Friday, April 01, 2011

Friday Mashup (4/1/11)

  • You can consider this to be my obligatory April Fools' reference (more here).

    (And by the way, “Pastor” Terry Jones is another fool – far worse actually; I didn’t even know that he actually went through with that stunt of burning a copy of the Koran after last year, but it seems that he did last March 20th, and the results are here…violence in any way, shape or form is wrong, but this idiot should have possessed the common sense of a garden slug, which he plainly doesn’t...Think Progress has more here.)

  • Next, I give you Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former adviser to Gramps McCain, here…
    The clearest line of demarcation in the recovery came with the November election. There the grade moved into passing territory as the presence of House conservatives instantly generated a new sense of certainty for small businesses and investors that did not exist when Democrats threatened tax hikes, rammed through Obamacare, forced financial regulations, and drove America’s debt to the brink of a financial crisis. The “certainty bump” brought by a new Congress has moved the growth dial into positive territory.
    Ah yes, it’s time for another lecture about “certainty,” or so it would seem. In response, I give you the following (here)…
    Fox has dutifully adopted claims by GOP Reps. John Boehner and Kevin McCarthy that failing to immediately vote to extend Bush-era tax cuts injects "uncertainty" into the economy that hinders hiring, a claim which both Boehner and McCarthy made on Fox News Sunday. However, economists agree that tax cuts -- especially those for the wealthiest Americans -- are poor stimulus.
    Indeed, Professor Krugman lamented as follows here today (with “certainty” advocates no doubt believing that the “confidence fairy” will stimulate private sector hiring…I wish this were also an April Fools’ joke, though in fact it is when you think about it)…
    Did I mention that in Britain, where the government that took power last May bought completely into the doctrine of expansionary austerity, the economy has stalled and business confidence has fallen to a two-year low? And even the government’s new, more pessimistic projections are based on the assumption that highly indebted British households will take on even more debt in the years ahead.

    But never mind the lessons of history, or events unfolding across the Atlantic: Republicans are now fully committed to the doctrine that we must destroy employment in order to save it.

    And Democrats are offering little pushback. The White House, in particular, has effectively surrendered in the war of ideas; it no longer even tries to make the case against sharp spending cuts in the face of high unemployment.

    So that’s the state of policy debate in the world’s greatest nation: one party has embraced 80-year-old economic fallacies, while the other has lost the will to fight. And American families will pay the price.
    Sad but true (and by the way, a very interesting take on how "certainty" is another Republican "dog whistle" is noted here).

    In a related story, as they say, it seems that Stephen Moore in the Murdoch Street Journal says “We’ve Become A Nation of Takers, Not Makers” here (his complaint, such as it is, is that there are more government workers than private sector workers, or so he tells us – typical for a well-coddled wingnut who doesn’t have to worry about where his next paycheck will come from).

    For a little context in the real world, Gallup tells us the following here from about a year ago…
    By almost a 2-to-1 margin, federal employees say their employer is hiring rather than firing, giving the federal government a relatively robust +18 Job Creation Index for April. (Federal workers make up about 5% of the sample of workers Gallup interviewed in April.) This contrasts with Index values of -28 among state and -26 among local government workers (about 7% and 5% of Gallup's workforce sample, respectively). The Job Creation Index among private-sector and other non-government workers is +9.

    Gallup's Job Creation Index clearly indicates that state and local governments are in the midst of significant downsizing, no doubt reflecting budgetary issues resulting from recessionary pressures on the tax (and other) revenue that funds these governments.

    Hiring at the federal level has apparently to date escaped these same fiscal pressures. Indeed, the federal government appears to be significantly outpacing the private sector in terms of the relative number of jobs created.

    How long this pattern will continue is difficult to project. The federal budget deficit is likely to become a prominent element of political debate in the months and years ahead, thus opening up the possibility of increased employment pressures at the federal level. At the moment, however, the federal government is one of the brightest spots in the nation's hiring picture.
    Moore also extols the virtues of privatizing functions of government, and I realize that it’s possible to achieve cost savings doing so. However, as noted here, it is hardly a panacea (and here is a case history of government privatization gone wrong from none other than Hosni Mubarak Walker himself).

    And even though the unemployment rate ticked down a fraction of a point to 8.8 percent, I still checked up on the home page of our Repug U.S. House Rep from PA-08, “Mikey The Beloved” Fitzpatrick to find out the latest developments in Mikey’s ongoing mission to bring JOBS JOBS JOBS JOBS JOBS JOBS JOBS to our district.

