Monday, December 31, 2012

Read The Dismal Political Economist on New Year's Day

And Stop Complaining About the Old Year and Start Complaining About the New One

Late Breaking News – Former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to Negotiate Fiscal Cliff for Democrats

Famed Appeaser of Hitler is Just the Man to Negotiate Our Surrender Say Democrats

In their rush to try to appease the Republican demand that Democrats give in on all of their principal demands with respect to the fiscal cliff, the party has engaged former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to negotiate for them.  Mr. Chamberlain is famous for his negotiations with Adolf Hitler in 1938 in which his appeasement resulted, in his words, “peace for our time”.  

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H12967, Münchener Abkommen, Chamberlain.jpg
Chamberlain arrives at Munich, 29 September 1938.

Here from Wikipedia is a direct quote.

My good friends, this is the second time there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Now I recommend you go home, and sleep quietly in your beds.

World War II and its tens of millions of deaths resulted about a year later.  Most Britons could not sleep quietly in their beds as German bombs blasted the nation.  

Mr. Chamberlain is quoted as saying “If Democrats are willing to ignore their election victory and try to provide Republicans with everything Republicans want I think an agreement can be reached.”  Democratic leaders added that this type of thinking was why they called on Mr. Chamberlain, even though he has been deceased for many decades.  “A dead man personifies our negotiating posture in so many ways” they said.

Republican were unsure that the Democrat’s approach would work, saying they may have to be given more than they were demanding in order to reach a deal.

This Just In – Republicans Demand Mitt Romney Be Made Vice President as Part of Any Deal on the Fiscal Cliff

Democrats Reported to Be Considering It

Late breaking news is that the Republicans want Vice President Biden to resign and for Mitt Romney to be the new Vice President under any deal struck between Democrats and Republicans on new tax rates.

“Mitt Romney got tens of millions of votes” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and he went on to add “that if the Democrats were really serious about negotiating they would allow Mr. Romney to be Vice President.”

When asked about Constitutional issues with that proposal the Republicans went on to say that failure to allow Mr. Romney to be Vice President was discrimination against Mormons, and since that was Unconstitutional itself, making Mr. Romney Vice President had to be Constitutional. 

Democrats and President Obama were seeking to reach a compromise with Republicans on the issue, and had offered to allow Mr. Romney to be President for 3 days a week, and to allow Republicans veto power over Cabinet choices and to select the next 8 Supreme Court Justices as long as Republicans would agree to a 5% tax decrease on people making over $2 billion a year. 

Republicans were said to be studying that counter offer but were reluctant to agree to anything less than a 10% tax cut for billionaires, whom they said were the backbone of the country.

New York Times Columnist David Brooks Complains About the President – Says Mr. Obama Thinks He is Morally Superior to Republicans

The Truth – About Everyone Other Than Republicans Are Morally Superior to Republicans

The New York Times employs a gentleman named David Brooks to try and balance its opinion columns.  Mr. Brooks occasionally has a correct insight into reality, but most of the time he is just biased and naïve.  He gives lip service to the idea that Republicans have faults, but deep down he is blindly partisan.  Here for example is his complaint about the President.

"Most of the blame still has to go to Republicans. They’ve had a brain freeze since the election. They have no strategy. They don’t know what they want. They have to decide what they want," Brooks said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "But if I had to fault President Obama, I would say that sometimes he governs like a visitor from a morally superior civilization.
"He comes in here, and he will not — he’ll  talk with [House Speaker John] Boehner, [but] he won’t talk with the other Republicans. He hasn’t built the trust."

Gosh Mr. Brooks, you need to check with the Republicans before you say stupid things like this, and in particular you need to talk with the ones that think a woman cannot get pregnant from rape, that a pregnancy that does result from rape is God’s intention, that torture is a proper way for the U. S. to behave in war, that evolution is liberal hoax, that global warming is not occurring and a whole bunch of other things that would lead only a blind ideologue to conclude that the rest of the country is not morally superior to Republicans.

Democrats Trying Desperately to Lose What They Won in the Election – and Failing Even to Do That

Dems – Why Not Just Give In on Everything and Get This Over With?

When Are Dems Going to Learn that Republicans Will Never Deal?  See Answer Below

Negotiations continue at this point over a tax deal that would prevent the nation from returning to the Clinton era tax rates, and cause a tax increase on low and middle income taxpayers.  Democrats campaigned on allowing the tax rates to revert only for those making more than $250,000.  And they won that campaign.

Now in negotiations they have apparently offered to increase that number to $450,000 and to also cave on the Estate Tax.

With a New Year’s Eve deadline hours away, Democrats abandoned their earlier demand to raise tax rates on household income over $250,000 a year, as President Obama vowed during the recent presidential campaign.

They also relented on the politically sensitive issue of the estate tax, according to a detailed account of the Democratic offer obtained by The Washington Post, promising to stage a vote in the Senate that would guarantee that taxes on inherited estates remain at their current low levels, a key GOP demand.

Republicans had earlier gone along with that cave in, but of course once that cave in was agreed to the Republicans just increased their demands.

Still, McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate minority leader, was holding out to set the income threshold for tax increases even higher, at $550,000, according to people close to the talks in both parties. And he was protesting a Democratic proposal to raise taxes on investment profits for households with income above $250,000.

So now everyone except the Democrats in Congress and the President know the answer to the question of when Dems will learn that Republicans don’t deal, that they don’t bargain in good faith and that they will not put the country ahead of their own partisan political beliefs. 

That answer, NEVER!!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Today in Stupid – NBC’s David Gregory May Be Charged with a Crime in Displaying Empty Ammunition Clip

But Having a Full Clip Ready to Murder People – That’s a God Given Right

In order to demonstrate his point about gun control and access to large clips of ammunition for automatic weapons, clips that enable those guns to kill a large number of people, NBC’s David Gregory showed one on TV.  Now he is under investigation by the D. C. police for possible criminal violations.

