Video of the day

Nice job from Jon Stewart taking on the conservative complaint about poor people not paying taxes.


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Global warming and journalism

Just maybe reporters are finally figuring out how to report on global warming.  In this Post article about how Republican candidates are at odds with established science, there’s not a whole bunch of “he said, she said” and trying to put a few marginalized figures on the same ground as the overwhelming scientific consensus.   Most notably, there’s this:

There are dissenting scientists, but they’re a small minority within the climate-science community. A 2010 study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences surveyed 1,372 climate scientists and found that 97 to 98 percent agreed that humans are contributing to global warming.

I’d love to see that paragraph in every story that covers the science of global warming.   Then maybe, we wouldn’t get depressing paragraphs like this:

The general public is far more divided. APew Research Center poll published in October 2010 showed that over the previous four years, the number of respondents believing there is “solid evidence” that the Earth is warming dropped from 79 percent to 59 percent. There was a striking divide along partisan lines: Some 79 percent of Democrats believed in global warming, compared with 38 percent of Republicans.

Actually, with this particular wording “solid evidence” there truly is no acceptable answer, but “yes.”  The evidence may not be 100% rock-solid proof, but there’s absolutely not doubt that there’s “solid evidence.”

Dear Republicans (except for you, John Hunstman): wake up and smell the science!

The Perry Problem

Via Chait, conservative Talk Radio Host gets to the critical aspect of Republican presidential appeal (and the critical difference between GWB and Rick Perry).  Short version: they’re all quite conservative, but the key is a moderate facade to appeal to Independents.  Don’t forget, GWB was a self-proclaimed “compassionate conservative.”  I imagine Rick Perry only uses “compassion” as a laugh line.  That may work with the Tea Party crowd, but not the general election electorate.  Here’s the long version:

Ryan offers the ideal combination of conservative substance and moderate style. I’ve argued for years that the perfect formula for a unifying GOP nominee isn’t to split the difference between the so-called moderate and conservative wings of the party, or between the establishment and the Tea Party. Today’s Republicans remain a party of unequivocally conservative principles (as evidenced by near-unanimous GOP congressional votes against all elements of the Obama big-government agenda). Most Republicans, however (like most of their Democratic and independent neighbors), prefer a moderate, nonthreatening style to the explosive personality of some rhetorical bomb-thrower. Reagan exemplified the necessary blend to perfection: his clear-cut, unwavering conservative values won wide acceptance because they matched a sunny, agreeable, easygoing disposition. Mike Huckabee captured some of the same magic with his classic formulation: “I’m a conservative, but I’m not angry about it.” George W. Bush succeeded with a similar presentation, positioning himself in 2000 as a rock-ribbed religious right-winger who nonetheless respected the other side as a nice-guy “compassionate conservative” and a “uniter, not a divider.” The least-effective Republican nominees get the formulation exactly backwards: Bob Dole and John McCain, both admirable war heroes with impressive Senate records, worried righties (with their imperfect conservative credentials) and everyone else (with an edgy, occasionally angry and explosive, personal style). This year both Perry and Bachmann offer plenty of conservative substance, but without the reassuring moderate style

I’m not exactly a big fan of Medved, but I think he’s spot-on on this one.

Chart of the day (Capital Gains)


(Via Kevin Drum).  See the correlation between capital gains tax rates and investment?  Me neither.

Yet, all we ever hear about from conservatives is how we need to keep capital gains rates low to encourage investments and grow the economy.  The real truth of the matter?  Rich people get a lot of their income from capital gains and rich people really don’t like to pay taxes.  Of course, they can’t admit that, so instead we hear about how these low rates are so necessary for economic growth.

Jared Bernstein’s comments (via the Drum post):

There are a few economic principles that we consistently get wrong in ways that do lasting damage to our economy and diminish our future. At the top of this list are arguments about large behavioral responses to changes in tax rates. I don’t think it’s zero, but I’ve simply never seen compelling evidence that tax increases significantly hurt growth, labor supply, jobs, wages, or that rate decreases provide much of a boost the other way. And when you factor in the benefits of the investment and services government provides—something the literature tends to ignore—the hyper-responsiveness arguments are even less compelling.

Of course, tax rates need to be fair and not totally confiscatory, but lets please stop pretending a) our current rates are anywhere near that point, or b) that people are super-sensitive to small changes in these rates.




Bond ratings and 1st amendment

Imagine that you are looking at a house to buy.  The realtor is paid for by the seller.  He tells you the roof is in great shape, the HVAC just needs some minor maintenance, and that the neighbors are quiet and friendly.  You move in and find a leaky roof, the need for a new A/C compressor and that a bunch of rowdy college kids live next door.  Obvious fraud– right?  Right.

Somehow, though, if you replace a realtor with a bond ratings agency it’s not fraud, it’s just S&P expressing their 1st amendment rights.  When they say that a bad investment is actually good, that’s just their Constitutionally protected “opinion.”  How is this possible?  Apparently, there’s quite a bit of case law on this.  Sure, I’m not legal scholar, but seems to me some judges got snowed as there’s no way this passes the common sense test.  Anyway, I learned about this absurd state of affairs from this really interesting Fresh Air interviewabout the Bond Ratings agencies (primarily S&P and Moody’s).  Just so we’re clear, they were hugely responsible for the economic crisis we’re stuck in as the fact that they were rating junk mortgages as AAA was central to the whole bubble and financial collapse.

Somehow, they’ve managed to convince our legal system that they just issue “opinions” that should not be taken as investment advice.  Seriously?!  Just what are they there for then.  Sure, they should not be accountable for honest mistakes, but the idea that they can claim a 1st amendment protection in cases of outright fraud or gross negligence (both probably at work on the mortgages) is just absurd and infuriating.

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