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      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 25, 2019 by Tony Wikrent Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus Strategic Political Economy Give No Heed to the Walking Dead [The Scholar’s Stage, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-19] The People’s Republic of China is wealthier than any rival America has faced. Its leaders are convinced […]
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The NFL playoffs start today!


I know what some of you are thinking (Oh gawd, not football!) but some of us actually enjoy watching highly paid athletes sacrifice their bodies for our amusement.

There are a total of 12 playoff teams, 4 division winners and 2 wild-card teams from each of 2 conferences. Of those 12 teams, 11 will lose their last game. The 2 conference champions will meet in Super Bowl XLV on Sunday, February 6th at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Eight teams will play this weekend. Today the New Orleans Saints will face the Seattle Seahawks at 4:30 pm eastern and the NY Jets will face the Indianapolis Colts at 8:00 pm eastern. Tomorrow it’s the Baltimore Ravens at the Kansas City Chiefs at 1:00 pm and the Green Bay Packers at the Philadelphia Eagles at 4:00 p.m.

The Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers all have a first round bye so they get to rest this weekend. Next weekend they will each host one of the four winners of the first round games.

According to the experts in Nevada, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Baltimore and Philadelphia are all favored to win. But mistakes, bad calls, funny bounces and injuries can make the experts look like fools. That’s why they play the games.

Unlike baseball and basketball where teams have to win a series of game over each opponent, football is one game, all or nothing. Even the best teams have bad days and on any given Sunday (or Saturday) the worst team can win.

Once again the Oakland Raiders have guaranteed that the playoffs will not be an emotional roller coaster for me by finishing 8-8 which, while an improvement over recent years, still earned their coach (Tom Cable) his walking papers. If they want to go to the Super Bowl they’ll have to buy a ticket just like the rest of us.

Let the games begin!



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Representative Gabrielle Giffords Shot

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords D- Arizona, 8th district

Update 4: Federal judge among victims in Arizona shooting

A federal law enforcement official says that a federal judge was fatally shot in the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.

UPDATE 3: CNN is showing a Hospital News Conference. Speaker says Congresswoman Giffords is out of surgery – in critical condition – and he is as optimistic as you can get about her chances for recovery.

10 patients were brought into the hospital. 1 dead (a child), 5 in critical condition, 5 in surgery [I don’t know how those numbers work out]

This report did not mention the judge or any other adult deaths.

Update 2: CNN has confirmed that Gabrielle Giffords has died. NYTimes still not confirming. Regardless, the casualty rate appears to be high, as many as 6 others dead.

Fox reporting that Giffords is in critical condition. Hope it’s true that she’s still alive (but consider the source)

CNN now retracting previous report of Giffords’ death. They now say her condition is unclear.

Updates:

The Huffington Post is reporting that 4 people were killed at Giffords’ event and she was among the dead.

Note: There are conflicting reports about whether Giffords is dead or in critical condition.

On a more ominous note, but possibly unrelated note, Giffords was on Sarah Palin’s list of Representatives to turnover in the 2010 midterms due to her vote for the health care reform bill. There are 19 other representatives on that list.

Of course, Palin isn’t the only person who opposes the health care reform act and has called for voters to oust representatives. Let’s not forget that Glenn Beck has a habit of provoking his listeners as well. If Giffords was shot because of something Beck or others have said, we need to immediately call attention to how dangerous it is to be popping off at the mouth without considering the consequences to other people’s physical well being.

**************

This just in from the NYTimes:

A congresswoman from Arizona was shot on Saturday along with several others during at public event at a grocery store in Tuscon, according to her spokesman, C.J. Karamargin. The Tucson Citizen reported that Ms. Giffords had been shot at close range in the head.

Representative Giffords is a pro-choice, pro-gun control Democrat from the Tucson area of Arizona.  She also voted for the stimulus package. It seems clear that she was the target of the shooting even though others were also injured.  I would hate to think that a constituent did this.

Good thoughts to Giffords and her family.  It sounds like she will need all the help she can get.

About Gabrielle Giffords’ life, here is the story of her wedding to Commander Mark Kelly from the NYTimes Vows column.  Very touching.

Saturday: Chutzpah, pyramids and connections

Man, islands and all that rot.

I’m baaaaack!  It’s been a very busy week here in the surburban jungle of New Jersey as well as being snowy and gloomy and cold.  But next week, I’m in Sandy Eggo for a conference.  The extended forecast looks good.  Temps in the 60’s seem positively balmy.  I might even ditch my jacket.

But first, I wanted to go over a little something I read in The Atlantic article on The Rise of the Global Elite.  These guys have chutzpah.  Now, before we go any further, there’s nothing wrong with striking it rich.  If you have a good idea and you can make oodles of money off of it, go for it.  But if you do it here in America, you need to remember that Americans made it possible.  All of those people who pay taxes to make sure that there are standards and infrastructure and a well-educated workforce and a “classless” society that means you don’t have to kiss some poobah’s ass or spend the rest of your life as a downstairs maid even if you have the secret to the next killer app, made it relatively easy for you.

So, I was particularly apalled to read this:

The good news—and the bad news—for America is that the nation’s own super-elite is rapidly adjusting to this more global perspective. The U.S.-based CEO of one of the world’s largest hedge funds told me that his firm’s investment committee often discusses the question of who wins and who loses in today’s economy. In a recent internal debate, he said, one of his senior colleagues had argued that the hollowing-out of the American middle class didn’t really matter. “His point was that if the transformation of the world economy lifts four people in China and India out of poverty and into the middle class, and meanwhile means one American drops out of the middle class, that’s not such a bad trade,” the CEO recalled.

I heard a similar sentiment from the Taiwanese-born, 30-something CFO of a U.S. Internet company. A gentle, unpretentious man who went from public school to Harvard, he’s nonetheless not terribly sympathetic to the complaints of the American middle class. “We demand a higher paycheck than the rest of the world,” he told me. “So if you’re going to demand 10 times the paycheck, you need to deliver 10 times the value. It sounds harsh, but maybe people in the middle class need to decide to take a pay cut.”

Really?  What planet is this guy on anyway?  Does he know that when the typical American starts working, he/she gets a measly 2 weeks of vacation- prorated?  Two frickin’ weeks.  You have to work 5 years before you get that measly third week.  I work for an international company and even though our European cousins work differently and are always on task when they are at work, I have slowly come to the realization that they are not more productive than Americans.  But for some reason, Mr. Taiwanese Born Rich Guy isn’t picking on them and their 2 months of vacation a year and nice life affirming salaries or the fact that many European workers are covered by unions that make it nearly impossible to lay them off, even if the work goes elsewhere and there’s nothing for them to do.  They still get paid and no one is asking them to give up their middle class lifestyles.  Only Americans are.  If anything, Mr. Taiwanese Born Global Elite’s comment says more about Americans’ vulnerability to Reaganesque ‘rugged individualism’ messaging and failure to protect themselves.

Personally, I think workers need a bit of stress in their environments to keep them pushing forward and to prevent them from sliding into inertia.  But the stress levels of the American worker “goes up to 11” these days.  We are very, very busy.  Eight hour days are a thing of the past.  There are fewer of us doing the work of more people.  If we could be there 24/7, which the middle level MBA beancounters seem to want these days, maybe we could catch up.  So, just how much *MORE* work would be acceptable to these people?  10X harder is physically and mentally impossible.  That’s not to say that there aren’t slackers who always seem to evade the lay off ax (and if anyone wants names…), but my experience, and those of my friends and former colleagues is that you can be extremely good at what you do and work your skinny little ass off and *still* get laid off.  The MBAs who make these decisions rarely look further than the next quarterly earnings.  Meanwhile, the outsourcing scheme doesn’t always work out so well and adds to the work of the people left behind in the states.

The problem is not that Americans don’t work hard enough or get paid too much.  If anything, wages have been pretty much stagnant since the 70’s, when adjusted for inflation.  Anyone who doubts that should see Elizabeth Warren’s youtube lecture on the collapse of the middle class where the result of the clamp down on wages is displayed in all of its miserly, stingy, mean spirited glory.  Many of us are one paycheck from insolvency, even with both parents working.  How much more of our paychecks should we sacrifice to make Mr Taiwanese Born Global Elite happy?  The problem is that our global overlords have no appreciation for the work that is done.  Or that in the case of those who have made money from technology, the body of knowledge is added to painstakingly over time by thousands of people until some young nerdy asshole comes along, reads the right papers or documentation, and makes some breakthrough discovery.  Maybe they need to sit down for an afternoon of James Burke’s Connections.

The point is, these people are sitting on top of pyramids, not just economically but in every other sense as well.  Under them are millions and millions of people both present and past who have made it possible for the global elite to have a Eureka! moment and cash in big.  That flash of insight could happen to any of us but it *won’t* happen nearly as frequently in the future if the global elite forget from whence they came.  It takes infrastructure, open and flatter societies, and communication with people who have crucial information.  That last part is something different that what Julian Assange envisions.  Innovation is much harder to do when information is locked down by entities protecting their data.  Information is power but proprietary information can be constipating.  So, what I’m getting from The Atlantic article is not that the global elite are critical of how much Americans are producing.  It’s that they are too wrapped up in themselves to understand that they are killing the global goose by cornering the market for themselves.  If they were really concerned that Americans were not producing enough, they might be more diligent about making sure that we have the broadband speed of Korea and not Romania.

