Sunday, January 30, 2011

Frank Rich: The Tea Party Wags the Dog

Any lingering doubts about Barack Obama’s determination to appropriate Ronald Reagan’s political spirit evaporated just before the State of the Union. No American brand is more associated with Reagan than General Electric, and it was that corporation’s chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, who popped up as the president’s new wingman when the White House rolled out its latest jobs initiative on Jan. 21. Obama’s speech on Tuesday, with its celebration of the nation’s can-do capitalist ingenuity, moved him still closer to Reagan’s sweet spot as a national cheerleader. The president even offered a remix of the old Reagan-era G.E. jingle “We bring good things to life” — now traded up to the grander “We do big things.”

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Still Banking on Fraud

A truly amazing thing has happened in banking. After the worst financial crisis in 75 years sparked the “Great Recession,” we have

  • Failed to identify the real causes of the crisis
  • Failed to fix the defects that caused the crisis
  • Failed to hold the CEOs, professionals, and anti-regulators who caused the crisis accountable—even when they committed fraud
  • Bailed out the largest and worst financial firms with massive public funds
  • Covered up banking losses and failures—impairing any economic recovery
  • Degraded our integrity and made the banking system even more encouraging of fraud
  • Refused to follow policies that have proved extremely successful in past crises
  • Made the systemically dangerous megabanks even more dangerous
  • Made our financial system even more parasitic, harming the real economy

And pronounced this travesty a brilliant success.

Of Pensions, and Piggybanks: The Challenges of Ensuring a Secure Retirement

Imagine that every week, decade after decade, you faithfully put aside part of your pay in a special piggy bank to provide for your golden years. But when you are ready to retire, your employer takes all your savings back.

Or imagine that, instead of money, your employer deducts money from your paycheck in exchange for IOUs stamped: "Money to paid upon retirement." But when you retire, your employer says no money has been put aside for you.

You did nothing wrong, but you will not have a secure retirement.

The Children Must Play

What the United States could learn from Finland about education reform.

Samuel E. Abrams
January 28, 2011 | 12:00 am

While observing recess outside the Kallahti Comprehensive School on the eastern edge of Helsinki on a chilly day in April 2009, I asked Principal Timo Heikkinen if students go out when it’s very cold. Heikkinen said they do. I then asked Heikkinen if they go out when it’s very, very cold. Heikkinen smiled and said, “If minus 15 [Celsius] and windy, maybe not, but otherwise, yes. The children can’t learn if they don’t play. The children must play.”

In comparison to the United States and many other industrialized nations, the Finns have implemented a radically different model of educational reform—based on a balanced curriculum and professionalization, not testing. Not only do Finnish educational authorities provide students with far more recess than their U.S. counterparts—75 minutes a day in Finnish elementary schools versus an average of 27 minutes in the U.S.—but they also mandate lots of arts and crafts, more learning by doing, rigorous standards for teacher certification, higher teacher pay, and attractive working conditions.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Banking `Toxic Cocktail' Is Too Big to Forget: Simon Johnson

Bloomberg Opinion

As a senator from Delaware in 2009- 10, Ted Kaufman fought long and hard against the systemic dangers posed by large, highly leveraged U.S. banks. When he left the Senate, at the end of the last Congress, there were some who supposed that his arguments would now get less attention at least from mainstream thinking.

But far from dying out, the points Kaufman made seem to have taken hold within influential government circles.

The latest quarterly report from Neil Barofsky, the special inspector-general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, is the best official articulation yet of why too big to fail is here to stay. In its executive summary, the document, which was released this week, discusses “perhaps TARP’s most significant legacy, the moral hazard and potentially disastrous consequences associated with the continued existence of financial institutions that are ‘too big to fail.’”

AP Passes Off Dishonest Editorial About Social Security's Finances as a News Story

The insidious ways that conservative narratives bleed into our mainstream economic discourse as objective truths is a dominant theme in my book, and this story by the Associated Press's Stephen Ohlemacher -- ostensibly a piece of reporting rather than opinion -- is one of the most egregious examples I've encountered. Check out the lede:

Sick and getting sicker, Social Security will run at a deficit this year and keep on running in the red until its trust funds are drained by about 2037, congressional budget experts said Wednesday in bleaker-than-previous estimates.

Is it "sick"? Social Security has $2.5 trillion in T-Bills sitting in a trust fund, is financed through 2037 and if nothing were to change it would still be able to pay out higher benefits than it does today, indefinitely.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What Would Ronnie Do?

Obama starts the second half of his term with a set of obstacles similar to those that bedeviled Ronald Reagan. On Reagan’s centennial, the president is looking to the past for inspiration.

by Rick Perlstein
January 23, 2011

Ronald Reagan scored a comfortable victory in 1980, promising a new day in Washington and the nation. Then Reaganomics ran into brick wall. Unemployment—7.4 percent at the beginning of his term—was heading toward 10 percent by the summer of 1982. The gross domestic product declined 1.8 percent. On Election Day, voters punished him by taking 27 House seats from his Republican Party, including most of the ones gained in 1980. That gave the Democrats a 269–166 seat advantage—far greater than the 51-seat advantage Republicans enjoy today.

The day after that woeful election, Reagan’s aides sent him into a press conference with defensive talking points. He tore them up. “We’re very pleased with the results,” he said, claiming that the GOP had “beat the odds” for off-year elections (he went back to 1928 to make the claim). “Wasn’t he in worse shape for 1984?” he was asked. “I don’t think so at all,” he replied. Hadn’t it been a historically uncivil campaign? He agreed—because of all the opposition did to “frighten voters.”

Obama's "Sputnik Moment"

The lesson from the 1950s is that it takes more than private enterprise to revive American innovation. It takes lots of government spending.

By Fred Kaplan
Posted Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, at 11:02 PM ET

President Barack Obama didn't say much about foreign or military policy in Tuesday night's State of the Union address. To the extent he did talk about it, he spent more time on economic agreements with India, South Korea, and China than on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—and, given the state of the economy and the nature of the political battles ahead, the balance was probably right.

