourge of pornography and has refused to enforce obscenity laws.” The site goes on to say that the Justice Department “seems to favor pornographers over children and families.”
The reason why Rick hates Islamic radicals so much is not because he disagrees with them in substance. It's that Rick doesn't want them cuttin in on his action.  Rick wants to be America's theocrat-in-chief. He will be damned before he has to face any foreign competition.

So how do we explain the two sides of Rick, where one hand he wants to be a libertarian, but on the other hand he wants to be a theocrat? Oh, I got it, Rick must be one of those Ayn Rand Christians.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Economy Was Doing Well, So I Said "Cut Taxes", The Economy Was Doing Poorly, So I Said "Cut Taxes"

Most people, who pay attention to economic matters, know that Supply Side Economics has been an epic fail. Yet, it remains an article of faith with conservatives. To conservatives, a tax cut is the cure to all economic problems, at every time, and under all circumstances.

Conservatives believe that tax cuts produce significant shifts in the aggregate supply curve. The problem with the conservative tax cut gospel is that there is little evidence of tax cuts having much of an effect on the aggregate supply curve. 

In the New York Times, economist Christina Romer explains how conservative claims, about tax cuts, have little empirical support.

Romer writes:
I can’t say marginal rates don’t matter at all. They have some impact on reported income, and it’s possible they have other effects through subtle channels not captured in the studies I’ve described. But the strong conclusion from available evidence is that their effects are small. This means policy makers should spend a lot less time worrying about the incentive effects of marginal rates and a lot more worrying about other tax issues. 

Sorry Conservatives, But Claiming That Something Is "Unprecedented" Is Not A Good Legal Argument

This month, the Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments, challenging the Affordable Care Act. The legal challenges are, of course, part of the conservative strategy to put an end to health care reform.  The main issue before the court will be whether health care reform is permissible under the Commerce Clause. Conservatives are claiming that the Commerce Clause does not give Congress the power to legislate many of the key provisions in the health care law. The main provision that conservatives are trying to attack is the individual mandate.

The individual mandate is the provision that pretty much requires everybody to buy health insurance. Conservatives claim that, under the Commerce Clause, the Federal Government has never required people to buy a good or service. Therefore, according to conservative logic, the individual mandate is "unprecedented", and, accordingly, is unconstitutional.

But there is a problem for the conservatives' argument. The problem for conservatives is that the Supreme Court has usually turned a deaf ear to the line of argument that something is unconstitutional because it is allegedly "unprecedented". Earlier this week, law professor Adam Winkler explained that the Supreme Court has historically rejected similar doomsday rhetoric.

One thing that's not unprecedented, however, is an effort to invalidate a federal law by characterizing it as novel and revolutionary. Throughout American history, opponents of reform have used this argument to claim that innovative legislation fundamentally undermines the Constitution.
 The justices of the Supreme Court rarely buy into such overheated, sky-is-falling rhetoric. If they did, we'd still have a 19th century economy where corporations were largely immune to regulation, businesses could engage in racial discrimination, and industry could freely pollute our environment.
The only thing that I would add to Professor Winkler's astute comments is that the constitutionality of the individual mandate is strongly supported by the Raich case. The Raich case reaffirmed that Congress has broad powers under the Commerce Clause.

Finally, Professor Winkler notes that, in 1792, Congress required citizens to buy guns and ammunition in order to serve in the militia. You can read the text of the act here.

What Happened To "States' Rights" Rick?

I have noticed something about Rick Santorum. It seems that he often has to "clarify" prior statements. This guy just can't help but to put his foot into his mouth. Remember when Rick called the President a "snob" because, according to him, the President said he wanted everyone to go to college?  Of course, that is not what the President said.  Even other Republicans thought that Rick's snob comment was a bit much. Rick later tried to "clarify" his snob comment by saying that he meant to attack "big gubment", not the idea of young people getting more education. Yeah, like whatever Rick.

