Friday, December 17, 2010

Voters Say Election Full of Misleading and False Information

Voters Say Election Full of Misleading and False Information

December 9, 2010

Poll Also Finds Voters Were Misinformed on Key Issues

Full report(PDF)
Questionnaire with Findings, Methodology (PDF)

Following the first election since the Supreme Court has struck down limits on election-related advertising, a new poll finds that 9 in 10 voters said that in the 2010 election they encountered information they believed was misleading or false, with 56% saying this occurred frequently. Fifty-four percent said that it had been more frequent than usual, while just three percent said it was less frequent than usual, according to the poll conducted by, based at the University of Maryland, and Knowledge Networks.

(Image Credit)

Equally significant, the poll found strong evidence that voters were substantially misinformed on many of the key issues of the campaign. Such misinformation was correlated with how people voted and their exposure to various news sources.

Voters' misinformation included beliefs at odds with the conclusions of government agencies, generally regarded as non-partisan, consisting of professional economists and scientists.

• Though the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concluded that the stimulus legislation has saved or created 2.0-5.2 million jobs, only 8% of voters thought most economists who had studied it concluded that the stimulus legislation had created or saved several million jobs. Most (68%) believed that economists estimate that it only created or saved a few jobs and 20% even believed that it resulted in job losses.
• Though the CBO concluded that the health reform law would reduce the budget deficit, 53% of voters thought most economists have concluded that health reform will increase the deficit.
• Though the Department of Commerce says that the US economy began to recover from recession in the third quarter of 2009 and has continued to grow since then, only 44% of voters thought the economy is starting to recover, while 55% thought the economy is still getting worse.
• Though the National Academy of Sciences has concluded that climate change is occurring, 45% of voters thought most scientists think climate change is not occurring (12%) or that scientists are evenly divided (33%).

Other key points of misinformation among voters were:

• 40% of voters believed incorrectly that the TARP legislation was initiated under Barack Obama, rather than George Bush
• 31% believed it was proven true that the US Chamber of Commerce spent large amounts of money it had raised from foreign sources to support Republican candidates
• 54% believed that there were no tax cuts in the stimulus legislation
• 86% assumed their taxes had gone up (38%) or stayed the same (48%), while only 10% were aware that their taxes had gone down since 2009
• 53% thought that the bailout of GM and Chrysler occurred only under Obama, though it was initiated under Bush

Clay Ramsay, of commented, "While we do not have data to make a clear comparison to the past, this high level of misinformation and the fact that voters perceived a higher than usual level of false and misleading information, suggests that the increased flow of money into political advertising may have contributed to a higher level of misinformation."

The poll also found significant differences depending how people voted. Those who voted Republican were more likely than those who voted Democratic to believe that: most economists have concluded that the health care law will increase the deficit (voted Republican 73%, voted Democratic 31%); the American economy is still getting worse (72% to 36%); the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (67% to 42%); most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (62% to 26%); and it is not clear that Obama was born within the United States (64% to 18%)

On the other hand those who voted Democratic were more likely to incorrectly believe that: it was proven to be true that the US Chamber of Commerce was spending large amounts of foreign money to support Republican candidates (voted Democratic 57%, voted Republican 9%); Obama has not increased the level of troops in Afghanistan (51% to 39%); and Democratic legislators did not mostly vote in favor of TARP (56% to 14%).

In most cases those who had greater levels of exposure to news sources had lower levels of misinformation. There were, however, a number of cases where greater exposure to a particular news source increased misinformation on some issues.

Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely), most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points), the economy is getting worse (26 points), most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points), the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points), their own income taxes have gone up (14 points), the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points), when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points) and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points). The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it--though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican.

There were cases with some other news sources as well. Daily consumers of MSNBC and public broadcasting (NPR and PBS) were higher (34 points and 25 points respectively) in believing that it was proven that the US Chamber of Commerce was spending money raised from foreign sources to support Republican candidates. Daily watchers of network TV news broadcasts were 12 points higher in believing that TARP was signed into law by President Obama, and 11 points higher in believing that most Republicans oppose TARP.

The poll of 848 Americans was fielded from November 6 to 15, 2010. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.4 percent. It was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel®, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Initially, participants are chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. Persons in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel®. For those who agree to participate, but do not already have Internet access, Knowledge Networks provides a laptop and ISP connection. More technical information is available at is a project managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland and funded by the Calvert Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

FDR on Senator Scott Brown

Here and now I want to make myself clear about those who disparage their fellow citizens on the relief rolls. They say that those on relief are not merely jobless—that they are worthless. Their solution for the relief problem is to end relief—to purge the rolls by starvation. To use the language of the stock broker, our needy unemployed would be cared for when, as, and if some fairy godmother should happen on the scene.

You and I will continue to refuse to accept that estimate of our unemployed fellow Americans. Your Government is still on the same side of the street with the Good Samaritan and not with those who pass by on the other side.

FDR, "We Have Only Just Begun to Fight." October 31, 1936

Senator Scott Brown Channels Scrooge

From The New York Daily News:

"Maybe Brown imagined that everybody had forgotten that in early summer he was a decisive vote three times in blocking a benefits extension. He was also a decisive vote around the same time in blocking a $19 billion tax on the financial industry.

