Stephanie Kelton | Biden Can Go Bigger and Not ‘Pay for It’ the Old Way – The New York Times

” . . .  That’s why to avoid short-run constraints like supply bottlenecks, the U.S. government can look elsewhere for capacity. American businesses can make use of depressed conditions abroad, buying from countries with economies that might be struggling to fully recover from the economic downturn and that will be more than happy to mutually benefit from our boom. There will be no lack of eager foreign producers if we need to relieve some demand pressure on the domestic front.

So it was unfortunate that in his long-awaited infrastructure speech, President Biden promised “not a contract will go out, that I control” that isn’t for “a company that is an American company with American products, all the way down the line, and American workers.”

This “buy American” philosophy is well intentioned but could lead to counterproductive trouble, particularly since the president has promised that “no one making under $400,000 will see their federal taxes go up” — a pledge that takes raising taxes on the middle class, which has a higher marginal propensity to spend, off the table as a potential inflation offset.” . . . . . .

” . . . Modern Monetary Theory is not alone here. For a historical outlook, we can revisit what John Maynard Keynes proposed in “How to Pay for the War: A Radical Plan for the Chancellor of the Exchequer,” a lesser-known work of his. To the contemporary ear, the title suggests that Keynes was trying to figure out how to come up with the money to finance World War II spending. He wasn’t.

Keynes understood that the British government, which controlled its national currency, could create all the money needed. The purpose of the book was to show the government how to scale up and sustain higher levels of spending while containing inflationary pressures along the way. It noted the soldiers, bombers, tanks, combat gear and more that would be needed to prosecute the war and how the entire economy would need to be reoriented, quickly, to supply those things.

We’ve all grown accustomed to thinking about taxes as an important source of revenue for the federal government. That’s in part because it’s easy to think of the federal government as being like state and local governments, which without sufficient revenue — from income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes and more — could not finance their operations. Yet these entities don’t have the federal government’s currency-issuing powers, which greatly changes the spending capacity of government.

In 1945, a man named Beardsley Ruml delivered a fiery speech before the American Bar Association titled “Taxes for Revenue Are Obsolete.” He wasn’t a crank. He was the chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. As Mr. Ruml explained in that speech, taxes first and foremost help to avoid a situation where too much money chases after too few goods: “The dollars the government spends become purchasing power in the hands of the people who have received them,” he said, while “the dollars the government takes by taxes cannot be spent by the people.”

More recently, economists like L. Randall Wray and Yeva Nersisyan have begun to think about how to pay for a Green New Deal using Keynes’s earlier “radical” framework. And even if one were to accept the terms of the old deficit-oriented budgeting currently favored in Washington, going even bigger on infrastructure, if executed carefully, is still doable: Larry Summers, the former Obama White House senior economist, admitted in 2014 that “public infrastructure investments can pay for themselves” and that “by increasing the economy’s capacity, infrastructure investment increases the ability to handle any given level of debt.”

We face enormous intersecting crises: a climate crisis, jobs crisis, health crisis and housing crisis, among others. It is going to require a lot of money to do what is necessary. As Kate Aronoff recently wrote in The New Republic, “To meet the emissions targets outlined in the Paris Agreement, experts estimate the United States government will need to spend at least $1 trillion annually.” And the White House’s infrastructure proposal, while historically ambitious, still falls far short of the scale of the problem.” . . .

Biden Endorses Filibuster Rule Changes – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — The fight over the Senate filibuster escalated sharply on Tuesday, as President Biden for the first time threw his weight behind changing the rules even as Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, threatened harsh reprisals if Democrats moved to weaken the procedural tactic.

In an interview with ABC News, Mr. Biden gave his most direct endorsement yet of overhauling the filibuster, saying that he favored a return to what is called the talking filibuster: the requirement that opponents of legislation occupy the floor and make their case against it.

“I don’t think that you have to eliminate the filibuster; you have to do it, what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days,” the president said. “You had to stand up and command the floor, and you had to keep talking.” The comments were a significant departure for Mr. Biden, a 36-year veteran of the Senate who has been frequently described by aides as reluctant to alter Senate procedure.

