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The Economist has kindly published an article which provides a neat summary of what "reform" is all about. Entitled The beguiling path of non-reform- The economy is likely to slow sharply next year, but that may not be enough to revive the cause of reform, it once again explicitly endorses (as the sub-title shows) Naomi Klein's theory of Disaster Capitalism whereby more pain is needed for "reform" to finally happen.

Let me take you through a full deconstruction of the main paragraphs. The theme is, appropriately for today, religious: the God of reform shall not be spited. They don't want to give us everything? We'll have to ruin them, then.

GERMANY had no property bubble. Its workers have long settled for modest pay rises. Its businesses and its consumers have been prudent about debt. Recent governments have endured political pain to enact growth-boosting reforms. Yet none of these things will spare Europe's largest economy from the turbulence beyond its borders. In a global slowdown, Germany's three-year-old economic recovery is likely to continue, but at a slower pace. In a way this is a pity, for only the prospect of more serious meltdown could goad Germany's political leaders to make further reforms.

There are so many things in this paragraph, in the way of assumptions, implicit commentary and explicit preferences, that it's worth listing them all in separate items:

  • first, the contents of "reform" is, once again, explicited. The goal of "reform" is to boost growth. Growth should have scare quotes as well these days, because it is a concept that has been perverted in recent years. As it is an average number, it does not matter who profits from it, it's supposed to be good for all, even if it takes place in the form of revenue increases benefitting only a very small majority. This is the famous "W" economy:

    (Go see the famous 'W' graph over in the ET version of this diary)

    And of course that does not even take into account the more substantial criticism about what growth really means when wasting scarce resources in ways that generate monetary payments appears to create such wealth. Endless, accelerating growth (with jobs, another word in dire need of scare quotes itself) is the only thing that matters;

  • second, "reform" is never done. From that paragraph, it is also obvious that there is never enough reform. Growth can always be boosted a little bit more. When weak, it should be increased, when strong, it should not be compromised... Germany is a case in point: it has done plenty of "reform", as the paragraph happily notes: as per the requirements long stated in the Wall Street Journal ("The recipe isn't complicated: Reduce taxes to reduce wage costs, tighten rules on government benefits, loosen up employment protection laws"), it kept wages down (flat for most of the past 15 years), lowered labor regulation, and let corporate profits soar. Political pain came from the fact that many people were unhappy with the result, as is usually the case with reform, which has many losers and a small numbers of winners - but those are the only ones that matter of course, and the growth of their wealth can always be improved;
  • a third trend seems to be haha, you losers: schadenfreude at the hapless Germans, who avoided debt and needless risk, and are still going to be forced to pay for the less prudent speculators elsewhere. There is almost glee at having been able to game the system and get away with it: the worst offenders in the asset bubble now expect to be bailed out by the not-so-reckless, and are even taunting them. Not only is "privatize the profits, socialize the losses" is back in fashion, but it is in an unprecedented in-your-face way: it's profitable, and one can get away with it, so what's not to like.
    This links to a debate held previously about bailing out or not the borrowers in the subprime debacle: should those that were smart enough and prudent enough not to get into such loans, and understood that if it's too good to be true, it probably ain't true, be forced to pay to now help out those that, more or less knowingly, took loans that they'd never be able to repay (unless house prices kept on going up)? There is enough to blame to pass around, starting with the banks that totally gave up any pretense of having any lending standards, the rating agencies that validated the financial sleight-of-hand embedded in the alphabet soup of financial products back by these mortgages, and the investors that bought these without looking closely enough at what they were buying, but many of the underlying home buyers do share the blame as well, for joining the ever-higher party.
    But now we are told that it is appropriate to mock the good Germans who were prudent enough (or stupid enough) to not join the wild ride, and to expect them to pay for the others' mess too...

That may sound like a lot of stuff for one tiny paragraph, but that's the strength of great orthodoxies: a lot goes unsaid, known explicitly or implicitly by all participants, taken for granted, for obvious and no longer needing justification. The rich getting richer translates into higher GDP, and that's Good and Proper and, in fact, Inevitable.

In the longer run German growth prospects will depend more on politicians' progress with reforms than on the whims of consumers. Since 2003 political leaders have helped (...)

Lately, however, Germany's leaders seem to have lost their nerve. Reforms have met popular hostility not applause; voters seem to crave economic justice more than growth. Fewer people now describe their situation as “good” or “very good” than did five years ago, when the economy was in worse shape, according to a survey by Allensbach, a pollster. More than half the population thinks that economic conditions are “unjust”.

That paragraph comes after a description of the German economy, which, as any continental European economy, is always threatened by doom and gloom, being continental (ie socialist), but has had a good stretch thanks to excellent export prospects (fancy that, actually making products that people want to buy, even if they are expensive) and strong consumer demand (fuelled, unfortunately and dismissively, by recent wage increases, and not by debt, and thus threatening inflation).

No, it was not increases in Germans' purchasing power that mattered, but reform (even though aid increases came despite the best efforts fo the reformers), of course.

Strangely enough, German voters seem to understand what reform is about - and they don't like too much that growth seems to profit only a select few. The Economist's apparent surprise at these facts does not lead them to question their model - of course not. Democracy is only good for Iraqis or Russian chess players, but not for ungrateful Germans who don't understand economics and "growth" properly.

And so the coalition has started to whittle away at Germany's growth prospects.

Any measure to share the fruits of growth threatens growth. There is NEVER a good time to share growth. Do it when there is growth, and you might kill it; do it when it's not there and you sentence the country to more stagnation; do it when it's building uo, and you might kill off recovery. There is NEVER a good time to share, it's bad. Bad. Evil. Socialist, even.

