mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Doomsday Prepper Economics”: The Weird Obsession That’s Ruining The GOP

Call it doomsday prepper economics. For more than five years, many Republicans and conservatives have warned that catastrophe is nigh. Washington’s deficit spending and the Federal Reserve’s excessive money printing will lead to a financial crisis worse than the Great Recession, they prophesied. Inflation will skyrocket, the dollar will collapse, and the Chinese will dump treasuries, they swore. As Ron Paul, the libertarian former GOP congressman and presidential candidate, said back in 2009: “More inflation is absolutely the wrong way to go. We’re taking a recession and trying to turn it into a depression. We’re going to see a real calamity.”

Many GOP politicians have since echoed Paul’s prediction. But the Next Great Inflation never happened. The Consumer Price Index, including food and energy, has risen by an annual average of just 1.6 percent since 2008, below the Fed’s 2 percent inflation target. During the Great Inflation of the 1970s and early 1980s, by contrast, prices rose five times faster.

This information isn’t a secret. The Labor Department releases inflation data monthly on its website. Yet inflation fears still rage on the right. Those concerns are a big reason why Republicans continue to push for a balanced budget ASAP. They’re why the GOP wants to saddle the Fed with restrictive new rules.

Regardless of the potential merits of those policy ideas, the inflation alarmism driving them is taking a weird turn. Some Republicans and conservatives now argue that Washington is figuring inflation all wrong, maybe even intentionally. Better, they say, to trust independent outside sources such as the website ShadowStats, which “exposes and analyzes flaws” in government economic data. According to one set of ShadowStats calculations, the true inflation rate is nearly 10 percent today. The inflation truth is out there.

In a recent National Review Online article, conservative author Amity Shlaes approvingly cites ShadowStats as supporting her thesis that “inflation is higher than what the official data suggest.” Others fans include conservative intellectual Niall Ferguson, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), and a good chunk of the conservative blogosphere.

ShadowStats’ popularity on the right is crazy — because the site’s methodology has been roundly ridiculed by both economists and business journalists. Critics also note that the subscription price for the ShadowStats newsletter has remained unchanged for years. Inflation for thee, but not for me. Beyond that, MIT’s Billion Price Project, which tracks prices from online retailers every day, puts U.S. inflation at just over 2 percent. And consider this: If inflation were really 10 percent, that would mean the real economy, adjusted for inflation, has been sharply shrinking — yet somehow still adding 2 million net new jobs a year.

If GOP inflationistas had their way, the weak U.S. recovery would almost surely be even weaker. Just look at Europe. Unlike the Fed, the inflation-phobic European Central Bank sat on its hands despite weak growth. The result has been an unemployment rate nearly twice America’s and a nasty double-dip recession. Of course, inflation is lower than in America — so low, in fact, that the region risks a dangerous deflationary spiral of falling prices and falling wages.

Why this GOP inflation obsession? Maybe it’s a legacy of how rapidly rising prices in the 1970s swept conservatives into power in both America and Great Britain. Maybe it’s how many conservative talk radio shows are sponsored by gold companies who stand to benefit from inflation hysteria. Maybe it’s a belief that every single economic metric must be a nightmare under President Obama.

But whatever the reason, the GOP’s preoccupation with phantom price increases is distracting it from the actual problems afflicting the U.S. economy — such as low social mobility, stagnant wages, and the decline of middle-class work. The price of not addressing those issues is rising every year. And that is the kind of inflation worth obsessing over.

 

By: James Pethokoukis, DeWitt Wallace Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute: The Week, July 23, 2014

July 24, 2014 Posted by | Deficits, GOP, Inflation | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Marco Rubio’s Unique Take On History”: Way, Way, Way Back To The Future

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) generated quite a few headlines in his interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep this week, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

The story that got tongues wagging inside the Beltway was hard to miss: the conservative senator dismissed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential future, arguing the nation is at a “generational, transformational crossroads,” and Clinton is “a 20th century candidate.”

Maybe it’s just me, but hearing a far-right lawmaker who opposes marriage equality, supports limits on contraception access, opposes reproductive rights, balks at ENDA, and fails to believe in climate science turn around and present himself as a forward-thinking leader for the future is a bit much. As Barbara Morrill joked, Rubio’s “the guy for a generational, transformational change. Assuming you’re talking about a transformation back to the 19th century.”

But just as interesting were the senator’s comments about comprehensive immigration reform, which Rubio co-sponsored in the Senate, which passed a bill fairly easily last year.

“I’ve been through this now, I was involved in the effort. I warned during that effort that I didn’t think it did enough on this first element, the [border] security front. I was proven, unfortunately, right by the fact that it didn’t move in the House.”