But that would mean paying more in taxes and being accountable to their country and acting like citizens and we have seen that they are not willing to do any of those things.  So, we must conclude that they aren’t really serious about what they perceive to be Americans parasitical attachment to eating three squares a day and keeping a roof over their heads.  They just want it all for themselves.  Where’s that Malthusian catastrophe when you need one?

Moving on:

Also in The Atlantic, James Fallows is still concerned with the optics of Juan Williams firing from NPR.  For the record, I’m not at all concerned.  I was a long time listener to NPR, which *used* to have a very high reputation for quality journalism.  When Juan came on board, I noticed a distinct turn to more of the “he said/she said, we must present all sides of the story equally” type of journalism that I loathed in other media outlets.  I got so sick of listening to it that I stopped listening altogether and don’t donate anymore.  Yep, there probably are PC police at NPR whose minds are so wide open their brains have fallen out but, oddly enough, Ellen Weiss had retained enough gray matter to do the right thing in Juan’s case.  Williams has totally shown his colors.  He fits right in at Fox where pandering for profit is de rigeur.  Fallows can stop wringing his hands.  Maybe The Atlantic readers were sympathetic to Williams but there were a lot of former NPR listeners around here who were more than happy to see him go.  Fallows needs to get out and mingle more with people with higher standards.

In medicine, those of you parents out there who have decided not to vaccinate your children against measles, mumps and rubella can stop worrying unnecessarily. The whole scare was an elaborate fraud perpetrated by an unethical doctor in England who was being paid by a lawfirm to drum up business.

A 1998 study, that linked the MMR vaccine to autism, has been found to be false.

The investigation published in the British Medical Journal by Brian Deer lays out in detail, how the paper published in 1998 by British surgeon Andrew Wakefield, linking the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism was a deliberate fraud.

According to the investigation, a law firm that hoped to sue the vaccine manufacturers hired Wakefield. The law firm wanted Wakefield to provide scientific evidence that vaccines caused autism. Wakefield received roughly $750,000 for his efforts.

[…]

The analysis found that despite the claim in Wakefield’s paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, that in fact, the children’s medical records show that some clearly had symptoms of developmental problems long before getting their shots, BMJ says. Several had no autism diagnosis at all.

I read the BMJ articles (you may need a subscription) and the whole scam is a doozy.  Nothing but lies and falsified documents from the very beginning.  Some of the children profiled had development issues noticed months before the vaccination and at least one had a genetic defect that caused facial deformities that were recorded by pediatricians shortly after birth.

(For those of you who still cling to the notion that vaccinating your children is inherently dangerous, give it up already.  There’s not one single argument against innoculation that isn’t full of holes, from the autism link to the thimerosol thing to the “vaccine makers are trying to make money”.)

But, hey, where there’s money to be made, it’s OK to panic the developed world’s parents to stop innoculating their kids, put other kids at risk and break down herd immunity exposing adults to chicken pox, mumps and whooping cough.  It wasn’t personal.  It was only business. Way to go.

Do it yourself cremation-do not try this at home or buying a dilapidated chateau in France will make you crazy:

The village mayor, Pierre Sourdain, a farmer, says he liked Robert and Joanne Hall very much. All the villagers say the same: they were impressive, charming, self-possessed. (Saying that, the people in the village speak no English and Robert Hall – despite living here for 10 years – never learned French.) For years the Halls had been trying to get an ambitious golf project off the ground. They wanted to turn the chateau into an 18-hole golf resort with holiday cottages. That’s presumably what the file resting on the chair was all about, Mayor Sourdain says.

“It would have happened, too,” he says. “They would have made it happen. That’s the kind of man Robert Hall was.” He pauses and says, wistfully, “It would have been so good for the region.” There’s a short silence. Then he says, less confidently, “I’m sure it would have happened.”

On the evening of 4 September, Sourdain got a call from the gendarmes – something had happened at the château. It is a French custom for the gendarmes to call the mayor, as the representative of the people, to the scene of a crime or a terrible accident. He arrived to see the oldest son, Christopher, 22, with the gendarmes as they stood in protective suits breaking up a big block of concrete. Robert Hall was inside the house, crying.

[…]

Robert Hall had told the gendarmes that 24 hours earlier he’d had a drunken argument with Joanne during which she accidently fell, hit her head, and died. Then, during the hours that followed, he set her body on fire, put her remains into a builder’s bag, poured in concrete and hauled it on to the back of a lorry. All this happened behind the house, near the back gate, next to a row of half-built holiday cottages.

[…]

Catherine Denis, from the prosecutor’s office in Rennes, told a press conference later that week that when the gendarmes asked Robert why he burned Joanne’s body and encased her remains in concrete, he explained that she’d always said she wanted to be cremated and laid to rest in a mausoleum and he was simply respecting her wishes, albeit in a somewhat informal way.

The BFF is siding with the husband and says he was only carrying out his wife’s wishes, er, should she ever fall and die accidentally.  Something to think about when you write that prenup.

