Monthly Archives: June 2011

Overworked America: The Great Speedup

If you are still a worker, read Overworked America: The Great Speedup.

This will keep up as long as we buy into three fallacies: One, that to feel crushed by debilitating workloads is a personal failing. Two, that it’s just your company or industry struggling—when in fact what’s happening to hotel maids and sales clerks is also happening to project managers, engineers, and doctors. Three, that there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Since I retired, I have always said that I got out just in time.  The American workplace was a rapidly declining environment.

Now I know why I had trouble getting along in my last two jobs.  (Besides my usual inability to get along with authority figures that is.)

My problem was I was too close to retirement and had enough economic security that I refused to give in.  I told my next to last boss, point blank, “Sure I could hire someone out of my own pocket to do the extra work you are asking me, but I refuse to do it.”

In a performance review with my last boss, I told him, “Yes, I am not as productive as I would like to be.  If at any time you feel I am not doing enough work to justify my salary, just tell me.  I will quietly retire.”

The pending bursting of the real estate bubble is what finally got me to sell my house in Oregon, retire, and move back to Massachusetts.  As I said, just in time.  Although, having a stock market crash just after retirement is not the best of timing.  But at least I was out of the real-estate market for good, I had bought the last house I ever intend to own.

Libya Mission Becomes A Burden For Obama

The McClatchy News article Libya mission becomes a burden for Obama starts with the following paragraph:

More than 100 days after the United States and NATO allies launched what was supposed to be a quick air campaign in Libya, Pentagon officials concede that the effort has little strategic value for the U.S., and the alliance’s desired outcome there remains unclear.

So, after 100 days even the Pentagon is leaking information that many of us knew from day 1.  President Obama loses face when he stands before us and tells us things that we clearly know to be untrue.

With economic issues pressing us, unemployment at an unacceptably high level, our supposed efforts to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama can hardly afford to be telling us fairy tales about why we should enter a new quagmire.

The story goes on to say:

Perhaps undercutting Obama’s rationale for war, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in a series of exit interviews ahead of his retirement, has begun to describe the U.S. involvement as payback to NATO nations — which depend on Libya’s oil reserves — for joining American troops in fighting in Afghanistan, which was mainly a war about U.S. strategic interests.

“These allies, particularly the British and the French, and the Italians for that matter, have really been a big help to us in Afghanistan. They consider Libya a vital interest for them. Our alliance with them is a vital interest for us. So as they have helped us in Afghanistan, it seems to me that we are in a position of helping them with respect to Libya,” said Gates, who opposed U.S. involvement in Libya from the beginning, last week on the PBS NewsHour.

Apparently even though Gates knew from the start that it was all about oil, he is still being a little coy about our own interests.    See my June 11 post, In A Pure Coincidence, Gaddafi Impeded U.S. Oil Interests Before The War.

Obama’s News Conference On Economy

I wonder if this is the verdict on Obama’s attempt to explain why we  need tax increases as part of deficit reduction.

Google News Front Page

Well it gets a little better. Google news now has reference to The Los Angeles Times story Obama pressures Republicans on federal debt ceiling.

The news conference represented a rare instance of Obama using the presidential megaphone to defend his position. In the past, the president has been prone to delivering lengthy answers in a professorial tone, relying on abstract ideas. By contrast, Obama on Wednesday laid out his arguments in simple, everyday terms, echoing an ex-president that he has been studying: Ronald Reagan.

I guess I am not the only one to notice how rarely Obama uses his opportunities to influence the tenor of the debate

My comment on this story was:

Obama flubbed it again. He failed to make the point that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy are job killers. Having missed that opportunity, Boehner made his usual silly point that rescinding those tax cuts is the jobs killer.

With those tax cuts, the wealthy are free to (and have) sucked that money right out of the economy. They (among other things) either invest it overseas and export jobs, or they lend the money back to the government by buying Treasury securities. Rather than invest it in the economy, they have just given it back to the government, but expect to be paid interest now. I don’t blame the wealthy for doing this. It would be silly to invest in more capacity without having enough market demand to sell what the new capacity would produce.

Had this money been put into the hands of the middle-class, they would have spent more of it than the wealthy do. This spending would draw forth investment in capacity (job creation) to meet the economic demand from the middle-class. This is absolutely essential if we are to get a self-sustaining economic recover with lower unemployment.

With just a stimulus to create demand, the recovery will require more and more deficits and never sustain itself without government help.

The Debt Limit Option President Obama Can Use

In the article The Debt Limit Option President Obama Can Use,  Bruce Bartlett latches on to the part of the Fourth Amendment to the Consitution which he quotes as “The validity of the public debt of the United States…shall not be questioned.”

You can look it up.

Bartlett says, “it’s worth remembering that the debt limit is statutory law, which is trumped by the Constitution.”

Right to Rent: Will the Obama Administration Finally Fix Housing?

