I've posted an Open Thread on today's Off Times Square.
Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "... the debate [over the U.S. tax code] has revolved around 'loopholes' for corporate jets and ending 'carve-outs' for well-heeled special interests. But if the goal is debt reduction, that’s not where the money is. Broad tax breaks granted to millions of families at all income levels dwarf the corporate giveaways. Over the past two years, largely because of these popular benefits in the federal income tax code, the government has reached a rare milestone in tax collection — it has given away nearly as much as it takes in. The number of tax breaks has nearly doubled since the last major tax overhaul 25 years ago, with lawmakers adding new benefits for children, college tuition, retirement savings and investment. At the same time, some long-standing breaks have exploded in value.... All told, federal taxpayers last year received $1.08 trillion in credits, deductions and other perks while paying $1.09 trillion in income taxes, according to government estimates." ...
... Steve Benen on tomorrow's speech in which President Obama will roll out his deficit-reduction plan: "Everything we’ve seen from Obama this month suggests this White House has chosen a new posture when dealing with the GOP..... For those who’ve been urging Obama to adopt progressive principles and show a willingness to fight, it’s worth appreciating the fact that the president is doing exactly as they recommended."
Former President Bill Clinton speaks to ABC News' Christiane Amanpour about the Clinton Global Initiative, which will concentrate on American jobs this year. Clinton "says that partisanship in Washington is hampering any ability to reach economic solutions for the country":
Sylvia Nasar, in a New York Times op-ed, on economist John Maynard Keynes, whom she describes as "the Winston Churchill of economics, radiating optimism when things looked bleakest, never so happily engaged as in a national or global emergency." Unlike earlier economists, who practiced "the dismal science," the school of economics Alfred "Marshall pioneered and Keynes and others innovated was a genuine revolution in human thinking that changed the lives of everyone on the globe."
Rivalry of the Fittest. Economist Robert Frank in the New York Times: Naturalist Charles Darwin's "understanding of competition describes economic reality far more accurately than [economist Adam] Smith’s.... Darwin ... understood that competition often favored traits that brought misery to all.... Frank then uses his Darwin-as-Economist theory to argue that market competition is often wasteful, & a "progressive consumption tax" would cause less waste than the income tax. CW: This sounds like a scam to make the super-rich richer (especially because Milton Friedman -- according to Frank -- thought it was a good idea), but I'd have to ask Krugman. ... Update: okay, I will ask Krugman. Update 2: so I did ask Krugman, who is traveling now, if he'd speak to the consumption tax in a blogpost. Anyway, the illustration is cute.
Bryan Burrough of the New York Times: Retirement Heist, a new book by Wall Street Journal reporter Ellen Schultz, reveals that "many of the largest American companies have systematically plundered their employees’ pension funds, at once robbing their workers of hard-won benefits and enriching their own profits." Burroughs doesn't think much of the narrative flow of the book, but the facts are outrageous & heartbreaking.CW: And buried in his own less-than-fabulous narrative style, is the fact that you can blame Washington for letting corporations get away with this massive heist. ...
... The Alternate Plan. Becca Aaronson of the New York Times: "Government employees in Galveston, Brazoria and Matagorda Counties [Texas] have controlled their private retirement plan for 30 years. They opted out of Social Security before Congress changed the law in 1983 to prevent others from withdrawing.... Both the G.A.O. and Social Security studies concluded that lower-wage workers, particularly those with many dependents, would fare better under Social Security, while middle- and higher-wage workers were likely to fare better, at least initially, under the Alternate Plan." ...
... Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: "Most of the top Republicans running for president are embracing plans to partially privatize Social Security, reviving a contentious issue that fizzled under President George W. Bush after Democrats relentlessly attacked it."
NEW. Peter Wallsten & Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "Obama administration officials scrambled Friday to hunt down copies of a new book scheduled to be released next week that paints an unflattering portrait of a dysfunctional and acrimonious White House that sometimes stymied President Obama’s effort to rescue the country’s economy. The book, “Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President,” by journalist Ron Suskind, comes at an inconvenient time for an administration that increasingly finds itself on the defensive over questions of effectiveness." ...
