Category Archives: Punditubbies say Hello

Should the Fed tackle Income Inequality?

That is the question, the daily NYT trollfest, also known as Room for Debate, addressed yesterday. The Fed has two mandates, keeping the inflation in check and decreasing unemployment. Unfortunately for us, since the late 70s the Fed has taken its inflation mandate far more seriously than the unemployment one. Since inflation has not been a serious problem since the 70s, it is high time that the Fed addressed its neglected mandate. Doing so would go a long way in addressing the income inequality issue.

Our economy is consumer driven, so rising income equality shrinks the economy, because people have to  spend most of their income on necessities, leaving little for anything else.  Fed’s investor driven policies haven’t been particularly beneficial to the wellbeing  of the average consumer.  The rising tide hasn’t lifted all the boats, as promised.

Of all the respondents, I found Joseph Stiglitz’s answer most pertinent while Michael Strain,strained my credulity.  According to Strain, Fed should not address inequality because it is a partisan issue.  At least, he is honest, one party does not want to address issues that concern the 99%.

Well, who are you going to believe, a Nobel Laureate in economics or the resident scholar, at the American Enterprise Institute? One who David Brooks approvingly quotes and  has zero publications or citations in Google Scholar, that I could find.

Your thoughts?

You has questions; Econ Cat has answers

You has questions Econ Cat has answers

By two_kittehs

Pankaj Mishra has Lost the Plot

In addition to the regular side of bullshit that is a David Brooks column, there was a special dose of crazy in last Saturday’s  opinion section of the New York Times.  A highbrow word salad from none other than Pompous Pankaj Mishra. In case you didn’t read it, let me briefly paraphrase Mishra. Shorter Mishra, India is  worse than ISIS  and also Russia and Imperial Japan.  He did not say whether it is worse than the Ebola virus, perhaps that is the subject of the next essay.

He starts with a kernel of truth but  his conclusions, sound like projection.  Kernel of truth: Narendra Modi’s ascent to the most important political office in India is troubling especially in light of the riots that took place during his tenure as the chief minister of Gujarat. This to Mishra is proof enough of the malevolence of the Indian electorate in general and the Indian diaspora in particular.

Mishra begins by quoting the father of pompous intellectuals of Indian heritage,  V. S. Naipaul.  According to both Naipaul and Mishra, upper caste Indians are an intellectually insecure lot, not something I necessarily disagree with but I think the brush strokes of this painting are too broad for my liking.  After all,  this description could easily fit both Mishra and Naipaul, who are as upper caste as they come.

First he paraphrases Naipaul, then goes on to give us his own pearls of wisdom;

These well-born Indians betrayed a craze for “phoren” consumer goods and approval from the West, as well as a self-important paranoia about the “foreign hand.” “Without the foreign chit,” Mr. Naipaul concluded, “Indians can have no confirmation of their own reality.”

Today a new generation of Indian nationalists lurches between victimhood and chauvinism, and with ominous implications. As the country appears to rise (and simultaneously fall), many ambitious members of a greatly expanded and fully global Hindu middle class feel frustrated in their demand for higher status from white Westerners.

What does  fully global Hindu middle class, mean anyway? Has Mishra been hanging out with the same cab driver who ferries Tom Friedman? Mishra, then goes on to quote several Modi acolytes. He then asserts that their ridiculous theories of Hindu supremacy are representative of the Indian elite.  Who qualifies as elite in Mishra’s eyes, I wonder?  What about the person he sees in the mirror, everyday?

Mishra is assuming that Narendra Modi, despite all his talk of moderation,  is going to put the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)’s exclusionary ideology of India as a Hindu nation, in practice,  and that this is a popular sentiment in India. This  claim, is not borne out by India’s history both pre and post independence.  The Sangh and its ideology are nothing new.  Hindutva has been around for almost a hundred years. Plenty of time for this ideology to have become mainstream, won’t you say? Before Mr. Modi there has been only one time when a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician has headed the central government in Delhi, that was Mr. Atal Bihari Vajapayee, who led the coalition government in the late nineties.  While it is true that RSS is the dog that wags the BJP tail, both Modi and Vajpayee before him have sought to minimize their RSS connections.  Precisely, because RSS and their ideology is neither mainstream nor popular in India today or has been at any other time since the inception of RSS.

Mid column, Mishra’s goes off on a weird tangent, in what almost seems like a part of another essay where he compares India to Russia and Imperial Japan.  Evidence please, to support this pseudo intellectual word salad.

These wounds were caused, and are deepened, by failed attempts to match Western power through both mimicry and collaboration (though zealously anti-Western, Chinese nationalism has developed much more autonomously in comparison). Largely subterranean until it erupts, this ressentiment of the West among thwarted elites can assume a more treacherous form than the simple hatred and rejectionism of outfits such as Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Taliban. The intellectual history of right-wing Russian and Japanese nationalism reveals an ominously similar pattern as the vengeful nativism of Hindu nationalists: a recoil from craving Western approval into promoting religious-racial supremacy.

The Russian elite, created by the hectic Westernizing ventures of Peter the Great, was the first to articulate the widespread sense of inadequacy and failure created in societies trying to catch up with the modern West. In 1836, Pyotr Chaadaev argued in “First Philosophical Letter” that, “We belong neither to the West nor to the East, and we possess the traditions of neither.” His eloquent self-pity, which shook up Pushkin as well as Gogol and Tolstoy, inaugurated the semi-Westernized Russian elite’s tormented search for a native identity to uphold against the West.

Where Mishra completely lost me in this unedited rant about Indians and their nationalism was the fact that he wrote approvingly of China’s “non-western” nationalism.  After four paragraphs on this strange trajectory, Mishra suddenly remembers the essay he started writing and goes on to bash his favorite bugbear, the half-baked or semi westernized (his words) Indian;

The fantasies of racial-religious revenge and redemption that breed in Western suburbs as well as posh Indian enclaves today speak of a vast spiritual desolation as well as a deepening intellectual crisis. Even Mr. Naipaul briefly succumbed to the pathology of mimic machismo he had despised (and, later, also identified among chauvinists in Muslim countries). He hailed the vandalizing by a Hindu mob of the Babri Masjid mosque in 1992, which triggered nationwide massacres of Muslims, as the sign of an overdue national “awakening.”

Naipaul who Mishra approvingly quotes in the beginning may be of Indian heritage, but he has never been an Indian citizen. To claim that his opinions are representative is ridiculous, as is the claim that the self selected group of people of Indian heritage who showed up last month to see Modi are representative of the Indian diaspora.

There are many more such nonresident Indians in the West today, vicariously living history’s violent drama in their restless exile: In Madison Square Garden, in New York, last month, more than 19,000 people cheered Mr. Modi’s speech about ending India’s millennium-long slavery. But hundreds of millions of uprooted Indians are also now fully exposed to demagoguery. In an unprecedented public intervention this month, the present chief of the R.S.S., who wants all Indian citizens to identify themselves as Hindus since India is a “Hindu nation,” appeared on state television to rant against Muslim infiltrators and appeal for a boycott of Chinese goods.

Such crude xenophobia, now officially sanctioned in Mr. Modi’s India, seems only slightly less menacing than the previous R.S.S. chief’s wishful thinking about one more Mahabharata against demonic anti-Hindus. Japan’s expansionist gambles in China and the Pacific in the last century and, more recently, Russia’s irredentism in Ukraine show that a mainstreamed rhetoric of national aggrandizement can quickly slide into reckless warmongering. Certainly, the ruling classes of wannabe superpowers have spawned a complex force: the ideology of anti-imperialist imperialism, which, forming an axis with the modern state and media and nuclear technology, can make Islamic fundamentalists seem toothless. One can only hope that India’s democratic institutions are strong enough to constrain yet another wounded elite from breaking out for geopolitical and military manhood.

Is Mishra  projecting when speaks about these so called semi-western Indians who supposedly worry about what white westerners say about them?

As for anti-western rhetoric, it has always been a part of Indian politics, both on the left and right, especially before independence and immediately afterwards. Given India’s experience with British rule, this is not surprising. In fact Swadeshi, or buying goods made in India was a major weapon in the struggle for independence both under Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mohandas Gandhi, both leaders of the Congress in British India and upper caste Indian elite to boot.

