October 26, 2012
Economic PatronizingThis week the President released "Economic Patriotism: A Plan for Jobs & Middle Class Security," (pdf) a detailed roadmap consisting of many dozens of words including "middle class," "tax cuts," and "middle class."
Also, “middle class.”
And “tax cuts.”
In fact, here are some representative excerpts from the plan:
“I want to continue those tax cuts for middle-class families and for small businesses.”
Extending the middle-class income tax cuts… would prevent 97% of small business owners from facing a tax increase.
We can make college more affordable by continuing tax credits to help middle-class families afford college tuition.
The Obama Record: Cutting taxes for the Middle Class.
To strengthen the middle class, President Obama passed wide-ranging tax relief.
And the President has provided new tax cuts to help the middle class afford higher education and health care.
The plan makes sure millionaires aren’t paying lower tax rates than many middle-class families.
President Obama’s plan keeps middle-class tax cuts in place.”
Keep in mind the plan is only 11 pages long.
Regardless, it is pretty clear that the President believes the middle class needs middle class tax cuts for the middle class.
Additionally, the President’s plan includes the most important element of any economic policy agenda if it’s going to be taken at all seriously:
A thoroughly detailed and specific set of pictures of Barack Obama.
In fact, on every single page the small text is crowded out by huge, glossy, full-color pictures of Barack Obama.
What do these pictures tell us the President is going to do if he is reelected?
For one, he is going to eat breakfast. Experts will tell you that breakfast is the most important jobs plan of the day.
He is also going to bother you at work.
Even if that means standing at high, overly reflective counters to no obvious purpose.
He will also come over to your house and watch your children.
He will consult with your doctors regarding the proper course of your treatment.
And he will wear Dockers on casual Friday.
Finally, we have a reason to vote for a President, rather than just against his opponent.
October 16, 2012
CONSENSUS WATCH – 10/16/2012
An ongoing series dedicated to vigorously monitoring emerging threats to The Consensus that global warming is real, caused by humans, and must be addressed at all costs. Because without consensus, scientific conclusions would remain vulnerable to new data.
One of the barriers to convincing the general public that the world is indeed warming due to the human-produced emissions of carbon dioxide is people’s woeful misunderstanding of science in general and the scientific process in particular.
For example (and we feel silly even having to bring this up), when people who are not scientists are told that the earth is going to get warmer they tend to, for whatever reason, assume that the earth is going to get warmer.
We blame the public school system.
Naturally, with this faulty assumption in mind, the news that the earth hasn’t actually warmed for the past 16 straight years despite continuing increases in man-made atmospheric carbon dioxide creates unwarranted doubt among common people. They start suggesting, based on nothing more than the fact that the earth hasn’t warmed, that perhaps models that predicted the earth would warm are wrong.
Now how about we all calm down and look at this like a scientist does, shall we?
Take, for example, famed climatologist Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. He takes the issue head on, explaining to people who might be skeptical that global warming is real:
“We don’t fully understand how to input things like changes in the oceans, and because we don’t fully understand it you could say that natural variability is now working to suppress the warming. We don’t know what natural variability is doing.”
See? It’s just that they don’t understand it. It’s not as if the models are in any way wrong and need to be fundamentally changed. It's that they just don't happen to be able to reliably predict observed data given a set of known inputs.
If you are like most Planet Moron readers, you’re probably thinking, “I like cheese.” Also, “Shouldn’t scientists consider changing their minds in the face of new data?
Of course they should. For example, in 2009, Professor Jones, commenting on the lack of warming said that:
“…the ‘no upward trend’ has to continue for a total of 15 years before we get worried.”
Now that he’s had a chance to review the new data indicating that we have had “no upward trend” for 16 years, he’s changed his mind
Now he believes that you probably need 20 years before you get worried.
See, and you thought Consensus scientists were inflexible.
In fact, they are so flexible that after years of data that showed little increase in hurricane activity despite predictions to the contrary, they realized that they to rethink the problem. Their solution?
Count things that aren’t hurricanes instead.
By examining the historic record on things that aren't hurricanes such as storm surges, which may or may not have anything to do with hurricanes, scientists can now say that, sure enough, warming causes more hurricanes. Or potential hurricanes. Or things that could be hurricanes. Or not.
Also, it's not warming.
It doesn’t matter. We have a Consensus.
Which reminds us, evidence for global warming can no longer be found in Antarctica “where the bottom of the world is literally melting away”
It is now literally freezing its way up, and increasing in overall ice mass.
Regardless, even though the Antarctic is not melting, the penguins are still going to die because it’s going to melt.
