Category Archives: Economy
United States Death toll due to COVID-19, 1 on 3/1/2020
United States Death toll due to COVID-19, 4,079 on 4/1/2020
United States Death toll due to COVID-19, 63,006 on 5/1/2020
United States Death toll due to COVID-19, 100,000 on 5/26/2020 and counting..
We are in the middle of a global pandemic, a cold virus gone viral. The death toll due to Covid-19 is rising everyday. May isn’t even over and we have already crossed 100,000 deaths in the United States alone.
The virus has bought the whole world to it knees. Almost no one alive today has seen an epidemic on this scale. So paranoia is running amok even among people who should know better. The closest parallel is the Spanish Flu that swept the globe almost a hundred years ago. First it was China and then it was Italy and now we are at the eye of this storm. So far our response has been anything but surefooted. States are scrambling to get medical supplies while the federal response has been halting and inadequate to combat the scale of the unfolding disaster. A microscopic virus invisible to the naked eye has brought the behemoth of the global economy to a complete standstill.
But was this inevitable? The federal response to the pandemic has been guided more by wishful thinking and posturing than by hard scientific data. What explains all the missteps and the fits and starts to combat this pandemic? At the heart of this unfolding tragedy is the scientific and numerical illiteracy that plagues our society, from ordinary citizens to the President. Climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers and people who believe that the earth is flat have been proliferating for sometime now. Some of them have ascended to the highest positions of power. Isaac Asimov said it better than I ever could in his 1980 essay.
The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.- Isaac Asimov
This cult of ignorance is proving costly to our health as the death toll keeps rising due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Infectious diseases experts have been warning about a pandemic at the scale of the 1918 flu pandemic for a while now. The President and his team had been warned by experts as far back as January that a catastrophe was looming. They knew yet they did nothing. They disregarded the scientific consensus about the virus just like they have disregarded the scientific consensus about climate change.
One look at the graph of the exponential spread of infection should have scared anyone. Unfortunately for us some one didn’t pay attention in their high school math class or their intelligence briefings for that matter.
People who disregard science forget one thing, you don’t have to believe in science for it to be true. The laws of nature work whether or not you believe in them. The earth’s gravitational acceleration is g =9.8 m/s2 even if you think that the earth is flat. Viruses can infect you even if you are an anti-vaxxer. But ignorance of science and math is not without consequence. People who promote falsehoods that vaccines cause autism are bringing back infectious diseases like measles which were considered eradicated. They also vote into office elected officials who deny climate change and twiddle their thumbs as a virulent virus ravages the nation. They gut budgets that fund our research infrastructure from the CDC to the NIH and NSF. They want to gut CDC funding during a pandemic. The research budgets which were trimmed because of sequestration (across the board funding cuts to the funding of government agencies to enforce fiscal discipline enacted in 2012) never bounced back when the economy did. Gutting research funding while cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations is like burning seed corn to have a party right now.
Everyone wants a vaccine for COVID-19 in a hurry now but scientific expertise and research excellence don’t happen in a day or even a year. There is no just-in-time research. It has to be funded generously and in a consistent manner so that people are willing to dedicate their lives to careers in science which for the most part is hard lonely work with little glory. And who else but the government can do this when the rewards, if they exist, are distant?
Investment in science and math is essential for our very survival. This includes support for science and math education, K-12 and beyond and robust federal funding for both pure and applied research. I hope that this pandemic has taught us that ignorance of science comes at a steep price, the price tag is 100,000 dead Americans and counting.
Voters don’t have to know the details of their nominee’s agenda, but they have to know that the candidate is capable of having an agenda.
Don’t worry your pretty little head about Marco’s agenda just know that he has one and chose him, just like I have, says Brooks. He is pretty for a politician and has R after his what more can a columnist/ Republican shill want? Then he says this about Jeb:
He would probably be a very effective president. And he would have been a very effective candidate — but in 1956.
Is Brooks calling Jeb, Eisenhower? What is the evidence for this hyperbole. Apart from fixing the election in Florida in his brother’s favor what exactly are Jeb Bush’s accomplishments.
Ted Cruz looks likely to emerge as the candidate of the disaffected white working class — the noncollege-educated voters who are now registering their alienation and distrust with Trump.
A Harvard and Princeton alumnus is now the tribune for the disaffected according to Brooks. His own newspaper however says otherwise, far from being the voice of the working class, Cruz is the darling of hedge fund managers, who have donated generously to his campaign.
Coming back to Rubio, who has been hailed as the fresh face to look out for by the Beltway types for over year, has nothing to offer but stale ideas where policy is concerned.
His policy on taxes is the same as other Republicans.
He would simplify the tax code, reduce rates and move us toward a consumption-based system by reducing taxes on investment.
His bold new initiative according to Brooks
He adds a big $2,500 child tax credit that is controversial among conservative economists, but that would make life easier for working families.
In what world is $2500 tax credit, a big credit? That’s probably less than what Brooks gets paid per column. Also what if you don’t have any children?
