Where’s the Beef?

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Yup, Clara’s question is still germane.

I have a more earthy version of this having do to with lies and morons when I continue to watch the media cover the “fiscal cliff”.  The coverage is singularly lacking substance and Media Matters shows us why in a study that shows that “Economists – And Economics – Absent From Media Coverage Of Debt Debate”.  Journalists continue to bring politicians in to discuss the politics of the fiscal cliff in a complete vacuum of facts, data, economic theory, and reality or economic perspective.  Why are economists absent from the discussion?

A Media Matters study found that economists have been strangely absent from discussions on budget negotiations, following a typical pattern of the media’s inability to host experts to discuss complex issues. This lack of expert analysis has steered the debate toward politics and away from core economic concerns.

In a recently published study of news segments discussing current budget negotiations, Media Matters found that the presence of economists was sorely lacking – out of 503 total guests in the 337 segments analyzed, only 22 were economists. The lack of appearances by economists is spread across all networks …

I’ve watched a lot of the coverage and there are a lot of things coming out of the mouths of people making these decisions that would never come out of the mouth of an economist whatever their voter affiliation.  But let me start with one thing that strikes me as really, really, really obscene.  The Republican mantra of “Increased Taxes Kill Jobs” is old school Keynes.  I mean REAL old school Keynesian economics because the old Keynes model shows us that increasing taxes or decreasing government spending is contractionary fiscal policy.  So, why hasn’t any moderator of bloviating pols mentioned this or asked about this as Republicans rant on about the evilness of Keynesian economics?

NeoKeynesians have discovered a lot about the subtleties of the impact of changes in tax rates or government spending since that first bit of insight came from the Keynesian models back in the day.  Those subtleties are present in the studies you read that show that changing tax rates for the rich has a different impact that changing tax rates for others.  It also has been determined that some government spending is more effective in a variety of ways than others.  However,  the point remains.  That Republican talking point is actually quite old school Keynesian so why doesn’t one Media person ask them why they hate Keynes and say that continually?   Is it because they’ve bought into the idea that tax cuts only should be discussed in terms of the republicans adherence to the dismissed Laffer Curve and hypothesis?  Where are the economists that can actually ask these questions?  There’s plenty of us out there writing, tweeting, blogging, and facebooking?  Why not ask one of us?

Previous studies by Media Matters have noted that the lack of economists’ input helps spread conservative misinformation, leaving a substantial impact on public opinion. The most recent study, however, shows that keeping economists out of the debate also eliminates any discussion of economic issues.

One such issue is the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a combination of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, could plunge the U.S. economy into recession in 2013.

However, of the 337 segments analyzed, 209 — 62 percent — failed to address the macroeconomic implications of either tax increases or spending cuts. While some microeconomic issues were discussed (such as the potential impact on healthcare costs), most of the segments were focused on largely non-economic issues, such as political leverage in negotiations, the Grover Norquist pledge, or concessions made by the two parties.

Meanwhile, economists have not been silent on the economic consequences of current budget negotiations. A recent International Monetary Fund study found that for every dollar decrease in government spending, the U.S. would experience as much as a $1.80 decrease in output. Conversely, the Congressional Budget Office noted that if Bush-era tax rates expired for high-income earners, negative effects on economic output would be negligible.

Given the fact that cutting spending and raising taxes are both large components of the so-called “fiscal cliff,” highlighting these findings when discussing budget negotiations would help inform viewers of the real economic stakes. Instead, the media have taken the economics out of a largely economic issue.

Not even Greg Mankiw would risk his reputation in the academic community spreading the lies that get put out there about the economy by Republican Politicians.  Chief among the lies are the kinda crap we saw coming from the Republicans.  There are all these completely untrue economic lies running around out there.  It’s all surrounding ideological things the Republicans are still trying to accomplish. Social Security has nothing to do with the Federal deficit.   It’s not going bankrupt.  Raising the age of social security and medicare does not solve any economic problems and does not save money.  It just costs shifts things to different programs and sectors of government.  Higher marginal tax rates on the rich does not kill jobs.  Lower marginal tax rates on the rich does not create jobs.   Special tax treatment for speculative investment behavior destabilizes financial markets.  Regulation of Financial Markets improves their outcomes.  There is not a structural deficit problem.  There is a cyclical problem that would be solved if real stimulus of the economy occurred.   I could go on and on and on and have written extensively on this citing study after study and economic expert after economic expert.

