Villager Howard Fineman is just tickled at the thought of President Obama and Bill Clinton working together to sell that Grand Bargain deal on which the Beltway elites have turned their laser-like focus. They want it the same way they want their best friend's nanny, or the new BMW. They want, want, want! They must have! As to the little people, let them eat cake!
WASHINGTON -- Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are turning into the most watchable buddy-buddy road show since "Starsky and Hutch." All they're missing are platform shoes and a Gran Torino.
Next week they will travel together to Florida, Ohio and Virginia, as Clinton tries to infuse his explanatory magic into Obama's campaign-trail pitch in the final days of a grueling 2012 race.
But as attention turns -- even before Election Day -- to the dreaded "fiscal cliff" looming at year's end, it's becoming clear that Clinton's sidekick duties will not be over on November 6 if Obama wins.
If the current president gets the chance to try to fashion a post-election deal, he'll need Clinton's help in selling it to fellow Democrats.
White House staffers are already working overtime on the details of various potential deals; corporate America is begging for -- demanding -- prompt action to avoid massive tax increases and draconian "sequestered" spending cuts on January 2.
And of course, what corporate America wants, corporate America gets!
Administration officials argue that they will be in a better position to make a deal with the post-election Congress than a Romney proto-presidency would be.
Obama long ago signaled willingness to take on his own party by countenancing entitlement cuts. Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), are irrevocably committed to not raising income tax rates on anyone, and not raising the overall tax burden.
Since the essence of any deal would be concession on both sides of the ledger, Romney's first act as president-elect would require picking a tax fight with the Tea Party and perhaps Ryan.
Meanwhile, Obama's staff and advisers inside and outside the White House -- many of them former staffers for Bill Clinton -- are looking at options. If their boss wins, talks will begin immediately.
"I don't see Clinton sitting in on the negotiations," said a source who is very close to both men. "Budget talks are incredibly detailed and exhausting. You have to be totally immersed, and the president has to take the lead. I don't see Clinton in that process.
"But if we get a tentative agreement, I expect that the former president will be asked to help sell it, and I am sure that he will," said the source, who asked for anonymity to frankly discuss both men. "Nobody could do it better."
Sorry, Bill. You're a charming guy, you really are. But fool me twice, shame on me! This deal is only a ?bargain? to millionaire politicians. We're not interested in sacrificing ourselves or our children on the altar to the deficit gods. Nope. Particularly when cutting government services during a recession is a surefire way to stall a recovery, just like 1937 when FDR gave into the Republican insistance on deficit reduction.
Those who do not learn from history, etc.
The White House, per Zachary Goldfarb at the Washington Post, is considering returning to the working family tax cut used in 2009-2010 as part of the Recovery Act, to replace the payroll tax cut, which expires at the end of the year. The refundable tax[...]
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Would it help if "No Relation" occasionally read a book by someone peddling something other than the mindless platitudes of conventional economic wisdom? You know, I really don't think so.
Okay, I've overdramatized. No, of course, Robert "No Relation to Paul" Samuelson isn't the reason we can't have any serious discussion of the functioning of government. He's much more a symptom than a cause of the problem(s). But if you don't think the problem is made worse by having a venue as august as the Washington Post offering license to pontificate on finance and economics to someone who knows, well, perhaps less about these subjects than anyone on the planet, then we disagree.
(It's true that the Post maintains a whole roster of people as inexpert on the subjects they're engaged to analyze. This is what I mean by "No Relation" being more a symptom than a cause of the problem. They've got a whole lot of symptons there.)
In my Wednesday post, "Step right up and vote for that 'transparent faker' Willard Inc. and the unknowable contents of his campaign Mystery Box," writing about the 13-installment symposium on the election published in the current (November 8) issue of the New York Review of Books (in that post I also included a laboriously assembled linked list of the 13 individual pieces), I ventured that "Jeffrey Sachs's piece may be the most important" of the 13 and formally reserved the right to return to it. Tonight we're returning back to it.
