Every year at this time, Donald Rumsfeld writes a letter to the IRS with the same complaint: how can he know what he doesn't know?
"The tax code is so complex and the forms are so complicated, that I know I cannot have any confidence that I know what is being requested and therefore I cannot and do not know, and I suspect a great many Americans cannot know, whether or not their tax returns are accurate," Rumsfeld wrote. ...BusinessInsider
I suspect he gets that one right. He doesn't know. None of us knows. When we get that audit notice, it's probably the only clear communication we'll ever get from the IRS, thanks to the muddy tax code created by our beloved Congress.
Remember the myth of noble America exporting democracy to other countries? Like Iraq?
Well, it didn't really work and almost certainly wasn't meant to. Iraq was another glorious opportunity to shift the power in America from the American people (cannon fodder) to business interests (military-industrial complex) -- better known now as the "oligarchy."
Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. ...Gilens,Page
In the abstract of their paper, they assure us that "the results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism."
The study notes that the position of the median American and the position of the affluent American are often the same; therefore, regular people tend to think that their political interests are being represented when they see the triumph of some political position that they agree with. In fact, the researchers say, this is a mere coincidence. Yes, the average American will see their interests represented—as long as their interests align with the interests of the wealthy. ...Gawker
Republican Senate candidates are increasingly sounding like Obamacare’s most ardent supporters in one key way: they are rhetorically embracing the imperative of expanding affordable health coverage to those who need it. ...WaPo
Greg Sargent is right. The blaring noise about Obamacare coming from the right is changing, fading...
Republicans may still win the Senate in part by campaigning against Obamacare, which remains generally unpopular in red states, where the map dictates Senate control will be decided. But some GOP candidates are now embracing the general language of universal health coverage. It’s often observed advocating for repeal, with no replacement, is a loser. But there’s more to the story: Opposing Obamacare’s goals is becoming politically complicated. ...WaPo
But it's only a comparative win for the left, a lame win. We should be in the process of setting up is a system of universal healthcare. Obamacare is just a minor triumph of progress over loud, crass bullies eager to sell know-nothing politics.
In the end, results count. Democrats still have their backs to the wall. They need -- sine qua non! --to pull off some serious wins in November. But I'm not hopeful. Democrats out here don't seem to be turning out in huge numbers, and Congressional Democrats seem all too eager to support rightwing policies. They continue to be guardians of the wealthy and scoffers at the unfortunate even as left-wing populism grows. Katrina vanden Heuvel reports:
Paul Krugman offers a maddening example of how the average struggling American is getting soaked by the wealthy. And if you complain, you're accused of "class warfare." You're just another meanie down there with your $60,000 a year complaining about the easy ride the $600,000 a year investor gets!
I remember when Krugman was railing against New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, when the governor failed to endorse the building of a new, badly needed transportation tunnel under the Hudson for New Jersey's commuters. Instead, the focus switched from average joe commuter to the very, very rich -- rich because a tip of government's hat and several shovelsful of our shared resources went to another tunnel, a tunnel built to make the fortunate even more fortunate.
Spread Networks' tunnel went through the mountains between Wall Street and Chicago's markets carrying fiber optic cable. It was paid for by money that reminds us of the relaxed regulations accorded to financial markets. Thanks to a trend away from regulation and a climate favoring less oversight of the private sector in general, the deal is another shift of resources from a struggling public sector to the already fortunate. Some have compared the current communications race to the land rush in the old West though one might also say that it looks like high-stakes gambling in urban areas of the contemporary West... like Las Vegas. In the end, there's not much room for consideration of New Jersey's hard-pressed commuters but plenty of regard for risky bizness in the financial sector.
Even as one tunnel was being canceled, however, another was nearing completion, as Spread Networks finished boring its way through the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. Spread’s tunnel was not however intended to carry passengers, or even freight; it was for a fiber-optic cable that would shave three milliseconds — three-thousandths of a second — off communication time between the futures markets of Chicago and the stock markets of New York. And the fact that this tunnel was built while the rail tunnel wasn’t tells you a lot about what’s wrong with America today. Who cares about three milliseconds? The answer is, high-frequency traders, who make money by buying or selling stock a tiny fraction of a second faster than other players. ...NYT
In the end, the financial sector of our economy gets the breaks from our political system even though the profits go to those who contribute little to the lives and needs of average Americans and their share of the economy. The cost, calculated by economist Thomas Philippon, amounts to billions and billions.
