Ted Auch

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Separating Fact From Fiction

“Cut it or Shut it”

I totally agree Tea Party I totally agree! Government shutdown now!

HOWEVER that means we shut down the TSA, the military, coast guard, national guard, social security, medicaid, medicare, homeland security, agricultural subsidies, pork spending, etc.

SO if your all for that than indeed lets SHUT ER DOWN!!

HOWEVER don’t start carving stuff out and proclaiming your disgust with government!

HOW ABOUT We pullback the security state being built by the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security, and private security firms along with the Military Industrial Complex? That would save a boat load of money! How about we step back from being The World’s RoboCop? NO? Why?

Well I am all for scaling back the depth and breadth of government spending in the areas of bloat and hubris, but to say “Cut it or shut it” remember what that comes with? NO MORE SPINACH………BUT NO MORE CAKE AS WELL!

Federal Budget Fact From Fiction

So President Obama released his much anticipated budget today and I took a couple of minutes to analyze the numbers to find the winners and losers. The results will surprise those on the right and left alike (See Figure Below).

The big winners are:

1. the Natural Resource Conservation Service with respective 2011-2012 and 2010-2012 budget increases of 123% and 167%.

2. the Department of Energy with a 2010-2012 increase of 134%.

3. the Department of Transportation with 2011-2012 and 2010-2012 increases of 113% and 115%

4. a recipient near and dear to natural/environmental scientists hearts the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a 2010-2012 of 118%.

True many of these recipients could be considered liberal or dare I say the word “scientific” causes, but the fact is that there are many progressive recipients on The Big Losers list below.

The Big Losers:

1. Well we have to start with the undisputed biggest loser of them all and one you would think would be in the previous category given how often Obama, Democrats, and Republicans talk about the importance of small-business creation. The Small Business Administration is going to be 20% of what it was in 2010 in the following 2 years if Obama gets his way. This will be an interesting pivot point around which we will see whether conservatives who say Obama is anti-business fight him OR whether the small businesses of America call Obama’s bluff and the Republicans if they jump in bed with him on this one invoking his recent placating speech at Tom Donahue’s Chamber of Commerce. This country is clearly decoupling both at home and in the workplace with Too Big To Fail Military contractors, Banks, and Agribusiness clearly in the driver seat not just with Republicans but with Democrats as well. What a shame.

2. OH and then there is military family housing, which one would assume everyone would want to increase with the patriotic rheotirc booming out of MSNBC and Fox News equally. I thought we valued our warriors and their sacrifice? Guess not because military family housing is set to shrink by 25% 2010-2012.

3. Education and who - like military family housing - could argue with education? Apparently an Obama administration that has found it’s Reaganomics Religion all of a sudden. Education will be slashed by 11% and 24% between 2011-2012 and 2010-2012, respectively.

4. Finally, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will be slashed by 31% between 2010-2012.

SO WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS BLOG? The point is that Obama has shown he is hardly a socialist, fascist, liberal/progressive populist and that with respect to the SBA we will see whether all those jokers on Capitol Hill really do care about small businesses because if the Obama administration gets it’s way the SBA will be hacked to a fifth of it’s size today.

NOW if only we could get the Pentagon to incur more than the 2011-2012 4% decline only to rise like a Phoenix the following year giving it a 2010-2012 6% increase.

If we don’t address the retirement age, tort reform, the military industrial complex leviathan, and things like Bureau of Land Management gifts to the coal/natural gas industry via infinitesimal land rents we are not being serious. Hacking away as the Republicans and Democrats are at discretionary spending, which depending on the year ranges from 10-12% of the federal budget means that honesty is in short supply in DC and that faith is winning out over rationality. What a sham I mean shame!

Chart of the Day and it’s a doozy

OK

So in the past here and elsewhere I have commented on the general lack of relevance to real world prosperity reflected in the classic

GDP = C+I+G+(Exp-Imp)

For so many important reasons GDP sucks not the least being its unwillingness or inability to account for the monetary value of raising children or for that matter ecosystem services. One estimate that does a far better job of addressing not these issues but inequality is the Gini Index. A while back I discussed the bottom-left to upper-right trajectory of this index here in the US at a rapid and disturbing pace. The higher the number the more inequality exists. Simply put it is a number between 0-1 and at absolute Zero it means perfect equality and 1 means that all wealth is perfectly aggregated at the top among the types of elites that attend the Davos World Economic Forum, or TED, or whatever gathering you want to name including the Koch brothers recent get-together in Palm Springs, which was by invite only and the only requirement was that you be worth 1 Billlllllllion dollars!