Alfred Boss of the Kiel Institute worries that “steps in the wrong direction will multiply” in the next few months. There is talk of extending the minimum wage and of tightening the regulation of temporary work, which accounts for much recent job creation. The upswing has increased the government's revenues and so the temptation to spend.

The horror. Government spending money it has! The nerve! The gall! Don't they understand that they are wasting valuable opportunities to cut taxes?! And minimum wages? People actually having money to spend and support consumption? Not being forced into shitty jobs with nasty timetables, poor pay and no benefits. Why, they might have time to thin kabout what's going on, and worse, complain! Don't they understand that they can just go in debt? Stupid uptight Germans.

So far, the reversals championed by the Social Democrats seem to be aimed at gaining big political payoffs at low economic costs. Still, driving in reverse makes it harder to bring in further reforms of health care, labour markets or the welfare state. There is little prospect of daring moves until after the 2009 election. And even then, it may take another bout of economic pain to make anything happen.

Ugh. Politicians scoring easy points that move the debate left?! That's just wrong! Shit, we'll just have to engineer a bigger crisis so that the damn buggers understand that reform shall not be spited. They don't want to give us everything? We'll have to ruin them, then.

It's all in black and white in the bible of global capitalism if you want to read it carefully.

Originally posted to Jerome a Paris on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 02:21 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar - 25 December (154+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fly, claude, Alumbrados, cdreid, Donna Z, vicki, Odysseus, melo, Hell Upside Down, Gooserock, Rolfyboy6, johnmorris, Shockwave, cybo, eeff, RickD, TarheelDem, ZAPatty, RFK Lives, object16, Creosote, hestal, bronte17, Cassandra77, Euroliberal, dionys1, nyceve, DaleA, metal prophet, CalvinV, chuckvw, Bensdad, Geonomist, Dburn, RobLewis, Sacramento Dem, bewert, David Boyle, Janet Strange, Melanchthon, jsmagid, Quentin, hoolia, NYFM, penguins4peace, john culpepper, kalmoth, grrr, alizard, cevad, Anne Hawley, Kitsap River, Wife of Bath, andyj2287, fran1, kd texan, eztempo, environmentalist, greeseyparrot, nailbender, Alexander G Rubio, mvr, Jeffersonian Democrat, relentless, ek hornbeck, ignorant bystander, nytcek, skeptigal, Chaoslillith, cris0000, ocooper, EdlinUser, Daneel, techno, wiscmass, LithiumCola, Pluto, Brian B, Land of Enchantment, xaxnar, Jim R, Jim P, dus7, Sanuk, atdnext, tommymet, Keone Michaels, vigilant meerkat, ActivistGuy, borkitekt, Hear Our Voices, dewey of the desert, Lefty Coaster, Alexandra Lynch, sravaka, paul2port, JVolvo, happy camper, Dauphin, NearlyNormal, vcwagner, ER Doc, Pete Rock, profh, va dare, scoff0165, kurious, MadScientist, Granny Doc, mariachi mama, Leap Year, OHdog, Cliss, bigchin, nathguy, xaxado, dotsright, jessical, chrischen, Cottagerose, california keefer, someone other, yoduuuh do or do not, left coast lad, Downpuppy, FishOutofWater, jeturek, Unbozo, brentmack, Carib and Ting, rrheard, ImpeachKingBushII, keikekaze, cville townie, chapter1, sima, Spoonfulofsugar, Youffraita, spencerh, Mannabass, Akonitum, Spekkio, Gemina13, Cobbler, BYw, red 83, Executive Odor, Grass, Ellinorianne, Tennessee Dave, codigo rojo, Neon Vincent, Unseen majority, Stranded Wind
  •  The Economist is hardly "the bible of global (3+ / 0-)

    capitalism" Jerome.

    I think that honor would belong to Forbes.

    You may disagree with The Economist's economic analysis but their intelligence unit is world renowned, and not because it always tells people what they want to hear.

    He who can destroy a thing, controls a thing - Mua'dib

    by Shane Hensinger on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 02:37:17 PM PST

  •  Ah, Jerome, we need some reform here in the US (15+ / 0-)

    and it will unfortunately come to late to make a difference economically.  Bush's pay as you play oil games economy has busted this country.  

    Reform in the change at the top of our leadership will come with a lot of repair to what has been done previously.  We can only hope that whomever is elected to lead has the temperence to hold fast on the budget and make an economic recovery one of their main agenda items.  

    It will take years to undo what has been done.  A great plan attached to a great leader is what will allow us to bounce back.  Without a combination of both of those, it will be bleak.

    Another day, another devalued Dollar. -6.00, -6.21

    by funluvn1 on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 02:37:59 PM PST

  •  You've obviously been paying better attention (24+ / 0-)

    then I have. I remember hearing about how Russia and Japan needed to 'reform' their economies. I noticed that Bush loves Sarkozy in France and it was onky then that I realized 'Reform' was code for 'screw the workers'.

    . There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, ALWAYS. Mahatma Gandhi

    by Sacramento Dem on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 02:39:53 PM PST

  •  I like the Economist. (9+ / 0-)

    But it can be famously wrong. You may remember the Economist's cover: "Oil going to $10 per Barrel" or some such - a decade ago or so.

    Still, it gives diverse opinions - even one's as fucked up as:

    In a way this is a pity, for only the prospect of more serious meltdown could goad Germany's political leaders to make further reforms.

    as you pointed out. That is so wrong on so many levels.

    Still, the Economist is a good read if you want something to provoke thought - as it has done here.