As the senator probably knows, this assessment doesn’t line up especially well with what’s actually transpired.

As Rubio now sees it, immigration reform died because the Senate bill – which is to say, Rubio’s bill – came up short on border security. We know this is wrong. To shore up GOP support in the upper chamber, the bill’s bipartisan sponsors agreed to a “border surge” that would nearly double the “current border patrol force to 40,000 agents from 21,000, as well as for the completion of 700 miles of fence on the nation’s southern border.”

It took border security so seriously that some reform proponents wavered, fearing it went too far in militarizing the border. One GOP senator conceded at the time that the legislation went so far on the security front that it was “almost overkill.”

Rubio now says he was right all along, warning senators that the bill wasn’t tough enough. But that’s plainly silly. Indeed, as Simon Maloy discovered, Rubio actually praised his bill’s security provisions at the time, boasting that it “mandates the most ambitious border and interior security measures in our nation’s history.”

So why did the House Republicans kill it anyway? Because the comprehensive solution required them to compromise, accepting a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States. House GOP lawmakers refused to strike a deal – hell, they refused to even go to the negotiating table – so the legislation died, again.

The related question is, why would Rubio make such obviously untrue claims now? The answer, I suspect, is that the Florida Republican took a sharp hit from his party’s far-right base for supporting immigration reform, and as Rubio looks ahead to the 2016 race, the senator needs a way to distance himself from his own legislative handiwork.

This, apparently, is the argument he’s come up with. If you’re thinking the talking points aren’t going to persuade anyone, you’re not alone.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 23, 2014

July 24, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Immigration Reform, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Threat Multipliers”: Republicans Always Listen to the Pentagon—Except When It Says Climate Change Is Real

Faced with mounting scientific evidence that humans are causing climate change, Republicans are having an increasingly hard time denying the facts. Those denials became even more laughable Tuesday, when one of the party’s favorite agencies, the Department of Defense, told Congress that climate change is hurting military operations.

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, a Department of Defense representative laid out how climate change is exposing its infrastructure in coastal and Arctic regions to rising sea levels and extreme weather, and that it’s even impacting decisions like which types of weapons the Pentagon buys. This is only the latest in a series of recent warnings from the military, which raised the issue as far back as George W. Bush’s second term. In March, the Pentagon warned, in its Quadrennial Defense Review, that the effects of climate change “are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensionsconditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.” In other words, increased drought and water shortages are likely to trigger fighting over limited resources. The military has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas footprint 34 percent by 2020and it’s already well on its way to that goal.

When the DOD says it needs something, Republicans usually listen. Perhaps the military can convince conservatives that climate change is real enough to obstruct national security?

So far, the GOP remains unconvinced. When the House of Representatives passed the Pentagon’s budget in June, it included an amendment, passed mostly along partly lines, barring the department from implementing its climate change initiatives. On Monday, The Hill reported that Republican Senator John Barasso called the military’s efforts to combat climate change “wasteful and irresponsible at best, especially as our friends and allies struggle with violent, deadly crises that have real implications for our security.”

The Pentagon’s first task in convincing the GOP to care may be debunking the idea that the U.S. must wait for perfect science before taking action (particularly when the scientific certainty on human-caused climate change is equal to the certainty that cigarettes harm health). And as the editors at Bloomberg View recently pointed out, the military doesn’t wait for perfect certainty before assessing a threat. Waiting, generally, is a poor strategy.

 

By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, July 23, 2014

July 24, 2014 Posted by | Climate Science, Greenhouse Gases, Pentagon, Republicans | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Chosen By God?”: Bachmann, ‘There’s A Chance I Could Run’ For President In 2016

Michele Bachmann may be retiring from the House of Representatives, but that doesn’t mean that she’s ready to leave the spotlight. In news that should depress Republicans (and thrill fans of This Week In Crazy), the Minnesota congresswoman now says that she may run for president again in 2016.

Bachmann, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination in 2012, floated the possibility of another White House bid in an interview with RealClearPolitics.

“The only thing that the media has speculated on is that it’s going to be various men that are running,” she said in response to a question on whether any Republican women might join the 2016 race. “They haven’t speculated, for instance, that I’m going to run. What if I decide to run? And there’s a chance I could run.”

The notion probably isn’t sending a shiver down Hillary Clinton’s spine. Although Bachmann’s victory in the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa in 2011 briefly elevated her to the top tier of Republican contenders, her candidacy rapidly bottomed out and collapsed. It was exactly as crazy as you might expect; along the way, the campaign allegedly committed multiple campaign finance violations, and Bachmann allegedly fell under the “unnatural,” “Rapsutin-like” influence of a campaign advisor.