Rick's latest flare up of foot-in-mouth disease happened earlier this week over statements he made about Puerto Rico. Rick said that English should become Puerto Rico's official language, if it wanted to become a state. Not surprisingly, Rick's comments pissed off the Spanish speaking population in Puerto Rico, which, um by the way, has been speaking Spanish for hundreds of years.

Of course, attitudes like Rick's are the reason why America's Spanish speaking community is not very fond of the Republican Party.

Rick did try to do a partial "clarification" of his statement by later saying "we have a common language". Well no, actually we don't. Unlike most of early America, Puerto Rico was settled by Spanish speaking people, not English speaking people. Hence, the reason they have been speaking Spanish there for a long time.

Besides being wilfully obtuse to Puerto Rico's history and culture, Rick's statement also seemed to be pretty hostile to the concept of "States' Rights", which is so beloved by the Republican Party. If health care reform is a violation of "States' Rights", then surely dictates to the states, from Washington about what the official language is going to be, should be as well. Being a good Republican, we all know that Rick loves him some "States' Rights". So what was Rick thinking when he made his statement about Puerto Rico? Oh, he wasn't.

Rick's next statement will probably be something about why Louisiana should get rid of the Civil Code, since that is just a little too Frenchyish for "Real Americans".

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Yep, "Expansionary Austerity" Has Been A Disaster For Europe

The testing ground for Republican economic theories has been Europe. Rejecting Keynes, Europe embraced "expansionary austerity", hoping that the confidence fairy would appear to restore economic growth. Thus far, Europe's experiment in austerity has been a disaster.

Over at the Guardian, Polly Toynbee writes:
While UK growth stagnates, Obama's US grows by 2.2%. While the UK economy has shrunk 3.9% since the crash, the US has recovered all it lost, and more. As our unemployment rises, theirs falls. Stimulus works, austerity sucks out the air.
Yet, Republicans somehow think they are the ones who understand how the economy works.

Dana Loesch, Tries To Look Smart, But Ends Up Looking Dumb

Via Crooks and Liars, Dana Loesch thinks she understands how the First Amendment works. Twittering about birth control, she wrote:
Interesting. Birth Control is a "right" to the left. The actual 1st Amendment right of freedom of religion is not. Just as I said.
Now, I don't know whether if birth control is or is not a right. Maybe it is just good policy to ensure that all women have access to birth control, since most women do need to have access to it. However, whatever one thinks about the birth control issue, it is clear that Loesch and other conservatives don't understand how the Free Exercise Clause works. Under Loesch's interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause, it would be a violation of the constitution to criminalize drug use and to outlaw polygamy.

Contrary to what Loesch believes, the Free Exercise Clause is not violated by laws of general applicability. Maybe, Loesch should read what Justice Scalia, who is beloved by conservatives, had to say about the Free Exercise clause in Empolyment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872.

Quoting Justice Felix Frankfurter, Scalia wrote:
Conscientious scruples have not, in the course of the long struggle for religious toleration, relieved the individual from obedience to a general law not aimed at the promotion or restriction of religious beliefs. The mere possession of religious convictions which contradict the relevant concerns of a political society does not relieve the citizen from the discharge of political responsibilities. 
Scalia further wrote:

Subsequent decisions have consistently held that the right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes). 

Loesch has a history of saying stupid things. So stupid, in fact, that even Rush Limbaugh has, at least on one prior occasion, balked at her comments.

Back When John Galt Became A Follower Of Keynes

Most of us know that Franklin Roosevelt faced fierce opposition from the business community over the New Deal. Like the Republican Party of today, New Deal haters put their faith in the "confidence fairy". Although Roosevelt never fully committed to Keynesianism, he was constantly criticized over the budget deficits that his administration ran throughout the 1930s. Many in the business community advocated for balanced budgets as a crucial step to bringing about an economic recovery. But, here is the interesting thing, not all business leaders bought into the conventional wisdom about balanced budgets. Some actually advocated for increased government spending.

