The Dakini’s Liberal Report Card for Obama’s First 100 Days

donkeyI always give my class my grading rubric before handing out any grades.  That way they know when I consider their performance it’s based on certain things that I expect of them.  It’s only right to let them know what you expect ahead of time so there are no surprises on the final report.  So, in that spirit, here’s my suggested list for items that a real liberal would accomplish in their first 100 Days.  Do you suppose we’ll see any of them in Obama’s first 100 days?

1) Get the troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq. No more use of American troops for nation building and no more supporting Donald Rumsfeld’s ‘Lean Forward’ Policy.  Those folks don’t want us there, we shouldn’t have been there in the first place. We need to leave ASAP.

2) Provide real Economic Stimulus in place of trickle down economics. Get rid of the majority of those tax cuts in the stimulus package which appear to be more Grover Norquist than J. M. Keynes. Let’s do the math so get out your calculator.  (All those from those detractor sites that call me a Republican for being less than enthusiastic about President Reagan-Redux can use their fingers and toes.  It’ll stop you from dragging your knuckles along the floor as you lurch backwards, so be careful.) My bottom line comes to this:  $145 billion for low and middle, $580 billion for high and “other” per numbers from CNN money.

“Roughly $145 billion of the tax bill would be allocated for a tax cut for low- and middle-income workers.

There’s $130 billion in the other category. By far, the largest amount and percentage goes to big business and rich folks. President  Obama should be held to account first for his broken campaign-promise about repealing tax-cuts for incomes over $250K then we should scream  because this package has more for $ high and other than it does for low and middle. That’s even forgetting the massive transfer of wealth going on from the Federal Reserve bailout of the banks. So let’s review:

Low or middle income tax-cuts = $145 billion.

High income tax-cuts = $450 billion.

And other cuts = $130 billion.

So, at least $450 billion dollars of those tax cuts should be replaced with infrastructure spending or something a bit more FDR- like in my book.  Senators!  The ball’s in your court right now.  Make the President live up to his teleprompter promises!

3.  Get rid of the Patriot Act and get FISA right. Last time I checked it wasn’t very progressive to spy on journalists, American citizens and violate upteen different clauses of the constitution in the name of a war against terror.  But then, I’m not the constitutional lawyer, I’m just an economist.

4.  Declare complete support for the Geneva convention along with pledge to never use any form of torture. While there is some movement towards closing Gitmo, I’d like to hear a speech and see a written executive order saying that the US condemns and will not practice any forms of torture disallowed by the Geneva convention.

5. Restore Reproductive Freedom at all levels. This would include restoring support to our service women abroad and to poor women. It would also immediately reverse all those last minute edicts that let practitioners of women’s health opt out  of providing health services because the flying spaghetti monster spoke in their ears and said dont’ do it.  (Removing the global gag rule was a good first baby step, but so much more work is needed here that it hardly counts as progress.)  Remove all barriers that undercut access to birth control, family planning services, and  abortion.

6. Put us back on the road for the Kyoto Protocal. Get the thing signed and ratified.  Put Al Gore on it if you have to as another czar, special envoy or whatever.  Just do it!

7.  Make Progress towards Universal Healthcare. This is just basic common sense.  Just watching the US freefall again on the Human Development Index this year should give you enough ammunition to start this process.  EVERY OTHER DEVELOPED nation is ahead of us in most standards of national social welfare because of our refusal to do this. Do it now!

8. Get the TARP right! Bailing out banks and high powered brokerages firms is not solving the problem. The root of this problem is in the mortgages.  Go back to the root and solve the problem.  We need something like the HOLC and Hillary and McCain had plans for it.  Stop focusing on the folks that funded your coronation and your campaign and start giving some real help to the little people that put their faith in you.  The liberal/progressive thing to do is to help the little guy, remember?

I actually could add to this list and it would include some big things like looking at social security and medicare, but since we’re talking 100 days, I’ll hold it to these items.  Got any to add?

When Will They EVER Learn?

adam-smith-pound-note200px-whiteandkeynesAs reported by today’s NY Times:

WASHINGTON — Without a single Republican vote, President Obama won House approval on Wednesday for an $819 billion economic recovery plan as Congressional Democrats sought to temper their own differences over the enormous package of tax cuts and spending.

There is just no end to the inability of politics to deal withan economic crisis of this proportion.   Despite packing the economic stimulus program with worthless tax cuts and yet another form of rebate,  the Obama administration failed to get a SINGLE republican congressman to vote for its stimulus plan.   Additionally, Obamasold out poor women’s expanded access to birth control in a blink of an eye for absolutely nothing.  Any one who has read any material on economic development knows that family planning plays an essential role in bringing nations and populations out of poverty and into the realm of human capital instead of human detritus.  However, the principle and lesson were handily tossed and as usual, children, women and the very poor will be kept in their place so some political bipartisan marketing can rule the day.   So now we have a less than adequate stimulus plan, packed with expensive little nothings that includes stuff that will NOT work and still not ONE Republican vote for the sell-out.  Way to go oh He-man agent of Change and Feminist in Chief! 

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Tax Cuts Don’t Cut It or Cure It!