Bachmann ultimately finished in 6th place in the Iowa Caucus, and dropped out shortly thereafter. But according to the congresswoman, that experience would “certainly” help her if she chooses to run again.

“Like with anything else, practice makes perfect,” she said. “And I think if a person has gone through the process — for instance, I had gone through 15 presidential debates — it’s easy to see a person’s improvement going through that.”

Bachmann has claimed that in 2012, she was a “perfect candidate” who “didn’t get anything wrong” and was literally chosen by God — so she’s setting a pretty high bar when she promises to improve.

Still, it’s unclear why Bachmann would bother to seek a four-year term in the White House. After all, according to her, we’re already in the End Times.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, July 23, 2014

July 24, 2014 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates, Michele Bachmann | , , , | Leave a comment

“Creating Two Different Nations”: The Deepening Divide Between Red And Blue America

Halbig v. Burwell, the case in which opponents of the Affordable Care Act won a dramatic if temporary victory yesterday, has profound implications for millions of Americans’ health care. But it’s also a demonstration of a trend that is determining more and more of what our politics and our country are going to look like in future years.

We talk a lot about America being divided ideologically, with liberals and conservatives increasingly distrustful and dismissive of each other. But we’re also in the process of creating two different nations, where stepping across a state border means entering a society with profoundly different laws and policy goals. And Republicans may have just stumbled on a way to use the federal government to increase that division.

Both parties are driving this broad movement. In many Republican-controlled states, it’s now all but impossible for a woman to get an abortion; people are encouraged by the state government to bring their guns to church and into bars; and taxes are whittled away while social services are slashed. Democrats too have gotten more aggressive in places they control, on issues like raising the minimum wage, same-sex marriage, and legalizing marijuana.

But the challenges to the ACA have shown the Republicans a new path, a kind of federalized federalism, where they can not only make Red America a more conservative place through state laws, but exempt Red America from federal laws they don’t like.

This wasn’t part of a carefully laid-out plan. Initially Republicans were just using any and every means they could find to undermine the ACA, with the goal of destroying it completely. Though they failed to do that, they won their first significant (if partial) victory when the Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out of the law’s expansion of Medicaid, which meant that we have two different countries when it comes to health coverage for poor people. If you’re poor and you live in a blue state or one of the few red states that has accepted the expansion, you can get free health insurance. If not, you’re out of luck. See, for instance, this vivid New York Times article about the city of Texarkana, which lies half in Texas and half in Arkansas; whether you get health insurance is determined by which side of town you live in.

In the Halbig case, conservatives located a drafting error and pursued it for no reason other than that it looked like a promising vehicle for Republican-appointed judges to strike a blow at the law. Creating two different countries when it comes to the ACA wasn’t really the goal, but it could be the outcome.

Let’s imagine the Supreme Court upheld the D.C. Circuit panel’s decision. In the states that have already established state exchanges, nothing would change. With a few exceptions (like Kentucky and Idaho) these are blue states. Everywhere else, people would immediately lose the tax credits they received to buy insurance, reverting to the pre-ACA status quo. That means more people without insurance, and a system that is generally more cruel and unforgiving. The states that are Democratic-controlled or divided but haven’t yet set up an exchange, like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maine, would probably move to do so in order to restore those subsidies to their citizens. Once it all shook out, you’d have a situation in which, for all intents and purposes, the most consequential social legislation passed through Congress in nearly half a century was operative in only half the country.

If that were to happen (and maybe even if it doesn’t), Republicans are likely to see a new means to accomplish their policy goals on any number of issues. If you can’t repeal a federal law you don’t like, maybe you can have it apply only to Blue America. Get a few creative lawyers together, and you can come up with a rationale for a lawsuit to allow states to opt out of almost any law; few can deny now that no matter how thin the legal reed you hang such a suit on, there will always be conservative judges who will embrace your logic. We could see a proliferation of opt-out amendments in Congress, as each significant piece of legislation is accompanied by an effort to give Republican states the ability to exempt themselves.

And don’t be surprised if perpetually vulnerable red state Democrats end up supporting those amendments from time to time, so they can give their party the votes it needs to pass bills, but also tell the folks back home that they stood up for states’ rights.

In 1932, Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in a dissenting opinion:

It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.

But the assumption has always been that when states act as laboratories of democracy, they’re exploring different ways to arrive at common goals. Increasingly, liberals and conservatives can agree only on the most abstract goals, like prosperity and freedom, but on almost none of the specifics. With the ACA as an example, Washington could become the new laboratory of division, where federal legislation and federal lawsuits become the means to drive Red America and Blue America further apart.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; Published in The Plum Line, The Washington Post, July 23, 2014

July 24, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Conservatives, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: