Jared Bernstein must have a headache

From trying to make sense of Politico. Silly Jared! Politico never makes sense:

Reading this Politico piece about how to get the economy growing in earnest again, I was struck by how out of sync the conventional/DC story is compared to what I and other growth analysts think is going on (h/t: DS).

Here’s the agenda:

…tax reform that goes way beyond individuals and rates; much deeper Social Security and Medicare changes than currently envisioned; quick movement on trade agreements, including a proposed one with Europe; an energy policy that exploits the oil and gas boom; and allowing foreign-born students with science expertise to stay here and start businesses.

Do this and there could be not an economic recovery — but a boom, many argue.

Really? I gotta say, I don’t see it. In fact, pretty much everything on that list is a) conventional wisdom in DC and b) largely a distraction from where I think the evidence is actually pointing, as I’ll stress in a moment. To be clear, raising more tax revenues and slowing health care costs are critical in terms of getting our long-term debt situation under control, and immigration reform that provides a path for folks here to stay is also a great idea. A domestic energy boom is already underway and trade agreements do squat for growth (which doesn’t mean they’re not worth it—but their growth potential is hugely overhyped).

What’s holding back growth is inattention to the need for stimulus in the near term in an economy where monetary policy is at least partially hamstrung (zero lower bound), premature fiscal contraction (premature contraculation?), too much income and wealth inequality, and, over the longer term, the lack of a deep investment agenda in public goods, including education and worker training.

Poisoning the wells

As I’ve pointed out several times, the Obama administration left the Bush political appointees in place at the EPA, to the point where the people who were trying to do their jobs were calling the agency “Bush 3.” I’d hate to think he actually chose officials who do something this stupid, but who knows?

Many of us believe the wars to come won’t be fought over oil, they’ll be fought over water. From ProPublica:

Federal officials have given energy and mining companies permission to pollute aquifers in more than 1,500 places across the country, releasing toxic material into underground reservoirs that help supply more than half of the nation’s drinking water.

In many cases, the Environmental Protection Agency has granted these so-called aquifer exemptions in Western states now stricken by drought and increasingly desperate for water.

EPA records show that portions of at least 100 drinking water aquifers have been written off because exemptions have allowed them to be used as dumping grounds.

“You are sacrificing these aquifers,” said Mark Williams, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado and a member of a National Science Foundation team studying the effects of energy development on the environment. “By definition, you are putting pollution into them. … If you are looking 50 to 100 years down the road, this is not a good way to go.”

As part of an investigation into the threat to water supplies from underground injection of waste, ProPublica set out to identify which aquifers have been polluted.

We found the EPA has not even kept track of exactly how many exemptions it has issued, where they are, or whom they might affect.

What records the agency was able to supply under the Freedom of Information Act show that exemptions are often issued in apparent conflict with the EPA’s mandate to protect waters that may be used for drinking.

Though hundreds of exemptions are for lower-quality water of questionable use, many allow grantees to contaminate water so pure it would barely need filtration, or that is treatable using modern technology.

The EPA is only supposed to issue exemptions if aquifers are too remote, too dirty, or too deep to supply affordable drinking water. Applicants must persuade the government that the water is not being used as drinking water and that it never will be.


I really am a sucker for those little Christmas houses, and I have a bunch of them on top of the bookcases next to my desk. Notice how I cleverly stuck a cut-apart gift bag on my wall for a backdrop? Damn, I’m creative! Here’s a picture:


I hope this is real and not some ploy. I can’t even tell anymore (see “public option outrage”):

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Wednesday morning that she and other Democrats would “object” to raising the Medicare eligibility age in deficit reduction talks.

“Don’t go there because it doesn’t produce money,” she said on “CBS This Morning.” “Raising the retirement age does not get you that much money… so you’re doing a bad thing when it comes to seniors and you’re not achieving your goal” of lowering the deficit and improving the economy.

She said of potential reforms: “We’re saying, ‘does it work, is it fair or is it just a trophy for Republicans to take home?'”

“There’s a recognition he may need our votes,” Pelosi said of House Speaker John Boehner.

Seafood fraud

In restaurants. But it’s not necessarily the owners who are at fault — suppliers are selling cheap fish as more expensive varieties.

Some of the findings present public health concerns. Thirteen types of fish, including tilapia and tilefish, were falsely identified as red snapper. Tilefish contains such high mercury levels that the federal Food and Drug Administration advises women who are pregnant or nursing and young children not to eat it.

Ninety-four percent of fish sold as white tuna was not tuna at all but in many cases a fish known as snake mackerel, or escolar, which contains a toxin that can cause severe diarrhea if more than a few ounces of meat are ingested.

“There are a lot of flummoxed people out there who are trying to buy fish carefully and trying to shop their conscience, but they can’t if this kind of fraud is happening,” said Kimberly Warner, a senior scientist at Oceana, who led the study.

Flu season

I think I picked a good time to work from home. Via email:

The 2012-2013 season is shaping up to be one of the worst flu seasons in a while, officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said in a teleconference. “This is the earliest we’ve had in nearly a decade,” according to Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC.

Significant increases in flu activity have been reported in the past two weeks; 48 states and Puerto Rico have already reported cases of influenza. The activity is most intense in the South Central and Southeast; however, it shows signs of increasing across the rest of the country as well.

This season the flu has been identified with H3N2 viruses, which are typically associated with more severe seasons. The good news from the CDC is that most of these viruses are well matched to the flu vaccine this year.

Those who have had their flu shots should be well-protected. For those who have not been vaccinated, it’s not too late.

Teabag fakers

Via Eclectablog, the less-than-surprising news that Tea Party activists knocked down their own tent and videotaped it — for Faux News:

There’s a video on heavy rotation at Fox News, being massively retweeted by conservatives and Americans for Prosperity, where they talk about the “brutality” and “violence” of union members at today’s rally in Lansing, Michigan to protest Right to Work legislation. The video shows an Americans for Prosperity tent coming down on the front lawn of the Capitol Building.

As it turns out, American for Prosperity (AFP) themselves were responsible for at least one of the tents coming down. Tom Duckworth watched one of the folks that had been in the AFP tent go around and loosen the straps on the tent. According to Duckworth, “the tent came down from the INSIDE.”

Here’s video, shot in the office of Progress Michigan, of Duckworth being interviewed by former Progress Michigan Executive Director David Holtz:

Taking them out at the knees

The teabaggers of Americans for Prosperity, funded by the Kochs, decided they needed to cut off the source of union opposition (the only Dems still standing) by stopping their funding. That’s why we’ve seen this recent rash of laws that sprang up like dandelions everywhere: either stopping them from collecting union dues from members’ paychecks, or by passing laws that allow non-members to use unions to negotiate for them without having to give them any money.

No, it’s not a coincidence. They really are trying to knock us down into a humble class that’s grateful to get anything.

The only thing that stopped them the last time was when people literally put their bodies in the way. Many, many people died in this country to bring us unions. I suppose we’ll have to start all over again.

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