RIP John Boehner

Right now, the minority of Republicans who are in or supporting the Tea Party mentality are in complete control of the party.  And, as long as John Boehner and other (relatively) sane GOP Reps don’t find sufficient stones to stand up to them, they are the tail that wags, not just the GOP dog, but the entire country.  The shrinking group of non-fanatic members of the GOP are terrified that, if they displease this dogmatic, absolutist group of reactionary ideologues even once, they will find themselves “primaried” in the next election.  The Right keeps its rule by fear because it can summon up many millions of dollars from right-wing oligarchic billionaires to finance primary challenges against any Republican from a candidate far to the right of the incumbent. After 36 years in the Senate, in a seat that was such a shoo-in that Dems sometimes didn’t even bother to run an opponent against him, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) will be leaving the Senate in a couple of days having lost a primary to an unknown Tea Party loony named Richard Mourdock by 61/39%.  Mourdock went on to make a major embarrassment of himself, and was beaten by the Democrat Joe [More...]

Arguing AGAIN for alternatives to a market-based health insurance system.

Market Values vs Morality (first published as a comment in the Daily Kos). There is a fascinating new book out by Harvard Professor Michael Sendel (creator of the course “Justice”) called “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.” He points out that “Market Values” are devoid of any morality and that this is inherent in any market-based system. The 800-lb gorilla is the mistaken idea that the only way to distribute goods and services for maximum “social utility” is the market mechanism. All of the free-market cultists out there believe (as do most economists – who are not, after all, interested in morality, but in the mechanisms of supply and demand, profit and loss, cost/benefit ratios as motivators) that the “market mechanism is the best – indeed, the only – proper mechanism for determining how goods and services can best be distributed to those who have shown they want them the most – hence “social utility.” However, the only mechanism that the market uses to make this determination is the willingness of people to pay the most for the goods and services. If you have 100 widgets to sell, you set the price high enough so that there [More...]

Good Debt vs Bad Debt

Republicans are always whining about the federal debt and telling the rest of us that we should live within our means as do businesses and families.  The Republicans believe that putting a former business executive into the White House would be enough to solve the problem. Note:  Both Herbert Hoover and George W. Bush were ex-CEOs and they presided over the Great Depression and the Great Recession.  So much for business’s contribution to federal fiscal responsibility. Even Malcolm Forbes of Forbes Magazine recognized the vast divide between running a business and running a society’s government when he warned: “Few businessmen are capable of being in politics, they don’t understand the democratic process, they have neither the tolerance or [sic] the depth it takes. Democracy isn’t a business.” Almost every family and business carries a debt load.  It is impossible for all but a few to function without it.  Whether it is the young couple buying a home with a mortgage, a farmer borrowing from the bank to buy seed, fertilize, and machinery in the Spring so that he can produce a crop large enough to pay off the loan in the coming Fall, or the company that borrows to expand [More...]

Buyer’s Remorse?

Well, I wonder if the Obama voters are having buyer’s remorse.  Despite promising us this week that creating jobs would be Job One, Obama is back to haggling with Boehner, Cantor, and McConnell over just how and where to trim the deficit. Nothing has changed from the first four years.  As usual, Obama doesn’t take the discussion back far enough to it’s root, and thus eliminates the only sane alternative before even beginning the discussion – should we even be considering adopting disastrous austerity measures to shrink the deficit, or should we use the ability to borrow even more to create jobs and a healthy economy? Obama is assembling a group of Dem and GOP politicians (why bother with the GOP? They will just obstruct and try to water down any bill and Obama doesn’t need them).  He will include labor leaders and community groups, but, remarkably, says nothing about including any economists! That’s because any mainstream Keynsian economist can tell him that the discussion should be whether to cut the deficit or not – not what tweaking and twiddling the two parties will do to achieve cuts.  I thought Obama said that his FIRST concern was JOBS!  Any economist [More...]

Off the Cliff – Let’s Do It.

Many, including not a few in Congress and a considerable number of economists, have already come to the conclusion that “off the cliff” is the most (if not only) effective strategy.   It will kill the Bush tax cuts once and for all, while the Dems in Congress can then introduce a new bill on their first day back to work calling for a tax reduction back to the Bush-era levels for all income below $250,000.  They can put the Republicans in a position where they have already lost their tax cut for the ultra-rich and have no way to fight to preserve it, and then are confronted with the question of whether to vote for a tax cut for 98% of the people.  Let them declare where they really stand and who they really represent on taxes. The rest of the sequester cuts are not immediately going too cause a financial meltdown and Congress and Obama will have months to work out solutions to restore critical entitlement monies, while having a sent-from-heaven opportunity to put the defense budget on a diet and cut out the vast bloat that turns the Pentagon as merely a device for taking money out of [More...]