Author: Barry Finger

Is the Tea Party Taking the Government Hostage?

That is the affirmative  conclusion one might reasonably come to by listening to the Democrats and their MSNBC and Nation magazine echo chambers. Far right monies bundled together by conservative “social welfare” groups are said to be defying a hapless public powerless to thwart the House Republicans from exercising veto power over the budget process, in their effort to impose more austerity and defund the Affordable Care Act.

Quantitative Easing 3

     Fed chairman Ben Bernanke announced yesterday that the Fed would buy mortgage-backed bonds at a rate of $40 billion a month until the employment picture improves and will leave effective interest rates near zero through 2015.

Did organized money defeat organized labor?

     That appears to be the Democratic Party’s takeaway from its humbling defeat in the Wisconsin recall election. That and the ever familiar lament that workers no longer seem capable of voting consistently in their own financial interests, consistency in this case meaning in solidarity with embattled public sector workers and their unions. 38% of households with union members voted for the incumbent, as did a majority of non-college graduates. Walker carried the 10 poorest counties in the state by a 13% margin.

The Bipartisan Assault on Higher Education

     Obama and Romney agree that the Stafford loan program should be maintained at a 3.4% interest rate, rather than being allowed to double by this July. This, somehow, is seen as a great boon to students and evidence of a bipartisan commitment to the upcoming generation. Keeping interest rates low purportedly encourages prospective students to choose more education than they might otherwise aspire to, to select more expensive colleges than they could otherwise seek, and to finance this education through more debt than they would otherwise incur.

Euthanasia for the Rentier

     The immediate European economic crisis demonstrates, if there were any lingering doubts, that the architecture of the European Monetary Union is incompatible with countercyclical intervention. It was designed solely to contain inflation at 2%. There is no central fiscal authority and no mandate to either maintain acceptable levels of employment or to sustain working class living standards against the ravages of the business cycle.

Social Security and the 1%

     New Politics’ co-editor, Betty Mandell, recently championed Social Security as a fundamental universal right rejecting any recourse to selectivity through means testing. This is the first line in any robust defense of this “entitlement,” the right to live in dignity with a modicum of comfort in retirement. What is upheld in this is the fundamental distinction between a social insurance program of deferred benefits and a social assistance program.

Jobs and Deficits: Obama Squares the Circle

     President Obama outlined his new American Jobs Act before a packed Congress, more than half of whom believe the poor and jobless are undertaxed moochers and that the government does not create jobs. The Democrats will have their hands full.

Hyperactive Deficit Attention Disorder: the economic dyslexia of the Right

     Many on the left find it difficult to understand the right wing arguments against countercyclical activity. And I suspect no source of clarification will originate among the knuckle dragging idiots contesting the field for the Republican presidential nomination. Their pronouncements are as exasperating as they are primitive and self-contradictory. But to understand the mindset of the modern reactionary—to impart to it a coherency that it normally cannot do on its own, one cannot avoid plumbing the depths of gold bug-ism.

The Economy Again in Crisis Mode

         “Debt crisis: stock markets panic” was the first entry to the Guardian on line in the aftermath of the Dow’s recent 4 percent rout. Bloomberg News noted that more than $4.5 trillion has been erased from the value of equities worldwide since July 26th. The Los Angeles Times headlined that “Global sell-off intensifies pressure on governments to stave off recession.”

Sense and Nonsense in the Balanced Budget Debate: A Socialist Response

     The Republicans have successfully changed the economic debate from jobs to deficit control. Why the urgency? After all, this anemic “recovery” has been marked above all by the lack of job growth. Growth needs to considerable exceed 3% per annum if the private sector is to make any significant headway in reducing unemployment. Instead growth is actually trending downward from its post Great Recession peak. The intractability of long term unemployment now exceeds the duration experienced in the 1930s.

Once Again on Libya

     The basic issue for socialists in confronting the Libyan situation is this: we wish Qaddafi to be defeated, but we are not indifferent to who defeats him. That is because who defeats Qaddafi involves how the regime is brought down and the consequences of that downfall. We are not in support of capitalist imperialism being the agent of that defeat, even though almost any conceivable regime that replaces Qaddafi would most likely be a “lesser evil” to this, one of the world’s most horrific police states.

Something Fishy about the Pew Report

     Everyone knows that there’s an enormous looming crisis of underfunded public pensions, a veritable ticking time bomb that will saddle every man, woman and child with insurmountable debt. We know this because, among other reasons, the widely respected Pew Center for the States published a study entitled, “The Trillion Dollar Gap.” We know this because it echoes through the media — print, internet or talking head. A Google search shows more than 29,000 results for this pairing.

Why Socialists Should be Deficit Hawks

Christina Romer, the former chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, argues in today’s (October 24) New York Times that “Now Isn’t the Time to Cut the Deficit.” Her argument, which is unexceptional among liberal economists, is simply that “tax cuts and spending increases stimulate demand and raise output and employment; tax increases and spending cuts have the opposite effect.” This, she reassures her readership, is a “basic message of macroeconomics.”

A Rejoinder to the Monthly Review-Keynesian Debate

Monthly Review magazine, which long continues to have cache on the left—especially with regard to economic analysis—is currently hosting a debate on the so-called “Minksy moment.” MR, of course, long defends the view advanced in the 1960s by Paul Sweezy’s and Paul Baran’s book Monopoly Capital.

How the Democrats Lost Control of Health Care

How far the debate has come from 1954, when President Truman called for the creation of a national health insurance fund to be run by the federal government! For sixty years the Democrats have failed to deliver on this promise. Truman’s program —a single payer system- is essentially off the table. As a result we see enormous loss of life. On average, 20,000 people a year die in the United States due to lack of adequate coverage, including those who die due to caps on lifetime treatment for chronic and debilitating conditions.