Tag Archives: Imported

Some popular vote numbers for the primaries

I was curious about overall popular vote numbers for the primaries this year. I’ve seen a number of pieces, particularly at DailyKos (like this one) pointing out that Democrats are going to the polls in much larger numbers than Republicans. But a little bit of searching came up with nothing as far as overall popular vote tallies. They’re out there, I’m sure, but I couldn’t find them easily. So I put some together and they’re over on my workplace blog, in case you’re curious.

Progressive Reasons for Reforming the Economy, 2008

[The following is a guest post emailed in to the Center for Popular Economics by a reader of CPE’s newsletter]

by Ben Leet

I am a retired school teacher who has done research on the U.S. economy partly for personal reasons and also because I had been teaching at a school in a poverty neighborhood in Oakland. There were many murders, crimes and depressing events in the neighborhood where I taught. Children brought in bullets that had passed through their walls, or one described a murder that happened in his back yard. Those were the worst examples, but violence was not uncommon. Bad economics, I concluded, contributed to poor student performance, poor behavior, and stunted emotional development. Here are the salient facts I’ve uncovered that point to a society mired in inequality.

Here are the problems we face: Read more

A bigger picture on jobs

Jared Bernstein (among many many many many many others, including Jonathan, who beat me to the punch below) dissects todays job numbers at EPI’s Job Picture. Particularly telling is this graph:

Job Growth, Year-on-Year

It shows that year-on-year job growth (a better indicator than the more volatile weekly or monthly job numbers that are widely reported) has been falling dramatically for almost a year now.

UPDATE:

Here’s an even bigger picture from Calculated Risk’s entry on the jobs numbers. In addition to the detail on the slump in job growth over the last year, it’s also easy to spot the jobless recovery under Bush’s watch. During no other recovery period has job growth been so consistently low, than under GWB. And that’s with huge deficit spending and two wars! I used to think that no one could match Warren G. Harding. But, I really must say it: Worst. President. Ever!

Grim

I admit to feeling some of that “lack of consumer confidence” myself. No pink slips at my workplace, not that I’ve heard rumor about at least, but news like this doesn’t help.

Employers cut 17,000 jobs from their payrolls in January, Labor Department figures showed. Economists had been expecting a rise of 80,000.

The job losses were across all sectors of the economy including manufacturing and professional services.

“The economy is in recession mode,” said Peter Morici, an economist at the University of Maryland.

On the topic of recessions and workers (employed or otherwise) and what we can expect, Working Life blogger Jonathan Tasini reports on analysis from the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Why listen to what CEPR says? Well, for one, if the world had listened to CEPR, and, in particular Dean Baker, rather than the morons on Wall Street and on the flickering screen, we would have realized a housing bubble was a serious threat long time ago.

So, CEPR says: [click through to see for yourself]

Tax the Rich, Part III

Here‘s an interesting take (read the whole thing, it’s short!) on the Laffer Curve (the theoretical source of the arguments made by people like Rudy Giuliani, that cutting taxes increases government revenues). One reason is that the higher tax rates are, the more people will try to avoid them. Taking the logic, to it’s absurd conclusion:

If you’re the sort of person who is willing to use these tax avoidance schemes – and I would hazard to guess that not that many people in that situation are not – how low do tax rates have to be in order that you do not engage in those schemes? The answer: half a percent. Guess how low tax rates would have to be for someone making $200 million a year not to use the same schemes.

The implication, of course, is that we want to close the loopholes that allow corporations and the wealthy to dodge paying their share, unless you find 0.5% tax rate on Paris Hilton’s income (I do love to pick on her, but fill in the blank with whoever you want that makes more in a year than whole towns will make in their lifetime) to be a reasonable amount. Do you? I don’t.

I am supporting Obama

I am supporting Barack Obama in the Massachusetts Democratic Primary on 5 February 2008. I am going to vote for Barack Obama for the following reasons:

My previous candidates have dropped out after low levels of popular support. I thought Kucinich had an excellent platform. I thought that Richardson had the maturity and skills to be President.

It is now looking to be a two-person race in Massachusetts.

I think that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have really no discernible differences in their voting records or their platforms. Clinton did vote for the Iraq War and Obama opposed it, but there is not much difference between them.

I think Barack Obama is a break with the dead centered politics of the past. He represents a younger generation and is bringing young people into the Democratic Party. His speeches inspire and bring people together.

Barack Obama is not married to Bill Clinton!

Hillary represents a continuation and a vindication of the Clinton administration. I did not see any reason to carry on with “Clintonism” in 2000, and I do not see any now. Bill Clinton spent six of his eight years in the White House hanging on to power and doing little for the country. No health care program, no reduction of wasteful military spending, no real reduction of poverty, no serious federal aid to education, etc. Global warming got worse under Clinton.

The Clintons have consistently supported the interests of their wealthy campaign contributors. They are not New Deal Democrats. The Clintons are active supporters of the Democratic Leadership Conference, which is, at best, a moderate to conservative group, which caters to the interests of corporate America. Jesse Jackson called them the Democrats of the Leisure Class.

