hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Saturday, October 01, 2011
One of the weird unspoken assumptions of politics at the moment is that hurting/ causing pain to others is virtually certain to result in increased benefits to oneself. It's perhaps worth repeating that we can't cut our way out, we can't spend our way out, we can only work our way out. Prosperity is not green pieces of paper, or gold ingots, or even positive numbers on non-fraudulent balance sheets. Prosperity is work well done at work worth doing. If we want more real prosperity, it's not going to come from cutting, or spending, it's going to come from increasing the amount of work well done at work worth doing. If the price of increasing that real work, and that real prosperity, is an abstraction called a budget deficit, or an increased price level, that's unfortunate, but it's a second order issue, not a first order one. We can easily deal with second-order issues once the first-order issues have been addressed.

Susie Madrak - Alabama immigration
. . .hurt children and don’t even care. . .

Susie Madrak - All I really want for my birthday (support #occupy movement)

Susie Madrak - That darn Marcy
Always wanting the evidence and such. What a killjoy!

Why would anyone object to killing U.S. citizens without even a trial?

Susie Madrak - Why infrastructure spending saves money
Brad Delong
. . .In sum, on the benefits side of the equation: more jobs now, $500 billion of additional consumption of goods and services over the next two years, and then a $40 billion a year flow of higher incomes and production each year thereafter. So, what are the likely costs of an extra $500 billion in infrastructure spending over the next two years?

For starters, the $500 billion of extra government spending would likely be offset by $300 billion of increased tax collections from higher economic activity. So the net result would be a $200 billion increase in the national debt. American taxpayers would then have to pay $2 billion a year in real interest on that extra national debt over the next 30 years, and then pay off or roll over the entire $200 billion. . .

David Graeber - Occupy Wall Street rediscovers the radical imagination
What we are witnessing can also be seen as a demand to finally have a conversation we were all supposed to have back in 2008. . .Everything we'd been told for the last decade turned out to be a lie. Markets did not run themselves; creators of financial instruments were not infallible geniuses. . . money itself was revealed to be a political instrument, trillions of dollars of which could be whisked in or out of existence overnight if governments or central banks required it. . .It seemed the time had come to rethink everything. . .

Then, in one of the most colossal failures of nerve in history, we all collectively clapped our hands over our ears and tried to put things back as close as possible to the way they'd been before.

. . .It's becoming increasingly obvious that the real priority of those running the world for the last few decades has not been creating a viable form of capitalism, but rather, convincing us all that the current form of capitalism is the only conceivable economic system, so its flaws are irrelevant. . .

One simple point I think does not get made nearly enough. The US Government gave Goldman, via the AIG counterparty bailout, at least 12 billion, and probably more. This is more than Goldman's annual profits. And it was a free gift, no strings attached. Wall Street is a primitive "face" culture. By raiding the US Treasury to protect Goldman's profits, we allowed Blankfein to protect his "hayba" as a money-making businessman, instead of a money-losing one.

(Via Garrett Jones) Dean Baker - How It Could Have Been Different This Time
. . .If we had looked at the probability that newborns would live to age five, examining random 20-year intervals in different countries over the last six centuries, we would find that in most of these intervals, most newborns do not live to age five. If we therefore concluded that we should expect children born today to die before the age of five, we would be utterly crazy. The advances in health care, nutrition and sanitation over this period make it possible for the vast majority of children almost everywhere to survive to adulthood.

I would argue that the story with economics is similar. We do know more about the economy today than we did 500 years ago or even 100 years ago. We do know how to get out of severe downturn like the present one, the real question is whether we have the political will to make it different.

In this spirit, I was prompted by a question from Ezra Klein to lay out the case as to how exactly it could have been different. So, now that I have the reins of government fiscal policy and monetary policy, let me show exactly how we would have done it differently. . .

Is there any great mystery in what Obama could do to energize the base, and indeed even the entire electorate? Produce a plan for a full-employment economy, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of our lives.

MLK: "What's the use of having the right to sit at the counter, if you can't buy a meal?"

I remember reading a Michael May article on MAD where he said "only nuclear weapons and the logic of MAD transforms the great powers perceptions of peace, as something which is nice to have but not essential, into instead an essential strategic necessity. They do this at some risk of an unimaginable catastrophe. . ". I've been thinking the same thing about full-employment and WWII. It's striking how easy it was to achieve full-employment when the ruling class wanted it. There were real costs: a few years of very high inflation, etc. but on the whole full-employment policies were very beneficial.

Michael May - No matter what the evidence, U.S. was going to war in Iraq (2004)
. . .Kay was polite in his testimony and pointed only to an intelligence failure. It clearly was a lot more. Both in the United States and Britain, analysts who knew there was no evidence of any weapons capability could not get their message past the lowest levels of the intelligence bureaucracy. The administration, or the dominant players in it, were determined to let no alternative story surface, except the one that would justify war. Under those circumstances, the truth, which is generally a messy thing that doesn't fit well into any story, had no chance of getting a hearing. . .

