Paul Krugman at The New York Times writes about a recent upending of conventional wisdom in Liberty, Equality, Efficiency:
It’s widely known that income inequality varies a great deal among advanced countries. In particular, disposable income in the United States and Britain is much more unequally distributed than it is in France, Germany or Scandinavia. It’s less well known that this difference is primarily the result of government policies. Data assembled by the Luxembourg Income Study (with which I will be associated starting this summer) show that primary income — income from wages, salaries, assets, and so on — is very unequally distributed in almost all countries. But taxes and transfers (aid in cash or kind) reduce this underlying inequality to varying degrees: some but not a lot in America, much more in many other countries.Dana Milbank at The Washington Post belatedly discovers that the Republican Party is in disarray. He writes At CPAC, a Grand Old Free-for-all:
So does reducing inequality through redistribution hurt economic growth? Not according to two landmark studies by economists at the International Monetary Fund, which is hardly a leftist organization. The first study looked at the historical relationship between inequality and growth, and found that nations with relatively low income inequality do better at achieving sustained economic growth as opposed to occasional “spurts.” The second, released last month, looked directly at the effect of income redistribution, and found that “redistribution appears generally benign in terms of its impact on growth.”
In short, [LBJ chief economic adviser Arthur] Okun’s big trade-off doesn’t seem to be a trade-off at all. Nobody is proposing that we try to be Cuba, but moving American policies part of the way toward European norms would probably increase, not reduce, economic efficiency.
The notion of “civil war,” often used to describe the clash between the Republican establishment and the tea party, implies a conflict with identifiable sides. In reality, the GOP condition is more of a free-for-all.Robert Samuelson at The Washington Post whines about the very modest cuts at the Pentagon in Defunding defense:
The annual CPAC gathering, conservatism’s trade show, provides a snapshot of the anarchy:
The group’s much-celebrated straw poll of presidential candidates listed no fewer than 26 prospective contenders on the ballot this year—a sign of just how fractured the party is in advance of 2016.
The United States’ military retrenchment won’t make China’s leaders less ambitious globally. (China plans a 12 percent increase in military spending for 2014; at that pace, spending would double in six years.) Nor will it dampen Iran’s aggressiveness and promote a negotiated settlement over its nuclear program. Probably the reverse. Diplomacy often fails unless backed by a credible threat of force.More excerpts from pundits can be found below the fold
Sarah Jaffe at In These Times writes With new strategies, the Working Families Party is shaking up the two-party system:
As public discontent with mainstream Democrats builds, is it possible for a third party to grow—not by running a famous big name on a presidential ticket, but from the bottom up? And if it succeeds at that task, can Working Families pull national politics back in the direction of ordinary people and away from the 1%?
In the states of Connecticut, New York and Oregon, the Working Families Party relies on “fusion voting” in order to hold a slot on the ballot. Fusion voting, operative in eight states, allows a candidate to be simultaneously endorsed by multiple parties; New Yorkers could vote for Bill de Blasio, for example, on either the Democratic or the WFP ballot line. This allows voters to express support not just for the candidate but for the party’s ideals, without the party acting as “spoiler,” a charge often leveled at minor parties. Cross-endorsing big-name candidates can help the party draw votes, allowing it to meet the minimum vote threshold to stay on the ballot in the next election without a time-consuming petition process. Having that slot in turn means the party can—although it rarely does— run its own independent candidates, counting on voters to support them because they know and like the WFP.
Sadhbh Walshe at The Guardian writes This year a slave: 3 out of every 1,000 humans are still trafficked. Let's fix that:
Just the other night, in the year 2014, Steve McQueen got up there on stage, accepted the trophy for Best Picture, and closed the Oscars with these simple words:David Dayen at The New Republic writes This Is the Fed's Most Brazen and Least Known Handout to Private Banks:
And of those 21 million people, around 1.5 million modern slaves are hiding in plain sight – and in the advanced democracies of North America and the European Union, no less. Steve McQueen is right to insist that we do not avert our eyes. [...]
Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup. I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery, and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.
To understand why traffickers can operate successfully in a country like America, where the legal system is not (theoretically) on their side, you have to look at the collective vulnerability of their victims. In his op-ed, [the CEO of Polaris Project, Bradley]
Myles describes “modern slavery” as praying on the women and girls who are lured against their will into the commercial sex trade, or the farm workers, domestic workers and factory workers who are induced through force, fraud or coercion into working work long hours in terrible conditions for little or no pay.
