Loyalty without truth
is a trail to tyranny.
|Friday, 7 December 2012 at 18h 49m 7s|
Next day after my earlier post about the stupidity of raising the eligibility of medicare, here's
Paul Krugman on the subject:
First, raising the Medicare age is terrible policy. It would be terrible policy even if the
Affordable Care Act were going to be there in full force for 65 and 66 year olds, because it would
cost the public $2 for every dollar in federal funds saved. And in case you haven’t noticed,
Republican governors are still fighting the ACA tooth and nail; if they block the Medicaid
expansion, as some will, lower-income seniors will just be pitched into the abyss.
Second, why on earth would Obama be selling Medicare away to raise top tax rates when he gets a big
rate rise on January 1 just by doing nothing? And no, vague promises about closing loopholes won’t
do it: a rate rise is the real deal, no questions, and should not be traded away for who knows what.
So this looks crazy to me; it looks like a deal that makes no sense either substantively or in terms
of the actual bargaining strength of the parties. And if it does happen, the disillusionment on the
Democratic side would be huge. All that effort to reelect Obama, and the first thing he does is give
away two years of Medicare? How’s that going to play in future attempts to get out the vote?
[SOURCE: Paul Krugman | New York Times | 7
|Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 21h 25m 2s|
Subsidies and tax breaks don't work
You gotta love a newspaper whose editorial staff can call a spade a spade.
Competition among states and cities to lure businesses in hopes of creating jobs is not new, but it
has become more fierce in recent years. An investigation by The Times found that state and local
governments are giving out $80 billion a year in tax breaks and other subsidies in a foolhardy,
shortsighted race to attract companies. That money could go a long way to improving education,
transportation and other public services that would have a far better shot at promoting real
Instead, with these giveaways, politicians and officials are trying to pick winners and losers,
almost exclusively to the benefit of big corporations (aided by highly paid lobbyists) at the
expense of small businesses. Though they promise that the subsidies are smart investments, far too
often the jobs either don’t materialize or are short-lived, leaving the communities no better off.
The three-part series by Louise Story described how in places like Texas and Ohio, state and local
governments have lavished millions of dollars in tax breaks on corporate giants like Samsung and the
Big Three automakers — even as they faced budget deficits and were forced to cut spending on
critical services. The tax revenues forgone in this giveaway frenzy should concern Congress deeply.
After all, federal funds account for one-fifth of state and local budgets.
In one particularly egregious example in Pontiac, Mich., the State of Michigan gave $14 million in
tax credits and a state pension fund guaranteed $18 million in bonds to a movie studio that created
just 12 permanent jobs. In Texas, Amazon.com, the online retailer, received tax abatements, sales
tax exemptions and other benefits totaling $277 million to open a warehouse that promises to employ
2,500 people. Those benefits were granted after the retailer closed another warehouse because of a
dispute with the government involving sales taxes.
Many governments don’t know the full value of the subsidies they hand out in the form of tax
refunds, rebates, loans, grants and more. And they don’t know if the jobs created would have been
created anyway. The fact is, numerous studies show that such incentives result in only a small
increase in jobs and that any gains usually come at the expense of other cities and states.
Local governments would be much better off investing tax dollars in education and public works that
would deliver long-term benefits to both businesses and workers. California, for instance, is among
the least generous of the larger states in doling out tax breaks. It gave out just $112 per capita
compared with $759 in Texas, $672 in Michigan, and $210 in New York. Its experience leaves no doubt
that investments made in public institutions like the University of California system can remain
critically important to economic growth decades later.
The senseless race to give away billions in subsidies is, of course, hard to stop when elected
leaders think a pledge of potential jobs might help in their next election. But even when attracting
businesses is a legitimate goal, it has to be done in ways that are fair and transparent.
The trouble with targeted incentives is that they are little more than transfers of wealth to a
handful of powerful corporations from all other taxpayers, including other businesses. If the
problem is excessive tax burdens on businesses in general, then the solution is broad tax reform
that also benefits small business owners, who are more likely to stick around if the regional
economy weakens and who are unlikely to hopscotch around the country in search of a bigger tax break.
[SOURCE: Times Editorial | New York
Times | 5 December 2012]
|Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 20h 12m 56s|
Proposals that cannot work
Just cut the deductions and loopholes they say. Raise the eligibility age of Medicare to save money.
