TGIFriday ReadsPosted: February 25, 2011
Well, I didn’t make it to the Gulf Coast because I got stuck editing an intro for a journal at the last minute. I’ll have to try again. It just seems like so many things just keep springing up all over the place these days.
David Cay Johnston of Tax.com has a real eye opener up today on who actually contributes to the pension plans of state workers in Wisconsin. Here’s a death knell for a meme. The question is this however. Will any one bother to hear it?
Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’ s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.
How can that be? Because the “contributions” consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages – as pensions when they retire – rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services.
Thus, state workers are not being asked to simply “contribute more” to Wisconsin’ s retirement system (or as the argument goes, “pay their fair share” of retirement costs as do employees in Wisconsin’ s private sector who still have pensions and health insurance). They are being asked to accept a cut in their salaries so that the state of Wisconsin can use the money to fill the hole left by tax cuts and reduced audits of corporations in Wisconsin.
The labor agreements show that the pension plan money is part of the total negotiated compensation. The key phrase, in those agreements I read (emphasis added), is: “The Employer shall contribute on behalf of the employee.” This shows that this is just divvying up the total compensation package, so much for cash wages, so much for paid vacations, so much for retirement, etc.
The collective bargaining agreements for prosecutors, cops and scientists are all on-line.
Reporters should sit down, get a cup of coffee and read them. And then they could take what they learn, and what the state website says about fringe benefits, to Gov. Walker and challenge his assumptions.
Here’s one time I’m going to agree with Goldman Sachs. If we cut federal spending the way Boehner and his cronies want to cut it, we’re going to shrink the economy. Recession any one?
Spending cuts approved by House Republicans would act as a drag on the U.S. economy, according to a Wall Street analysis that put new pressure on the political debate in Washington.
The report by the investment firm Goldman Sachs said the cuts would reduce the growth in gross domestic product by up to 2 percentage points this year, essentially cutting in half the nation’s projected economic growth for 2011.
The analysis, prepared for the firm’s clients, represents the first independent economic assessment of the congressional budget fight, which could lead to a government shutdown as early as next week.
Nonetheless, Republicans are unlikely to easily retreat from their insistence on more than $60 billion in reductions in federal spending as a condition of continuing funding for the government through the rest of the year.
A spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said the Goldman Sachs report represented “the same outdated Washington mind-set,” comparing it to the thinking behind the 2009 Recovery Act that released federal funds to counter the effects of the recession.
Republicans live in their own private Washington, I swear. I’ve never seen a bunch of people so clueless about so many things. Here’s a good poll showing why they get away with what they get away with … seems like about 1/4 of our population is pretty damned stupid.
I am seldom surprised by our poll findings, but this month’s tracking poll produced a doozy. Twenty-two percent of the American people think the Affordable Care Act has been repealed, and another 26 percent aren’t sure. Those are surprisingly large numbers even with the 52 percent who still know it is the law of the land.
How could a repeal “vote” in the House — however dramatic but still, only symbolic — be misunderstood as an actual repeal by so many Americans?
First, people are very busy just getting through the day and they don’t have a lot of time to sort through news reports about the policy making process. They see the word “repeal” in the local paper or hear it on TV and think the law has been repealed. Second, there may be some partisan wishful thinking going on; 30 percent of Republicans think the law has been repealed while only 12 percent of Democrats do. But overall, it is obvious that the knowledge of basic civics is pretty low. Maybe it’s because “Schoolhouse Rock” is no longer airing on Saturday morning TV explaining how government works.
If they’re misinformed, they likely get their news from Fox and Roger Ailes. There was more on the make up the news as you go along cable network in the NYT today: “Fox News Chief, Roger Ailes, Urged Employee to Lie, Records Show”. That’s quite a headline. But, the headline appears justifiable since it’s been revealed there’s a tape of Ailes saying just that to Judith Regan. Read the entire article. It’s tawdry and full of intrigue. I can’t wait to see the movie.
Now, court documents filed in a lawsuit make clear whom Ms. Regan was accusing of urging her to lie: Roger E. Ailes, the powerful chairman of Fox News and a longtime friend of Mr. Giuliani. What is more, the documents say that Ms. Regan taped the telephone call from Mr. Ailes in which Mr. Ailes discussed her relationship with Mr. Kerik.
It is unclear whether the existence of the tape played a role in News Corporation’s decision to move quickly to settle a wrongful termination suit filed by Ms. Regan, paying her $10.75 million in a confidential settlement reached two months after she filed it in 2007.
Depending on the specifics, the taped conversation could possibly rise to the level of conspiring to lie to federal officials, a federal crime, but prosecutors rarely pursue such cases, said Daniel C. Richman, a Columbia University law professor and a former federal prosecutor.
If you’re like me and you’re still trying to dissect the last financial sector crisis, you should check out “Four Fallacies of the Crisis” over at Project Syndicate by Jagdish Bhagwati. This was my personal favorite.
Some critics of Obama’s Keynesian stimulus spending, among them the economist Jeffrey Sachs, claim that what the US needs is “long-term” productivity-enhancing spending. But this is a non sequitur. As a Keynesian, I believe that the state paying people to dig holes and then fill them up would increase aggregate demand and produce more income. But Keynes was no fool. He understood that the government could eventually get huge returns if the money was spent on productivity-enhancing investments rather than on “directly wasteful” expenditure-increasing activities.
The question, then, is simple: which investments offer the greatest economic payoffs? But it is also fraught: when your bridges are collapsing, your school buildings are in disrepair, teachers are underpaid and have no incentive to be efficient, and much else needs money, it is not easy to decide where scarce money should be spent.
But one “structural” consideration is not well understood. Given the need to cut the deficit in the future and the need to increase it now in order to revive the economy, the problem facing Obama is how to shift smoothly from top gear into reverse. Clearly, the lesson is that governments need to attach less weight to spending that cannot one day be cut.
This was brought home to me when I saw an unfinished high-rise building in Osaka. A relic of the bust that
followed Japan’s real-estate boom two decades ago, it became known as the Tower of Bubble.
Nothing like the visual of a Tower of Bubble to bring on the urge for another cup of coffee.
So, this is interesting. Remember when reporters asked for the White House visitors log to figure out which lobbyists were coming and going? Now, it seems, the meetings are being held offsite and therefore, off the list.
Caught between their boss’ anti-lobbyist rhetoric and the reality of governing, President Barack Obama’s aides often steer meetings with lobbyists to a complex just off the White House grounds — and several of the lobbyists involved say they believe the choice of venue is no accident.