  •  Still, we need health care reform in the U.S. (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Creosote, chuckvw, mvr, Dauphin, Cliss, Neon Vincent

    When reform means to cut out the parasites who take our money then can tell us that they cannot afford to pay for our experimental treatment, leaving us to die, while they rake in millions, the time for reform has come.

    "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 03:08:19 PM PST

    •  I don't care what he calls it, I don't want (6+ / 0-)

      anything from our 'Reformer with Results'.

      . There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, ALWAYS. Mahatma Gandhi

      by Sacramento Dem on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 03:13:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  A lot of reform is needed (9+ / 0-)

      in various places (including, for what matters to me, in France).

      But not the one-track-mind "reform" endlessly peddled in the media, and which has only one goal: making it easier for corporations to increase their profits but cutting wages, undermining unions, cutting taxes and eliminating regulation.

      The problem is when you start discussing actually needed reform (such as the kind you mention on health care), the debate becomes biased by how the word has been used (noisily) elsewhere, and it becomes hard to differentiate actual content behind the slogans.

      •  You have to call it what it is (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jagger

        You have to call it - Social Reform. A reform has to be social balanced, because social balanced reforms strengthening the stability of the society and increase the political and economical security. Unbalanced reforms increase the instability of a society and increase the political and economical security. Source

        Beat them with security, they start to whine like little children, that this is unrelated to growth reforms, but it isn't. Oxford is a serious source and who wants to be labeled weak on national security nowadays.

        English is not my native language, so please be gentle about grammar and spelling mistakes.

        by chrischen on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 04:26:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, and by the very close match (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        melo, alizard, Jagger, Dauphin

        between this thought of yours:

        Any measure to share the fruits of growth threatens growth. There is NEVER a good time to share growth. Do it when there is growth, and you might kill it; do it when it's not there and you sentence the country to more stagnation; do it when it's building uo, and you might kill off recovery.

        which ultimately comes to rest in the control of childhood by parents who hold this same belief and feel they must instill it from the beginning -- that there is never a time to share warmth. The extensive coldness that results, along with the explosive greed that breaks out later, is precisely what you are describing here, and it's a brilliant topic for this holiday.

  •  Naomi Klein offers little that is new (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Asak, Daneel, Dauphin

    it was Marx, Karl not Groucho, who argued that things had to get a lot worse for their to be real revolution.   Trouble is, things rarely get that bad, and when they do as was the case in Russia in 1917, the revolutionary alternative makes things even worse.

    •  From what I've heard from her, (5+ / 0-)

      she considers her book a history on the last few decades of neo-liberalism.  She knows that Marx wrote of inflation causing revolutions, etc., the Bolshevik revolution, how the New Deal was pushed through..

      However, the history of neoliberalism has been unwritten so far, from what I could tell.

    •  things haven't gotten that bad (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Daneel, Dauphin

      because Marx was speaking of the dialectic.  Everything has its place and time in a determined process of cause and effect.

      Things were very bad in Russia in 1917, but it wasn't the historical moment for communism (which even Marx said that he didn't know what it would look like).  Rarely does anyone mention, when they demonize Marxism with the Russian example, that things have to be that bad for the proletariat, the urban worker who is a key piece of the theory.

      Problem for Lenin, et. al., was that Russia was not an industrialized state but rather agrarian.  This brought on the infamous "military communism" which purpose was to industrialize and create the proletariat so that he or she could be exploited and alienated and thereby forcing the revolution from capitalism and socialism to communism.  Lenin eventually eased up on that, he had to, and allow small enterprises such as individual kiosks' and such.  It was sort of messianic like certain religions who want to initiate the end times rather than waiting for their prophecy to occur according to their divine force.

      This is why, I would argue, the USSR was a failure, because it was doomed from the start and everything that came afterwards was moot.

      Marx and Engles would have said no, no, no!  You can't force it.  Nevertheless, everyone thinks of the manifesto immediately and the real substantial works of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, The German Ideology, and Das Kapital are presumed "discredited" without anyone really critically reading the works.

      I haven't read Naomi Klein, but it sounds to me that she is trying to put some of this into layman's terms, something Marx and Engles, by the nature of complexity of their works and theory, could not do.

      "Jedoch ich wollte, dass ihr nicht schon triumphiert: Der Schoß ist fruchtbar noch, aus dem das kroch." -Bertolt Brecht

      by Jeffersonian Democrat on Wed Dec 26, 2007 at 01:54:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Headline news just of the last few days: (9+ / 0-)
    * In Japan, the government wants to 'reform' finance -- again a deregulation, towards the US model that just suffers the credit crunch...

    * In Hungary, government majority (against public opinion majority) voted for a healthcare 'reform', meaning partial privatisation, that will only achieve a lot of bureaucracy.

    * In the Czech Republic, people are said to be wary of 'reforms', after the new government announced plans of sweeping Slovakian-style 'reforms', including healthcare privatisation, flat tax and other idiocies. I wonder how they failed to consider a fate similar to the Slovakian reformist government (being replaced by leftist demagogues and far-right extremists).

    •  Speaking of which, in Germany, (3+ / 0-)

      wasn't there some mention of a CEO pay cap somewhere in the tubes?

      •  Yes, it's the controversy of the day, (4+ / 0-)

        with the Social Democrats (ever more uneasy junior partners in the Grand Coalition government with the Christian Democrats) trying to score some points with their dissatisfied base. But with Merkel, the CDU, and even the SPD economc minister against it, it is unlikely to be more than hot air making managers feel a bit uneasy and go to talk shows playing victimised.

