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Reform Abuse July 12, 2011

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Government, Politics.
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On the drive home I heard a Republican member of the House defending the Republican position on revenues. Their position is to claim that they don’t believe in any increases in revenue for the government but will support tax reforms. So far as I’ve been able to tell that means, in effect, more tax cuts. How is that supposed to help with the deficit? Why, didn’t you know that any and all tax cuts create job? The magic tax cuts will stimulate the economy enough to create growth that will fix the deficit when combined with spending cuts for everyone except the Pentagon. At least that’s what the Republicans seem to take as an article of faith. But I don’t go to that church and I don’t know of any economists who aren’t political hacks who go there either.


Strange Ideas of Fiscal Responsibility July 5, 2010

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Does Not Compute, Economics, Employment, Government.
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The good folks at Calculated Risk provide some information concerning why it’s really a bad idea to play games with unemployment benefits.

Conservative Fear April 20, 2010

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Government, Health Care, Science & Society, The Obama Administration.

Jason Arvak writes a post at The Moderate Voice entitled The Slide Down The Slippery Slope Begins. In it he argues that the concerns that conservatives professed about government interference in the tiny details of our private lives just might be justified because the FDA is thinking of proposing standards to reduce the amount of salt in processed foods. He ends his post with the line “But it is unclear why they are unwilling to allow the government into the bedroom but perfectly willing to shove it into our kitchen pantry.”. While he links to an article on the proposals in the Washington Post he does not mention why this proposal is being put forth. From the WP article:

Until now, the government has pushed the food industry to voluntarily reduce salt and tried to educate consumers about the dangers of excessive sodium. But in a study to be released Wednesday, an expert panel convened by the Institute of Medicine concludes that those measures have failed. The panel will recommend that the government take action, according to sources familiar with the findings.

He also doesn’t mention why this proposal is important. Back to the WP article with the emphasis being added by me.

A recent study by researchers at Columbia and Stanford universities and the University of California at San Francisco found that cutting salt intake by 3 grams a day could prevent tens of thousands of heart attacks, strokes and cases of heart disease.

Most salt eaten by Americans — 77 percent — comes from processed foods, making it difficult for consumers to limit salt to healthy levels, experts say.

“We can’t just rely on the individual to do something,” said Cheryl Anderson, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who served on the Institute of Medicine committee. “Food manufacturers have to reduce the amount of sodium in foods.”

Is there some conspiracy to enter our kitchens and confiscate our table salt? No. Is it at all likely that this is going to happen? Once again, no. In fact, the industry, with the exception of the Salt Institute, is working with the government and has been for a while and both groups recognize the problems inherent in the attempts to reach this goal as this bit shows.

Above all, government officials and food industry executives say, a product with reduced salt must still taste good, or it will flop in the marketplace, as evidenced by several low-sodium products that had abysmal sales.

“Historically, consumers have found low-sodium products haven’t been of the quality that’s expected,” said Todd Abraham, senior vice president of research and nutrition for Kraft Foods. “We’re all trying to maintain the delicious quality of the product but one that consumers recognize as healthier.”

So while it may be something that conspiracy theorists will love to seize upon as a weapon against the evils of Obamacare I just don’t think it’s very good ammo for them.

Hard Core Libertarians – Ignorant or Delusional? April 19, 2010

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Does Not Compute, Government.
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I had to really think on that title. Sir Charles at Cogitamus writes about what he describes as The Libertarian Pathology. Reading the article and following the links to the actual articles written by libertarians definitely illustrates why I find Libertarianism to be as realistic as Communism when it comes to looking at the actual human condition and how people think of things. If you don’t necessarily want to follow every link I did here is some of what I found, directly referenced by Sir Charles and not.

In “How Free Were American Women in the Gilded Age?” Bryan Caplan attempts to make a case that women were, as libertarians ought to see it, freer in 1880 than they are now. The freedom to vote is dismissed as not proving that women were denied their freedoms just because they couldn’t vote in defense of them. He actually writes this little gem.

In what ways, then, were American women in 1880 less free than men?  Most non-libertarians will naturally answer that women couldn’t vote.  But from a libertarian point of view, voting is at most instrumentally valuable.

Does anyone else think that if true, this says something not all that good about the libertarian point of view as applied to the real world? And when criticized for the many weaknesses in his article his defense just wasn’t any better than the original article.

