Friday, January 7, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
From the California section of N+1′s year in review:
Without any pressure telling them otherwise, Democrats, faced with an ineluctable revenue crisis, are going to go with what has been their signature political move for decades: conceding. The point is, it hardly matters whether you cut the budget with fat Republican enthusiasm, like Chris Christie in New Jersey, or gaunt Democratic humility, as Jerry Brown has promised. What effect this coming evisceration of social services and mass layoff of public servants will have on the makeup of the country is incalculable. That it will only contribute to the deep recession, which supposedly ended several months ago, is axiomatic.
I think the spirit here is right, but the details are wrong. The thing about state governments is that they need to balance their budgets. Consequently, it actually matters a great deal whether you implement cuts with Christie-like enthusiasm or not. Christie has actually been lowering taxes on the richest New Jerseyites, thus increasing the need for cuts. Conversely, while it’s quite true that state budget cuts amidst a recession impair recovery, it’s also true that state tax hikes amidst a recession impair recovery. The only solution to the macroeconomic problem of state/local budget cuts is for congress to appropriate funds.
This is a really big problem! Congress should appropriate funds. What’s more, congress should—but gives no indication of giving any consideration whatsoever to doing so—be looking at some way to reduce the systematic tendency of state and local government to engage in pro-cyclical budgeting. So it’s really two big related problems, and their scope is much wider than the ideological back-and-forth about the optimal size of the state/local public sector.
I was reminded of this while reading Bobo's latest. Mostly because of this:
The welfare policies of the 1960s gave people money without asking for work and personal responsibility in return, and these had to be replaced. The welfare reforms of the 1990s involved big and intrusive government, but they did the job because they were in line with American values, linking effort to reward.And I, of course, starting thinking about how if linking effort to reward is America's #1 value, how come we always focus with the poor and not on the inheriting rich? Maybe we can take all their money and they can know the morality of working for a change.
Anyway, just as I was working myself up, I came across this sentence:
The geniuses flock to finance, not industry.And I was reminded that no one can possibly take David Brooks seriously.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Monday, January 3, 2011
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Steve Benen flags Chris Christie’s defense of leaving the state governorless amidst the snowstorm by, among other things, saying “My first and most important responsibility, in my view, is as a husband and a father.”
In a Real Talk sense, I think this is false. But be that as it may. What about Christie’s work in his second most important job? New Jersey, historically, hasn’t had the office of lieutenant governor. But the state authorities decided very recently that was a bad idea and created one. It’s really not a post that carries with it a ton of responsibilities, but filling in for the governor if a situation develops while he’s on vacation in Florida is on the list. Under the circumstances, it seems pretty clear that the governor and the lieutenant governor shouldn’t go on vacation simultaneously and that the governor should put some effort into working this out. Failure to coordinate the schedules properly hardly makes Christie history’s greatest monster, but it was an error. An error that nine times out of ten probably would have gone unnoticed, but the snowstorm meant the error turned into a problem for the state. The decent response to a small-but-real error is just to apologize and move on but Christie’s managed to turn an asshole persona into national YouTube stardom so I guess he thinks it’s best to act like a jerk.
The NYT apparently has not learned about the financial crisis that followed in the wake of the collapse of the housing bubble. That is the only possible conclusion that readers can take away from an article about anger at public sector workers that failed to note that the plunge in the stock market in 2008-2009 was the major cause of the shortfalls in public sector pensions.
Certainly if the reporters and/or editors at the NYT had known about the financial crisis and the stock market plunge it would have been featured prominently in this piece.