    •  It's a war of ideas (5+ / 0-)

      I think we need to accept that.  In the end if these unbridled free market reforms do not play out, they will be gotten rid of.  This is a battle that will be waged probably for the next century or two.  Finding the happy medium between free markets and socialism/government intervention will be a longterm process.  It will also go back and forth.  I rather suspect we have reached the apex of free market liberalism for at least the near future.  

      The situation in Japan is different than that in the U.S., so I am uncertain that reform there is necessarily bad.  A dangerous assumption to make is that all cultures are the same.  Japanese and Asian culture is decidedly different from the U.S.  Capitalism will take different forms there.  That means it's dangerous to directly prescribe solutions from elsewhere in the world, but it also means one should not assume that all reforms are going to be bad.  

      Don't like XOM and OPEC? What have YOU done to reduce your oil consumption? Hot air does NOT constitute a renewable resource!

      by Asak on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 07:15:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Free market liberalism and Asian culture (4+ / 0-)

        I rather suspect we have reached the apex of free market liberalism for at least the near future.

        I hope that you're correct. I think that you are correct as far as Old Europe and the US are concerned. However, I think that the cultures of the countries of the former Eastern Bloc and Asia, with the exception of Japan, are leaning pretty heavily towards free market liberalism on the pendulum.

        "You don't make a hog fatter by weighing it". ---John Edwards, on NCLB

        by Spoonfulofsugar on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 07:43:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  How about this...in Saskatchewan, Canada, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jeffersonian Democrat, Daneel

      a newly elected government called the Saskatchewan Party, basically the conservative reaction to the ruling NDP.

      Wall gets even friendlier

      ...

      Now that he is in power, he sees an opportunity for more aggressive reforms that would bring more people and investment to the province. Repealing the Potash Development Act was one small step.

      "Our population really hasn't changed since the late 1920s. And we think with resources that would be the envy of most countries, our economy has historically under-performed to potential. And we want to move to facilitate a change," he said.

      To get there, he is setting up a public-private partnership called Enterprise Saskatchewan that will provide recommendations on improving the province's economy, the first time the private sector has had a major role in the discussions.

      He sees great opportunity to expand the province's booming uranium business by looking at value-added opportunities in refining and research and development, rather than just digging it out of the ground. He pointed to the medical isotope shortage at Chalk River, Ont., as the sort of opportunity that Saskatchewan should be looking at.
      ...

      The words, "reform" and "liberalization" really gross me out these days.

      Overview of elections in Canada recently:

      ...
      So where do things stand now, with the Conservative Harper in power and election-palooza 2007 out of the way?

      Well, Newfoundland is massively Conservative but not particularly friendly toward Ottawa. In fact, Premier Danny Williams is threatening to back an Anyone But Conservatives slate in the next federal election because of his problems with the feds over the Atlantic Accord.

      P.E.I. is newly Liberal after 11 years of Tory rule. Nova Scotia is barely Conservative, a not-quite two-year-old minority that could also be going to the polls in 2008. New Brunswick has a narrow Liberal majority under Shawn Graham and the opposition Conservatives have not yet chosen a successor to former premier Bernard Lord.

      Quebec is a Liberal minority, under Jean Charest, a former federal Conservative minister. Ontario is massively Liberal. Manitoba is NDP. The Saskatchewan Party, a bit of an unknown entity, rules in that province. Conservative Alberta, with a new leader, will almost certainly be going to the polls in 2008 as well. B.C. is Liberal in name only.
      ...

      All I can say for the people of Saskatchewan, don't come crying to us in 10 years when you're screwed...Ontario had Mike Harris and is still suffering from his legacy.

  •  The Economist (7+ / 0-)

    It is no longer the periodical it used to be. There is increasing tendency to mix opinion and sometimes outright lies as news. May be it is only now that we can fully grasp the magnitude of 'mixing' that could have been going on for decades.
    I switch on my skepticism fiters  while reading any political news item. Invariably, the story reveals several holes.  

    What's the use of happiness? It can't buy you money- Henny Youngman

    by sheep in wolf clothing on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 03:29:20 PM PST

    •  What periodical is better? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cliss

      I was thinking about subscribing to the Economist as US business and news magazines have really cut back on their foreign coverage in cost cutting moves.

      Over half my investments are in foreign stocks.

      •  Depends on what you want (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mvr

        The Economist gives a macro picture. It does not dwell on the individual stocks which I like. One also gets perspective on the sectors of the economy and the countries which could be in the limelight before the general public comes to know. If you can read between the lines, it is a great magazine. For example, if you read a negative essay about a country, you know that it may be falling out of favor with the 'civilized world'. It gives you time to adjust your investment. I think it is worth subscribing.

        What's the use of happiness? It can't buy you money- Henny Youngman

        by sheep in wolf clothing on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 05:10:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The goal, as always, being that (8+ / 0-)

    our grandchildren should work for their grandchildren for free.

    Which, if one thinks it through, is the inevitable consequence of a consumer economy. If the environment that results doesn't kill off everyone fast enough.

    FWIW, the recent Telegraph item:

    Crisis may make 1929 look a 'walk in the park'

    As central banks continue to splash their cash over the system, so far to little effect, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard argues things are rapidly spiralling out of their control

    ...As the credit paralysis stretches through its fifth month, a chorus of economists has begun to warn that the world's central banks are fighting the wrong war, and perhaps risk a policy error of epochal proportions.

    ...York professor Peter Spencer, chief economist for the ITEM Club, says the global authorities have just weeks to get this right, or trigger disaster.

    ...The Bank of England knows the risk. Markets director Paul Tucker says the crisis has moved beyond the collapse of mortgage securities, and is now eating into the bedrock of banking capital. "We must try to avoid the vicious circle in which tighter liquidity conditions, lower asset values, impaired capital resources, reduced credit supply, and slower aggregate demand feed back on each other," he says.