Just posted on Twitter, video of a girl arrested at a Metro station.  It’s hard to tell what it is that she did that provoked this kind of response.  It looks like she had an argument with a cop, he told her to leave, she said something rude as she turned around to go and he tackled her.  I gotta say that it looks very bad when a big strong guy is pinning a girl to the ground and her dress is hiked up above her pants and she’s struggling in vain to cover her butt and all the asshole dude can say is “Stop resisting”.  It is apparently now a crime to try to preserve your modesty.

And now for something completely different:

Bohemian Rhapsody for Four Violins.  (The global elite dudes would probably argue that the chinese can do this with half a violinist)

What kind of jobs are we talking about, anyway?


So I see this headline at Memeorandum:

Harvard Economist Estimates Health Repeal Would Destroy Up To 400,000 Jobs Per Year Over Decade

Just as House Republicans gear up to repeal the “job killing” Affordable Care Act, the Department of Labor is reporting that the U.S. economy added 103,000 jobs last month, pushing the jobless rate down to a 19-month low of 9.4 percent.

In fact, since President Obama signed health reform into law on March 23, 2010, the economy has created approximately a total of 1.1 million new jobs in the private sector. One-fifth of the new jobs — over 200,000 — have been in the health care industry.

Here is the report of Harvard economist David M. Cutler

Any proposal that adds $200 billion to our medical spending after a decade will have enormous economic implications. The employment impacts of health care repeal will be particularly severe because many of these costs will fall on businesses. As we’ve already seen, employers facing higher health costs will hire fewer people, lay workers off, and pay lower wages.

To estimate these employment impacts, I followed the methodology of myself and Neeraj Sood.13 That paper took estimates of the medical spending change associated with health reform and combined that with the econometric model of Sood, Arkadipta Ghosh, and José Escarce that estimated the employment impacts of changes in medical costs. I use the model to estimate the employment impact of repealing reform.

Figure 3 shows the net impact of repealing health reform on total employment. The baseline estimates show that 250,000 jobs will be lost annually if health reform is repealed. Annual job losses would average 400,000 using the greater estimate of 1.5 percentage point cost increases annually resulting from repeal. Figure 4 shows the estimated employment change by industry in 2016 (omitting health care, which will have more employment). More than 200,000 jobs will be lost in manufacturing and nearly 900,000 jobs will be lost in nonhealth care services.

I’m no bean counter but I got a few problems with this story. First of all, what kind of jobs are these 200,000 new jobs in the health care industry? Are they doctors and nurses? Or are they paper-pushers who process health insurance claims? Seems to me we’ve had a chronic shortage of nurses for decades and I haven’t heard of any problem with unemployed doctors.

The second problem I have is the assumption that higher health care costs will cause employers to hire fewer people. It seems to me that a more likely response would be for employers to stop providing health insurance. I’m not saying that would be a good thing, I’m just questioning the assumption upon which Cutler’s numbers are based.

I believe that Obamacare is a bad program. Not only that but it’s politically unpopular now and that will only get worse. Worst of all, it’s a Republican plan that the Democrats will be blamed for enacting.

We’re seeing a lot of conflicting claims right now about what effect repealing Obamacare would have on the federal budget. Democrats are claiming that Obamacare will reduce the deficit by $230 billion while Republicans are claiming that repealing it would reduce government spending by $540 billion.

Both are telling the truth, sort of:

CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) have not yet developed a detailed estimate of the budgetary impact of H.R. 2, the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act, which would repeal the major health care legislation enacted in March 2010. Yesterday, we released a preliminary analysis of that legislation indicating that, over the 2012-2021 period, the effect of enacting H.R. 2 on the federal budget as a result of changes in direct spending and revenues is likely to be an increase in deficits in the vicinity of $230 billion, plus or minus the effects of forthcoming technical and economic changes to CBO’s and JCT’s projections for that period.

We have been asked to provide the revenue and direct spending components of that total. Extrapolating the estimated budgetary effects of the original health care legislation and accounting for the effects of subsequent legislation, CBO anticipates that enacting H.R. 2 would probably yield, for the 2012-2021 period, a reduction in revenues in the neighborhood of $770 billion and a reduction in outlays in the vicinity of $540 billion, plus or minus the effects of forthcoming technical and economic changes to CBO’s and JCT’s projections.

A recent Gallup poll shows that 46 percent of the country wants to repeal Obamacare and 40 percent say they want to keep it. Calling the general public stupid is a really popular pastime in the blogosphere but how are voters supposed to make informed choices if neither side will be completely honest?

Here at The Confluence we take pride in being Independent Liberals. We don’t feel any need to defend or support any party. We deal with the truth, even when it’s inconvenient. We’re not always right but we don’t fudge numbers or spin facts.