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Tyler Cowen’s Solution to Poverty

[ 134 ] July 30, 2014 |

Tyler Cowen’s solutions to poverty would not have been original in 1890:

You and other thinkers on the right have proposed that cultural factors play a large role in the widening income gap. What are you suggesting?

Note that the observed stagnation in earnings has plagued male earners, not women. Women continue to do better in the work force and also in education, or if they choose not to advance this is often a voluntary decision, linked to childbearing.

Men are perhaps better suited for old-style manufacturing jobs, and women are often better suited for service sector jobs. A lot of men seem to have problems with discipline and conscientiousness.

If we are looking for a remedy, a greater interest in strict religions would help many of the poor a lot — how about Mormonism for a start? Just look at the data. Many other religions prohibit or severely limit alcohol, drugs and gambling. That said, this has to happen privately rather than as a matter of state policy.

Cowen would fit in the Gilded Age quite well. Between his gender stereotypes and his telling the poor to live morally upright religious lives to succeed, thus blaming them for their own poverty if they don’t, Cowen sounds like he’s taken a time machine from the late 19th century. Andrew Carnegie could have used this guy. He goes on to talk about how income inequality is actually a “red herring.” I’m sure the people of the south Texas colonias, Detroit, and Youngstown would totally agree. Their poverty totally isn’t real.

These are the solutions to income inequality that I have no doubt the plutocrats funding him at George Mason love to hear. But telling poor people to convert to Mormonism is, to say the bloody least, not even part of a solution to poverty.

….Cowen’s “ideas” remind me of what I’m seeing here in Oaxaca. The cop cars (and the civilian cars the cops drive somewhat oddly since it tells everyone they are cops) all have bumperstickers saying things like “TRABAJO.” Which means work for those of you with even less Spanish than I have (luckily my wife is nearly fluent). I mean, that’s a great idea. Let’s not provide any jobs. But telling people to work through bumperstickers, that’s sure to fight crime!

The Halbig Troofers

[ 14 ] July 30, 2014 |

For those interested in the subject, Beutler, Sargent, and Kliff all offer essential reading on Halbig trooferism. The question of whether the subsidies would be available on the federally established state exchanges isn’t some obscure point that was never considered during the legislative process. It was crucial to the operation of the legislation, it was widely considered, and as the structure of the legislation indicates there was universal contemporaneous agreement that the subsidies would be available on the exchanges irrespective of whether they were established by states or the feds. There was no dissent on this point. The argument that Congress intended to deny subsidies on the federal exchanges is quite simply absurd.

I know I’ve been writing a lot about this, but it really is critically important. It’s 21st century American conservatism in a nutshell: using arguments of increasingly staggering bad faith to pursue exceedingly unattractive normative ends. As Chait says, this argument has morphed from an argument that millions of people should be denied health insurance because the card says “Moops” to an argument that the tribe that invaded Spain was actually called the “Moops.” (I think Chait is also right about the reason for making the argument substantially more absurd. It’s hard to deny your responsibility for kicking people off of their health insurance when it’s the result of your opportunistically idiotic theories of statutory interpretation, but invent a congressional intent to do so and it’s easier to play “don’t look at me, I didn’t do it.”)

Related to all this, Drum offers a reward:

But maybe I’m wrong! So here’s my offer: I will send a crisp, new ten-dollar bill to anyone who can point out a conservative who so much as suspected that subsidies were limited to state exchanges prior to March 2010. Surely that’s incentive enough? Let’s start digging up evidence, people.

My 10 bucks says that Drum’s total payout will be “nothing.” Indeed, I’m quite confident he could offer the winner a shiny new Thermomix without any substantial risk. I wish I thought this would stop the troofers, but they really don’t care.

Only One Thing The Poor Did Wrong, Stayed In Mississippi a Day Too Long

[ 57 ] July 30, 2014 |

Apropos my skepticism over giving more policy discretion to our glorious laboratories of democracy, a commenter notes an example of chutzpah that would be funny were it not for the grotesque immorality involved:

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) blamed President Barack Obama for a reported increase in uninsured Mississipians. The problem is, Bryant didn’t acknowledge that he’s been a staunch opponent of expanding Medicaid under Obamacare and refused to encourage enrolling in private coverage through Healthcare.gov.

Bryant directed his blame at Obama in response to a question about a WalletHub study that showed an increase in the percentage of uninsured Mississippians. The study found that the uninsured rate increased by 3.34 percentage points to 21.46 percent of Mississippi’s population, according to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

“If statistics show that the ill-conceived and so-called Affordable Care Act is resulting in higher rates of uninsured people in Mississippi, I’d say that’s yet another example of a broken promise from Barack Obama,” Bryant said.