“It’s getting to the point where, you know, democracy is having a hard time functioning,” he added.”

Great reporting by Carl Hulse, followed by great comments. Enough with the namby pamby.

Where on earth did I get namby pamby, probably from my famously outspoken mother.

And it is real expression, says Wikipedia: ”

Namby-pamby is a term for affected, weak, and maudlin speech/verse. It originates from Namby Pamby (1725) by Henry Carey.

Carey wrote his poem as a satire of Ambrose Philips and published it in his Poems on Several Occasions. Its first publication was Namby Pamby: or, a panegyrick on the new versification address’d to A—– P—-, where the A– P– implicated Ambrose Philips. Philips had written a series of odes in a new prosody of seven-syllable lines and dedicated it to “all ages and characters, from Walpole steerer of the realm, to Miss Pulteney in the nursery.” This 3.5′ line became a matter of consternation for more conservative poets, and a matter of mirth for Carey. Carey adopts Philips’s choppy line-form for his parody and latches onto the dedication to nurseries to create an apparent nursery rhyme that is, in fact, a grand bit of nonsense and satire mixed.

Philips was a figure who had become politically active and was a darling of the Whig party. He was also a target of the Tory satirists. Alexander Pope had criticized Philips repeatedly (in The Guardian and in his Peri Bathos, among other places), and praising or condemning Philips was a political as much as poetic matter in the 1720s, with the nickname also employed by John Gay and Jonathan Swift.

The poem begins with a mock-epic opening (as had Pope’s Rape of the Lock and as had Dryden’s MacFlecknoe), calling all the muses to witness the glory of Philips’s prosodic reform:

“All ye Poets of the Age!
All ye Witlings of the Stage!
Learn your Jingles to reform!
Crop your Numbers and Conform:
Let your little Verses flow
Gently, Sweetly, Row by Row:
Let the Verse the Subject fit;
Little Subject, Little Wit.
Namby-Pamby is your Guide;
Albion’s Joy, Hibernia’s Pride.”

Paul Krugman | Ending the End of Welfare as We Knew It – The New York Times

     Opinion Columnist

“The era of “the era of big government is over” is over.

The relief bill President Biden just signed is breathtaking in its scope. Yet conservative opposition was remarkably limp. While not a single Republican voted for the legislation, the rhetorical onslaught from right-wing politicians and media was notably low energy, perhaps because the Biden plan is incredibly popular. Even as Democrats moved to disburse $1.9 trillion in government aid, their opponents mainly seemed to be talking about Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head.

What makes this lack of energy especially striking is that the American Rescue Plan doesn’t just spend a lot of money. It also embodies some big changes in the philosophy of public policy, a turn away from the conservative ideology that has dominated U.S. politics for four decades.

In particular, there is a sense — a strictly limited sense, as I’ll explain, but real nonetheless — in which the legislation, in addition to reviving the notion of government as the solution, not the problem, also ends the “end of welfare as we know it.”

Once upon a time there was a program called Aid to Families With Dependent Children — the program people usually had in mind when they talked about “welfare.” It was originally intended to support white widows while they raised their children, and it was effectively denied to both Black and unwed mothers. Over time, however, these restrictions were eroded, and the program rapidly expanded from the early 1960s to the early 1970s.” . . .

Excellent column and comments.

Jamelle Bouie | Joe Biden Knew He Was Onto Something Long Before We Did – The New York Times

   Opinion Columnist

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Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

“Last year, as he steamrolled his way to victory in the Democratic presidential primaries, Joe Biden told CNN that the pandemic was “probably the biggest challenge in modern history, quite frankly.”

“I think it may not dwarf but eclipse what F.D.R. faced,” he added.

Biden referred to Franklin Roosevelt again in an interview with Evan Osnos of The New Yorker. “I’m kind of in the position F.D.R. was,” he said.

And a week before the election, Biden gave a speech at Roosevelt’s winter White House in Warm Springs, Ga., where he promised to “overcome a devastating virus” and “heal a suffering world.”