A call to protest ignites a call to arms

The reaction to Frances Fox Piven's essay urging the unemployed to protest for change shows that we are no longer a democracy but a tyranny of the heavily armed.

By Barbara Ehrenreich
January 26, 2011

Why are Americans such wusses? Threaten the Greeks with job losses and benefit cuts and they tie up Athens, but take away Americans' jobs, 401(k)s, even their homes, and they pretty much roll over. Tell British students that their tuition is about to go up and they take to the streets; American students just amp up their doses of Prozac.

The question has been raised many times in the last few years, by a variety of scholars and commentators -- this one included -- but when the eminent social scientist Frances Fox Piven brought it up at the end of December in an essay titled "Mobilizing the Jobless," all hell broke loose. An editor of Glenn Beck's website,, posted a piece sporting the specious headline "Frances Fox Piven Rings in the New Year by Calling for Violent Revolution," and, just two weeks before the Tucson shootings, the death threats started flying. Many of the most provocative comments have been removed from the site's comment section, but at one time they included such charming posts as: "Bring it on biotch [sic]. we're armed to the teeth." Or: "We're all for violence and change, Francis [sic]. Where do your loved ones live?"

Wall Street Destroyed $8 for Every $1 Earned

Tonight, President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union address. A major theme of the speech will be jobs and the economy. Let's hope the president spares a few minutes for Wall Street reforms that might prevent a repeat of the economic collapse that we're slowly starting to recover from.

As Kai Wright points out in ColorLines, the State of the Union is the unofficial kickoff of the 2012 election season:

The still churning foreclosures and mounding debt in black and brown neighborhoods don’t suggest a stabilized economy anywhere except Wall Street, but let’s set that familiar fight to the side for now. The point is that whether we’re talking about creating jobs or seating district court judges, the time for making policy is gone. Starting tomorrow night, it’s all talk until we vote next.

Financial Crisis Was Avoidable, Inquiry Finds

WASHINGTON — The 2008 financial crisis was an “avoidable” disaster caused by widespread failures in government regulation, corporate mismanagement and heedless risk-taking by Wall Street, according to the conclusions of a federal inquiry.

The commission that investigated the crisis casts a wide net of blame, faulting two administrations, the Federal Reserve and other regulators for permitting a calamitous concoction: shoddy mortgage lending, the excessive packaging and sale of loans to investors and risky bets on securities backed by the loans.

“The greatest tragedy would be to accept the refrain that no one could have seen this coming and thus nothing could have been done,” the panel wrote in the report’s conclusions, which were read by The New York Times. “If we accept this notion, it will happen again.”

SOTU: Obama Makes a Muscular Defense of Social Security, But Aligns with Wall St. on Exporting Our Jobs

By John Nichols,
Posted on January 25, 2011, Printed on January 26, 2011

President Obama used his second State of the Union Address to deliver a muscular defense of Social Security, the crown jewel program of the New Deal that progressives had feared was under threat as the president triangulated to the right following November, 2010, election setbacks for Democrats.

Explicitly acknowledging disagreement with key recommendations made by his own bipartisan Fiscal Commission, Obama told the assembled members of Congress that it was necessary to "find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations. And we must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market."

Planned Parenthood May Have Busted Conservative "Sting" Attempt Reminiscent of ACORN Smear Campaign

According to the Child Obscenity and Exploitation section of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), sexual exploitation and trafficking of youth in the United States are problems of "epidemic proportions." The majority of young American victims of commercial sexual exploitation, according to one DOJ report, tend to be "runaway or thrown away" youth who live on the streets and who become victims of prostitution. These children "generally come from homes where they have been abused, or from families that have abandoned them. They often become involved in prostitution as a way to support themselves financially or to get the things they want or need."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Power, Baby, Power

| Sat Jan. 22, 2011 4:34 PM PST

Tim Lee says that American liberalism has incorporated libertarian critiques at a striking rate over the past few decades:

Libertarians have had a pretty impressive winning streak in recent decades, especially on economic policy. Income tax rates are way down. Numerous industries have been deregulated. Most price controls have been abandoned. Competitive labor markets have steadily displaced top-down collective bargaining. Trade has been steadily liberalized....This isn’t to say there are no longer disagreements about economic policy; clearly there are. But what’s striking is that the left’s smartest intellectuals and policy advocates now largely make their arguments from libertarians’ intellectual turf.

He's right! And there are both benefits and drawbacks to this.

Newsflash: Founders favored "government run health care"

By Greg Sargent

Forbes writer Rick Ungar is getting some attention for a piece arguing that history shows that John Adams supported a strong Federal role in health care. Ungar argues that Adams even championed an early measure utilizing the concept behind the individual mandate, which Tea Partyers say is unconsittutional.

I just ran this theory past a professor of history who specializes in the early republic, and he said there's actually something to it. Short version: There's no proof from the historical record that Adams would have backed the idea behind the individual mandate in particular. But it is fair to conclude, the professor says, that the founding generation supported the basic idea of government run health care, and the use of mandatory taxation to pay for it.

Turbulence Ahead

Another year of malaise along the Atlantic.

By the numbers, the great recession's long gone. The World Bank forecasts that developing countries -- chugging along at an average growth rate of 6 percent -- will expand the global economy by more than 3 percent this year. In the last six months, London's FTSE 100 is up more than 15 percent, and Wall Street's Dow Jones index is up nearly as much. It's just about enough to say the good times are back.

Paul Krugman: The Competition Myth

Meet the new buzzword, same as the old buzzword. In advance of the State of the Union, President Obama has telegraphed his main theme: competitiveness. The President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board has been renamed the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. And in his Saturday radio address, the president declared that “We can out-compete any other nation on Earth.”

This may be smart politics. Arguably, Mr. Obama has enlisted an old cliché on behalf of a good cause, as a way to sell a much-needed increase in public investment to a public thoroughly indoctrinated in the view that government spending is a bad thing.

The GOP's Campaign Finance "Sneak Attack"

Boehner and Co. fast-track a bill to kill the presidential public finance system and privatize election fundraising.

Mon Jan. 24, 2011 3:00 AM PST

On Wednesday, House Republicans plan to rush to the floor a bill that would eliminate the federal government's presidential financing system—in the process, violating recent pledges by the GOP's leadership of increased transparency and debate in Congress. Not one hearing has been held on the legislation, nor has a single commitee debated its merits. If it passes, it will roll back more than 30 years of law born out of the Watergate scandal, eviscerating one of the few remaining protections stopping corporations from heavily influencing, if not outright buying, American elections, reform experts say.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Banks Want Pieces of Fannie-Freddie Pie

As the Obama administration prepares a report on the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, some of the nation’s largest banks are offering a few suggestions.

Wells Fargo and some other large banks would like private companies, perhaps even themselves, to become the new housing finance giants helping to bundle individual mortgages into securities — that would be stamped with a government guarantee.

The banks have presented their ideas publicly through trade groups. Housing industry consultants and people familiar with recent meetings at the Treasury Department say these banks view the government’s overhaul of the mortgage market as a potential profit opportunity. Treasury officials have met with executives from several institutions, including Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse, according to a public listing of the meetings.

The Illusion of Money

Real wealth or phantom assets? David Korten explores the difference between the kind of wealth that makes life better and the phantom wealth created by financial speculation.

by David Korten

In business school, we were taught to assess investment options to maximize financial return. I don't recall that the professor ever mentioned that this meant maximizing returns to people who have money-to make rich people richer. Or that money is a system of power and that the more our lives depend on money, the greater our subservience to those who control the creation and allocation of money.

Nor do I recall asking my professors, "What is money?" "Why do we assume that maximizing financial return maximizes the creation of real value?" "How does the conversion of natural living wealth to financial wealth create real value?" "What about the many fortunes built through financial speculation, fraud, government subsidies, the sale of harmful products, and the abuse of monopoly power?" I may have had some doubts, but kept them to myself for fear of being dismissed as hopelessly stupid.

Budget Hawks Are “Excited” by the Thought of Cutting the Social Security COLA—Only Don’t Ask Why

One of the lesser known, but most devastatint Social Security cuts being discussed in Beltway circles is the adoption of a new, less generous version of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for calculating the yearly cost-of-living adjustment (aka COLA) in Social Security benefits. It is called the “Chained”-CPI, which is fitting, because it will chain you to your parents when they have to move in with you for their golden years. Most importantly, it is the only proposed benefit cut that will whack current and future retirees.

When advocates challenge the new formula though, the conservatives and pseudo-Democrats hawking this proposal are no longer even bothering to defend the “Chained” CPI on its merits. (In fact, the current CPI is, if anything, too modest.) They simply coo at how brilliant and “exciting” of a new policy tool it is. Maya MacGuineas’s cheerful performance at a Senate briefing this morning was a case in point.

Terrorism directed at 'liberal' and 'government' targets since July 2008: An interactive map

by David Neiwert

Since all those isolated incidents involving terroristic violence directed at "liberals" and the "government" keep adding up into a serious trend, we've decided it's time to start keeping systematic track of the problem -- especially because mainstream media seem intent on refusing to recognize the trend.

Here's the text for the 20 events we've enumerated so far:

-- July 2008: A gunman named Jim David Adkisson, agitated at how "liberals" are "destroying America," walks into a Unitarian Church and opens fire, killing two churchgoers and wounding four others.

-- October 2008: Two neo-Nazis are arrested in Tennessee in a plot to murder dozens of African-Americans, culminating in the assassination of President Obama.

Frank Rich: The One-Eyed Man Is King

A month before John Wayne won the 1969 Best Actor Oscar for “True Grit,” Richard Nixon wrote him a “Dear Duke” fan letter from the Oval Office: “I saw it in the W.H. with my family and for once we agree with the critics — you were great!” Some four decades later, his rave was echoed by another Republican warrior, this time in praise of the “True Grit” remake with Jeff Bridges in the role of the old, fat, hard-drinking, half-blind 19th-century United States marshal Rooster Cogburn. Shortly after New Year’s, Liz Cheney told The Times that her parents saw “True Grit” at the Teton Theater in Jackson, Wyo., and gave it “two thumbs up.”

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fudging the Facts on Health Care and Deficits

by: Joe Conason, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

Facts always matter, but never more so than when politicians deal with issues of real consequence, like health care and budget deficits.

Data sets and out-year projections may make everybody's eyes glaze over, but without accurate information, the end result of legislation is disaster. Today, there is no way to avoid fiscal ruin and social erosion unless we can determine whether health care reform will tame or swell deficits.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Misunderstandings Regarding State Debt, Pensions, and Retiree Health Costs Create Unnecessary Alarm

Misconceptions Also Divert Attention from Needed Structural Reforms

By Iris J. Lav and Elizabeth McNichol


A spate of recent articles regarding the fiscal situation of states and localities have lumped together their current fiscal problems, stemming largely from the recession, with longer-term issues relating to debt, pension obligations, and retiree health costs, to create the mistaken impression that drastic and immediate measures are needed to avoid an imminent fiscal meltdown.

The large operating deficits that most states are projecting for the 2012 fiscal year, which they have to close before the fiscal year begins (on July 1 in most states), are caused largely by the weak economy. State revenues have stabilized after record losses but remain 12 percent below pre-recession levels, and localities also are experiencing diminished revenues. At the same time that revenues have declined, the need for public services has increased due to the rise in poverty and unemployment. Over the past three years, states and localities have used a combination of reserve funds and federal stimulus funds, along with budget cuts and tax increases, to close these recession-induced deficits. While these deficits have caused severe problems and states and localities are struggling to maintain needed services, this is a cyclical problem that ultimately will ease as the economy recovers.

Media Unwittingly Plays Republicans' Deficit Game ... Again

Paul Krugman | Thursday 20 January 2011

Who could have seen this coming?

The Washington Post editorial board was shocked (shocked!) to discover in early January that incoming congressional Republicans aren’t serious about deficit reduction.

“You could listen to their rhetoric — or you could read the rules they are poised to adopt at the start of the new Congress,” they wrote in a Jan. 2 editorial. “The former promises a new fiscal sobriety. The latter suggests that the new G.O.P. majority is determined to continue the spree of unaffordable tax-cutting.”

Verizon Challenges FCC's Net Neutrality Rules

01/20/11 06:58 PM

WASHINGTON — Verizon Communications Inc. on Thursday filed a legal challenge to new federal regulations that prohibit broadband providers from interfering with Internet traffic flowing over their networks.

In a filing in federal appeals court in the District of Columbia, Verizon argues that the Federal Communications Commission overstepped its authority in adopting the new "network neutrality" rules last month.

The rules prohibit phone and cable companies from favoring or discriminating against Internet content and services – including online calling services such as Skype and Internet video services such as Netflix, which in many cases compete with services sold by companies like Verizon.

Paul Krugman: China Goes to Nixon

With Hu Jintao, China’s president, currently visiting the United States, stories about growing Chinese economic might are everywhere. And those stories are entirely true: although China is still a poor country, it’s growing fast, and given its sheer size it’s well on the way to matching America as an economic superpower.

What’s also true, however, is that China has stumbled into a monetary muddle that’s getting worse with each passing month. Furthermore, the Chinese government’s response to the problem — with policy seemingly paralyzed by deference to special interests, lack of intellectual clarity and a resort to blame games — belies any notion that China’s leaders can be counted on to act decisively and effectively. In fact, the Chinese come off looking like, well, us.

Now There's Even a 'Progressive' Plan to Gut Social Security

By Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research
Posted on January 20, 2011, Printed on January 21, 2011

The insiders in Washington really really want to cut Social Security, and they are prepared to say or do anything to do it. Among the latest lines is that they want to make Social Security more "progressive." This sort of rhetoric appeared in a report from the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) in a plan that proposes substantial cuts in benefits.

To understand what CAP and other proponents of increasing the progressivity of Social Security mean, consider the idea of raising a marginal tax rate paid by many middle-income people from 25 percent to 35 percent. The current 25 percent bracket begins at an income of $34,500 for singles, and $69,000 for couples.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Third Way" Lies About Progressive Stance on Social Security

Third Way's Social Security reform proposal [1] deserves to be judged on its merits. But the outright lies its leaders are spreading about the position of progressive groups on Social Security do not. Plugging their reform proposal in Politico [2], Third Way's Jim Kessler and David Kendall claim that progressives are denying that Social Security has any problem at all. This is patently false. There is not one progressive group that denies Social Security will face a modest shortfall in 26 years. In fact, thus far, at least four progressive figures or groups have put forward their plans for filling this shortfall. They include reports issued by: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) [3]; former SEIU head, Andy Stern [4]; Demos, EPI and the Century Foundation's initiative "Our Fiscal Security [5];" and the Campaign for America's Future's "Citizens' Commission on Jobs, Deficits and America's Economic Future [6]."

Group Requests DOJ To Investigate Scalia and Thomas Involvement With Koch Corporate Fundraisers

Last October, ThinkProgress published a memo from Koch Industries detailing a secret meeting in June of 2010 organized by David and Charles Koch. The event brought together executives from Wall Street, the oil industry, and other large companies along with officials from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Glenn Beck, and longtime political operatives like Eric O’Keefe, who organized a network of Tea Party-planning groups. Our post focused on how these individuals met to take advantage of the Citizens United decision and coordinate the funding of fronts used to help elect Republicans in the midterms. The memo we published also revealed that Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia were featured speakers at previous Koch fundraisers.

The 'demographic timebomb' defused

Don't believe the hype about ageing populations imposing impossible costs: productivity is growing faster than longevity

Dean Baker | Thursday 20 January 2011 15.31 GMT

The debate over the demographic trends in the United States and other wealthy countries can be described a debate between those who care about our children and those who want more of them. This is apparent once a little logic is applied to the tales of demographic disaster being hawked by those concerned about declining birth rates and greater longevity.

The basic story is that we are seeing a declining ratio of workers to retirees. This is supposed to mean that our children and our grandchildren will have an unbearable burden supporting us in our old age. In the United States, the story is that we now have about three workers for each retiree. In 20 years' time, this ratio is supposed to drop to 2:1. In countries like Germany and Japan, the decline is somewhat greater, since they have lower birth rates, and in the case of Japan, less immigration. They also have somewhat more rapid gains in longevity.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Unraveling the confusion behind microcredit: how some models help alleviate poverty, while others exploit the poor to make the rich richer.

by David Korten

For more than twenty years, microcredit has been widely heralded as the remedy for world poverty. Recent news stories, however, have sullied microcredit’s glowing reputation with reports on scandals, exorbitant compensation to managers, skyrocketing interest rates, and aggressive marketing schemes.

Once praised as a universal panacea, microlenders are now being widely attacked as predatory loan sharks. In December 2010, Sheik Hasina Wazed, the prime minister of Bangladesh and former microcredit advocate, accused microcredit programs of “sucking blood from the poor in the name of poverty alleviation.”

What happened?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Did the Poor Cause the Crisis?

Republicans claim that poor homeowners are to blame for the global financial collapse. New economic evidence proves they're wrong.

The United States continues to be riven by heated debate about the causes of the 2007-09 financial crisis. Is government to blame for what went wrong, and, if so, in what sense? In December, the Republican minority on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, weighed in with a preemptive dissenting narrative. According to this group, misguided government policies, aimed at increasing homeownership among relatively poor people, pushed too many into taking out subprime mortgages that they could not afford.

This narrative has the potential to gain a great deal of support, particularly in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election. But, while the FCIC Republicans write eloquently, do they have any evidence to back up their assertions? Are poor Americans responsible for causing the most severe global crisis in more than a generation?

Not according to Daron Acemoglu of MIT (and a co-author of mine on other topics), who presented his findings at the American Finance Association's annual meeting in early January. (The slides are on his MIT Web site.)

Lying, Cheating and Stealing to Gut Social Security

Making Social Security More Progressive: The Games They Play in Washington

by Dean Baker

The insiders in Washington really really want to cut Social Security, and they are prepared to say or do anything to do it. Among the latest lines is that they want to make Social Security more "progressive." This sort of rhetoric appeared in a report from the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) in a plan that proposes substantial cuts in benefits.