Bigshot bankers before hard-luck kids!

As he yet again voted to block a $54 billion extension on Tuesday, he remained passionate in his support for extending $700 billion tax breaks for the wealthy."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Don't Count on it, Warren

Excerpted from Christiane Amanpour's interview with Warren Buffet, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

"The rich are always going to say that, you know, 'Just give us more money and we'll go out and spend more and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you.' But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on," Buffett explained.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Government Intervention in the Economy Works!

A significant portion of the right-wing attack on Democrats is that we support an activist role for government. Remember how our erstwhile critics slammed us for supporting the GM bailout?

Follow the link and listen to Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, as he discusses GM's rising fortunes. Hmmm...hear this on Fox?

Friday, November 12, 2010

All You Need to Know About Everything

The above chart from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office tells us a couple of things:

1. Social security ain't a problem.

2. Obama's co-chairs's (Bowles and Simpson) recommendations for deficit reduction are silly.

3. As a country, we have to address health care costs.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Give Pelosi Some Love

Follow the link below to sign a Daily Kos petition in support of Nancy Pelosi keeping her leadership position among House Democrats.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Hey, you win a few, you lose a few....and we won this one!

Thanks to all the volunteers who made it happen in Newburyport and our sister communities of Amesbury, Newbury, Salisbury, and West Newbury!

We had over 150 volunteers in total, great participation from Newburyport High School students, and incredible cooperation between the Democratic candidates. On Election Day, all polls were covered by volunteer poll checkers and precinct captains, signs were held, doors were knocked, and over 4,000 calls were made to Get Out The Vote.

Here are some photos from our journey together over the last months....

Deval Patrick

Three Corners

Friends of Mo

Governor Deval Patrick

Congressman John Tierney

State Senator Steve Baddour

State Representative Mike Costello

Photos by Ed Cameron and Ken Dear

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why I am Voting for Governor Patrick

Posted at

Why I am Voting for Governor Patrick
by: lkirwan
Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 16:02:51 PM EDT
(The voice of reason speaks. Leslie Kirwan was Governor Patrick's Secretary of Administration of Finance until last year. - Bob

It's also worth noting that Leslie Kirwan worked very closely with Charlie Baker in the Weld and Cellucci administrations. She knows both candidates well. - promoted by David)

Dear Friends,

For three years I had the privilege of working with Governor Deval Patrick as his cabinet Secretary for Administration and Finance. On November 2, I will be proud to vote for Governor Patrick to help assure that he has the chance to continue the important work he has started. I am writing to tell you why I admire and respect the Governor so much, and to ask that you give him your vote on Election Day, November 2.

Governor Patrick has been challenged by the worst recession in generations, and it has required him to find budget solutions of approximately $13 billion during his four years in office. For a governor deeply committed to making state government work for individuals, families, businesses and communities, balancing the budget was not a responsibility Governor Patrick relished. Nonetheless, he took it very seriously, and personally made sure that even as he was forced to find budget solutions, he did it in ways that reflected his values and priorities. Education is Governor Patrick's top priority -- one stemming from his own personal story -- and under his leadership Chapter 70 education aid has reached its highest level ever. He preserved health and human services spending as much as possible to make sure the Commonwealth's most vulnerable citizens were protected when they needed help the most. He has made targeted investments in green jobs and other environmental initiatives, and in the life sciences and other industries where Massachusetts is most competitive. These investments have helped Massachusetts lead the nation in recovering from the recession.

Some governors let their staff do the heavy lifting on budget development. Not Governor Patrick. Time and again, I watched as he personally put his own stamp on the choices he made, taking each budget document home with him and working long into the night, making adjustments in his own handwriting to ensure the final product reflected his values. He took it personally every time he had to make a cut that hurt a program or a person.

Governor Patrick's opponents would like to paint him as a big spender. It's not true. Governor Patrick's four budgets have averaged spending increases of 1.7% year over year. In contrast, Mitt Romney's budgets increased by 6.6% on average, and when Charlie Baker was in charge of the budget, annual increases averaged over 5%. And in spite of the recession, Governor Patrick's management of the state has earned reaffirmations of the outstanding double-A rating from the three bond rating agencies again and again at a time when many states have been downgraded. Contributing to their favorable ratings have been the many reforms led by Governor Patrick: ethics and lobbying reform, curbing pension abuses, abolishing the Turnpike Authority and reorganizing the transportation agencies, education reform, auto insurance reform, allowing civilian flaggers to work on some road and bridge construction projects, and successfully implementing Massachusetts Health Care Reform. Other governors only talked about these reforms; Governor Patrick got them done, and is continuing to work on every single one.

This is going to be a very close election, and every vote matters. That is why it is very important for every voter who supports the Governor to take the time to go to the polls on Election Day, November 2. I hope that you will be sure to vote, and that you will join me in supporting Governor Deval Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray.


Leslie Kirwan

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Those Tea Partiers Sure Are Regular Folk

That's Politics and POLO!

