I read the Huffington Post almost every day. Niall Ferguson has written three attacks on Paul Krugman which have appeared in that publication which has me wondering about what’s going on? I was under the impression that Ferguson’s hit piece on Obama has been so awful that his credibility had taken a substantial hit but apparently not a substantial enough hit for the Huffpost not to publish him. I find Ferguson’s beliefs appalling, his attacks on Krugman ridiculous and I am pleased that so many are firing back at Ferguson’s attacks. Here is one from the web site, Beat the Press.
The Ravings of Niall Ferguson, the Real World, and the Needless Suffering of Tens of Millions | Beat the Press
But it is hardly worth wasting time and killing electrons in a tit for tat with Ferguson. What matters is the underlying issues of economic policy. These affect the lives of billions of people. The absurdities pushed by Ferguson and like-minded people in positions of power, in direct defiance of massive evidence to the contrary, have ruined millions of lives and cost the world more than $10 trillion in lost output since the crisis began.
First, contrary to what Ferguson claims, the downturn is not primarily a “financial crisis.” The story of the downturn is a simple story of a collapsed housing bubble. The $8 trillion housing bubble was driving demand in the U.S. economy in the last decade until it collapsed in 2007. When the bubble burst we lost more than 4 percentage points of GDP worth of demand due to a plunge in residential construction. We lost roughly the same amount of demand due to a falloff in consumption associated with the disappearance of $8 trillion in housing wealth. (FWIW, none of this was a surprise to folks who follow the economy with their eyes open. I warned of this disaster beginning in 2002, see also here and here.)
The collapse of the bubble created a hole in annual demand equal to 8 percent of GDP%
Four Percent of Americans think that the U.S. is winning the war on drugs.
The number of Americans who support the War on Drugs is getting lower and lower. In the most recent poll by Rasmussen, only four percent said they think the United States is winning the War on Drugs. That’s down from 7 percent in November. The number who think the United States is losing remains steady at an overwhelming 82 percent, with 13 percent undecided.
The so-called “War on Drugs” declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, has turned out to be an expensive and violent international prohibition endeavor, that, more than 40 years later, is partially to blame for the United States’ bloated prison population.
Americans continue to overwhelmingly believe the so-called war on drugs is failing, but they are more divided on how much the United States should be spending on it.
Just four percent (4%) of American Adults believe the United States is winning the war on drugs, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Eighty-two percent (82%) disagree. Another 13% are undecided.
I’m puzzled. Four percent still don’t get it? Did they misread the question?
Of course, it is important to note how many Americans do get it, do realize that this is a doomed endeavor that on any cost benefit analysis has been a loser for a very long time.
We’ve packed prisons that we built with desperately needed tax fund. Tax funds that were diverted from colleges, universities, schools, roads, parks, social services, etc. We’ve taken our police who we have taught our children should be treated as friends and transformed then into semi-mercenaries dressed like commandoes in a B move. Kevlar armored, camouflage uniformed, black helmeted, soldiers carrying automatic weapons do not conjure up pictures of Andy Griffith as sheriff of Mayberry. They look remarkably like soldiers on a mission. That’s not police or policing.
You see, police work with the support of the public. They defend and serve. When talking to regular citizens who are not committing crimes they are respectful and can even be kind.
Soldiers maintain order and their power doesn’t come from respect except the respect accorded the barrel of a gun. They don’t talk to you. They order you.
The war on Drugs intensified during the Nixon Era.
In 2010, about 200 million people took illegal drugs. The numbers have remained relatively constant for years, as has the estimated annual volume of drugs produced worldwide: 40,000 tons of marijuana, 800 tons of cocaine and 500 tons of heroin. What has increased, however, is the cost of this endless war.
In the early 1970s, the Nixon administration pumped about $100 million into drug control. Today, under President Barack Obama, that figure is $15 billion — more than 30 times as much when adjusted for inflation. There is even a rough estimate of the direct and indirect costs of the 40-plus years of the drug war: $1 trillion in the United States alone.
In Mexico, some 60,000 people have died in the drug war in the last six years. US prisons are full of marijuana smokers, the Taliban in Afghanistan still use drug money to pay for their weapons, and experts say China is the drug country of the future.
From the web site, What’s the Truth? (I used almost half the post and I fell guilty about using that much. I hope the site owner will cut me some slack!)
Let me start this out by saying I don’t do drugs, I have no interest in doing drugs. With that said, it is none of our business if other people want to do drugs. Whether their drug is alcohol, weed, or even the heavier stuff, the fact remains they made a choice to do them, and the we can not tell them how to live their private life. When the only victim of the crime is the person committing the crime, it isn’t a crime. That’s would be like saying eating too much is a crime.
