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Social Security repair wizards insist that we
implement the problem to solve the problem

“There was a case for paying down debt before the baby boomers began to retire, making it easier to pay full (Social Security) benefits later. But George W. Bush squandered the Clinton surplus on tax cuts and wars, and that window has closed. At this point, ‘reform’ proposals are all about things like raising the retirement age or changing the inflation adjustment, moves that would gradually reduce benefits relative to current law. What problem is this supposed to solve?

“Well, it’s probable (although not certain) that, within two or three decades, the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted, leaving the system unable to pay the full benefits specified by current law. So the plan is to avoid cuts in future benefits by committing right now to . . . cuts in future benefits. Huh?”

—Paul Krugman,, economist, author and Nobel Laureate,
in a New York Times column, The Dwindling Deficit,
Jan. 17, 2013.

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Speaking common sense to power: Interestingly, this telling point was made as a side note to Krugman’s larger message. That message is that while we have a deficit problem — as opposed to the universally flogged and erroneous term “crisis” — there is no good reason to tackle the whole thing now. The fiscal situation of the 2030’s can probably be better handled by the public officials of the 2020’s.

Krugman winds up this excellent column with a bit of wisdom that should be embroidered in bold olde script, framed and placed on President Obama’s Oval Office desk.

“But neither the current deficit nor projected future spending deserve to be anywhere near the top of our political agenda. It’s time to focus on other stuff — like the still-depressed state of the economy and the still-terrible problem of long-term unemployment.”

Amen.

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Cornered by realities they can’t accept
Republicans are back to hostage-taking

No GOPHouse Speaker John Boehner and most Republicans in Congress know very well that cutting taxes won’t create jobs. Businesses won’t hire people to stand around waiting to take care of customers who aren’t showing up to spend their money, even if the businesses have some more money because of tax cuts.

Businesses hire more people when those new hires are needed to take care of customers and make the businesses more money, period.

Boehner and the rest of the Republicans are solely interested in politics, not in governing responsibly. What’s more, they’re in the position of being forced to acknowledge their cherished trickle-down cover story is nothing but a political meme. They really don’t want to do that.

Tax revenues from rate increases on those who can well afford to pay more would enable increased government stimulus spending without running up the deficit. Increased demand thus created would lead to more hiring and more government revenues with which to reduce the deficit — without cutting essential programs along the way.

That formula for restoring economic growth and prosperity is eminently doable. It would yield a payoff for all Americans, the wealthiest included, greatly outweighing any short-run discomfort and risk involved.

Oh wait; that was a bit of an overstatement. That formula would benefit all Americans except Republican politicians and doctrinaire radical conservatives. It’s not hard to understand why.

The relatively simple, well-established formula for economic turnaround we described would really whipsaw Republicans politically. Its success would show their trickle-down meme for the con job it’s always been while verifying that we can’t budget-cut our way to prosperity. Quite the opposite, in fact.

This is Republicans’ dilemma. It’s the sole reason they won’t take Obama’s initial deal.

What’s required of Republicans means a worst-nightmare scenario for them. Because they’re thoroughly selfish and irresponsible, solely concerned with their own political fortunes, and because they have just enough power left to stand in the way, they’re holding the whole country hostage.

Again.

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Note: This post is a modified version of the comment we left yesterday to a good post at the TAO Speaks blog.

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GOP leaders trot out same ‘our way or no way’
as Obama White House signals new toughness



Victory hug, election night 2012

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President Obama’s decisive re-election victory Tuesday — 303 electoral votes to Mitt Romney’s 206, plus a definite popular-vote majority — clearly indicates a mandate to continue grappling with the country’s problems on his terms.

A clear mandate to most, perhaps, but not to congressional Republicans, even though in aggregate their House and Senate candidates won fewer votes than Democrats and lost several seats.

That disconnect about what the election outcome means seems likely to pit Republicans’ same ol’, same ol’ against a president now more intent on producing results than peace and light in Washington, D.C.

No sooner had the dust cleared — no doubt with a legion of chagrined millionaire and billionaire GOP sugar daddies kicking themselves in the background — than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, started making noises about their requirements for a budget and deficit-reduction deal.

Far from changing their tune following defeat of their no-cooperation strategy to make Obama a one-term president, Beavis and Butthead’s Republican analogs chimed in with an old refrain. From McConnell’s version:

McConnell

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the President’s first term, they have simply given him more time to finish the job they asked him to do together with a Congress that restored balance to Washington after two years of one-party control. Now it’s time for the President to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a closely-divided Senate, step up to the plate on the challenges of the moment, and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office.