Nobel prize winning Paul Krugman’s facts get attacked as polemics by a political operative on Sunday TV.  This is the reality of our public discussion on the most important issues of our time.  Krugman is frequently out there on his own.  He’s always trying to argue from a fact based, scientific method based, reality gets to argue with pols.  Why can’t the media bring on more economists and let us see a real discussion of facts and theories?  We have so much obvious data sitting right in front of us.  The UK’s recession is a great example.  The UK with its conservatives and austerity package has the worst economy in the west right now.  It’s due to those policies the Republicans want to enact here being enacted by Tories there.  Both Europe and the US are in much better situations–albeit still stale because of the lack of true fiscal stimulus–because they’ve not completely done the austerity thing.   He points out that Ben Bernanke and the overly conservative Fed appears to be the only grown up institution in the beltway these days.

Along with its new policy pronouncement, the Fed released its economic projections (pdf). What struck me is that the Fed expects the unemployment rate to be well above its long-run level even in the fourth quarter of 2015, which is as far as its projections go.

This means that the Fed is projecting elevated unemployment nine full years after the Great Recession started. And, of course, the Fed has been consistently over-optimistic.

This is an awesome failure of policy — not solely at the Fed, of course.When I wax caustic about Very Serious People, bear this in mind. Faced with an economic crisis where textbook macroeconomics told us exactly how to respond, people of influence chose instead to obsess over budget deficits and generally punt on employment; and the result has been a huge economic and human disaster.

So much of this is disheartening to me.  However, the most disheartening thing is waking up every day for the last 4 years or so realizing that an entire political organization–one of the two in our duopoly–doesn’t care about anything but getting its way.  Every day it becomes more obvious that Republicans are not about our country, our country’s economy, or our people.  That kind of psychopathy should be punished severely.  Over and over they’ve shown they will absolutely tank our economy for their donor base.

But, again, how will the majority of people know this if they’re only allowed political discussion that continually presents lies, ideology, and out and out crap as an ‘alternative’ viewpoint?


54 Comments on “Where’s the Beef?”

  1. dakinikat says:

    The Fiscal-Cliff Battle Is Already Over, and the Republicans Have Won It

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/12/the-fiscal-cliff-battle-is-already-over-and-the-republicans-have-won-it/266225/

    The larger point is that Republicans are pushing on an open door on taxes. The GOP has won nine-tenths of the tax argument. It just hasn’t figured out what do with victory.

    This is especially true if, as Democrats suggest, there would be a trade of some structural reforms to Medicare and Medicaid in exchange for raising marginal tax rates on top earners.

    Democrats can have this discussion with Republicans because voucherizing Medicare and block granting Medicaid are no longer on the negotiating table. These are huge policy concessions from Republicans, largely unappreciated and underreported in CliffsNotes coverage of the cliff. Republicans in the House and Senate had marched in lockstep on behalf of both policy changes — stepping straight into political sniper fire as they did. But no more.

    Democrats have won nine-tenths of the Medicare and Medicaid debate. Like the GOP with taxes, they just haven’t figured out how to take yes for an answer.

    Because no one appears to know how to win or to even recognize that they have won, the country is likely to avert the fiscal cliff — but just barely. The stalemate in the talks is real. The vibrations between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner are upbeat, but the detail work at the staff level gets quickly bogged down over policy, numbers, and politics.

  2. RalphB says:

    It’s really very disheartening to see so much disinformation pushed constantly. Even this morning, Steve Benen showcases the latest unadulterated dumb ass crap from Boehner.

    Sorry, Boehner, spending isn’t the problem

    House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), still struggling badly to persuade the public that his fiscal rhetoric makes sense, held another Capitol Hill event this morning — except this one included charts and hashtags (thanks to my colleague Nazanin Rafsanjani for the tip).

    The point of the Speaker’s remarks was to push a new message that Boehner seems excited about: “Spending is the problem.” It’s a phrase that Republicans seem to think solves their political troubles — why won’t the GOP compromise and accept higher tax rates on the wealthiest Americans? Because revenue isn’t the problem; spending is the problem.