These two ideas are proposed by the Republicans to raise revenues and avoid raising taxes on wealthy
people. They sound good at first, but in reality won't actually achieve their purpose. Instead,
other cost externalities, most of which will involve increased government spending.
Let me explain.
If the goal is to eliminate deductions for wealthy persons, then you have to devise a system of what
counts as wealthy, and what numbers to use and tax. A lot of people who make more than 100,000 are
getting their income from multiple sources. For small businesses, the revenue of the business is
different than the profit of a corporation. Limited partnerships and S corporations are different
then a company with 10,000 employees. Salaried employees can also supplement their income. Assets
and different asset classes (buildings, securities, bonds, cash, contracts) all have different
issues and variability that is not simple to capture in a tax system that wants to "simplify" the
tax code by just charging a percentage to a single number. Upper income people have almost all of
their savings in assets; lower income persons little to few and mostly none. For wage earners and
small salaried employees this is much easier, but that is beside the point. Remember this was
suppose to avoid
raising taxes on upper income people.
And who counts as "upper income"? The $40,000 a year pensioner
in a home worth $200,000 on the market. A hedge fund manager getting a salary of $80,000 but has a
firm with a net worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The language in the law is gonna be
important. So right off, this will not capture the maximum amount of income, because the very
lawyers to scrutinize and understand the updates of the written laws, and accountants to manipulate
these laws in their favor.
Increasing tax rates however does not increase the legal bureaucracy or involve interpretations and
chicanery. Nothing has to be changed except the number of the percentage. So you see how this
works and what this nonsense is really all about. Changing the laws by eliminating a lot (but not
all) "loopholes and deductions" really just means a chance to put wording into a new law and create
But leaving that aside, it is the externalities that are more detrimental to the theory of this even
saving money. People who can't deduct the interest from their mortgage bills will likely be less
inclined to buy a home, which means having a depressing effect on the housing market. If the
deductions for charities get hit, then a good chunk of charity will disappear -- but not all,
because fact is some people are just
generous -- and who or what will be picking up the slack. The government.
At one extreme: it's the police that have to spend their time dealing with a dead homeless person (lack
of medical care) who also have to involve other government officials in the process. The lunatic
who can't get his
meds will break the windows of dozens of cars and cost citizens money directly. The poor kid who
can't go to school because they have to work creates lost time and diminished potential from our
human resources -- unless you think educational ignorance and poverty is a blessing. Regardless of
the 5 to 25 percent who may or may not move out of poverty, the other 75% or more are gonna be poor
their whole lives.
By the way, in case you haven't noticed, the government already gives you a subsidy every time you
file a tax form. It's called a Personal deduction. That's a subsidy by another name. Turns out
that every single American has been on the government teet since birth.
Or what about the hidden subsidizes for families that are deductions for having children. Or the
tax credit. Eliminate or phase out these, and you pass the burden onto the individuals and negate
the reason why these subsidies occurred.
Small businesses employ up to 70% of the labor force because they are labor intensive, and have
more workers per revenue dollar than larger companies. Diminish the small businesses and replace
them with large corporations and you diminish the availability of employment because the number of
workers per revenue dollar will DECREASE. Large companies are in business because they are more
efficient otherwise they wouldn't be economically viable.
So what happens when small businesses go bankrupt? The courts get clogged with legal matters. A
small percentage of frustrated people looking for limited job opportunities choose crime. Violence
and other illegal activity increase the costs of government.
Raising the age of medicare, another "necessary" budget saving device, only means a lot of older
people will have to wait that much longer to have affordable health care. This will increase the
costs of Medicaid, which is an absolute necessity if we are going to have a functional health care
system. Without Medicaid, Hospitals would not be profitable at all unless they deny people who are
poor, which is what used to happen in the past. Rich people had their own hospitals, and poor
people got the Charity hospitals. The history of Catholic and non-profit hospitals evolved in the
United States as a means of avoiding this harsh reality, but as the population got large the entire
system became over-worked and unmanageable. So the government offered to foot the bill whenever
hospitals had to deal with people who can't or won't or will not be able to pay the bills.
saved the health care system. So it's amazing to me that anyone even contemplates ending or
decreasing the funds for Medicaid.