The economics blogosphere is pretty lit up with discussion about Krugman’s latest Op Ed piece  questioning the motives of Republicans over the Obama Stimulus Package.  Believe me it was a joy to read Krugman call down John Boehner for spouting ‘dishonest flak’.  I also enjoyed reading Brad Delong  dispatch Ben Stein (a real economics midget) and John Cochrane (one of the supposed gods of finance) with such ease.  As I have often said here and they argue effectively in the links, there’s a big difference between using tax cuts and government spending for stimulus.  These discussions have pretty much been based on theory we teach first year econ students which makes Delong’s send off of THE John Cochrane even funnier.  Tax cuts just are not an effective way to get an economy off of a downward economic spiral caused by decreases in investment and household activity.  PERIOD.

But rather than rehash my previous pieces here or paraphrase Delong and Krugman, let me take a different track.  No theory this time for me.  I’m going to share with you a nice piece of empirical work by Larry Mishel that proves the point just as effectively.  Hello, Congressman Boehner!  We TRIED tax cuts to stimulate the economy just a few years ago in 2003.  Remember those?  And guess what?  THEY DIDN’T WORK!!!!!    Larry Mishel demonstrates quite effectively that the 2003 tax cuts for “Jobs and Growth” neither created jobs OR growth.

Tax cut approach has already been tried and failed as stimulus:…[The administration claimed t]he Bush tax cuts of 2003 … would generate 1.4 million jobs on top of the 4.1 million jobs that were expected to be generated over the eighteen months following June 2003. See [here]…

EPI tracked the initiative’s effectiveness through a website,, and found that it fell far short of its goals. Not only did the promised 1.4 million additional jobs not appear, but the 4.1 million jobs expected with no action also failed to materialize. In all, only 2.4 million jobs were created—1.7 million short of the administration’s projection without their new policy. Thus, by the Bush administration’s own metrics the tax cut program fell short by a total of 3.1 million jobs (149,000 pr month). For an analysis of how the Bush 2003 tax plan (The “Jobs and Growth” plan) fell short of its job claims see [here]…

On what basis can the conservatives who embraced those failed initiatives now claim that tax cuts are the best policy?

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Krugman Gets It Right Again

Two things stuck out in my mind when I finally read the inaugural speech written by Jon “the groper” Favreau. The first was didn’t some one get a fact checker for this kid or at the very least get him a calculator? (Turns out I wasn’t the only one that noticed this one, it hit immediately on the wire at MarketWatch.)

LONDON (MarketWatch) — Less than a minute into his presidency, Barack Obama committed his first gaffe. That’s wrong. Forty-three Americans, including Obama, have taken the oath of office.

The new president of the United States said in his inaugural address that “Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.”

Then I thought, well that’s nothing new considering how much Obama re-invented all kinds of history and things in the primaries: like we have fifty seven states, a great lake in Oregon, the US army liberated Auschwitz and on and on. But the second one really disturbed me because plagiarizing and paraphrasing great thinkers in a major speech without crediting them is just plain something one should not do. I wasn’t the only one who caught it. Economist and columnist Krugman caught it also. The prez’s economic meme was a wrangled and mangled copy of something the great economist John Maynard Keynes once wrote.

Or consider this statement from Mr. Obama: “Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.”

The first part of this passage was almost surely intended as a paraphrase of words that John Maynard Keynes wrote as the world was plunging into the Great Depression — and it was a great relief, after decades of knee-jerk denunciations of government, to hear a new president giving a shout-out to Keynes. “The resources of nature and men’s devices,” Keynes wrote, “are just as fertile and productive as they were. The rate of our progress towards solving the material problems of life is not less rapid. We are as capable as before of affording for everyone a high standard of life. … But today we have involved ourselves in a colossal muddle, having blundered in the control of a delicate machine, the working of which we do not understand.”

But something was lost in translation. Mr. Obama and Keynes both assert that we’re failing to make use of our economic capacity. But Keynes’s insight — that we’re in a “muddle” that needs to be fixed — somehow was replaced with standard we’re-all-at-fault, let’s-get-tough-on-ourselves boilerplate.

At least some body in the press didn’t overlook it this time. Krugman caught one more ripped off and just plain wrong idea that I missed. It appears our “new Era of Responsiblity” message came straight from what Dubya called for eight years ago. Oh, dear.

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Party like it’s 1929!

The economy may be in recession, but the Champagne flowed freely at Tuesday’s celebrations of the banker-piginauguration of Barack Obama — thanks in large part to donations from some movers and shakers on Wall Street.

Those figures don’t include the $124 million that federal, state and local governments are providing to pay for security and the official swearing-in ceremony.

The finance, insurance and real-estate industries have been at the center of the recent economic storm, but even so, people who work in those industries contributed at least $7.1 million to help fund the dozens of events and parties celebrating Mr. Obama’s official move into the White House, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington nonprofit group that studies money and politics.

That is more that a quarter of the $27 million of donations that have been disclosed so far by the Presidential Inauguration Committee, which estimates the festivities will cost about $45 million. That would make it the most expensive inauguration ever.

hooverbuttonThe market is below 8000 and the list of huge layoffs happening in industries around the country continues.  But hey, we got the nation’s most expensive party ever according to today’s New York Times where the headline read:  A Wounded Wall St. Helps Pay for Inauguration Bash.  I’m beginning to sense the fall of the Roman empire with Nero in charge of the chaos.  Of course, the top of the donor list included the the Uber Lord of the Under World, George Soros whose combined family donations came to $250,000.  Given an average family of four in the US doesn’t even live off of $50,000 a year and the total is about the average price of an average home, I’d have to say there are a lot of people being shunted towards Obamaville and other tent cities that would really appreciate a donation of that size for something other than a big party in their honor.

Let’s just highlight reality a moment and forget about the cost of designer ballroom dresses that would feed entire families for months.

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