2 September 2011
I found myself commenting at The Snark Who Hunts Back a few days ago that the economic stimulus enacted by the federal government worked! Just look at what happened with employment.
Things were going very badly before the stimulus took effect, and got much better while the stimulus was applied. My observation is that we went from losing 500,000 jobs a month to gaining 100,000 a month.
Here is a summary of the pace of job losses and job gains over the last three years. I derived these numbers from the archived employment reports at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Changes in total nonfarm employment 2008–2011
Data from US business establishments, seasonally adjusted
||Avg. mo. chg.
|G. W. Bush
||Jan ’08–Jul ’08
|G. W. Bush
||Jul ’08–Jan ’09
||Lehman Brothers collapse|
|B. H. Obama
||Jan ’09–Jul ’09
|B. H. Obama
||Jul ’09–Jan ’10
|B. H. Obama
||Jan ’10–Jul ’10
|B. H. Obama
||Jul ’10–Jan ’11
||Tax cuts extended|
|B. H. Obama
||Jan ’11–Jul ’11
Most of the spending programs and tax breaks of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) were limited to 2009 and 2010. Some of its provisions are still in effect for 2011 and beyond, however.
There’s no way to be sure how many jobs would have been lost or gained without the stimulus. People who consider themselves economic experts will make all kinds of claims about whether there should have been more stimulus or a different kind of stimulus or none at all. I just can’t see how anyone looks at the facts and concludes that the stimulus didn’t work at all.
30 August 2011
Our government is part of our society. You won’t like everything it does, but if you try to radically change it, you’re going to run into major difficulties.
You can wish for some changes, but there’s not too much most people can do as individuals to make a big difference. What you can do is join up with folks who are like-minded or have similar interests to yours, and work on influencing that group while helping that group influence our politics. Sometimes your group will swing an election to someone who will run things more to your liking.
The most powerful political groups are the major parties, so you might want to gauge which of the two parties suits you better and support it. Or, if you are part of a smaller movement, help your group figure out which party to back, and then support the party that your group supports.
These aren’t very original thoughts or profound insights. A lot of people don’t subscribe to them, though. Witness your average political blog commenter. They expect to get everything their own way by ranting, and if neither party closely matches their individual views, they are inclined to embrace radicalism. Radicalism’s not for me; I have too much to lose.
30 August 2011
If you are interested to know what interest rates the United States pays on its Treasury bills, you can check them at a site like Bankrate.com.
These rates are down from a month ago. So if anyone tries to tell you rates shot up when S & P flipped out and downgraded US debt earlier this month, make a mental note that that person is not a trustworthy source of financial information.
Rates are also down from one year ago. They are really about as low as they can go, and there’s no movement up yet. Whatever is hurting our economy now, it is not a lack of confidence in the ability of the United States to pay back its debts.
[Update, 2 Sept.: Removed a misplaced word “who” in “if anyone who tries”.]
23 August 2011
It isn’t hypocrisy for a member of Congress to request funds for their district from a program that they oppose. Why can’t left-aligned bloggers resist this lame accusation?
If you have half a brain or more, you understand that opposition to a program means it shouldn’t be giving out money to anyone. Of course, as long as it is giving out money to everyone else, you accomplish nothing by not taking what you could get for your district.
It’s the same as opposing some tax deduction, but claiming that deduction for yourself as long as you are eligible. You think it’s a bad idea for the government to give up so much tax revenue, but they are doing it anyway. There’s no virtue to not taking what the existing law gives you. You can still say it’s a bad idea.
15 August 2011
It’s about time Americans got behind their president and started believing again in what we accomplish as a nation. What I admire most about Barack Obama is his constant insistence on making progress for all of America, not just some some chunk of our society. This is never going to be popular with Americans who are heavily into hating other Americans.
10 August 2011
The views on this blog have been going through the roof! And I haven’t even started publicizing it yet.
I’m holding the line on ads, though.
10 August 2011
At the same time I was thinking of a bunch of bad raps against President Obama, I thought about some unfair claims that had been made against George W. Bush while he was president.
