Saturday, January 23, 2010

Health Care: The DFHs Are Still Right

The House Progressive Caucus and the Firedoglake editors are both taking heat for advocating that the Senate health care bill be passed and simultaneously modified through reconciliation. The amount of venom directed at Jane Hamsher, in particular, is astonishing. And yet: the DFHs (dirty-effing-hippies) at Firedoglake have been right down the line for years now. The Senate bill is toxic, and if the House passes it without promises from the Senate and hopes for reconciliation later, they'll probably be stiffed.

Support the House Progressive Caucus: pass Senate Health care bill and changes through reconciliation. Sign the Firedoglake petition.

Corporate Free Speech: Unshackling the Trolls

That's what the Roberts Court has done in their decision in Citizens United. Every election, now, the airwaves and wires will be covered with corporate political spam. More of it, though that's hard to imagine.

Tune in 2012 for the new hit song: "Who Let the Trolls Out?"

Friday, January 22, 2010

Croak of the Day: Michael Bérubé

Scott Brown’s election this past Tuesday offers the Democratic Party a new hope. [...] ***
It's satire, folks.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

US Poltical Parties: the Outcome

Pulling out my crystal ball, I will try to make some modest predictions. It seems to me that both current major parties will survive, in dramatically altered forms. Electoral reforms, instant runoff or range voting, are likely to become more and more widespread, and make possible the emergence of at least one new national party. This new party, if it comes into being, is probably going to display characteristics we are already seeing in the emergent coalitions between marginalized US groups: it will probably be vaguely libertarian left. The Republicans, in the new electoral regime, will become the party of the South, and of business-oriented authoritarianism generally. The Democrats may rebuild their coalition, becoming a moderate conservative party, weak on the coasts, but stronger in moderate central states.


Croak! Earlier posts on this subject: The Democratic Party, The Republican Party.

The Republican Party: Analysis

The Republicans face a very different problem. Internally, they are dominated by a strong coalition of business interests, nationalists, militarists, and religious radicals. Their public face is generally congruent with their internal coalition, so they have no problem of voter confidence. Instead, the Republicans have a problem of popularity: they only have strong voter support in the South, and then only among the white-dominated group of registered voters. Outside of the South, they can only win elections in conservative backwaters, by whipping up fear, or when frustrated Democrats hand them a victory out of spite, inaction, or incompetence, as in the recent Massachusetts election.

It is also difficult for me to see how the Republicans can last as a national party. Sooner or later a strong opposition will emerge; either a reformed Democratic Party, or an entirely new national party.

The Democratic Party: Analysis

Why would it be that a relatively minor loss—one Senate seat—would plunge the Democratic Party into chaos?

It appears that the Democratic Party has for a long time, existed as a coalition between liberal and conservative wings (or, if you like, progressive and corporatist wings.) Since Reagan, policy on major issues—war and peace, banking, and so on—has been dominated by the conservatives, while less pressing issues (science, environmental policy, and so on) and public relations have been dominated by the liberals. In the Congress, the Senate Democratic caucus has been dominated by the conservatives while multiple House Democratic caucuses exist, with the House Democrats predominantly but not entirely liberal. The public face of the Democratic Party has been liberal, since the public is to the left of the conservatives. (See, for instance, The Progressive Majority.)

Now, however, a major issue—health care—has come to the fore. The Democrats have split right and left, and the public has become aware that the conservatives (who do not have the support of the majority of Democrats) have been making decisions on major issues which affect their lives. The Senate Democrats, after much agony, managed to agree on a business-friendly plan, while the House passed a plan somewhat to the left of that. Now the Senate leaders are afraid they will be unable to deliver their plan to their corporate sponsors, while the House leaders, looking at their loss in Massachusetts, know that if they pass the Senate plan unmodified they will be voted out.

It is difficult for me to see how the Democrats can rebuild their coalition. Its right wing and its president have betrayed it, and the party leadership will have a difficult time persuading most Democrats (who, remember, are well left of the conservatives) that the party represents them.

[Minor typographic changes made on 2010.03.07 and 2010.03.21]

Croak of the Day

While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.--Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

Supreme Court Abandons Stare Decisis, Declares That Large Businesses Have Same Rights as People

In its continuing quest to become the worst Supreme Court in history, alongside the Taney Court, the Court has decided that fictitious persons--corporations--have the same first amendment rights as natural persons and may therefore spend huge amounts of money on political advertising. Equally seriously, the Court's majority was willing to abandon a century of precedent to render this decision. If the court majority is willing to abandon long-settled law ("stare decisis") for its politics, what law will stand?

Personally, I blame Obama. No, not really, though I note that Sotomayor concurred in part. But the Senate, and especially the Senate Democrats, they didn't stand up when it might have made a difference, and allowed the formation of a radical-right majority on the Court.

The Framers thus took it as a given that corporations could be comprehensively regulated in the service of the public welfare. Unlike our colleagues, they had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individ­ual Americans that they had in mind.--Justice Stevens, dissenting
Coverage at ScotusBlog.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hilary Clinton's Primary Voters Went for Brown?

They did! They did!

Weirdness. Was this election swung by racist conservative women?

The Progressive Populist Libertarian Party

Or the PPL party. Now, it has a name. Croak!

Monday, January 18, 2010

An Alternate View of the Senate Health Care Bill

Making people spend money they don't have, on insurance they can't use. No, not everyone. But some people, yes.

Croak of the Day

To Blue Texan at Firedoglake for an analysis of the apparent contradictions between the stated goals of the Obama administration and its actions, and its likely effect on the Mass. Senate election.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Speculation: Health Care and the Economy

I wonder if the health care mandates are going to crush any recovery in 2014, the way that too-early budget-balancing did in 1937. Perhaps 10-30% of the money that people will be mandated to spend on insurance is going to go into the financial system, where it is unlikely to be spent well. People in the $20,000-$50,000 income range, who do a lot of spending out of necessity, are going to be pinched. I can't see how pumping more money into the already corrupt financial industry is going to lead to a positive outcome. A big bubble and a widening of the income gap is what I'm thinking, now, and a further whittling down of the real economy.

Be nice to see some analysis on this point from a real economist, or even the CBO.

The Devil and Health Care

The devil will only offer one bargain on health care. Obviously, we must sell our souls.

[minor changes made on day of publication]

State and Local Tax Policy and the Depression

$80,000. That's the amount a household in Washington has to make before its taxes are lower than they would be in Oregon. Even so, a poor family in Oregon pays 1.3% more in taxes than a rich one. In Washington, the difference is more marked; 10.6%. The poor family is in the poorest 1/5 of the population; the rich family in the richest. If one takes the rich family from the top 1% of incomes, the difference is more marked: in Oregon, 2.5%, and in Washington, 14.7%. Justice would dictate that the poor man's rent be taxed less than the rich man's yacht money, but in most states it is just the reverse.

"[...] only two states require their best-off citizens to pay as much of their incomes in taxes as their very poorest taxpayers must pay, and only one state taxes its wealthiest individuals at a higher effective rate than middle-income families have to pay." (Who Pays, 2009) The report goes on to list the "terrible ten:" the states which have the most regressive tax systems. These are, starting with the most regressive: Washington, Florida, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Alabama.

The US Federal government, we already know, is not going to be supporting the state governments in maintaining their services in this new depression. Yet if the states raise taxes, that also works to deepen the depression. However, if instead taxes are lightened on the poor, and raised on the rich, that is neutral. In addition, there is a multiplier: if the poor have more money to take home, they will spend it, because they need to, and that provides a stimulus.

Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States, Third Edition, 2009.

[minor changes made on day of publication]

Treats and Lumps of Coal

To my astonishment the Gates Foundation pledged $3 million over the next three years to LAW Fund in order to sustain critical legal help for the poor throughout Washington—treat! On the other hand, a whole truckload of coal to the insurance and banking industries, who despite huge gifts have not changed the policies that triggered the recent financial disaster, and an extra-large lump to the Obama administration, which is creating an unlimited sludge fund so that the banks can keep on doing it. Two lumps to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who has seen to it that there will be no auditor.