In a recent articleprofessor of historyKenneth Lipartito, explains that some leaders in the
business community actually advocated for increased government spending. He writes how one prominent business leader challenged the conventional thinking in the business community:
One of the more unexpected business voices for growth and spending was a Republican Mormon banker named Marriner Eccles. From a wealthy Utah family, Eccles had taken charge of his father's construction business and diversified into finance and other areas. His company survived the Depression, but he learned that austerity and savings were self-defeating. "In seeking individual salvation," he wrote, "we are contributing to collective ruin." The grim ironies of Depression economics had led him "face to face with the proposition that the only way we could get out of the depression was through government action." 
Professor Lipartito's article is a must read for students of the Great Depression. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What's Responsible For High Gas Prices?

We all know that Republicans will blame President Obama for high gas prices. Of course, they certainly have the incentive to do it, since most voters will probably blame the President for high gas prices, economic reality be damned. 

A recent article from The Seattle Times explains the reasons for the current high gas prices. Here are some key excerpts:
The international-oil market has tightened, not because of a single factor, such as U.S. drilling, but because a series of crises has shaved oil production or boosted demand worldwide. Together, they add up to a difference of about 1 million barrels a day in the global-oil balance.
Other issues have been raised that have little or nothing to do with current gas prices. Approving the Keystone XL pipeline, rejected by Obama with its current route, would not add to oil supplies; it would only add to the excess-pipeline capacity from Canada that is expected to last until 2016. 
Of course, we all know that this won't change the mind of the typical conservative because it comes from the "libural media". That is right conservatives, it is all one big conspiracy by the media and the experts to make you look bad. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Labor Market Still Not Favorable To Workers

Ezra Klein explains in his most recent article why wages are still stagnant. He explains:
There are still 3.7 job seekers for every available employment opportunity. That’s down considerably from the brutal 6.7-to-1 ratio seen in July, 2009. But as Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute points out , the current ratio is also higher than at any point during the 2001 downturn. Across just about every industry, competition remains intense for a limited number of jobs, which means that employers are under less pressure to offer higher pay in order to entice prospective workers.

Fonda, Steinem, and Morgan Wrong About Rushbo and The FCC

Let me make one thing clear. I think that Rushbo is a complete jackass. I loathe the ignorant stream of garbage that continually comes out of his mouth. He represents everything that I dislike about conservatism and the Republican Party. Yet, precisely because I am liberal, I defend Rushbo's right to speak, without being punished in any way, shape, or form by the government.

Goria Steinem, Jane Fonda, and Robin Morgan argue, in a joint opinion, that the FCC should shut down Rushbo. The thrust of their argument is that, since Rushbo says really mean and degrading things about people, it would be in the "public interest" to take him off the air. I vehemently disagree.

Some excerpts from the opinion:
Limbaugh doesn't just call people names. He promotes language that deliberately dehumanizes his targets. Like the sophisticated propagandist Josef Goebbels, he creates rhetorical frames -- and the bigger the lie, the more effective -- inciting listeners to view people they disagree with as sub-humans. His longtime favorite term for women, "femi-Nazi," doesn't even raise eyebrows anymore, an example of how rhetoric spreads when unchallenged by coarsened cultural norms.
If Clear Channel won't clean up its airways, then surely it's time for the public to ask the FCC a basic question: Are the stations carrying Limbaugh's show in fact using their licenses "in the public interest?" 
Spectrum is a scarce government resource. Radio broadcasters are obligated to act in the public interest and serve their respective communities of license. In keeping with this obligation, individual radio listeners may complain to the FCC that Limbaugh's radio station (and those syndicating his show) are not acting in the public interest or serving their respective communities of license by permitting such dehumanizing speech. 
Ok, it might be true that the airwaves are a "scarce government resource." That might support an argument, maybe, for the fairness doctrine. However, it does not support the idea that the government should silence people. I think it is fair to say that if there is one rule that sums up the way we apply the First Amendment in this country, it's the government may not restrict a person's speech based on the content of that person's speech.

