Category Archives: Economics

Unemployment in Duluth nears 10%

This is just out on the Trib website.

It can be taken one of two diametrically opposed ways.

A. We need to keep pushing the Red Plan to put people to work.


Z. We have a lot of poor people on fixed incomes who can not handle or escape the 56% (so far) increase in their school taxes because of the Red Plan. If it was being paid for with income taxes that wouldn’t put the onus on the poor.

Simple math

A better version of this graphic can be found here with a simple explanation. What this shows is the course of the current recession compared to all the major recessions since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Our economy hasn’t quit shrinking making this recession the the second worse. If this graph is correct we are ahead of the Depression as of the 75th week in the loss of stock market valuation.

The cure may be the Federal stimulus package and I made a comparison between the cost of the stimulus package and the cost of the Red Plan to local voters at last night’s School Board meeting. I reiterated the comparison at the Trib’s online forum today:

. . . “As for the cost of the Red Plan let’s put it in perspective. The trillion dollar Federal bailout divided by three-hundred million Americans will cost $3,333 per person. The rich will pay more for the bail out than the poor becaue it will be financed through a progressive income tax. The $430 million Red Plan divided by the 90,000 residents of the Duluth School District will cost $4,777 per person. It will be paid for with regressive property taxes that fall most heavily on the backs of the elderly who live on fixed incomes.”

A “Catherine K” took issue with me if not my math saying:

“Hey Harry, Once again you mislead the facts. 300 million Americans don’t pay taxes. Those who do not pay any taxes even get my tax payer money in tax credits back even when they don’t contribute any taxes. The rich will pay 90% of taxes under this new plan. Your math stinks. Maybe I could get someone to make a voodoo doll likeness of you and you can feel the pain you are causing this community. You were on the Board and did nothing to help this problem. You just kept kicking the can down the road. Duluth deserves better than this. By the way I won’t have any kids to in the system to enyoy the new school but I still support it and I am not wealthy.”

Like most Red Plan supporters Catherine K finds math taxing.

email from Nigeria, uh, America

Dear sir,

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a
transfer of funds of great magnitude.
I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had
crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion
dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most
profitable to you.

Interested? Greedy? Read it all.

When the US Treasury begins acting like the Duluth School Board – Be very afraid!

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were nothing.

“But here is the truly offensive section of an overreaching piece of legislation:

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

This puts the Treasury’s actions beyond the rule of law. This is a financial coup d’etat, with the only limitation the $700 billion balance sheet figure. The measure already gives the Treasury the authority not simply to buy dud mortgage paper but other assets as it deems fit. There is no accountability beyond a report (contents undefined) to Congress three months into the program and semiannually thereafter. The Treasury could via incompetence or venality grossly overpay for assets and advisory services, and fail to exclude consultants with conflicts of interest, and there would be no recourse. Given the truly appalling track record of this Administration in its outsourcing, this is not an idle worry.

But far worse is the precedent it sets. This Administration has worked hard to escape any constraints on its actions, not to pursue noble causes, but to curtail civil liberties: Guantanamo, rendition, torture, warrantless wiretaps. It has used the threat of unseen terrorists and a seemingly perpetual war on radical Muslim to justify gutting the Constitution. The Supreme Court, which has been supine on many fronts, has finally started to push back, but would it challenge a bill that sweeps aside judicial review? …”

Actually, Reassuringly, the School Board’s actions are subject to court review. We American’s are living in disturbing times. Richard Nixon never imagined wrapping himself with such powers.

Supporting Obama with trepidation

My fiercest debating adversary is Vic. He keeps sending me information to deter me from voting for Obama. I posted one fairly persuasive piece a bit ago. He’s sent me another item that’s worth considering.

It ends with the comment, “The bottom line is that I support John McCain. With trepidation.”

