Thursday, February 25, 2010
The New York Times reports that Glenn Beck, in his closing speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference described "progressivism" as a cancer, "the disease in America." Let there be no doubt that this is nothing more than the stench of fascism, which relies on treating one's political opponents as what Carl Schmitt, the great (I use that word advisedly) Weimar political theorist (who ended up supporting Hitler's takeover in 1933), termed "enemies" who were viewed ultimately as subhuman (as "cancers" are), ulutimately fit to be eradicated "by any means necessary. Forget Newt Gingrich, who also spoke, and who, by contemporary standards, is almost a reasonable elder statesman of the GOP, actually willing to work, on occasion, with Hillary Clinton. The voice of way too much of contemporary "conservatism" (the scare quotes are also deliberate, because it is an insult to "conservatives" to say that they are necessarily fascists, is fascistic. Beck and his ilk feel free to call on Democrats to denounce anyone who strays from a quite narrow "political correctness." Jessie Jackson is still being criticized, after his many apologies, for his "hymietown" remark of 1984. God help us if Barack Obama were ever discovered to have written a term paper at Occidental in which he argued that there might be something to be said for "socialism." But Republicans say nothing. They are truly "useful idiots," who are counting on their ability to rein in Glenn Beck (and Sarah Palin) before they destroy the country. It is past time for Republicans to be called on whether or not they tolerate millions of their fellow citizens being called "cancers" and "diseases." We are indeed in a true moment of cultural and political warfare, in which Glenn Beck has made very clear that he has no regard whatsoever for the most basic notions of civility (which begin by granting the possibility that one's opponents simply disagree rather than are "cancers" to be ripped out of the body politic). What "Beckism" presages is more terrorist violence like that conducted in Austin, Texas, where a demented citizen flew into an IRS building and killed a true American "hero" a/k/a known as a public servant who had dedicated his life to tax collection. One might remember that Justice Holmes called taxes "the price we pay for civilization." Part of our move toward fascism is to view as "heroes" only those who carry guns and are prepared to risk their lives while preparing to inflict fatal violence on others. We must recognize that all public servants are, in their own ways, "heroes." The Republican Party for the past generation has systematically viewed all public servants, save for the military, as chumps, who if they had any real talent, would be working in the private sector (perhaps in Goldman Sachs, etc.). I truly fear for our country.
One has to test oneself to see that one is destined for independence and command--and do it at the right time. One should not doge one's tests, though they may be the most dangerous game one could play and are tests that are taken in the end before no witness or judge but ourselves.Not to remain stuck to a person--not even the most loved--every person is a prison, also a nook. Not to remain stuck to a fatherland--not even if it suffers most and needs help most--it is less difficult to sever one's heart from a victorious fatherland. Not to remain stuck to some pity--not even for higher men into whose rare torture and helplessness some accident allowed us to look. Not to remain stuck to a science--even if it should lure us with the most precious finds that seem to have been saved up precisely for us. Not to remain stuck to one's own detachment, to that voluptuous remoteness and strangeness of the bird who flees ever higher to see ever more below him--the danger of the flier. Not to remain stuck to our own virtues and become as a whole the victim of some detail in us, such as our hospitality, which is the danger of dangers for superior and rich souls who spend themselves lavishly, almost indifferently, and exaggerate the virtue of generosity into a vice. One must know hot to conserve oneself: the hardest test of independence.
Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Friends of the Department of Philosophy,I am extremely pleased to announce that Dr. Eric Wilson will be joining the Department of Philosophy in Fall of 2010. Dr. Wilson works on modern philosophy, especially Kant. He is currently an Assistant Professor at Loyola University (Maryland). He earned his PhD in 2007 from Emory University and has already published five articles. He received a Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst grant, and won The Review of Metaphysics' 2007 Dissertation Essay Competition. We are thrilled that a scholar of Dr. Wilson's caliber will be joining us this fall!
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Diplomats say the moves by Mr Karzai to increase his control over the ECC may also reflect a broader aim of increasing Afghan control of state institutions in which foreign advisers have come to play an increasingly prominent role. The presence of three foreigners on an election monitoring body is an unusual arrangement that stems from Afghanistan’s highly donor-dependent status.
Mr Karzai’s move to take control of the ECC by using powers to issue decrees granted under the Afghan constitution has come as particular surprise to diplomats who had hoped a major conference in London last month would lead to a renewed partnership between the president and his international backers.
Any repeat of the kind of rigging that marred the presidential polls at September’s legislative elections would be a setback for western attempts to stabilise Afghanistan by committing more troops and civilian officials to try to undermine the Taliban.
Diplomats say Mr Karzai felt personally affronted by the ECC’s decision to strike out his election victory, which he believed he had earned in spite of the evidence of massive ballot-stuffing in many parts of the country. The election crisis sparked a nine-week political crisis at a time when Afghanistan and its allies were struggling to roll back a growing Taliban insurgency.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
It is appropriate for reporters to call attention to statements by politicians are that strange or wrong. Reporters had no problem going on at great length about then Senator Obama's reference to "bitter" white working class voters.
In the same vein, the NYT should have pointed out that Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty was not making sense when he complained about the stimulus package:
“We’re going to take a dollar from you in the private sector, bring it into government, spin it around, take 5 to 20 percent for overhead, and redeploy it into the private economy and call that growth.”
Of course the government is not taking money from the private sector. The stimulus cut taxes. The borrowing also did not pull money away from the private sector, banks have more than $800 billion in excess reserves and interest rates are at historically low levels. In other words, Pawlenty's comments indicated that he either didn't know what he was talking about or didn't care. The new story should have pointed this out to readers who may not be as familiar with economics.
Dear Friends,I'm looking forward to joining Chairman Thomas and all the Clayton County Democrats tonight at 7:00 at the Morrow Municipal Building.I'm honored to have the opportunity to address the crowd and to have the opportunity to meet everyone in attendance one-on-one. So bring your families and your friends and let's work together to keep the Office of the Attorney General a blue seat in November!Sincerely,Rob Teilhet
Representative of the 40th House District and Chief Deputy Whip
Candidate for Attorney GeneralVisit our campaign on the web at www.robforgeorgia.com
the bourgeoisie launched a successful war on a troublesome working class in the late 1970s and early 1980s. That assault – wage-cutting, speedup, deregulation, outsourcing, union-busting, cutbacks in the welfare state, all the familiar stuff gathered under the name of neoliberalism – created a problem for a system dependent on high levels of mass consumption both to maintain aggregate demand and to secure its political legitimacy. Why put up with the volatility and tsurris of American life if there’s no promise of plentiful gadgetry and upward mobility? So the answer was to counter the downdraft of falling wages with rising borrowing, via credit cards and mortgages. That model seemed to hit a wall in the recent economic crisis, but there’s no real recognition of that fact, and no new model for accumulation. In orthodox terms, the U.S. would be ready for a serious austerity program, but our ruling class is afraid to push too hard on that, at least for now. So I think we’re going to stumble along for some time until some new economic and political model emerges. Or if one doesn’t emerge, maybe we’ll just fall apart.