    After taking a closer look at the specified cuts in the gentle fiscal incline, I’m almost completely convinced the best course in the longer run would be to jump off the cliff and stay there.

    • dakinikat says:

      If I bought a bar and needed the floors cleaned, I would call Boehner. However, I wouldn’t even let him near even my undergrad finance or econ classes if I were teaching undergrads any more. He has no idea what he’s talking about.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        I agree, Every time he opens his mouth about taxes, or most anything else for that matter, I’m astonished that he doesn’t seem to know as much as I know and my degree is from UWMAO, (the University of Working My Ass Off). This guy grew up in a bar, (nothing wrong with that unless that’s where you should have stayed) and he should have stayed there. I’m sure he’s a great drinking, golfing, horsing around fella, but he has all of the intellectual lustre of a bar foot rail.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Ralph,

      I’m starting to think the same thing. Let’s just go off the cliff and the heck with all the silly infighting. We should just go back to the Clinton tax rates and be done with it.

  3. dakinikat says:

    Susan Rice has withdraw her name from consideration for SOS

    BREAKING: Susan Rice withdraws her name from Secretary of State consideration http://huff.to/12nTtPP

    • RalphB says:

      Sorry to hear that, it was gonna be a good fight.

    • dakinikat says:

      @davidfrum: It’s confirmed: lying to David Gregory a bigger offense than lying to Congress.

    • janicen says:

      I have a confession to make. I secretly didn’t want Susan Rice to become SOS. I publicly supported her because she was being attacked by the right, but I honestly didn’t think she had the temperament or gravitas to represent the United States as our chief diplomat. She would be compared to Hillary Clinton and not favorably so. Kerry is better known and liked by the rest of the world from what I can tell.

      • Allie says:

        I agree with you, Janicen. Her investments in tar sand to begin with was a huge conflict of interest. Her career as a warmonger for another. I actually agree with Taylor Marsh and Glen Greenwald (I know some of you aren’t great fans of theirs). And Glen Ford at BAR had some serious issues with Rice.

        I acutally think Kerry would be better.

      • Fredster says:

        But janicen if they nominate Kerry, then his Senate seat opens up which gives Scott Brown another shot at getting back into the Senate.

      • RalphB says:

        Warmonger? What war did she help start? You think McCain hated her because she was too much of a warmonger?

        If you’re talking about Libya, she helped Hillary convince Obama to join there.

      • janicen says:

        I know, Fredster. I think that may have been part of the GOP’s motivation to attack Rice. That doesn’t change the fact that I think Kerry would be a better SOS.

        • dakinikat says:

          I think all those things Rice said about McCain during the 2008 election created all this frankly. I still remember she was a proxy for Obama against Clinton too. She said some very bristly things.

      • RalphB says:

        I really don’t like Kerry for SOS and that has nothing to do with Scott Brown. An SOS has to have strength to buck a tide and I’ve always felt Kerry could be rolled too easy.

      • janicen says:

        Let’s face it, nobody is going to be as good as the outgoing SOS. That’s just a natural fact.

      • RalphB says:

        If I were Obama I would have a talk with Richard Lugar about SOS.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I agree. I never cared for Susan Rice and said so in my posts about her. I just don’t like to see someone attacked unjustly.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        It looks like Obama is going to nominate Chuck Hagel for SOD,.One GOP cabinet member is ok, but Lugar would be one GOP’er to many.

      • RalphB says:

        You may have a point Mouse. Hagel was an enlisted Army infantryman in Vietnam. I don’t recall anyone who has been the tip of spear serving as SecDef before. The view of the Pentagon from the tip is vastly different from the normal perspective and I would love to see him take care of defense cuts.

      • RalphB says:

        As an example, the 734 golf course owned by tne Pentagon and spending of $500 million a year on marching bands seem a bit of a budgetary stretch to this old Marine.

      • Fannie says:

        I don’t think Lugar would take SOS, he’s likely to stay in retirement.

      • RalphB says:

        Charles Pierce!