To understand what CAP and other proponents of increasing the progressivity of Social Security mean, consider the idea of raising a marginal tax rate paid by many middle-income people from 25 percent to 35 percent. The current 25 percent bracket begins at an income of $34,500 for singles, and $69,000 for couples.

Actually, The Retirement Age is Too High

by James K. Galbraith

The most dangerous conventional wisdom in the world today is the idea that with an older population, people must work longer and retire with less.

This idea is being used to rationalize cuts in old-age benefits in numerous advanced countries -- most recently in France, and soon in the United States. The cuts are disguised as increases in the minimum retirement age or as increases in the age at which full pensions will be paid.

The Myth of 'American Exceptionalism' Implodes

Until the 1970s, US capitalism shared its spoils with American workers. But since 2008, it has made them pay for its failures

by Richard Wolff

One aspect of "American exceptionalism" was always economic. US workers, so the story went, enjoyed a rising level of real wages that afforded their families a rising standard of living. Ever harder work paid off in rising consumption. The rich got richer faster than the middle and poor, but almost no one got poorer. Nearly all citizens felt "middle class". A profitable US capitalism kept running ahead of labor supply. So, it kept raising wages to attract waves of immigration and to retain employees, across the 19th century until the 1970s.

Then everything changed. Real wages stopped rising, as US capitalists redirected their investments to produce and employ abroad, while replacing millions of workers in the US with computers. The US women's liberation moved millions of US adult women to seek paid employment. US capitalism no longer faced a shortage of labor.

`Citi Weekend' Shows Too-Big-to-Fail Endures: Simon Johnson

Democrats like to say that the Dodd- Frank financial overhaul legislation ended the problem of too big to fail because large failing financial institutions can now be wound down in an orderly manner.

Republicans, including those now running the House Financial Services Committee, dispute that the Dodd-Frank resolution framework is workable and insist that if big banks get into trouble on their watch that they will be allowed to go bankrupt.

Why Right-Wing Fearmongers Have Blood on Their Hands

By David Neiwert, Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute
Posted on January 16, 2011, Printed on January 19, 2011

For some time now, it's been something of a reflexive response by media pundits, particularly conservatives and "moderate" liberals, to point to mental illness when some violent and unstable person commits a horrifying act in the name of extremist right-wing beliefs. If they're just mentally ill, you can't blame the people whose ideas they happened to pick up, can you?

Thus we have witnessed a steady stream of "isolated incidents" in which angry, mentally unstable men walk into churches and shoot their liberal targets in the head, or walk into public spaces and open fire, or crash their planes into government offices and gun down police officers. Yet when all these, and a long list of similar incidents, occur, they are dismissed as "isolated incidents." Because, you see the perpetrators are just "nutcases."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Paul Krugman: The War on Logic

My wife and I were thinking of going out for an inexpensive dinner tonight. But John Boehner, the speaker of the House, says that no matter how cheap the meal may seem, it will cost thousands of dollars once you take our monthly mortgage payments into account.

Wait a minute, you may say. How can our mortgage payments be a cost of going out to eat, when we’ll have to make the same payments even if we stay home? But Mr. Boehner is adamant: our mortgage is part of the cost of our meal, and to say otherwise is just a budget gimmick.

O.K., the speaker hasn’t actually weighed in on our plans for the evening. But he and his G.O.P. colleagues have lately been making exactly the nonsensical argument I’ve just described — not about tonight’s dinner, but about health care reform. And the nonsense wasn’t a slip of the tongue; it’s the official party position, laid out in charts and figures.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

On the Dole, Corporate Style

David Cay Johnston | Jan. 4, 2011 02:04 PM EST

Imagine that Congress or your state legislature passed a law tomorrow saying everybody except you got a tax break because the politicians in both parties disliked your business.

Even if the loser were Julian Assange's WikiLeaks, that law would be struck down by the courts on any number of grounds, including violating the Constitution's equal protection clause and perhaps the third clause under Article I, section 9, which prohibits bills of attainder.

But what about the opposite case? What if the government passed a law requiring every business to pay a tax except your competitor's business?

The 'New Normal' of Unemployment

by Dean Baker

The American Economics Association [1] held its annual meeting in Denver last weekend. Most attendees appeared to be in a very forgiving mood. While the economists in Denver recognized the severity of the economic slump hitting the United States and much of the world, there were few who seemed to view this as a serious failure of the economics profession.

The fact that the overwhelming majority of economists in policy positions failed to see the signs of this disaster coming, and supported the policies that brought it on, did not seem to be a major concern for most of the economists at the convention. Instead, they seemed more intent on finding ways in which they could get ordinary workers to accept lower pay and reduced public benefits in the years ahead. This would lead to better outcomes in their models.

"Half A Trillion In Cuts To Medicare"

Watch as GOP Rep. Jim Renacci (OH) is confronted at a local town hall meeting, asked what the heck he thinks he is doing saying he will vote to repeal the health care reform law. Renacci replies that he and fellow Republicans campaigned on reversing the "half a trillion dollars in cuts to Medicare." (From Daily Kos [1].)

Tucson Terror, Right-Wing Demagogues, and Targeting Democrats

Chip Berlet
Sat Jan 15, 2011 at 02:41:39 PM EST
“There is a vast left-wing conspiracy in this country and these liberals are working together to attack every decent & honorable institution in the nation.”

Who said this? It is the same person who said that the Democrats "are all a bunch of traitors" and that the "worst problem America faces today is liberalism."

More of this statement follows. See if you can figure out who it is.

The worst problem America faces today is liberalism. They have dumbed down education, they have defined deviancy down. Liberals have attacked every major institution that made America great [from] the Boy Scouts to the military, from education to religion. The major news outlets have become the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party. Liberals are evil, they embrace the tenets of Karl Marx, [they are] Marxists, socialists, communists.

Frank Rich: No One Listened to Gabrielle Giffords

Of the many truths in President Obama’s powerful Tucson speech, none was more indisputable than his statement that no one can know what is in a killer’s mind. So why have we spent so much time debating exactly that?

The answer is classic American denial. It was easier to endlessly parse Jared Lee Loughner’s lunatic library — did he favor “The Communist Manifesto” or Ayn Rand? — than confront the larger and harsher snapshot of our current landscape that emerged after his massacre. A week on, that denial is becoming even more entrenched. As soon as the president left the podium Wednesday night, we started shifting into our familiar spin-dry post-tragedy cycle of the modern era — speedy “closure,” followed by a return to business as usual, followed by national amnesia.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Catch of the Day - 01/15/11

Obama’s Finest Hour
Garry Wills

During the 2008 presidential campaign, I wrote a comparison of Barack Obama’s Philadelphia speech on race with Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union address during his own 1860 campaign. I noted that both men had to separate themselves from embarrassing associations—Lincoln from John Brown’s violent abolitionism, and Obama from Jeremiah Wright’s black nationalism. They had to do this without engaging in divisive attacks or counter-attacks. They did it by appeal to the finest traditions of the nation, with hope for the future of those traditions. Obama renounced black nationalism without giving up black pride, which he said was in the great American tradition of self-reliance:

It means taking full responsibility for our own lives—by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; the must always believe that the can write their own destiny.
In a situation where his critics trumpeted “family values,” he spelled out what those really are. I concluded by saying, of Lincoln and Obama:

“Each looked for larger patterns under the surface bitternessses of their day. Each forged a moral position that rose above the occasion for their speaking.”

The Stakes Are Huge: There's Another Bank Crash Looming, and We Must Prevent Another Bailout

By Mike Lux, Open Left
Posted on January 14, 2011, Printed on January 15, 2011

Everything I am reading these days on financial issues points to some serious reckoning soon to come, especially because of -- as the folks at Third Way are calling it -- foreclosure-gate. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling in the Ibanez case, along with a growing body of cases where the banks and/or their servicers have been ruled against in foreclosure cases, and even the banks' lawyers are being castigated in court by judges for bringing in made-up paperwork, is causing a growing sense of panic among the biggest banks that hold the most mortgages. Spokespeople for the banks are talking bravely, trying to dismiss the situation as some minor paperwork errors, but everyone who has been paying attention to the situation fears that there are really big consequences afoot.

Evidence of an American Plutocracy: the Larry Summers Story

Matthew Skomarovsky | Monday 10 January 2011

“So here is the evidence for an American plutocracy of a narrow and discrete but hardly harmless sort. Wall Street seduced the economics profession not through overt corruption, but by aligning the incentives of economists with its own. It was very easy for academic economists to move from universities to central banks to hedge funds — a tightly knit world in which everyone shared the same views about the self-regulating and beneficial effects of open capital markets. The alliance was enormously profitable for everyone: The academics got big consulting fees, and Wall Street got legitimacy. And it has kept the system going despite the enormous policy failures it has generated, not to exclude the recent crisis.”
—Francis Fukuyama, The American Interest, January 2011

Larry Summers’ path to the Obama administration, and his record within it, are symptomatic of a new American plutocracy, and his new job at Harvard will keep the gears of corruption greased. Summers rose to power under the protective wing of Wall Street and Democratic Party mogul Robert Rubin. He aggressively advanced Rubin’s program of financial deregulation and faithfully rescued his cronies when deregulation went wrong. Despite the economic catastrophes these policies have contributed to, Summers and other Rubinites have
continued their political ascendancy in recent years, filling top positions in the Obama administration.

Will We Remember Tucson? Was It Enough? Is Anything?

January 14, 2011 at 2:18PM by The Editors

There is no more moving memorial in America than the one that they built on the place on North Harvey Street in Oklahoma City where the Murrah Federal Building used to be. There is a reflecting pool between two large arches — the time, 9:01 A.M., is carved into one of them, and 9:03 A.M. is carved into the other. The lost minute is represented by the reflecting pool and by the long lines of lonely, empty chairs, all on crystal bases, each representing one of the American citizens killed in the bloodiest act of insurrection since the Army of Northern Virginia hung 'em up.

In the accompanying museum, there is a remarkable exhibit — an audiotape of a mundane governmental hearing that was going on not far from the Murrah Building when Timothy McVeigh's bomb went off. Some poor guy is asking for permission to drill for designer water on his land. You can almost hear everyone on the tape yawning. The mundane business of self-government is grinding along. And then there's a tearing in the universe and somebody's screaming for a flashlight.

Outside again, the lonely chairs are reflected in the pool and one truth hangs there between the arches: This is what we can do to each other.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Catch of the Day - 01/14/11

Paul Krugman: Can Europe Be Saved?

THERE’S SOMETHING peculiarly apt about the fact that the current European crisis began in Greece. For Europe’s woes have all the aspects of a classical Greek tragedy, in which a man of noble character is undone by the fatal flaw of hubris.

Not long ago Europeans could, with considerable justification, say that the current economic crisis was actually demonstrating the advantages of their economic and social model. Like the United States, Europe suffered a severe slump in the wake of the global financial meltdown; but the human costs of that slump seemed far less in Europe than in America. In much of Europe, rules governing worker firing helped limit job loss, while strong social-welfare programs ensured that even the jobless retained their health care and received a basic income. Europe’s gross domestic product might have fallen as much as ours, but the Europeans weren’t suffering anything like the same amount of misery. And the truth is that they still aren’t.

Poll: Obama rebounding, would beat GOP rivals, crush Palin

Steven Thomma | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: January 14, 2011 12:18:44 PM

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has bounced back from his low point after November's elections and enjoys stronger support heading into the 2012 election cycle, particularly against Sarah Palin, according to a McClatchy-Marist poll released Thursday.

Obama's fortunes appear to be rising along with the country's. The poll found a jump in the number of people who think the country's heading in the right direction. Also, the president probably benefited from the productive post-election session of Congress.

Paul Krugman: A Tale of Two Moralities

On Wednesday, President Obama called on Americans to “expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.” Those were beautiful words; they spoke to our desire for reconciliation.

But the truth is that we are a deeply divided nation and are likely to remain one for a long time. By all means, let’s listen to each other more carefully; but what we’ll discover, I fear, is how far apart we are. For the great divide in our politics isn’t really about pragmatic issues, about which policies work best; it’s about differences in those very moral imaginations Mr. Obama urges us to expand, about divergent beliefs over what constitutes justice.

The Fed Has Spoken: No Bailout for Main Street

Ellen Brown | Friday 14 January 2011

The Federal Reserve was set up by bankers, for bankers, and it has served them well. Out of the blue, the Fed came up with $12.3 trillion in nearly interest-free credit to bail the banks out of a credit crunch they created. That same credit crisis has plunged state and local governments into insolvency, but the Fed has now delivered its ultimatum: there will be no "quantitative easing" for municipal governments.

On January 7, according to The Wall Street Journal, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced that the Fed had ruled out a central bank bailout of state and local governments. "We have no expectation or intention to get involved in state and local finance," he said in testimony before the Senate Budget Committee. The states "should not expect loans from the Fed."

So much for the proposal of President Barack Obama, reported in Reuters a year ago, to have the Fed buy municipal bonds to cut the heavy borrowing costs of cash-strapped cities and states.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Catch of the Day - 01/12/11

There Is a Global Aristocracy in the Making -- and the Greedy Super-Rich Think They've Earned It

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium
Posted on January 11, 2011, Printed on January 12, 2011

Meet the new global elite. They’re pretty much the same as the old global elite, only richer and more smug.

Laura Flanders of GritTV interviews business reporter Chrystia Freeland about her cover story in the latest issue of the Atlantic Monthly on the new ruling class. She says that today’s ultra-rich are more likely to have earned their fortunes in Silicon Valley or on Wall Street than previous generations of plutocrats, who were more likely to have inherited money or established companies.

Perps in the White House

Posted on Jan 12, 2011
By Robert Scheer

While it is widely recognized that the banking meltdown has left enormous economic pain and political upheaval in its wake, it is amazing that the folks who created this mess are rewarded with ever more important positions in our government. Yet the recent appointments of Gene Sperling and William Daley, key Wall Street-connected perps of this crisis, to the most critical positions in the Obama White House have not generated much controversy.

The justification for the media’s indifference appears to be that the new appointees can hardly be worse than the hustlers they replaced. From its beginning, the Obama administration has been flooded with veterans of the Clinton White House who pushed through the radical deregulation that Wall Street had long sought and were rewarded with fat fees from the big banks when they left government.

Few foreclosures, no bank failures: Canada offers lessons

By Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers

TORONTO — Maybe Canada has something to teach the U.S. about housing finance.

One in 4 U.S. homes is thought to be worth less that the mortgage being paid on it. One in every 492 U.S. homes received a foreclosure notice in November. For the fourth year running, analysts are speculating on where the bottom is for U.S. real estate.

No such worries up here in Canada — yet its system of mortgage finance gets little attention in the U.S.

We can feed 9 billion people in 2050

01:00 12 January 2011 by Debora Mackenzie
Magazine issue 2795.

The 9 billion people projected to inhabit the Earth by 2050 need not starve in order to preserve the environment, says a major report on sustainability out this week.

Agrimonde describes the findings of a huge five-year modelling exercise by the French national agricultural and development research agencies, INRA and CIRAD. It is the second report on sustainability launched this week to provide a healthy dose of good news.

Pension Envy

By Dave Johnson
Created 01/11/2011 - 8:10am

Since the 80s many employers have stopped offering health care, pensions and other benefits to their employees. Many are also cutting pay and hours, while increasing the workload. So more and more people are hurting. As more and more of us fall further and further behind, corporate/conservative propagandists use resentment to drive anti-union feelings. They tell people to oppose unions, saying, "Why should they have it so good?" The real question you should ask is, "Why should we have it so bad?"

Paul Krugman: Economics and Morality

Mark Thoma directs me to Eric Schoeneberg, who argues that the right is winning economic debates because people believe, wrongly, that there’s something inherently moral about free-market outcomes. My guess is that this is only part of the story; there’s more than a bit of Ayn Randism on the right, but there’s also the appeal of simplicity: goldbuggism is intellectually easy, Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Catch of the Day - 01/10/11

How AT&T, Verizon and the Telecom Giants Have Captured the Regulator Supposed to Control Them
Our telecom industry's overseer doesn't seem to have any control to stop the greed. That's because it's a puppet of the industry giants.
In a recent AlterNet article, we detailed how the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) helped increase the “FCC Line Charge” (SLC), now capped at $6.50 per line, that is imposed on every residential and business phone line. It is a charge that is usually hidden among the “taxes and surcharges” section of the phone bill. It does not go to fund the FCC, but is a direct subsidy to phone companies.

However, the full story of the role AT&T, Verizon and others played in the FCC’s deliberations establishing the SLC has yet to be told. It is a model of what is known as “regulatory capture,” the process by which a federal or state regulatory or other government agency becomes too cozy with those it is charged to oversee.

Tom DeLay, former U.S. House leader, sentenced to 3 years in prison

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 10, 2011; 5:15 PM

AUSTIN - Former House majority leader Tom DeLay, the brash Texan who helped build and tightly control a Republican majority in his chamber for three years, was sentenced by a state judge on Monday to three years in prison for illegally plotting to funnel corporate contributions to Texas legislative candidates in 2002.

CBO: Repealing Health Care Would Increase Deficit by $230 Billion

Sunday 09 January 2011

The new Republican-controlled House has laid out its first major target - the federal law aimed at overhauling the health-care system. But an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warns that the repealing health care legislation could increase the federal deficit by $230 billion in the next decade and leave 32 million more Americans uninsured.

Introduced by House Republicans on January 5, the "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act," also known as H.R. 2, targets the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as well as the provisions of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 that are related to health care. Deliberations on the bill are expected to start immediately.

The Bill Daley Problem

By Simon Johnson

Bill Daley, President Obama’s newly appointed chief of staff, is an experienced business executive. By all accounts, he is decisive, well-organized, and a skilled negotiator. His appointment, combined with other elements of the White House reshuffle, provides insight into how the president understands our economy – and what is likely to happen over the next couple of years. This is a serious problem.

This is not a critique from the left or from the right. The Bill Daley Problem is completely bipartisan – it shows us the White House fails to understand that, at the heart of our economy, we have a huge time bomb.