[SOURCE: Jackie Calmes | | 4 December
|Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 19h 56m 41s|
The Health Care Costs
Barry Ritholtz asks the commentariati "Why are US Healthcare Costs twice as expensive as the rest of
And the commentariati responds:
So afraid are they of having to give a poorer person medical attention ... that they have allowed an
entire insurance industry
to grow up and require financial support in order to have a third party BETWEEN patient and doctor
so they can tell themselves that their tax dollars are not being spent on a poorer American.
The least expensive way to deliver medicine is to socialize delivery, giving direct necessary
care to everyone and covering the bill through taxes.
It flat out costs less than essentially doing this while paying for insurance agents to interfere
with every aspect of doing this.
BUT IT INVOLVES GIVING DIRECT SUPPORT TO POOR AMERICANS.
What are you a Nation of again?
The American model of fee-for-service medicine cannot create a viable market: It must lead
inevitably to market failure after market failure because the price of the good — health — has no
reliable price signal, the ability to clearly associate the good with its cost. The invisible hand
cannot operate without price signals. Full stop.
The full picture:
1) U.S. Pharma manufacturers routinely reformulate and re-patent existing drugs, as much as they
can, to extend full price chargeability.
2) Pharma chains routinely over price for prescriptions, e.g.: Duane Reade
3) Doctors are “bribed” to write prescriptions for dubiously required drugs, and for brand vs.
4) More than 20%+ of physicians bill for unecessary or non-performed procedures, especially for
gastro and cardio diagnostics.
5) Insurance companies deny payments for as much as 25%+ of legitimately billed tests and
procedures, while retaining premiums and ancillary fees.
6) Hospitals, health systems and freestanding facilities routinely both over bill and over
collect for tests, procedures, and other patient treatments and care.
7) The government regulatory agencies charged with oversight are grossly incompetent.
Fraud, incompetence, and kickbacks are the rule of the day. God bless America!
Tim McInerney, Healthcare Capital LLC
Doctors, hospitals, clinics and labs are paid nearly 2x in the US compared to the rest of the world.
What’s the difference?
In the US, the medical industry is a private, for profit business, that has been allowed to run amok
for the last 75 years. In the rest of the world health care is either a government service, or
treated as a tightly regulated public utility. The kind of disgusting, disgraceful medical
profiteering that goes on all the time in the US simply IS NOT LEGAL anywhere else.
From the doctors to the hospitals and insurers, all are operating a massive scam and ripoff, and
it’s all legal, thanks to the government being in the pockets of the industry. As a result,
Americans pay an 80% penalty relative to the rest of the world to support the scam. The US medical
scam industry exacts a private tax of 18-19% of GDP, while in the rest of the civilized world,
medical care costs only 10-11% of GDP.
It just doesn’t get any simpler than that. But the American people have been brainwashed by the
massive industry propaganda machine, and corrupted by the massive bribery of a slight majority of
people who get coverage without having to pay out of pocket. If they never see the cost, the can’t
understand the cost. Meanwhile, 15% of us go without, too rich or too young to qualify for
government insurance, and either not healthy enough or not rich enough to pay for private insurance.
Obamacare does not address the true nature of the problem of excessive cost.
[SOURCE: Barry Ritholtz |
the big picture blog | 4 December 2012]
|Monday, 3 December 2012 at 19h 47m 16s|
I'm so glad global warming is a hoax
Over all, global emissions jumped 3 percent in 2011 and are expected to jump 2.6 percent in 2012,
researchers reported in two papers released by scientific journals on Sunday. It has become routine
to set new emissions records each year, although the global economic crisis led to a brief decline
The level of carbon dioxide, the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, has increased
about 41 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and scientists fear it could
double or triple before emissions are brought under control. The temperature of the planet has
already increased about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1850.
Further increases in carbon dioxide are likely to have a profound effect on climate, scientists say,
leading to higher seas and greater coastal flooding, more intense weather disasters like droughts
and heat waves, and an extreme acidification of the ocean. Many experts believe the effects are
already being seen, but they are projected to worsen.
[SOURCE: Justin Gillis & John M Broder | New York
Times | 2 December 2012]
|Saturday, 1 December 2012 at 19h 54m 6s|
The history of dealing with financial crises goes back to before the constitution. Dealing with
them has always taken ingenuity, and some form of economic rebalancing.
the central principle for understanding macroeconomic policy has been that everything is different
when you’re in a liquidity trap. In particular, the whole case for fiscal stimulus and against
austerity rests on the proposition that with interest rates up against the zero lower bound, the
central bank can neither achieve full employment on its own nor offset the contractionary effect of
spending cuts or tax hikes.
This isn’t hard, folks; it’s just Macro 101. Yet a large number of economists — never mind
politicians or policy makers — seems to have a very hard time grasping this basic concept.
A Liquidity trap occurs
when investment opportunities are not attracted by low interest rates, and thus economic growth
cannot be stimulated by simply making borrowing less expensive.
[SOURCE: Paul Krugman | New York Times | 1
|Saturday, 1 December 2012 at 15h 54m 35s|
Learning styles is bunkum ???
Apparently there is no substance to the belief that people have different "learning styles." This
surprises me, but I'll defer to the scientists while I assess their study.
Research has never been able to back up that which seems so obvious in the classroom. Studies reveal
that under controlled conditions, there is actually no difference in the way people respond to
visual, auditory or kinesthetic modes of teaching
According to science, our brains all learn in pretty much the same way. What does differ between
students is background knowledge, areas of greater or lesser ability and areas of more or less
interest. All of these factors affect how well people learn
Incorporating variety in lessons, then, and even sensory variety, is an excellent approach to
increasing understanding across the board -- but not because students have inherent, sense-based
learning styles. Variety helps because students come with different knowledge bases, talents and
interests -- and because it can help keep them awake during math class
Psychologist Dan Willingham at the University of Virginia, who studies how our brains learn, says
teachers should not tailor instruction to different kinds of learners. He says we're on more equal
footing than we may think when it comes to how our brains learn. And it's a mistake to assume
students will respond and remember information better depending on how it's presented.
For example, if a teacher believes a student to be a visual learner, he or she might introduce the
concept of addition using pictures or groups of objects, assuming that child will learn better with
the pictures than by simply "listening" to a lesson about addition.
In fact, an entire industry has sprouted based on learning styles. There are workshops for teachers,
products targeted at different learning styles and some schools that even evaluate students based on
This prompted Doug Rohrer, a psychologist at the University of South Florida, to look more closely
at the learning style theory.
When he reviewed studies of learning styles, he found no scientific evidence backing up the idea.
"We have not found evidence from a randomized control trial supporting any of these," he says, "and
until such evidence exists, we don't recommend that they be used."
Willingham suggests it might be more useful to figure out similarities in how our brains learn,
rather than differences. And, in that case, he says, there's a lot of common ground. For example,
variety. "Mixing things up is something we know is scientifically supported as something that boosts
attention," he says, adding that studies show that when students pay closer attention, they learn
And recent studies find that our brains retain information better when we spread learning over a
longer period of time, say months or even a year, versus cramming it into a few days or weeks.
Rohrer and colleagues nationwide are currently researching what teaching methods work best for all
students, but only using the evidence.
[SOURCE: Cedar Riener & Daniel Willingham | Change
magazine | Sept-Oct 2010]
[SOURCE: Patti Neighmond | NPR | 29 August 2011]
[SOURCE: Julia Layton | How Stuff
Works | 1 December 2012]
Cedar Riener is an assistant professor of psychology at Randolph-Macon College.
Daniel Willingham is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. He blogs at the
Washington Post and is the author of Why Don't Students Like School?
|Friday, 30 November 2012 at 20h 1m 34s|
The don't care about the debt
It's just a subterfuge to disguise what they are really after. A Trojan Horse.
One of the Fix the Debt campaign’s main proposals for deficit reduction is creating a “territorial
tax system” that would enable corporations to evade taxation on offshore earnings—which amounts to a
combined $418 billion from the Fix the Debt member corporations—when they bring that money home, and
giving themselves a $134 billion tax break, according to a new report from the Institute for Policy
Studies titled “The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt: A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks.”
Just to be clear, they are talking about paying off the national debt by pocketing $134 billion in
And that’s just from Fix the Debt corporate signatories. Taken as a whole, the S&P 500 currently has
an estimated $1.5 trillion in revenues in offshore havens. That’s roughly the size of the national
debt in 2009.
You should read the entire article.