Bill Hudak, Republican candidate for U.S. Congress 6th District, speaks with Jen Quinn and Michael DePaulo during the Hamilton Republican Town Committee Politics and Polo event.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

From the Real Socialist: Bernie

Taxes at Lowest Level Since 1950

October 26, 2010

During the past two years, Congress passed a total of $509 billion in tax cuts for American families and small businesses. The tax burden on Americans is now at its lowest level in 60 years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The most significant single change was a decrease in income taxes by up to $400 a year for individuals and $800 for married couples. Who knew? In a recent New York Times/CBS News Poll, fewer than one in 10 respondents knew that taxes were lowered for most Americans. A third even thought that their taxes had gone up. "We did a magnificent job of selling this tax break," Sanders deadpanned at an event last weekend in Hardwick, Vt., where he mentioned the poll.

The following list identifies the major tax cuts enacted during the past two years.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5; JCX-19-09)

  • Tax relief for individuals and families (e.g., Making Work Pay Credit, American Opportunity Tax Credit, first-time homebuyer credit, and AMT relief)

$232,426 million

  • Clean energy incentives

$19,963 million

  • Tax cuts for businesses

$6,150 million

  • Manufacturing recovery provisions

$1,850 million

  • Economic recovery tools (e.g., recovery zone bonds, new markets tax credit)

$6,501 million

  • Infrastructure financing tools (e.g., school construction bonds, Build America Bonds)

$19,638 million

  • Low-income housing and energy property provisions

$74 million

  • $250 refundable tax credit for federal and state pensioners not eligible for Social Security

$218 million

  • Health Coverage Tax Credit provisions

$457 million

  • Low-income housing tax credit provisions

$143 million

  • Assistance for COBRA health coverage premiums

$24,677 million

TOTAL (over 2009-2019)

$312,097 million

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148; JCX-17-10 and CBO, Table 2)

  • Tax credit to help small businesses afford health coverage

$37,000 million

  • Tax credit to help individuals afford health coverage (Exchange Premium Credits)

$106,000 million

  • Therapeutic Discovery Tax Credit (for small businesses to produce innovative medical therapies)

$900 million

  • Adoption tax credit

$1,200 million

  • Health professional state loan repayment tax relief

$100 million

TOTAL (over 2010-2019)

$145,200 million

Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-92; JCX-45-09)

  • First-time homebuyer tax credit provisions

$10,823 million

  • Business tax cut (increase carryback period for net operating losses)

$10,407 million

  • Military BRAC fringe provisions

$243 million

TOTAL (over 2010-2019)

$21,473 million

Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (P.L. 111-147; JCX-6-10)

  • Payroll tax forgiveness for hiring unemployed workers

$7,616 million

  • Business tax credit for retaining newly hired workers

$5,422 million

  • Business tax cut (increase in expensing of certain depreciable assets)

$35 million

  • Qualified Tax Credit Bonds provisions

$4,561 million

TOTAL (over 2010-2020)

$17,634 million

Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-240; JCX-48-10)

  • Small business tax cut (modification to exclusion for gain from certain small business stock)

$518 million

  • Small business tax cut (5 year carryback of general business credit of eligible small business)

$107 million

  • Small business tax cut (general business credits of eligible small business not subject to AMT)

$977 million

  • Small business tax cut (reduction in recognition period for built-in gains tax)

$70 million

  • Small business tax cut (enhancements to section 179 property provisions)

$2,177 million

  • One-year extension of bonus depreciation

$5,454 million

  • Increase deduction for start-up business expenditures

$230 million

  • Limitation on penalty for failure to disclose reportable transactions based on resulting tax benefits

$176 million

  • Deduction for health insurance costs in computing self-employment taxes

$1,919 million

  • Cell phones and telecommunications equipment provisions

$410 million

TOTAL (over 2011-2020)

$12,038 million

Homebuyer Assistance and Improvement Act (P.L. 111-198; JCX-34-10)

  • Extend eligibility for the first-time homebuyer credit

$140 million

TOTAL (over 2010-2020)

$140 million

Charitable Donations for Haiti Earthquake Relief (P.L. 111-126; CBO)

  • Tax benefit for charitable cash contributions toward Haiti earthquake relief

$2 million

TOTAL (over 2010-2020)

$2 million

Friday, October 22, 2010

Whose Fault is the Deficit?

The following link provides a very nice summary of the country's current budget deficit troubles. Send it to your tea party friends.

Friday, October 15, 2010

In Your Guts, You Know He's Nuts

In 1964 Barry Goldwater ran for President with strong support from John Birch Society members and similar right-wing wackos. His campaign slogan was: "in your heart, you know he's right." Democrats responded with "In your guts, you know he's nuts." You know how that election worked out.

In 2010 it seems like Republicans have once again become the party of far right extremists. To read an excellent article entitled "Confounding Fathers" in the current issue of the New Yorker click here. It traces tea party roots to the John Birch Society.

For some reason I kept thinking about this during last night's Tierney-Hudak debate.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sounds Right to Me

"EA Sports released a new version of the video game 'NBA Jam' that features Obama, Biden, Bush, and Cheney. Bush and Cheney play the first half, then Obama and Biden try to come back from a 6 billion point deficit."

-Jimmy Fallon

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tea Party Hates Wall Street

Crony Capitalism: Wall Street's Favorite Politicians


A full 90 members of Congress who voted to bailout Wall Street in 2008 failed to support financial reform reining in the banks that drove our economy off a cliff. But when you examine campaign contribution data, it's really no surprise that these particular lawmakers voted to mortgage our economic future to Big Finance: This election cycle, they've raked in over $48.8 million from the financial establishment. Over the course of their Congressional careers, the figure swells to a massive $176.9 million.

The complete list of these Crony Capitalists is below, along with the money they pulled in from Big Finance, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics ( The career data goes back to 1989. Of the 69 House members who voted with Wall Street on both the bailout and financial reform, 60 are Republicans, while nine are Democrats. All 21 Senators who voted with Wall Street on both issues are Republicans, and Republicans raked in over 90 percent of the total campaign contributions.

And here are all of the Cronies, along with their Wall Street hauls:

Senator 2010 Wall Street Cash Career Wall Street Cash
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) $1,600,000 $4,900,000
Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) $1,500,000 $2,600,000
Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) $333,600 $3,300,000
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) $1,500,000 $3,300,000
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) $2,500,000 $3,500,000
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) $451,700 $1,200,000
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) $3,100,000 $3,300,000
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) $3,200,000 $4,700,000
Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) $1,300,000 $2,600,000
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) $1,100,000 $2,000,000
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) $233,200 $1,100,000
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) $1,400,000 $2,600,000
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) $1,400,000 $4,700,000
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) $1,500,000 $4,200,000
Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) $2,800,000 $3,800,000
Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) $412,200 $2,500,000
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) $947,600 $34,000,000
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) $4,300,000 $5,300,000
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) $268,200 $909,700
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) $1,600,000 $3,900,000
Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) $435,200 $2,800,000
21 Republicans
0 Democrats
Senate Total $31,881,700 97,209,700
House Member 2010 Wall Street Cash Career Wall Street Cash
Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La. $106,500 $422,300
Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala. $611,600 $4,400,000
Rep. Gresham Barrett, R-S.C. $20,400 $806,700
Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark. $24,900 $663,700
Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill. $395,000 $1,900,000
Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. $1,200,000 $3,800,000
Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio $1,300,000 $3,700,000
Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala. $90,400 $702,200
Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif. $190,000 $733,400
Rep. John Boozman, R-Ark. $257,700 $491,000
Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla. $123,100 $722,200
Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va. $92,700 $1,400,000
Rep. Charles Boustany Jr, R-La. $226,300 $934,600
Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas $157,000 $840,500
Rep. Henry Brown, R-S.C. $35,700 $494,000
Rep. Vernon Buchanan, R-Fla. $336,800 $1,400,000
Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif. $180,300 $940,300
Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich. $588,000 $1,700,000
Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif. $413,400 $1,200,000
Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. $2,100,000 $4,400,000
Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del. $749,100 $3,200,000
Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C. $23,400 $502,500
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. $110,000 $686,000
Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas $161,500 $711,800
Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla. $86,100 $717,000
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas $90,600 $606,900
Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa. $177,900 $881,000
Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas $324,200 $1,900,000
Rep.Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich. $8,500 $292,200
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo. $143,900 $904,400
Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Okla ($1,000) $340,700
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J. $86,200 $840,300
Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa. $251,600 $1,800,000
Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas $140,000 $1,100,000
Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif. $171,500 $1,100,000
Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich. ($1,000) $300,600
Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C. 0 $572,800
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. $173,900 $1,600,000
Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill. $1,900,000 $4,200,000
Rep. John Kline, R-Minn $170,900 $989,100
Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif. $31,800 $748,000
Rep. Daniel E. Lungren, R-Calif. $147,700 $622,500
Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif. $132,100 $1,100,000
Rep. Gary Miller, R-Calif. $144,500 $902,000
Rep. Harry Mitchell, D-Ariz. $130,900 $558,000
Rep. Sue Myrick, R-S.C. $93,600 $1,200,000
Rep. Soloman Ortiz, D-Texas $40,200 $381,700
Rep. George Radanovich, R-Calif. $24,900 $462,000
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala. $128,200 $1,000,000
Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky. $50,200 $468,000
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. $127,000 $986,000
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. $531,500 $1,900,000
Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio $121,900 $519,700
Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz. $39,700 $1,200,000
Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa. $30,700 $403,600
Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Ind. $20,500 $266,900
Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo. $112,500 $524,200
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas $258,900 $1,300,000
Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind. $40,500 $405,800
Rep. Zack Space, D-Ohio $169,300 $476,300
Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla. $79,200 $494,800
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb. $202,600 $1,400,000
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas $42,500 $603,400
Rep. Patrick Tiberi, R-Ohio $555,500 $2,800,000
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich. $81,700 $929,400
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore. $180,700 $732,400
Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn. 0 $715,700
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. $155,500 $580,200
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va. $90,400 $1,100,000
60 Republicans $15,873,400 $72,443,800
9 Democrats $1,108,400 $7,233,000
House Total $16,981,800 $79,676,800

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No, It Is Not

Paul Krugman posted this on his blog site yesterday. It is a spectacularly clear statement on Keynesian policies.