[OMB Director Peter] Orszag told Suskind, according to the book: 'Larry [Summers] just didn’t think the president knew what he was deciding.' Meeting over dinner at the Bombay Club one night, Summers told Orszag..., according to the book. 'I mean it,' Summers said. 'We’re home alone. There’s no adult in charge. Clinton would never have made these mistakes.' ...
... ** David Dayen of Firedoglake: "I actually laughed out loud when I read that last part. Because the seeds of the Great Recession were planted while Clinton was 'the adult in charge' — at the urging of none other than Larry Summers (and his partner in crime, Robert Rubin).... Unfortunately, Obama may never recover from appointing people like Larry Summers and Tim Geithner in January 2009."
Barbara Blaine in the Guardian on why her group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has brought a suit in the International Criminal Court at The Hague charging the Pope & the Vatican with crimes against humanity.
Prof. Cynthia Tucker re: the impending execution of Troy Davis: "... there are ... compelling arguments that point to Davis' innocence -- that suggest, instead, he was set up by the actual triggerman and witnesses who lied to protect themselves. That's the problem with this case: There is now reasonable doubt. The American criminal justice system ... isn't well-equipped to handle such doubts after a man has already been convicted by the proverbial jury of his peers. So Davis is set to die by lethal injection on Sept. 21 unless the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, his last hope, grants him clemency."
Chrissie Thompson of the Detroit Free Press analyzes the GM-UAW contract. "Both General Motors and the UAW can claim victories with the tentative labor contract they reached Friday night after seven weeks of sometimes-exhausting negotiations. GM is giving workers $5,000 signing bonuses, adding thousands of jobs and dishing out a $3-an-hour raise for entry-level workers. But by adding more low-cost, entry-level workers, buying out highly paid skilled-trades workers and denying the union a cost-of-living adjustment, GM should be able to build each car more cheaply for years to come."
Right Wing World *
Making Up Stuff. Again. David Leonhardt of the New York Times: "Besides President Obama, the biggest villain in the early Republican debates has been a Republican: Ben S. Bernanke, the has been lower than under any other Fed chairman in the past 40 years — and lower than in the five years before he took over." CW: they just don't like someone who dares to suggest helping the economy during a Democratic presidency is patriotic.chairman, who was first appointed by George W. Bush and previously served as a Bush adviser.... Mr. Perry and Mr. Romney accused Mr. Bernanke of devaluing the dollar through inflation. Newt Gingrich, former House speaker, called Mr. Bernanke 'the most inflationary' chairman ever." But in fact, "Under Mr. Bernanke, inflation
* Where dumb & provincial are winning attributes.
New York Times: "President Obama will unveil a deficit-reduction plan on Monday that uses entitlement cuts, tax increases and war savings to reduce government spending by more than $3 trillion over the next 10 years.... The plan ... is the administration’s opening salvo in sweeping negotiations on deficit reduction to be taken up by a joint House-Senate committee over the next two months. If a deal is not struck by Dec. 23, cuts could take effect automatically across government agencies.... Aides said Mr. Obama will expressly promise to veto any legislation that seeks to cut the deficit through spending cuts alone and does not include revenue increases in the form of tax increases on the wealthy." Washington Post story here.
NBC News: "Texas congressman Ron Paul won the California Republican straw poll Saturday after making several speeches at the GOP state convention...."
Oh, how could I have missed this? Politico: "Rick Santorum captured a home-state straw poll win of Pennsylvania Republicans on Friday night. Santorum, the two-term Pennsylvania senator, won 36 percent of the vote from state committee members, beating Mitt Romney’s 25 percent and Rick Perry’s 18 percent. No one else here cracked double-digits." CW: ... which gives you a glimmer of how important straw polls are.