In other words, Biden telegraphed his F.D.R.-size ambition throughout the year. And the first major bill of his administration is in fact an F.D.R.-size piece of legislation.”

Good article and great comments.

Opinion | Amazon and the Breaking of Baltimore – The New York Times

” . . . At its peak in 1958, the Beth Steel plant on the Point employed some 30,000; in its final years at the turn of this century — even as imports, domestic “mini-mills” and feckless management threatened its existence — veteran workers were still making at least $35 per hour, with excellent union benefits. The work was strenuous and frequently dangerous, but also purposeful and well-paid enough that many people spent their whole career there.

Since the plant closed in 2012, the Point has been wiped clear of virtually all traces of it. Starting in 2017, a new sort of work filled the void: logistics. The Point’s new owners leased land to first one and then a second Amazon fulfillment center, as well as warehouses for Under Armour, FedEx, Home Depot and Floor & Décor.

The work at Amazon was physically taxing in its own right, and was far more socially isolating than the foxhole camaraderie that had characterized Beth Steel, which helped explain why turnover was so much higher at the warehouse than during the steel years.

“It was a family thing — they looked out for one another,” said Bill Bodani Jr. of his time at Beth Steel, where he lasted three decades despite several workplace accidents. By the time he left in 2003 he, too, was drawing $35 an hour.

Over a decade later he went back to work at the Point, driving a forklift at Amazon. His pay was around $15 an hour. He lasted only three years with the company, after clashing with a supervisor over his bathroom breaks and his encouragement of labor organizing among the younger workers.” . . .

Opinion | Stacey Abrams and Lauren Groh-Wargo: How to Turn Your Red State Blue – The New York Times

Stacey Abrams and 

Ms. Abrams was the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia in 2018. Ms. Groh-Wargo was her campaign manager. They opened Fair Fight Action in late 2018.

“We met and became political partners a decade ago, uniting in a bid to stave off Democratic obsolescence and rebuild a party that would increase the clout of regular, struggling Georgians. Our mission was clear: organize people, help realize gains in their lives, win local races to build statewide competitiveness and hold power accountable.

But the challenge was how to do that in a state where many allies had retreated into glum predictions of defeat, where our opponents reveled in shellacking Democrats at the polls and in the Statehouse.

That’s not all we had to contend with. There was also a 2010 census undercount of people of color, a looming Republican gerrymander of legislative maps and a new Democratic president midway into his first term confronting a holdover crisis from the previous Republican administration. Though little in modern American history compares with the malice and ineptitude of the botched pandemic response or the attempted insurrection at the Capitol, the dynamic of a potentially inaccurate census and imminent partisan redistricting is the same story facing Democrats in 2021 as it was in 2011. State leaders and activists we know across the country who face total or partial Republican control are wondering which path they should take in their own states now — and deep into the next decade.

Georgians deserved better, so we devised and began executing a 10-year plan to transform Georgia into a battleground state. As the world knows, President Biden won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in November, and the January runoff elections for two Senate seats secured full congressional control for the Democratic Party. Yet the result wasn’t a miracle or truly a surprise, at least not to us. Years of planning, testing, innovating, sustained investment and organizing yielded the record-breaking results we knew they could and should. The lessons we learned can help other states looking to chart a more competitive future for Democrats and progressives, particularly those in the Sun Belt, where demographic change will precede electoral opportunity.” . . . .

Nicholas Kristof | Can Biden Save Americans Like My Old Pal Mike? – The New York Times

“. . .  So what went wrong with Mike?

“He didn’t want to work,” Stephanie told me. She is angry at Mike for abandoning his kids and failing to pay $68,000 in child support, but then the anger passes and she wistfully refers to him as “the love of my life.”

Perhaps Mike was lazy, but there’s more to the story. Everyone agrees that Mike had mental illnesses that were never treated, and in any case, this wasn’t one person’s stumble but a crisis for an entire generation of low-education workers. Mike and his cohort weren’t dumber or lazier than their parents or grandparents, but their outcomes worsened.