Now that’s flexible.
Now you have a chance to show your support for The Consensus with the Shut up, that’s why T-shirt, the perfect answer to anyone who dares to question the science behind global warming.
In addition to the T-shirt we also have a fashionable beach tote and a set of stackable mugs, so you’ll have the opportunity to show the world that you’re smart enough to know when not to ask too many questions.
And while you're at it, make sure the world knows you won't allow yourself to be bullied by facts with our extensive line of CONSENSUS WATCH MERCHANDISE!
We also have the classic Consensus Watch coffee mug, bag, and beer stein (along with assorted T-shirts, sweatshirts, and other garments): "Consensus Watch Because without consensus, scientific conclusions would remain vulnerable to new data" plus a complete line of "Stop raping the planet! You may, however, touch it inappropriately," items (shirts, coasters, stickers, buttons)
All proceeds raised from the sale of Consensus Watch merchandise go towards ensuring that we never run out of gin.
October 03, 2012
But what about the children? Of Agriculture Department Grant Officials, We Mean.
We’re likely to hear a lot about cutting the deficit in tonight’s debate, but do the candidates really understand the hard truths they are about to face when it comes to reducing federal spending?
Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack understands. He understands all too well the pain that will be caused by looming cuts to his department, lamenting that:
“October 1st is the start of a new fiscal year, but it also is the end of many of the programs authorized under the 2008 farm bill.”
What programs, you ask? Programs that touch people’s lives. Programs that provide people the quiet dignity and opportunity to share in the bounty of our nation that is their right as citizens.
Programs that finance appearances by the Alabama Watermelon Queen:
“Partner with the Alabama Watermelon Association, Inc. (AWA) to promote the consumption of Alabama’s watermelon through appearances of the Alabama Watermelon Queen at various events and location.”
These programs are part of the 100% essential Agricultural Marketing Service’s Fruit and Vegetable Programs, Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (pdf).
But it’s not all about watermelon queens. Secretary Vilsack knows we are running unsustainable deficits and has cut all the fat out of his programs leaving only the bone. Such as:
“Explore and develop markets for vegetables that are popular in Hispanic culture but are not available locally for the minority populations in Houston and Henry counties in southeast Alabama.”
For the record, if you don’t think this is an essential expenditure, then you’re a racist.
“Partner with Jeff Smeenk to determine the optimum rhubarb for a juicing product and present the project results to other specialty crop producers in Alaska.”
Look, if we don’t do it, the Russians will.
Also, you should never pass up an opportunity to say "Jeff Smeenk."
“Partner with the Arizona Farm Bureau in collaboration with Arizona fruit and vegetable farmers to educate and inform consumers about the nutritious nature of Arizona’s top specialty crops by creating and disseminating a video series about Arizona’s ‘Top Ten’ specialty crops.”
You just heard about the next YouTube viral sensation before everyone else.
“Partner with the California Olive Oil Council to expand opportunities for California olive oil by executing a marketing campaign that focuses on two key high-end food markets: California and the region between the District of Columbia and New York City.”
You might wonder why you’re paying to help market expensive olive oil to affluent coastal residents.
Shut up, that’s why.
There are also a number of programs to help strawberry growers:
“Enhance the managerial skills and competitiveness of Virginia strawberry growers.”
“Partner with the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System to develop a producer-led strawberry sustainability assessment program.”
“Partner with the University of Minnesota to provide information to Minnesota strawberry growers on new production methods using low tunnels.”
“Partner with the University of Nebraska – Lincoln to conduct a replicated experiment with four different strawberry cultivars including cultivars specifically developed for the short day photoperiods.”
“Partner with the North Carolina Strawberry Association to implement a two pronged campaign that will focus efforts to market the nutritional benefits of strawberries.”
Sadly, it will all be for naught as they are also proving funding to:
“...Position the Florida strawberry industry with a dominant quality advantage in the marketplace.”
Boy, are those other guys going to be ticked off.
“Partner with the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Seattle Wholesale Growers Market Cooperative to develop and deliver resources to train a minimum of industry stakeholders in methods for achieving high quality cut flower production.”
Do you have any idea what this country loses each year in low-quality cut flower production? We don’t either, but we bet it’s a lot.
“Partner with the California Avocado Society to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of California avocado producers through the creation of an agricultural outreach program that provides technical education for critical job skills.”
Not many people realize this, but avocado jobs are the 137,865th fastest growing occupation in the country.
