Monday Morning Reads

Good Monday Morning! Not a day goes by without more examples of Republican stupidity. I’ve got several for you this morning. First up, Rick Perry had a talk with Donald Trump and now Governor Goodhair thinks President Obama’s birth certificate might be fake. That legend will never die. Think Progress:

In an interview with PARADE Magazine, Perry said that he recently met with Donald Trump and discussed the issue. Perry stated that he doesn’t “have a definitive answer” on whether Obama was born in the United States or “any idea” if Obama’s birth certificate is real….

Perry recently secured the endorsement of Orly Taitz, known as the “birther queen” for repeatedly filing lawsuits asserting that Obama was born outside the United States. Taitz told ThinkProgress that she believed Perry will use the birther issue to attack Obama.

From the interview:

Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
I have no reason to think otherwise.

That’s not a definitive, “Yes, I believe he”—
Well, I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate.

But you’ve seen his.
I don’t know. Have I?

You don’t believe what’s been released?
I don’t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.

And?
That came up.

And he said?
He doesn’t think it’s real.

And you said?
I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the President of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue. “

“distractive?” Is that in the dictionary?

Herman Cain is still trying to walk back his accidentally pro-choice comments on abortion. From Politico:

Herman Cain tried to clean up the running confusion over his position on abortion last night, but in the meantime opened questions about his grasp of the Constitution.

In an interview with David Brody last night, Cain said he’d sign a pro-life constitutional amendment if it crossed his desk as president.

“Yes. Yes I feel that strongly about it. If we can get the necessary support and it comes to my desk I’ll sign it,” he said. “That’s all I can do. I will sign it.”

The only problem with that statement? Presidents don’t sign constitutional amendments — they’re passed in Congress and then need to be ratified by the states, and the president plays no formal role in the process.

Is this guy the most ignorant person to ever run for president? He’s worse than Michele Bachmann.

It appears Mitt Romney is about to do another flip flop: Romney, Once a Critic, Hedges on Flat-Tax Plans

As several leading Republican presidential candidates embrace a flat tax as a core campaign position, one contender stands out in not doing so: Mitt Romney, who has a long record of criticizing such plans and famously derided Steve Forbes’s 1996 proposal as a “tax cut for fat cats.”

Lately, though, his tone has been more positive. “I love a flat tax,” he said in August.

Flat-tax plans have come and gone before, and analysts note that they have tended to lose support once they come under scrutiny. But Mr. Romney’s support of the concept of a flat tax underscores the tightrope he is walking as taxes become a larger focus of the Republican presidential race and he faces rivals’ accusations of inconsistency on the issues.

But Ron Paul wins today’s prize for Republican stupidity. He wants to get rid of student loans.

Republican presidential contender Ron Paul said Sunday he wants to end federal student loans, calling it a failed program that has put students $1 trillion in debt when there are no jobs and when the quality of education has deteriorated.

Paul unveiled a plan last week to cut $1 trillion from the federal budget that would eliminate five Cabinet departments, including education. He’s also wants young workers to be able to opt out of Social Security.

The student loan program is not part of those cuts, but Paul said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he’d kill the loan program eventually if he were president. That could put him at odds with some of his young followers, many of whom are college students.

Turning to economic issues, the Financial Times has a scary article about the possible failure of the Euro.

It is time to prepare for the unthinkable: there is now a significant probability the euro will not survive in its current form. This is not because I am predicting the failure by European leaders to agree a deal. In fact, I believe they will. My concern is not about failure to agree, but the consequences of an agreement. I am writing this column before the results of Sunday’s European summit were known. It appeared that a final agreement would not be reached until Wednesday. Under consideration has been a leveraged European financial stability facility, perhaps accompanied by new instruments from the International Monetary Fund.

A leveraged EFSF is attractive to politicians for the same reason that subprime mortgages once appeared attractive to borrowers. Leverage can have different economic functions, but in these cases it simply disguises a lack of money. The idea is to turn the EFSF into a monoline insurer for sovereign bonds. It is worth recalling that the role of those monolines during the bubble was to insure toxic credit products. They ended up as a crisis amplifier.