To the extent he wants to move to the political center, which is where the work gets done in a divided government, we’ll be there to meet him half way. That begins by proposing a way for both parties to work together in avoiding the ‘fiscal cliff’ without harming a weak and fragile economy, and when that is behind us work with us to reform the tax code and our broken entitlement system.

Translation: First, to get us to deal with him at all, Obama must drop his silly idea of raising taxes on the rich (us and our benefactors) and settle for closing a few (purposely unspecified) loopholes (of our choosing). Second, to get us to actually vote for this compromise, Obama must let us have our way with entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps and extended jobless benefits (bye-bye social safety net).

In other words, Republican congressional leaders expect Obama to adopt the unacceptable, nonsensical plan their failed presidential candidate ran on.

Really!

These same Republican leaders got by with their “our way or no way” approach the first two and a half years of Obama’s presidency, thanks to his strong desire to bridge the partisan divide. However, the more accommodating Obama was, the more recalcitrant McConnell and Boehner became. But after Republicans held raising the debt ceiling hostage in the summer of 2011, causing the first credit rating downgrade in U.S. history, Obama had enough.

So now, with re-election political capital in hand, things are different. If this AP story is an accurate indication, Obama has traded in his olive branches for a small carrot and a sharp stick.

Obama adviser David Axelrod warned Republican leaders to take lessons from Tuesday’s vote. The president won after pledging to raise taxes on American households earning more than $250,000 a year “and was re-elected in a significant way,” Axelrod told MSNBC Thursday morning.

“Hopefully people will read those results and read them as a vote for cooperation and will come to the table,” Axelrod said. “And obviously everyone’s going to have to come with an open mind to these discussions. But if the attitude is that nothing happened on Tuesday, that would be unfortunate.”

He noted that conservative Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock in Indiana dismissed the value of compromise and instead said Democrats should join the GOP. “And I note that he’s not on his way to the United States Senate,” Axelrod said. Mourdock lost to Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly.

You may recall that after winning his party’s nomination last spring, Mourdock said he didn’t get into politics to compromise, that his idea of the way to get somewhere is for Democrats to come around to his way of thinking — as candid an expression of Republican politicians’ attitude over the past 35 years as we’ve ever heard.

President Obama has a large constituency of people who believe he’s doing a good job in adverse economic and political circumstances. They stood by him during trying days in his first term. They accepted, with varying degrees of discomfort, some of his decisions that were out of step with what he led them to believe in 2008. They came through for him in the 2012 election.

Through it all, Obama suffered declines in supporter enthusiasm only when he appeared too willing to give in to Republican belligerence.

The stakes going forward are monumental. Appeasement only encourages Republican bullying and yet more-outrageous demands.

Obama isn’t one to face down opponents or take it to the people to pressure Republicans into doing the right thing. His preference has always been polite, serious discussion leading to reasonable compromise.

As admirable as Obama’s instincts and preferences are, he should remember he didn’t win election and re-election by talking softly and waving a white flag.

Getting a fair, balanced budget and deficit-reduction deal that won’t throw economic recovery into reverse, lay waste to programs millions of nonwealthy Americans depend on and leave the president looking like a patsy means he must win an even tougher fight.

If Obama is fired up and ready to go all out, we’re confident he can, and will, prevail again. And again, the people will be with him.

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Obama’s convention speech: the missing passage

Obama, 2012 DNCPresident Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday laid out his and Democrats’ ideals, goals and approach well, defining anew night-vs.-day differences wth Mitt Romney and today’s radical-conservative Republicans.

Like nearly all acceptance speeches of recent decades, Obama’s was devoid of specifics – an omission noticed and not appreciated by a group of middle-class commenters assembled by PBS’ News Hour Friday for a discussion.

Had they participated in the News Hour discussion, Obama’s political advisers would surely have explained that laying out detailed plans invites Republicans to launch an offensive of lies and distortions about them. Just like the “death panel” lies about health care reform, and recently, the lie that Obamacare will shunt $7 billion from Medicare to the president’s pet projects. So, had detailed plans been included in the acceptance speech, Obama and other Democrats would’ve had to spend the final weeks of their campaigns defending against those lies, at considerable cost in time, money and energy.

