Monday ReadsPosted: April 18, 2011 | |
I’ve almost gotten shy about going out to search for links these days. Most of the political and economic news is disheartening so I thought I’d try to mix it up today with some good stuff and disheartening stuff. Hopefully, you can find some things to share with us too.
You may want to start out your day arming yourself with “Five Myths about Planned Parenthood” in case any one in your sphere of influence starts spewing some of the ridiculous memes passed around by the right wing. This was in WAPO over the weekend and was written by Clare Coleman worked for America’s best known provider of family planning and health services. I liked number five.
Three million patients each year visit Planned Parenthood’s more than 800 health centers in every state, in big cities and small towns. In some areas, Planned Parenthood and the Title X-funded system are the only sexual health providers for hundreds of miles.
We screen people for high blood pressure, anemia and diabetes; we counsel them about smoking cessation and obesity; we connect them to other primary-care providers and social services. The huge response to the attack on family planning and on Planned Parenthood — hundreds of thousands of Americans signing petitions, showing up at rallies, calling Congress – is extraordinary. But it doesn’t surprise me. One in five American women has gone to Planned Parenthood at some point in her life, for respectful, compassionate, quality care. And now those Americans are going to have our back.
I feel like I’ve turned into an IMF groupie by putting up yet another link to them shortly after featuring one of their studies on the dominance of the finance sector, but here I go again. I do spend time gleaning data from their site so maybe it’s just that I keep bumping into things. The IMF says we have a Global Job Crisis.
At the end of his magnum opus, The General Theory, Keynes stated the following: “The outstanding faults of the economic society in which we live are its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes”.
Not everyone will agree with the entirety of this statement. But what we have learnt over time is that unemployment and inequality can undermine the very achievements of the market economy, by sowing the seeds of instability. In too many countries, the lack of economic opportunity can lead to unproductive activities, political instability, and even conflict. Just look at how the dangerous cocktail of unemployment and inequality—combined with political tension—is playing out in the Middle East and North Africa.
Because growth beset by social tensions is not conducive to economic and financial stability, the IMF cannot be indifferent to distribution issues. And when I look around today, I am concerned in this regard. For while recovery is here, growth—at least in the advanced economies—is not creating jobs and is not being shared broadly. Many people in many countries are facing a social crisis that is every bit as serious as the financial crisis.
Unemployment is at record levels. The crisis threw 30 million people out of work. And over 200 million people are looking for jobs all across the world today.
The jobs crisis is hitting the young especially hard. And what should have been a brief spell in unemployment is turning into a life sentence, possibly for a whole lost generation.
In too many countries, inequality is at record highs.
As we face these challenges, remember what we have accomplished. Under the umbrella of the G20, policymakers came together to avoid a financial freefall and probably a second Great Depression.
Today, we need a similar full force forward response in ensuring that we get the recovery we need. And that means not only a recovery that is sustainable and balanced among countries, but also one that brings employment and fair distribution.
This is part of a speech given by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund. He argues that financial sector reform is central to the problem of getting back on track. It’s worth reading the entire thing or you can watch the video here. Occasionally, I remember why I thought it was important to study economics. This is one of those times.
The so-called “Gang of Six” is still anxious to put social security on the bargaining table. I still can’t figure out why every time some politician wants to talk about the Federal Deficit--in this case Senator Mark Warner–they mistakenly include the stand-alone program.
Including Social Security in the Gang of Six package appears to be a concession by Democrats made in exchange for agreement to raise some revenue by Republicans. But liberals in the Senate and House have made clear they will not stand for any cuts to benefits.
The 2012 budget passed by the House on Friday does not include reforms for Social Security. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) instead called for a trigger in the budget whereby the president and Congress would have to propose solutions once the Board of Trustees certifies the program is in trouble. Presidet Obama in his 2012 budget and in a speech last week did not lay out plans to reform Social Security.
Warner said the Gang is “very close” to an agreement that includes spending cuts and tax increases such as be eliminating the home mortgage tax deduction.
“We are going to make everybody mad with our approach,” he said.
Warner made clear he is opposed to the House Republican 2012 budget’s reliance on cuts to Medicare—he called it a “massive transfer of responsibility onto our seniors”– but he did not say how the Gang of Six will approach the massive entitlement program.