An estimated 137,800 people in Mississippi were left uncovered by health insurance because the state did not expand Medicaid.

What can you say at this point? Republican politics circa 2014 seems to consist exclusively of pissing in someone else’s punchbowl and then blaming the host for inviting them.

“Hahaha Congress Thought the States Were Competent to Do Anything. What a Bunch of Clowns. In Conclusion, Let’s Give More Power to the States.”

[ 49 ] July 30, 2014 |

Paul Ryan, as you may have heard, has yet another “let them eat states’ rights” anti-poverty plan out.  I note that this very old and very terrible idea is a source of grim amusement, given the latest conservative legal theory being used against the ACA:

The notion that “let them eat states’ rights” is a new and exciting idea is particularly perverse given some other recent developments. To the widespread applause of Republicans, a panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals read the Affordable Care Act as not providing subsidies to people purchasing health insurance on federally established exchanges. According to defenders of the decision, this was not a drafting mistake; they say Congress intended to only make the subsidies available on state-established exchanges, but were surprised by how few states went along.

As a reading of the ACA, this argument is absurd — clearly Congress anticipated that some states would not establish exchanges, which is why the federal backstop was created. Virtually nobody involved in creating the ACA believes that the law was designed to create federal exchanges that wouldn’t work. It is fair to say, however, that some Democrats were surprised by how many states proved unwilling or unable to establish their own exchanges.

But consider the implications of this. The latest conservative legal argument against the ACA boils down to: “you screwed up — you thought the states actually wanted to provide people with health care!” And the Supreme Court re-writing the ACA in 2012 to make it easier for states to reject the Medicaid expansion has also been a catastrophe, with Republican statehouses inflicting easily avoidable pain and suffering on millions of people to prove their anti-Obama bona fides.

So — why is devolving anti-poverty policy to the states supposed to be a great idea again?

The ACA has given us a very powerful lesson: “coercive federalism” is far more effective than “cooperative federalism.” The vastly improved Medicaid would have been much more vastly improved had it just been a federal program like Medicare. Hopefully we’ve learned something.

I give the concluding line to Charlie Pierce: “[B]lock grants to the states suck. They always have and they always will, and Paul Ryan knows this, which is why he gave them a pretty new name in the first place.”

Go Teach Pro-Capitalist Propaganda History at Arizona State University

[ 149 ] July 30, 2014 |

I don’t often comment on specific academic jobs but this really stuck in my craw. At Arizona State University:

The School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies (SHPRS) at Arizona State University invites applications for a tenure-track Assistant Professor specializing in the history of capitalism and political economy in Europe and/or the United States, from the 18th century to the present. Anticipated start date: August 2015. In addition being a member of the School’s history faculty, the successful candidate will be affiliated with the Center for Political Thought and Leadership at ASU, working closely with colleagues in program development and advancing the Center’s involvement in the wider community in Phoenix and Arizona.

Required qualifications:

Ph.D. in History or an appropriately adjacent field, specializing in the history of capitalism and political economy in Europe and/or the United States, 18th-century to the present, at the time of appointment.

Desired qualifications:

Broad command of the economic, political, and intellectual history of capitalism and political economy, in modern Europe and/or the United States
Demonstrated ability to teach introductory, upper-division, and graduate courses in the above fields, as evidenced in cover letter and CV
Research focus on (a) the relations between free-market institutions and political liberty in modern history; (b) on the contribution of economic theories and ideologies to the formation of public policy related to major sectors of modern economies such as industry, healthcare, housing education and related topics; or (c) on the intellectual history of the leading normative principles of modern political economy–economic freedom, growth and efficiency; distributive justice; political liberty, and constitutionalism.

In other words, tell us how awesome you think capitalism is if you want this job. I was immediately suspicious–”the relations between free-market instituitons and political liberty”???–and asked around. Well, who do you send the CV to? Noted Ronald Reagan and Phyllis Schlafly fan Donald Critchlow. See this Reddit thread Critchlow did that begins with him criticizing “revisionist” history that focuses on race as a start to his politics.

Critchlow was hired to head the new Center for Political Thought and Leadership at ASU. That sure sounds innocuous, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not:

The center has already received significant external support. It will house the Jack Miller Library on Constitutional Principles, a significant collection of classical books on political liberty and fundamental principles at the heart of American civic, cultural and constitutional life, and the Journal of Policy History, a peer-reviewed academic quarterly focused on the application of historical perspectives to public policy studies. The Miller Center is a non-profit, non-partisan and non-sectarian organization dedicated to the support of scholarship, teaching and study of the central ideas and themes of American history and the broader traditions of Western Civilization.