So, sure, we can have a conversation about personal responsibility. But let’s also talk about our collective responsibility: If the federal minimum wage of 1968 had kept pace with inflation and productivity, it would now be more than $22 an hour, rather than $7.25. We also underinvested in our human capital, so high school graduation rates stagnated beginning in the 1970s along with blue-collar incomes, even as substance abuse soared and family structure for low-education workers collapsed.

One consequence is that an American dies a “death of despair” — from drugs, alcohol or suicide — every two and a half minutes. Long after the coronavirus has retreated, we will still be grappling with a pandemic of despair.

Credit…Lynsey Addario

The United States has a mental health crisis that is largely untreated and arises in part from high levels of inequality. Researchers find that poverty causes mental illness, and mental illness in turn exacerbates poverty. It’s a vicious cycle, and 20 million Americans, mostly poorly educated, describe every one of the last 30 days as “bad mental health days,” according to David G. Blanchflower, a Dartmouth economist.

I also know this: Taxpayers spent large sums jailing Mike, whose arrest record runs 14 pages (mostly for drug offenses). That money would have been better spent at the front end, with early childhood programs and mentoring to support Mike and help him finish high school and get a job.

Yet politicians have mostly been AWOL. In the 2020 Democratic primaries, the presidential candidates had healthy discussions about increasing college access but largely ignored the reality that one in seven American children don’t even graduate from high school. The term “working class” is rarely mentioned by politicians, who prefer to appeal to people a notch higher, in the middle class. And many government programs that are nominally for the benefit of the middle class — such as the mortgage interest deduction, 529 college savings plans, state and local tax deductions and “middle-class tax cuts” — actually primarily benefit the rich.

We fret about competitive challenges from China, but the best way to meet them is to elevate our capabilities at home. China built new universities at the rate of one a week, while the number of colleges in the United States is now shrinking — and as many Americans have criminal records as have college degrees. “Holding hands, Americans with arrest records could circle the earth three times,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

America cannot succeed when so many Americans are failing.

Credit…Nicholas Kristof/The New York Times

Joe Biden has a fighting chance to make progress on these issues. Partly that’s because he’s impossible to mock as a wild-eyed socialist, partly because he and his team understand that we have a better chance of making progress if we frame the issue less as one of “inequality” — a liberal word — and more as one of “opportunity” and “dignity.” “

Bravo, and thank you Nicholas Kristof.  Here are two of many fabulous comments”

Rich D
Tucson, AZFeb. 14
Times Pick

Thank you, Mr. Kristof, for telling the story of your old pal, Mike. Rest in peace, Mike. You earned that. And as sad as Mike’s story is, at the end of the day, he perhaps had a more successful life than most of us will by offering up lessons in humility, gratitude and kindness despite his station in life. As an alcoholic and addict approaching 35 years of continuous sobriety, I am Mike’s brother in addiction. My fate was very different than his. I too was once homeless and ate at the free soup kitchen at St. Vincent de Paul. Once sober, my life continued with perilous and almost insurmountable challenges, including crushing poverty that meant living in a skid row tenement while sober, full of alcoholics and drug addicts, because that is all I could afford and riding a bicycle everywhere for transportation for years. Giving up, to live a life like Mike’s, crossed my mind so many times I could not count them. By the grace of God and luck and a ridiculously stubborn perserverance and the help and encouragement of many in A.A., my life got better and then very much better. Eventually I became the CEO of a successful midsize company and have been happily married for a couple of decades now. Without the helping hand of a publicly funded 30 day treatment program for the indigent, I am absolutely certain I would have perished decades ago. On that subject I know, Mr. Kristof, that you are correct. Alcohol and drug treatment saves lives – it did mine.

2 Replies554 Recommended

 
BHW commented February 13

BHW
eastern washingtonFeb. 13

I’m about the same age as Mr. Kristof, worked in the Cascades, and still do. It’s important to note that by the 1970s, 90% of the old growth was gone, and so were 90% of the jobs in logging; environmentalists didn’t cause that. Mill jobs left because of whole-log exports; environmentalists didn’t cause that. And capital in the timber industry moved to the southeast, where trees grow faster and unions don’t exists; environmentalists didn’t cause that. The spotted owl as a scapegoat doesn’t really play.

