Krugman on knee-jerk centrism

Do yourself a favor and read Krugman today.  100% spot-on criticism of our political press.  Every political reporter should have to read this.  The gist:

As I said, it’s not complicated. Yet many people in the news media apparently can’t bring themselves to acknowledge this simple reality. News reports portray the parties as equally intransigent; pundits fantasize about some kind of “centrist” uprising, as if the problem was too much partisanship on both sides.

Some of us have long complained about the cult of “balance,” the insistence on portraying both parties as equally wrong and equally at fault on any issue, never mind the facts. I joked long ago that if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read “Views Differ on Shape of Planet.” But would that cult still rule in a situation as stark as the one we now face, in which one party is clearly engaged in blackmail and the other is dickering over the size of the ransom?

The answer, it turns out, is yes.

And great catch on some, presumably unintended commentary, over at Chait’s blog:

The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you’re not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse.

David Brooks is off today.

Daily Show does School House Rock

Oh my goodness, for a lover of School House Rock (I still show “I’m Just a Bill” every time I teach my intro class), this may be the best Daily Show segment ever.  And spot-on political commentary (as usual) to boot.  Just watch.

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Pink collar

Drum posted an interesting chart yesterday showing that women are way disproportiately bearing the loss of jobs in the category of “office and administrative support occupations.”

The biggest reason you always see that very misleading “women make 75% as much as men” statistic is that women work in different jobs from men– what’s called the dual labor market.  At the hospital, more of the doctors are men and more of the nurses and billing clerks are women.  In an office, more of the lawyers are men, and more of the administrative support and paralegals are women.  You get it.  Anyway, these are so-called “pink collar” jobs and where businesses have been cutting back, these jobs have borne a huge share of the cuts.  You can see it in my very own job.  Most NCSU faculty are men.  Facing budget cuts the administration is doing everything it can to protect faculty jobs (as it should, I would argue), but that means a lot of administrative support– mostly women– is being cut.  There will be two less employees in the main PS office in the coming year– both women.  Some nice further explanation here, if you are interested.

The platinum coin solution

This is too far out there for Obama to ever use, and I presume there’s gotta be some macro-economic downsides, but that aside, I love this idea.  Via Yglesias:

I keep hesitating to write about this because it sounds insane, but Jack Balkin’s a professor at Yale Law School so I’ll let him say it:

Sovereign governments such as the United States can print new money. However, there’s a statutory limit to the amount of paper currency that can be in circulation at any one time. Ironically, there’s no similar limit on the amount of coinage. A little-known statute gives the secretary of the Treasury the authority to issue platinum coins in any denomination. So some commentators have suggested that the Treasury create two $1 trillion coins, deposit them in its account in the Federal Reserve and write checks on the proceeds.

It actually seems to me that there’s a colorable argument that President Obama is legally obliged to order Secretary Geithner to order the mint to start creating large denomination platinum coins. The debt ceiling is legally binding. We can’t borrow any more money. But at the same time, the Social Security Act is still valid. There are appropriations bills that extend through September. The assumption is that starting August 2, the Treasury will start “prioritizing” payments. But whence the legal authority to do that. By contrast, the legal authority to mint platinum coins is right there in the statute. This would, I assume, lead to a downgrading of American sovereign debt.

Oh right, there’s the downside.  Those pesky ratings of our debt.  The whole trouble we (i.e., everybody but nutty Republicans) are trying to avoid.  Still, seems better than some of the other options.


No equivalence

Joe Klein is certainly on the left side of center (though not that far), but he certainly represents the knee-jerk “pox on both their houses” centrism so typical of Washington journalism.  Thus, quite notable that he’s actually figured things out here.

And so, here we are. Our nation’s economy and international reputation as the world’s presiding grownup has already been badly damaged. It is a self-inflicted wound of monumental stupidity. I am usually willing to acknowledge that Democrats can be as silly, and hidebound, as Republicans — but not this time. There is zero equivalence here. The vast majority of Democrats have been more than reasonable, more than willing to accept cuts in some of their most valued programs. Given the chance, there was the likelihood that they would have surrendered their most powerful weapon in next year’s election — a Mediscare campaign — by agreeing to some necessary long-term reforms in that program. The President, remarkably, proposed raising the age of eligibility for Medicare to 67.

The Republicans have been willing to concede nothing. Their stand means higher interest rates, fewer jobs created and more destroyed, a general weakening of this country’s standing in the world. Osama bin Laden, if he were still alive, could not have come up with a more clever strategy for strangling our nation.  [emphasis mine]

Okay, I think enough GOP members of Congress are so monumentally ignorant and so used to drinking their own Kool-Aid for so long that they actually believe what they are doing is somehow good for our economy and the nation.  Nonetheless, I think on some level, some of the less nutty of them have to understand that their plans are bad for the economy and that millions of Americans will suffer as a result.  I think they see that as simply an acceptable side effect for one American to suffer the most– Barack Obama in November 2012.

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