The first article referred to by the Cogitamus article is this one by Jacob Hornberger. But…that one is actually a defense of this article from this criticism by David Boaz. Got that all straight now? But what’s interesting is that apparently the section of the first article where he posits a tortuous defense of those who compare Obama’s economic philosophy to that of Hitler wasn’t deserving of hardly any criticism. If you want an idea of the strength of this argument consider that almost the first thing in it is a link to a part of the Social Security Administration web site that has an engraving of Otto Von Bismarck. Hornberger finds this absolutely shocking. How dare a website of the United States government have an image of a 19th Century chancellor of Germany? Why, so that it can glorify him as the creator of the first social security system, of course. Glorify a European socialist? What part of the SSA website has committed this heinous crime? That would be the section on the history of the concept of social security.  You know, history, that thing that apparently shouldn’t include anything other than Americans if it is on a United States government website?

So, after considering those articles and others that I didn’t take the time to link to, do you understand why I came up with the title for this post?

Banks, risk and lobbying March 7, 2010

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Economics, Government.
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In a working paper for the IMF, which is prefaced by a bit disclaiming that it actually represents the views of the IMF, we find this gem of a summary.

Using detailed information on lobbying and mortgage lending activities, we find that lenders lobbying
more on issues related to mortgage lending (i) had higher loan-to-income ratios, (ii) securitized more
intensively, and (iii) had faster growing portfolios. Ex-post, delinquency rates are higher in areas
where lobbyist’ lending grew faster and they experienced negative abnormal stock returns during key
crisis events. The findings are robust to (i) falsification tests using lobbying on issues unrelated to
mortgage lending, (ii) a difference-in-difference approach based on state-level laws, and (iii)
instrumental variables strategies. These results show that lobbying lenders engage in riskier lending.

Aren’t we all just absolutely shocked?

So Much for Health Care Reform January 10, 2009

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Corruption, Government, Health Care, Health Insurance, Politics.

Tom Daschle is promising that health care reform will be truly bipartisan. If by this he means that he won’t be pushing for anything that the Republicans won’t sign up for then meaningful reform that will help the uninsured in this country is dead. The Republicans in the House and Senate will never go along with anything that doesn’t protect the current profit levels (If not even more.) of the insurance companies, the large publicly held hospital chains and the pharmaceutical industry. Given those limitations you cannot accomplish anything that will really help. All you have to do in order to understand that is read the position expressed by Senator Michael Enzi R-WY. What’s really important? Not the uninsured. Not cost control. Not the health of millions of Americans. It’s the insurance companies.

“Any new insurance coverage must be delivered through private insurance plans,” said Senator Michael B. Enzi, Republican of Wyoming and his party’s ranking member on the Health committee, in prepared comments for the hearing, the panel’s first session of the year.

There’s some real caring and compassion for you. Care for corporations, that is.

Did He Look in Madoff’s Eyes? December 17, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Corruption, Economics, Government, The Big Crash of 2008, The Bush Administration.
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In an editorial the Kansas City Star’s resident ultra-conservative, E. Thomas McClanahan actually says that an inept SEC led to the Madoff scandal. I’m sorry, Mr. McClanahan, but in fact the SEC was basically doing what your hero Dubya wanted them to do, which is largely nothing. Was there any regulatory agency that wasn’t having their budgets cut under the Bush administration? Any agency that wasn’t full of political appointees whose main goal was to forward a particular political agenda? Look at Cox’s background. What else would anyone expect of an SEC he’s in charge of? Let’s face it, everything went according to plan and if you think Madoff is the only one out there…

Wall Street GIGO November 21, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Economics, Government, Technology, The Big Crash of 2008.
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Scientific American points out a couple of things that helped lead to our current disastrous situation. What, you might ask, would SciAm have to say about something that comes down to economics and politics? Simple. The financial industry pled for a lifting of rules for how much they needed to hold in reserve. Complex modelling was used with a basic set of assumptions in order to forecast what these institutions could do under the new rules. Those assumptions were based on old fashioned basic assumptions from classical economics. They were completely wrong. The models based on them failed miserably. The big question is whether or not the people in charge of these institutions will draw the correct conclusions in the aftermath and with their egos I just don’t know if I’d bet on it.

Related Issues November 13, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Government, Health Care, Health Insurance.
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I stumbled across this article through Google news. It’s always sad when someone joins in with others who just miss the point completely. If you do something to help take care of the health care situation and do it properly then it will in fact help the economy.

Reagan’s Assumption September 28, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Government, Politics.
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One of my Firefox gadgets is for Quote of the Day. Here is one of the ones that it came up with today.

The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would hire them away.
Ronald Reagan

Notice the assumption there that the only value held by anyone is greed. Is there supposed to be no one who might care about something called the public good? Not in Republican Land, apparently.

And…I think we can see where the brilliant minds hired by business have gotten us now, can’t we?