Saturday, May 11, 2013

Really, really major good news

Jonathan Chait, writing on New York magazine's web site, "The Daily Intelligentsia," explodes two myths that form the basis of the whole Republican agenda:
     Myth 1.  That immediate austerity can boost economic growth.
     Myth 2.  That the slowing of health-care inflation is a temporary dip from the recession.
According to Chait, both are false and have now been factually debunked.   Here are excerpts from his article, titled "The Facts Are In, and Paul Ryan Is Wrong":

"The doctrine of expansionary austerity — the premise that we must cut deficits not just eventually but immediately — has suffered a series of disastrous reversals. It has failed repeatedly in Europe, and its most prestigious academic basis, a paper by Harvard’s Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, was exposed for a series of fundamental errors. . . .

"Less visible, and possibly more interesting, is the growing mass of evidence that the health-care-cost inflation problem is indeed solvable. . . . Over the last few years, health-care inflation has indeed decelerated — far more deeply than even the most optimistic backers of the law dare hoped. The federal budget for Medicare and Medicaid in 2020 is now projected to be 15 percent lower than forecasters expected a few years ago.

"At first, the sharp slowdown in health-care costs was assumed to have happened because the recession is making people cut back on their medical care. . . .  Several studies have found that the recession does not account for all, and possibly not even most, of the slowdown. . . .

"But the key thing is that the conservative program since 2009 has hinged on the absolute truth of both these provisions. The certainty of the imminent debt crisis, and the certainty that Obamacare would worsen rather than ameliorate it, undergirded the party’s entire strategy. . . .

"The debt crisis is irrefutably happening,” Ryan insisted recently. Obamacare, he said yesterday, "will collapse under its own weight."  Ryan and his party are so certain of these foundations his worldview rests upon that he can’t even be bothered to look down at the rubble all around his feet."

And that, my friends, is good news for the Democrats . . .  if only the people will listen to intelligent news analysis and not continue to be misled by Republicans who have nothing to offer but lies, distortions, and fear-mongering.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Second chances? Maybe. . . But eight chances . . ?

Gail Collins, writing in the New York Times op-ed pages, ridicules former Gov. Mark Sanford who has just won election to Congress.

It's not just the moral questions about extramarital affairs.   It's a question of judgment, she says.  Here's what Sanford said in his victory speech Tuesday night:
"I want to acknowledge a God not just of second chances, but third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth chances."
Ye, gads.   He seems to be saying that he can just keep right on sinning -- or showing bad judgment, take your pick -- and God (and the electorate) will just keep on forgiving him.  How many times?    That's ridiculous -- at least if by 'forgiving' you mean electing him to office.

How is that different from saying it just doesn't matter what he does or how bad his judgment is?    I could make that argument if we were only talking about private moral behavior in affairs of the heart.

But look at the poor judgment he has shown:   As sitting governor, he left the country without telling even his own staff where he was going, nor did he turn the reins of government over to a Lt. Governor.

Then when he was caught, he went public with excessive details about his emotional life and his sexual life during press conferences.   Way too much information.  Cringe-inducing information.  On top of that he had a fine for ethics violations and a court restraining order for repeated trespassing on his ex-wife's property.

Here's the bottom line though:   the voters in his congressional district voted him back into office.    So what do we think of the judgment of the people?    Giving somebody a second chance might show good judgment.    How can giving that same somebody eight, perhaps unlimited, chances be anything but bad judgment?

Or is it all just politics, and this is a very very Republican district?   It would have been nearly unthinkable that a Democrat might win -- except for the numerous, self-inflicted strikes against Sanford.    It's a measure of just how bad his chances seemed to be that there was real hope and, for a while, real expectation that Elizabeth Colbert Busch might win.

As righteous as conservative Republicans in a conservative Republican state might be -- politics still triumphs.   Or else those good folks 'jes' luv to have themselves a bad boy asking  f'r furgiveness.'


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Repentant bad boys

Remember when Newt still thought he was ordained to be president, but he had a mistress problem?   So he went on tv with the Rev. James Dobson (or was it Pat Robertson?), confessed his sins, and received forgiveness.

And then there's the Comback Kid, himself:   Bill Clinton.    Anthony Wiener hopes it will work for him.

Mark Sanford just won an election in South Carolina to get his old seat in Congress back.   That's what he did before he became governor and claimed to be hiking the Appalachian Trail when he was really in Argentina with his mistress.    But, oh, did he play the penitent card for all it was worth -- and then some.    Most of us thought he over-did it by a good margin.   But he won his election.