In a now famous conversation, Goethe retorted: "I pagan? Well, after all I let Gretchen be executed and Ottilie [in the Elective Affinities] starve to death; don't people find that Christan enough? What do they want that would be more Christian?" The sarcasm of this brief rebuttal crystallizes--more clearly than Nietzsche's excessive polemics--the contrast between the original "glad tidings" (evangel) and the resentful bourgeois morality which purports to be Christian even while it insists on throwing the first stone. This distinction must, of course, be kept in mind if one wants to understand Nietzsche's repudiation of Christ. His position cannot be understood--any more than can Kierkegaard's Attack on Christendom--unless one distinguishes between contemporary Christianity and the original gospel: and Nietzsche further differentiates between Jesus of Nazareth and the Christ of the creeds. Discrimination between these conceptions makes possible a clear and systematic exposition of Nietzsche's views. And such an account cannot be eschewed here: for Nietzsche's position is so intimately related to the rest of his thought that his philosophy cannot be understood fully apart from it.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Please note that our next meeting will take place on Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 7:30pm at the Henry County Government Annex. At this meeting, we will be holding special elections for First Vice Chair. In an effort to abide by the Party's bylaws, potential candidates that are female are encouraged to run.If you are interested in running for First Vice Chair, please be prepared to discuss your ideas on moving the Party forward. You will have a limited amount of time to put forth these ideas so please plan accordingly. Each person who is interested in running for this position will have an opportunity to speak upon nomination. Voting will take place once each candidate has had the opportunity to speak.
Please feel free to ask any questions about this upcoming election. Look forward to seeing you there!Thanks,
Jarrett A. Bell
ATLANTA - Legislators may technically be "in recess" this week and next, but that doesn't mean playing or even the adult version of time off. Instead, it means intense scrutiny of the state's beleaguered budget.
By technically recessing, the leaders of the General Assembly have actually given themselves more time to focus on the budget without the distractions of other types of legislation, or the parade of beauty queens and high school athletes receiving recognition and chambers of commerce hosting luncheons and receptions.
The House and Senate appropriationscommittees will take the unusual step of meeting together daily in the middle of the session to go over the $18 billion budget line by line with the agency heads requesting the money. Most other committees won't be allowed to meet, other than those considering bills on taxes, water conservation and transportation.
A third of the House serves on the appropriations committee, and just more than half the Senate. The House Transportation Committee has 36 members, Ways & Means 28 and Natural Resources 30. So, it's not like every lawmaker will be idle.
"We have a difficult, difficult budget task in front of us," said House Majority Leader Jerry Keen.
His Senate counterpart predicted lawmakers will go beyond merely cutting.
"I believe what we are facing today, what we are facing over the next two years, is going to call for us to go beyond simply the appropriations process to look at other statutory changes that are necessary, and that opens up an entire spectrum of possible answers," said Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers.
One idea gaining steam is to "raid the University System" by moving those appropriations to other agencies, because colleges have the option of raising tuition. With record enrollment and tuition currently among the lowest in the nation, the schools could squeeze more out of parents, the thinking goes.
"I suspect that higher education will be called on to contribute to the shortfall," said Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill.
Regular sessions of the full House and Senate resume March 8.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Anyways I had to send in the draft as the deadline will pass... so here it is in case I lose it between now and home or if (the prof. can't download the attach i'm about to email her). Anyways as always feel free to email me thoughts (though snarky comments and spelling, typos, and struture can be kept to oneself... disney world working drafts should be expected to be in even more disarray than normal working drafts....) Jim
Okay so trying to write a paper in the car through southern snow storms, late night maxxed out coffee lobby excursion in Ocala Florida, and a few hours of hotel time as the wife and nephew trounce around disney world is not the way to write anything poorly--let alone writing anything well.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
The Tea Partiers: Fraudulent Fiscal Conservatives
Tax Cut Era Is Over Dave Stockman Just Said
House GOP Medicare Elimination Plan Puts Conservatives in a Pickle
Time Is Not On Our Side
Conservative media preemptively attack Obama's bipartisan health care summit
On his way out the door, Perdue has an idea
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility to Use That Power...
First, all evidence suggests that the Ryan budget is in fact what the great majority of the House Republican caucus believes and supports. It was the plan in 1994. It surfaced again with overwhelming support in 2005 and repeatedly, though with less fanfare, since then. And they have a very decent chance of becoming the majority party in the House next year. Second, and even more important, the Republicans have been running all year as the party to dramatically cut deficit spending. And the simple truth is that if you want to significantly move the needle on deficits and you rule out tax increases, you simply have no choice but to embrace a Ryan-like budget. There's no other way to get the kind of money they claim they're going to trim. No way.
