Category Archives: economics

How Could You?

If you are voting for Democrats, you can leave now. This isn’t for you.

If you are voting for Republicans, or not voting at all. Stick around. I have a question for you.

What the hell are you thinking?

Do you hear the words, “Democracy is on the line” and chuckle? Don’t. It is.

There are more than three hundred people running for election who believe the Big Lie that Donnie Trump won in 2020. He didn’t. Sixty judges and scores of election officials, many of them Republican, said he didn’t. There is hard physical evidence that HE knows he didn’t. NO evidence of improper voting that changed the outcome of the election was discovered anywhere.

The big lie is a politically expedient cover for a coup, a takeover of the government. If these three hundred co-conspirators win this election, your vote in 2024 won’t matter. If their right-wing cabal wins, they will declare the election legitimate. If they come up short at the ballot box, they will throw away your votes and substitute their own. Heads they win, tails everyone else loses.

Just remember, Hitler was elected. So was Mussolini. So was Putin.

And why are you voting against the Democrats and in favor of the insurrectionists? Because your gasoline prices are too high? Guess what? So are mine.

You sit on your rears and let the MAGA Republicans, I use that term because Republicans in the mold of the party of Lincoln could never win a primary in today’s Republican party, tell you that President Biden is to blame for the higher gas prices, and for inflation overall.

Those lies are amplified by the jackals of the right-wing media, led by the Rupert Murdock brigade at Fox. Anyone with a high school education in arithmetic who is willing to do a little research can demonstrate that these are lies. But that takes a little work, and you can’t be bothered.

The principal cause of the current inflation is pent-up demand. We are making up for the Covid years. Remember them? For two years we stayed at home. We didn’t drive. We didn’t fly. We didn’t buy gasoline. Now we are.

There is little President Biden or Congress itself can do in the short run to lower prices. The Federal Reserve can, and is, raising interest rates. That will snuff out the flames of inflation eventually. But the Fed will have to be very skillful, and lucky, to do that without causing a recession.

The Republicans also complain that the Covid stimulus spending was inflationary. Yes, it was. But it was a tradeoff and well worth the balance. Inflation now while cushioning the impact of Covid then. The stimulus kept food on the table. It kept people from losing their homes. It raised disadvantaged children above the poverty rate.

And it helped make the huge loss of jobs a temporary phenomenon. The unemployment rate is now fully recovered from the Covid spike. And this all happened on Joe Biden’s watch.

In fact if you check you will see that the Covid impact was much worse in America than other countries. That’s because of the denial by Trump and the Republican governors. It cost hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars.

The national debt, which grew during the Covid downturn, has stabilized under the Biden administration. And despite all the caterwauling by the Republicans, the debt does NOT historically rise under Democratic administrations. It DOES rise under Republican administrations because their one and only economic strategy is to lower taxes on the wealthy and corporations so that the richest people in the country get richer and many of the most profitable companies pay little or no tax on their profits. Cut revenue and the debt goes up. Got it?

Go ahead. Look it up. “America,” as the great writer Aaron Sorkin once wrote, “isn’t easy.” Do the work. Stop listening to the lies of Trump, and Steve Bannon, and Rupert Murdock, and Tucker Carlson. Think for yourself.

The Republicans have no plan for inflation. Give them control and all they will do is cut taxes for the rich. Then cut Social Security and Medicare for the rest of us. They will reverse attempts to lower the cost of medicine. And investigate and impeach anyone and everyone in the Biden administration, tying up the government with a few shutdowns along the way until 2024.

And if crime is what’s bothering you, do the homework. Violent crime rates are NOT skyrocketing. Violent crime rates are higher in the red states than in blue states. MAGA Republicans are lying to scare you. And you are falling for it.

Republicans do have plans to convert most government jobs from civil service into political appointments, creating a huge patronage army of loyal subjects. They will make sure the only promotions in the real army go to officers who are willing to use force to achieve their right-wing goals. What Trump, called, “My generals.” They will place a religious litmus test on judicial appointees, who Donnie called, “My judges.” And purge the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the offices of inspectors general of anyone who would follow the law and stand in their way.

They will delete references to science in government studies, websites, or in Department of Education approved curriculum. They will remove the United States from world organizations and from the world stage and give a green light to and support any authoritarian government the holds out a hand.

And of course, they will enact national restrictions or even a ban on abortion. MAGA Republican Mehmet Oz, running for the senate from Pennsylvania, the state next to his home in New Jersey, told us so. He says the federal government should have no say in a woman’s decision to have an abortion. He believes that decision should be made by the woman, her doctor, and her local government representatives. You can’t make this stuff up

They will also legislate against LGBTQ rights, affirmative action, free speech, immigration reform, and any other so called “woke” movement most of us call civil liberties. They profess to favor civil liberties, but that in their eyes means the liberty to be whatever they believe in.

This is not debatable. The MAGA Republicans have made their intentions clear. And every political poll that I follow indicates they will win.

Samuel Adams said to have a villainous ruler imposed on you was a misfortune. To elect him yourself was a disgrace. The disgrace is upon us. It has been nearly 250 years since the founding. As representative democracies go, it was a decent run.

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Tids and Bits


Thirty years. Ten billion dollars. Launching on Christmas morning, the Webb telescope is finally off the earth and on its way to a point in space one million miles away where it will point its eighteen gold-plated mirrors into deep space, hoping to look back in time to the beginning of the universe. The Webb is far more sensitive, especially at the low infrared radiation frequencies than the Hubble Space Telescope. It is hoped it will succeed and surpass that amazing instrument to study the formation of the universe and the most distant worlds. It will take about six months to maneuver into position and be calibrated, ready for its first observations. Bon Voyage Webb.

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Pay to Play: The American Way

Money has always been a big factor in American politics. You can’t outright pay politicians in return for their vote on an issue of interest to you. That’s bribery and it’s a crime. 18 U.S. Code ยง 201. But you can come very close. That’s because it costs a tremendous amount of money to run for public office and we leave it to the politicians to raise their own funds.

State-wide races for governor, state legislator, or U.S. House or Senate seats can cost hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. A major state-wide campaign requires a hefty advertising budget and paid staff to handle things like communications, strategic planning, finances, and legal compliance.

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A Breath of Fresh Air

It some ways it was certainly unusual. But mostly its normalcy made it a breath of fresh air. For more than an hour President Joe Biden delivered a report to Congress, the nation, and the world on the state of the state one hundred days into his administration. He laid out the achievements already accomplished, the programs now under way, and the proposals he is sending to Congress for enactment into law.

One way the speech was unusual was that there were two women behind the president. Presiding over the joint session of Congress were Vice-President Kamala Harris, who is President of the Senate, and Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives. That was a historic first. Another way was that the chamber, which normally holds 1,600 people for these events, was limited to 200 by pandemic protocols. The audience members were socially distanced and most were masked.

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Helicoptering on Mars – Really

A team of very smart humans flew a helicopter by remote control off the surface of Mars on April 19, 2021. It is easier to type that sentence than it is to truly appreciate the accomplishment.

The Mars Helicopter, named Ingenuity, weighs just four pounds. It is a proof of concept demonstration. That means it’s mission is just to prove that it works. It did. And it was the first time humans have achieved powered and controlled flight on another planet.

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Infrastructure for the 21st century

I long for the days when I could have a rational discussion with someone I disagree on the serious issues of the day without that person spouting a stream of totally unsubstantiated falsehoods. In other words lies. I’m pointing my finger at you, Republicans, almost without exception.

Discussions with Democrats are also often frustrating. But that is because the Democrats include a wide range of differing views and the disagreements are generally over strategy. I’m thinking of you Joe Manchin. Not over the role of government in attempting to solve problems or denying that problems even exist. And Democrats are not inclined to interrupt a serious discussion with a rude critique of your mother’s footwear. I still remember being told, “Your mother wears army boots.” I was on the first grade playground at recess at the time.

Republicans will call you every name in the book at the drop of a hat. They will insult your relatives, living and dead. And charge you with a wide variety of crimes without the slightest bit of evidence. They also live in an alternate universe where up is down, down is up, and things you can see right before your own eyes are somehow not true. They revere the framers who wrote our Constitution, except when they ignore it.

Republican hypocrisy knows no bounds:

  • Senate rules are sacrosanct unless they need to be broken to thwart a Democratic proposal.
  • Deficits are bad but only if there is a Democrat in the White House.
  • The purpose of the federal government is to “provide for the common defense,” quoting the magnificent preamble to our Constitution, ignoring the fact that the phrase is part of a list and imminently following are the words, “promote the general welfare.”
  • Infrastructure means roads. That’s it. Roads.

Let’s put the debt debate aside for now except for to state that the evidence is clear, economics is an art, not a science. We really don’t understand what it is going on. Starting with Ronald Reagan, Republican, yes, Republican presidents have greatly increased the national debt by cutting taxes and increasing defense spending. Yet the inflation that was predicted by my college economics teacher (we used Paul Samuelson’s Principles of Economics) did not really appear. Go figure. For more right now I refer you to a great piece by John Oliver.

What this means is, while we should be watchful, and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell seems to be, we do not have to be afraid of some Covid related economic stimulus. Republicans opposed the latest round of Covid economic payments even when Donald Trump asked for them. We also do not need to be afraid of a big infrastructure program. The Republicans are outraged at the infrastructure program, arguing that it will increase the debt and complaining that Democrats are extending the traditional definition of infrastructure.

Republicans don’t seem to have a problem with repairing the nation’s highways and bridges. Republican Dwight Eisenhower signed the legislation that created the Interstate Highway System in 1956 after all. But Republicans like highways that connect towns in rural America. Transportation projects that benefit urban areas do not get their approval. I take the New Jersey Transit train under the Hudson to Manhattan and always wonder if the crumbling tunnel, built in 1910, is going to cave in on the 200,000 people who use it every day. In 2012 the tunnel was inundated with millions of gallons of salt water during Super Storm Sandy. The water left behind corrosive chlorides, which continue to damage the already aged concrete and wiring. A Republican New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, and a Republican President, Donald Trump, each killed a project to build a replacement.

But where the Republicans most throw up the roadblocks is where it comes to infrastructure they claim is outside of the “traditional” definition of the word. I disagree. But I also don’t care. We do not live in a stagnant word. We can be respectful of our traditions but should not be afraid to change them for the public good.

So I am on board with what some analysts are calling “Social Infrastructure”:

Social infrastructure can be broadly defined as the construction and maintenance of facilities that support social services. Types of social infrastructure include healthcare (hospitals), education (schools and universities), public facilities (community housing and prisons) and transportation (railways and roads).

Aberdeen Standard Investments

I do not understand why people cannot see that the nation depends on the health of its people, and the safety, and quality of its schools. We also need a 21st century power grid and high-speed rail would be nice. Child care for working parents is an economic necessity. In an information driven society, broadband connections for the entire population are essential. Faced with tremendous world-wide competition education, research and development are all that stands between America and second-class status.

The public seems to understand this even if the Republicans do not. A Quinnipiac University National Poll finds the Infrastructure Plan is popular with the public:


Q46 Do you support or oppose President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan?

—–

Support

Oppose

DK/NA

Total

44%

38

19

Republicans

14%

71

14

Democrats

81%

5

15


And even more popular if corporate taxes fund it as President Biden has proposed:

Q47 As you may know, President Biden has proposed funding his infrastructure plan by raising taxes on corporations. If it was funded by raising taxes on corporations, would you support or oppose President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan?

—–

Support

Oppose

DK/NA

Total

53%

39

9

Republicans

22%

70

8

Democrats

92%

6

2

Last but not least, expenditures on infrastructure, traditional and 21st century alike, have a large multiplier factor. Put simply, they pay off many times over. The benefits spread throughout the economy. The Eisenhower creation of the Interstate Highway System is credited with creating the long post-war expansion of the American economy. Studies show tax cuts for rich people and fiscal policies which benefit Wall Street do not have this positive effect. The proposed infrastructure projects should be seen as an investment in America’s future.

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GameStop – The Casino at Broad and Wall

I thought it was a very strange story. “Analysts confounded by GameStop price moves” read the headline in the business section of one of the world’s most widely read newspapers. “Recent volatility in the stock of GameStop has confused analysts following the video game retailor” read the lede line.

That there had been great volatility in the price of a share of GameStop was not debatable. The stock was trading below $20 a share at the end of 2020. On January 29, 2021 it hit $325. That’s a jump of 1,625%. If you had bought 100 shares on December 31, you would have paid $2,000. On January 29, one month later, your 100 shares would have been worth $32,500. If you think you understand the stock market that is a mindboggling increase. Certainly one to “confound” and “confuse.” But as your intrepid reporter wrote in my primer for the National Center for Business Journalism, stock markets are not what they used to be.

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