This Week in Economic Confusion
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R/VA) is supposed to be a pretty smart guy, right? But evidence suggest otherwise. On Fox "News" Sunday this week, he said, when asked about the upcoming intentional budget crises, that Republicans should be "focused on trying to deal with the ultimate problem, which is this growing deficit."
Trouble is, there is no growing deficit. There is, in fact, a deficit shrinking at the fastest rate since WWII.
This isn't a matter of partisan interpretation. It's a fact. It's quantifiable. Deficits are numbers, real numbers, that can be counted. "Growing" and "shrinking" are polar opposites. Might the deficit growin the future (as it did under the last three Republican presidents)? Of course. Might it shrink (as it's done under the last two Democratic presidents)? Of course.
Cantor might wish the deficit was still growing, either because it gives him a reason to make his specious argument that the administration should support giant cuts in entitlements for no reason, or--as seems increasingly the case with elected Republicans--because he wants the economy to fail as long as President Obama sits in the Oval Office. But his wish doesn't make it so. Lying to the viewers of Fox "News" doesn't make it so.
And he was either knowingly lying, or he's worfully ill-informed for someone in such an important position. Either option is bad, but it's got to be one or the other. And as long as the House Majority Leader can't tell shrinking from growing, how is his caucus supposed to function? There's reality, and there's not-reality, and elected representatives should be expected to deal with the former, not fight imaginary battles against pretend foes.
Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney found himself similarly confused this week, saying, “We have had five years of economic stagnation. It is inexcusable…I must admit, it has been hard to watch or read the news. What we feared would happen is happening.”
He wasn't clear on when he feared whatever it is he feared. But there is literally no metric by which one can show economic stagnation over the past five years. In the fall of 2008, near the end of the previous administration, we had a precipitous economic crash courtesy, in large part, of big banks and the legislators who deregulated them so they could play chicken with the American financial system. this crash came about after eight years in which the only direction taxes on the rich moved was down. After President Obama took office and Congress passed his stimulus package, the descent turned around. Job growth started to happen, the stock market recovered, consumers shed debt and started spending, the housing market picked up, manufacturing gained steam. Every economic sign is positive. We're not where we want to be yet, but we're no longer in the midst of calamity.
And then Romney ran for president on an economic platform that comprised cutting taxes for the rich and deregulating the financial markets. American voters wisely rejected that been-there-done-that philosophy. Since the election, the economy has improved at an even faster pace (if Congressional Republicans would take an active role in trying to help the economy, rather than deliberately sabotaging it, we'd be doing much better).
Romney's a successful businessman, so one has to believe he knows the difference between an economy that's getting better and one that's getting worse. But when he looks at ours, he sees no change from five years ago? Or change he was afraid of? The only reasonable conclusion one can glean from his remarks is that he feared the economy would improve, and it has.
It's a good thing the voters chose the way they did last November.
Finally, Senator Rand Paul (R/KY) is another one who's either confused by or lying about deficits. In an interview demonstrating just how little he understands about the economy and monetary policy, Paul said, "You know, the thing is, people want to say it’s extreme. But what I would say is extreme is a trillion-dollar deficit every year. I mean, that’s an extremely bad situation." And yes, it would be bad, if it in fact was real. But it's not. Paul also compares government spending with household spending (two very different situations with nothing in common) and glosses over the fact that his proposed budget would eliminate the departments of Commerce, Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Energy, cuts funding for State by more than 50%, and throws an additional $126 billion at Defense. That's a budget for an imaginary America that exists only in Paul's fevered brain, suitable perhaps for one of Ayn Rand's morally and intellectually bankrupt fantasies, but having nothing to do with reality.
My policy differences with Paul are profound, but that's to be expected; what's surprising is the way he demonstrates, over and over again, his utter lack of understanding of the issues, even on topics he claims to care deeply about. The fact that anyone finds the self-certified ophtalmologist suitable for any elected position boggles the mind, and the fact that he's considered a genuine contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 is absolutely terrifying.
This Week in Embracing Reality
Environmental Protection Agency heads from the last four Republican administrations make the Republican Case for Climate Action, and it's brimming with wisdom and common sense. A must-read.
This Week in Transparency
President Obama announced genuinely significant changes to the way surveillance programs operate (to the extent that they can be changed by executive order; some reforms require congressional action). National security remains a priority, but to the extent that greater transparency can be achieved without sacrificing needed security, we here at TWiA world headquarters are all in favor of it.
This Week in Media Catastrophe
Since it's not April Fool's Day, and this story doesn't come from The Onion, we have to believe it's true. Washington Post to be sold to Jeff Bezos.
And thus did one of the nation's greatest newspapers become a Kindle exclusive...
Photo from The Washington Journalism Center
Side Note: Some of the first honest money I ever made was delivering the Washington Post. On foot, door-to-door, positioning it just so and finding safe places for it in inclement weather. The Post never accepted second-rate delivery. I started my lifelong education in politics by reading the paper over breakfast after making my rounds, back in those storied days of Ben Bradlee and Woodward & Bernstein, when the paper exposed Richard Nixon's criminality and brought down an administration (incidentally, Nixon resigned 39 years ago this week, on August 8, 1974). It's been a national treasure for generations. This is the end of an era, in more ways than one.
This Week in Spoiled, Self-indulgent, Misogynistic Creeps
This. Just read it; we can't bring ourselves to even paraphrase it. But keep some Dramamine handy, because you might get sick.
Then remind yourself that it's not natural law that makes the rich become ever richer while everybody else loses ground, it's the result of deliberate policy choices over the past forty years. Still, one of our two major political parties (and powerful elements in the second) want to continue redistributing wealth from those who can least afford it, into the pockets of entitled parasites like this. Maybe it's time we as a nation rethink that direction.
This Week in Keeping it Classy
President Obama came to my state this week to speak at a Phoenix-area high school about the economy. There were supporters and protesters (from the left and the right) outside. And there were obnoxious racists outside, too. According to the Arizona Republic:
Obama foes at one point sang, "Bye Bye Black Sheep," a derogatory reference to the president's skin color, while protesters like Deanne Bartram raised a sign saying, "Impeach the Half-White Muslim!"
“Obama is ruining American values. He is ruining the Constitution. He needs to go back to where he came from because obviously, he is a liar,” she said. “I am not racist. I am part Indian. Obama’s half Black, half White.”
“He’s 47 percent Negro,” shouted Ron Enderle, a 77-year-old Chandler resident who said that he and his son served as Marines and his grandson is currently serving in the Marines. Enderle criticized the president mishandling security at the U.S. Benghazi Embassy. “My grandson is third generation Marine, and it bothers me to have this man as our commander in chief. I’m ashamed,” Enderle said.
Judy Burris said that she blames Obama for racism in America reaching heights not seen since the 1960s Civil-Rights Era. “We have gone back so many years,” she said. “He’s divided all the races. I hate him for that.”
I have no objection to Americans voicing their opinions. But these opinions are so groundless, so uninformed, and so hateful, they're not worthy of being spoken out loud. These people should be ashamed.
This Week in Gun Safety
When a man tried to settle his grievance with town officials by shooting them, a local hero charged the gunman, wrestled his gun away, and shot him with it. That last part might have been overdoing it a little, but without having been there it's hard to know whether the attacker, disarmed, still posed a threat. Point is, the NRA will tell you that had the town officials themselves been armed, they could have shot this guy before he killed three people. Since he started firing through the wall (using a rifle with a 30-round magazine) before he even got inside, that's not likely.
Moreover, history--a word the NRA hates--shows us that armed civilians don't stop mass murderers once their shooting spree has begun (and this was not, legally, a mass murder, though it would have become one had the shooter been able to kill one more person). It just doesn't happen. Unarmed civilians can, and do--it happened in Pennsylvania this week, it happened in Tucson in 2011, for just two examples. People of courage can make a difference. Guns in the hands of untrained civilians, in an already explosive situation, don't.
This Week in Putting the "Affordable" in Affordable Care Act
As it was intended to do, even before full implementation, the ACA is bringing down the costs of health care. And it will make people healthier--including mentally, since there's so much depression linked to the high cost of care under the old system. According to David M. Cutler in the New York Times, "What is most clear is that the current health care system is failing families, businesses and governments. The Affordable Care Act is the most serious effort ever made to address the myriad flaws in health care today. If it works as intended, the health of our economy – as well as our people – will be much improved."
And no, there is no evidence showing that employers are creating more part-time jobs as a result of the ACA.
So the Republicans who keep trying to kill Obamacare--even (like Senators Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio) threatening to shut down the government unless it's defended--not only are arguing in favor of worse health outcomes for their constituents, they're arguing against an improved economy for everyone. And still, some people will vote for them. Why? I couldn't say.
This Week in Typing
When I started writing, it was on a manual typewriter. I had a little portable that I took to college (in those days, calculators were just coming into vogue; they were beasts roughly the size of VW Beetles, and they cost thousands--nobody owned a computer). It was blue, as most of the best things are.
My first publication, an interview with former Monkee Michael Nesmith, was composed on that typewriter. By the time I wrote professionally, of course, I owned a computer, a Kaypro II. I upgraded to a Mac after that, and never looked back.
But there's something about the feel and the sound and the permanence of a typewriter that remains appealing, and not just to me. Here's Tom Hanks--yes, that Tom Hanks--confessing his love for those old machines. And really, who can blame him?
This Week in Books
August 9 is Book Lovers Day! Celebrate with your favorite book (or author).
This Week in Awesome
This Week in Bears
Bear on a jet ski. The seagull is not impressed.
Also August 9 is Smokey Bear's 69th birthday. Happy birthday, buddy!