    There's much more to the article.

    Until we break the corporate virtual monopoly on what we hear and see, we keep losing, don't matter what we do.

    by Jim P on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 03:41:57 PM PST

  •  "THey" will make life tough for a reformer (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alizard

    I have always felt that if a reformer gets in office who does not play by their Alan Greenspan/free trade econ rules, they will deliberately engineer an economic collapse.  

    Note- they won't do this to Hillary.  But if Edwards were to take things too far, you can bet they'd pull the plug.  

    Bush will be impeached.

    by jgkojak on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 03:45:05 PM PST

  •  To nitpick: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    junta0201

    Government spending money it has! The nerve!

    Germany is spending money it doesn't have.

    •  Not quite (8+ / 0-)

      EU welcomes German budget surplus

      23 August 2007

      (BRUSSELS) - The European Commission on Thursday welcomed the first real surplus in Germany's public finances since reunification in 1990, but warned Berlin against easing efforts to improve the national finances.

      After Germany's federal statistics office reported a surplus 1.2 billion euros (1.6 billion dollars) for the first half of 2007, Commission spokeswoman Amelia Torres said the news was "something to be welcomed quite obviously."

      The full year is expected to have a real surplus.

      •  Now they have set themselves up for this (5+ / 0-)

        Balanced budgets and depressions
        American Journal of Economics and Sociology, The,  April, 1996  by Frederick C. Thayer

        Since 1791, the earliest data available, the national debt has been increased in 112 years, decreased in 93 years. 57 of those balanced-budget, debt-reduction years have been concentrated in six sustained periods of varying length. Also since 1791, there have been six significant economic depressions among the innumerable "business cycles." Each sustained period of budget-balancing was immediately followed by a significant depression. There are as yet no exceptions to this historical pattern.

        This is the record of six depressions:

        1. 1817-21: in five years, the national debt was reduced by 29 percent, to $90 million. A depression began in 1819.
        1. 1823-36: in 14 years, the debt was reduced by 99.7 percent, to $38,000. A depression began in 1837.
        1. 1852-57: in six years, the debt was reduced by 59 percent, to $28.7 million. A depression began in 1857.
        1. 1867-73: in seven years, the debt was reduced by 27 percent, to $2.2 billion. A depression began in 1873.
        1. 1880-93: in 14 years, the debt was reduced by 57 percent, to $1 billion. A depression began in 1893.
        1. 1920-30: in 11 years, the debt was reduced by 36 percent, to $16.2 billion. A depression began in 1929.

        There has been no sustained period of budget-balancing since 1920-30, and no new depression, the longest such period in our history.

        The question is whether this consistent pattern of balance the budget-reduce the national debt-have a big depression is anything other than a set of coincidences. According to economic myths, none of these sequences should have occurred at all. How on earth, for example, could we virtually wipe out the national debt in the mid-1830s, then fall immediately into one of the six recognized collapses in our history? Those who write about the desirability of reducing the national debt frequently praise Andrew Jackson for his vigorous pursuit of such a goal, but do not mention "depression" in the same breath. It is helpful to the maintenance of economic myth to say little about depressions in textbooks, thus making it easy to avoid looking at connections considered impossible anyway.

        The mutual finger-pointing now underway is aimed at the 1996 elections, Democrats and Republicans each blaming the other for the agreed disaster of high deficits and debt. Yet the deficits of the 1930s and recent years were trivial, relative to GNP, when compared with the wartime deficits of the 1940s that ended the Great Depression. Federal deficits in World War II ranged from 20 to 31 percent of Gross National Product. For a few years, the national debt was greater than GNP, the only such period in U.S. history.

        The national debt is now less than 70 percent of Gross National Product (GNP), much below the 130 percent debt of the late 1940s, and a debt that remained higher than today's debt until the mid-1950s. According to economic myths, that wartime spending should have made things worse, not better.

        Those who look closely, therefore, will see some obvious intellectual dishonesty at work. It is dishonest to avoid looking at depressions and wars when discussing the evils of deficits and debt, and to propagandize by using absolute levels of deficits and debt when only relative comparisons are valid. It is dishonest to write textbooks in which there is no mention of what Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, and noted financier, Bernard Baruch, had to say in the early 1930s about causes of the Great Depression. The belief at that time, even if rejected by economists, was that "overproduction," "excessive" and "destructive" competition were to blame. To be sure, nobody has suggested that government underspending can massively contribute to big depressions, even though this is only the flip side of overproduction. Put another way, if the market for consumer goods cannot do the job, there is every reason to turn to the production of public goods, always in short supply anyway.

        The tragicomedy of economics is easily displayed. If someone borrows money to build a brewery, the money is officially listed as "investment" in national income accounts. If government borrows money to build a bridge that is needed by the brewery, these funds are not listed as "investment" because the bridge is considered "waste." To think that this sort of logic undergirds public policy is to experience pure fright. Economics, of course, is not the only "discipline" that fills the world with unsupportable myth, but it is among the leaders.

        [Frederick C. Thayer is a Visiting Professor of Public Administration, George Washington University, Washington, DC 20036 and Professor Emeritus, Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh.]

        COPYRIGHT 1996 American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Inc.
        COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

        "If I pay a man enough money to buy my car, he'll buy my car." Henry Ford

        by johnmorris on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 07:19:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Silly Germans (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Creosote, Cliss

      They'll never beat the Americans at that game. German military spending is, what, 8% of American military spending?