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What we missed in Obama’s speech was a brand-strengthening appeal that could help break the partisan straitjacket that has weakened his hand and efforts to create jobs throughout his presidency.

So, we wrote the following in response to a fine post on Obama’s speech at Tom Harper’s Who Hijacked Our Country blog. In it we add a passage we wish the president had included.

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Those speeches are excellent. (Jennifer) Granholm blew me away. If more Dems had her fight and spirit, Romney might as well outsource himself.

There was something strangely missing from Obama’s speech, and the others too. Dems usually fail to do a good job on this, and the tradition continues.

“I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy. I never have. . .”

Obama should’ve added:

. . . I will tell you that getting things done, like increasing demand, creating jobs, bolstering business and thereby growing an economy stuck in a deep jobs recession requires cooperation in Congress. We know what needs doing and how to do it. But Congress is all about numbers — having the votes to get the job done. Unfortunately, two years ago some voters decided to sit the midterm election out, and others decided to vote for so-called tea party extremists whose slash-and-burn, cut-spending, shrink-government ways compounded Republicans’ policy of no cooperation and no compromise. The result is a slower and weaker recovery than 20 million jobless Americans need and that all Americans deserve.

As I said, getting things done in Congress is a matter of who has the votes. I need a team in Congress willing to work with me to kick recovery into high gear and put all those jobless Americans back to work. Republicans and their tea-party component have made it clear they will only work against rapid, effective measures to recover our economy, for selfish political reasons.

So, America, if you will vote the obstructionists out of Congress this November and replace them with progressive Democrats who will work with my administration to get the job done, you’ll see a faster, stronger, more-complete recovery. You will see the additional stimulus needed to boost demand, create jobs and shore up revenues at all levels of government. You will see an economy moving and growing again, with the added benefits of teachers back in classrooms and badly needed infrastructure improvements being made that will serve us all for decades to come. You’ll also see, at long last, the wealthiest Americans paying a fairer share of the tax burden to help make these things happen.

Register, if you haven’t already, and vote, and get your family, friends and neighbors to vote also. Vote to send me a team in Congress to get this job done, and we will get this job done, sooner and better, and to everyone’s ultimate advantage.

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This passage is a deliberately partisan call to action — appropriate for a Democratic convention speech. It doesn’t get into fine details, but it does include a clear, credible and definite action plan for moving forward.

It’s intended to promote unity of purpose and action among Democrats. It’s also an appeal to others who support the president or simply want no part of Romney and his No. 2., Rep. Paul Ryan, and more years of trickle-down, borrow-and-spend economic policy to benefit the rich at the expense of the rest.

There’s still time. We hope Obama will say more along these lines in his campaign speeches, and that Democratic candidates down the ticket will do likewise between now and election day.

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Justice Dept. to Goldman Sachs: The heat is off

Lloyd Blankfein

Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO

W ith impeccably feckless timing, the Justice Department announced Thursday night (Aug. 9) Goldman Sachs won’t be prosecuted for its role in bringing the U.S. economy to its knees, costing Americans trillions of dollars, throwing millions out of work, causing businesses, including other investment houses and banks, to go under and wreaking additional havoc worldwide.

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After an “exhaustive review” that began last year, investigators “concluded that the burden of proof to bring a criminal case could not be met based on the law and facts as they exist at this time,” the Justice Department said in a statement released Thursday night.

The officials said they could change their minds “if any additional or new evidence emerges.”

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Given the DoJ’s no-can-do record when it comes to nailing banksters whose M.O. surely has Mafia bosses shaking their heads and asking, “Why didn’t we think of that?” excuse us for wondering if Attorney General Eric Holder and his legal beagles could find their own butts using both hands in a well-lit room full of mirrors. As for additional or new evidence, maybe if Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein is caught red-handed, in person, looting the Fed’s gold repository five stories below Manhattan street level, then DoJ might be moved to prosecute.

Maybe, but we wouldn’t bet on it.

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We’re not alone in looking askance at Holder & Co.’s extreme reluctance to prosecute Goldman Sachs and its people. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., is chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that spent two years probing GS’s chicanery, finding it a major culprit in wrecking the economy.

The subcommittee’s report, based on internal memos, emails and interviews with employees of financial firms and regulators, said Goldman profited from the crisis by betting billions of dollars against the mortgage market and then misled the bank’s clients and lawmakers about its activities.