Rubio is also trying to sell other warmed over stale Republican ideas like wage subsidies i.e. paying employers to hire people and flex funds that the states would administer instead of the Federal government. Giving power to the states may sound good on paper, but in reality, it has meant giving power to the states to screw over their most vulnerable members, usually minorities and women. A look at the map of uninsured Americans is a telling example of what happens when the administration of social welfare policies are left up to the states
According Brooks, Rubio is an apostle of the new so called reform conservatism, which is nothing but old snake oil in new bottle. Reform conservative nostrums for the ailing economy are like telling a person who is a bleeding from a head wound, that it would be good if they also lost some weight. Yes, losing weight would be good in the long term, but you need to stanch the bleeding right now.
In economic terms, job losses and rising inequality are mainly the result of the demand shock following the financial crash, not some structural weakness In the economy. While fixing the structural problems is a good idea, a patient suffering from heavy blood loss needs a transfusion not lectures on how to improve his overall health by healthy eating and exercise. When the economy needed a stimulus, the equivalent of a blood transfusion, to make up for the private sector entrenchment, most Republican legislators voted against it.
If Ryan and Rubio do emerge as the party’s two leaders, it will be the wonkiest leadership team in our lifetime. That’s a good thing.
Rubio and Ryan are not wonks, they are smooth snake oil salesmen, of whom the beltway media approves, since they are easy on the eyes and better at peddling the economics that favors the media types and their friends than your average Republican legislator.
Post Citizens-United many worry about the undue influence of corporations on the democratic process. It has happen before, in the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries. The shareholders of a joint stock company once decided the fate of millions and had many lawmakers in their back pocket.
Before British Raj* there was Company Raj. The East India Company made its first territorial gains in India in 1757. Its territorial conquest of most of India was complete by the 1820s. It passed on the torch to the British Crown in 1858, after the bruising First of battle of Independence or the Indian Mutiny (depending on whom you ask) of 1857.
East India Company was a joint-stock company granted a charter for monopoly trade rights by Queen Elizabeth I in 1600. It made its first Indian foray in 1610. So for almost 150 years the Company was content to operate various factories dotting the long Indian coast line. Three of these factory towns grew to become the cities of Bombay (now Mumbai), Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Madras(now Chennai). These factories were fortified garrisons where factors or merchants met and carried out their business.
Neither were the British the only ones who had established these factories in India, they had competition from the Dutch, the Portuguese, the French and even the Danes. So eat your heart out Tom Friedman, the world was flat and globalized not only before you were born but long before Britain’s thirteen former colonies declared independence from their original motherland.
The first age of globalization turned exploitative and ugly real fast, especially so after the advent of the industrial revolution. The East India Company was the prime example of these excesses and egregious practices. Adam Smith, Karl Marx and Edmund Burke, were all prominent critics of the East India Company.
So just how did a joint stock company come to rule all of India? Its something I want to figure out as a part of my exploration of British rule in India. My initial interest in this topic was sparked by Shashi Tharoor’s impassioned and witty performance at the Oxford Union debate.
*Raj is the Anglicized version of the Sanskrit Rajya, which means rule.
Continuing the tradition of trolling for clicks, NYT has an op-ed piece by a worried heir to Marie Antoinette, Peter Georgescu, Chairman emeritus of Young and Rubicam. He is worried along with some of his other billionaire friends about ending up like the Sun King’s daughter-in-law. The reason: the yawning gap in income between the 0.1% and everyone else.
Business has the most to gain from a healthy America, and the most to lose by social unrest or punitive taxation.
His analysis of the problem is spot on, mainly that business is not investing in either research or its employees.
The fact that real wages have been flat for about four decades, while productivity has increased by 80 percent, shows that has not been happening. Before the early 1970s, wages and productivity were both rising. Now most gains from productivity go to shareholders, not employees.
And how does Marie’s heir want to address this problem? By asking taxpayers to foot the bill, so that businesses can pay their employees a fair wage.
There is a way to start. Government can provide tax incentives to business to pay more to employees making $80,000 or less. The program would exist for three to five years and then be evaluated for effectiveness.
How does one pay for these tax incentives? Not by increasing taxes, since that would be punitive according Mr. Concerned Capitalist.
If inequality is not addressed, the income gap will most likely be resolved in one of two ways: by major social unrest or through oppressive taxes, such as the 80 percent tax rate on income over $500,000 suggested by Thomas Piketty,
The top most marginal rate currently is way less than 80%. In fact it is nearly half of that, 39.6%. What does Mr. Concerned Capitalist think is a fair, not punitive tax rates on his fellow one percenters? Gotta love this new capitalism, where you can socialize the risk and privatize the rewards. Win-win, for Georgescu and friends.