Barack Obama’s life story is compelling. He is a product of the civil rights movement and represents the coming of age of that movement. He will literally offer a new face for America to the world. I think this is a positive and necessary change for the good.

I do not know how the politics of 2008 will play out. We might see a Romney/McCain ticket with the GOP. We might even see a Clinton/Obama ticket on the Democratic side. Nonetheless, I think it is important to give Obama a boost in Massachusetts. This will encourage Hillary to reconsider some of her positions and might even change the entire dynamic of the Democratic contest.

If Hillary wins big on Super Tuesday that will be good news for her and Bill, but it will not be good news for the Democratic Party.

Yours truly,
25 January 2008 John J. Fitzgerald

Chemical weapons in a class war?

Bruce E. Levine has an interesting article over at Alternet on the use of psychiatric medication to tame defiant youth. Some tantalizing excerpts:

For a generation now, disruptive young Americans who rebel against authority figures have been increasingly diagnosed with mental illnesses and medicated with psychiatric (psychotropic) drugs.

Disruptive young people who are medicated with Ritalin, Adderall and other amphetamines routinely report that these drugs make them “care less” about their boredom, resentments and other negative emotions, thus making them more compliant and manageable. And so-called atypical antipsychotics such as Risperdal and Zyprexa — powerful tranquilizing drugs — are increasingly prescribed to disruptive young Americans, even though in most cases they are not displaying any psychotic symptoms.

Many talk show hosts think I’m kidding when I mention oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). After I assure them that ODD is in fact an official mental illness — an increasingly popular diagnosis for children and teenagers — they often guess that ODD is simply a new term for juvenile delinquency. But that is not the case.

Young people diagnosed with ODD, by definition, are doing nothing illegal (illegal behaviors are a symptom of another mental illness called conduct disorder). In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) created oppositional defiant disorder, defining it as “a pattern of negativistic, hostile and defiant behavior.” The official symptoms of ODD include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules” and “often argues with adults.” While ODD-diagnosed young people are obnoxious with adults they don’t respect, these kids can be a delight with adults they do respect; yet many of them are medicated with psychotropic drugs.

Throughout American history, both direct and indirect resistance to authority has been diseased. In an 1851 article in the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, Louisiana physician Samuel Cartwright reported his discovery of “drapetomania,” the disease that caused slaves to flee captivity. Cartwright also reported his discovery of “dysaesthesia aethiopis,” the disease that caused slaves to pay insufficient attention to the master’s needs. Early versions of ODD and ADHD?

In Rush’s lifetime, few Americans took anarchia seriously, nor was drapetomania or dysaesthesia aethiopis taken seriously in Cartwright’s lifetime. But these were eras before the diseasing of defiance had a powerful financial ally in Big Pharma.

It would certainly be a dream of Big Pharma and those who favor an authoritarian society if every would-be Tom Paine — or Crazy Horse, Tecumseh, Emma Goldman or Malcolm X — were diagnosed as a youngster with mental illness and quieted with a lifelong regimen of chill pills. The question is: Has this dream become reality?

Conflict of interest alert: I work for Chelsea Green Publishing, publishers of Levine’s recent book, Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic.

A poem

A friend just sent this to me. It’s an English folk poem, circa 1764, so he says.

They hang the man and flog the woman
That steal the goose from off the common,
But let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose.

The Law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who take things that are yours and mine.

The poor and wretched don’t escape
If they conspire the law to break;
This must be so but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common’
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.

Tax the Rich, part II

Is the New Supply Side Better Than the Old? by Austan Goolsbee is getting a lot of play in the econoblogosphere today. It’s an interesting article that points out some of the weaknesses in the supply-side argument for cutting income tax rates on the highest income people. One small point of correction, however: when referencing the fact that top incomes soared after the tax cuts of the 1980s and 2001, but also soared after tax hikes in other periods, Goolsbee says:

Seeing the same pattern when taxes rose as when they fell indicates that tax cuts weren’t responsible. It suggests that cuts for high-income taxpayers likely gave windfalls to those whose incomes were already rising sharply because of broader market forces.

One might note the impact of the policy climate in various periods, as well. Since the 1980s, it hasn’t just been tax policy that has favored high-income earners over their less fortunate fellows, but deregulation and lax enforcement on a broad range of policies including labor and the environment, as well as overt war-on-the-poor measures such as welfare reform.

Hat tip to Mark Thoma.

Econ-Atrocity: Do The World’s Poor Countries Finance the Rich Ones?

