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Monday, June 13, 2011

Practical Government

The more I think about a short description for my political positions, the more I come back to this idea: practical.  Especially in the issue of public v. private.

For some folks, it's a matter of principle that the government should do least, letting the private or charitable sectors handle the rest.  But what happens when the private sector (contrary to our conventional wisdom) is not the most cost-effective (let alone effective)?

Take health care. We know that we can do health care more cheaply with a public system (Medicare) than with a private one (Medicare Advantage, etc.). So rather than waste economic resources on private health care, let's create a public health care system and re-dedicate our savings to a more useful economic pursuit.

There are some other great examples.  Publicly-provided education loans leave fewer students in default of their debts (and more able to take risks, be entrepreneurial, and buy things), as well as costing taxpayers less money.

Community-owned broadband networks deliver superior services at costs below what the private sector does, and the high quality and low cost create massive economic multipliers as the private sector takes advantage of the better public infrastructure.

Government is often better than the private sector, especially for essential services and the basic infrastructure of a market economy.  It's time we made better choices about when to use it.

Monday, June 06, 2011

How the media fail to stop rumors

They did it with ACORN, which lost federal funding despite being cleared on all counts of the allegations trumpted by FOX News.  Now Planned Parenthood is getting the rumor mill treatment and the media is helping.  From Minnpost, a headline saying that "Bachmann says..."

There's absolutely no way that Rep. Bachmann should ever get a headline like that.  She lies.  A lot.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Whither economic justice?

Not only has the last decade been remarkable for its lack of economic growth, but it's been even worse for the middle class.  The growth of middle class wages over the past ten years has been just 4 percent, total.  That's 1 percentage point less than the period 1929-39 (the Great Depression).

And the economic problems continue for the middle class:
Almost 14 million Americans are jobless, and millions more are stuck with part-time work or jobs that fail to use their skills.
And employment has not really improved since the start of the recession.  Rather, the employment:population ratio has fallen 5 percentage points and has not recovered any ground:

To make matters worse, the social safety net has been eroded significantly compared to earlier recessions, thanks to "welfare reform" in the 1990s.  Rather than move families to work, welfare reform has simply dropped them through the cracks and made the poor poorer by allowing states to shift from cash assistance to the poor to other services.

What else do we know about the economic distress of the middle class?  Well, workers at the bottom are not only struggling to stay employed, but also struggling to maintain their pay.  Service workers at Minnesota grocery chains have seen wages fall 25 percent in recent years.

There are other broader problems for the middle class.  Take these two items from the 20 things everyone should know about inequality (hat tip Economist's View).  One, unions helped maintain private sector wages (and middle class living standards):

And second, upward mobility is declining, putting the American dream further out of reach for many Americans.

Ultimately, unemployment is a political failure, with one major party committed to policies that actively reduce middle class welfare (Republicans) and the other abdicating its commitment and instead focusing on the deficit bogeyman (which is also a political will problem of paying our bills).  While traditional strategies have been employed, if insufficiently (an economic stimulus), Krugman notes that there are a number of other strategies that could be deployed to get Americans back to work.

It's a absolute shame that lawmakers are more focused on the largely fabricated deficit issue rather than the ongoing economic crisis.  JOBS!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Feeling dumb

Had a problem months ago with variable volume when typing on my iPhone.  Thought it must be a software problem and did a lot of forum searching.  Just realized yesterday that I put my pinky finger under the phone to hold it up when I type in portrait mode, right over the external speaker.