The committee’s investigation included a high-profile hearing in which senators grilled Goldman Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein. He testified that the bank had not consistently tilted its own investments heavily against the housing market, also known as having a “net short” position, as it was selling mortgage-related securities to its clients.

The subcommittee’s report said Goldman’s own financial records and internal communications directly contradicted Blankfein’s denial.

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Here is Levin’s statement on the Justice Department’s no-prosecution decision.

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Today’s jobless aren’t the only ones paying
for decades of greed-is-good misleadership

No GOPT he economic meltdown brought to us by decades of Republican trickle-down economic policies and deregulation has left millions out of work, their savings trashed, their homes in jeopardy or in foreclosure, their financial well-being shattered.

Many of those devastated low-income and middle-income Americans have children whose present is severely damaged and whose future will be greatly diminished.

Dr. Peggy Drexler discusses the dimensions of what presidents Reagan, Bush 41, to a lesser extent, Clinton, Bush 43 and former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan have wrought in a HuffPo blog post, Parents and Poverty: This Recession Can Hurt for a Generation.

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It will be years before we’ll know how fear and uncertainty are shaping the futures of children caught in the crossfire of changed lives and anxious parents. A Brookings Institution report “Families of Recession — Unemployed Parents & Their Children” sees cause for concern. Children pushed into poverty by a recession, the report says, are three times more likely to be poor themselves than those who managed to stay more affluent. “In short, “say the authors, “the conditions of today will give rise to the next generation of poor Americans.”

A big part of that is the impact of poverty on education — children of families that are driven into poverty by the recession are 15 percent less likely to finish high school and 20 percent less likely to finish college than the non-poor.

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For years, and with increasing intensity during George W. Bush’s presidency, Republicans in Congress repeated how crucial it was to reduce or eliminate the capital gains tax. Republicans said doing that would make our economy flourish, creating jobs aplenty and ushering in an era of unprecedented prosperity for all.

Republicans got their way on capital gains, along with lots of other things that turned out to be bad for the economy and the country.

Yet for all their capital gains tax talk, Republicans seldom if ever mentioned the human capital so vital to America’s future. Republicans didn’t mention that because they care little about human capital, whether it’s today’s or tomorrow’s.

Republicans do care about corporate executives and trustees. Republicans care about wealthy investors and the financial industry that serves them. After all, those are the people who fund their campaigns, pay for attack ads against their opponents and keep conservative think tanks and broadcast media churning out propaganda 24/7/365.

If you aren’t among Republicans’ favored few, you and your children are of no concern to them. Republican conservatives and their tea party and libertarian surrogates are economic Darwinists who believe in survival of the fittest.

Heads we win, tails you lose: Poverty and joblessness are proof of being unfit in conservative Republicans’ eyes. That’s how they see it even if they and their rich backers are responsible for your lack of a job and your poverty.

Survival of the greediest and most selfish — that’s what Republican politics and family values are really all about.

Those, unfortunately, are Republican family values, but they’re not American family values.

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Many hands busy in Uncle Sam’s pocket
— tales of Wall St. bankster love and lust

dollar grabIf you or I get laid off from a job, or if we have a business that gets knocked for a loop when certain Masters of the Universe collapse the economy in their quest for ever more billions, we must get by as best we can on unemployment checks or whatever a bankruptcy court leaves us.

But those same Masters of the Universe who periodically wreck the ecomony for millions of others — a.k.a. Wall Street banksters such as Jamie Dimon, J.P. Morgan Chase chairman and CEO — not only can get by but quickly reap even greater rewards because of their unique ability to call on Uncle Sam to clean up their messes with taxpayer dollars.

It’s a match made in greedmonger heaven.

They’re just loans, you say? True, but gigantic ones made at interest rates so low they qualify as charity.

Even between financial-industry-caused booms and busts these wonderfully wealthy masters and their peers in corporate America get to reach into Uncle Sam’s deep pockets in ways that make them even more wonderfully wealthy.

Get a load of this, the first of 18 brief but eye-opening items that detail who’s been getting what from the rest of us, and how.

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Jamie Dimon Is Not Alone

During the financial crisis, at least 18 former and current directors from Federal Reserve Banks worked in banks and corporations that collectively received over $4 trillion in low-interest loans from the Federal Reserve.