Indian leaders starting with Jawaharlal Nehru saw the post war American rise in global politics a continuation of British hegemony pre WWII.  It is precisely why India allied itself with the Soviets during the Cold War.  A decision made by center-left Congress Party not the BJP or its predecessor, the Jan Sangh.  So I don’t think that the anti-west rhetoric of some of Modi’s supporters means what Mishra thinks it means.

Even  if the Indian elite who Mishra despises is every bit as craven as his assertions, Indian democracy is not as fragile as he fears, it has survived and thrived for over sixty years, and has held free and fair elections to determine its leaders since its independence in 1947. Not something one can say either about Russia or Imperial Japan or Mishra’s favorite, China. Indian democracy has survived among other things, Prime minister Indira Gandhi’s attempt to usurp power in 1975 after a stinging electoral defeat and the assassinations of two of its Prime Ministers (Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi).  Yes the Indian democracy has its flaws, which democracy doesn’t? India’s elected leaders have been all too human with feet of clay, and let down the people who elected them. As for the diaspora, Indian Constitution does not allow for a dual citizenship and there are no absentee ballots, so most of those Modi followers in NYC either can’t or won’t be able to vote in the Indian elections.  So even if they are all, as rabid as Mishra claims, they have no franchise in  India’s electoral politics.

Indian voters showed the earlier government lead by BJP the door, when they realized that  BJP’s India shining campaign was all sizzle and no steak. If Modi starts unnecessary wars and does not deliver on his economic agenda, he won’t last beyond one term.   Yes, Narendra Modi’s Sangh antecedents and his performance during the Godhra riots, as well, are a cause for concern but there is no reason to believe that a majority of India’s citizenry, even among those who voted for the BJP has drunk the RSS Kool-aid.  I need more evidence than the ranting of a few reactionaries to hit the panic button.  I have more faith in the pragmatism of the Indian electorate than the blathering of either Mishra or the current RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.

Arrested Development and Selective Amnesia

This week’s MSM outrage was about Obama’s comment regarding strategy or the lack thereof with respect to ISIS.  Echoing his catty colleague in making frivolous criticisms of the President, Frank Bruni of the New York Times wants the President to not be frank when it comes to foreign policy but mouth platitudes like the younger Bush did and may be start a war or two in the Middle East. 

There are things that you think and things that you say.

There’s what you reckon with privately and what you utter publicly.

There are discussions suitable for a lecture hall and those that befit the bully pulpit.

These sets overlap but aren’t the same. Has President Obama lost sight of that?

It’s a question fairly asked after his statement last week that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with Islamic extremists in Syria. Not having a strategy, at least a fixed, definitive one, is understandable. The options aren’t great, the answers aren’t easy and the stakes are enormous.

But announcing as much? It’s hard to see any percentage in that. It gives no comfort to Americans. It puts no fear in our enemies.

At this moment, Iraq is in much worse shape than it was when Saddam was alive and was holding  the lid shut to the Pandora’s box of strife that Bush’s Mesopotamian misadventure pried open. The rise of ISIS is the direct result of what has happened in Iraq since 2002-03. I am no middle-east expert but wouldn’t crippling ISIS in Syria strengthen Bashar Al-Assad? Not so long ago, didn’t Senator McWar and sidekick Lindsay Graham want to arm the Syrian rebels, which I guess would have been ISIS? Even someone with the most rudimentary knowledge of the events of the past decade can conclude that current crisis is complicated and neither Obama nor anyone else can wave a magic wand and make it all go away.  

One of the NYT readers commenting on Bruni’s opinion piece said it better than I can,

I find the President’s candor rather refreshing and astute. I don’t need to hear bluster. I ‘m tired of politicians pretending to have bumper-sticker answers for everything. Obama puts things in perspective. He’s very wise that way. Past Presidents have all too often become reactionary in their attempts to be decisive. I prefer the Obama way, thank you very much.