“Cooperate with the Oregon State Department of Agriculture to increase awareness of Northwest fresh and processed specialty crop products and build trade relationships between buyers and sellers—targeting importers, wholesalers, and retailers—in order to increase sales in three market areas in Southeast Asia.”
What about simply letting private businesses take on the task of marketing their own products and building trade relationships between buyers and sellers?
What are you? Some kind of extreme right-wing free-market absolutist?!
“Partner with the Arizona Nursery Association to expand the successful Plant Something promotion with the goal of increasing the sale and use of Arizona grown landscape plants and trees and to develop the campaign into a national nursery campaign.”
You know what, the “Plant something” program kind of sums up the general philosophical approach the Agriculture Department takes on handing out these grants, so we’ll just wrap it up here. Just keep in mind that:
“Since 2006, the program administered by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has awarded $240 million.”
That’s not something we had to dig up through a FOIA request.
October 02, 2012
He Makes Money The Old Fashioned Way. He Prints it.Yesterday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke used a presentation he had been scheduled to give to the Economic Club of Indiana as a platform to make a vigorous defense of his latest plans to engage in quantitative easing via the printing press.
As our readers are well aware, monetary policy and macroeconomics are very complex subjects, so we thought we’d go through the highlights of his speech to help you better understand it:
“Since 2008, we've used… less-traditional monetary policy tools to bring down longer-term rates. The first of these less-traditional tools involves the Fed purchasing longer-term securities on the open market--principally Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities…”
Some tools are less traditional for a reason. Like when Alexander P. Broughton, a 20-year-old University of Tennessee student, used a “less traditional tool” to get drunk. (You probably don’t want to click on that.)
“The securities that the Fed purchases in the conduct of monetary policy are held in our portfolio and earn interest. The great bulk of these interest earnings is sent to the Treasury, thereby helping reduce the government deficit. In the past three years, the Fed remitted $200 billion to the federal government.”
If you’re wondering why, if we can reduce the deficit by purchasing Treasury bills with fake money and turning the fake interest payments back in to Treasury, why don’t we just have the Fed purchase all the treasury bills, well, good news!
“I sometimes hear the complaint that the Federal Reserve is enabling bad fiscal policy by keeping interest rates very low and thereby making it cheaper for the federal government to borrow. I find this argument unpersuasive. The responsibility for fiscal policy lies squarely with the Administration and the Congress.”
Exactly. It would be like if someone blamed you for giving whiskey and car keys to a teenager. The responsibility for not plowing into a crowd of young schoolchildren at a bus stop lies squarely with the teenager, not with you.
And keep in mind, the Fed’s actions are in no way political. In fact, in response to the suggestion that the Fed should stop interfering so aggressively in the markets and allow rates to rise, Mr. Bernanke said:
“Using monetary policy to try to influence the political debate on the budget would be highly inappropriate.”
Exactly. Were the Fed to cease intervening in markets and allow interest rates to float at normal levels so that prices could adjust and markets could go through the painful but efficient process of healing as market-clearing prices are established, it would clearly “influence the political debate” and be “highly inappropriate.”
In contrast, actively forcing on the markets historically unprecedented low interest rates and running the printing presses so as to purchase government bonds with the express purpose of inflating financial asset prices just one month before a presidential election regardless of the long-term consequences is 100% non-partisan straightforward policy making.
That is how you can tell Ben Bernanke is serious about maintaining the credibility of the Fed.
“[An important question] is whether the Federal Reserve's monetary policy will lead to higher inflation down the road. In response, I will start by pointing out that the Federal Reserve's price stability record is excellent, and we are fully committed to maintaining it.”
FUN FACT: The dollar has lost over 95% of its value since the creation of the Federal Reserve.
“With monetary policy being so accommodative now, though, it is not unreasonable to ask whether we are sowing the seeds of future inflation. A related question I sometimes hear--which bears also on the relationship between monetary and fiscal policy, is this: By buying securities, are you "monetizing the debt"--printing money for the government to use--and will that inevitably lead to higher inflation? No, that's not what is happening, and that will not happen.”
We don’t know about you, but we sure feel a lot better.
“Monetizing the debt means using money creation as a permanent source of financing for government spending.”
You see, “monetizing the debt” is when you print money forever, whereas Fed policy is to print money until the “appropriate time.”
And they won’t tell us when that appropriate time will be, only that it will depend on how much the economy strengthens.
And they won’t tell us how much the economy needs to strengthen first for them to stop printing money.
And even then, they will still continue to print money.
“The Committee expects that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the economic recovery strengthens.”
But other than that, it’s absolutely not “monetizing the debt.”
That would just be wrong.