By two_kittehs ( Picture by: dorothyfrancesgoldstein)
Shashi Tharoor makes the case for reparations for India from Britain, at an Oxford Union debate. He makes a lot of good points, about India’s contributions to Britain’s war efforts in both the World Wars, the economic depredations that were India’s lot, including the infamous famines. He does not mention the hasty handover of power in 1947 and the ensuing bloodbath. If anything, he is too gentle with his criticisms. Watch it, it is only about fifteen minutes long.
Remember this when you are watching Downton Abbey, that the fabulous wealth of Victorian and Edwardian England was built on the backs of starving millions in India.
The ninety years of direct Crown rule and of the East India Company before that saw a tremendous transfer of wealth from India to Britain. As far as rapacious corporations go, present day mega corporations like WalMart and the like have nothing on the East India Company.
It should be of no great surprise to anyone that Bengal (West Bengal + Bangladesh) the part of India, ruled by the British for the longest time is one of the poorest regions of the subcontinent. Once known for its riches it is now famous for its sweatshops and grinding poverty. Coincidence? I think not.
Troika’s Solution For Greek Cat
For Greece, there are no easy options, they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Although in my opinion, accepting a deal with more austerity just kicks the reckoning down the road. Without its own currency and with it the ability to set its own monetary policy, it is hard to see how Greece can get out of its debt trap. Five years of punishing austerity have shrunk the economy, increased unemployment. It is hard to see how this policy is good for the creditors either if they want their loans to be paid off. Or do they want to make an example of Greece so that the other indebted nations in the Eurozone like Italy don’t dare follow Greece’s example.
Education “reformers” in the MSM have set their sights higher. Their next target, higher education. There were two columns in the NYT in the last week, on this topic. One by a think tank guy, who I had never heard of before and the another one by the Times columnist, Joe Nocera, praising the aforementioned think tank dude, Kevin Carey.
The gist of the both the columns in one sentence; since college has grown too expensive, the solution is online degrees for the masses. I am sure NYT columnists and their think tank buddies will still go to college, preferably Harvard or Yale or the other Ivies.
Some of the grievances that Nocera brings up seem legitimate, but both Carey and Nocera are also complaining about the money universities spend on research? Really? Who should we leave the research too? Think tanks?
Over time, the mission that came to matter most within the university culture was research. Great research institutions derived the most status.
Its not that the universities have no problems, but I fail to see how online degrees are going to change anything. As far as I know, universities charge the same per credit hour whether it is online or in person. If Carey wants to do away with universities altogether. I wonder what exactly is going to replace a traditional university?
Free online courses won’t revolutionize education until there is a parallel system of free or low-fee credentials, not controlled by traditional colleges, that leads to jobs. Now technological innovators are working on that, too.
Yes that’s exactly what higher education needs, an Uber! Has Tom Friedman aka Mustache of Understanding weighed in on this? This is my solution.
Greek Kitteh stands up to the Austerity Cat
LoL by: two_kittehs
Austerity Cat is looking out for you
LoL by: two_kittehs (Picture by: Deebrio)
Austerity policies during a recession make matters worse, not better. A lesson that the world learnt in the aftermath of the Great Depression but seems to have forgotten in this century. What ails the global economy is the lack of demand, which the austerity policies have only exacerbated, take it away,Prof. Stiglitz.
With the recent elections in Greece, finally, someone with real political power is standing up to the conventional wisdom that austerity is good for the economy. You can keep track of their progress, on the Greek finance minister’s blog. I wish the new the Greek government all the luck, they are going to need it while navigating the shoals of the economy, including the debt and massive unemployment.
The story is depressingly familiar, a business that has been bleeding red ink for years, changes hands. The new owner brings in new management to run the shop. Management buzzwords are thrown around. A major round of cost cutting follows. Usually that involves firing old employees, assigning the remaining ones more duties, without any raises for the rank and file but a big fat bonus for the new CEO and upper management.
Hardly newsworthy material, one would think? Especially when the said business, has a consumer base of less than 50,000. However you would be wrong.
When the business in question is a magazine with a storied past, it is the subject of numerous opinion columns in many national news outlets of repute. The opinion writers who regularly write columns extolling the virtues of cut throat capitalism are not so sanguine when it affects them at a personal level.
Joe Nocera of the NYT devoted an entire column yesterday, to discuss this storm in a tea cup, details here. How dare some tech guy tell esteemed Beltway Pundits how to do their job? I mean, they are hardly public school teachers, who Joe Nocera and every other Pundit worth his salt has no problem lecturing on about the same. After all TNR, performs the vital job of introducing ugly right racist memes to polite discourse.
Good old Joe, is appalled that his esteemed colleagues at the TNR have to become click whores now, oh the humanity!
The New Republic’s business executives were trying to get the editors to do things that would attract more clicks. One executive suggested that Michael Kinsley — a former New Republic editor himself — come up with a listicle, à la BuzzFeed. (“10 reasons why health care isn’t a free market.”)
I wonder what NYT’s financials are like? Are they ripe for takeover by some tech Moghul?
Since I am not a TNR writer, obligatory click bait, Kitteh!