Is it too much to ask that someone who writes for the opinion pages of the New York Times have a better handle on current events than their average reader? Instead Bruni and most of the chattering class  are like toddlers who want the President to act tough and make all the monsters disappear, while he tucks them in and gives them a binky to suck on.  I on the other hand am glad to have a President who treats me like an adult and is deliberate and cautious before he commits troops  unlike the  cheerleaders in the media who have learnt nothing from the Iraq misadventure. The Bush administration could not have sold the war of choice  without their complicity.  Yet,  I haven’t seen a talking head or an opinion writer even acknowledge that the rise of ISIS is directly related to the war they so enthusiastically supported.

 Arrested  Development

By two_kittehs

Note: By the media I mean the Beltway opinion writers and analysts, not the reporters on the ground who risk their lives to bring us the story.

Same Column, Different Day

Maureen Dowd has yet another column disparaging the President, this time for not going to Ferguson, MO. This is a third column in a row about the supposed inadequacies of President Obama. According to Dowd, the first African-American president has outsourced race.  Last column it was his playing golf that got MoDo going. She begrudges him his vacation and even his office and constantly echoes the right wing criticism about him. I am sure that had he gone to Ferguson, she would have found fault with that too, and would  blamed him for throwing gasoline on an already volatile situation.

In MoDoverse, every problem can be traced to Obama’s actions or the  lack of thereof,  from the Republican intransigence to ISIS and everything in between.  If only Obama would schmooze with Congressional Republicans, yes the same ones who even refuse invitations to state dinners,  give an electrifying speech on every occasion, we would all live happily ever after.  In this fantasy land a presidential speech would solve the immigration problem and  fix race relations.  Of course, it was not that long ago when Obama’s speeches were characterized as just words.  Her other scintillating advice to the President;  is to be more like President Bartlett of the TV show West Wing.

At this point, MoDo seems to be just phoning it in, with  utterly predictable columns castigating Obama for not doing something that she deems a President ought to do, you know, what Jeb Bartlett would have done. Hey it worked on the West Wing, so why not try it in real life?

  Critcal Cat

By two_kittehs

The Dark Lord is Back

He has arisen from his crypt to blame President Obama by penning an op-ed full of lies and ugly insinuations with his equally evil spawn in the Wall Street Journal.  The latest news from Iraq has brought the war mongering neo-cons out of the woodwork and they are furiously penning op-eds and making rounds of shouty TV,  laying the blame for the current mess in Iraq at the feet of President Obama. Like before, their flunkies in the media are giving them an able assist.

Everything Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and others in the Bush administration have said about Iraq has been based on a tissue of lies. They roughed up Iraq, killing untold hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, just because they could, at a great cost in terms of both lives and treasure.  I also remember the relentless demonizing of anyone who did not fall in line about the plan for the invasion of Iraq.  Anyone who did not support George W. Bush 100% was labeled a traitor, remember Dixie chicks?  Now Dick and daughter are insinuating that the sitting President of the United States is a traitor. As Betty Cracker so eloquently wrote in Balloon Juice this morning, Irony is Dead. Off the top of my head, a list things that Cheney and company were wrong about regarding Iraq:

  • Saddam Hussein was not involved in the attacks of September, 11 2001
  • He did not have nuclear weapons
  • American troops were not welcomed as liberators
  • The war did not pay for itself, total cost of the war  three trillion dollars and counting
  • The war did not bring a stable democracy to Iraq
  • The much touted surge did not work

What were are seeing in Iraq  now is direct result of the botched invasion in 2003.   History did not begin when Obama was elected for the first time.  Given their track record President Obama should do the exact opposite of whatever Cheney and company suggest. They were wrong then and they are wrong now.  As for the media, no matter what he does, it is always the President’s fault. So whatever they say deserves to be ignored as well. 


Dick Cheney (2)

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images  Caption Credits: Schroedinger’s Cat

Meet the New Right, Same As the Old Right

In a column full of platitudes and assertions without evidence, David Brooks does what he does best; confuses the issue with lies, obfuscation and intellectual sounding gibberish. The issue at hand is  income inequality and the solutions as suggested by self identified conservative thinkers.

Kitteh has a skeptical

Skeptical Cat

By two_kittehs

Conservatives generally believe that capitalism is a machine that cures itself. Therefore, people on the right have been slow to recognize the deep structural problems that are making life harder in the new economy — that are leading to stagnant social mobility, widening inequality and pervasive insecurity.