Economics Is not a Morality Play

Brad DeLong catches someone wondering if I am actually advocating war as a solution to our problems. Against stupidity, the gods themselves …

To be fair, though, I understand from the Times that whenever I mention in my column that WWII ended the Great Depression, the paper gets a lot of mail accusing me of being a warmonger. Amazing.

But maybe this is an opportunity to reiterate a point I try to make now and then: economics is not a morality play. It’s not a happy story in which virtue is rewarded and vice punished. The market economy is a system for organizing activity — a pretty good system most of the time, though not always — with no special moral significance. The rich don’t necessarily deserve their wealth, and the poor certainly don’t deserve their poverty; nonetheless, we accept a system with considerable inequality because systems without any inequality don’t work. And before the trolls jump in to say aha, Krugman concedes the truth of supply-side economics, that’s not an argument against progressive taxation and the welfare state; it’s just an argument that says that there are limits. Cuba doesn’t work; Sweden works pretty well.

And when we’re experiencing depression economics, by which I mean a situation in which it’s hard to create sufficient demand to achieve full employment — mainly because short-term interest rates are up against the zero lower bound — the essentially amoral nature of economics becomes even more acute. As I’ve said repeatedly, this is a situation in which virtue becomes vice and prudence is folly; what we need above all is for someone to spend more, even if the spending isn’t particularly wise.

The trouble in practice is that conventional modes of thought tend to prevail even when they shouldn’t; in particular, public spending on the scale needed never seems to happen. That’s why Keynes facetiously proposed burying bottles full of cash in coal mines, so people could dig them up again: since any proposal to spend money on things we need got shot down on grounds of prudence and efficiency, he proposed completely pointless spending instead.

And what actually ended up doing the trick was spending that was beyond pointless, it was actually destructive – a sort of cruel joke on the part of the gods of economics.

The point is that it would have been much better if the Depression had been ended with massive spending on useful things, on roads and railroads and schools and parks. But the political consensus for spending on a sufficient scale never materialized; we needed Hitler and Hirohito instead.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Rich get Richer and the Poor get Poorer

Data from the latest Census:

WASHINGTON — The income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its widest amount on record as young adults and children in particular struggled to stay afloat in the recession.

The top-earning 20 percent of Americans — those making more than $100,000 each year — received 49.4 percent of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4 percent earned by those below the poverty line, according to newly released census figures. That ratio of 14.5-to-1 was an increase from 13.6 in 2008 and nearly double a low of 7.69 in 1968.

full AP article here

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Republicans Will Cut Social Security

Republican Representative Eric Ryan (the likely chair of the House Budget Committee if Republicans take the House) on his proposal for Social Security:

"The Ryan plan would cut traditional guaranteed Social Security retirement benefits substantially compared to the benefits now scheduled to be paid. Much of the reduction would stem from the adoption of what is called "progressive price indexing," which would reduce the benefits of future retirees except for the bottom 30 percent of wage earners. For the average new retiree, defined benefits would be reduced by about 16 percent in 2050 and about 28 percent in 2080. Reductions would be greater for retirees with higher earnings."

Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders, Rep. Eric Cantor (R) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R)

Americans Have the Right Values - They're Just Not Very Well Informed

"Recent analyses have shown that income inequality in the US has grown steadily for the past three decades and reached its highest level on record, exceeding even the large disparities seen in the 1920s, before the Great Depression. Norton and Ariely estimate that the one percent wealthiest Americans hold nearly 50 percent of the country's wealth, while the richest 20 percent hold 84 percent of the wealth.

But in their study, the authors found Americans generally underestimate the income disparity. When asked to estimate, respondents on average estimated that the top 20 percent have 59 percent of the wealth (as opposed to the real number, 84 percent). And when asked to choose how much the top 20 percent should have, on average respondents said 32 percent -- a number similar to the wealth distribution seen in Sweden".

The author is conflating wealth and income inequality here. The data I presented was on income inequality (top 1% receive 17.1% of all income) while Norton and Ariely present wealth data (top 1% have 50% of total wealth).

Nevertheless, the point stands. Americans have their values right; they are just ignorant. I would say that is the fault of the media.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Obama on the GOP "Pledge"

"It is grounded in same worn out philosophy: cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires; cut the rules for Wall Street and the special interests; and cut the middle class loose to fend for itself. That's not a prescription for a better future. It's an echo of a disastrous decade we can't afford to relive."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wonder Why?

In an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, 60 percent disapprove of the job congressional Democrats are doing — yet 68 percent frown on how Republicans are performing. While 59 percent are unhappy with how Democrats are handling the economy, 64 percent are upset by the GOP's work on the country's top issue. Just over half have unfavorable views of each party.

Most say President Barack Obama isn't cooperating enough on the economy, yet even more accuse Republicans of the same thing. Former President George W. Bush and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — the only two Republicans the AP-GfK Poll tested — are both viewed negatively by more than half in the survey, worse than Obama's marks. And people overwhelmingly fault Bush more than Obama for the recession.