Additionally, a five-year grant providing up to $1.129 million dollars from the Charles Koch Foundation, an organization that supports research and educational programs focused on exploring the sources of well-being, will provide seed funding for the center. A post-doctoral program, faculty-student community workshops, a lecture program, student reading groups and library will offer many of the center’s activities.

Heck, why not name this the Charles Koch Chair in Corporate Hackery! And here I thought conservatives couldn’t get jobs in academia. I wonder if ASU has decided to keep this fair and balanced by allowing the CPUSA to host a center and use Venezuelan oil money to fund a position?

So the Center for Political Thought and Leadership should at least try to be relatively objective in its presentation of material, right? The center is just opening. So who is giving its opening keynote address in January? Rich Lowry! Well, you know that is going to be great. Was Dinesh D’Souza not available? Bill Kristol too busy urging policy makers to bomb brown nations?

Very nice Arizona State University. Congratulations on giving up on even the pretense of integrity by accepting Koch money to start an extremist center dedicated to serving the needs of billionaires. And I don’t know what role the History department had in this choice, but I for one would be far beyond disgusted were I a member of the department and I’d speak out about it.

Beaches

[ 159 ] July 29, 2014 |

Beaches are indeed pretty unpleasant.

Hot, boring, and gross is not a great combo for me. Give me a rocky coastline and tide pools any day. Or some mountains.

This is your late night thread on me asserting my aesthetic preferences are objectively correct.

Request in comments for picture of hiking at Mt. St. Helens, a far cooler experience than the beach, granted.

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Labor and Climate Change

[ 1 ] July 29, 2014 |

The stereotype is that unions oppose any action to fight climate change. Certainly that’s true for some unions, especially the Laborers and United Mine Workers. But it is not true for all unions. In fact, like most issues, organized labor is divided over climate change. That however means there are unions that see the absolute necessity for alliances with environmental organizations and to participate on the side of environmentalism. After all, climate change is very much a working class issue as the effects will be felt disproportionately by the poor.

No Labels, Mo’ Money

[ 22 ] July 29, 2014 |

It might be a laughable and inevitable failure at influencing American politics, but in terms of separating suckers from their money NoLabelsAmericansElectUnityFriedmanForever is working out perfectly well.    I’m pretty sure Sarah Palin looks at these grifters with wistful admiration.

That Pro-Life Hobby Lobby

[ 102 ] July 29, 2014 |

Hobby Lobby puts its pro-life, pro-child policies into practice:

When a very pregnant Felicia Allen applied for medical leave from her job at Hobby Lobby three years ago, one might think that the company best known for denying its employees insurance coverage of certain contraceptives—on the false grounds that they cause abortions—would show equal concern for helping one of its employees when she learned she was pregnant.

Instead, Allen says the self-professed evangelical Christian arts-and-crafts chain fired her and then tried to prevent her from accessing unemployment benefits.

“They didn’t even want me to come back after having my baby, to provide for it,” she says.

And here I thought Hobby Lobby was acting out of very strong principle for life and not because it hates women and wants to punish them for having sex.

There’s also this gem:

When Allen applied for unemployment benefits, she says Hobby Lobby’s corporate office gave the unemployment agency a false version of events, claiming she could have taken off personal leave but chose not to. In the end, Allen says she won her claim for unemployment benefits, but she felt she had been wrongly discriminated based on the fact that she was pregnant. In February 2012 she sued Hobby Lobby, but her lawsuit was swiftly dropped because, like most—if not all—Hobby Lobby employees, Allen had signed away her rights to sue the company.

Though the multibillion-dollar, nearly 600-store chain took its legal claim against the federal government all the way to the Supreme Court when it didn’t want to honor the health insurance requirements of the Affordable Care Act, the company forbids its employees from seeking justice in the court of law.

Allen had signed a binding arbitration agreement upon taking the job, though she says she doesn’t remember doing so. The agreement, which all Hobby Lobby employees are required to sign, forces employees to resolve legal disputes outside of court through a process known as arbitration.

Lying so she couldn’t get unemployment is very special, but forcing employees to sign documents waiving their right to sue the company in order to be hired should be as illegal as the yellow-dog contract. I would ask how something like that is even legal in this nation, but of course I already know why–because corporations control our lives in ways they have not in a century.