WASHINGTON — The Metropolitan Police Department said on Wednesday that it had opened an investigation into whether NBCand David Gregory, the host of “Meet the Press,” broke the law when Mr. Gregory displayed a high-capacity gun magazine during an interview on Sunday with the vice president of the National Rifle Association.

See such actions are illegal in D. C. even though they are legal elsewhere.  In truth of course an empty ammunition clip never did any harm to anyone.  But a full one was used in the Newtown shootings, and a full one is perfectly legal in almost every part of the nation. 

So had Mr. Gregory used a full ammunition clip along with an assault rifle to illustrate his point by mowing down a bunch of people, he would, at least in the eyes of the NRA and other “guns rights no matter who has to die” groups have been exercising his Constitutional rights. They would deplore the loss of life, of course, but readily claim that the fact that people die is just part of what the Founding Fathers wanted when the wrote the Constitution and adopted the Bill of Rights. 

In fact no where does it say in the Bill of Rights that anyone has the right not to be killed by an assault rifle, so there you are.

With Higher Tax Rates After Jan. 1 Republican Can Vote for Any Program and Call It a Tax Cut

Are They Smart Enough to Realize This??

It has become increasingly likely and what everybody expect political pundits knows which is that there will not be a deal on taxes and spending before January 1.  This means that at least some tax rates will revert to the Clinton era levels, not a bad things since that era resulted in high growth, high employment and a balanced budget.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, warned Thursday morning that there was scant time to put together a Congressional deal to avert the impending fiscal crisis and that no resolution was in sight.

Guess what, the world will not end if this happens.  There will still be plenty of time to fix things, and the good news is that whatever plan is put forth the Republicans cannot say they are voting for higher taxes.  Higher taxes will have already occurred.  So Republicans could vote for the President’s Plan and claim they voted for a huge middle class tax cut.

Wow, just think what could be accomplished if Republicans really wanted to work for what’s good for the country and give up their policy of voting solely for political reasons.  

Not Only is America Getting Older – It’s Not Getting Younger

Less Young People Means a Lower Growth Rate

Everyone is familiar with the baby boom and most people are familiar with the baby bust.  The high birth rates of the postwar era followed by the very low birth rates of the post postwar era are producing a nation of old people.  These old people want health care and they want social security and they want everyone else to pay for it.  All of this produces all sorts of political and economic turmoil, as the last few weeks lay witness to.

Now it turns out things are going to get worse, not better.  The long term projections, like really long term show a lot more old people than everyone thought just four years ago.

On December 12th the Census Bureau said America’s projected population would rise 27% to 400m by 2050. That is 9% less than it projected for that year back in 2008. Those 65 and over will grow to 22% of the population by 2060 from 14% now, while the working-age population slips to 57% from 63%.

What does this mean?  It means fewer people are going to be working to support more people.  Contrary to what everyone thinks, a country does not make more money by lowering taxes, or having the stock market go up.  It makes more money when more people are working.  And in the future less people will be working. 

Of course much of this could be changed by an intelligent immigration policy.  Anyone see an intelligent immigration policy coming?  Really, anyone?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mr. Obama Won the Election on a Platform of No Tax Cuts for Those Making More Than $250,000. – So Why does He Want to Raise That Number to $400,000?

Three Good Reasons

The 2012 Presidential election was clear cut on one issue. The President campaigned on the proposal to extend the Bush era tax cuts for everyone making less than $250,000.  And the President won.

So now the President is proposing to raise that number to $400,000.  The reasons, well no one else has been able to think of a single reason why the President has to do this, but because of the brilliance of this site, The Dismal Political Economist has found three valid reasons why the President would renege on his positions and agree to cut taxes for those making more than $250,000.  Here they are.

  1. The President has found out that when he compromises only a little bit with Republicans they accept his offer graciously and agree to major compromises in their proposals.

  1. Republicans will say bad things about the President if he doesn’t compromise, but if he does they will praise him and call him a great leader.

  1. There is no reason for the President to cave, it’s just what he does.

There it is everyone, just pick your favorite reason. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Dismal Political Economist Tips His Hat to a Real Pessimist – Robert J. Gordon Explains Why Future Growth Will Be Far Less Than Past Growth

The Proof – The Lower Growth Rate Trend Has Already Started

Americans of the current age are used to each year bringing an improvement.  There is a raise in salary, a better house, a newer car and more money for discretionary pleasurable events like the ball game, or eating out at a nice restaurant.  This increase had been taking place for over a century.  It is coming to an end.

The decline in growth rates is nice documented by Robert Gordon in a nicely written article in the review section of the Wall Street Journal.  Here is the gist of what he is saying.

Between 1891 and 2007, the nation achieved a robust 2% annual growth rate of output per person. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests to me that future economic growth will achieve at best half that historic rate. The old rate allowed the American standard of living to double every 35 years; for most people in the future that doubling may take a century or more.

The causes are clear, a lack of massive innovation opportunities and the aging of a population which has moved to a service dominated economy.  Here is a good example of why past advances will not be present in the future.

The profound boost that these innovations gave to economic growth would be difficult to repeat. Only once could transport speed be increased from the horse (6 miles per hour) to the Boeing  707 (550 mph). Only once could outhouses be replaced by running water and indoor plumbing. Only once could indoor temperatures, thanks to central heating and air conditioning, be converted from cold in winter and hot in summer to a uniform year-round climate of 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Notice that this inevitable trend is independent of economic policy.  There is no such rule that progress has to come every year.  It is true that Conservative policy will make things worse than they need to be, as Europe is now finding out, but even correct policy will not offset the fact that a population that is stagnating and becoming ever more dominated by the elderly will not produce vibrant growth.