Make no mistake, that if the FCC shuts Rushbo down, it would be the government punishing Rushbo for the content of his statements. The fact that the airwaves are a "scarce government resource" is irrelevant. Also, "public interest" can not mean restricting speech is permissible because the content of that speech is offensive.

We have long recognized in this country that the price we pay for our most precious right of free speech is that we may have to hear offensive and odious things that we don't want to hear. However, in return for that price, we greatly increase our chances of having a well functioning representative democracy, something that all liberals should care about. 

American Liberals have a proud history of being strong defenders of free speech, something that Fonda, Steinem, and Morgan should reflect upon, before they call for the heavy hand of government to silence Rushbo. Whenever a liberal is not sure of what he or she should do, in a given situation, a good place to always start is with Franklin Delano Roosevelt's four freedom speech. Roosevelt's four freedoms were:

  1. Freedom of speech and expression
  2. Freedom of worship
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear
Of course, FDR would not be the last liberal too have a strong commitment to free speech. After FDR died, his successor, Harry S. Truman, would veto the infamous McCarran Act because of free speech concerns, even at the risk of being labeled "soft on communism" by his political opponents. Truman would say that the McCarran Act was "the greatest danger to freedom of speech, press, and assembly since the Alien and Sedition Laws of 1798".

The liberal commitment to free speech did not stop with Harry Truman. Supreme Court Justices Hugo Black, Earl Warren, and William Brennan all showed strong commitments to a robust interpretation of the First Amendment. Also, the same with the ACLU, which has been considered to be a liberal organization.

Conservatives have always made bat shit crazy John Bircherish claims that liberals are out to destroy freedom. It's a claim that I vigorously dispute. In fact, I would argue that liberals have actually increased freedom in this country. But, if Fonda, Steinem, and Morgan had their way, right wing claims about liberals taking away freedom would be nearer to the truth. It would also turn Rushbo into a poster boy for the First Amendment, something no liberal should want to do.

Finally, Fonda, Steinem, and Morgan should realize that using the FCC to silence Limbaugh is not necessary. In the sphere of public opinion, Rushbo is losing massively. His sponsors are leaving him droves. There is simply no need for intervention by the FCC.

In short, having the FCC shut down Limbaugh is a terrible idea, and, in my view, it is a very unliberal thing to do.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The German Republican

I really don't like arguments based on so called "common sense". In fact, I recently wrote a post about it. Apparently, its not a phenomenon unique to Americans. While reading a paper from Henry Farrell and John Quiggin, I came across this speech from Angela Merkel back in 2008:

[The root of the crisis] is quite simple. One should simply have asked a Swabian housewife, here in Stuttgart, in Baden-Wurttemberg. She would have provided us with a short, simple, and entirely correct piece of life-wisdom: that we cannot live beyond our means. This is the core of the crisis. . . . Then why is the world in this di cult place? Well, we have too often put our trust in experts that were not really experts. Perhaps we did not know then that they were not experts, but we know it today. When we come together now to think about how one should answer these new global questions, we should put less faith in self-proclaimed experts, and instead follow one principle: the principle of common sense!
Sounds like Merkel got her speech straight out of the RNC. Not only was "common sense" the lynchpin of her argument, but she also made the "government is like a family of four" argument, so beloved by Republicans. 

The sad thing is that Merkel is a highly educated woman. In fact she is trained chemist. I wonder if she would be comfortable taking advice about chemistry from the Swabian housewife, based upon "common sense".

Sunday, March 11, 2012

From Sarah Palin World: A Black Man Wants To Return Us To Before The Civil War, Because, You Know, That Would Work Out So Well For Him

Poor little conservatives. It starting to look like that President Obama won't be defeated in the next election. Between the the big mouth of Rushbo and the clown show that is the Republican Party primary, it appears that Republican chances of taking back the White House are getting slimmer every day. What's a right winger to do? Sean KKKLannity knows! Its dust off an old tired right wing meme.

Last week, KKKlannity was again trying to paint President Obama as an extreme radical. To bolster his case, he called as an expert witness that great American historian and intellectual, Sarah Palin.

Via Crooks and Liars, Palin's most learned comments were:
Well, what we can glean from this is an understanding of why we are all on the road that we are on and it's based on what went into his thinking, being surrounded by radicals. He is bringing us back Sean to days that... you can harken back to days before the Civil War, when unfortunately too many Americans mistakenly believed that not all men were created equal. And it was the Civil War that began the codification of the truth here in America... yes, we are equal and we all have equal opportunities, not based on the color of your skin. 
You have equal opportunities to work hard and to succeed and to embrace the opportunities, god given opportunities to develop resources and work extremely hard and as I say, to succeed. 
Now, it has taken all these years for many Americans to understand that that gravity, that mistake, took place before the Civil War and why the Civil War had to really start changing America. What Barack Obama seems to want to do is go back to before those days when we were in different classes based on income, based on color of skin. 
Why are we allowing our country to move backwards instead of moving forward with that understanding that as our charters of liberty spell out for us, we are all created equally.

The reaction from Crooks and Liars sums up the situation well:
Yeah, that's the ticket. The amount of sheer projection here is just astounding, but that's just how they roll. Whatever our worst traits are, we're going to hurl them right back at the other side and hope the low information voters who watch this tripe are too stupid to know the difference.
Conservatives, keep believing that Palin is smart. Keep believing.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Striking Fear Into Republican Hearts

Just heard Lawrence O'Donnel ask "Joe The Plumber" about the math behind the 9-9-9 plan. "Joe The Plumber" said the question was "fear mongering". Yeah Joe, the fear was from you because somebody said something about math.

What Massive Stimulus?

Conservatives always argue that stimulus spending doesn't work to combat economic downturns. Their latest "proof", of course, is that the last stimulus didn't return the economy back to 5% unemployment with 5% yearly GDP growth. Unfortunately for conservatives, their "proof" does not disprove that fiscal stimulus is an effective policy response to recessions. Saying that the last fiscal stimulus didn't return us to a healthy economy is one thing. Saying that fiscal stimulus never works is quite another. Conservatives want us to make the inferential leap from saying that the last stimulus didn't return us to healthy economy to saying that fiscal stimulus never works. Sorry conservatives, but that is an analytical "bridge to far".

For those who believe that fiscal stimulus does work, there is little doubt that the fiscal stimulus of 2009 could have been better. The Obama administration made several political and economic errors, which resulted in the stimulus not being as effective as it could have been. One of the problems with the 2009 stimulus was that it was too small.

Despite conservative claims of the stimulus being "massive", it really wasn't . Professor Minzie Chinn explains why. The upshot of his analysis is to ask "massive" compared to what? 

"Common Sense" and Economics

I am not an economist by training. But, I have taken a great interest in economics over the last few years. I have ,therefore, tried to educate myself about it. My informal economics education has been conducted by reading textbooks, reading blogs devoted to economic issues, and trying to understand the academic work in the economics field.

While trying to better inform myself about economic matters, I often had to spend considerable mental energy in order to understand economic concepts. Economic topics like IS/LM diagrams, the Real Business Cycle, marginal utility theory, budget constraints, the money multiplier, and a host of other economic concepts were not obvious to me. In other words, they were not "common sense".

A big pet peeve of mine in any economic discussion is when somebody claims that something is "common sense". At times, there are people on the left who resort to describing some economic policy as being "common sense". But, most of the time, in my experience, the people who resort to describing some economic policy as being "common sense" are those of the Republican persuasion.