Anyway tangents aside. I was originally disturbed by the slope of the Gini Index here in the US AND NOW……….I am even more so. I just got my hands on the index back to 1913 courtesy of an obscure paper by Eugene Smolensky and Robert Plotnick at UCal Berkeley (Yeah I know liberal haven but the data don’t lie folks!!!). Take a look and keep in mind the trendline just demonstrates the clip at which inequality is increasing annually, which at this point is about 0.47% per year. Soon we’ll be in Robert Mugabe and Myanmar territory….NO SERIOUSLY WE WILL!!

Wealth inequality has not done wonders for Zimbabwe, Myanmar, North Korea, etc., what makes us think it is a good thing for Ground Zero of Laissez-Faire capitalism? American Exceptionalism will turn the corner and run into reality at some point.

Convenient Thomas Jefferson Fidelity

I just received an amazingly convenient reading of Thomas Jefferson today and I would like for the record to address some of the convenient stuff. First I am listing my rebuttal and below you will find the quotes from the email. Enjoy!

To All
I just can’t let this lauding of some of TJ’s work go without parsing the other side of the story.
First
OK I understand the admiration for TJ as I have tons myself, but keep in mind he was a willing owner of slaves.
ALSO
Second
This idea that there are tons of folks out there not willing to work and looking for those that are to bail them out is nonsense. The people that received the biggest bail out weren’t the bottom half or bottom 99% it was the top 0.001Percenters. Look at AIG, Goldman, Citi, hedge funds galore. They got bailed out because much of what we feel is sacrosanct about capitalism failed that is undeniable. I for one would be happy to work full-time for way less than the folks at the Big Banksters get paid PER WEEK!! But because the financial industry collapsed under CDOs, CDSs, leverage, and real-estate BS I can’t get a job and I know tons of folks like me. This argument that this all comes down to Obama and it is all his fault is so much nonsense if you believe honestly that what just happened stems from the last 2 years IN ISOLATION your crazy and need heavy dose of rationality. I know Socialists, I know Marxists, I know liberals and conservatives. Obama is hardly a left-winger and would laugh at the thought of embracing socialism I am sure. Read the rest of this entry »

Fun and Games Fueling Education

So I haven’t been posting in a while as I am looking for a job and working on a book. Anyway I have been playing around with what I am calling a “War Games Tax” that I describe below and it is one that if anyone reads this post I would love for you to pass it on to your congressional delegation. After reading it you are welcome to comment and I would be happy to share my data with anyone interested in this idea that I don’t think to many people could argue with. Cheers and I hope you enjoy the read!

I have been working some calculations trying to get at how much general education revenue could be conceivably generated if we taxed what I will broadly call “war games”, which include at this point “Call of Duty: Black Ops (PS3 & X360)”, “Halo: Reach (X360)”, and “God of War III/God of War Collection (PS3). All of these are top sellers for Activision (Call of Duty), Microsoft (Halo), and Sony Computers (God of War). Their average annual revenues are in toto $1.23 billion with “Halo” at $686 million leading the way and “God of War Collection” bringing up the rear at $29 million annually (Fig. 1).

wargamestax_2

Not a bad profit margin don’t you think? More importantly I was thinking that if there are so many people with the bravado to fight wars via their video consoles they wouldn’t have a problem paying a heavy tax on those games, which could be used to fund educational programs throughout the country. So I went about trying to gather up as much high-quality data as I could get on dollar sales, weekly units, and in order to come up with a progressive “War Games Tax” I used iCasualties data on a per 100,000 person basis across all fifty states+Washington, DC (no US territories due to high concentration of troops stationed there). I then used the per capita data - with Vermont being the highest (2.568) and Utah the lowest (0.486 per 100,000) - summed those values and converted them into percentages. I then multiplied the $1.23 billion figure across tax rates of 35%, 25%, 10%, and 5%, with the per 100,000 percentage conversions used to multiply across tax rate scenarios. If you do that the numbers are pretty staggering.
Lets just focus on Vermont for a second as a teaser for what we could extract from this pseudo-war profiteering that doesn’t get nearly the coverage that the explicit profiteers do. Vermont would be able to rely on an annual tax revenue of (Fig. 2):
1. 22.4 million at 35%, 14.9% of FY 2011 budget deficit
2. 16.0 million at 20%, 10.7% of FY 2011 budget deficit
3. 6.4 million at 10%, 4.3% of FY 2011 budget deficit
Or
4. 3.2 million at 5%, 2.1% of FY 2011 budget deficit
wargamestax
While none of these numbers is eye watering they are not trivial either, with the top rate accounting for nearly 15% of the FY 2011 budget deficit. This is not a progressive or regressive tax idea, rather it is an anti-predatory tax idea with the folks that so flippantly turn on their video consoles to play the latest virtual War On Terror paying the heaviest price. What is wrong with that? New England alone would generate:
1. 55.3 million at 35%, average of 3.5% of FY 2011 budget deficit
2. 39.5 million at 20%
3. 15.8 million at 10%
Or
4. 7.9 million at 5%

So as you can see this is not a panacea but is a step in the right direction AND unlike the much maligned soda-tax proposed by Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson in NY I would argue that there should be less resistance to a tax that takes money from people that like to play video games about war but wouldn’t be caught dead signing up to go to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, etc etc and puts that money in to the educational infrastructure of this country. I would like to see someone rail against this idea in public with the lights and cameras on.