Even if we assume that innovation produces a cornucopia of wonders beyond my expectations, the economy still faces formidable headwinds. The retirement of the baby boomers and the continuing exodus of prime-age males from the labor force, sometimes called the "missing fifth," are reducing hours worked per member of the population. American educational attainment continues to slide ever-downward in the international league tables, due to cost inflation at our universities, $1 trillion in student loans, abysmal test scores and large numbers of high-school dropouts.

What this largely means is that individual goals will change.  They will not be centered on personal economic growth, but on holding on to what one has.

Have a nice day everyone. 

Would You Endorse the NRA and Support Their Positions for $1 million a Year?

The Dismal Political Economist Wouldn’t, But He Might Think About It

The finances of the NRA, the people committed to making sure that there is no barrier to any American owning multiple assault weapons with large magazine clips is public information.  So one reporter at Forbes magazine decided to take a look.

The NRA is big business.  It’s revenues topped the $225 million level.  Where was the money spent?

About $33 million went to salaries and wages (not including the top brass), $28 million went to advertising and promotions. By far the biggest items were membership outreach: $57 million for membership communications, $24 million for printing and shipping, $16 million for educational programs. Just about $10 million went to the NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action.
More than $12.7 million went to Akron-Ohio based InfoCision, a huge telemarketing company that lists a broad spectrum of blue chip non-profits as clients– including Smile Train, the American Diabetes Association, Easter Seals and Unicef—as well as the College Republican National Committee and companies like Time Warner and AT&T.

Ah yes, less than 10% of the money raised goes towards programs to promote propert gun handling, gun safety and other instructional activities.  Or other words, most of the money the NRA raises is used to spend money on raising money for the NRA and paying really nice salaries.  So working for the NRA is a nice job.

As for salaries, fifty-six people in the organization earned more than $100,000 in 2010—and 10 made more than $250,000. Lapierre does not top the list. Kayne B. Robinson, the executive director of general operations does. He was paid just over $1 million. Lapierre was second, pulling in $970,000 in reportable and estimated comp.
Chris W. Cox, the executive director of the group’s lobbying efforts, was third. He earned just over $666,000.

No, The Dismal Political Economist is not sure what any of this means with respect to the debate over gun rights and the right to possess weapons subject to zero regulation and control.  He just thought it was interesting that not only do people that work for the NRA get to fulfill their lifelong dream of making automatic weapons available for everyone, they also make a nice living off of doing so.

An Illustration of the Qualifications (Or Lack Thereof) Of South Carolina’s Soon to be New Senator Tim Scott

Not Just Clueless, But Admittedly Clueless

South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint did the country a great service earlier this month by resigning from the Senate to take a plus job with a partisan think tank.  His replacement will be Representative Tim Scott who is currently serving out his term in the House.

The House of Representatives just decided not to approve a Republican plan that would have allowed the Bush era tax cuts to remain for everyone making less than $1 million a year, because, horror upon horror, it would have raised taxes on those making more than $ 1 million a year.  Here is how Representative Scott reacted.

On his way to pay his respects to Inouye, Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said he had “no clue” what was happening with Plan B. Asked whether he planned to vote for it, he said again: “I have no clue.”

Ah yes, the mantra of a South Carolina Republican, a phrase that always fits, “I have no clue”.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Meanwhile George Will, Washington Post In House Conservative Laments Making Voting Easier

Typical Conservative Reaction to Democracy – Democracy Doesn’t Work When It Results in Non-Conservative Winners

For many people voting in the United States is an extremely difficult process.  For some reason it takes place on Tuesdays, and in many precincts, particularly where there are minority or low income voters there are insufficient resources, resulting in long lines and long hours to vote.

So the recent trend among the more enlightened  officials is to make voting easier.  But this is highly offensive to Conservatives, who tend to lose elections when there is a more honest process.  So Washington Post’s George Will rants and rails against efforts by the Feds to make voting more accessible.  And then makes this argument.

Notice the perverse dialectic by which Washington aggrandizes its power: It promises to ameliorate problems exacerbated by its supposedly ameliorative policies. Notice, too, the logic of Perez’s thesis that “our democracy is stronger when more people have a say in electing their leaders.” Therefore the public good would be served by penalizing nonvoting, as Australia, Belgium and at least 10 other countries do. Liberals love mandates (e.g., health insurance). Why not mandatory voting?

Mandatory voting?  Really?   (and yes, Mr. Will conveniently forgets that mandatory health insurance was a Conservative initiative and that the only place it exists is in Massachusetts where that raving Liberal Mitt Romney put it in place) Does anyone have even the smallest shred of evidence that this is what the government is trying to do?  No they don’t.

Remember this as the Obama administration mounts a drive to federalize voter registration, a step toward making voting mandatory.

Oh, we see it.  The Feds are trying to make voter REGISTRATION easier, and this means the Feds are trying to make voting mandatory. 

And Yes, Mr. Will is what passes as intellectual heft in Conservatives circles.  As for Republicans, look for continued efforts to restrict voting by reducing resources, creating long lines in Democratic precincts and cutting back on early voting.  After all, if you can’t win fairly, as Conservatives cannot, then you have to win unfairly. 

Once again Conservatives show that with respect to voting they belong, well they belong in Communist countries, not democratic ones.

Another Great Laugh from the Editors of the Wall Street Journal - This Time on the Boehner Plan B

Are They Just Making Merry for the Holiday Season?

No rational person can fail to be cheered up when reading an editorial from the ultra Conservative morons who pen that stuff for the editorial of the Wall Street Journal.  For today’s laugh here is their take on John Boehner’s so-called Plan B.

Consider the tax increase now being touted as a sign of "compromise." Speaker John Boehner has moved from opposing higher tax rates to offering higher rates for incomes above $1 million a year. While that's better than the scheduled increase on incomes above $200,000 a year (for singles), it would still put the GOP on record as endorsing a tax increase, in particular on small businesses that file individual returns.