I characterized the subject tackled by Sachs, who's director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University (and author most recently of The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity), as --
the insanity, built into our political system, of operating the U.S. government, "the world?s largest enterprise, with $3.7 trillion in outlays, $2.5 trillion in revenues, and 2.1 million civilian workers," and "also the most complex, operating in every sector of the world?s largest economy, in every country of the world, and in every possible setting: markets, technology development, social programs, basic science, and much, much more" without any kind of planning beyond our day-to-day seat-of-the-pants partisan brinksmanship.
The US federal government is the world's largest enterprise, with $3.7 trillion in outlays, $2.5 trillion in revenues, and 2.1 million civilian workers. It is also the most complex, operating in every sector of the world's largest economy, in every country of the world, and in every possible setting: markets, technology development, social programs, basic science, and much, much more.To put it mildly, our system isn't set up terribly well to accomplish much of this sort of planning.
A behemoth of this size requires goals, plans, strategies, and budgets that look forward for years, even decades. This is especially true in our era, when unprecedented shifts in technology, demography, the world economy, and the physical environment require deep structural changes in our economic and social life. Old skills and sectors are obsolete. The energy, health, and education systems require large-scale overhauls. And yet we operate almost blindly, month by month, fiscal cliff by fiscal cliff, without any clear pathway ahead.
Imagine running the largest global Fortune 500 company, Royal Dutch Shell (at around one fifth the federal government revenues), without plans, strategies, and budgets. Some companies may try it but they don't last long. The federal government has the advantage of the Federal Reserve's printing press (which has been covering much of the deficit as the Federal Reserve buys up Treasury bills and bonds) as well as a constitutional monopoly on power. Still, these should be no excuse for running the government like a bumper-car derby, pushed and pulled by the random collisions of competing interests and factions.
The game of politics has almost completely overshadowed the hard work of governing. Most of the time of President Obama and his congressional counterparts is taken up by campaigning and fund-raising, posturing and messaging, negotiating and horse-trading on short-term transactions, and occasionally debating real issues of importance, such as government's responsibility for supporting the poor and elderly. Yet none of this political activity substitutes for public management, which means the arduous task of defining goals, and then planning, strategizing, and budgeting toward them."Some government agencies still work brilliantly," Sachs says, citing NASA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). But they're "not the norm," he says.
We've gotten so used to the breakdown of actual governing that the public is not aware of what's gone. The prevailing interpretation is that our government is broken because of political gridlock. There is some truth to that, of course. Yet one of the main reasons that it's gridlocked is that running the government is now viewed as nothing more than an extension of electoral politics, which in turn amounts to little more than a clash of competing interest groups that finance the politicians and try to keep their teams in power. If the government were approached differently, as a complex venture requiring serious planning, budgeting, and strategy, the process itself of governing would actually rescue the government from the current political trap that keeps it so dysfunctional.
The government is mostly led by appointees or elected officials with little technical knowledge, less management experience, and an expected job duration of a few years at most, often culminating in a lobbying position on K Street after leaving government. The alternation of power between the two political parties does almost nothing to compel better managerial performance."The Republicans' answer, of course, is that no management is needed: the market will do it."
As our problems have gotten more complex in a more global, technological, and environmentally unstable era, the two parties have adopted increasingly naive ideological positions to justify their chronic managerial failures.
Their increasingly absurd elixir of tax cuts and deregulation is supposed to solve any problem: poverty, pollution, unemployment, health care, climate change, and even national security. Fortunately, it looks like the public is not buying this nonsense.And the Democrats?