I think most people can agree that the Wealth of Nations was a major intellectual break through in economics. But if so much of economics is "common sense", then why is Wealth of Nations considered such a great work? And why did it take until 1776 for somebody to express the ideas set forth in the Wealth of Nations? I am pretty sure that Mercantilism seemed like it was "common sense" before the Wealth of Nations was published.

I am not saying that what we think of as being common sense is not useful. Certainly it is. It often keeps us from doing really stupid and dangerous things. For instance, common sense tells us not to put our hand in a fire, if we don't want to get burned.

But still there are several problems with appeals to common sense. For one, such appeals are often nothing more than a rhetorical device used to stop disagreement. When somebody says some fact or proposition is "common sense", they are usually trying to imply that the listener is not intelligent or somehow the listener is completely disconnected from common wisdom known to most people. The biggest problem, however,  with so called  "common sense" is that it relies on assumptions that people believe to be true, but which often have not been subjected to any rigorous analysis. Finally, another problem with so called common senses is that it is often "....the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen."

Understanding economic issues is not easy. It requires both a grasp of economic theory and the data that give those theories practical meaning in the real world. Appeals to "common sense" are almost always useless.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Let's Keep Rush Limbaugh Talking

It is probably fair to say that most people found Rushbo's comments about Sandra Fluke offensive. Many liberals see Rushbo's latest screw up as an opportunity to take Rushbo off the air.

But, I think it would it be a mistake for liberals to attempt to take Rushbo off the air. I know, my fellow liberals, that you probably think that I am crazy. But, hear me out before you decide that a take down of Rushbo would be good idea.

Limbaugh is not very bright. He can't help but to say something stupid and offensive. His comments don't only offend liberals. They offend most Americans, including moderates and even some Republicans. When Limbaugh talks, he usually ends up doing damage to the Republican Party. Liberals and Democrats should encourage Limbaugh to keep talking.

Limbaugh's latest comments about Ms. Fluke has turned many women against the Republican Party. But, November is a long way off, and American voters are not particularly known for their long term memories. Take Limbaugh off now and its likely that his stupid and offensive comments will forgotten in November. Keep Limbaugh on the air, and it is likely that he will keep saying stupid and offensive things right through the next election, which will hurt the Republican Party.

Also, there is another reason to keep Rushbo on the air. Given any situation, conservatives always have the remarkable ability to act like they are the victim, even when they are not. If Limbaugh was forced off the air, he would become a martyr for the right. Conservatives would claim that Rushbo's right to free speech was violated. Of course, Rushbo's free speech rights wouldn't be violated, since their would be no government action. But hey, conservatives are not going to let a constitutional argument get in the way of claiming they are the victim.

The bottom line is that Rushbo ends up hurting the Republican Party, when he runs his mouth.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Koch Brothers To The Cato Institute: "You have not been shilling hard enough for us."

Recently, a firestorm of controversy has hit the libertarian movement. The controversy began when the Koch Brothers decided to take over the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

The Cato Institute has always been a shill for corporations and the rich, under the guise of so called "libertarianism", the favorite intellectual weapon of some wealthy people who are hell bent on ending the legacy of the New Deal.

But apparently, the Koch Brothers felt the Cato Institute was not shilling hard enough for their tastes, so they filed a lawsuit against the Cato Institute, seeking control of the Cato Institute's governing board. Not all libertarians are particularly happy about the Koch Brothers blatant power grab. Apparently, some libertarians take their little libertarian rants about "freedom" seriously, and accordingly, they have no desire to be controlled by the Koch Brothers.

Some libertarians are so mad about the Koch Brothers' power grab, they are starting to question whether the Koch Brothers were ever really committed to the ideals of libertarianism or whether libertarianism was nothing but a convenient political philosophy for the Koch Brothers' to advance their own personal interest ( shocker! shocker!).

You can read more about the fight between the Koch Brothers and the Cato Institute, here.

I'm Back

I have not been able to keep this blog going for the last year because I have been very busy. However, things have slowed done some for me, so I plan to write more on this blog and to keep it updated on a regular basis.