What the Journal is referring to as small businesses are S corporations, partnerships and LLC’s that are pass through entities.  A business organized this way does not pay taxes, instead the taxable income flows through to the owners, who include the taxable income on their own tax returns.

And notice this little bit of tax illiteracy by the WSJ editors.

This isn't reform. It's another tax increase next year disguised as reform. The Fortune 500 CEOs who are lobbying Republicans don't mind because they hope to get a cut in the corporate tax rate. But small businesses will be stuck with a huge immediate tax increase, at least until their owners can scramble to reorganize as corporations instead of Subchapter S companies or LLCs.

See, first of all converting an S Corporation or LLC to a C corporation is about the easiest thing in the world.  But the reason most will not do it is because the S Corporation and the LLC’s allow tax free dividends, while C Corporations do not.  So this paragraph is tax nonsense.  Yes, you would think someone writing for the Wall Street Journal would know basic tax policy, but read what they say over time and it is clear that is not a requirement for authoring these pieces.

So under Mr. Boehner’s plan, which was never going to be enacted, (even Republicans opposed it) according to the Wall Street Journal a business is a “small business” that returns more than $1 million to each of its owners.  Well, if that’s the best you can do WSJ, that’s the best you can do.  But thanks for the early laughing, and we cannot wait to see your next installment.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mitt Romney’s Son Says Mitt Was a Reluctant Presidential Candidate

Reporting This Story Because Everyone Needs a Good Laugh While Facing a Fiscal Cliff

Few men have lusted after the Presidency more than Mitt Romney.  First elected Governor of Massachusetts in 2002, Romney for all purposes abandoned the job in 2004 to start his run for the Presidency.  His strategy then, get rid of the image of moderate Mitt and reinvent himself as a conservative Republican. 

Eight years and about eight reinventions later Mitt won the Republican nomination.  But he was out of reinventions, and left with his last impersonation as a say anything – do anything candidate he lost.  But Mitt has one more personality transplant in him, from desperate to be the President to reluctant candidate. 

December 23, 2012

Son Says Romney Was a Reluctant Candidate

Tagg Romney told the Boston Globe that his father, Mitt Romney, only reluctantly ran for president.

Said Romney's eldest son: "He wanted to be president less than anyone I've met in my life. He had no desire to run."

He added: "If he could have found someone else to take his place... he would have been ecstatic to step aside. He is a very private person who loves his family deeply and wants to be with them, but he has deep faith in God and he loves his country, but he doesn't love the attention."

Yep there it is, Mitt Romney, a core of dishonesty to the end.  His next role, starring in a short movie as the fox in an Aesop fable movie.  The co-star, a bunch of grapes.

Nancy Lanza – One of the Victims of the Connecticut Shootings – Is Not Being Honored

And Deservedly So

The nation mourns the deaths of those who died when a deranged man with access to an arsenal of automatic weapons and large ammunition clips murdered school personnel and elementary students.  Twenty seven people died.  Twenty six are being memorialized.

At the foot of the street leading to Sandy Hook Elementary, 26 Christmas trees stand to honor the dead at the school, each bearing the name of a victim, but no Nancy Lanza.

Outside the Newtown Convenience and Deli in the town center, 26 small plastic Christmas trees with twinkling blue and purple lights stand next to a sign that says, “In loving memory of the Sandy Hook victims.”

The University of Connecticut honored the shooting victims Monday with a ceremony before a men’s basketball game, with 26 students standing at center court holding lighted candles.

The 27th victim was Nancy Lanza, mother of the killer.  The reason she is not recognized is basic and simple.

“I am feeling that there is more anger toward the mother than there is toward the son,” said Lisa Sheridan, a Newtown parent.

“Why would a woman who had a son like this, who clearly had serious issues, keep assault rifles in the house and teach him how to shoot them?” she said. “To deal with that, there’s a feeling here that we’re just going to focus on the 26 innocent people who died at the school.”

Ms. Lanza is dead however, a murder victim like everyone else.

Nancy Lanza
 apparently broke no laws and suffered a violent, tragic death. People who knew her — those who played in her regular dice game and those who saw her at her regular restaurant — said she was devoted to her son and kind and generous to others. They see her as a victim like any of the others.

 But unlike all the other dead and wounded Ms. Lanza was a perpetrator, a person who provided access to automatic weapons to a son who used them in the most horrific manner.  So no, she does not deserve to be among those memorialized.  She just deserves to be remembered as someone who in exercising her rights to obtain automatic weapons caused the death of 26 other people, including 20 children.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tiny Tim Gets Health Care In a Republican World

The Ghost of Christmas Future Relates How Child Health Care Works With Conservatives in Charge

[Editor’s Note:  Following are three short versions of the popular Christmas story, all telling what it would be like if Republicans implemented their plans for health care in the United States.]


Marley was dead.  Well of course he was dead.  He had used up his lifetime limit of Medicare benefits and when he went to the Emergency Room for treatment he was told he had to have three bids from health care providers before he could be treated.  Marley died after getting the second bid, his eyes closed up over the fine print in the contract that absolved the physician from all liability.

So Bob Cratchit went to the surving partner of the firm, Mr. Scrooge, and asked if there could now be some new health care plans.  Scrooge had recently undergone a transformation from greedy boss to benevolent supervisor.  “Of course my boy” said Scrooge, “we have this new program that will be completely paid for by  the firm of Marley and Scrooge.  It is, of course, a high deductible plan.”

The high deductible amount for the plan was a modest $225,000.  “We will cover everything after you pay the first $225,000” said Scrooge magnanimously.  “Bob, your only other costs will be the income tax you have to pay on the premium benefit we give you.”

Bob Cratchit left the offices speechless.  And not in a good way.