      /snark

      "You don't make a hog fatter by weighing it". ---John Edwards, on NCLB

      by Spoonfulofsugar on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 04:32:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Speaking of disaster capitalism (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alizard, Cliss, Spoonfulofsugar

    Over at the Telegraph in the UK, their economics articles has a quotation saying that it could make 1929 look like a walk in the park.

    Just what all these disaster capitalists would love to see but a real disaster for most of the rest of humanity.

    Article here

    A village in Texas is missing its idiot. Will they please come get him?

    by dotsright on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 04:09:01 PM PST

  •  Ideological thugs (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Daneel, Cliss, Spoonfulofsugar, spencerh

    That's what these folks are.  They should rename the magazine, The Market Theoligist.

    If Hillary Clinton wins, the Democratic Party loses.

    by Paleo on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 04:12:21 PM PST

  •  presidential candidates (0+ / 0-)

    I haven't read my new copy of the Economist yet. Have they endorsed a Dem and/or Repub presidential candidate yet? They seem to never shy away from endorsements. I wonder who ...

    "You don't make a hog fatter by weighing it". ---John Edwards, on NCLB

    by Spoonfulofsugar on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 04:15:56 PM PST

  •  We The People... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dauphin, Cliss

    ...need to wrest the control of our money, the issuing of credit and the supply of money from the greedy usurious hands of the banking system, and the Federal reserve, and restore the rightful sovereignty of the United States back into the hands of our government and our people!

    Ben Franklin wrote that this was the primary reason for our American Revolution, because King George III didn't want the colonists to control their own finances, debt, and issuing of credit. He sought to enslave us, placing the Bank of England over us. This led directly to our war of independence, but it seems they hold all of the cards.

    I say, let us abolish the Federal Reserve Banking system and We The People can reclaim the rightful sovereignty of America over itself! We can and should be our own bankers, instead of slaves to the banking industry!

    "Great men do not commit murder. Great nations do not start wars". William Jennings Bryan

    by ImpeachKingBushII on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 04:40:17 PM PST

  •  in a world of plenty (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Spoonfulofsugar, Spekkio

    In a world of plenty--be it natural resources or colonialism--capitalism works.  In an era of scarcity and global trade, capitalism is the same as elitism.  Many coups and disruptions will occur until equilibrium is restored.  Shanghai, China, and Taiwan have systems that can succeed in such an environment, but they suck.  

    At one time I thought unions would lead to a form of socialism for the future--but the corporatists saw this and nipped it with governmental help.  Theoretically, politicians would have sided with vote-heavy unions, but that was before msm was overrun by the big boys.

    I'll be dead when this gets settled--but my kids will be correct when they say their parents lived in the good old days.

  •  The repeal of Bretton Woods - (6+ / 0-)

    and the resulting 'everyone for themself" approach to the global economy has left NOBODY with any real stability, reversed the balance of wealth transfer that had benefitted the world and enriched a very, very few at the expense of so very many.....

    We are seeing frightening parallels to the 1920's....  and we all know how well THAT turned out.

    •  Hot Potato (4+ / 0-)

      Furthermore, there is no stability anywhere because everything has been repackaged and resold. It's like the game of Hot Potato...no one knows until the final capitulation who will be left holding the hot one. Sort of a banker vs. banker vs. central bank vs. central bank vs. friendly country vs. not-friendly country vs. industry vs. industry...well, you get the picture.

      The elite think that they're playing a coconut shell game but eventually the rooster comes home.

      Sooner rather than later for the benefit of the masses.

      "You don't make a hog fatter by weighing it". ---John Edwards, on NCLB

      by Spoonfulofsugar on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 07:19:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Germany's workers need more spine (5+ / 0-)

    Germany's workers are surely going to hurt because of the latest problems from housing finace schemes.  Many here will hurt to death - they will be forced into those growing temporary labor pools where life can be cheap, mean, brutish and short. a
    nd they will have no health care for the most dangerous of occupations.  At least Germany's workers don't face that privation.  Their health care is universaly free.  

    As for their restrainbt on wages - they will often  be adversely  effected anyway, regardless of their restraint on wages - which more likely is a result of their increasing powerlessness than their consent to help the greater good by taking lower wages than they might have negotiated.

    We are victims of our ideologys which constrain the possible in matters of prosperity and equity.  Particularly we are victims of a long dead truth - which has ben killed many times over by facts.  
    To mercifuly be breifly technical: Demand - push as the prime cause of inflation is a dead notion.  It's quite obvious now that we have had periods of high unemployment coinciding with moderately high inflation (for instance the 60's stagflation in the US) as well as low unemployment and low inflation (the 80's and 90's here) Most often these days wages have become a very small part of product costs.  

    Germany's workers, like those of the US, are captives of the old monetarist fear mongering - that the cause of inflation is primarily the demand of consumers driving up prices.  The factory owners are well served by those fears - but not their workers.  

    Should we get another crop of unemployment boosters in the oval office next year we might see full employment inflation cause the rate of good frictional unemployment to rise over 6%. What else will factory owners do but squeeze wages to make up for declining revenues because of oil prices.  These naked machinations for a bottom line don't have anything to do with inflation. But they will be justified as a necessity by terribly flawed economic theories that help producers use all of the worker but the oink.      

    Conventional wisdom is most usualy an oxymoron.

    by SmithsLastWord on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 06:39:00 PM PST

    •  Bush and Merkel (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cliss, junta0201

      "You don't make a hog fatter by weighing it". ---John Edwards, on NCLB

      by Spoonfulofsugar on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 07:23:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  here is an empirical view (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Daneel, Dauphin

      My fiancee works in a local factory in Lendringsen, Sauerland.  They use a lot of temp labor; it's how she got into a full time position.