Sadly, President Obama and the congressional Democrats have had their own mythology that the economic problems will generally sort themselves out without long-term plans and with short-term patches such as a bit more demand stimulus. Democrats rightly believe in government, but they give little evidence that they believe in public management. The stimulus legislation in 2009 was a $900 billion hodgepodge thrown together in a few weeks, on the mistaken and panicked grounds that even a few months of delay for planning would have meant a great depression. And even if fear itself could justify the rushed first stimulus package, little can justify the continuing resort to short-run measures?temporary tax cuts, temporary spending programs, repeated quantitative easing?that have done almost nothing to restructure the economy. Keynesian stimulus policies have become the substitute for strategy, planning, and implementation.Sachs declares himself "an Obama supporter," but worries about the prospect of "four more years of improvisation." There would be, he suggests, "a narrow window in which Obama can lay out real and long-term options for the country, before those options are overwhelmed by the deepening economic, social, and environmental crises wracking the US and the world." And he asks us to "consider three pivotal issues that will likely determine our country's well-being for decades to come: energy, health care, and skills."
[S]uccess will require a very different second term. America's deepest problems are structural, not cyclical. We need to reinvigorate government for the twenty-first century, and to put away childish things, just as Obama once promised to do. Obama has faced childish opposition, it is true, but grown-up leadership that eschews gimmicks could recapture the support he needs to begin leading the nation away from its current morass.
Robert Samuelson Takes on NYT Editorial Board: Government Does Not Create Jobs!#
Thursday, 25 October 2012 15:53
Robert Samuelson was sufficiently outraged by a NYT editorial claiming that the government creates jobs that for the first time in his 35 years as a columnist he felt the need to attack a newspaper editorial. Samuelson called the NYT view "the flat earth theory of job creation" in his column's headline. Since on its face it might be a bit hard to understand -- there are lots of people who do work for the government and get paychecks -- let's look more closely at what Samuelson has to say on the topic.
Samuelson tells readers:
"It's true that, legally, government does expand employment. But economically, it doesn't ? and that's what people usually mean when they say 'government doesn't create jobs.'
What the Times omits is the money to support all these government jobs. It must come from somewhere ? generally, taxes or loans (bonds, bills). But if the people whose money is taken via taxation or borrowing had kept the money, they would have spent most or all of it on something ? and that spending would have boosted employment."
Okay, so we can at least agree that all of those people working as teachers, firefighters, forest rangers etc. do legally have jobs. That seems like progress. But let's look at the second part of the story:
"the money to support all these government jobs. It must come from somewhere."
Yes, that part is true also. But the last time I looked, the money to pay workers at Apple, General Electric, and Goldman Sachs also came from somewhere. Where's the difference?
Samuelson tells us that if the government didn't tax or borrow or the money to pay its workers (he makes a recession exception later in the piece) people "would have spent most or all of it on something -- and that spending would have boosted employment."
Again, this is true, but how does it differ from the private sector? If the new iPhone wasn't released last month people would have spent most or all of that money on something -- and that spending would have boosted employment. Does this mean that workers at Apple don't have real jobs either?
The confusion gets even greater when we start to consider the range of services that can be provided by either the public or private sector. In Robert Samuelson's world we know that public school teachers don't have real jobs, but what about teachers at private schools? Presumably the jobs held by professors at major public universities, like Berkeley or the University of Michigan are not real, but the jobs held at for-profit universities, like Phoenix or the Washington Post's own Kaplan Inc., are real.
How about health care? Currently the vast majority of workers in the health care industry are employed by the private sector. Presumably these are real jobs according to Samuelson. Suppose that we replace our private health care system with a national health care service like the one they have in the U.K. Would the jobs in the health care no longer be real?
If our new system was as efficient as the one in the U.K. we would not even need any additional tax revenue to pay for it. According to the OECD, the whole expense of the U.K., system, $3,433 per person in 2010, is less than the $3,967 per person (in 2010) that the government already pays for health care. So by replacing a less efficient private system with a more efficient public system will the government have eliminated all the real jobs in the health care sector?