Rarely does a day go by when some House Republican doesn’t demand an end to Federal Reserve funding of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). But you will never hear about the Fed’s direct subsidy to private banks that costs over three times as much as the total CFPB budget.Lisa Wirtham at The Denver Post writes Mind the Gap:
The subsidy comes in the form of a 6 percent dividend, paid on stock that over 2,900 banks purchase to participate in the Federal Reserve system. Very few places where ordinary Americans park their money offer such a risk-free benefit. In 2012 (the last year with available data), the Fed gave away $1.637 billion in dividends to banks, tax-free in the majority of cases. And the Fed has been doing this for the last 100 years. It’s one of the many unknown ways the Fed extends special benefits to Wall Street. [...]
There aren’t other industries where the businesses own stock in the agency that regulated them—and receive a dividend payout from that agency. And it’s not like the stock purchase doesn’t already come with perks. Member banks receive a vote for the board of directors for the regional Reserve Banks who regulate them. The 6 percent dividend is like a cherry on top.
As the income gap continues to grow, the mobility that's supposed to offset that inequality is eroding. The odds that children born in Denver's bottom 20 percent will make it into the top 20 percent of earners by the time they're adults is just 8.7 percent, according to the Equality of Opportunity Project.Debra Saunders at the San Francisco Chronicle writes about "crafty" Rep. Elijah Cummings The silence of the tax lamb:
And while the study showed that overall mobility in the United States remained stable during the last half of the 20th century, a more nuanced look reveals disturbing trends. First, the ability to move up the income ladder in the U.S. varies widely by geographic regions, and a closer look at the differences between them shows the areas of highest income inequality also have the least upward mobility.
Second, much of America's income inequality came from gains made at the very top of the income ladder, where there's traditionally very little mobility. So when the rich get richer (and even when the poorest get poorer), we don't see a huge impact on mobility.
When the middle class collapses, however, we have a bigger problem. Although the lack of mobility for the poorest children remains depressingly consistent, mobility for working-class children on the next rung up—or the second fifth of income distribution — decreased as income inequality grew.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi later tweeted that Issa's "decision to silence a fellow Member of Congress was outrageous and disrespectful." The Washington Post's Dana Milbank denounced Issa for falling below "today's low standard of civility in Congress."The Editorial Board of The Blade of Toledo has concluded it's time to Kill the gerrymander:
Issa exhibited shoddy manners. Worse, he lacked the discipline to not be baited by the crafty Cummings. Thus Issa handed the left an excuse to make him the issue when the IRS practice of going after the Tea Party cries out for public scrutiny. Lerner's refusal to answer questions, while it is the exercise of a constitutional right, should make all House members squirm.
Just what was Lerner doing on the taxpayer dime that she doesn't want to share?
The state commission charged with modernizing the Ohio Constitution is set to meet this week. The major task on its agenda remains proposing constitutional reforms to end the corrupt partisan gerrymandering that continues to steal the power of Ohioans’ votes.Greg Palast at Truthdig writes Brains Lost in Mail—Postal Bank Bunkum:
The Republican elected officials who control state government have rigged the process of drawing district boundaries for Ohio’s congressional delegation and General Assembly to ensure their party’s dominance well into the next decade. An example of this anti-democratic conduct: In 2012, Ohio voters gave GOP candidates 51 percent of votes cast in U.S. House elections. But because of the way the lines are fixed, Republicans hold 75 percent of Ohio’s House seats—12 out of 16.
Ohio needs a better method of political districting to represent all voters fairly and equally. The first step in that process is removing it from the unchecked control of either party. [...]
Two years ago, Ohio voters rejected a ballot proposal that would have created an independent commission to propose new ways to draw political districts, largely on the assurances of elected officials and interest groups that the constitutional modernization commission was better suited to that task.
Commission members will soon show whether voters made the right decision — or whether the commission represents another obstacle to reform.
Payday loans, like rats and cops with tasers, are a fact of ghetto life. The desperate poor sign over their paychecks in advance to some sleazy loan-shark who charges “vigorish” (interest) that can eat a third of the paycheck. It’s sickening – and in several states, it’s a crime.
But crime pays: The Post Office projects it can suck $8.9 billion a year from America’s poorest if they can just get into this payday loan racket.
America’s big banks also lust for a payday pound of flesh. But they are barred from this kind of sick-o predatory lending by the federal consumer protection regulations promoted by … Liz Warren.
Yet, under a new Post Office plan endorsed by this same Liz Warren, the P.O. would team up with commercial banks to cash in on payday predation, exempting themselves from the Warren rules.
Are you confused? Surely the senator is.