      Recently they increased the hours of shifts.  The new manager was enforcing a strict and draconian rule of firing for simple things like just talking on the factory floor.  Shortages of ear-plugs, we had to buy our own.  Mandatory, but labeled "volunteer - wink, wink" saturday shifts.

      I asked why they didn't organize and protest and she said because there are plenty of unemployed workers and they would just fire and replace.  However, the women workers together did refuse to work saturdays.  When the manger asked why, they replied that they also had home and children duties on the weekends.  It was tense for awhile, but that forced to management to revert to the old scheduling.  It goes to show that it is basically fear of unemployment they use but solidarity really does work.

      still, no christmas bonuses this year or the last

      "Jedoch ich wollte, dass ihr nicht schon triumphiert: Der Schoß ist fruchtbar noch, aus dem das kroch." -Bertolt Brecht

      by Jeffersonian Democrat on Wed Dec 26, 2007 at 02:09:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Would you mind (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jeffersonian Democrat
        to diarise this on ET?
        •  sure (0+ / 0-)

          but it isn't much of a diary.  I am a heavy lurker and longtime member at ET, but everyone over there knows this stuff so much better than I.  I don't post a lot because I really feel I don't know much about european affairs and I am learning in real life as I go.

          This is mostly anecdotal, not sure I could put it in context of an analytical diary of German work environment.

          "Jedoch ich wollte, dass ihr nicht schon triumphiert: Der Schoß ist fruchtbar noch, aus dem das kroch." -Bertolt Brecht

          by Jeffersonian Democrat on Thu Dec 27, 2007 at 01:11:50 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I think the point they are trying (8+ / 0-)

    to make with Germany is, does it matter if the Germans are prudent, solid financially, while the rest of Europe starts to sink because of the subprime mortgage problem?

    There are several countries in Europe which are dealing with a housing bubble.  Spain, Sweden, Denmark & France (and the U.K.) seem to be the most vulnerable right now.

    Well, the answer is Yes Germany is going to sink, along with the rest of Europe in spite of their financial soundness.  Because economies and countries are interrelated.  That huge trade surplus that Germany has was created through exports, which other countries purchased.

    One good note from the **Good Karma Fairy**:  Not to worry.  Yeah Germany will pay for the sins of the OTHERS, but they will be in a better position to bounce back once the economies work their way through this mess.  

    •  I hope so (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dauphin, Cliss

      I am expecting a large lump-sum of back pay from the VA and I live in Germany.  I do not know what to do with it and I don't want it to turn into Weimar dollars after years of fighting for it.  I am also very wary of investing and losing it anyhow.

      I think I will invest it German government bonds, I am thinking that may be the best way to minimize losses since there is no FDIC over here.

      "Jedoch ich wollte, dass ihr nicht schon triumphiert: Der Schoß ist fruchtbar noch, aus dem das kroch." -Bertolt Brecht

      by Jeffersonian Democrat on Wed Dec 26, 2007 at 02:16:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Helpful LINK (0+ / 0-)

    If you can watch or listen online:

    The Science of Propaganda

    Great forum with George Lakoff and others.... view or listen online:
    http://www.nypl.org/...

    We Democrats need to get up to speed. . . .

    If you can't watch or listen online, you can buy the video from C-SPAN.
    http://inside.c-spanarchives.org:808...

    "The Science of Propaganda" http://www.nypl.org/research/calendar/eventdesc.cfm?id=3499

    by LNK on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 07:18:46 PM PST

  •  If the government collected the money that cor- (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fhcec, Cliss, junta0201

    porations pay for health insurance premiums, (so corporations could stop deducting money from paychecks for 'employee contributions'), and if we resumed the pre-2000 tax structure for only the wealthiest $350k+ in wage-earners and corporate bonus thieves, Medicare could fund healthcare for everybody.

    If we just put the voucher money from elite voucher-sponsored schools back into the public education budget without government restrictions, and if we funded early intervention for pre-K and Kindergarten programs with for-credit day-care-for-all provided by only senior college ed. majors and post-grads, we would have no education problems in the US....none.

    But that's all contingent on a non-profit government of the people, by the people and for the people.

    If there are any $$$ holes in this system, we can fix them, for these are honorable and achievable goals.  

    It's not socialism----it's Christianism in its truest form:
    catholicism, i.e.,
    1.broad or wide-ranging in tastes, interests, or the like; having sympathies with all; broad-minded; liberal.
    2.universal in extent; involving all; of interest to all....

    Count me in, and I'm an atheistic aesthete, an anachronist!

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. -Mohandas Gandhi

    by ezdidit on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 07:19:20 PM PST

  •  Damn I hate Practical people (4+ / 0-)

    Apparently the Economist has decided that WW11 should be a series . This time we will bomb them with mortgage backed securities. That'll teach em. "Dumb Germans" (lol) or Sie sind alle Scheißeköpfe

    Growth at any cost as long growth has no cost to me. Kinda sounds like war at any cost just as long as reformers can cheer lead from the sidelines and make money on defense.  

    Support Col Hackworth's watchdog group for the troops with money or a sign

    by Dburn on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 07:23:52 PM PST

  •  Un cadeaux pour Jerome a Paris (6+ / 0-)

    Reform

    You have to make more noise than anybody else, you have to make yourself more obtrusive than anybody else, you have to fill all the papers more than anybody else, in fact you have to be there all the time and see that they do not snow you under, if you are really going to get your reform realized.
        --Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928), English suffragette. "When Civil War Is Waged by Women," speech, 13 Nov. 1913 (published in My Own Story, 1914).