        The Defenestration Of Susan Rice

        Congratulations to John McCain and Lindsey Graham. They got the head they wanted for the wall of the He-Man Woman Haters Club. They ginned up a fake controversy, got enough people to buy it, and then got the president to decide that they would be the ones to decide who the next Secretary Of State is. Good job, all of you, including you, Mr. President. Seriously.

        And note to John Kerry — don’t take the job. Tell your old buddies to stuff it. You don’t want to walk into the State Department over a body that’s still warm.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I think Kerry would be a good SOS. He has the experience and background and even cares about environmental issues. He could probably do Defense too, except that would bring up his Vietnam war protests. I do not think Scott Brown can beat either Ed Markey or Deval Patrick for Senate. Brown’s name is mud in MA after the way he ran against Warren.

      • bostonboomer says:

        The only problem with Pierce’s take is that Kerry is dying to be SOS. He has wanted it for years, so no one is pushing him into it.

        • dakinikat says:

          They (Tweetie and John Feehery) just called Bob Schrum a Puma on Hard ball … I wasn’t aware that moniker was still in their consciousness even!!!

  4. janicen says:

    Economists don’t make for good television. They will tell you what’s right and what’s wrong and even prove it with models and graphs. Where’s the fun in that? You start talking actual facts you leave no room for wild speculation, wishful thinking, stereotyping, and belief systems. The last thing the corporations who control the media want us to know is the truth.

  5. RalphB says:

    Republicans are no more than malevolent spoiled rotten teenagers!

    Jon Chait: Is Obama Punishing the GOP Because He’s Mean?

    Even as they grudgingly have come to accept that they can’t prevent the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, Republicans have increasingly started explaining this pitiable state of affairs to themselves as the product of President Obama’s unique malevolence. The operating theory here is that Obama is not demanding higher taxes on the rich because it advances his public policy goals. No, his goal, writes Karl Rove today, is to “kick off a Republican civil war.” This odd theory has likewise found expression from Charles Krauthammer (“Obama’s objective in these negotiations is not economic but political: not to solve the debt crisis but to fracture the Republican majority in the House,”) Peter Wehner, and other luminaries of the right.

    The psychology on display here is familiar to anybody who has seen a petulant teenager, who assumes that any restriction that causes them to feel anger must have been intended to produce that emotion. Republicans are feeling humiliated and divided, so Obama’s goal must have been to humiliate and divide them.

  6. mablue2 says:

    This stuff always drives me nuts!

    It’s already depressing to watch Mary Matalin and George Will trying to argue economics with Paul Krugman, but even more depressing is the fact that this is pretty much as much as can get.

    Most of the times, these empty talkingheads would discuss such matters among themselves, maybe invite some rightwing politician.

    Strangely, when it’s a matter of war, you can’t turn your teevee without seeng some (former) General or someone who used to wear a unifrom.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    The trial balloon went over like a lead balloon, so Dick Durbin says the WH is no longer considering raising the Medicare age.

  8. RalphB says:

    Obama on Susan Rice.

    “For two decades, Susan has proven to be an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant. As my Ambassador to the United Nations, she plays an indispensable role in advancing America’s interests. Already, she has secured international support for sanctions against Iran and North Korea, worked to protect the people of Libya, helped achieve an independent South Sudan, stood up for Israel’s security and legitimacy, and served as an advocate for UN reform and the human rights of all people.

    “I am grateful that Susan will continue to serve as our Ambassador at the United Nations and a key member of my cabinet and national security team, carrying her work forward on all of these and other issues. I have every confidence that Susan has limitless capability to serve our country now and in the years to come, and know that I will continue to rely on her as an advisor and friend. While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first. The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country.”

  9. RalphB says:

    Now for something completely different.

    Woman hits bobcat, gives it a ride to downtown Bangor

    “I guess what happened was a woman was driving in Veazie on Route 2 and she hit what she thought was a house cat,” Plourde said. “It was still alive and was kind of hurt. So she pulled over to the side and scooped it up and put it in the car, thinking that it was hurt and was out in the wild. She wanted to help it.”

    The problem: The animal was not only in the wild. It was wild.

    “By the time she got to downtown Bangor she realized what she had put in her car was not in fact a house cat,” Plourde said.