According to the federal database on crime, in 2011, over 20% of the people in jail were there for either drug possession or drug distribution.
Percentage of State and Federal Prisoners
1/5 of the prison population are in there for a victim-less crime. There were over 2 million people in total incarcerated in 2011. 1/5 of 2 million is 400 thousand. According to this chart it costs on average about $47,000 to jail each prisoner. So if you do the math, that means America spent over $18 BILLION on non violent, victim-less crimes. Seems like a waste to me. Prisons shouldn’t be used for social engineering. You cant use it to change people, and scare them out of using drugs. Despite the threat of jail time over 15 Million still smoke weed. Now some of those people smoke weed for medical reasons, but a lot of them smoke for recreation. Clearly people aren’t threatened by the idea of going to jail.
From the web site, The Fix. ( I, too, fine the militarization of the police and the use of military forces for police work to be troubling phenomenon. When does the defender of the public become a soldier and what does that imply for we, the citizens?)
When 150 New York state troopers, U.S. Marshalls and local city police officers rounded up 52 suspects in a massive multi-city drug raid in the early morning hours of Tuesday, March 27; five members of the New York National Guard Counterdrug Task Force gave themselves a silent pat on the back for a job well done.
The New York National Guard provides law enforcement agencies with equipment and staff to help with intelligence and surveillance. According to the NGCTF website (yes, they have a website), they’ve assisted in raids that have confiscated about $68 million of cash and contraband, and led to the arrest of “just under” 950 people. That yields about $72,000 per person arrested. This assistance includes the use of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft equipped with infrared cameras. Infrared cameras use heat emitted by objects to create an image. Heat signatures can give away the location of drug labs, grow operations, and illegal plants hidden amongst legal crops.
Low-Wage Workers Feel Worse Off Now Than During Recession: Survey
The survey revealed that many people at the lowest rung in the workplace view their jobs as a dead end. Half were “not too” or “not at all” confident that their jobs would help them achieve long-term career goals. And only 41 percent of workers at the same place for more than a decade reported ever receiving a promotion.
Yet 44 percent of employers surveyed said it’s hard to recruit people with appropriate skills or experiences to do lower-wage jobs, particularly in manufacturing (54 percent). While 88 percent of employers said they were investing in training and education for employee advancement, awareness and use of such programs among the lower-wage workers was only modest.
Although President Barack Obama made it a national goal to “equip our citizens with the skills and training” to compete for good jobs, the survey shows a U.S. workforce that has grown increasingly polarized, with workers and their bosses seeing many things differently.
Seventy-two percent of employers at big companies and 58 percent at small ones say there is a “great deal” or “some” opportunity for worker advancement. But, asked the same question, 67 percent of all low-wage workers said they saw “a little” or “no opportunity” at their jobs for advancement.
Banks thrive, while homeowners still suffer | The Great Debate
A year ago the federal government and 49 states completed a $25 billion agreement with the nation’s largest mortgage servicers to settle claims of “robo-signing” and unlawful foreclosure practices. President Barack Obama announced the creation of the federal-state mortgage securities working group in his 2012 State of the Union address. The nation seemed on the verge of transforming the way banks treat struggling homeowners ‑ particularly those with “underwater” mortgages, in which a homeowner owes more than the house is worth.
These promises, however, have yet to be fulfilled. The latest interim report on the national mortgage settlement is due out this week, and banks will likely again declare that it offers proof that they are fulfilling their obligations. But the communities hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis have yet to see any meaningful relief.
Time is running out to ensure that these communities receive their fair share under the settlement. But it is not too late to provide meaningful assistance. The settlement monitors need to demand greater transparency from banks, and they need to see that banks comply with the fair-lending requirements set out in the agreement. They also need to aggressively police the servicing reforms to ensure that all homeowners get a fair opportunity to save their homes.
Unfortunately, there is little transparency about how the banks are using this money. They have not provided any loan-level data to show which borrowers are receiving assistance.
Moreover, mortgage servicers have complete discretion over who receives help. Advocates fear the banks have been cherry-picking expensive loans that are deeply underwater to meet their settlement obligations quickly. This provides an important service for the borrowers in that category but little systematic relief for low- and moderate-income communities suffering the most from the foreclosure crisis.
The mortgage holders committed fraud for years making billions of dollars taking homes they had little or no claim to. They used the HAMP program as a weapon against homeowners, telling them to skip three payments so as to be able to qualify, then rejecting their applications or not bothering to even process them (not that we’ll ever know in most cases, the HAMP program kept no records for the first two years) and then quickly foreclosing on their homes. I’ve had students in my classes who were victims of that scam.
