Here it comes

Der Krugman:

So, is my timing good or not? Right after I warn about the risk that Democrats, including the president, might betray the mandate they seem likely to get for preserving the safety net, we learn that Senate leaders are at work on a plan based around, well, you guessed it:

If those efforts failed, another plan would take effect, probably a close derivative of the proposal by President Obama’s fiscal commission led by Erskine B. Bowles, the Clinton White House chief of staff, and former Senator Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming, a Republican. Those recommendations included changes to Social Security, broad cuts in federal programs and actions that would lower tax rates over all but eliminate or pare enough deductions and credits to yield as much as $2 trillion in additional revenue.


Just to say, this would be politically stupid as well as a betrayal of the electorate. If you don’t think Republicans would turn around and accuse Democrats of cutting Social Security — probably even before the ink was dry — you’ve been living under a rock.

Still think I’m paranoid?

Soon it will be just like the good old days

Looks like the cops are ready to put down labor actions. No violence yet, but of course it’s just a matter of time:

About 600 people turned out Monday in Elwood, Illinois for a sit-in protest against alleged mistreatment of warehouse workers employed by Walmart contractor RoadLink. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that 17 peaceful protesters were arrested by police in riot gear after they sat in the middle of a road and blocked vehicles from accessing the warehouse.


Activists with Warehouse Workers for Justice went on strike outside of the Walmart Distribution Center in Elwood on September 15, claiming the working conditions are unsafe and that RoadLink engages in unfair labor practices like wage theft and sexual harassment.


Participants in the protest weren’t just warehouse workers: local unions and community groups joined in as well, hoping to provide moral support to the group after they filed a federal lawsuit against RoadLink in September.


By the time activists sat in the road, police declared the entire event to be an “unlawful assembly,” then threatened to deploy chemical weapons and “less lethal munitions” against the group. The militarized police unit even brought what appeared to be a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), designed to disperse protesters by blasting them with extremely loud noise. The officers ultimately didn’t resort to violence, opting to walk arrested activists away one by one instead.


The Illinois strike is the second action launched by Walmart warehouse workers in recent weeks. A group of minimum-wage warehouse workers in California staged a 15-day walkout protest last month, but it ended after participants said they exhausted their financial resources.


Walmart spokesperson Dan Fogleman told the Sun-Times that he believed Monday’s demonstration was more about growing union dues than expanding workers’ rights. “The union is focused on fulfilling its own agenda,” he reportedly said.

Voting by mail

In Oregon, you can only vote by mail. So people are much more likely to vote — and you can check the status of your ballot online!

Advocates for election fairness have long argued that the current voting system is dilapidated and unfair. Many people cannot afford to take time off from work on a Tuesday to spend time in line and cast their ballot. Participation in democracy should be encouraged, while the current system makes voting more difficult. In the Oregon system, the first Tuesday of November is a normal day; Curry County schools remain open this November 6. Ballots are mailed October 19, and citizens have until election day to complete them. You can even track your ballot online to make sure it was safely mailed and counted. Oregon has changed the entire voting experience for the better (except maybe the “I Voted” sticker).

Moral panic

I hope you all know better than to take the Washington Post’s opinions seriously? Bill Black via Naked Capitalism:

The Washington Post leads the pack when it comes to generating what scientists term a “moral panic” about budget deficits.  As part of that effort they generated the series of myths that Paul Ryan was “serious,” “courageous,” and “expert” about “solving” the “deficit crisis.”  The newspaper’s theme is that anyone who doesn’t fall for their effort to create a moral panic is not “serious” and should be ignored.  The paper runs a column by Robert J. Samuelson that is devoted to generating a moral panic about the deficit.  Like Ryan, his central targets are imposing austerity and cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Samuelson’s latest column claims that President Obama and Governor Romney are lying to the nation because they have not sufficiently embraced the moral panic as the transcendent campaign issue that will determine America’s future.  Samuelson demands the candidates implore the American people to urgently adopt austerity and attack Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

We have known for over 75 years that the key to recovering from a recession is to follow a counter-cyclical fiscal policy that will reduce unemployment. We have long exhibited the wisdom to adopt automatic stabilizers that increase government services and decrease taxes when a recession strikes.

What would have happened if Obama had adopted austerity as Berlin imposed austerity on the European periphery?  It would have prevented any recovery, throwing the U.S. into an even more severe recession.  Berlin’s austerity demands have thrown the Eurozone back into a gratuitous recession, increasing the budget deficit in many nations and plunging Greece and Spain into depressions.  Europe has followed Samuelson’s and Ryan’s policy advice and the results have been disastrous.  Samuelson’s and Ryan’s austerity policies violate economic theory, economic history, and a natural experiment in Europe with austerity that has proved catastrophic.  Samuelson, however, makes bizarre odes to Irish austerity, emphasizing the necessity of “persuading ordinary citizens to tolerate austerity (higher unemployment, lower social benefits, [and] heavier taxes) without resorting to paralyzing street protests or ineffectual parliamentary coalitions.”

Samuelson shares Berlin’s belief in the redemptive power of suffering – by others.  He doesn’t even feel a need to explain why any rational government would adopt a policy in response to a severe recession which it knew would cause “higher unemployment, lower social benefits, [and] heavier taxes.”  He admits that Berlin (and Dublin) knew that austerity would make the recession far more severe.  He doesn’t think that adopting austerity programs known to be self-destructive requires justification or even explanation.  Insanity is normal in Samuelson’s world.
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