To be honest, the article is a bit too technical for me to follow, but maybe Dakinikat can help me if she has sufficiently recovered from her nightmarish trip to Denver. Paul Krugman says Europe’s problem is (what else?) the stupidity of austerity.

First, the grim news from Greece is, as many commentators are pointing out, a big refutation for the doctrine of “expansionary austerity.” And it’s worth pointing out that European leaders, and especially the ECB, went in for that doctrine in a big way. Look at the June 2010 monthly report of the ECB (pdf), specifically the discussion of “fiscal consolidation” on page 83 and following. Basically, the ECB pooh-poohs any notion that austerity would have major negative effects on the economy, suggests that it’s quite likely that the confidence fairy will make everything OK, and specifically says that

Determined action on the part of governments to undertake fiscal and structural reforms is necessary to preserve stability and cohesion in the euro area. A sustained commitment to consolidation, possibly including a speeding up of current plans and their delivery, is required from all governments to ensure that the time afforded by the exceptional measures is used to put public finances on a permanently sounder footing.

So the ECB was calling for austerity everywhere. Was any concern expressed about how that would affect Europe-wide growth? Was there any suggestion of expansionary monetary policy to offset such a coordinated fiscal contraction? No and no.

And now they’re shocked, shocked that the Greek economy is plunging into a hole.

Maybe Ron Paul has a solution. LOL

Fannie posted this link last night, but I thought it should be on the front page: Republicans Turn Judicial Power Into a Campaign Issue

Republican presidential candidates are issuing biting and sustained attacks on the federal courts and the role they play in American life, reflecting and stoking skepticism among conservatives about the judiciary. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas favors term limits for Supreme Court justices. Representatives Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Ron Paul of Texas say they would forbid the court from deciding cases concerning same-sex marriage. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania want to abolish the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, calling it a “rogue” court that is “consistently radical.”

Criticism of “activist judges” and of particular Supreme Court decisions has long been a staple of political campaigns. But the new attacks, coming from most of the Republican candidates, are raising broader questions about how the legal system might be reshaped if one of them is elected to the White House next year.

I’m going to end with this funny Halloween-themed satire from The New Yorker: Dear Mountain Room Parents, by Maria Semple. Here’s a bit of it, but please read the whole thing. You won’t be sorry.

Hi, everyone!

The Mountain Room is gearing up for its Day of the Dead celebration on Friday. Please send in photos of loved ones for our altar. All parents are welcome to come by on Wednesday afternoon to help us make candles and decorate skulls.

Thanks!

Emily

Hi again.

Because I’ve gotten some questions about my last e-mail, there is nothing “wrong” with Halloween. The Day of the Dead is the Mexican version, a time of remembrance. Many of you chose Little Learners because of our emphasis on global awareness. Our celebration on Friday is an example of that. The skulls we’re decorating are sugar skulls. I should have made that more clear.

Emily

Parents:

Some of you have expressed concern about your children celebrating a holiday with the word “dead” in it. I asked Eleanor’s mom, who’s a pediatrician, and here’s what she said: “Preschoolers tend to see death as temporary and reversible. Therefore, I see nothing traumatic about the Day of the Dead.” I hope this helps.

Emily

It gets funnier, so please go read the rest! Now what are you reading and blogging about today?


Republicans in Wonderland

Republicans embrace and peddle voodoo economic memes whereever they can.  They all hold Ronald Reagan up as the godfather of great economics.  Just look at that graph to determine who exactly is responsible for the current deficit which they all think is a terrible problem.  Even odder are their “unorthodox”  economic policy prescriptions.  Here’s some of the more egregious suggestions as provided by Politico.

The Republican field is filled with potential candidates who have called for radical overhauls of the tax code, the abolition of the IRS, an end to the Federal Reserve central bank— and even a return to the gold standard.