We’re Not Your Problem Mr. President!

I have known for quite a while now that the vote I cast for you in November of 2008 – my first ever vote for a member of The Big Two – was one that I would not regret, because I am still a huge admirer of your intellect, but would come to view with a great degree of disappointment and anger. Read the rest of this entry »

Microphone Checka…1, 2 Checka!

Re: a recent (and largely awesome) editorial in The Times by Brent Staples addressing the phenomena of cutting and pasting senior theses.

Mr. Staples should have stopped while he was ahead. I was thoroughly enjoying his piece on the wrote nature of higher education these days and the lack of any type of synthetic analysis, with students swallowing and spitting up information in no particular order and with zero continuity. However, upon arriving at the closing of this piece I was amazed to see the author distill rap musicians (his analogy) down robots “sampling” “…beats and refrains from the works of others.” Tell that to some of the great wordsmiths this country has ever produced like Q-Tip & Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, Rakim of Eric B. & Rakim, Gang Starr’s Guru, or my personal favorites EPMD. If Mr. Staples meant to say that DJs sampled beats and refrains he should have said so. The greatest rap MCs are true American treasures and deserve the respect we afford our favorite rock n’ rollers, jazz musicians, and country stars. CHECK YOURSELF MR. Staples!

Welch’s Haste Betrays Liberal Facade!

You would think that any group with a proven track record back to 1970 of fighting against discrimination and for affordable housing, quality education, and adequate social safety-nets for “…low- to moderate-income people across the United States” would be just the type of organization that our “liberal” congressman Peter Welch would go to the wall for regardless of the baseless attacks leveled at such an organization by the bigoted and racist right-wing of the Republican party? WRONG! ACORN is that organization and Mr. Welch decided to vote “Yes” on an amendment – last September 17th – to the Higher Education Act of 1965, which banned all federal funding to the Washington, DC based association of community organizers. This forced ACORN to end all field operations and close all field offices. This was a proud, vibrant, and relevant group with approximately 500,000 members branching out into foreclosure counseling at a time when minorities and the lower 25th percentile in the country were getting hammered by variable interest mortgages coming home to roost and declining real-estate valuations due to a variety of external and internal forces. They were influential in upping voter registration and turnout amongst minorities during the 2008 election to levels not seen before, which along with their political mobilization efforts were the reason folks like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh lashed out at them so frequently and with such vitriol.

Mr. Welch has always attempted to evince a genuine and holistic concern for the little guy regardless of color, religion, or political preference. This turns out to be nothing more than window dressing given his stance on ACORN. Why am I coming down so hard on Mr. Welch ex post facto? Well it is quite simple really he acted hastily and did not wait for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released June 14th, which vindicated ACORN of misusing the $40.4 million in federal grants it received and election fraud. Furthermore, he wasn’t even one of the 23 signatories to a letter requesting the GAO “…provide information on federal funding provided to ACORN and oversight of the use of this funding.” (Note: Neither Vermont Senators signed this letter either!) I have two questions for Congressman Welch: 1) Why vote before you have all the facts? and 2) Why not signed the aforementioned letter? I wonder what the harm is in having the GAO (Run the ever pragmatic and empirical Republican Douglas W. Elmendorf) do a little gumshoing in an effort to get all the facts in a row. When the facts change we are supposed to change our minds and clearly the facts with respect to ACORN have changed and I would hope that Congressman Welch would change his mind and work to overturn last September’s amendment to the HEA. After all this type of haste when in the hands of congress gives the imprimatur to really well thought out and implemented acts like The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (a.k.a., The Bank Bailout) and the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. Two great ideas that have served this country and the world oh so well! Oh yeah and one more thing the moneys ACORN received during fiscal years 2005 to 2009 amount to about 0.3% of The 2008 Bank Bailout, which begs one more question: Don’t Mr. Welch and the rest of congress have anything better to do than bully and subsequently shutdown an organization like ACORN? I thought we wanted the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! Orwell was right Ignorance Is Strength on Capitol Hill.