1. He knew about the 9/11 attacks beforehand.
2. He said “the question is our children learning?”
3. He let Osama bin Laden get away.
4. He didn’t care about black people.
5. He couldn’t think of any mistakes he’d made as President.
However, there were some sound criticisms as well:
1. He moved to privatize Social Security.
2. He took us to war against Iraq on fabricated evidence.
3. He asked for and got more spending, less revenue, and a large deficit throughout several years of economic growth.
4. He denied global warming was occurring.
5. He ran a relentless political propaganda campaign against the opposition.
8 August 2011
A few days ago I caught Steve Benen bemoaning and marveling and explaining away the long-established fact that in the United States self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals by a lot. The comments on Benen’s blog were heavily into explanations of how the word “liberal” has been defined as bad by right-wingers, and how lots of people have liberal views but are afraid to call themselves “liberal”.
Let’s get real. There are more conservatives than liberals. People who don’t like liberalism for the most part know what it is they don’t like. They aren’t just put off by what they’ve heard said about “liberals”. They really, really don’t like you.
Accept that. There may be fewer of you liberals, and many conservatives dislike you. That doesn’t mean you aren’t right. It does mean that your politics don’t succeed nationally unless you build bridges to people who don’t call themselves liberal. Like those 36 percent who claim to be moderate. Most of those folks will listen to reason and might vote for a candidate you like. You don’t increase your credibility with those voters when you call Obama a sellout for endorsing positions that moderates tend to agree with, like “government spending is too high.” It also doesn’t help to heap scorn on Christian belief, or go off on racism or middle-class people who “vote against their own best interest.” They vote the way they see fit; it’s not usually a winning approach to explain to them that you know what’s best for them. Try not to discount the possibility, on this issue or that, that the other guy might be right about what’s best for him, and you might be wrong.
You don’t have to be agreeable with everybody, but you’re better off ignoring some people. You can write off a lot of conservatives. Many of them can’t be moved. Don’t disgrace yourself by getting down in the dirt with them, if that’s where they go.
[Updated to correct typo “they way they see fit”.]
4 August 2011
A United States Senator advocates a permanent nonsensical constraint on debt limits on the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page.
One, the gimmick doesn’t make sense, as I’ve already remarked. Two, if you tried to do it anyway, you’d fail. The present deal on spending cuts did not come easy, and we’re still not done wrangling over it. Trying to force ever-deeper cuts by this same political method year after year would exhaust everyone’s tolerance for tea-partydom by the second year.
Budget gimmicks for balancing the budget have been tried before. Gimmicks are things that offer you a novel and simple-sounding strategy that logically implies you’ll reach your goal. This might make Wall Street Journal readers feel good until it comes time to take the next novel, simple-sounding step, and it turns out to be even more difficult and less satisfactory than the old, complicated way of doing things.
Here’s an old idea that actually has worked before. Increase taxes, restrain spending, and let the economy grow. The first two parts don’t tend to make people happy. But it’s like diet and exercise–you’d better pay attention to both if you want to get in shape.
3 August 2011
If you believe any of these things, you’ve been deluded by right-wing political hacks. It’s not just that these aren’t all true. It’s that none of them are true. The right-wingers work steadily to promote as many of these smears as they can, knowing that the quantity of them can be effective in turning people against Obama, even though the quality of the individual allegations is low.
1. He was born in Kenya.
2. He’s a socialist.
3. He’s a tyrant.
4. He’s a Muslim.
5. He’s a corrupt Chicago politician.
6. He can’t speak without a teleprompter.
7. He’s hostile to America.
8. He’s been on a spending spree.
9. He has hiked up taxes.
10. He’s a close friend of terrorists such as William Ayers.
11. His book Dreams from My Father was ghost-written by Ayers.
12. He pretends to be a miracle worker, which is preposterous, because not even a president can work miracles.
13. He doesn’t perform miracles, but he should, because that is what we expect of a president.
Fight the influence of b.s. like this. Be on the side of truth; the Republicans are not on that side.