How Can Republicans Hate the Individual Mandate?
The individual health care mandate is a conservative concept that conservatives now say they despise. What gives?
When Congress returns to work after pausing to reflect on the horror of the Arizona shootings, health care repeal will top the agenda for Speaker John Boehner and the Republican Party. "Obamacare" galvanized opposition to the Obama presidency within Republican and independent ranks. And few issues within health care generate such a visceral and often hysterical response as the "individual mandate"—the obligation that all people participate either by purchasing insurance or paying a tax whose proceeds would be used to defray the costs of uninsured health care and reduce premiums.

Zero Hour for Social Security

As I have previously warned--and I hope I'm wrong--President Obama seems on the verge of needlessly cutting America's most valued social program and the one that best differentiates Republicans from Democrats. This is part of a vain effort to appease deficit hawks in his own party and on Wall Street, as well as Republicans who are utter hypocrites when it comes to deficits--increasing them as long as the purpose is tax cuts but then turning around and demanding program cuts in order to reduce the deficits they created.

All the choreography is in place for the president to embrace Social Security cuts in his upcoming State of the Union address.

Being poor can suppress children's genetic potentials

AUSTIN, Texas — Growing up poor can suppress a child's genetic potential to excel cognitively even before the age of 2, according to research from psychologists at The University of Texas at Austin.

Half of the gains that wealthier children show on tests of mental ability between 10 months and 2 years of age can be attributed to their genes, the study finds. But children from poorer families, who already lag behind their peers by that age, show almost no improvements that are driven by their genetic makeup.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Catch of the Day - 01/09/11

Obama Created More Jobs In One Year Than Bush Created In Eight

This morning, the Labor Department released its employment data for December, showing that the U.S. economy ended the year by adding 113,000 private sector jobs, knocking the unemployment rate down sharply from 9.8 percent to 9.4 percent — its lowest rate since July 2009. The “surprising drop — which was far better than the modest step-down economists had forecast — was the steepest one-month fall since 1998.” October and November’s jobs numbers were also revised upward by almost 80,000 each. Still, 14.5 million Americans remain unemployed, and jobs will have to be created much faster in coming months for the country to pull itself out of the economic doldrums.

Will Our Economy Ever Recover From the "Greatest Recovery"?

In a January 2009 ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos, then President-elect Barack Obama said fixing the economy required shared sacrifice: "Everybody's going to have to give. Everybody's going to have to have some skin in the game." [1]

For the past two years, American workers submitted to the president's appeal - taking steep paycuts despite hectic productivity growth. By contrast, corporate executives have extracted record profits by sabotaging the recovery on every front - eliminating employees, repressing wages, withholding investment and shirking federal taxes.

Let Obama’s Reagan Revolution Begin


BARACK OBAMA’S Christmas resurrection was so miraculous that even a birther or two may start believing the guy is a Christian.

Nothing captured the president’s sudden reversal of fortune more vividly than the Linda Blair-like head spin of the conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer, who pronounced the Obama agenda “dead” on Fox News on Nov. 3 only to lead the bipartisan media hordes anointing him “the new comeback kid” six weeks later. Last week Obama’s Gallup job approval rating fleetingly hit 50 percent for the first time in eight months. Even in post-shellacking mid-December, polls found that Americans still trusted him more than Washington’s Republican leaders to fix the nation’s ills — health care included, according to the ABC News-Washington Post survey on that question.

America's housing bubble still deflating

As they failed to spot the bubble, most economists seem oblivious of the threat of further market falls to come

Dean Baker | Wednesday 5 January 2011 14.00 GMT

If house prices fall by 15% in 2011, the likely cut in consumer spending could cost 1% in GDP.

How many economists does it take to see an $8tn housing bubble?

The answer to that question has to be many more economists than we have in the United States. Very few economists saw or understood the growth of the $8tn housing bubble, whose collapse wrecked the economy. This involved a degree of inexcusable incompetence from the economists at the Treasury, the Fed and other regulatory institutions who had the responsibility for managing the economy and the financial system.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The New Jim Crow

How mass incarceration turns people of color into permanent second-class citizens

The first time I encountered the idea that our criminal-justice system functions much like a racial caste system, I dismissed the notion. It was more than 10 years ago in Oakland when I was rushing to catch the bus and spotted a bright orange sign stapled to a telephone pole. It screamed in large, bold print: "The Drug War is the New Jim Crow." I scanned the text of the flyer and then muttered something like, "Yeah, the criminal-justice system is racist in many ways, but making such an absurd comparison doesn't help. People will just think you're crazy." I then hopped on the bus and headed to my new job as director of the Racial Justice Project for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

The End of New Deal Liberalism

Friday, January 7, 2011

Catch of the Day for 01/07/11

I'm baaack!--Dictynna

The Texas Omen

by Paul Krugman

These are tough times for state governments. Huge deficits loom almost everywhere, from California to New York, from New Jersey to Texas.

Wait — Texas? Wasn’t Texas supposed to be thriving even as the rest of America suffered? Didn’t its governor declare, during his re-election campaign, that “we have billions in surplus”? Yes, it was, and yes, he did. But reality has now intruded, in the form of a deficit expected to run as high as $25 billion over the next two years.

The Crying Shame of John Boehner

by Matt Taibbi

He's a lazy, double-talking shill for corporate interests. So how's he going to fare with the Tea Party?

John Boehner is the ultimate Beltway hack, a man whose unmatched and self-serving skill at political survival has made him, after two decades in Washington, the hairy blue mold on the American congressional sandwich. The biographer who somewhere down the line tackles the question of Boehner's legacy will do well to simply throw out any references to party affiliation, because the thing that has made Boehner who he is — the thing that has finally lifted him to the apex of legislative power in America — has almost nothing to do with his being a Republican.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Paul Krugman and Robin Wells

President Obama, a master of understatement, did it again when he described the Democratic midterm losses as a “shellacking.” No, it was a massacre. The party lost support from virtually every demographic group. Even Michigan auto workers whose jobs were saved by the bailout of GM voted Republican. While Democrats got some comic relief from Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Carl Paladino in New York, in reality it is hard to see how things could have been much worse.