I never had any doubts that the federal government’s financial bailout and the stimulus bill were needed to weather the economic storm that hit us in 2008.  Many people disagreed, but as the New York Times reported this week:

Now, two leading economists wielding complex quantitative models say that assertion can be empirically proved.
In a new paper, the economists argue that without the Wall Street bailout, the bank stress tests, the emergency lending and asset purchases by the Federal Reserve, and the Obama administration’s fiscal stimulus program, the nation’s gross domestic product would be about 6.5 percent lower this year.
In addition, there would be about 8.5 million fewer jobs, on top of the more than 8 million already lost; and the economy would be experiencing deflation, instead of low inflation.
The paper, by Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton professor and former vice chairman of the Fed, and Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, represents a first stab at comprehensively estimating the effects of the economic policy responses of the last few years.
“While the effectiveness of any individual element certainly can be debated, there is little doubt that in total, the policy response was highly effective,” they write.

Now, two leading economists wielding complex quantitative models say that assertion can be empirically proved.

In a new paper, the economists argue that without the Wall Street bailout, the bank stress tests, the emergency lending and asset purchases by the Federal Reserve, and the Obama administration’s fiscal stimulus program, the nation’s gross domestic product would be about 6.5 percent lower this year.

In addition, there would be about 8.5 million fewer jobs, on top of the more than 8 million already lost; and the economy would be experiencing deflation, instead of low inflation.

The paper, by Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton professor and former vice chairman of the Fed, and Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, represents a first stab at comprehensively estimating the effects of the economic policy responses of the last few years.

“While the effectiveness of any individual element certainly can be debated, there is little doubt that in total, the policy response was highly effective,” they write.

That’s right.  If those who wanted our government to act like some dumbass tightwad had gotten their way, we would be in a depression now instead of working our way out of a recession.

I was one, and still am one that thinks the stimulus bill wasn’t big enough.  More government spending on much needed infrastructure projects would help create jobs, which would in turn create demand for goods and services, resulting in more economic growth.  Obama requested just enough stimulus money to weather the storm, but the storm has not passed, and he needs to ask for more to pull us out of this mess, but he won’t in this highly partisan environment, especially in a mid-term election year.

Take a look at this chart from a Discover Magazine blogpost that shows people who drink more have more extensive vocabularies.

drinkwordsum

The chart is based on WORDSUM scores (a vocabulary test included in the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale) compared to percentile groupings of people in the survey who identified themselves as drinkers. 

There are many more drinking graphs in the post including drinking by demographic categories, by regions of the United States, and by political and educational categories.

Go read it and then pour yourself a drink.

Ever since Democrats passed the stimulus bill in early 2009, Republicans in congress have attempted to portray themselves as born-again deficit hawks, eschewing their profligate ways during the George W Bush years.  Fortunately, this fiction has not survived the question of what to do about the Bush tax cuts for the rich which are due to expire.

The Obama administration intends to let them expire, thereby saving the treasury some $697 billion over 10 years.  GOP leaders, however, support an extension of all the Bush tax cuts because (and they even manage to say this with a straight face) they don’t add to the deficit at all since they stimulate the economy and actually pay for themselves.  This nonsense has been disproved so many times you’d think even Republicans would be embarrassed to trot it out again; but it does highlight, in addition to a certain obtuseness, their hypocrisy on the deficit.  According to the GOP, extending unemployment benefits to those hit hardest by this recession must be paid for with offsetting cuts elsewhere in the budget, but the rule shouldn’t apply to tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans least touched by the downturn. Sweet!

McConnell and others in the GOP explain the difference in terms of their opposition to government spending adding to the deficit, but this hardly concerned them when they were passing the Medicare drug benefit or appropriations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – none of which were offset with spending cuts elsewhere.  Even now when pressed to identify specific and significant cuts to government spending in programs such as Medicare or Social Security or the defence budget, GOP spokespeople dodge and weave and obfuscate shamelessly without ever giving a straight answer.  Indeed, if you listen to them in other contexts, they insist not enough is being spent on things like border security.

This incoherence is fundamental to today’s national Republican Party and is guided by an essential right-wing conviction:  that an unfettered free market is paramount, and that government has no business and is essentially ineffective in all but a few areas such as national security.  The party therefore has no incentive to make government work efficiently or effectively either when they are in power or in opposition, since this would undermine their guiding principal.  This explains, for example, the utter incompetence of the Bush years when the GOP controlled both the White House and the congress, and the intransigence of today’s congressional Republicans as they strive to thwart any and all initiatives of the Obama administration.  For Republicans gridlock is good.

Voters should remember this as they go to the polls this fall.  By any reasonable standard, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats have accomplished a great deal in the last two years, virtually all of which I happen to believe, will be to the long term benefit of the country.  In the short term, the stimulus really did soften the blow of this deepest of economic downturns.  Yet the number of jobless is still way too high and Americans are feeling unsettled and grumpy; Democrats, unfairly or no, are likely to feel the brunt of their ire.  Republicans will benefit simply by being the party out of power. But a party as bereft of ideas as the GOP and whose policies and ideological devotion to deregulation largely caused the mess in the first place should not be rewarded with increased power and influence.  That is simply a recipe for prolonged national pain.

What should an American do to celebrate La Fête Nationale?

Drink!

I’m always looking of an excuse to open a bottle of French bubbly, and a day celebrating the French people’s freedom from monarchy seems like as good a reason as any.

So right now I am watching le Tour de France, listening to Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz, and drinking a bottle of Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau Vouvray Brut method traditionnelle, and toasting the French.

…not much left in the bottle now.

It’s all good….

Cheers!

Summer finally arrived in Seattle the day after the 4th of July weekend.  That’s pretty normal around these parts.

It’s been getting warmer every day since the 4th, and today the weathermen say it’s going to be 94 degrees.   Too hot for some folks around here.  I can hear them complaining now…

Driving in to work today, (Why is the weather always the nicest during the work week?) I was listening to KPLU, and today’s installment of “Record Bin Roulette” was titled “Summertime.”  One of the bits they played was Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch saying: 

“Let me just go put something on.  I’ll go into the kitchen to get dressed.  When it’s hot like this you know what I do?  I keep my undies in the icebox.”

I went searching for a clip of this on YouTube and did not find it, but I did find this one, and it might even be better.

While flipping through the pages of the August 2010 issue of MOJO Magazine last night, I came across and advertisement for Grinderman’s upcoming European tour that I thought was pretty funny.  I went surfing around today for a digital copy of the ad, and I found it on a website called Nick Cave Fixes.  It’s “a blog for Nick Cave addicts & devotees.”  I definitely fall into that category.  So, please welcome this blog to the Blogroll.  You Nick Cave fans are now just a click away from all the latest news about Nick, the Bad Seed, Grinderman, The Birthday Party, and other related artists.

Here’s the ad:

Grinderman 2010 tour poster

The US release of Grinderman 2 is scheduled for September 14th.

Check out the Grinderman website for more details. You’ll lover the intro…

No US tour dates yet.

This post is all about catching up with Nick Cave and Grinderman, so I might as well direct you to this story in Paste Magazine about Nick’s recent novel, The Death of Bunny Munro, being made into a TV movie directed by John Hillcoat. He directed The Proposition, screenplay by Nick Cave, and The Road, soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

Happy Fourth of July.

Now why don’t you maggots skip on over to R. Lee Ermey’s official website for a quick video lesson on what it mean s to be an American.

Maggots?   Oh come on now… maybe you need a refresher course on R. Lee Ermey.  Watch this famous motivational speech scene from Full Metal Jacket:

…and then watch him in the new Geico commercial.  Makes me laugh every time I see it.