Oddly enough, Mitt Romney is the only one that actually talks real economics.  The rest of them are in some bizarro world where math never adds up.  If Tim Pawlenty hasn’t disappeared by 6 pm CST, we may have to deal with his odd views in a debate where odd views will prevail.  Pawlenty is scheduled to announce his candidacy on Monday.

In one particularly striking recent moment, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty railed against “fiat currency” in a recent appearance on Fox — a signal to a narrow constituency of voters who believe that America’s woes began when it abandoned the gold standard in the 1930s. He also has gone on the record supporting a flat tax — a single-rate income tax that would eliminate the bracket system. The single tax rate for all is a simple concept but would probably involve wiping out the current tax code — including many popular deductions and credits — just to generate enough revenue.

“I support a flatter tax rate. I don’t know if we can get to a flat tax in one leap, but moving in a flatter, more transparent direction, absolutely,” Pawlenty said on Larry Kudlow’s CNBC show in March.

Newt Gingrich has also indicated support for an across the board 15% flat tax.

Gov. Mitch Danielscalled for a value-added national sales tax paired with a flat tax. (Jon Huntsman passed a flat tax as governor of Utah, but hasn’t articulated a national platform.) And Paul wants no income or sales taxes at all, envisioning a government funded with tariffs, highway fees and excise taxes.

Further into the field, the plans get more exotic.

Herman Cain has backed the ‘Fair Tax’ plan, a proposal with a small, well-organized and vocal constituency, which would impose a national sales tax of just under 25 percent and abolish the income tax system. He has also backed a possible return to the gold standard — but only after we “significantly pay down our national debt, stabilize and grow our economy,” spokeswoman Ellen Carmichael told POLITICO.

 Our economy has always used a progressive tax rate.  We’ve never really considered value-added taxes or national sales taxes because we know these kinds of taxes hit the poor hardest.  Social Security is about the only real regressive tax that’s been enacted. However, disabling a reasonable capital gains tax has giving enormous wealth to the major rich who receive bonuses and inherit trust funds.  The suggested Republican tax schemes are most likely unworkable and would hit the middle class hard.  This would be especially true of those who are financing homes.

The odd calls for gold standards, eliminating the Federal Reserve Bank, and possibly even ending fiat currency are all insane suggestions that shouldn’t even merit a public platform.  Academic research has indicated that monetary policy has been mostly effective since the 1980s in achieving its intent.  Also, the Fed’s structure and laws have been copied by every other economic entity that’s formed within recent history because it’s been so successful. The most important aspect is to keep monetary policy out of the hands of politicians.

“Fiscal policy, I can see how we might want to have a broader debate. With monetary policy, it’s harder to see that,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. “The strong consensus view is that the Fed has done a very good job — that it was put in a very difficult position.”

“I think there’s less sympathy for the argument that Federal Reserve needs a significant overhaul,” said Zandi.

But, facts and peer-reviewed research don’t appear to phase these folks.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a supporter of the Fair Tax, faced attacks in his own state for supporting what Democrats cast as a massive sales tax increase. Gleeful Democrats simply neglected to mention that DeMint’s proposed policy would have also abolished the IRS. Similar attacks on Fair Tax candidates have occurred in other races. And this cycle, Herman Cain has already faced a similar tough questioning about his support for the Fair Tax in the most recent GOP presidential debate.

“According to the experts, the practical effect of a Fair Tax would be a tax cut for the wealthy and a tax increase for the middle class,” Fox’s Chris Wallace pointed out.

“Your experts are dead wrong — because I have studied the Fair Tax for a long time,” said Cain to loud audience applause.

So, who would you believe?  Economists or some CEO of a small time pizza chain?  The fact that these guys get a pretty receptive audience in the GOP is appalling until you see where the support comes from.  For some reason, the GOP has done a pretty good job ginning up support via xenophobic, homophobic, and gynophobic dog whistles and making economic statements that were never true and would never happen.  Since their voters reward them, there appears to be no end to the insane suggestions for economic policy that comes out of their mouths.