In short, we’re giving huge sums to the financial industry while receiving little or nothing — maybe less than nothing — in return. Mr. Philippon puts the waste at 2 percent of G.D.P. Yet even that figure, I’d argue, understates the true cost of our bloated financial industry. For there is a clear correlation between the rise of modern finance and America’s return to Gilded Age levels of inequality. ...NYT
But we knew that. We're back to square one: many Americans knew their government was lying and we were right. The question is: will confirmation that we acted brutally and lawlessly affect the system in any way? Probably not. We torture; we will continue to torture. We are beyond the law and that's where we want to stay.
The classified study, prepared by the Senate select committee on intelligence, concluded that the CIA’s interrogations, secret detentions and outsourced torture sessions were “brutal, and far worse than the agency communicated to policymakers.”
More suspected terrorists underwent the agency’s post-9/11 treatment, which largely lasted from 2002 to 2006, than the CIA has publicly admitted, according to the report’s findings, which were first reported by McClatchy. Last week, committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein of California stated that the Senate investigated the cases of 100 detainees – dozens more than previously known to have gone through the CIA’s so-called “interrogation, detention and rendition” programs.
In addition to misleading policymakers, the Senate report charges the CIA with selectively and leaking classified and inaccurate information to journalists in order to portray the program in a positive light. ...TheGuardian
Let's be clear about this: the policy was a George W. Bush policy. He is responsible. He's not the nice guy who kept getting mangled by liberals on one side and a wholly unscrupulous vice president on the other. He was president. He accepted the responsibility. He did it. We did it.
And we need to find out just how far back (and forward) the lies went. We also need to acknowledge just how many Americans are brutal enough to want to continue using torture -- which is known to be ineffective as an intelligence-gathering device -- because they just plain like the power. We need to face just how much latitude we give to brutality in our culture, whether we're talking about our taste in TV or the children who are mowed down by showers of bullets, or our use of legal maneuvers to provide leeway for those who carry weapons.
Our habit of covering the bloodied ground with photos and flowers and teddy bears -- in lieu of stopping the violence-- is obscene.
...For Mr. Franken, antitrust issues involving big companies are no joking matter. The man who created such famous “Saturday Night Live” characters as the self-help guru Stuart Smalley is now a serious policy wonk and a self-made expert in antitrust matters like price-fixing and monopolization.
After a failed attempt to block the Comcast-NBC Universal merger, Mr. Franken again finds himself playing a trustbusting role in Washington — against the same adversary. He has emerged as the leading congressional opponent of Comcast’s $45 billion bid to take over Time Warner Cable, a merger that would unite the nation’s two biggest cable companies.
In a three-hour Senate Judiciary hearing on Wednesday, Mr. Franken adopted a prosecutorial stance as he interrogated executives from both companies, asking pointed questions, often repeatedly, like a dog with a particularly tasty bone. He was the only lawmaker to explicitly say he wanted the merger blocked ...NYT
Know what? He may be the only lawmaker who does his job whole-heartedly, as a representative of the people of his state and beyond. He must drive 'em crazy on the Hill... Or maybe not: “He is engaged, he is diligent, he is thorough, he is thoughtful," comes from fellow senator Chris Coons.
Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, echoed the praise. “He’s been one of the best-prepared people there, and is very valuable in committee,” Mr. Leahy said. “He certainly knows a lot about the business, far more than most of us would on a personal basis.” ...NYT
Either way, Ezra Klein re-enters our atmosphere with a new website and an article on willful stupidity. Stupidity is old and well known. The article is led by a photo of the Capitol during either what appears to be a terrible great grey storm or, possibly, after a bioterrorism attack on the Congress we would most like to annihilate. The subject is, again, stupidity.
We choose to be stupid. It ain't just lack of education, a paucity of facts. Surprise! We craft our conclusions according to our deepest beliefs. And Klein, in the company of Yale Law's Dan Kahan, goes on to demonstrate just that.
In April and May of 2013, Yale Law professor Dan Kahan — working with coauthors Ellen Peters, Erica Cantrell Dawson, and Paul Slovic — set out to test a question that continuously puzzles scientists: why isn’t good evidence more effective in resolving political debates? For instance, why doesn’t the mounting proof that climate change is a real threat persuade more skeptics?