That's About Right

From Bill Maher:

"But I've done some math that indicates that, considering the hole this country is in, if you are earning more than a million dollars a year and are complaining about a 3.6% tax increase, then you are by definition a greedy asshole."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Poor Just Keep Getting Poorer

Here is data from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office:

Year 1 2 3 4 5 10% 5% 1%
1979 6.8 12.3 16.5 22.3 42.4 27.6 18.1 7.5
2007 4.9 9.4 14.1 20 52.5 38.7 29.3 17.1

It shows the Household (which differs from family) income shares of after-tax income for each quintile of the population. After tax income takes into account not only taxes but also transfer payments such as food stamps, Medicare, Social Security and the like.

Notice that 80% of the population experienced a drop in relative shares at the expense of the top 20%. Notice that the top 1% received 17.1% of total income in 2007 compared to 7.5% in 1979.

In 2007, everyone with a Household after-tax income of $74,700 (the minimum to get into the top 20%) or less was in the bottom 80% of Household income recipients.

One could summarize the Reagan Revolution as one that transferred income from the bottom 80% of Households to the top 20% of households.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Shorter Eric Cantor: "Don't forget the high earners."

Harry Reid says:

"We're having this fight before November," the aide told TPM, speaking on a condition of anonymity to be able to lay out the political agenda. "The caucus is in agreement that this fight is a fight worth taking before the election. You may not win but you put yourself in the camp of fighting with the middle class."

The idea is to vote on the middle class cuts, then box Republicans into calling for cuts for the rich. "Those Republicans will have to stand up and say, 'Don't forget the high earners.' They will have to call for an amendment."

Eric Cantor says:

Tax Fight: GOP Won't Back Down

By Eric Cantor

As we enter the final stretch before the November midterm elections, all eyes have gravitated to the fight over the looming federal tax increases. President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi want to keep the current rates on income, capital gains and dividends in place only for those who happen to fit their description of "middle class." In this moment of economic distress, will they get their way even though a bipartisan majority of the House disagrees with them? Or will present tax rates be extended for all American taxpayers—and most importantly for small businesses and investors, the nation's job creators?

Republicans unequivocally oppose any impending tax increase. House Republicans have called on Speaker Pelosi to allow the House to vote on legislation that would freeze all tax rates for the next two years. It's a vote the taxpayers of this country deserve before November.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


The following data is from the most excellent work of Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty. It is based on all income excluding transfer payments (welfare, food stamps, unemployment insurance, housing subsidies) and includes realized capital gains.

In 2008:

The average family in the United States earned $54,315.

The average family in the bottom 90% earned $31,244.

To make it into the top 10% of income earners a family would have to make $109,062 per year or more.

To make it into the top 5% of income earners a family would have to make $152,726 per year or more.

To make it into the top 1% of income earners a family would have to make $368,238 per year or more.

To make it into the top .5% of income earners a family would have to make $558,726 per year or more.

To make it into the top .1% of income earners a family would have to make $1,695,136 per year or more.

To make it into the top .01% of income earners a family would have to make $9,141,190 per year or more.

15,246 of the 152,462,000 U.S. families made it into this last group. They had average incomes of $27,342,212.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Why Dems in Congress Should Not Compromise on the Tax Cut for the Very Rich

In my opinion, the graph above tells us just about everything we need to know about why most people are feeling a bit stressed. It shows the percentage of income received by the top 10% of income earners (I use that term advisedly) between 1917 and 2007.

First, look at the period up until WWII. The proportion of income peaked in 1929 at just under 50%. The Roaring Twenties were just great if you happened to be in this lucky cohort.

Now look at what happened in the Depression. The top 10%'s share fell, but only into the mid-forties.

The post-WWII era, known as the 'Great Compression' in the literature lasted from 1941 to 1979. The top 10%'s share fell to below 35% of total income. Later we can discuss why this occurred. I am open to your opinions in the comments section. Recall, however, that the top marginal tax rate in the fifties under Eisenhower was 90%. Hmmm...might there be a correlation between high top marginal tax rates and the creation of a middle class?

Then we had the Reagan Revolution with the Bush II effort to complete it by giving massive tax breaks to this group and, lo and behold, by 2007 we managed to top the 1929 figure. Goodbye Middle Class.

The stressed Middle Class has two options. Republicans and their propagandists on talk radio and Fox would have the Middle Class believe the shrinking share of income they receive is because Democrats tax them and give their money to poor people. Democrats claim their shrinking share is a result of the Reagan Revolution that altered a tax structure that had created the Middle Class in the first place. In other words, the Middle Class has shrunk because Republicans have taken our money and given it to the top 10%.

OK, I admit this is a bit of an oversimplification. Nevertheless, I think it is an oversimplification that drives to the heart of our current political crisis.

I am told that the current political debate over whether or not to extend the Bush tax cuts to the top 2% will not resonate in this political climate. Why? Because most people don't believe that the above graph has anything to do with their declining economic condition. I am told that this issue is too rational or too cerebral to have resonance. I am told it does not grab people emotionally. I just hope Democrats in Congress follow President Obama's lead and give us the opportunity to test this. My bet is, if they do, the Republicans will back down. This is a worthwhile goal on its own terms. The added bonus of having the tea party portion of the Republican Party become further disenchanted with their apparently 'reasonable' elected leaders is just a bonus.

The Tax-Cut Racket By PAUL KRUGMAN


Mr. McConnell, who was self-righteously denouncing the budget deficit just the other day, now wants to blow that deficit up with big tax cuts for the rich. But he doesn’t have the votes. So he’s trying to get what he wants by pointing a gun at the heads of middle-class families, threatening to force a jump in their taxes unless he gets paid off with hugely expensive tax breaks for the wealthy.

Most discussion of the tax fight focuses either on the economics or on the politics — both of which suggest that Democrats should hang tough, for their own sakes as well as that of the country. But there’s an even bigger issue here — namely, the question of what constitutes acceptable behavior in American political life. Politics ain’t beanbag, but there’s a difference between playing hardball and engaging in outright extortion, which is what Mr. McConnell is now doing. And if he succeeds, it will set a disastrous precedent.


In response, President Obama is proposing legislation that would keep tax rates essentially unchanged for 98 percent of Americans but allow rates on the richest 2 percent to rise. But Republicans are threatening to block that legislation, effectively raising taxes on the middle class, unless they get tax breaks for their wealthy friends.

That’s an extraordinary step. Almost everyone agrees that raising taxes on the middle class in the middle of an economic slump is a bad idea, unless the effects are offset by other job-creation programs — and Republicans are blocking those, too. So the G.O.P. is, in effect, threatening to plunge the U.S. economy back into recession unless Democrats pay up.

What kind of political party would engage in that kind of brinksmanship? The answer is the same kind of party that shut down the federal government in 1995 in an attempt to force President Bill Clinton to accept steep cuts in Medicare, and is actively discussing doing the same to Mr. Obama. So, as I said, the deeper explanation of the tax-cut fight is that it’s ultimately about a radicalized Republican Party, which accepts no limits on partisanship.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Newburyport Charter Commission 9/22/10 from 7-9 p.m. at City Hall

From Charter Commission Clerk Sheila Mullins to Ed Cameron (Chair Newburyport Democratic City Committee) and Larry Giunta (Chair Newburyport Republican City Committee):

Since the ChCom is nonpartisan, I am requesting that the 2 political chairs post on their blogs the following:

The Newburyport Charter Commission wishes to extend an invitation to all Newburyporters for a public hearing on 9/22/10 from 7-9 p.m. at City Hall Auditorium. The Commission will be discussing the survey, the preamble that has been created, presentation of remaining timetable, what has been discovered thus far, what has been done, executive & legislative options, citizens’ safeguards, & number of wards. There will be a question & answer period as well.

This may be a rare occurrence of the local R's and D's being on the same page;-)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


South Carolina Senate President Dresses Up Like Confederate Soldier With Black Slaves At GOP Event

This past weekend, the National Federation of Republican Women (NFRW) “held its annual fall Board of Directors meeting in Charleston, S.C.” In attendance at the event were major Republican leaders throughout the state, including Gov. Mark Sanford, who spoke to the audience gathered there.

One shocking moment at the NFRW meeting involved a special event called “The Southern Experience.” In this event, attendees dressed in clothing reminiscent of the Civil War and the antebellum South. As FITS News reports, South Carolina Senate President Glenn McConnell (R) participated in the event by dressing up as a Confederate General, and at many points posed with African Americans dressed as slaves:

The National Federation of Republican Women (NFRW) held its annual fall Board of Directors meeting in Charleston, S.C. last weekend – a decision the organization is likely regretting after several controversial pictures from one of the meeting’s sponsored events began surfacing on the internet. One of the pictures shows S.C. Senate President Glenn McConnell – who FITS readers will recall enjoys dressing up as a Confederate General – posing in his Rebel garb with a pair of African-Americans dressed in, um, “antebellum” attire.

The event in question – dubbed “The Southern Experience” – was held last Friday evening at the Country Club of Charleston. Hosted by the South Carolina Federation of Republican Women, it was included on the national conference’s official itinerary. In addition to McConnell, S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford attended (and spoke at) the event – although it was not listed on his weekly public schedule. S.C. Republican Attorney General nominee Alan Wilson also attended.

FITS News shares the picture in question, which it uncovered:


Uh Oh

Monday, September 13, 2010

NYT: Time for This Big Dog to Bite Back

September 11, 2010
Time for This Big Dog to Bite Back

NO, he can’t. President Obama can’t reverse the unemployment numbers by Election Day. He can’t get even a modest new stimulus bill past the Party of No, and even if he could, there would be few jobs to show for it until (maybe) 2011. Nor can he rewrite the history of his administration. Its signal accomplishments to date are an initial stimulus package that was overrun by the calamity at hand and a marathon health care battle as yet better known for its unseemly orgy of backroom wrangling than its concrete results. While that brawl raged, the White House seemed indifferent to the mounting number of Americans being tossed onto the Great Recession scrapheap.