Please join me as I scream. How stupid do they think we are?
Ninety-one year old Pete Seeger will be joined by David Amram, 80, and Peter Yarrow, 73 on the stage to inspire young people to be active in political and social justice movements. Yarrow had just returned from a series of rallies in Wisconsin.
The three artist-activists say they are fired up by recent protests — from Egypt to Wisconsin — and by the enthusiasm of their youthful kin, who will join them onstage.
“I do have the feeling that the kind of energy we felt in the ’60s is in the air now,” Mr. Yarrow said. “That energy seems to be reigniting itself.”
That concert should be a treat. It’s nice to see these guys seem to never tire of singing songs of justice. It’s important that a new generation hear these truly American songs. I was interested in reading that many kids and grandkids of these folk singers are now in the family business and may show up on stage with them now and then.
Okay, this is something that kinda surprised me from the WSJ: “Greenspan Steps Up Call to End Bush-Era Tax Cuts”. I still haven’t figure out why any one thinks he’s still relevant, but oh, well. At least, he’s on the right side of this one.
Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan is stepping up his call for Congress to let the Bush-era tax cuts lapse.
In an appearance Sunday on ABC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Greenspan used his strongest words yet to urge lawmakers to let them expire. The risk of a U.S. debt crisis, he said, is just too big. Mr. Greenspan, who retired from the Federal Reserve in 2006, had endorsed the cuts back in 2001 championed by then-President George W. Bush.
“This crisis is so imminent and so difficult that I think we have to allow the so-called Bush tax cuts all to expire. That is a very big number,” he said, referring to how much the U.S. government could save from letting income taxes go back up to levels last seen under former President Bill Clinton.
Mr. Greenspan was talking about re-imposing the taxes for all Americans. The Treasury has estimated that a permanent extension of all the Bush tax cuts would cost $3.6 trillion over the next decade. Allowing taxes to increase on those in the top income brackets would take the cost to the government down to $2.9 trillion, according to White House estimates.
CBS news has done some data gathering on taxes as part of its Tax Day coverage: Wealthy Americans see drop in federal taxes; High-earning Americans pay less in taxes than in previous years; nearly half of U.S. households will pay no income taxes at all.
The Internal Revenue Service tracks the tax returns with the 400 highest adjusted gross incomes each year. The average income on those returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million. Their average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992.
Over the same period, the average federal income tax rate for all taxpayers declined to 9.3 percent from 9.9 percent.
The top income tax rate is 35 percent, so how can people who make so much pay so little in taxes? The nation’s tax laws are packed with breaks for people at every income level. There are breaks for having children, paying a mortgage, going to college, and even for paying other taxes. Plus, the top rate on capital gains is only 15 percent.
There are so many breaks that 45 percent of U.S. households will pay no federal income tax for 2010, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank.
The sheer volume of credits, deductions and exemptions has both Democrats and Republicans calling for tax laws to be overhauled. House Republicans want to eliminate breaks to pay for lower overall rates, reducing the top tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. Republicans oppose raising taxes, but they argue that a more efficient tax code would increase economic activity, generating additional tax revenue.
New Orleans is abuzz with the second season of Treme about to start up on HBO. I have to admit that I have not watched it since I’m still working through my dose of PTS from Katrina and the aftermath. However, for those of you that are fans of the show, you can get it now on DVD and you can get a bit of a taste in what’s in store for you in season two from this story from the TP. The show evidently ended last season with the city’s evacuation. That’s something I will NEVER forget. The show has been great for the city, overall and it’s producers have taken on a lot of causes around here including a fight to save some historic properties featured in the series’ promotions. Just thought I’d add some insight into what the production brings to the city including its musicians. Here’s a little drama from Hollywood South.
… production money is being spent daily in New Orleans for locations, for equipment, material, labor and talent. In the first two seasons, for example, about $2 million in music licensing money was paid for the rights to songs by New Orleans artists, alone. Such expenditures — with or without any charity component — are the crux of the real economic relationship between a film company and the community in which it works. It is a straight-up transaction. We come here to shoot a movie. We pay a variety of local vendors, government fees and individuals to do it. And for virtually every other movie shot in Louisiana, that is it — end of story.
Thought I’d end with a treat from Pete Seeger to get you through your coffee: