Something terrible has happened to the soul of the Republican Party. We've gone from bad economic doctrine. We've even gone beyond selfishness and special interests. At this point we're talking about a state of mind that takes positive glee in inflicting further suffering upon the already miserable.
It should be possible to emphasize to students that the level of employment is a macroeconomic issue, depending in the short run on aggregate demand and depending in the long run on the natural rate of unemployment, with microeconomic policies like tariffs having little net effect. Trade policy should be debated in terms of its impact on efficiency, not in terms of phoney numbers about jobs created or lost.
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I think if you're a liberal, you believe that we all are, at least to some extent, our brothers' keepers, you really believe that we have a sumptuary responsibility to make sure that life is decent for everybody in America, that you believe that society out to be broadly shared, and you believe that you can't have a real democracy unless you have a little bit, at least, of economic democracy.
we should reject the attempt to divert the national conversation away from soaring inequality toward the alleged moral failings of those Americans being left behind. Traditional values aren't as crucial as social conservatives would have you believe — and, in any case, the social changes taking place in America's working class are overwhelmingly the consequence of sharply rising inequality, not its cause.
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There has been plenty to criticize about President Obama's handling of the economy. Yet the overriding story of the past few years is not Mr. Obama's mistakes but the scorched-earth opposition of Republicans, who have done everything they can to get in his way - and who now, having blocked the president's policies, hope to win the White House by claiming that his policies have failed.
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Now, it's true that some of the protesters are oddly dressed or have silly-sounding slogans, which is inevitable given the open character of the events. But so what? I, at least, am a lot more offended by the sight of exquisitely tailored plutocrats, who owe their continued wealth to government guarantees, whining that President Obama has said mean things about them than I am by the sight of ragtag young people denouncing consumerism.
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Raising the minimum wage and lowering the barriers to union organization would carry a trade-off - higher unemployment. A better idea is to have the government subsidize low-wage employment. The earned-income tax credit for low-income workers - which has been the object of proposed cuts by both President Clinton and congressional Republicans - has been a positive step in this direction.
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There is no economic policy. That's really important to say. The general modus operandi of the Bushies is that they don't make policies to deal with problems. They use problems to justify things they wanted to do anyway. So there is no policy to deal with the lack of jobs. There really isn't even a policy to deal with terrorism. It's all about how can we spin what's happening out there to do what we want to do.
The media are desperately afraid of being accused of bias. And that's partly because there's a whole machine out there, an organized attempt to accuse them of bias whenever they say anything that the Right doesn't like. So rather than really try to report things objectively, they settle for being even-handed, which is not the same thing. One of my lines in a column-in which a number of people thought I was insulting them personally-was that if Bush said the Earth was flat, the mainstream media would have stories with the headline: 'Shape of Earth-Views Differ.' Then they'd quote some Democrats saying that it was round.
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[W]hat possible purpose does this lashing-out serve? Will activists be shamed into recovering their previous enthusiasm? Will Republicans stop their vicious attacks because Obama is lashing out to his left? It was pure self-indulgence; even if he feels aggrieved, he has to judge his words by their usefulness, not by his desire to vent. This isn't about him.
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The appeal to the intellectually insecure is also more important than it might seem. Because economics touches so much of life, everyone wants to have an opinion. Yet the kind of economics covered in the textbooks is a technical subject that many people find hard to follow. How reassuring, then, to be told that it is all irrelevant - that all you really need to know are a few simple ideas! Quite a few supply-siders have created for themselves a wonderful alternative intellectual history in which John Maynard Keynes was a fraud, Paul Samuelson and even Milton Friedman are fools, and the true line of deep economic thought runs from Adam Smith through obscure turn-of-the-century Austrians straight to them.
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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. And that reality has implications for the nation as a whole. For Texas is where the modern conservative theory of budgeting-the belief that you should never raise taxes under any circumstances, that you can always balance the budget by cutting wasteful spending-has been implemented most completely. If the theory can't make it there, it can't make it anywhere.
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We're living in a Dark Age of macroeconomics. Remember, what defined the Dark Ages wasn't the fact that they were primitive — the Bronze Age was primitive, too. What made the Dark Ages dark was the fact that so much knowledge had been lost, that so much known to the Greeks and Romans had been forgotten by the barbarian kingdoms that followed.
Yes, over the centuries economic progress has reduced some gross disparities - modern Americans are relatively unlikely to simply starve to death (though it can happen), so in that sense the gap between rich and poor has narrowed. But the question isn't whether society is, in some sense, more equal than it was in 1900. It's whether it is radically more unequal than it was in 1970. And of course it is.
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The raw fact is that every successful example of economic development this past century - every case of a poor nation that worked its way up to a more or less decent, or at least dramatically better, standard of living - has taken place via globalization, that is, by producing for the world market rather than trying for self-sufficiency.
You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we're going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate. And it's long past time for the GOP's leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers.
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So, very early reports are that Obamacare exchanges are, as expected, having some technical glitches on the first day "" maybe even a bit worse than expected, because it appears that volume has been much bigger than predicted. Here's what you need to know: this is good, not bad, news for the program. Lots of people logging on and signing up on the very first day is an early indication that it's going to be fine, that plenty of people will sign up for the first year of health reform.
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Some years down the pike, we're going to get the real solution, which is going to be a combination of death panels and sales taxes. It's going to be that we're actually going to take Medicare under control, and we're going to have to get some additional revenue, probably from a VAT. But it's not going to happen now.
The fact is that the two years or so after 9/11 were a terrible time in America - a time of political exploitation and intimidation, culminating in the deliberate misleading of the nation into the invasion of Iraq. It's probably worth pointing out that I'm not saying anything now that I wasn't saying in real time back then, when Bush had a sky-high approval rating and any criticism was denounced as treason. And there's nothing I've done in my life of which I'm more proud.
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