Obama on the Debt: Weaker Than Weak

Boehner walked away from debt talks with Obama.  Given how insanely far Obama has bent, this is madness.  Or maybe just good strategy.

Obama has ruled out the simple answer, the constitutional option.  However that, coupled with how this damning quote (emphasis mine), slams home the reality that our President wants to sabotage his own efforts:

“Essentially what we had offered Speaker Boehner was over a trillion dollars in cuts to discretionary spending. Both domestic and defense,” Obama told reporters in a hastily-arranged White House press conference.

“It is hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would walk away from this kind of deal and frankly, if you look at the commentary out there, there are a lot of Republicans puzzled as to why it couldn’t get done.”

He said the American people were “fed up” with political posturing, and said he was willing “to sign an extension of the debt ceiling which takes us through 2013.”

The nation needed to do more, Obama added, though adding that he would accept a fallback option if that was the best deal lawmakers could strike.

That’s a fallback that would go beyond the already overly conciliatory and generous offer the President made.  This is not the first time this kabuki dance has taken place on the national stage, but it is strikingly naked.

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Tax Havens Are Un-American

When you realize that nearly a $100 billion, annually, in tax revenue is going unpaid by large corporations, you have to wonder where are their tea parties?  Where are the pundits questioning the patriotism of companies that are so clearly helping send our country into debt by skirting federal taxes?  Are any of the companies receiving bailout money using tax havens?  Ah, the answer to that question is YES.

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We Shouldn’t Bail Out Hillary Clinton

Why? Because from the start her campaign was one afforded momentum mostly by her own sense of entitlement (and to a lesser degree by the novelty of being a female candidate). Because she’s staying in when the fight is clearly over. Because she’s hurt our chances in November by initially suggesting McCain would be a better president than Obama, just to further her chances in the primary.

Finally, there this piece of pure outrage (Pandagon). Hiam Saban bribed and threatened young super delegates to vote for Hillary:

But this isn’t just bribery. It was backed up, it seems, with an implicit threat. Basically, gangster negotiations.

Members of the Young Democrats agonized about the potential fallout of Saban’s call; his financial offer represented one-third of the group’s 2008 budget. Democratic officials and fundraisers were consulted about how to respond, and at times the discussions were “emotional,” one participant said. “It is scary for them, Haim is very powerful, he has great influence over donors who give to them.”

Another source said that Hardt and others were acutely aware of Saban’s status within Democratic circles and were concerned that their organization would suffer long-term harm if they declined his offer or if news of the proposal became public.

“I said I thought that the appropriate response was to call Haim back and say thank you but we are not interested,” said the source. “I also said that it was surely the case that this story would get out because it is too interesting not to and they should think about how to deal with it. It was a day or two [before they responded]. They felt afraid. They were like, ‘Holy shit, this is Haim Saban.’”

They were afraid. I’m so angry right now I’m spitting. This is how we treat young people who are interested in electing Democrats now?

I can’t emphasize how much my decision to go with an Obama endorsement over a Clinton endorsement has to do with remaking the campaign strategies of the Democrats. All other issues are pretty much moot if we can’t win. And part of what’s going to move us towards more winning is getting the millennial generation to consider themselves loyal Democrats. There’s a ton of them , and Obama’s campaign has done a bang-up job of getting young people on board. If he wins with this strategy, then people who want to employ it will have a lot more leverage in the future.

Hillary couldn’t raise funds and used her personal wealth to force her sense of entitlement on the Democratic party. We shouldn’t expect the party or its leaders to waste resources being responsible for her hubris when we could use those same funds to win vital elections.

Economics: NYTimes Ignores Debt

W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm think measuring income is obsolete (NYTimes, emphasis mine):

Income statistics, however, don’t tell the whole story of Americans’ living standards. Looking at a far more direct measure of American families’ economic status — household consumption — indicates that the gap between rich and poor is far less than most assume, and that the abstract, income-based way in which we measure the so-called poverty rate no longer applies to our society.

Is he saying what we think he’s saying?  That poor people aren’t poor because although they make exponentially less, they spend only a little less?

So, bearing this in mind, if we compare the incomes of the top and bottom fifths, we see a ratio of 15 to 1. If we turn to consumption, the gap declines to around 4 to 1. A similar narrowing takes place throughout all levels of income distribution. The middle 20 percent of families had incomes more than four times the bottom fifth. Yet their edge in consumption fell to about 2 to 1.

Have either of this economic analysts heard of debt?

Sure, sure, measuring non taxable income for statistics on poverty and wealth makes a great deal of sense.  Agreed.  But how does measuring income therefore no longer apply?  How on earth is spending a suitable replacement?  And what makes the poverty line “so-called”?

While foreign competition may have eroded some American workers’ incomes, looking at consumption broadens our perspective. Simply put, the poor are less poor. Globalization extends and deepens a capitalist system that has for generations been lifting American living standards — for high-income households, of course, but for low-income ones as well.

Ahem, you see old chaps, while the peasants are making less, they are spending more, so they can’t very well be poor can they?  I say, toast to capitalism!  Bubbly all round!

Both authors enjoy senior positions at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

American History 2000 On

Now this is curious.

We Are Not Middle Class

I was shocked to find this out.  Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon has the details:

If you consider yourself middle class—and statistically, I know most of us do, even those of us who are marginal on either side of the divide—and you’re wondering if you’re the only one who can’t seem to get it together, finances-wise, well, you’re not alone. The mid-20th century idea of “middle class” was not just middle income, but financial stability and possession of assets, and by that definition, the American middle class is small indeed and shrinking. (Hat tip.)

Growing up I know I always considered myself middle class.  But to see it right there, in sharp relief, that I wasn’t in fact middle class was kind of startling.  It was a little less earth shaking to know that I personally am not middle class.  With college debt an anchor many of us drag long through our first, second, and even third jobs, financial security is a bit of a joke.  So go on a take a look.  Are you middle class?  Probably not.

The middle class is rapidly becoming as much a joke as “The American Dream”.  What we have in this country are not the three economic classes we learned about in school.  We have four economic classes.  The untouchables, the working class, the secure class, and the leisure class.  And the secure class in this country is far smaller, and far less secure, than many of us would like to admit.

An interesting thing to keep in mind when parsing the economic plays politicians work into their speeches.