The leading theory, Kahan and his coauthors wrote, is the Science Comprehension Thesis, which says the problem is that the public doesn’t know enough about science to judge the debate. It’s a version of the More Information Hypothesis: a smarter, better educated citizenry wouldn’t have all these problems reading the science and accepting its clear conclusion on climate change.
But Kahan and his team had an alternative hypothesis. Perhaps people aren’t held back by a lack of knowledge. After all, they don’t typically doubt the findings of oceanographers or the existence of other galaxies. Perhaps there are some kinds of debates where people don’t want to find the right answer so much as they want to win the argument. Perhaps humans reason for purposes other than finding the truth — purposes like increasing their standing in their community, or ensuring they don’t piss off the leaders of their tribe. If this hypothesis proved true, then a smarter, better-educated citizenry wouldn’t put an end to these disagreements. It would just mean the participants are better equipped to argue for their own side.
Kahan and his team came up with a clever way to test which theory was right. They took 1,000 Americans, surveyed their political views, and then gave them a standard test used for assessing math skills. Then they presented them with a brainteaser...Klein,vox.com
Can't you guess how this turns out?
Maybe we need that horrible grey storm or those lethal bugs to knock some sense into us as individuals. We need to do something that pulls us away from our pathetic tribalism. Why can't Americans stand on their own two feet anymore? Why must they cling to the crowd? Why do we leave our futures to the mercy of a tidal wave of goons?
In the end, the Affordable Care Act looks as though it will give Democrats the boost they need to do well in the November elections. The ACA, however, is not the only factor. Paul Ryan's budget is looking like a surefire winner... for the left.
Also on Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced a budget that includes the latest of more than 50 legislative attempts by the GOP to kill the ACA. That idea remains very popular among Republicans. But for the rest of the voters in November’s elections, the proposal is just more evidence of how stubborn, extreme elements control Ryan’s party, pushing it to waste time defying the reality that the new law is here to stay.
The Ryan budget also seeks to partially privatize Medicare by introducing a voucher plan, another healthcare proposal likely to drive voters, especially seniors, to vote for Democrats.
And, if all that were not enough, Ryan’s plan cuts taxes on the rich while it raises taxes on middle-class couples with two children by close to $2,000 — yet it still does not balance the federal budget.
The day after the Ryan budget was released, Obama threw off the look of despair he has been wearing all winter. He joked at one campaign appearance that the Ryan budget amounts to trying to sell a hungry public rotten food. He called the GOP budget a “stinkburger.”
So now, the political planets have shifted allowing Democrats to go on the offensive on the ACA while Republicans defend their unappealing brand of budget cuts and right-wing social policies opposing gay marriage and abortion. ...JuanWilliams,TheHill
Sure. It works out very nicely for the guys at the top.
Think about it, says Paul Krugman. The research to back this up comes from the International Monetary Fund's latest report. Trouble is -- as we know all too well -- hard facts have a hard time overcoming "conventional wisdom" which, for the most part, is the "wisdom" that serves the more powerful, not wisdom that serves the truth.
Low inflation is responsible for the lagging European economies.
... Nobody wants to turn into Japan, which has struggled with deflation since the 1990s. What’s less understood is that there isn’t a red line at zero: an economy with 0.5 percent inflation is going to have many of the same problems as an economy with 0.5 percent deflation. That’s why the I.M.F. warned that “lowflation” is putting Europe at risk of Japanese-style stagnation, even though literal deflation hasn’t happened (yet).
Moderate inflation turns out to serve several useful purposes. It’s good for debtors — and therefore good for the economy as a whole when an overhang of debt is holding back growth and job creation. It encourages people to spend rather than sit on cash — again, a good thing in a depressed economy. And it can serve as a kind of economic lubricant, making it easier to adjust wages and prices in the face of shifting demand. ...Krugman,NYT
The magic number for a healthy economy is closer to 4% inflation. The only group that would "suffer" would be that .1% of Americans whom Krugman calls the "superelite," the top tenth of one percent of us.
Modestly higher inflation, say 4 percent, would be good for the vast majority of people, but it would be bad for the superelite. And guess who gets to define conventional wisdom. ...Krugman,NYT
As at least one commenter on Krugman's editorial points out, we have a Congress whose members overall are people with some independent wealth, not people who relate to those who can't find work. Then, too, members of Congress tend to have the megaphone and are able to skew the meaning of "conventional wisdom."