Marley was dead.  Well of course he was dead.  At the age of 72 he had not yet qualified for Medicare because Republicans had raised the age to 75, and his health insurance company had dropped him because in their words “you are likely to get sick and file a claim”.  After his heart attack the emergency room care was delayed while he mortgaged his house to pre-pay for the hospital stay, and right in the middle of the appraisal process he dropped dead.

So Bob Cratchit went to the surviving partner of the firm, Mr. Scrooge and asked about new health care plans.  “Oh my dear boy” said Scrooge, “of course we have plants that cover your family.  Now none of the plans will cover pre-existing conditions, so Tiny Tim will not receive any treatment for that leg disease that will eventually kill him, but any new ailments he develops will be covered.”

When Cratchit asked about deductibles Scrooge assured him there would be none, but Scrooge did inform his dedicated and loyal employee that the co-pay would be 124% of the bill, the extra amount being use to cover the profit requirement surcharge of the insurance company.

Bob Cratchit left the offices speechless.  And not in a good way.


Marley was dead.  Well of course he was dead.  After suffering from a debilitating disease he found out his insurance did not cover that particular ailment.  Marley was puzzled since the denial occurred before the ailment was diagnosed, but the insurance company explained that their coverage limitations were not based on a particular type of illness, but on the expected cost of treatment.  Before paying a claim the company required a total cost estimate from the health care provider, and if that cost was in excess of $575.00 the claim was automatically denied. 

So Bob Cratchit went to the surviving partner of the firm, Mr. Scrooge and asked about health care plans.  “Sorry said Scrooge, employers no longer provide health care insurance, but here is a list of companies that you can buy individual coverage from.  Good luck, let us know how it turns out.”

Cratchit found out that each application required about 11 hours to fill out, but since his son Tiny Tim was suffering a serious leg degenerative disease he took the time to apply to seven companies.  Six of the companies turned him down, and the seventh approved his application.  But subsequent investigation by that firm determined that Cratchit has committed insurance fraud, because he inadvertently listed the left leg of Tiny Tim as the one with the problem, when it was the right leg.

Because the insurance company found fraud in the application, Cratchit was denied eligibility for any coverage.  He took his case to an attorney, who for an upfront fee of $35,000 promised to pursue legal action to right this horrible wrong, and who predicted that after working its way through the court system Cratchit would be vindicated in about 9 years.  “We would expect compensation for pain and suffering also” said the attorney, “except that is no longer allowed”.

Bob Cratchit left the lawyer’s offices speechless.  And not in a good way. 

News From 2016 – 157 Students and Teachers Dead in High School Shootout Between Armed Guards and Assault Weapon Carrying Psychopath

News That Hasn’t Happened – Yet

[Editor's note:  The following post has been deemed inappropriate for posting on this holiday.]

The NRA, the defender of the right of everyone to own an unlimited number of automatic weapons whose only function is to kill other human beings has advocated putting armed guards in every school.

In his first extensive public remarks since last week’s mass shooting at a Connecticut school, the head of National Rifle Association on Friday called for lawmakers to take action to put police officers in all schools in an effort to curb such violent outbreaks.

Given the sway that the NRA has over the American body politic, it is entirely possible that this policy could be implemented.  If so, here is a potential news story from 2016 about the results.

Gunman, Armed Guards Shoot it Out
and Over 150 Students are killed

Topeka, Ka (AP) – March 17, 2016.  Authorities today are investigating the death of 157 students and teachers at a local high school where a gun battle between a young man armed with three automatic weapons, 17 ammunition clips and a bazooka walked into a school and engaged in a firefight with the armed guard who was patrolling the halls.  The attack happened at the end of lunch hour, as hundreds of students were returning to classrooms.

Although details are not yet available, it appears that the armed guard, upon seeing the intruder opened fire with his machine gun, spraying bullets across and entire hallway and instantly killing over 70 students.  The gunfire resulted in a panic in the school, as almost all classrooms emptied, many sending students into the path of fire between the guard and the gunman.  Because of the size of the magazines in the guns and the rapid fire, in a little less than 5 seconds over 780 shots were fired, killing or wounding everyone within sight.

The armed guard, whose guns have been determined to have been responsible for almost all of the deaths was posted in the school as part of a policy to protect students after Kansas Republicans removed any and all restrictions on weapon ownership.  Citing basic human rights the Republicans said that any restriction against gun ownership violated “God’s law and man’s law”.  To offset criticism the Republicans passed laws placing at least one armed guard in every school, with the costs to be paid for by reducing three classroom teachers in each school.

Notes taken from the gunman’s home indicated that he planned to ambush the guard and then go on a rampage.  However, because the guard had been trained to shoot immediately at anyone he found to be acting suspiciously the guard opened fire before the gunman could get off his first shot.  While those shots missed, the guard was given credit for preventing massive deaths by the gunman, even though massive deaths occurred because of the guard’s wild and reckless shooting.

“I know the kids that died were happy in that they had been shot by a guard rather than by a deranged lunatic” said a spokesman for the Republican dominated school board.  “And yes, it is true that 157 students and teachers died, but the guard should be commended for killing the armed intruder with minimal loss of life”.  The spokesman went on to add that “this tragedy just shows why the students themselves should have been armed, because if they were they could have shot both the intruder and the guard and prevented much of the death and destruction.”

Following the massacre Democrats and independents once again called for regulation of fire arms, followed by the NRA saying guns didn’t kill these people, people killed these people.  

Monday, December 24, 2012

Suffering From Too Much Holiday Cheer - The Dismal Political Economist is Approved Treatment

Side Effects Include Pessimism and Cynicism

If Symptoms Persist For More Than Four Hours, Watch the Last 30 Minutes of It's A Wonderful Life and Call Your Psychologist In the Morning

If Republicans Don’t Act on Farm Bill Issues Milk Support Prices Go Back to the 1940’s Level

No That is Not a Good Thing – Except for the Lactose Intolerant

With the debacle on fiscal policy and taxes still crowding the center of the stage a little noticed problem is that there is no Farm Bill.  The Farm Bill is the massive legislation that preserves depression era welfare for large farming operations.  At the end of this year if Congress does not act, there is no current farm legislation.