In the same vein I could say I still support Obama with trepidation. I think that unlike McCain, Obama actually understands some of the columnists tricky economic worries. I’ll agree that the folks who will elect Barack will expect him to enforce uncompetitive policies that could hamstring America’s and the world’s economy. On the other hand, I fervently hope, his campaign backed as it has been by a non-Democrat Party groundswell will give him much freer reign from party and particularly Union orthodoxies than other Presidents like George W Bush. Bush hewed to far too many wrongheaded ideological principals – both those of Dick Cheney and James Dobson. I voted for W in 2000 without any trepidation never realizing how incompetently he would preside over the Country. Maybe now that I’m on the verge of becoming an old man I should start viewing every candidate for the Presidency with trepidation. You know, “The greates thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Of course, blissfully ignorant complacency ain’t so great either. We let the financial community think they could have their bad debt forgiven by the government. Oops! Under a President Obama we daren’t let American citizens in general think the same thing. Apropos of this was a very interesting parenthetical assertion in the column worth considering:

(It is one of the great myths of 21st century that the Bush tax cuts made the tax code less progressive; the opposite is true. If you are in the bottom 38% of taxpayers, you now pay zero income tax—and therefore have an incentive to support any spending bill that comes down the pike.)

Glass Steagall au contraire

Vic, sent me this post from the always lucid Megan McCardle who rebuts my claim that Phil Gramm got us into the bailout mess. She may be right and I may be suffering from one of my New Deal propagandized high school teachers. On the other hand, the many replies to her post add up to a lively debate. I think she oversimplifies. Even if I am wrong about Glass-Steagall I believe that the GOP has made deregulation so sacred that we can trace most of the current financial melt down to it.

The Mother of all bailouts

I think I agree withRobert Reich on the latest proposed bailout.

As a Republican I’m very supportive of free enterprise and the “invisible hand.” But as a student of history and human greed I took to heart early the lessons of the unregulated Stock Market Crash of 1929. Glass Steagall gave us good protection. It was killed by Senator Phil Gramm in 1999. He’s the McCain advisor who just called American’s whiners.

If American taxpayers are going to have to pay off the bad debts of the rich then let’s make sure its taxes on the rich which pays off this most unwelcome financial burden. Barack Obama will tax them not John McCain.

This will mean that a President Obama will have a lot less money to play with but that’s the price we all have to pay for granting the wishes of the regulation-hating GOP

The most compelling reason to vote for McCain

The reason? Its divided government and this persuasive argument for it and a McCain Presidency comes from George Will. I agree with George but I will almost certainly vote for Obama.

I hate the idea of “card check neutrality” which is absolutely undemocratic. It will come to pass under Obama. I’ve long felt that the power in union management has tilted too far out of balance in management’s favor. Republicans have turned the NLRB into a toothless regulator making it very difficult for unions to legally unionize businesses. As terrible as ccn is, it is a swing of the pendulum. Someday when common sense and its negative effects on the economy kick in it will be scrapped or modified. It will hurt our economy but so do farm subsidies.

As for the “Fairness Doctrine, well, George has a good point here to. You could call it the regulation of political speech or in other words “political censorship.” Its very Big Brother and kind of like the, AHEM, Patriot Act.

Against George’s call for divided government I must consider:

The Christianization of the GOP
McCain’s health and possibly muddled thinking
Sarah Palin
His take no prisoners campaign
His primitive faith in the maxim “My country right or wrong.”
Obama’s nuanced understanding of the increasingly complicated and hostile world that we have gracelessly and unnecessarily offended

corn syrup

My family just spent the weekend in Iowa. We have roots there and we reap a small windfall from all the corn we saw growing in the fields. Its heavily subsidized to the tune of $50 billion. Its also making Americans fatter and we will pay a heavy price for these subsidies as we also pay to treat more people for medical ailments related to obesity. It would be ironic if the best way to keep corn syrup from adding to our girth would be to pay to have Americans stomachs stapled.

For a little more detailed explanation of the problem look at this short post.

Walmart’s Free enterprise/lunch

I recently heard the author of the book Free Lunch give a speech in which he said that the Sam Walton descendents had earned a large portion of their fortune, if not most of it, from taxpayers rather than consumers. He claimed they did it by extorting huge tax advantages out of the communities that they wanted to build a Walmart store in.

I wouldn’t have commented on it except that I just opened this page unrelated to the book’s author. It is an animation of Walmart openings since the store was started in Arkansas by Sam. I imagined every town giving millions to the Walton family to get their own Walmart and beat out the other poor schmuck communities nearby which were too cheep to pay the extortion.