The article Right to Rent: Will the Obama Administration Finally Fix Housing? by Dean Baker explains the concept as follows:

The concept of “right to rent” has been floating around Washington for almost four years. Under this proposal, foreclosed homeowners would be allowed to remain in their house as renters, paying the market rent, for a substantial period of time (e.g. five years) following a foreclosure. While several bills have been introduced in Congress, President Obama may now have a new opportunity to take the lead on this issue.

I had no idea that such a proposal existed when I wrote my post Solution to The Housing Market Crash with a vaguely similar idea.

Libya Made Simple

Tom Tomorrow Political cartoon

Much as I would like to agree with Tom Tomorrow and much as I dislike Obama’s twisting of words, I have to agree with “Chuckles” The Sensible Woodchuck’s final comment.

When you take a policy that might be justifiable in limited circumstances and then apply it outside its limits, you may be overthinking it.

Reid: Republicans Living in a Fantasy World

In the above video clip, Senator Harry Reid finally starts saying the things that have been needed to be said since the first days of the Obama administration.

Imagine the position of strength that Obama would have been in today had he been explaining for years why the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy would prevent the economic recovery from being self-sustaining. When his stimulus package kept us from going over the cliff, but then faltered as it ran out, he could have then said, “OK, time to stop fooling around. The Bush tax cuts have to go.”

Obama could have claimed that things worked out just as he predicted rather than now being in a position where the Republicans claim that what he tried is a failure.

Instead, we find ourselves with the Republicans solidly entrenched with the idea that tax increases are unacceptable. It is going to be 100 times harder to root them out of this position than it would have been if they were never allowed to dig in in the first place.

As a candidate Obama was a man of big ideas and foresight. As a President, he has been a man of little ideas and no foresight beyond the next day. What happened?

New York Times Gets It All Wrong On Argentina’s Lessons For Greece

The Columbia Journalism Review is running a story about how The New York Times gets it all wrong on Argentina’s lessons for Greece.

The New York Times posted a truly awful story online yesterday headlined “Argentina’s Default Offers a Cautionary Tale for Greece.”

It does, if the cautionary tale is: What are the heck are you waiting for? Are you going to kill your economy and your own citizens so global investors don’t have to take a haircut when you could default like Argentina and start growing again?

I haven’t read The New York Times piece yet, but I thought I would post this article preemptively. I have been wondering for some time now why Greece doesn’t just go ahead and default as suggested above in the quote.

“Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future”

An excerpt from the book, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future by Robert Reich is on the web site.  Since I don’t have express written permission from the copyright holder, I cannot even show you an excerpt from the excerpt.

I can tell you that in Reich’s telling of the story, bankers as a class during the Great Depression did not necessarily have a social conscience or if they did, the didn’t have the knowledge to fix the problem of the continuing depression.  In the story,as told by Reich, one particular banker, Eccles,  had a social conscience and had the knowledge.  Some others who lacked the knowledge at least had the ability to know what it was that they didn’t know so that they knew enough to ask for help.

I need to read this book, and you probably do, too.

If only the Mormon, Eccles’ knowledge had been passed on to the current Mormon politician, Mitt Romney.

June 26, 2011

I have obtained a copy of the book from my local library. Just in the first few chapters my eyes are opening wider and wider.

I now realize that there are some things about Keynesian economics that I was not taught in college. I was taught about the value of deficit spending during a steep recession or depression and the need to run surpluses during boom times.

What I don’t remember learning about was the need to make income distribution somewhat more level (not completely level) as a necessary step after the deficit spending phase in order to make the recovery last beyond the deficit spending phase.

If you haven’t figured it out, rescinding the Bush tax cuts is not only not a job killer, it is absolutely essential to making the recovery self-sustaining.

June 27, 2011

Here are some remarks I have posted on comment boards about President Obama’s getting involved in the budget talks.


According to the book “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future” by Robert Reich, things like the Bush tax cut are exactly what is holding the economy back. Without rescinding those tax cuts and giving the middle class more spending power there will never be a self-sustaining recovery.

So the Repubs are exactly wrong when they say raising taxes is a job killer. In fact, not raising taxes on the wealthy is the job killer. It is Obama’s duty to make this point very strongly and very publicly. It is about time the American public got an education so that they would know what they ought to be fighting for.


The Great Depression was overcome not only by deficit spending but also by shifting the distribution of income toward the middle class. It was not until the distribution of the wealth of the nation was shifted to a little more equity that the middle class had the purchasing power to sustain the recovery.

This is the part of Keynesian economics that my college courses in economics failed to teach.

I hope Bernanke, who claims to be a an expert on the causes and cures of the Great Depression, understands both parts of the solution. There is the part about the government temporarily replacing the lost private demand with public demand to get investment going again. He has demonstrated that he understands this part.

He should demonstrate that he also knows that a premanent increase in demand to draw forth investment can only come when enough wealth is put in the hands of the middle class. With so much wealth in the hands of the top few, there is not enough purchasing power to buy all the things that the economy would be capable of producing in a complete recovery.