And here's where you get to the essential political question and the issue that is likely to define 2010. In the second half of 2009, Republicans went very quickly -- perhaps a tad too quickly for their own good -- from a party seen as hopelessly in the wilderness to one with a very reasonable shot at becoming the governing party. And that's taken the rhetoric that was being thrown around easily and made it extremely relevant to find out whether they were serious about any of that rhetoric. Because again, it all comes down to this budget.
The political press seldom has much appetite for digging beneath the toplines or any of the policy specifics. But for the reasons, I stated above it's critical to know where Congressional Republicans stand on the Ryan Budget. It's just not enough to say they're not sure. The stakes are too critical.
In terms of the politics of 2010, the White House's main strategic aim is to change the political landscape from a referendum on Obama and the Democrats into a choice between Democratic and Republican agendas. To the extent that the issue stays Obama/Dems, Yes or No, in such a severe recession, that's catastrophic for the Democrats. A choice election is a very different thing.
So a key question for 2010 is going to be how effectively the White House is going to be able to do that and how effectively the Republicans will be able to keep their actual policy positions off the table -- which they're now desperately trying to do.
And on top of that, there's one more wrinkle. How much room does the White House have to frame the election around opposition to tampering with Social Security and Medicare? Possibly not quite so much as some assume. Contrary to what some people think, the move toward fiscal retrenchment didn't start with Scott Brown's victory or the president's sagging poll numbers at the end of the year. The White House was signaling much, much earlier that 2010 would be the year of fiscal retrenchment. And to that end the White House has strongly supported the fiscal/deficit commission supported by Sens. Conrad and Gregg. And the folks from that crowd are very big on major 'reforms' of entitlements. President Obama hasn't gone their directly. But he's cozied up pretty close. So another question to follow is just what policy and political decision the White House makes. Do they maintain the ambiguity in their own position on 'entitlements' or clarify that and draw a red line between where they are and where the Republicans stand?
On all these points, press failure to report the policies the Republicans are actually running on can pretty much be assumed. It's happening now. And House Republicans are already up in arms that they're being pressed on their support for privatizing Social Security and abolishing Medicare.
Voters need and deserve to know where each side stands on these issues. Because it's what is on the table in the 2010 election.
MW: The housing market is freefalling, setting new records every day for foreclosures, inventory, and declining prices. The banking system is in even worse shape, undercapitalized and buried under a mountain of downgraded assets. There seems to be growing consensus that these problems are not just part of a normal economic downturn, but the direct result of the Fed’s monetary policies. Are we seeing the collapse of the Central banking model as a way of regulating the markets? Do you think the present crisis will strengthen the existing system or make it easier for the American people to assert greater control over monetary policy?
Michael Hudson: What do you mean “failure”? Your perspective is from the bottom looking up. But the financial model has been a great success from the vantage point of the top of the economic pyramid looking down? The economy has polarized to the point where the wealthiest 10 percent now own 85 percent of the nation’s wealth. Never before have the bottom 90 percent been so highly indebted, so dependent on the wealthy. From their point of view, their power has exceeded that of any time in which economic statistics have been kept.
You have to realize that what they’re trying to do is to roll back the Enlightenment, roll back the moral philosophy and social values of classical political economy and its culmination in Progressive Era legislation, as well as the New Deal institutions. They’re not trying to make the economy more equal, and they’re not trying to share power. Their greed is (as Aristotle noted) infinite. So what you find to be a violation of traditional values is a re-assertion of pre-industrial, feudal values. The economy is being set back on the road to debt peonage. The Road to Serfdom is not government sponsorship of economic progress and rising living standards, it’s the dismantling of government, the dissolution of regulatory agencies, to create a new feudal-type elite.