It keeps getting harder and harder to figure out what is supposed to be a real job in Robert Samuelson's world. If the government requires drivers to buy auto insurance, do the people at the auto insurance companies have real jobs? Suppose the insurance companies were run by the government? Suppose that they were private but drivers paid for most of their insurance via a tax on gasoline? (You can have differential rates so that dangerous drivers pay an additional premium.)
How about when the government finances an industry by granting it a state sanctioned monopoly as when it grants patent monopolies on prescription drugs. Do the researchers at Pfizer have real jobs even though their income is dependent on a government granted monopoly? Would they have real jobs if the government instead paid for research out of tax revenue and let drugs be sold in a free market, saving consumers $250 billion a year?
Robert Samuelson obviously thinks there is something very important about the difference between working for the government and working in the private sector. Unfortunately his column does not do a very good job of explaining why. It would probably be best if he waited another 35 years before again attacking a newspaper editorial.
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Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani says that if President Barack Obama's health care reform law is going to force insurance companies to cover contraception then "it's only fair" that men are provided with pills to treat erectile dysfunction.
Speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce earlier this week, the surrogate for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney hinted at the controversy over the Obama's administration's mandate that all health insurance cover contraception for women and warned that the "commissars in Washington" could expand coverage even further in the future.
"They get to write the list of what is legally sufficient health insurance," he explained. "I hate to bring this up because I don't think Gov. Romney would like me to bring this up, but I will. This is what made health care in Massachusetts three times more expensive than people thought. Because when they sat down to define health insurance, everybody added everything to the list and the cost of health insurance went way up."
"That's going to happen on a national level," Giuliani continued. "And you know an Obama appointed commission is going to cover everything. If you cover condoms, I mean, you've got to cover everything, right?"
"If you cover condoms, you should cover Viagra. It's only fair."
(h/t: The Blaze)
We normally think of fast food as somehow uniquely American and of recent origin, but that is just not true. Certainly modern American fast food is different from what in the past qualified and in other places qualifies as fast food, but the[...]
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A new Frying Pan News infographic reveals the money and groups behind Proposition 32.[...]
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NYT's Nate Silver says Obama is still the favorite. But will Hurricane Sandy have an impact?
Today I gave a speech in Iowa outlining my vision for the economy. I said I thought the economy should be good. I was also asked by my staff whether or not I wanted that fellow with the rather colorful opinions on rape to stop mentioning that I had endorsed him. I told them that I did not think our campaign should take a position on that.
In more satisfying news, I have informed the staff that since there is so little time left until the election, the press units are now unnecessary. They can continue to follow me if they like, but there is no more need for me to grant interviews or answer their questions. (I did not answer many of their questions before, Mr. Diary, but I believe we are safely to the point where there is no point in me listening to them ask those questions, either).
Their questions have always been irritating. Whether I become president of this nation or not, I am glad that I will never again have to answer any of them.
Friday-lite is somewhat of a thing of the past, as we get 43 polls to close out the week, and clear conclusions remain elusive, though the clear message from Friday's data is that you'd much rather be the president than his opponent.
The national polls continue their bounciness, although the president got his fair share of the bounces today. But the swing states looked especially good for the president today, including some GOP pollsters who, while still conceding a lead to the Republican, had the race far too close for comfort in states that Republicans have long presumed would be a lock in their path to 270.
So, where does that ultimately put us? Based on the math, it looks like we are basically where we have been for two weeks now. The president has an edge, but it is a narrow one, and the coalition of states that put him over the top are led by margins that are not insurmountable. However, two things are clear, both of which are bad news for Mitt Romney's supporters, he still has a built-in electoral college disadvantage, and any Denver momentum he might have established has clearly been stalled.