Lost in the political standoff between the Obama administration and Congressional Republicans over the budget is a virtually forgotten impasse over a farm bill that covers billions of dollars in agriculture programs. 

The immediate impact, the government would be forced to buy milk at about $8.00 a gallon. 

Without last-minute Congressional action, the government would have to follow an antiquated 1949 farm law that would force Washington to buy milk at wildly inflated prices, creating higher prices in the dairy case. Milk now costs an average of $3.65 a gallon.

Higher prices would be based on what dairy farm production costs were in 1949, when milk production was almost all done by hand. Because of adjustments for inflation and other technical formulas, the government would be forced by law to buy milk at roughly twice the current market prices to maintain a stable milk market.

While this is a temporary windfall for milk producers, it is a disaster for industries that consume milk and consumers.

Farmers, at first, would experience a financial windfall as they rushed to sell dairy products to the government at higher prices than those they would get on the commercial market. Then the prices customers pay at the supermarket would surge as shortages developed and fewer gallons of milk were available for consumers and for manufacturers of products like cheese and butter.

Of course, now would be a good time to end the program of price supports for milk altogether, since the current wholesale price of milk is above the current (not 1940’s) support price level.  Expect to see Conservatives like Paul Ryan from dairy states like Wisconsin argue for the elimination of the program.  Right, just after you see the dairy cows fly.

Another Turn of the Wheel of Justice – Peter Madoff Gets 10 Years In Prison

 And Has to Forfeit $143 billion – More or Less

The idea that Bernard Madoff carried off his swindle all by himself is just as preposterous as the returns he purported to earn on his investments.  But so far no one else has gone to jail or been punished, except for an old foolish accountant who was an ignorant man caught in the scheme unintentionally.  But this has now changed.


Madoff’s brother sentenced to 10 years

NEW YORK – Peter Madoff will serve 10 years in prison for his role in his older brother's multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, a US judge said on Thursday.
Peter Madoff, 67, pleaded guilty in June to criminal charges including conspiracy to commit securities fraud for falsifying the books and records of the investment advisory company founded by his brother, Bernard Madoff.


And there is this happy footnote to the process.

He agreed at the time not to oppose a request by prosecutors for a maximum 10-year prison sentence and agreed to an order requiring him to forfeit a symbolic $143.1bn. US.

Of course Peter Madoff does not have $143 billion, but it is still nice to see he has to give it up anyway.  As for his crimes.

Peter Madoff, a lawyer, had been chief compliance officer and a senior managing director at the firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities.

Prosecutors say he helped create false and misleading documents designed to make it appear that the firm had an effective compliance programme. If the firm had such a programme, prosecutors said it would have shown that no real trades were taking place.

Peter Madoff also transferred millions of dollars within the Madoff family to avoid tax payments to the Internal Revenue Service and also put his wife on the firm's payroll in a no-show job.

And as for his future, one can only hope that his lawyer was correct in this prediction.

"Peter's life has been shattered by his brother's Ponzi scheme as well as his own conduct and guilty plea, and he will almost certainly live out his remaining days as a jobless pariah, in or out of prison," Wing wrote.

And no, that does not make up for his crime, or give any solace to his victims, but it sure makes the rest of us feel a little more jolly this holiday season.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

FDA Approved Treatment for Too Much Good Holiday Feelings Right Here

Read The Dismal Political Economist on Christmas Day - Because the Good Blogs Will Not Be Posting!

From Robert Bork’s Senate Confirmation Hearing

Convincing and Final Evidence Whey This Man Should Never Have Even Been Considered for the Supreme Court

Brad DeLong and his wonderful economics blog have an extended post with part of the transcript of the confirmation hearings of the late Robert Bork to be an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court.  Here is just one example of why this man was not qualified for the court, and in this case an example so egregious that only one example is needed.

And let me tell you one other thing, Senator. For my sins I was approached by a three-judge district court in Connecticut and said they had just struck down the plan put in by the legislature and would I serve as a special master to redistrict Connecticut. I said, Judge Blumenfeld, I have just written that one man, one vote is a fiasco  (emphasis added) --and that was my word, I am afraid--but I will do it.

And yes, the concept of “equal protection under the law” was totally foreign to Mr. Bork.  Why do you ask?

Today’s Laugh – Reading Wall Street Journal Opinion Piece by Kimberly Dennis Arguing that Charities Should Want Lower Tax Rates and Caps on Deductions

 When the Exact Opposite is True

As the football season winds down and the basketball playoff are still far in the future one remaining entertaining sport is watching Conservatives argue positions using logic that is the opposite of real logic.  Case in point is the issue of limiting charitable deductions and the top income tax rate.

Basic logic says that charities are better off with a higher tax rate, because the deduction for charitable is giving has a higher value the higher the tax rate is.  And anyone can see that limiting deductions does not work in the best interests of charities.  But the Wall Street Journal, bless their soul, has found someone to argue just the opposite.  And entertaining reading it is.

If nonprofits knew what was good for them, they would be focusing less on preserving the charitable deduction and more on economic growth and wealth creation. As the dreaded fiscal cliff approaches, they should be lobbying for a tax system that lowers rates and eliminates loopholes, allowing capital—including charitable capital—to flow to its most productive use. The resulting prosperity would do much more for charities than preserving their own special carve-out from a punitive tax structure.

So what’s the data to support this?  Well here is some

The Tax Foundation has compiled data looking at charitable deductions taken by the "Fortunate 400" wealthiest tax returns since 1992. The data show that these households' share of all charitable deductions, which have largely followed the business cycle over the past 15 years, increased substantially after the Bush tax cuts lowered the top marginal rate to 35% from 39.6%.

Oh yes, the wealthiest increased their share of contributions.  Duh.  The wealthiest increased their share of contributions because the wealthiest increased their share of national income.  Given basic policy of the last several decades that has resulted in a huge shift of wealth and income to the top tiers, of course their share of charitable giving increased as a percent of the total.

And then there is this graph. 


Of course it shows no such thing as lower taxes resulting in higher giving.  It leaves out income distribution, again, which is what is really going on here.

But conservatives facing the well know bias against them of math, logic and analysis have to come up with some explanation of why their policies should work.  Unfortunately for them this is about the best they can do.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Newtown, Connecticut – A Small Town Emblematic of the Gun Issue in America

Residents Just Said No to Reasonable Regulations

The can be no blaming of the massacre of school children in Newtown, Connecticut on anyone other than the insane man who did the shooting.  But the town of Newtown does stand for an environment that allowed this deranged individual to have access to the weapons that he used in his horrific acts.  Here is what it is like to live in Newtown.

But in the last couple of years, residents began noticing loud, repeated gunfire, and even explosions, coming from new places. Near a trailer park. By a boat launch. Next to well-appointed houses. At 2:20 p.m. on one Wednesday last spring, multiple shots were reported in a wooded area on Cold Spring Road near South Main Street, right across the road from an elementary school.

Why?  Because in Newtown, as in all across America, resident refuse to enact even the most basic protections against dangerous use of firearms.

Yet recent efforts by the police chief and other town leaders to gain some control over the shooting and the weaponry turned into a tumultuous civic fight, with traditional hunters and discreet gun owners opposed by assault weapon enthusiasts, and a modest tolerance for bearing arms competing with the staunch views of a gun industry trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which has made Newtown its home.

No, this is not a war zone.  It sometimes just sounds like one.

Much of the gunfire and the explosions reported by residents to the police in recent months came from a spot less than three miles from their house. Police logs identified the spot as one of the town’s many unlicensed gun ranges, where the familiar noise of hunting rifles has grown to include automatic gunfire and explosions that have shaken houses.

“It was like this continuous, rapid fire,” said Amy Habboush, who was accustomed to the sound of gunfire but became alarmed last year when she heard what sounded like machine guns, though she did not complain to the police. “It was a concern. We knew there was target practice, but we hadn’t heard that noise before.”

And opposition to unlimited shooting in the town has been strong.

A second committee gathering in September drew such a large crowd that the meeting was moved into a high school cafeteria, where the opposition grew fierce. “This is a freedom that should never be taken away,” one woman said. Added another, “Teach kids to hunt, you will never have to hunt your kids.”

“No safety concerns exist,” the National Shooting Sports Foundation spokesman said, according to the minutes.

And no, restrictions on shooting in public next to schools and houses would not have prevented what happened in that town.  But they might prevent the accidental shooting of the next victim. 

And yes, there is the final, disgusting response of those who want their gun rights at the expense of the lives and safety of others, of those who believe so strongly in their own rights that if 20 children and 7 adults have to die in a horrendous shooting, too bad.

Scott Ostrovsky, said he and his friends had been shooting automatic weapons since he bought the 23-acre property more than 12 years ago. It is safe, he said, because his land is sandwiched between two other gun ranges, the 123-acre Pequot hunting club and the 500-acre Fairfield club.

The explosions his neighbors hear are targets that are legally available at hunting outlets. “If you’re good old boys like we are, they are exciting,” he said. He said he was distraught at the school massacre but said guns should not be made the “scapegoat.”

“Guns are why we’re free in this country, and people lose sight of that when tragedies like this happen,” he said. “A gun didn’t kill all those children, a disturbed man killed all those children.”

The Presidential Election Was a Referendum on Raising Taxes on People Making More Than $250,000 a Year

House Republicans Trying to Pass Bill Raising Taxes on People Making $1 million a Year –

They Don’t Bother With Election Results

One thing that was clear in the 2012 Presidential election was that President Obama’s tax policy was to return to Clinton era tax rates on those making more than $250k a year.  A second thing that was clear is that Mr. Obama won by a fairly large margin;  the election was not in doubt and it was not close.

So Republicans in the House have decided that what they need to do, if they can get the votes, (update:  which they cannot) is to return to Clinton era tax rates on those making $ 1 million a year, and call it compromise.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) called on Senate leaders Thursday to schedule a vote on his plan to extend tax cuts on income up to $1 million — known as Plan B — if it passes the House later in the day.

This is the Speaker of the House’s position.

“For weeks, the White House said if I moved on rates, they would make substantial concessions on spending cuts and entitlement reforms,” Boehner said. “I did my part. They’ve done nothing.”

Reality of course is different.

In fact, Obama has counteroffered a proposal to trim Social Security benefits and extend the tax cuts for families earning as much as $400,000 a year — up from the $250,000 limit that he had stipulated during his presidential reelection campaign. 

But then in dealing with Republicans it usually is.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Read The Dismal Political Economist on Christmas Day

You'll Have a Dickens of a Time!

Another Mass Shooting by Assault Rifles – Bring Out the Standard Gun Control Script

And The NRA Waits to Let Things Blow Over

It’s like living in rerun hell.  The fact that there will regularly be a massive shooting by a deranged person with unlimited access to automatic weapons is now a given.  Also a given, the reaction by politicians and gun rights and gun control advocates alike.  In fact, the three groups seem to have agreed upon a specific script, which plays out something like this.

Scene  A modern, loving caring American community devastated by gun violence.

The Players  The Usual Suspects

The Script

Everyone: Oh this is horrible, how terrible, we must do something.  This must never happen again.

Gun Control Advocates:  It’s the President’s fault, he needs to do something.  Why doesn’t he do something.  We don’t blame the ‘unlimited guns for everyone’ crowd who block any type of regulation of fire arms.  It’s the fault of those who want regulation, because they didn’t do anything. 

Congress:  Let’s let a few members introduce legislation, when things die down we will kill it.

NRA and its Allies:  Gun control never solved this problem.  We will defeat any legislator who tries to ban our Constitutionally right to own bazookas, tanks, or cruise missles.

Crazies:  Let’s arm every school teacher and principal.  They can shoot it out with the assassins who invade the school.

Work Arounders:  Maybe we can just control ammunition, limit the number of bullets, sure that will fix things.

The Victims:  (quiet, they can’t say anything)

The Final Act

The curtain falls as soon as a new story takes it place, like Lindsey Lohan being arrested.  The script is then put back into the files, to be dusted off and used again and again.

Longmont Colorado Bans Hydraulic Fracking – and the Oil and Gas Industry Sues

 Conservatives Who Believe in Local Government are Siding with the Local Government are Not So Strangely Silent

The good citizens of the northern Colorado town of Longmont have decided by the democratic process to ban hydraulic fracking in their town.

Ed Andrieski/Associated Press
A rig in Frederick, Colo., near Longmont. In November, citizens of Longmont voted overwhelmingly to ban fracking despite heavy opposition from the oil and gas industry.

The measure, the first of its kind in the state, still allows oil and gas drilling within city limits, but it prohibits hydraulic fracturing, which has lifted energy production across the country but has raised concerns about air and water contamination.

The oil and gas industry is outraged, outraged that some community does not want to allow what could be very environmentally dangerous activity in its town.  So it is suing.

The oil and gas association said the ban amounted to a prohibition on all efforts to tap the estimated $500 million in oil and gas resources locked in the rocks deep beneath Longmont.

“The ban is illegal, and we expect it to be overturned by the courts,” said Tisha Schuller, the president of the group.

This Forum has no idea is such a ban is legal.  But it does know that Conservatives say they regard local government control as a sacred part of their beliefs.  And so far, Conservatives have not been heard from.  Maybe its because even more sacred to them is the oil and gas industry?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Coming Christmas Day - Cynicism and Sarcasm From This Site

Because the Early Version of Scrooge Lives - Right Here

John Podhoretz Writes an Obituary for Robert Bork – and Illustrates the Vacuous Content of Conservative Judicial Philosophy

No, Not What He Intended – It is What He Produced

The death of former U. S. Solicitor General and failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork has brought forth an examination of the nature of conservative philosophy with respect for the law and the Constitution.  First to comment is one of the more polarizing and intellectually bankrupt of the Conservative philosophers, John Podhoretz.

What Mr. Podhoretz tries to do is to eulogize Mr. Bork.  What he succeeds in doing is to expose what Conservative judges really want, which is a literal interpretation of laws and the Constitution that leaves Conservative positions untouched and obliterates positions with which Conservatives disagree.  The most famous of these involves a case in which the state of Connecticut banned the sale of contraceptives.  Conservatives hate the idea of contraception, because it removes the risk of unwanted pregnancy from couples engaging in private activity which Conservatives don’t want them to do.  So incredibly enough, Conservatives believe that the government has a right to ban contraception.

Here is Mr. Podhoretz attempting to rescue Mr. Bork’s erroneous and offensive position.

You asked him about his views of cases like Griswold v. Connecticut, involving the privacy of sexual acts in the bedroom, and he said the case had been wrongly decided not because there should be no privacy but because he could locate no right to privacy in the Constitution. This was, he said, a matter for legislatures, not courts.

Think about what is being said here.  The principles of the Constitution do not provide any right to privacy, any right for men and women to be left alone in the privacy of their homes by government!  Government has the right to regulate any private behavior that it wants to.  That this is the very antithesis of the real Conservatism is lost on people like Mr. Bork and Mr. Podhoretz.  In their non-democratic world if government wants to pursue their policy of enforcing their behavior on others, it has the right to do so.

We saw that this philosophy was still present among faux conservatives when Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum and others argued that while they were against a policy of putting gay and lesbian people in jail because they were gay or lesbians, the government certainly had the authority and right to do so if it chose to do so.  

Of course, abortion rights is the big issue here.  Read these sentences and see if you can find anything admirable with respect to either the author or the subject. (and notice the ugly personal  cowardly attack on the late Senator Kennedy, who is conveniently deceased and thus unable to defend himself).

Bob Bork became a sacrificial lamb for, among others, Ted Kennedy, who had experience. This one would not drown; this one Kennedy would only libel by accusing him of wanting to return America to the days in which women got abortions with coat hangers. Why? For the crime of arguing, honestly and correctly, that Roe v. Wade, which somehow found  a right to abortion in the language of a document that never mentioned abortion, was a travesty.

And yes, the Constitution never mentions assault rifles either, but somehow Conservatives find in that document the right for anyone to acquire such a weapon.  Why, because in that case the interpretation fits their pre-disposed views.

Finally there is this.

Bork was exactly the sort of choice serious-minded people should have welcomed. The Court had been in large measure the province of lightweights who were considered politically safe or somehow controllable, men who possessed no intellectual compass and were either the captives of their clerks or of the conventional wisdom. 

Could a more eloquent passage have ever been written about Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia or the other Conservative hacks who have sat or now sit on the Court?

And as far a bias against Conservatives for the Court is concerned, even Mr. Podhoretz has to acknowledge this historical fact.

Only a year earlier, Antonin Scalia had been affirmed by a 98-0 vote in the Senate,

and he conveniently leaves out the information that a number of Republicans voted against confirming Robert Bork for the Supreme Court.  But that’s the way Conservatives act in intellectual discussions, only the facts that are on their side are acknowledged.

Robert Bork was denied confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice.  Had he prevailed, and had his philosophy prevailed government would have had the power and authority to regulate every aspect of citizen behavior.  That could be called fascism, it could be called communism.  It could not be called democracy.