2 Replies522 Recommended

Michelle Cottle | Marjorie Taylor Greene Apologized and Got a Standing Ovation. Seriously. – The New York Times

“The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, issued a plaintive plea to his troops on Wednesday: Can’t we all just get along?

Congressional Republicans had two delicate items on their midweek to-do list involving the possible punishment of their own members:

1. Vote on whether to oust from leadership Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the chamber’s No. 3 Republican, over her vote to impeach Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol siege. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Ms. Cheney had asserted on the eve of impeachment, provoking wrath among Trump loyalists.

2. Decide whether to strip committee assignments from Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the conspiracy theory-embracing, race-baiting freshman from Georgia, who, pre-Congress, spent her time on social media indulging right-wing rants about killing prominent Democratic officials and agents of the so-called deep state.

In the matter of Ms. Cheney, Republicans declined to bow to their Trumpian cultists. During a conference meeting in the bowels of the Capitol Wednesday, Ms. Cheney refused to apologize for backing impeachment, even when members of the Freedom Caucus accused her of “aiding the enemy.” After some four hours of debate, the conference voted decisively, 145 to 61, to keep her as its chairwoman. That the balloting was secret enabled some of the more spinally challenged members to vote their conscience.

Credit…J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

With Ms. Greene, the party’s fringe carried the day. Mr. McCarthy issued a statement assuring the public that the poison conspiracy theories she had peddled “do not represent the values or beliefs of the House Republican Conference.” And Ms. Greene apologized to colleagues for some of her battier statements and for putting the conference in a tough political spot. For this, she received a standing ovation.

In the end, Republicans refused to take any concrete action against her. They instead left it to the full House to vote Thursday on a resolution put forward by Democrats to remove Ms. Greene from two committees. The House voted 230 to 199 to do so, with 11 Republicans voting with Democrats.

This dodge allowed Mr. McCarthy to denounce the move as a “partisan power grab” by Democrats, while he and others hawk the usual slippery-slope gibberish. If they come for Ms. Greene today, they warn, what’s to stop them for coming for other Republicans tomorrow?

On the surface, these moves — or lack thereof — appear to pull in different directions. But they have the shared aim of preserving the fraying ties between the party’s angry, Trumpist base and its more traditional wing. “We need to unite for us to take the majority and govern,” Mr. McCarthy reportedly urged in defending Ms. Cheney.” . . .

“Deliberation is a wonderful thing. But among the pile of already established facts are videos of Ms. Greene holding forth on some of the most unhinged fictions percolating on the internet. In her social media postings, she has even endorsed the “frazzledrip” conspiracy theory. Warning: Do not Google that one if you have a weak stomach.”

I dared to google, What is the frazzledrip conspiracy, and I wish I hadn’t. It is real story about an insidious lie, that investigators found a video on Anthony Weiner’s laptop of a girl being mutilated. From the U.S. Sun, a British tabloid?:

“The fake report claimed that the video allegedly shows Hillary Clinton and her former aide Huma Abedin, Weiner’s ex-wife, raping and mutilating a young girl.

At the end of the so-called video, the girl bleeds out before Clinton and Abedin drink the blood during a Satanic ritual sacrifice.

Hundreds of YouTube videos, each with thousands of views, are dedicated to the violent and untrue conspiracy theory, according to Vox.”

To repeat, there is no such video, and the people who pass on such stories, like Marjory Taylor Green, now in congress, are sick and dangerous. She apologized profusely, and her GOP colleagues gave her a standing ovation?

Opinion | How to Reform the Senate Filibuster – The New York Times

“For President Biden to succeed, the Democrats must find a way to limit the Republicans’ use of the filibuster, the procedural weapon in the Senate that requires 60 votes to advance legislation to a vote and threatens to leave the new president’s agenda in purgatory.

On Monday, the newly demoted Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, relented on his demand that Senate Democrats preserve the filibuster, and he agreed to move ahead with discussions on a power-sharing agreement. But the filibuster still lives: At least two Democrats have said they oppose ending it, enough to frustrate any effort by Democrats to do so by a majority vote in the 50-50 Senate.

So long as Mr. McConnell holds those two cards, any Democratic threat to end the filibuster altogether — the so-called nuclear option — is doomed. This leaves Mr. McConnell with a potential veto over most of the Biden legislative agenda.

But what if a genuine compromise were possible that preserved the Senate filibuster as a protection of individual conscience while giving President Biden a fair shot at enacting a desperately needed Covid-19 relief package? Such a compromise exists, we believe, by restoring the original “speaking filibuster,” made famous by Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” in place of the modern version.

In the beginning, from 1789 to 1806, debate in the Senate could be ended at any time by majority vote. In 1806, the Senate abolished that rule, leaving no way to cut off debate. This decision gave birth to the filibuster to delay or block legislative action. This involved a senator holding the floor continuously, as Mr. Smith did (not easy), or to act in carefully choreographed relays with like-minded colleagues (also not easy) and prevent a vote on the merits.

Still, a few successful filibusters were maintained, most notoriously to block anti-lynching and other civil rights legislation, but only when opposition was so passionate that senators were willing to endure the physical and logistical rigors of seizing the Senate floor and refusing to let go. In 1917, opponents of the United States’ entry into World War I were able to sustain such a speaking filibuster, blocking widely supported legislation that would have enabled merchant vessels to arm themselves. An angry Senate reacted by adopting formal rules that allowed an end to debate by a vote by two-thirds of the senators present on the floor.

From 1917 to 1975, with tweaks in 1949 and 1959, the Senate operated under the two-thirds rule, but the real constraints on filibustering were three self-limiting aspects of the 1917 rule. First, a motion to end debate (known as cloture) froze the Senate, forcing the body to vote on the motion before proceeding with any other business. Second, maintaining a speaking filibuster required a senator to hold the floor, individually or in relays. Third, supporters of the filibuster needed more than one-third of the Senate as allies to be present on the Senate floor to head off a surprise cloture vote. Once again, if opposition was passionate enough, successful filibusters were maintained, especially of civil rights legislation, but the difficulties of mounting a filibuster placed a lid on the number of times one could be successfully sustained.

Beginning in 1975, though, the original speaking filibuster was transformed into the modern version. First, Southern senators agreed to confine the filibuster to a short period in the morning session, allowing the Senate to move on to other business in the afternoon. Then they agreed to a reduction of the cloture number to a fixed 60 votes, from two-thirds present and voting, or 67 votes if the entire Senate was present.

All of a sudden, the self-limiting factors that had kept the filibuster in check since 1806 disappeared. There was no longer an institutional cost since the Senate could conduct business as usual during most of the day. A filibustering senator no longer had to hold the floor speaking for long periods of time. And most important, supporters of the filibuster no longer had to worry about being in the Senate chamber because it was the job of opponents to marshal the fixed 60 votes to end debate. Supporters of the filibuster could stay home in bed.”

Thomas L. Friedman | Trump Is Blowing Apart the G.O.P. God Bless Him. – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Oliver Contreras for The New York Times

“When all the facts come out about the treasonous attack on the U.S. Capitol inspired by President Trump, impeaching him three times won’t feel sufficient. Consider this Washington Post headline from Monday: “Video Shows Capitol Mob Dragging Police Officer Down Stairs. One Rioter Beat the Officer With a Pole Flying the U.S. Flag.”

That said, while I want Trump out — and I don’t mind his being silenced at such a tense time — I’m not sure I want him permanently off Twitter and Facebook. There’s important work that I need Trump to perform in his post-presidency, and I need him to have proper megaphones to do it. It’s to blow apart this Republican Party.

My No. 1 wish for America today is for this Republican Party to fracture, splitting off the principled Republicans from the unprincipled Republicans and Trump cultists. That would be a blessing for America for two reasons.

First, because it could actually end the gridlock in Congress and enable us to do some big things on infrastructure, education and health care that would help ALL Americans — not the least those in Trump’s camp, who are there precisely because they feel ignored, humiliated and left behind.”