More on that after the jump. For now, though, on to the numbers:
NATIONAL (ABC/WaPo Tracking): Romney 49, Obama 48DOWNBALLOT POLLING:
NATIONAL (IBD/TIPP Tracking): Obama 47, Romney 45
NATIONAL (Ipsos/Reuters Tracking): Obama 47, Romney 46 (LV); Obama 46, Romney 42 (RV)
NATIONAL (PPP Tracking): Obama 48, Romney 48
NATIONAL (Rasmussen Tracking): Romney 50, Obama 47
COLORADO (Purple Strategies): Obama 47, Romney 46
FLORIDA (Rasmussen): Romney 50, Obama 48
FLORIDA (Voter Survey Service for Sunshine State News--R): Romney 51, Obama 46
INDIANA (McLaughlin and Associates for the Mourdock campaign): Romney 55, Obama 41
IOWA (Gravis--R): Obama 50, Romney 46
NEVADA (Gravis--R): Obama 50, Romney 49
NEW HAMPSHIRE (New England College): Obama 49, Romney 46
NEW MEXICO (PPP): Obama 52, Romney 43
NEW YORK (Siena): Obama 59, Romney 35
NORTH CAROLINA (Gravis--R): Romney 53, Obama 45
NORTH CAROLINA (Grove Insight for Project New America/USAction--D): Obama 47, Romney 44
NORTH CAROLINA (National Research for Civitas--R): Romney 48, Obama 47
OHIO (American Research Group): Obama 49, Romney 47
OHIO (CNN/ORC): Obama 50, Romney 46 (LV); Obama 51, Romney 44 (RV)
OHIO (Purple Strategies): Obama 46, Romney 44
OKLAHOMA (Sooner Poll): Romney 58, Obama 33
VIRGINIA (Purple Strategies): Obama 47, Romney 47
WISCONSIN (Grove Insight for USAction/Project New America--D): Obama 48, Romney 43
WISCONSIN (Rasmussen): Obama 49, Romney 49
IN-SEN (Anzalone-Liszt for the DSCC): Joe Donnelly (D) 47, Richard Mourdock (R) 40A few thoughts, as always, await you just past the jump ...
IN-SEN (McLaughlin and Associates for the Mourdock campaign): Joe Donnelly (D) 44, Richard Mourdock (R) 44, Andy Horning (L) 6
MA-SEN (Rasmussen): Elizabeth Warren (D) 52, Sen. Scott Brown (R) 47
NM-SEN (PPP): Martin Heinrich (D) 52, Heather Wilson (R) 44
NY-SEN (Siena): Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) 67, Wendy Long (R) 24
ND-SEN (Mellman Group for the Heitkamp campaign): Heidi Heitkamp (D) 48, Rick Berg (R) 44
PA-SEN (Harstad Research for the DSCC): Sen. Bob Casey (D) 52, Tom Smith (R) 40
PA-SEN (Rasmussen): Sen. Bob Casey (D) 46, Tom Smith (R) 45
VA-SEN (Rasmussen): Tim Kaine (D) 49, George Allen (R) 48
NH-GOV (New England College): Maggie Hassan (D) 45, Ovide Lamontagne (R) 45
CA-33 (SurveyUSA): Rep. Brad Sherman (D) 44, Rep. Howard Berman (D) 33
IL-08 (Chicago Tribune): Tammy Duckworth (D) 50, Rep. Joe Walsh (R) 40
IA-01 (Victory Enterprises for the Lange campaign): Ben Lange (R) 47, Rep. Bruce Braley (D) 45
KY-06 (Wenzel Strategies for Citizens United--R): Andy Barr (R) 45, Rep. Ben Chandler (D) 41
NC-07 (Wenzel Strategies for Citizens United--R): David Rouzer (R) 45, Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) 39
OH-16 (OnMessage for the Renacci campaign): Rep. Jim Renacci (R) 51, Betty Sutton (D) 41
PA-12 (Wenzel Strategies for Citizens United--R): Keith Rothfus (R) 44, Mark Critz (D) 39
I’m voting yes on all the City of Houston bond issues. (Above–Our City of Houston.) There are five bond renewals on the ballot. These bond issues involve renewals of ongoing bonds and will not cause tax increases. The money will be used to pay for things such as fire station repairs and library improvements. A [...]
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