Undue Burden

[ 19 ] July 29, 2014 |

5CA holds what should be obvious – Mississippi’s most recent anti-abortion statutes violate a woman’s reproductive rights:

Mississippi’s last abortion clinic won a major victory at the conservative 5th Circuit of Appeals, which said a law intended to make the state “abortion-free” and close the clinic was unconstitutional.

“Pre-viability, a woman has the constitutional right to end her pregnancy by abortion,” wrote E. Grady Jolly, a Reagan appointee, for the panel. The law requiring that abortion providers have admitting privileges to local hospitals, which Mississippi’s Jackson Women’s Health Organization had been unable to obtain, “effectively extinguishes that right within Mississippi’s borders.”

The judges’ hands were tied by the fact that a separate 5th Circuit panel had already said an identical law in Texas, where it has closed about half of the state’s abortion clinics, was constitutional even if it had no basis in medical necessity. Today’s ruling, which is on the preliminary injunction, says the law is only unconstitutional as it has been applied to the Jackson clinic, citing a principle that states can’t violate their citizen’s rights by claiming they can go out-of-state.

The admitting privileges law was scheduled to take effect in July 2012, but was blocked by a lower court, which said if the state got its way, the result would be “a patchwork system where constitutional rights are available in some states but not in others.”

Whether Anthony Kennedy is willing to ascribe any content to the “undue burden” standard, even in such an extreme case, is unclear.

Meanwhile, America’s most trusted news source has a sneak preview of Mississippi’s next legislative session.

 

WWI Nutshell!

[ 45 ] July 29, 2014 |

Your World War I graphic of the day:

A couple thoughts:

  • The Western Front and the Isonzo Front give an incomplete understanding of the static nature of World War I warfare; there was considerably more movement in the east than in the west.
  • Nevertheless, the ability of a country like Serbia to hold its own for as long as it did does suggest important differences in military tactics and technology between 1914 and 1940.
  • It’s easy to appreciate the potentially decisive impact of the Ludendorff Offensive, especially in the wake of successful Central Power offensives in 1917.

Chait on Israel

[ 208 ] July 29, 2014 |

Count Jonathan Chait among the long-time supporters of Israel depressed about the nation’s dead-end stance toward Gaza:

The story further reveals that Netanyahu appeared on several occasions to approach the brink of agreement, but pulled back in the face of right-wing pressure within his coalition. Numerous figures in the story attempt to plumb the Israeli Prime Minister’s psychology — does he truly have it in him to go over the brink and make peace, or is he merely bluffing? — but the exercise turns out to be ultimately futile. Either Israeli politics or Netanyahu’s own preferences kept Netanyahu from striking a deal. And since that failure, the most moderate leadership the Palestinians ever had, and probably ever will have, has been marginalized.

Viewed in this context, the campaign of Israeli air strikes in Gaza becomes a horrifying indictment. It is not just that the unintended deaths of Palestinians is so disproportionate to any corresponding increase in security for the Israeli targets of Hamas’s air strikes. It is not just that Netanyahu is able to identify Hamas’s strategy — to create “telegenically dead Palestinians” — yet still proceeds to give Hamas exactly what it is after. It is that Netanyahu and his coalition have no strategy of their own except endless counterinsurgency against the backdrop of a steadily deteriorating diplomatic position within the world and an inexorable demographic decline. The operation in Gaza is not Netanyahu’s strategy in excess; it is Netanyahu’s strategy in its entirety. The liberal Zionist, two-state vision with which I identify, which once commanded a mainstream position within Israeli political life, has been relegated to a left-wing rump within it.

Couple of points. First, going forward into the future, I have no idea how this turns out well toward Israel. Netanyahu seems to count on only ally as necessary–the Republican Party in the United States. Yes, there are still many many Democrats who are 100% on the side of Israel as well and AIPAC’s power in U.S. politics can’t be overestimated. But as they insult Democratic presidents and blow off John Kerry, they are going to lose support. And if Israel is starting to lose people like Jonathan Chait, then it’s support in the U.S. is showing real signs of eroding. Yes, Chait is still holding on to wrong ideas on this issue–such as his claim that the Palestinians are to blame for the decline of the Israeli left. But still, it’s a remarkable essay.

Within their own land, the demographic crisis is inevitable, leading to the nation needing to choose between inclusion and going full apartheid. It’s pretty clear that the Israeli public is moving toward the latter choice, not only in Gaza but in right-wing intimidation and violence against left-wing Israeli critics of the violence. Netanyahu is doing nothing but strengthening Hamas. If anyone can point out some way these attacks help Israel in the long run, let me know because I can’t think of any.

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