Doctor Science - Raytheon's cold equations
. . .My mother/aunt, Renee Douceur, is the winter site manager at the South Pole Station run by Raytheon and the National Science Foundation. She suffered a stroke on August 27th and the on-site doctors requested for her immediate medical emergency evacuation to get her to proper medical care and prevent further injury to her, The decision makers are disregarding the on-site doctors’ request for Renee’s immediate need for emergency evacuation. Instead they are treating her stroke as a non-emergency, keeping her at the South Pole until late October or early November. Renee’s attorney has advised her to go public because he is being stonewalled by Raytheon and the NSF to get her out ASAP for proper medical diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation (if she survives the trip out) Let's get her home!. . .

Gary Farber - Papers, please

Gary Farber - Off With Their Heads!

Doctor Science - September 11, Iraq, and the nature of courage
. . .in retrospect, most people seem to be acknowledging that:

there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attackers

the rationale the Bush Administration put forth for the war was at best specious, at worst deliberately deceptive

the Administration's planning for the war and (especially) for the occupation were staggeringly incompetent

the consequences of the war for the US were bad (loss of life, limb, security, and money), and the Iraqi people catastrophic (death or injury for hundreds of thousands, millions of refugees).

The thing is, most of these points seemed patently obvious to me in February 2003 -- except for #3, the incompetence of the Bush Administration, which I *really* wasn't expecting. I thought they *cared* about war and would do a much better job at it than they did. . .

(Via Ross Douthat) The Skeptical Juror - The Yellow and White Case of Troy Anthony Davis: Part 1

Violet Socks - The Big Lie
. . .human beings are predisposed to believe what other human beings say. . .

"That popup says it's an anti-virus, so how can it be a virus?"

Arthur Silber - Once Upon a Time...

Amanda Marcotte - Analogizing taxes to rape

I think describing taxes with rape analogies illustrates the extreme dangers of thinking of money as a real thing in its own right, instead of as a useful illusion: A handy, but ultimately fake, thing, which can occasionally enable you to do real things.

Swami Dayananda - The Value Of Values
. . .When I was a child of three years old, I once picked up a piece of paper. It was green, printed, very colourful. I began, as I did with every paper, to play with it. Mummy said: No! That is money." . .

. . .I saw lots of chocolates and jelly-beans. I stretched out my hand: "Give me jelly-beans." The fellow behind the counter raised his eyebrows and looked at Mummy. I wondered why he would not give me any candy when he had so many. Then Mummy opened her purse. . .

. . .One day when we were shopping, I wanted a balloon. Out came the money and the balloon was mine. Oh, ho! If you give money you can get jelly beans, chocolates, and even balloons. This is a great discovery for a small child. I had learnt that money buys things - all manner of things. Not many people understand the monetary system but everybody knows that money buys!

Later, as I grew up I came to learn how many things money buys: houses, cars, even gurus and gods. Nothing buys like money.

When I come to know how well money buys, how many things money buys, I come to have a well understood, well assimilated personal value for money. . .

. . .most of us have a well assimilated personal value for money; whereas, when it comes to speaking truth our value often is general and half assimilated. When this is the case, what happens if there is a conflict between the money-value and the truth-value? . . .Very likely, the assimilated value for money will be the victor. But, all the same, something goes on murmuring inside, "Speak truth, speak truth.". . .

Juan Cole - Informed Comment

Wikipedia - Works Progress Administration
. . .Critics ridiculed them, and the agency as a whole, as lazy — calling the initials "We Poke Along", "We Piddle Around", "We Putter Along", "Working Piss Ants", or the "Whistle, Piss and Argue gang". These were sarcastic references to WPA projects that sometimes slowed down deliberately because foremen had an incentive to keep going, rather than finish a project.[35]

Novelist John Steinbeck rejected a common charge against WPA workers in his essay, "Primer on the '30s": "It was the fixation of businessmen that the WPA did nothing but lean on shovels. I had an uncle who was particularly irritated at shovel-leaning. When he pooh-poohed my contention that shovel-leaning was necessary, I bet him five dollars, which I didn’t have, that he couldn’t shovel sand for fifteen timed minutes without stopping. He said a man should give a good day’s work and grabbed a shovel. At the end of three minutes his face was red, at six he was staggering and before eight minutes were up his wife stopped him to save him from apoplexy. And he never mentioned shovel-leaning again." . . .

. . .Unemployment ended with the beginning of war production for World War II, as millions of men joined the services, and cost-plus contracts made it attractive for companies to hire men and train them. . .

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