It's not just giving these penitent bad boys a second chance.   There's something downright magnetic in these charming, wayward boys who repent and ask for forgiveness.   The religious right seem especially drawn to them.  They can feel good about forgiving the sinner, while at the same time getting a vicarious thrill out of their (usually sexual) sin.

It didn't work for Newt, so I suppose you've got to have some appeal and charm.   Not just any repenting sinner will do.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Another marriage equality state

The Delaware state senate just voted to legalize marriage equality, making it the second state in the five days to do so.    It is headed straight for the governor's desk, who is waiting to sign it into law.  Delaware makes #11 (or #12 if we count California).

Illinois, Minnesota, and Nevada have some legislative process stirring;  and New Jersey's legislature passed a law but Gov. Christie vetoed it.

With such momentum -- five states have actually voted it in in the past 14 months -- I fully expect the Supreme Court will at least let it become legal in California, even if they don't give a sweeping decision that covers all states.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Austerity must go

As a governmental policy, austerity is proving to be a bad idea.    Just as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, both Nobel Prize winning economists, have been telling us.

Now it turns out that the book that conservatives have been championing as their authority on austerity is badly flawed.   The flaws in the argument of this book, which was written by academic economists, were exposed by a graduate student.

In addition, the economies of European countries -- which embraced austerity even more than the U.S. did -- have continued to decline, while the U. S., with more limited austerity, has done a little better.

But now a study from the Brookings Institute has been released that says that, in the 46 months since our current recession officially ended in 2009, federal, state, and local governments have cut 500,000 jobs.

In contrast, in all other recessions since 1970, governments have added, on average, 1.7 million jobs.   Get it?   Usually we add lots of jobs -- the opposite of austerity.   But this time we have cut jobs instead.

So they figure, if we had done what is usual, 2.2 million more Americans would have jobs now than do.   That would put the unemployment at 6.1% instead of 7.5%.

So . . . now will you conservatives listen?   Here is evidence that austerity is exactly the wrong way to go in a recession.  Start doing something about jobs;  stop beating the drums to cut the deficit. 


Sunday, May 5, 2013

News of the week: "I'm a 34 year old N.B.A. center. I'm black. And I'm gay."

Last week capped one of the most historic years of progress on gay rights.   Since this time in 2012, four more states have legalized marriage equality;  DADT is gone, a lesbian has been promoted to the rank of U. S. Army general, and a wedding ceremony has been performed in the chapel at West Point;  President Obama and the Democratic National Convention have embraced marriage equality;  polls show a slight majority of Americans also support gay marriage;  and anti-homosexual rhetoric has lost most of its clout as a political wedge issue.

Then last week, one of the last remaining barriers came down when a 7 foot tall, current player in NBA teams wrote a cover article for Sports Illustrated in which he begins:
"I'm a 34 year old N.B.A. center.   I'm black.   And I'm gay."

This was a carefully planned, positive decision Jason Collins decided to take.   It was not a forced confession in response to rumor or scandal.   Much has been made of how perfect he is to be the first in major league sports to come out while still an active participant, as if ordered up from central casting.   He is imposing physically at 7 feet and powerfully built, he is aggressive on the court, was a student at Stanford University, where he roomed with Joe Kennedy III and went to classes with Chelsea Clinton.  He is an articulate guest on tv, and he speaks easily of his Christian values.

Equally remarkable -- at least to those of us who lived through the rough past of gay wrongs before the concept of gay rights emerged -- is the reception from the sports world and from the general public.   President Obama called to congratulate him, as did the head of the NBA organization.   Numerous teammates have given their public support.   Various media have proclaimed him a hero.

How different our world has become.  Fourteen countries and 10 U. S. states now allow gay marriage.   All this makes it even more unacceptable that, in some countries, same-sex behavior is still criminalized and, in a few, carries the death penalty.

A few detractors, rather than still harping on it as "sin" or "illness," still had to show their disapproval by asking why gays can't just shut up about it.   Why do they have to keep reminding us about it?

Frank Bruni, answered that in his New York Times column:
"Many of us want to, and will [shut up], when a gay, lesbian or transgendered kid isn't at special risk of being brutalized or committing suicide.  When the federal government outlaws discrimination against people based on sexual orientation, which it still hasn't done. . . .  When being gay doesn't warrant a magazine cover or a phone call from the president."
So now another barrier -- pro sports -- has crumbled.   Of course there have been gay pro sports players before -- just not free to let anyone know about it for fear it would hurt the team's morale or popularity, lose them their lucrative contracts, disrupt the locker room, and give a bad name to the sport.  As to the locker room:   Collins has been walking around naked in locker rooms for 12 seasons, and no one has accused him of leering or making passes at teammates.   So what's the big deal?  It's not catching, you know.