RI Governor-elect Gina Raimondo

Frank Bruni with a glowing appreciation of RI Gov-elect Raimondo in the NY Times, A Democrat to Watch in 2015:  Gina Raimondo’s Approach to Income Inequality.  (Her approach to dealing with income inequality appears to be “Make it worse.”)  Matt Taibbi had the goods on Ms. Raimondo back in 2013, Looting the Pension Funds.   See also two pieces by David Sirota, How a $100,000 check exposes the politics of pension theft and Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo Wants To ‘Minimize Attention’ To Wall Street Managers’ Compensation.

The term “Blue Dog Democrat” came about to describe fiscally-conservative, often southern Democrats.    Allow me to propose a new term, Dogshit Democrat, as a catch-all for Democrats like Raimondo and Chuck Schumer who take it upon themselves to service the financial services industry at the expense of the rest of us.

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President Obama’s budget proposal

The President has released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014.  The President’s proposal as well as multiple others are summarized in graphical form here.  (It’s a nice graphic.  The overall length of the bar indicates spending.  The projected deficit/surplus is indicated by the position of the bar.)

Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) has a good summary of Obama’s proposal here.   An excerpt:

The budget contains a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases that would replace the sequestration cuts and achieve the important goal of stabilizing the debt over the next decade…  The budget is designed to protect the still-weak economy from the effects of premature deficit reduction — by both including short-term investments to address infrastructure needs and by phasing in some of the deficit reduction measures that would replace sequestration in order to allow the economy to continue its recovery…

That would be a welcome change from the current budget path.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that if sequestration remains in effect, it will cost the economy 750,000 jobs by the end of this year.

As it stands, the package makes tough policy choices while largely adhering to the principle… that deficit reduction should not increase poverty or inequality.  Nevertheless, the budget’s substantial spending cuts, both in entitlements and discretionary programs, would have real-world consequences for millions of individuals and families….

Politically speaking, I had thought that the White House should not put these concessions in its budget, as distinguished from offering them in bipartisan negotiations if and when Republicans agreed to dedicate substantial savings from curbing tax credits, deductions, and other preferences (known as “tax expenditures”) to deficit reduction.

There’s the thing, Obama came to the table with what would be an acceptable compromise proposal.   The Republicans aren’t going to compromise with him.  Boehner and McConnell’s statements last year that they’d want Chained CPI as a condition for considering tax increases?  Just words.  Boehner and McConnell are disingenuous shits.  They weren’t ever going to consider tax increases.  Why on Earth does Obama lead with a compromise position that will be summarily rejected?  What does he think that’s going to accomplish?  I am at a loss to understand…

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The Inadequacy of the Obama Administration

Lots to say and I’ll update this in the future but let me put down a few initial thoughts…

Earlier today I was directed to a column which suggests that Obama’s Chained CPI offer is just a ploy to show that the Republicans are unreasonable and uninterested in negotiating, i.e., he didn’t make the offer with any expectation that they’d accept it.  (See here for some arguments on why Chained CPI indexing is poor public policy.)  I’m not buying that it’s an Obama ploy to make the GOP look unreasonable.  If that were his goal there’s no shortage of existing evidence to make the case.

President Obama is who he is.  What do Pres. Obama’s statements and non-statements re Social Security tell us about him?  Well, let’s consider this chart:


“What’s that?” you ask.  (I found it on the Urban Institute’s website.)  Continue reading

Social Security Disability

Interesting Q&A at Wonkblog between Ezra Klein and Chana Joffe-Walt, “I thought I knew what being disabled meant, and I don’t.”  Klein’s intro:

Over the weekend, “This American Life” and “Planet Money” ran a story by Chana Joffe-Walt looking at the extraordinary growth of America’s disability insurance system. Joffe-Walt visited Hale County, Ala., where one-in-four residents is on disability, looked at the lawyers who specialized in winning disability cases against the government (and getting paid by taxpayers for it), and spent time with a young child whose disability check has become the key to his family’s survival.

The result is a detailed, nuanced, and discomfiting look at a social insurance program that has become a catch-all for the failures of both our economy and our safety net. It’s worth reading, or listening to, in full. I spoke with Joffe-Walt on Wednesday. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Full disclosure:  Based on listening to her reports on NPR in the past I don’t have a high opinion of Joffe-Walt as a reporter but, that said, the Q&A she does with Klein is instructive.  It’s worth reading.  (I haven’t listed to the This American Life/Planet Money story yet but I intend to.)

At the end of their Q&A Klein links to Brad Plumer’s interview with Harold Pollack.  Pollack offers some important complementary information and a critique of the This American Life/Planet Money story.

Finally, here’s Jared Bernstein from two months ago with some hard numbers on Disability rolls, Disability Rolls and the Makers/Takers/Fakers Nonsense.  Spoiler alert:  Disability applications have shot way up over the past decade – more people do apply when jobs are harder to find – but the approval rate has gone way down at the same time.  When you take age into account the award rates have grown very modestly, i.e., much of the growth in the absolute number of awards can be attributed to an aging population.  (That’s not to downplay the growth but recognize it for what it is.)

UPDATE 3/30/13:

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Putting Social Security back in the black

I’ve been advocating this for a long time but I suspect when Bruce Bartlett says it more people pay attention (like maybe triple digit readership instead of single).  Here’s the punchline – my emphasis:

As a Nov. 28 Congressional Research Service report explains, historically 90 percent of covered earnings was subject to the Social Security tax. In recent years, this percentage has fallen to 84 percent, as the bulk of wage gains has gone to those making more than the maximum taxable income, currently $110,100. Raising the share of covered earnings back to 90 percent would be sufficient to eliminate almost half of Social Security’s long-run actuarial deficit, according to the Social Security actuaries.

Nevermind 90 pct of covered earnings, I say eliminate the income cap altogether.

Weekly Digest – October 1-7, 2012


Matters of law:

Vote suppression and voter disenfrancisement:


Economy (trying to end on a positive note):