2012

2011

I suppose I agree with Will Wilkinson about the importance of “an ethos of initiative, hard work, and individual responsibility” though I have no real idea why he thinks most progressives are against such an ethos. It strikes me that cultivating such an ethos is sort of integral to making a progressive agenda work. I think back sometimes to the time when I stumbled into a Stockholm Metro station and got the person working the booth to explain what I needed to do to use the city’s bikeshare system. This wasn’t really her job, and the conversation wasn’t in her native language, and obviously no practical harm would have come to her if she’d blown me off but I take it that she took pride in working for Stockholm Metro and had a self-conception as someone who’s a helpful public servant. Any effective public agency from the United States Marine Corps on down is built in pretty profound ways on an ethos of duty and hard work in an even more profound way than things in the for-profit business sector. People who believe in public sector work and public services must believe in the idea of a strong work-ethic.

the Bush administration took a very ideological view of “the war on terror.” They viewed the United States as broadly in conflict with a vast-yet-hazily-defined array of Muslim Bad Guys such that Saddam Hussein and the government of Iran were somehow part of the same problem as Osama bin Laden. The conceptual alternative to this that Obama offered … was to think of al-Qaeda as a specific, narrow thing that ought to be obsessively targeted and destroyed. … You see in the rising body count that this all wasn’t just talk. There’s been some kind of meaningful reallocation of national resources away from Bush’s geopolitical vision in favor of a much more literal global effort to identify, locate, and kill members of al-Qaeda.

The National Flood Insurance Program Reextension Act of 2010 was sponsored by a bipartisan group, it passed the filibuster-ridden Senate by unanimous consent on September 21, it passed the House of Representatives on a voice vote on September 23, and was signed into law by President Obama a week later. The lead sponsor of the current Flood Insurance Reauthorization is Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi. Amidst fierce ideological debate about the size and scope of the federal government, in other words, there’s no serious budget-cutting move to stop subsidizing people from living in dangerous flood zones.

You might not think that America is a net exporter of solar products. But it is - to the tune of $1.8 billion. That’s a $1 billion increase over net exports documented in the solar sector last year. … a report released this morning from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association found that the U.S. has a $247 million trade surplus with China. (via Solar Stunner: America is a $1.9 Billion Exporter of Solar Products | ThinkProgress)

imagine a small country that never borrows money. Alongside funding its normal operations out of tax revenue, it sets a little bit aside each year in an investment fund looking forward to the time when there’ll be enough money in the pot to build a giant monument to the country’s founder. Then along comes a recession-unemployment rises and revenue plummets. Under the circumstances, deciding to skip a year or two of contributions to the Monument Fund in order to maintain regular levels of public services is the most intuitive thing in the world. What would sound strange would be the idea that economic growth could be maximized by reducing spending to cut the deficit in order to “restore confidence” by making full contributions to the Monument Fund. Who cares about the Monument Fund? Back to the actual situation, the basic logic of “deficit spend in a recession if you can get away with it” holds just as clearly whether you have a Monument Fund or a budget deficit.

The basic notion seems to be that if you see “the government” doing “something” and the outcome is perverse, that proves that when “the government” does “things” it gets bad results so the government shouldn’t do anything. But pay attention to the story! This looks to me essentially like a story of the slightly perverse consequences of what amounts to privatization of infrastructure provision. The New York State Thruway Authority dealt with the Hudson River bridge issue in a manner designed to maximize profits rather than a benevolent social planner putting the bridge in the socially optimal more southerly location.

Probably the single most false claim in Rick Perry’s book is his view of the end of the Great Depression, namely that “recovery did not come until World War II, when FDR was finally persuaded to unleash private enterprise.” World War II is, of course, an example of the reverse. With the nation engaged in a total war against Germany and Japan, the federal government introduced massive distortions into the marketplace in order to maximize production of things that were useful for winning the war. That meant, among other things, massive rationing and price controls

Even with several decades of median wage stagnation, the fact of the matter is that the median American household has quite a lot of money compared to the median household of almost every other country. And yet, I think there are a lot of other respects in which quality of life in the United States falls short. We spend a lot of time in traffic jams. We have both a frighteningly high murder rate and a frighteningly high level of incarceration. Our health care system is very inefficient. Americans work very long hours and have unusually little vacation time. It’s not clear to me that any of these issues can be usefully tackled primarily by focusing on higher taxation of the very wealthy.

(via Yet Another Conservative Economist Thinks Barack Obama Can Travel Through Time | ThinkProgress) Business investment started trending toward way back in 2006 and did the bulk of its plunging in 2008. It also seems to me that George W Bush was president at this time. Soon after Barack Obama took office, investment bottomed-out and began to rebound. Neither Obama’s rhetoric nor his policies can possibly be responsible for the Obama-era drop in investment for the simple reason that no such drop occurred.