Instead of holding the perpetrators of these crimes accountable they were “sort of” fined 25 billion dollars through a program they administer and report on without effective oversight. Let me repeat that – they, the banks, administer the program to give back some of the money and homes they stole. Oh, forgive me, they are not giving the homes back just some money should they feel in some way that they want to because if they don’t want to, they don’t have to.
That is what passes for justice in the current administration and the 49 states that the bankers negotiated this sweetheart deal with. Crime pays in the United States if you are a banker dealing mortgages.
They stole billions of dollars worth of homes. They in an epic display of arrogance created a parallel system of recording deeds without any legal justification purely to expedite trading of mortgages and to evade filing fees. They lied to judges all over the United States in countless jurisdictions filing tens of thousands of false affidavits saying that their paperwork, their proof of ownership was in order.
These are crimes, not mistakes, crimes.
If I stole through fraud the least home in the land, I would and should do prison time. No one has been sentenced for these crimes. Without prison time, fines, that are a fraction of the money made, are the only deterrent. Is that enough? Does that make sense?
Two systems of justice – one for the bankers and one for regular citizens, the “common” folk, the ones without political friends; the ones that don’t have the right memberships, the right bank accounts, the right lives lived in the adoration of business television and magazines.
We discussed in my class on business law and business ethics what it takes to build a good society. One of the thoughts was to reward virtue and penalize wrong doing. What kind of society does this build?
Kamala Harris is right: we need a Homeowners Bill of Rights, and the banks, like it or not and they don’t, need good, strong regulations to control them. These two items are bare minimums. As for giving the money to individual homeowners, if it does happen, the amounts will be small because the numbers involved are so large. Better to allocate some money to homeowners’ advocacy and education groups.
The five mortgage companies who are part of the settlement are Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, GMAC/Ally Financial, and Citibank. While HUD estimates that 2 million homeowners could see their mortgage balances reduced, it will be up to the five banks to determine which homeowners will be included in the program. In addition, payments of between $1500 and $2000 will be paid to people who lost a home to foreclosure between 2008 and 2011, so long as certain criteria are met. The factsheet does not explain the criteria necessary for those people to qualify.
A major impediment to mortgage modifications is the bank practice of “dual tracking” mortgages. When a mortgage is dual tracked the bank pursues foreclosure while at the same time allowing the home owner to pursue a modification. The problem with this is that in spite of an eminent, or completed modification the bank will still sell a home at sale leaving the owner homeless.
Since Romney Raised the Issue of Freeloaders, What Is Erskine Bowles? | Beat the Press
Since we seem destined to have a national debate on the topic of government freeloaders in the wake of the Romney fundraising video, it might be worth asking how we think about someone getting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for sitting on a corporate board for which they did little obvious work. Erskine Bowles, a possible future Treasury Secretary, is of course the poster child for such people.
Mr. Bowles has earned millions of dollars sitting on corporate boards over the last decade. The stock prices of the companies on whose boards he sat have mostly plummeted. Since 2003 the Erskine Bowles stock index has lost more than one third of its value. By comparison, the S&P 500 has risen by more than 50 percent. If Mr. Bowles was trying to serve shareholders, he has not done a very good job.
Dean Baker writing in his blog, Beat the Press, wonders who the definition of freeloader fits most. It is not flattering to Mr. Bowles.
“Beat the Press” is the first web site I read when I get up in the morning. If you are bored with the nonsensical claims of economists who have affiliated themselves with the malefactors of great wealth, Mr. Baker is the man for you. He is independent, intellectual and speaks the language of economics in a way a layman can appreciate.
Barack Obama and the limitations of probabilistic decision making | Felix Salmon
For Obama, if a decision doesn’t work out, he’s OK with that, since he reckons there’s a statistical certainty that a good third of his decisions will fail to work out. And he takes solace in the idea that so long as the process of arriving at the decision was a good one, by which he means that it was properly technocratic and probabilistic, then he did the best that he could have done.
But that kind of decision-making framework leaves very little room for ideals — for actually putting into practice the kind of vision you have for America. By making decisions on a case-by-case basis, you can end up missing out on building something bigger and much more coherent. In 2008, America voted for a man who was truly excellent at staring into the distance, a man looking at the big picture, and at a centuries-long legacy. Instead, hampered by the financial crisis and by a dysfunctional Congress, they got a man who spends his days weighing success probabilities: a tactician, rather than a strategist.
“Little room for ideals:” Exactly, the President lacks the desire to fight on moral or ethical grounds but governs based on some kind of intellectual calculus, a bloodless exercise in which losses are measured in much the same way as a a lost chess game.
Mr. Salmon hit on something I have long suspected, and I very much wish both he and I were wrong but we are not. The President lives in a world devoid of ethical calculus. He lives by the probability of the possible. We voted for a new direction for American democracy, a different vision, but we got a President who cannot envision a different reality – only manipulate the current one.
US Politics | AMERICAblog News: ObamaCare: A personal note
Without Obamacare 99% of the country is just one lost job, one medical emergency away from bankruptcy. And one frequently follows from the other.
Without insurance our family medical bill is in excess of $60,000 a year. That is a very large chunk of change even if you are a borderline 1%-er. It means that I have to continue to work just to keep our family health insurance. And not any job, it has to be a job with health care benefits.
I am in a similar position. My wife and I have separated and when our divorce goes through I will lose the health insurance I get from her job. Thus, I need to start looking for a job with health care benefits. I live in a nation where living without health care is considered by some to be a privilege. Great.
Mitt Romney: Liar, liar, pants on fire. Said he didn’t care about poor people, now brushes it off as “I misspoke” « Ethics Bob
(Here’s a representative paragraph. jp)
But appearing so heartless can be costly to a Presidential candidate. So Romney tried to lie his way out of it, saying he misspoke. But he didn’t misspeak. Misspeaking is when I call my granddaughter by her sister’s name. Misspeaking is when John McCain tells a Romney gathering that he’s confident that President Obama will cure the nation’s ills. Misspeaking is not saying something, then when challenged explaining what you said. He didn’t misspeak.
Ethics Bob is holding Romney to the standard of truth.
I also found Romney’s original statement much more credible than his later correction. The conviction that he worked hard and others have not making them unworthy is part of his make up. Otherwise his overwhelming sense of entitlement would make no sense to him.
I do not believe that the struggles and the pain of American workers and the middle class have any relevance to him. His devotion is only to the comically titled, “job creators.”
Big banks have picked their candidate, and it’s Romney – from McClatchy
“We’ve seen a massive shift from Obama to the Republican candidates on the part of the financial industry,” said Carmen Balber of Consumer Watchdog, a California nonprofit that advocates for taxpayers and consumers. “Obviously, part of that has to do with a competitive primary. But we’ve definitely seen the financial services industry publicly chastise the president for going after financial reform.”
Isn’t this sweet? Barack Obama bails out the banks, protects them from prosecution for their crimes, installs banking industry figures in virtually every possible position in the government, pretended that the mortgage crisis wasn’t happening and was careful to give only the most measured criticism of the financial industry and the 1% – and his reward is massive contributions to this likely opponent.
For all of his compromise, for all of his favoritism, for all of his abandonment of the goals of justice and accountability, the President got less than nothing.
This was hardly unpredictable. The dramatic reactions of the wealthy investment to class to Obama’s mile criticism, the weak legislation of Dodd-Frank financial reform law, and the Occupy Wall Street movement demonstrated that Wall Street’s sense of entitlement and worthiness is fragile at the very least.
A White House official said Obama has taken the housing crisis seriously since the start of his term and will look to augment the effort in the months ahead.
“From day one the President has worked to stabilize the housing market and help responsible homeowners stay in their homes, including through refinancing efforts, foreclosure prevention programs and programs directed at the hardest hit states,” said White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage.
“The President will continue to expand on these efforts and look at new ways to help homeowners, just as he has over the past few months with new programs to help underwater homeowners and expanding forbearance so more unemployed homeowners can stay in their homes,” she said.
I wish that were true. I wish the mortgage crisis had been an important concern for the White House but it has not been a concern and is unlikely to become one.
When the President was first elected he had large majorities in both the House and Senate. He could have made mortgage foreclosures a priority instead he created TARP, a plan which did not allow for mortgages to be reduced in line with reduced home values but only extended the time for payment. The banks used this program as a club to expedite foreclosure. They told clients to skip payments for three months to qualify for the program, then foreclosed on them telling them they had decided they were ineligible. The government didn’t even keep records of what the program was doing for the first year.
When the robo-signing scandals began, the federal government did nothing. When the scandal expanded to impugn the record keeping and practices of several large banks, the federal government did nothing.
And now the federal government attempts to cut a sweetheart deal with the industry so that they can evade any legal responsibility for their acts while, in theory, bringing some minimal aid to homeowners.
This administration has always been far more a servant of the banks than a servant of the people. I want as many State Attorney Generals as possible to no longer cooperate with the administration and pursue their own negotiations with the financial industry. That will mean that justice at least has a chance of being served.