Prominent members of the Pakistani Senate denounced Gates for setting up Pakistan as a sort of patsy and hostage to communal violence in India, and of fomenting a Washington-New Delhi 'conspiracy' against Islamabad. What if some Indian terrorist group carried out an attack in India? wasn't Gates giving New Delhi carte blanche, they asked, to blame Pakistan for it even in the absence of any evidence, and then to launch a war of aggression on Pakistan with the incident as a pretext?
The LAT said that "Gates, on the first day of a visit here, urged government officials to build on their offensives against militants . . ."
In fact, Gates was careful not to over-emphasize such demands, but there was a general public perception that he was doing so. The editorials in Urdu newspapers on Jan. 23, which the USG Open Source Center analyzed, complained bitterly about this further demand. Express sniffed that the US should establish security in Afghanistan and then everything would settle down in Pakistan's northwest. Khabrain rather cleverly pointed out that Pakistan has concentrated on limited territory in fighting its Taliban, which is wiser than the US policy of opening several fronts at once and getting bogged down.
Jang, which is mildly anti-American, said,
Describing Robert Gates' pro-Indian statements irresponsible, the editorial says: "It is believed that the political and military leaderships of Pakistan, with one voice, have made it clear to Gates and the titanic-size delegation accompanying him that in the present circumstances, it is not possible for Pakistan to accede to the persistent US demands of 'do more' and to further expand military operations in the tribal areas, because Pakistan not only has to secure the areas that it has taken control of from the militants but also has to strengthen and stabilize its position there."
Then the Pakistani military spokesman came out and flatly told Gates that the Swat and South Waziristan campaigns were it for now. The BBC reports, 'Maj Gen Abbas, head of public relations for the Pakistan army, told the BBC: "We are not going to conduct any major new operations against the militants over the next 12 months. . . The Pakistan army is overstretched and it is not in a position to open any new fronts. Obviously, we will continue our present operations in Waziristan and Swat." '
To be fair, the Pakistani military committed tens of thousands of troops to these two campaigns, in Swat and South Waziristan, and is in fact attempting to garrison the captured areas so as to prevent the return of the Pakistani Taliban. In the past two years, the Pakistani army has lost over 2,000 soldiers in such fighting against Taliban in the Northwest, a little less than half the troops the US lost in its 6-year Iraq War.
The Pakistani military campaigns of the past year, however, have not targeted those radical groups most active in cross-border raids into Afghanistan-- the Quetta Shura of Mullah Omar's Old Taliban, the Haqqani Network of Siraj Haqqani in North Waziristan, or whatever cells exist in Pakistan of the largely Afghanistan-based Hizb-i Islami (Islamic Party) of Gulbadin Hikmatyar. Washington worries that the effectiveness of its own troop escalation in Afghanistan will be blunted if these three continue to have havens on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line. And, Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani worries that the US offensive in Afghanistan will push thousands radicals over the border into Pakistan, further destabilizing the country's northwest.
Gates made a clumsy attempt to mollify Pakistani public opinion over the very unpopular US drone strikes on suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban cells in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, by offering the Pakistani military 12 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones of its own. But the Pakistani military pointed out that the outdated RQ-7 Shadow UAV's on offer were unarmed and merely for aerial reconnaissance, and maintained that Pakistan's arsenal already contained such drones.
Gates addressed the Pakistani cadets at the National Defense University, attempting to emphasize that he wanted more of these future officers to study in the US, and that Pakistan is in the driver's seat with regard to the anti-Taliban counter-insurgency campaign. Its message was largely missed in the civilian Urdu press.
Does it matter? One sometimes see Americans dismiss Pakistan as "small" or "unimportant." Think again. Pakistan is the world's sixth-largest country by population (170 million), just after Brazil (200 million). It is as big as California, Oregon and Washington state rolled together. Pakistan's 550,000-man military is among the best-trained and best-equipped in the global South. Pakistan has within it a middle class with a Western-style education and way of life (automobiles, access to internet and international media) of some 37 million -- roughly 5 million families. (Pakistan has over 5 million automobiles now and is an emerging auto producer and market, with auto production at 16 percent of its manufacturing sector). If we go by local purchasing power, it is the world's 27th largest economy. It is a nuclear power with a sophisticated if small scientific establishment, and produced a Nobelist in physics.
Gates went to Pakistan to emphasize to Islamabad that the US was not again going to abandon it and Afghanistan, as it had in the past. Pakistan, he wanted to say, is now a very long-term ally of Washington. He hoped for cooperation against the Haqqani, Taliban and Hizb-i Islami guerrillas. He wanted to allay conspiracy theories about US mercenary armies crawling over Pakistan, occasionally blowing things up (and then blaming the explosions on Pakistanis) in order to destabilize the country and manipulate its policies.
The message his mission inadvertently sent was that the US is now increasingly tilting to India and wants to put it in charge of Afghanistan security; that Pakistan is isolated; that he is pressuring Pakistan to take on further counter-insurgency operations against Taliban in the Northwest, which the country flatly lacks the resources to do; and that Pakistani conspiracy theories about Blackwater were perfectly correct and he had admitted it.
For those of you who don’t know, Georgia has some of the most restrictive ballot access laws in the United States. According to Ballot Access News, the laws were passed in 1943 to keep the Communist Party off the ballot.
According to Georgia Code (§ 21-2-170), in order to get on the ballot a candidate must turn in petitions equaling 5 percent of the registered voters from the district he plans to run in. If a candidate plans to run statewide, he must get signatures from 1 percent of registered voters in the state. It’s something most people aren’t even aware of and when asked to sign many react by saying, “This is America, you shouldn’t have to do this.”
The 1 percent rule also applies to parties attempting to get their candidates name on the ballot, and if they do get a line on the ballot, they are still not a “party” as defined by Georgia law, they are a “political body” and they receive 1 percent of the registered vote in any statewide race to maintain that status. In order to receive an automatic ballot line for all candidate and party status, a candidate for governor or president must receive 20 percent of the popular vote in a general election.
The Libertarian Party is the only third party that has been able to obtain political body status in Georgia. The Constitution Party and Green Party have little to no presence in the state.
If you’re running statewide, you’ll need roughly 53,000 signatures (going by figures from 11/08). If you’re running for Congress, and I’ll use the Third Congressional District for this example, you’ll need roughly 24,000 signatures. Keep in mind that each of these signatures must be validated by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, so you need a buffer of several thousand signatures, just in case they toss out signatures.
It’s quite a tedious task, which is why you don’t see anyone running for Congress as a third party candidate in Georgia. In fact, no third party or independent candidate has run for Congress in Georgia since 1964 (excluding special elections). It’s also why only well-funded (Ross Perot) or well-known (Pat Buchanan) independent candidates have been able to qualify for president in our state.
State Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth) has proposed legislation, SB 359, would give political bodies, such as the Libertarian Party, a ballot line for statewide and down ticket races (local and legislative) provided they can maintain the 1 percent of registered voters requirement for statewide races.
The legislation would also allow for political bodies to endorse a major party candidate running for public office. This is known as electoral fusion. Several states use a form of it, the most well known being New York. For example, the Conservative Party in the state has endorsed Republican Party candidates often. Shafer’s bill would allow basically the same thing.
Will it pass? It’s unlikely, but if it did, I’m sure third parties would see it as a step in the right direction.
Governor Perdue announced the introduction of several pieces of legislation aimed at educational reform today.
SB 386, sponsored by Sen. Don Balfour, would increase pay for high performing teachers and principals. Performance would be calculated through a new, statewide evaluation tool that would take into account student improvement as well as peer reviews.
Rep. Matt Ramsey has introduced HB 1121 and HB 1111 which provide for penalties for anyone who tampers with or facilitates cheating on tests required by the State Department of Education.
“This legislation rewards our All-Star teachers through higher pay,” said Senator Balfour. “These teachers go all the way for our students and should be rewarded appropriately.”
Current teachers and principals would have the choice to opt into the enhanced pay model under the proposed legislation. The legislation would require the State Board of Education to adopt a common, statewide evaluation tool that takes student improvement into account in addition to peer observation of planning and instruction when assessing teachers and leaders by July 1, 2011. Using this tool, the state will calculate an Effectiveness Measure which will allow for increased pay for the state’s most effective educators.
Already twenty-three local school districts making up 41 percent of Georgia’s public school students have committed to a similar compensation model through the state’s federal Race to the Top application. The state will implement best practices from those districts in developing and implementing the statewide system.
The Governor also announced today that State Rep. Matt Ramsey, a Floor Leader in the House, is introducing HB 1121 and HB 1111, legislation that will ensure the integrity of the state’s education data.
“We must ensure integrity in our tests. This becomes even more important when we tie teacher evaluations to student improvement,” said Governor Perdue. “Valid data is the key to making good public policy decisions and developing a credible system of rewarding our top educators.”
For test cheaters, state Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), a House floor leader, filed two bills, HB 1121 and HB 1111. Taken together, the bills would make it unlawful to knowingly tamper with state tests or help students or other educators cheat on them. Violators would be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to the loss of their pensions. Cheaters could also be fined. They would continue to face sanction by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, a state agency that polices teaching credentials.
No law in Georgia currently makes it a crime to cheat on state academic tests, a circumstance that came to a head last year when state officials found tampering on state tests taken in summer 2008 at four Georgia elementary schools. The state investigation came after an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of improbable gains at some schools on tests taken first in spring and then in summer. State officials later threw out those schools' scores. The scandal also led to sanctions against 13 educators, who officials banned from public schools for between 90 days and two years for their actions.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Sunday, February 7, 2010
If the jobs report confounded investors Friday, problems in the European Union scared them. The problem isn't so much that a nation defaults on its sovereign debt — the bonds that individual countries issue — but that such a default could trigger a chain reaction of global panic similar to what happened after the bankruptcy of U.S. investment giant Lehman Brothers in September 2008.
That scenario would add to the hurt on American shores, since it would slow the global economy, bring more bank losses and hurt U.S. exports.
Even without a panic, weaker European economies such as Spain's and Portugal's already face a credit crisis as they're hit with higher borrowing costs because investors consider them riskier bets.
An economic slowdown in Europe would hurt Main Street America because exports have been one of the few drivers of economic growth, and Europe is a chief buyer of everything from farm products to expensive U.S. technology.
RNC Chairman Michael Steele and former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN) held a joint appearance Thursday night at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. When the debate turned to President Obama’s plan to let the Bush tax cuts expire on families making over $250,000, Steele “joke[d]” that that wasn’t very much money:
The two often traded jokes, especially when Steele panned President Barack Obama’s long-stated plan to let income tax rates return to higher levels for families making more than $250,000 a year.
“Trust me, after taxes, a million dollars is not a lot of money,” Steele said.
Ford later asked the audience of mostly college students, “Who in here makes a million dollars a year?”
“How many of you want to make a million dollars a year?” Steele quickly responded when no hands were raised.
Of course, to most Americans, $250,000 — let alone a million — is “a lot of money.” The median household income is about $52,000 and only two percent of Americans make $250,000 or more. Fewer than half-a-percent make more than a million dollars. “After taxes,” someone making a million dollars can still expect to keep about $675,000.
Yet Steele is not alone in his out-of-touch assertion. Hate radio host Rush Limbaugh — who reportedly makes about $50 million a year — also recently argued that “$250,000 is not wealthy.” And like Limbaugh, we can “trust” Steele about high income. In addition to his $223,500-a-year RNC post, Steele charges between $8,000 and $20,000 for personal speaking engagements. Indeed, the University paid Steele and Ford a combined $40,000 for Thursday’s event.