When the facts change I…

…change my mind? Wrong! You stay strong and resist waffling even if it means keeping a man wrongly accused of murder - by his own wife - in prison past the 35 years he has already served. Now I know most people wouldn’t choose this path in upholding the law, but one female Republican governor has decided to go rouge and in the name of politics. No no no I am not talking about the Mama Grizzly/hockey mom from Alaska Sarah Palin folks. I am talking about her mirror image in Arizona’s very own Prickly Pear Governor Jan Brewer. There are so many places I could go with the comparisons but most are totally inappropriate and mean spirited, which is what these 2 women appear to revel in along with their brothers and sisters in arms.

Anyway if there is anyone that reads this blog I urge you to call the AZ governor and demand that she abide by the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency’s unanimous 5-0 decision to release William Macumber given that the evidence against him is non-existent and another man has emphatically copped to the double murder of a couple outside Scottsdale, AZ that Mr. Macumber’s mean spirited and apparently slightly evil wife framed him for back in 1974. You can’t make this stuff up and on top of her Orwellian passage of the much publicized and downright cruel SB1070 Ms. Brewer has succeeded in topping what appeared to be the ultimate sign of ignorance with this prank.  As P. S. Ruckman Jr., a political science professor at Rock Valley College in Illinois said. “I have been following state clemency for 30 years, and this is easily, easily, the most disturbing. It’s borderline despicable.” Amazing! I must at this point apologize to the great John Maynard Keynes for paraphrasing one of his classic quotes to fit this post and know I must apologize to him for including his name in a post with the former governor of Alaska and current governor of Arizona. It will never happen again! I included this entry in the Education category as an example of what can happen if you never receive any or in the case of Ms. Palin actively seek it…What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate. Some men (women) you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it… well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men.

What’s Worth Losing for Mr. President?

Given the recent announcement by President Obama that he will be upping the ante by 30,000 troops in Afghanistan I was left to ponder for what seemed to me a logical question: Mr. President what in your portfolio of beliefs and objectives is worth losing an election for? Do you not have any ideologies that you feel so passionate about that you are willing to sacrifice all or most of your political capital to steward such beliefs across the finish line? I voted for you sir and I am not sure at this point whether you have any convictions you feel so strongly about that you would put your political neck on the line for. That is quite disheartening to me because when I saw you speak on the steps of the Ira Allen Chapel here in Burlington, Vermont in March of 2006 I was convinced that you were a man with a spine, conscience, and an intellect unsurpassed in modern day politics. I still believe that the latter is true but as for your spine and to a lesser degree your conscience I am left wondering what you stand for and what you will fight for to the very end, whether it means political suicide or not.

Show us some fight sir! Show us that the issues you campaigned on are part of your very fiber and not simply the populist rhetoric you knew would get the vote of people like myself. It is beginning to feel like you are ashamed that the left supported you and your “progressive” agenda. That is not the man I saw speak in 2006. That is not the man I promptly told my friend Dennis Ailor would win the presidency in 2008. And that is most assuredly not the man I thought was capable of thinking through some of the most complex issues ever to face an incoming president. Sure you were handed a mess but are you going to continue to compare your administration to the one that preceded you? I would caution against such comparisons given that the bar could not have been set any lower.

Sir you know that the right would gladly fall on their sword for issues like abortion, the sanctity of marriage, gun rights, and the military industrial complex. That is a given and that for better or worse is one thing I respect about the neoclassical and neoconservative movement. When they give speeches in Portland or Corpus Christi you know what you’re gonna get and they make absolutely no apologies for their beliefs. It is time you get a little neocon in you Mr. Obama and by that I mean pick an issue any issue, whether it be health care, climate change, FISA, bank reform, or torture and go to the wall for it. Own the issue sir. Take back any one of these issues from those in your party that are self-hating Democrats. Just like Iraq and Katrina will define George W Bush (and no one else!!) one of these issues will define you and it would be a shame if you let the spineless wing of your party co-opt your presidency.

I and many like me – and I would hasten to guess those on the right – are anxiously or should I say nervously waiting and wondering if you will ever stand up and be accounted for with respect to some of the aforementioned issues. I would suggest firing Geithner, Summers, et al as a start. The left rightly sees them as an extension of the Greenspan-Rubin virus that has infected the nation’s financial services regulations for far too long now and the right won’t support them because….well who cares they just won’t because you do and that is reason enough for them.

Apologizing for our hegemonic history and bowing to Emperor Akihito shows that you are sensitive to our fragile status as a global power and more importantly the proper way in which you interact with others when on their turf. However, tacitly apologizing for being liberal or in any way concerned with the appalling trend in wealth, health, and education distribution in this country makes those of us on the left wonder if we were sold a bill of goods and those on the right question your leadership capabilities, both from a foreign and domestic perspective.

You may be wondering at this point why we don’t have your back on some of these crucial issues? Well all is not lost and believe me if we see fight emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue we will most assuredly get in the ring with you but until then you’ll have to rely on the likes of the Blue Dog Democrats. BTW how’s that working out so far?