Monthly Archives: April 2010

Clinton’s Contrition

Follow this link to the opinion piece by David Sirota.

Discussing his administration’s trade policy, Clinton admitted that it “has not worked” to alleviate poverty, as promised.

At first I thought that Sirota was going a little overboard in his criticism of Clinton’s policies.  On a second reading, I see that when he gets to specifics, it is not a blanket condemnation. He does highlight specific aspects of those policies that were wrong.

This goes to exactly my criticism of how Hillary Clinton conducted her campaign for the President. Her blanket admission of the failures of some of Bill Clinton’s policies didn’t seem to me to show an understanding of exactly what went wrong and what was still right about what he did.

I think the testimony of Bill Clinton and Bill Gates before Senate Committee on Foreign Relations about Global Health contains some of the contrition that David Sirota discusses in his article.

At about 35:46 into the testimony, Bill Clinton starts discussing the mistakes he made while President in agricultural policy as it affects poor countries.  Katie Couric did a report on CBS Nightly News that described how our continued failure to learn from Clinton’s mistakes is harming Haiti as we try to help them.

And another thing.  I always wondered how we could be in Iraq after winning the war, be faced with the problem of massive unemployment among the Iraqis, and yet pay $100,000 to Blackwater employees to do the work the Iraqis could do.  We could have employed Iraqis, kept them out of the clutches of the insurgents, and saved money.

What is it that prevents us from doing the obvious and most effective thing that also accomplishes multiple goals?

As Bill Clinton describes, we could solve the problems in Haiti by buying food from the local farmers and distributing it to the hungry. This would let us avoid the choice of removing our aid and forcing people into starvation so we don’t do further damage to Haiti’s long term interests.  Instead we ship in food from outside the country and put the local farmers out of work.  The easy solution is cheaper and accomplishes multiple goals.  Yet we do the more complicated job of shipping in food from around the world at greater expense and end up defeating our own purpose.  How perverse.

10% Of All Households Pay No Net Federal Taxes

Follow this link to the article in the New York Times by David Leonhardt.

The actual headline is Yes, 47% of Households Owe No Taxes. Look Closer.  The official headline is misleading when compared to the sentence that I chose from the article as my headline.

The article also states that higher-income people are understating their income

The article provides a more even handed analysis of who is paying taxes and why than you are likely to get from the sound bites you hear on the radio or TV. I think my choice of emphasis in the headline makes it even more even-handed.

Oh, I should point out that some of the 10% who pay no net federal taxes are not among the poor.  I may not be in the 10% when you include all kinds of federal taxes, but I have not paid any net income taxes in two years. What George Bush has done for the economy has given me enough realized investment losses to offset any income taxes I might owe.

Gambling With the Economy

Follow this link to the commentary in the New York Times by Roger Lowenstein.

Sort of playing devil’s advocate against his own thesis about standardizing derivatives trades, Lowenstein writes:

Wall Street might have legal grounds to fight this – after all, a derivative is a contract between private parties.

Can we think of any other contracts that are between private parties, but are illegal?

Gambling outside the banking industry, prostitution, selling recreational drugs, destruction of wetlands, building unsafe buildings, selling unsafe foods,  …

When a transaction is deemed to be harmful to society, we don’t seem to have any problem justifying its regulation.  That is of course, unless you are rich enough or can wield sufficient political power.

So the real question is, Can Wall Street wield enough bribery and political power to avoid having their harmful practices curtailed? Put this way, perhaps even Tea Party fans could understand the stakes.

Conservatives seem to think,  government can interfere with my sex life but they better keep their hands off my money. The liberals, on the other hand, seem to think sure, go ahead and put controls on my money, but leave my sex life alone.

Celebrating A Passion

Follow this link to the story in the Worcester T & G Concert will observe music director’s 25 years of service.

For any of you Digital Equipment Corporation veterans, you might remember working with Will Sherwood.

We had a great time attending the concert and getting to speak to Will if only briefly. Other than exchanging email, we had not seen each other since the 1980s.

There is nothing to do with politics in this post or the accompanying article.  I just wanted to preserve this link and memory.