[SOURCE: Jonathan Valania | Philly
Magazine | 29 November 2012]
|Friday, 30 November 2012 at 19h 58m 25s|
Yep, the class war never sleeps
These multi-millionaires can't take defeat. Just can't stand it. They must have their way and they
will spend their
money to get what they want, because it's not really one-man-one vote. The Supreme Court said Money
is Free Speech. Money can influence and
manipulate voters and get face time with politicians that ordinary middle-class folk do not have.
The opinions of the elite are pushed into the minds of the media watching public. The beliefs of
ordinary folk (unless they agree with the elites) not much at all, even though those beliefs are in
The class war is from above, not from below. Rich people aren't in danger of having their money
taken by an uprising of poor, angry citizens. The poor, angry citizens make their voices heard the
only way they can, by showing up in droves and voting on election day. They aren't storming the
mansions and gated communities. Not yet.
But the mega-rich are sore fucking losers. So spoiled and used to always getting what they want,
they mistake their morbid selfishness for patriotism.
Here's what Paul Krugman had to say about this today:
what voters said, clearly, was no to tax cuts for the rich, no to benefit cuts for the middle class
and the poor. So what’s a top-down class warrior to do?
The answer, as I have already suggested, is to rely on stealth — to smuggle in plutocrat-friendly
policies under the pretense that they’re just sensible responses to the budget deficit.
Consider, as a prime example, the push to raise the retirement age, the age of eligibility for
Medicare, or both. This is only reasonable, we’re told — after all, life expectancy has risen, so
shouldn’t we all retire later? In reality, however, it would be a hugely regressive policy change,
imposing severe burdens on lower- and middle-income Americans while barely affecting the wealthy.
Why? First of all, the increase in life expectancy is concentrated among the affluent; why should
janitors have to retire later because lawyers are living longer? Second, both Social Security and
Medicare are much more important, relative to income, to less-affluent Americans, so delaying their
availability would be a far more severe hit to ordinary families than to the top 1 percent.
Or take a subtler example, the insistence that any revenue increases should come from limiting
deductions rather than from higher tax rates. The key thing to realize here is that the math just
doesn’t work; there is, in fact, no way limits on deductions can raise as much revenue from the
wealthy as you can get simply by letting the relevant parts of the Bush-era tax cuts expire. So any
proposal to avoid a rate increase is, whatever its proponents may say, a proposal that we let the 1
percent off the hook and shift the burden, one way or another, to the middle class or the poor.
One of the comments left was also insightful, and historical
I agree with Mr. Krugman that there is a class war but the choice between Romney and Obama is not a
very comforting one for those - the poor and middle class - on the losing end of that war. President
Obama, after all, invited the captains of industry and the architects of the crash to help steer the
country back to health. In the middle ages noble lords defended their wealth with armed mercenaries.
In the 20th century they did it with tax lawyers and corrupt politicians. This strategy has expanded
in the 21st century to include entire parties, news outlets and pet pundits in the service of
preserving the wealth of their masters. It is an odd phenomenon but I've noticed that those who have
more than they need are often those who are most afraid to lose what they have.
Many of the founders feared the creation of an hereditary aristocracy in America. Their fears seem
to have been realized. The only antidote I'm afraid, is the dreaded income redistribution. When a
hedge fund manager - a person essentially charged with the socially useless task of making rich
people much richer - makes a billion dollars or more a year and wages of people doing useful work
stagnate, something is seriously wrong with society. When a professional golfer makes more in a
weekend than a teacher makes in 15 years something is seriously wrong with society. Yes, there is a
class war but unfortunately, while the Republicans may be part of the problem, the Democrats really
aren't par of the solution.
[SOURCE: Paul Krugman | New York
Times | 30 November 2012]
|Wednesday, 28 November 2012 at 20h 37m 32s|
Why I love Duncan Black
They're usually not quite as transparently fraudulent as Fix The Debt, but all debt/deficit hawkery
is just a front for cutting taxes on rich people. No this doesn't make any sense, but it sounds
great to the likes of Dancing Dave so they get away with it.
Rich people want to steal the Social Security money. It's really that simple.
Despite being a person schooled in graduate level economics, Duncan Black keeps it real every single
time. Perhaps his knowledge of the insider monkish ritualism gives him confidence to call a turd a
piece of shit.
Of course, I suppose it helps that I also agree with him nearly 100% of the time.
[SOURCE: Clinton Black | Eschaton
blog | 28 November 2012]
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