And so the odds that Obama’s party will survive the midterms seem less than Indiana Jones’s in the Temple of Doom — as we are reminded hourly by the Beltway herd flogging the latest polls. The Democrats are facing a “historic” rout, an earthquake, a tidal wave — well, you know the drill. End of story.

Unless it’s not. On Labor Day, the fighting Obama abruptly re-emerged, a far cry from the man whose Oval Office address on Iraq days earlier was about as persuasive as a hostage video. Speaking to workers in Milwaukee, the president finally started giving voice to the anger of America’s battered middle class. And he even let loose with a little anger of his own. The unspecified “powerful interests” aligned against him, he said, “talk about me like a dog.”

The entire piece is here:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

English and Meat

One of the 'benefits' of living near the northern border of Massachusetts is you get to see some NH ads. Truly a frightening ad from NH Republican Bill Binnie....which is almost like a Saturday Night Live parody.

Of course, English and meat are two great traditions which have kept this country unique...

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Better Know a Lobby - American Meat Institute
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News

Friday, August 13, 2010

And with that, let’s eat.

President George W. Bush held this Ramadan dinner 8 times in 8 years at the White House. Below are President Obama's remarks this year with bold added:

Good evening. Welcome to the White House. To you, to Muslim Americans across our country, and to more than one billion Muslims around the world, I extend my best wishes on this holy month. Ramadan Kareem. I want to welcome members of the diplomatic corps; members of my administration; and Members of Congress, including Rush Holt, John Conyers, and Andre Carson, who is one of two Muslim American Members of Congress, along with Keith Ellison.

Here at the White House, we have a tradition of hosting iftars that goes back several years, just as we host Christmas parties, seders, and Diwali celebrations. These events celebrate the role of faith in the lives of the American people. They remind us of the basic truth that we are all children of God, and we all draw strength and a sense of purpose from our beliefs.

These events are also an affirmation of who we are as Americans. Our Founders understood that the best way to honor the place of faith in the lives of our people was to protect their freedom to practice religion. In the Virginia Act for Establishing Religion Freedom, Thomas Jefferson wrote that "all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion." The First Amendment of our Constitution established the freedom of religion as the law of the land. And that right has been upheld ever since.

Indeed, over the course of our history, religion has flourished within our borders precisely because Americans have had the right to worship as they choose – including the right to believe in no religion at all. And it is a testament to the wisdom of our Founders that America remains deeply religious – a nation where the ability of peoples of different faiths to coexist peacefully and with mutual respect for one another stands in contrast to the religious conflict that persists around the globe.

That is not to say that religion is without controversy. Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities – particularly in New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. The pain and suffering experienced by those who lost loved ones is unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.

But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.

We must never forget those who we lost so tragically on 9/11, and we must always honor those who have led our response to that attack – from the firefighters who charged up smoke-filled staircases, to our troops who are serving in Afghanistan today. And let us always remember who we are fighting against, and what we are fighting for. Our enemies respect no freedom of religion. Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam – it is a gross distortion of Islam. These are not religious leaders – these are terrorists who murder innocent men, women and children. In fact, al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion – and that list of victims includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11.

That is who we are fighting against. And the reason that we will win this fight is not simply the strength of our arms – it is the strength of our values. The democracy that we uphold. The freedoms that we cherish. The laws that we apply without regard to race or religion; wealth or status. Our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect to those who are different from us – a way of life that stands in stark contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on that September morning, and who continue to plot against us today.

In my inaugural address, I said that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth. That diversity can bring difficult debates. Indeed, past eras have seen controversies about the construction of synagogues or Catholic churches. But time and again, the American people have demonstrated that we can work through these issues, stay true to our core values, and emerge stronger for it. So it must be – and will be – today.

Tonight, we are reminded that Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity. And Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been part of America. The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan—making it the first known iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago.

Like so many other immigrants, generations of Muslims came here to forge their future. They became farmers and merchants, worked in mills and factories, and helped lay the railroads. They helped build America. They founded the first Islamic center in New York City in the 1890s. They built America’s first mosque on the prairie of North Dakota. And perhaps the oldest surviving mosque in America—still in use today—is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Today, our nation is strengthened by millions of Muslim Americans. They excel in every walk of life. Muslim American communities—including mosques in all fifty states—also serve their neighbors. Muslim Americans protect our communities as police, firefighters and first responders. Muslim American clerics have spoken out against terror and extremism, reaffirming that Islam teaches that one must save human life, not take it. And Muslim Americans serve with honor in our military. At next week’s iftar at the Pentagon, tribute will be paid to three soldiers who gave their lives in Iraq and now rest among the heroes of Arlington National Cemetery.

These Muslim Americans died for the security that we depend upon, and the freedoms that we cherish. They are part of an unbroken line of Americans that stretches back to our Founding; Americans of all faiths who have served and sacrificed to extend the promise of America to new generations, and to ensure that what is exceptional about America is protected – our commitment to stay true to our core values, and our ability to perfect our union.

For in the end, we remain "one nation, under God, indivisible." And we can only achieve "liberty and justice for all" if we live by that one rule at the heart of every religion, including Islam—that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Thank you all for being here, and I wish you a blessed Ramadan. And with that, let’s eat.