    Well, I have a bit of good news (just a bit); it seems that since Mikey announced his small business roundtable, he’s also toured a glass factory and talked today about “certainty and confidence” in response to today’s employment numbers (what laser-like focus!).

    In response, I have only this to ask:

    Where are the jobs, congressman?

  • Continuing, I stumbled across the following yesterday (here – file this under Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett’s notions of what non-governance looks like)…
    HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Approval of enforcement actions and punishments aimed at Marcellus Shale drilling operators must now go through top officials in the Department of Environmental Protection in a change that the agency said Wednesday is aimed at improving its consistency in handling the rapidly growing industry.

    A Cabot well is drilled in Susquehanna County in July 2010 as part of the company’s development of the Marcellus Shale. Stung by earlier pollution problems when area water became contaminated, officials say the company is taking a new tack as it taps into natural gas throughout the region.

    Acting Secretary Michael Krancer is changing the procedure after receiving complaints that agency staff in different regions of Pennsylvania were carrying out their responsibilities unevenly, a department spokeswoman said.

    The new policy covers a variety of enforcement actions that can require a company to pay a fine or correct a problem, spokeswoman Katy Gresh said. In some cases, those matters reach top officials. But the policy also covers notices of violation — which Krancer's predecessor, John Hanger, equated to a traffic ticket making its way up to the chief of police and said it represents an encroachment onto the professional independence of the agency's inspectors.

    "I can't think of anything more likely to erode public confidence in the inspection process than this," Hanger said. "I urge them to rethink and reconsider."

    Hanger said it oversteps the built-in checks and balances that give every company the ability to contest a notice of violation by responding in writing, asking for a meeting with regional staff to discuss it, appealing a decision to the Environmental Hearing Board and even going to court.

    If there are complaints about consistency, the best way to handle those complaints is to carry out a management-level review of consistency and then train staff, if necessary, Hanger said.

    "The idea that the secretary himself and the deputy secretary would presumably review, literally hundreds if not thousands of (notices of violation) before they were issued, when they were not on the site, they didn't do the inspection, is incredible," Hanger said. "It's a new full-time job for the secretary, is what's going to happen."
    But of course this is going to cripple enforcement of drilling violations, John. Remember how Corbett said that he wanted PA to be like Texas when it comes to drilling for natural gas, or something? This is just another step in that horrid process.

    One day, clean water in this state will be featured in a public TV show called “Things That Aren’t There Anymore, 2011 Version.” I’m sure samples will be on display in museums for elementary school field trips. It will be such a pleasant memory to think about what we used to drink while we’re being treated for unexplained tumors and all kinds of intestinal disorders that we, for some reason, cannot explain (typical for a political party also guilty of this).

    I know Dan Onorato didn’t exactly separate himself from Corbett on this issue the way he should have during the election last year, but I still have to say it anyway: heckuva job, PA voters!

  • Finally, it seems that it falls upon your humble narrator once more to defend a bachelor of arts degree conferred from a higher educational institution – someone named Ron Meyer at The Daily Tucker tells us the following here…
    A liberal arts education is a degree in B.S., and I’m not talking about a Bachelor of Science.

    Instead of teaching students how to approach problems from a multidisciplinary perspective, today’s U.S. higher education system is teaching students how to deceive people.

    Employers looking to hire hard-working, competent employees may want to think twice about the quality of a liberal arts education. According to a 2010 study from the Association of American College and Universities, employers desire workers with broad educations, but is this really what modern liberal arts programs are supplying?

    As someone who is about to graduate from a well-regarded liberal arts school, I can firmly say no.
    In response, please allow me to point out the following individuals who have acquired degrees in liberal arts (to combat Meyer’s claim that students are tuning out when it comes to learning about government, or something):
    Eric Holder – BA in American History, ’73 (Columbia)

    Rahm Emanuel – BA in Liberal Arts, ’81 (Sarah Lawrence)

    Hillary Clinton – BA in Political Science, ’69 (Wellesley)

    Valerie Jarrett – BA in Psychology, ’78 (Stanford)
    …and last but certainly not least…
    Barack Obama – BA in Political Science, ’83 (Columbia)
    Now I will grant you that it’s probably a good idea to pursue an advanced degree after acquiring a BA to further one’s job prospects, but you could say that about a Bachelor of Science degree as well.

    And by the way, is it too much for Meyer to tell us the type of degree he hopes to have conferred upon him upon graduation? If he feels like he’s gaming the system by obtaining a “BS” degree himself, why doesn’t he have the intellectual courage to practice what he preaches, enroll in another curriculum, and graduate with a degree that he thinks is more honorable?

    Oh, but that would deprive him of the opportunity to expound on another wingnut talking point..riiiiight.
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