1. Jamie Dimon, the Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase, has served on the Board of Directors at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York since 2007. During the financial crisis, the Fed provided JP Morgan Chase with $391 billion in total financial assistance. JP Morgan Chase was also used by the Fed as a clearinghouse for the Fed’s emergency lending programs.
In March of 2008, the Fed provided JP Morgan Chase with $29 billion in financing to acquire Bear Stearns. During the financial crisis, the Fed provided JP Morgan Chase with an 18-month exemption from risk-based leverage and capital requirements. The Fed also agreed to take risky mortgage-related assets off of Bear Stearns balance sheet before JP Morgan Chase acquired this troubled investment bank.

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Isn’t that special? Don’t you just love a love story about fat cats and sweetheart deals?

You might think this well-researched, eye-opening report comes to us via some major newspaper, magazine or TV news operation, but you would be wrong. It’s the work of the General Accounting Office, updated by America’s senator, Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to include the names of those with a clear conflict of interest.

For some reason a direct link to the report doesn’t work, so instead click here, then click on “Sanders today released the names” to read the rest (it won’t take long). Finally, please share your thoughts in a comment.

We’re too ticked to add our thoughts right now. Grrr!

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Every 2012 voter should understand
‘ownership society’ cause and its cost

BushW hile running for re-election in 2004, President George W. Bush voiced his intention to foster an “ownership society,” grandly stating, “America is a stronger country every single time a family moves into a home of their own.”

Who could argue with that? Certainly not the strong Republican majorities in both houses of Congress that cheered “W” on and solidly backed his every policy and proposal, no matter how reckless. Certainly not Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who in younger years was an acolyte of Ayn Rand. Nor were Wall Street banks, other mortgage lenders and insurance outfits inclined to stand in the way of a looming bonanza.

There was ample reason for skepticism, even without understanding the bizarre financial-industry alchemy that was about to foist credit default swap chicanery and other con-game machinations on an unsuspecting world, the main one being how heavily in debt most American paycheck workers already were.

But that inconvenient truth needn’t stand in the way, the banksters, mortgage insurer AIG and federal lending authorities decided. They would just lower the standards for mortgage lending until anyone with a pulse could qualify.

foreclosure sign

A too-common sign of the times, thanks to big-business greed and Republican misleadership.

We know all too well how that worked out, wrecking not only the U.S. economy but knocking the world economy off track in a big way that still haunts us. We remember too well how savers and investors suffered $7 trillion in losses before they knew what had hit them. We recall only too well how companies shed workers at the rate of more than 200,000 a month, until we had jobless numbers not seen since the Great Depression.

Even now, as the man elected to clean up Bush and the Republicans’ mess seeks re-election in a political climate where those same Republicans have pushed unhelpful memories of the blighted 2001-2009 passage as far down the memory hole as possible, we get fresh evidence of the price of Republican misleadership.

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The homeownership rate in the U.S. fell to 65.4% in the first quarter, hitting a 15-year low amid still-high foreclosure rates and a stronger market for rents.

The rate is lower than the 66% from the fourth quarter and the 66.4% from the first quarter of last year, according to the Census Bureau. The rate hit a high of 69.2% in 2004, before the housing bubble burst.

The housing market has been trying to recover ever since. Several reports this month
have suggested that the market has turned a corner, with pending home sales up and housing values bottoming.

But foreclosure rates are still high (and may continue to increase following a landmark settlement with loan servicers earlier this year).

In the first quarter, 74.6 million housing units were occupied by owners. Homeownership is down in every region, falling to 59.9% in the West. The region, which has the lowest rate in the country, hasn’t had such a small percentage of homeowners since at least 2006.

Rates among minorities continue to trail the nationwide numbers. Black homeownership is at 43.1%; the Hispanic rate is 46.3%.

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To those given to saying our two major parties are basically alike, one being as bad as the other, we will point out a couple of decidedly partisan facts.

First, no Democratic administration or Democratic majority in Congress has ever set the country up for a major economic collapse or put us in a situation that made it necessary for taxpayers to bail out whole industries. Republican misleadership gave us the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the savings & loan debacle of the 1980’s, and the housing bubble collapse that triggered what some call the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

Second, no Democratic administration or Democratic majority in Congress ever prosecuted a war off budget, pushing the entire cost on to future generations of taxpayers. The George W. Bush administration and Republican-controlled Congresses of 2001-2006 put the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq both off budget. They selfishly and recklessly did that to prevent a public backlash against the wars, and to help ensure Bush’s re-election in 2004.

These are significant differences that every taxpayer and voter should be clear about. What’s more, they are differences everyone who’s clear about them should make clear to everyone they know.

Americans can’t afford any more Republican misleadership, from the White House, from Congress or, worst of all, from both.

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Psychological testing of Wall Streeters
would pay dividends to the rest of us

moneybag manShow us someone who hasn’t made acid comments about the movers, shakers and charlatans of Wall Street and the broader financial industry, and we’ll show you someone who hasn’t been paying attention.

For all of that, we’ve yet to see a member of the financial commentariat go off on banksters and brokers as bluntly as Dow Jones columnist Al Lewis just did.*

The easiest way to explain the never-ending string of Wall Street scandals and implosions is to observe that a surprising percentage of people in the financial industry are psychos.

The latest edition of CFA Magazine, a trade publication for chartered financial analysts, features an article claiming one out of 10 people working on Wall Street are psychopaths.

Sherree DeCovny, the former investment brokler who wrote the piece, says the estimate came from researchers, including a psychologist who treats Wall Street professionals.

Lewis goes on to tag a good many Wall Streeters as sociopaths, explaining that term and psycho denote such antisocial traits as lack of empathy, disregard for consequences and runaway risk taking. DeCovny says when most of us were learning the right-from-wrong lessons of childhood, many who grew up to be Wall Streeters “didn’t get it.”

This insight wouldn’t be so alarming if Lewis and DeCovny were describing carpet installers or bicycle shop owners. But when you realize the financial industry represents about 8.4 percent of the United States’ $15 trillion GDP, and that at about this time a year ago financial firms accounted for 29 percent of corporate profits, it’s red lights and sirens all over the place.

Of course, not everyone in the financial industry is a predator like Mitt Romney or a scam artist like Bernie Madoff. It’s just that there’s this strong, sizable presence. Making matters worse, you can’t ID Wall Street’s bad guys until they’ve gone from being charming, charismatic, go-getter types in expensive suits to lives-wrecking fiends in prisonwear.

Lewis’ charges ring true and make sense. But, what if anything can be done to weed out the most greed-driven, devious and dangerous banksters, brokers and so on before they wreak more havoc on the rest of us?

Lewis relays DeCovny’s suggestion that financial firms do psychological screeing of job applicants. That makes sense, but it’s not enough.

Even good, level-headed people can be corrupted by being submerged for years in a culture of avarice. We say screen the whole lot of them — from the mail room to the CEO’s office suite — at least biannually.

And, make regular psychological testing one of several conditions for these people to obtain and renew government-issued licenses to ply their trade. They will call screening and licensing outrageous government interference in the private sector.

We call it a survival plan for the rest of us.

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* The Wall Street Journal doesn’t make its content freely available on the Web the way most newspapers do, so we can’t offer a direct link to Lewis’ column. You can access it and read the whole thing in pdf form by googling for “Al Lewis + Wall Street + psycho.”

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Budget committee hearing revealing
of muddled approach to jobs recovery

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Budget hawk: Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Budget Committee. / AP

A Senate Budget Committee hearing held Thursday, Jan. 26, provides insight into Democrats’ regrettable two-steps-forward, one-step-back approach to getting the economy growing in ways that will put our more than 14 million unemployed back to work.

Hearings are set up by committee chairpersons, in this case Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., a career-long budget hawk with a strong penchant for uttering the word “unsustainable” and phrase “entitlement reform” in alternatively ominous and frustrated tones.

Committee chairpersons usually invite witnesses who will provide a range of views, conservative to progressive, when answering senators’ questions on matters as weighty as Thursday’s, titled “Outlook for U.S. and Global Economy.”

However, Conrad arranged for input from two relatively moderate and one hard-core conservative economists. They were: Dr. Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton economics professor and Dr. Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisors, the moderates; and Dr. Ike Brannon, American Action Forum director of economic policy.

In the mid-1990’s, Blinder was Federal Reserve Board vice chairman, until he reportedly got on the wrong side of then-Chairman Alan Greenspan and his people for offering views that differed from Greenspan and his people’s. Prakken heads a macroeconomic consulting firm, does speaking engagements ($20,000-$30,000 each), has taught economics and headed the National Association for Business Economics.

Brannon is the director of economic policy and of congressional relations for the American Action Forum — a Karl Rove front group. Here’s a snippet out of a Think Progress Jan. 11, 2011, item:

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