Steele’s claim reflects a larger conservative attempt to falsely claim that tax hikes for the very wealth will hurt the middle class.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Defeat in the Massachusetts senatorial election has deprived America’s Democrats of the 60 votes needed to pass health-care reform and other legislation, and it has changed American politics – at least for the moment. But what does that vote say about American voters and the economy?
It does not herald a shift to the right, as some pundits suggest. Rather, the message it sends is the same as that sent by voters to President Bill Clinton 17 years ago: “It’s the economy, stupid!” and “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” Indeed, on the other side of the United States from Massachusetts, voters in Oregon passed a referendum supporting a tax increase.
The US economy is in a mess – even if growth has resumed, and bankers are once again receiving huge bonuses. More than one out of six Americans who would like a full-time job cannot get one; and 40% of the unemployed have been out of a job for more than six months.
As Europe learned long ago, hardship increases with the length of unemployment, as job skills and prospects deteriorate and savings gets wiped out. The 2.5-3.5 million foreclosures expected this year will exceed those of 2009, and the year began with what is expected to be the first of many large commercial real-estate bankruptcies. Even the Congressional Budget Office is predicting that it will be the middle of the decade before unemployment returns to more normal levels, as America experiences its own version of “Japanese malaise.”
As I wrote in my new book Freefall, President Barack Obama took a big gamble at the start of his administration. Instead of the marked change that his campaign had promised, he kept many of the same officials and maintained the same “trickle down” strategy to confront the financial crisis. Providing enough money to the banks was, his team seemed to say, the best way to help ordinary homeowners and workers.
When America reformed its welfare programs for the poor under Clinton, it put conditions on recipients: they had to look for a job or enroll in training programs. But when the banks received welfare benefits, no conditions were imposed on them. Had Obama’s attempt at muddling through worked, it would have avoided some big philosophical battles. But it didn’t work, and it has been a long time since popular antipathy to banks has been so great.
Obama wanted to bridge the divides among Americans that George W. Bush had opened. But now those divides are wider. His attempts to please everyone, so evident in the last few weeks, are likely to mollify no one.
Deficit hawks – especially among the bankers who laid low during the government bailout of their institutions, but who have now come back with a vengeance – use worries about the growing deficit to justify cutbacks in spending. But these views on how to run the economy are no better than the bankers’ approach to running their own institutions.
Cutting spending now will weaken the economy. So long as spending goes to investments yielding a modest return of 6%, the long-term debt will be reduced, even as the short-term deficit increases, owing to the higher tax revenues generated by the larger output in the short run and the more rapid growth in the long run.
Trying to “square the circle” between the need to stimulate the economy and please the deficit hawks, Obama has proposed deficit reductions that, while alienating liberal democrats, were too small to please the hawks. Other gestures to help struggling middle-class Americans may show where his heart is, but are too small to make a meaningful difference.
Three things can make a difference: a second stimulus, stemming the tide of housing foreclosures by addressing the roughly 25% of mortgages that are worth more than the value the house, and reshaping our financial system to rein in the banks.
There was a moment a year ago when Obama, with his enormous political capital, might have been able to achieve this ambitious agenda, and, building on these successes, go on to deal with America’s other problems. But anger about the bailout, confusion between the bailout (which didn’t restart lending, as it was supposed to do) and the stimulus (which did what it was supposed to do, but was too small), and disappointment about mounting job losses, has vastly circumscribed his room for maneuver.
Indeed, there is even skepticism about whether Obama will be able to push through his welcome and long overdue efforts to curtail the too-big-to-fail banks and their reckless risk-taking. And, without that, more likely than not, the economy will face another crisis in the not-too-distant future.
Most Americans, however, are focused on today’s downturn, not tomorrow’s. Growth over the next two years is expected to be so anemic that it will barely be able to create enough jobs for new entrants to the labor force, let alone to return unemployment to an acceptable level.
Unfettered markets may have caused this calamity, and markets by themselves won’t get us out, at least any time soon. Government action is needed, and that will require effective and forceful political leadership.