    The amelioration of the world cannot be achieved by sacrifices in moments of crisis; it depends on the efforts made and constantly repeated during the humdrum, uninspiring periods, which separate one crisis from another, and of which normal lives mainly consist.
        --Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), British author. Grey Eminence, ch. 10 (1941).

    To innovate is not to reform.
        --Edmund Burke (1729-97), Irish philosopher, statesman. Letter to a Noble Lord (published in Works, vol. 5, 1796).

    A party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life.
         --John Stuart Mill (1806-73), English philosopher, economist. On Liberty, ch. 2 (1859).

    In the democratic western countries so-called capitalism leads a saturnalia of "freedom," like a bastard brother of reform.
         --Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957), British author, painter. The Art of Being Ruled, ch. 2, "Vulgarization and Political Decay" (1926).

    The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations is licensed from Columbia University Press. Copyright © 1993, 1995 by Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

    "The Science of Propaganda" http://www.nypl.org/research/calendar/eventdesc.cfm?id=3499

    by LNK on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 07:30:28 PM PST

  •  the economist (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cliss

    I've really come to hold it in contempt.  It's such an elitist rag.

    It's safe to assume that any government agency that insists on total secrecy is totally incompetent.

    by RickD on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 09:08:57 PM PST

  •  Maybe Marx was on to something after all? n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dauphin, Spekkio

    "You can't be neutral on a moving train." - Howard Zinn

    by bigchin on Tue Dec 25, 2007 at 10:33:19 PM PST

  •  A definite trend (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo, Jerome a Paris, Dauphin, Cliss, Spekkio

    This administration does not want an orderly transition out of debt or a fair and peaceful ending to our occupation in Iraq.  They don’t want to restore any program. They want chaos in every area, so they can come out victorious top dogs.  There is a silent threat in all they do, a sneakiness  in their methods.  

    Americans have grown up with capitalism, but it was tempered by safety nets and by Democratic leaders who fought for the working people. We had social justice.  Many in this capitalistic society don’t like this form of capitalism that is being foisted upon us.  It is hard to believe that other countries who have not had capitalism, will put up with this cruel form that enriches a few, but takes everything from the rest of the people.  But then there are always leaders who sell their people out and it takes awhile for the people to realize they have been betrayed by the leaders they trust.

    There is a pattern of gradually reducing safety nets in every country, making people more dependent on the elite rich employers.  Safety nets and retirement programs give the average person independence from employers, which the elite do not want us to have.  

    The rich were always taxed heavily because once you have money, it is so easy to make money with money.  If you have one million dollars, it will double in 10 years if you earn 8% average a year on the million with 15% yearly taxes on the earnings.  Light taxation of rich businesses creates more opportunities for them to buy corrupt politicians. The richer they get, the more politicians they buy until they own us all.

  •  What do you expect (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo

    from a right wing rag.

    The economic right would like nothing better than an economic meltdown (as their policies prove) so they can repeat the 70's and blame it on "lazy greedy workers and welfare!". Heck a very few rich folk actually have to pay 15% tax! We should be paying them for being rich for us so we dont have to!

    I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever TJ

    by cdreid on Wed Dec 26, 2007 at 01:50:00 AM PST

  •  Justice? (0+ / 0-)

    What is this thing "justice" I see in the post? I thought it meant somebody had to be locked up somewhere, possibly with waterboarding. What does "justice" have to do with sharing wealth?  It's certainly nothing we hear much about in America.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Wed Dec 26, 2007 at 04:21:20 AM PST

  •  Corporation as 'Stranger' (0+ / 0-)

    Hey Jerome, all the rest of you freaky People people...

    I thought I'd share something with you about talking about Corporate Sponsored Public Policy, aka Corporatism...

    I think the metaphor of the stranger, as in don't talk to strangers or don't take candy from strangers might be a nice way to talk about the relationship between responsible Real live breathing people and unaccountable, irresponsible, fake people.

    "You not only took candy from this complete stranger, but you gave him your telephone number, address and dog's name for cryin' out loud. Our personal information is their friggin' property. Perhaps it's time to leash these guys up again."

    Still a work in progress, but I think it's a good metaphor for talking about this problem.

    Any thoughts?

    Sharing and Caring are for Commies! They should be illegal.

    by k9disc on Wed Dec 26, 2007 at 05:38:24 AM PST

    •  Christopher Robin's Stay-Safe-Rules (0+ / 0-)

      http://www.geocities.com/...

      • Don't talk to strangers.

      • Never open your door to a stranger.

      • Never take a present from a stranger.

      • Never take a ride from a stranger.
      • If a stranger does try to talk to you or touch you, yell "NO!," run away, and tell a grown-up you trust as soon as you can.

      • And remember, if you're going somewhere, it's always friendlier and safer to go with someone you know.

      Sharing and Caring are for Commies! They should be illegal.

      by k9disc on Wed Dec 26, 2007 at 05:45:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Very interesting... (0+ / 0-)

      Not quite on topic but interesting...(emphasis by original author)

      http://www.gottaquirk.com/...

      One of the first things we are taught when we’re young is to be wary of strangers, not to accept sweets or rides from them, and with the threat of terrorism looming, we are to approach the people around us with caution.

      Yet the Internet is the exception to this rule. With an increase in consumer input, we are relying more and more on strangers.

      ...So my advice is to make an informed decision that isn't based wholly on what one person or website says. Listen to what people have to say, but realise that just because their review is published on Amazon.com, doesn't give them any more credibility that any other opinion and doesn't mean that they have the best intentions. It's really about making what's out there work for you.

      Sharing and Caring are for Commies! They should be illegal.

      by k9disc on Wed Dec 26, 2007 at 05:50:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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