By Amit Basole
CPE Staff Economist

Global Charity
In the year 2000, the richest 10 per cent of the world’s population held 85 percent of its total income and wealth. The bottom half owned a mere 1 percent. Such glaring global asymmetries have long justified redistribution of wealth from the “Global North” to the “Global South” in the form of development aid and loans. So much so, that the stock image of a developing country that springs to mind (particularly in sub-Saharan Africa) is that of a heavily indebted economy which continually borrows simply to repay its old loans and receives food and other forms of aid to feed and clothe its “naked and hungry masses.” Persistent poverty is often blamed on inadequate aid, and rich countries are periodically exhorted to donate more generously. This form of global charity is visible to all. But there is another flow of wealth across national borders, greater in magnitude and more clandestine. This is the flow from poor countries to the rich. Yes, the world’s poorest countries are today financing the richest. Far from being heavily indebted, many developing countries are net creditors vis-Ã -vis the rest of the world. How is this possible?

Who is financing whom?
Recent analysis of flows of income and wealth across national borders reveals a startling and different story than that of global charity towards the South. Economists have found that more money flows out of developing countries in the form of interest payments, profits of foreign corporations, and clandestine investments in financial markets of the rich countries than flows into them as loans, aid, and foreign direct investment. According to a recent United Nation’s report, in 1995 the net inflow of money into developing countries was $40 billion, but by 2006 this had reversed to a net outflow of $657 billion! The global financial system is sucking wealth out of developing countries, making them poorer in the process. Sub-Saharan Africa in particular is associated with highly indebted poor countries. Indeed, in 1996 the combined external debt of 25 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, owed to rich countries and to institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, stood at $178 billion””a large sum indeed. But even more significantly, the flow of wealth out of these same countries over 26 years (1970-1996) equaled more than $193 billion. To make matters worse, much of this wealth flowing out of poor countries ends up in the US economy, which absorbs two-thirds of world savings. The ecologically-damaging consumption boom in the world’s rich countries is financed by its poor countries where consumption is a matter of survival. The insanity of this situation puts a question mark on the entire logic of the international financial system.

How does this happen?
But wait a minute. We might wonder, aren’t developing countries poor by definition? How then do they have resources to transfer to rich countries? We must remember here that although the majority of the population in a developing country is indeed poor, most countries have a small elite class that owns a disproportionate share of its income and wealth. In other words, the poor are poor precisely because the rich are rich. Further, a government may be highly indebted but what about its private citizens, in particular the rich ones? Several African leaders have amassed personal fortunes even as the governments they head have incurred large debts. At least in part these extraordinary assets are held abroad in rich countries. The problem is that while public debts are scrupulously recorded, many private assets are just as scrupulously concealed. To take just one famous example, the Swiss bank accounts of the family of General Sani Abacha, who ruled Nigeria for five years, reportedly contain as much as $2 billion.

This phenomenon is also known as “capital flight.” There are several avenues by which money flows from the poor countries to the rich. Repayment of earlier debt and accumulation of foreign exchange reserves with Central Banks in developing countries are two big ones. Since reserves often take the form of US treasury bills, reserve accumulation essentially means lending scarce capital to the US, a classic case of the poor lending to the rich. But there is yet a third, more hidden, avenue as well. This is trade mis-invoicing: under-reporting exports and over-reporting imports. Exporters in a country may understate the value of their export revenues, so that they can retain abroad the difference between their true value and their declared value, while importers may over-state the value of their imports to obtain extra foreign exchange, which can then be transferred abroad.

What can be done?
Should we simply chalk this up as a typical case of Third World mismanagement and corruption, a problem of “failed states,” a lack of democratic accountability and transparency? It is all that, but that is not the whole story. Rich country governments and international lending institutions are often complicit in maintaining corrupt rulers and in transferring their assets abroad. The Financial Times remarks in an editorial on the freezing of General Abacha’s bank accounts, “Financial institutions that knowingly channeled the funds have much to answer for, acting not so much as bankers but as bagmen, complicit in the corruption that has crippled Nigeria.”

If development aid is used to amass private fortunes while external creditors look the other way, why should a developing country’s poor citizens be forced to pay the price of painful “reforms” such as cutbacks in government spending on essential services, when most of that aid has not benefited them at all in the first place? Rather citizens of developing countries and their governments could tell their foreign creditors that old debt will only be treated as legitimate if the creditors can provide evidence for how the money was used for genuine development goals. This shifts the burden of proof onto the lenders. Needless to say, such a proposal would be extremely unpopular with rich country governments as well as with the IMF and the World Bank.

In addition to “bottom-up” approaches to development, such as strengthening government accountability and democracy from below in developing countries, there is a role for us here in the developed world to play: we can do our bit by raising awareness about capital flight and odious debt, and holding our own governments accountable for who they lend or give aid to and how that money is spent.

Sources:

1. Isabel Ortiz (2007) Putting Financing for Development in Perspective: The South Finances the North, IDEAS Network (http://www.ideaswebsite.org/news/nov2007/Putting_Financing.pdf)

2. World Economic Situation and Prospects, 2007- United Nation Development Policy and Analysis Division (http://www.un.org/esa/policy/wess/wesp.html)

3. James Boyce and Leone Ndikumana (2000) Is Africa a Net Creditor? New Estimates of Capital Flight from Severely Indebted Sub-Saharan African Countries, 1970-1996. (http://www.umass.edu/economics/publications/econ2000_01.pdf)

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