Economy

The Republican Party Is the Problem

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

After weeks of negotiating, we have a deal on the fiscal cliff, which—in true, congressional fashion—passed hours after the government went “over” the cliff.

Spare the Stimulus, Spoil the Recovery

Flickr/Richard Lemarchand

We are now halfway into our own lost decade. Five years ago this month, the economy started to collapse in the largest downturn since the Great Depression. Though the recession has officially been over since 2009, we’ve had a slow and uneven recovery. Unemployment, which dropped from 8.3 percent in January to 7.7 percent in November, remains far too high.

Don't Count Boehner Out Just Yet

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The side of John Boehner we understand most is the one that offers that distant sense of comfort—the one who'll pander to the conservative movement during these fiscal cliff talks but understands a compromise must come through at the end. This is the John Boehner we dub the "dealmaker," the leader who must "stand up” to the Tea Party—and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the rival who would do him in. His “dealmaker” persona stems from the assumption he isn’t a true believer or an aggressively ideological Republican, which is correct.

Prostitution for the Price of a Happy Meal

Why food-stamp bans are perpetuating risky behaviors among America’s most vulnerable

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, file

Carla walked into my office with despair in her eyes. I was surprised. Carla has been doing well in her four months out of prison; she got off drugs, regained custody of her kids, and even enrolled in a local community college. 

Without much prodding she admitted to me that she had retuned to prostitution: “I am putting myself at risk for HIV to get my kids a f---ing happy meal.”

Despite looking high and low for a job, Carla explained, she was still unemployed. Most entry-level jobs felt out of reach with her drug record, but what’s worse, even the state wasn’t willing to throw her a temporary life preserver.

It’s a Mad, Mad Michigan

Right-to-work legislation was only the beginning. State Republicans have an entire docket full of legislation set to limit rights.

(AP Photo/The Detroit News, Elizabeth Conley)

Sure, lame-duck legislatures are bound to be a bit mad. But the session that just closed in Michigan was one for the ages. Aflush with the flurry of bills sent to the desk of Governor Rick Snyder—not so much speaking to his opinion on their quality—a politics-loving friend of mine in Detroit exclaimed, “It’s like Christmas in … well, in December.”

Obama's Unwise, Unnecessary Concessions

AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

Why is the president back to making premature and unnecessary concessions to Republicans? Two central issues in the 2012 presidential election were whether the Bush tax cuts should be ended for people earning over $250,000, and whether Social Security and Medicare should be protected from future budget cuts. The president said yes to both. Republicans said no. Obama won.

The Social Security Conversation We Should Be Having

401K / Flickr

Matthew Yglesias makes an excellent point about an essential tension between Social Security and the demands of “The Market,” in a post called “Why the Powers that Be Hate Social Security”:

Chairman Summers? Let’s Hope Not

AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi

He’s back. Larry Summers is running hard to succeed Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve when Bernanke’s term expires in early 2014. This is not a great idea, for three main reasons. The first is Summers’ famous temperament. The problem is not just that he’s less than sensitive to women. It’s that he’s a bully in general, cocksure of himself, using others as foils and prevailing by controlling the agenda.

Social Security: Will Obama Cave?

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Once again, President Obama seems to be on the verge of folding a winning hand. Widely leaked reports indicate that the president and House Speaker John Boehner are making a fiscal deal that includes hiking tax rates back to the pre-Bush levels with a threshold of $400,000 rather than the original $250,000, and cutting present Social Security benefits. Obama, the reports say, will now settle for as little as $1.2 trillion in tax increases on the rich rather than the $1.6 trillion that he had originally sought. The difference, in effect, will come out of the pockets of workers, retirees, the young, and the poor.

Drinking the Deficit-Reduction Kool-Aid

It was the centerpiece of the president’s re-election campaign. Every time Republicans complained about trillion-dollar deficits, he and other Democrats would talk jobs.

That’s what Americans care about—jobs with good wages.

And that’s part of why Obama and the Democrats were victorious on Election Day.

For Women Executives, Still Lonely at the Top

(Flickr / Sheraton Hotels and Resorts)

On Monday, the research team at Catalyst released their 2012 Census of women board directors. They found women held just 16.6 percent of board seats in corporate America. As Bryce Covert notes, this is the seventh consecutive year without significant growth in the percentage of women on corporate boards. What can be done?

Full Employment is the Best Deficit Reduction Plan

Google

Despite the fact that Democrats have already agreed to large spending cuts, the Republican position continues to be that further reductions are needed, despite the fact that spending on social programs has already been cut to the bone.

The problem, of course, is that there just isn’t much money left in social programs, absent major, unpopular cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare. Those aside, the most ripe area for savings is the Pentagon, and Republicans have no interest in reducing military spending—indeed, Mitt Romney spent the past year campaigning on more military spending, regardless of actual needs.

If deficit reduction is a priority, then more revenue is needed. This chart illustrates the problem:

The Federal Reserve Gets Down to Business

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

At a press conference in April 2012, New York Times reporter Binyamin Appelbaum asked Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to respond to criticism that he wasn’t doing enough to bring down unemployment. Bernanke responded:

“[T]he question is: Does it make sense to actively seek a higher inflation rate in order to achieve a slightly increased pace of reduction in the unemployment rate? The view of the committee is that that would be very reckless. We have … spent 30 years building up credibility for low and stable inflation."

The Italian Job

The prime minister’s announcement that he will leave Italy’s top spot early could throw Europe into chaos.

(AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Mario Monti’s announcement last Saturday that he plans to resign his post as Italy’s prime minister earlier than was previously expected has thrown Italian politics, and the whole Eurozone, into renewed turmoil. Monti, a Yale-educated technocrat and former EU commissioner, took over in November of last year after market pressure forced Silvio Berlusconi to quit in order to prevent the ignominy of Rome having to apply for an international bailout. The plan was for him to serve the rest of the parliamentary term, until elections scheduled for no later than April 2013.

Stop Blaming Single Mothers

Taking male pundits—liberal and conservative—to task for pushing marriage before motherhood.

Flickr / 50s Family

What magic power do single mothers possess that make them the target for so much blame for social ills? What witchery are they engaged in that can turn even liberal men—even those who pride themselves on supporting feminist causes!—into reactionaries breathlessly opining that the poor only have themselves to blame for their sexually incontinent ways? Whatever it is, the latest victim is Nicholas Kristof, once champion of ending sex slavery and improving maternity care, but most recently hitting The New York Times to accuse rural single mothers of turning down perfectly nice offers of marriage and forcing their kids to be illiterate in order to get disability checks from the government.

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