Why the crocodile tears? Isn’t this economy where only the people at the very top of the economic ladder  benefit, something that David Brooks and his friends have always wanted? By the very top, I mean your Romneys and Gateses and Waltons and hedge fund managers, not your doctors and lawyers and other professionals. Don’t take my word for it see the legislation they have passed over the years. It is a win-win situation, their friends make out like bandits while the pervasive insecurity keeps 99.99% in check and subservient.

But some conservatives have begun to face these issues head on. These reform conservatives have now published a policy-laden manifesto called “Room to Grow,” which is the most coherent and compelling policy agenda the American right has produced this century.

Translation: Some conservative think tankers have finally come up with something I can sell, in my NYT column and my Newshour appearances. More BS, but packaged nicely.

Some highlights from the column:

In the first essay of the book, Peter Wehner moves beyond the ruinous Republican view that the country is divided between hearty entrepreneurs and parasitic “takers.” Like most reform conservatives, he shifts attention sympathetically to the struggling working and middle classes. He grapples with the fact, uncomfortable for conservatives, that the odds of escaping poverty are about half as high in the United States as in more mobile countries like Denmark.

One conservative “intellectual” finally accepts that the sky is blue, break out the champagne.

Yuval Levin argues that conservatives have tacitly accepted the 20th-century welfare state; they just want less of it. To respond to the economy’s structural woes, he continues, conservatives will have to change not only the size of the government but its nature.

Bad government is bad, it has gotten too big. BTW what does he mean by changing the nature of the government, what exactly is Levin advocating? Dictatorship? No safety net for you or the vote for that matter. More sweeping generalizations follow from Levin:

“The left’s ideal approach,” Levin writes, “is to put enormous faith in the knowledge of experts in the center and empower them to address the problem.” The right’s ideal approach, he continues, “is to put some modest faith in the knowledge of the people on the ground and empower them to try ways of addressing the problem incrementally.”

Peppered with intellectual sounding gibberish;

Liberals emphasize individuals and the state, Levin argues. Conservatives should funnel resources to nurture the civic institutions in between. They should set up decentralized initiatives that rely on local knowledge and allow for a more dynamic process of experimentation.


Of course solution to all these woes is more decentralization, as per the leading lights of the rightwing economic thought:


Under these and other proposals, the government would address middle-class economic security by devolving power down to households and local governments. This is both to the left of the current Tea Party agenda (more public activism) and also to the right (more fundamental reform). The agenda is a great start but underestimates a few realities. First, the authors underestimate the consequences of declining social capital.

Brooks ends the column by playing the reasonable conservative, he first scolds the conservatives, and then makes nice with them by writing about the “nanny state”.

Today, millions of Americans are behaving in ways that make no economic sense: dropping out of school, having children out of wedlock. They do so because the social guardrails that used to guide behavior have dissolved. Giving people in these circumstances tax credits is not going to lead to long-term thinking. Putting more risk into vulnerable people’s lives may not make them happier.

The nanny state may have drained civil society, but simply removing the nanny state will not restore it. There have to be programs that encourage local paternalism: early education programs with wraparound services to reinforce parenting skills, social entrepreneurship funds to reweave community, paternalistic welfare rules to encourage work.

I would like to know what exactly does Brooks mean by the nanny state? Drained the civil society of what exactly? Does Brooks want so see dire poverty and income disparity, like in emerging economies?

More gibberish from Brooks follows:

Second, conservatives should not be naïve about sin. We are moving from a world dominated by big cross-class organizations, like public bureaucracies, corporations and unions, toward a world dominated by clusters of networked power. These clusters — Wall Street, Washington, big agriculture, big energy, big universities — are dominated by interlocking elites who create self-serving arrangements for themselves. Society is split between those bred into these networks and those who are not. Moreover, the U.S. economy is increasingly competing against autocratic economies, which play by their own self-serving rules.

Sometimes government is going to have to be active to disrupt local oligarchies and global autocracies by fomenting creative destruction — by insisting on dynamic immigration policies, by pumping money into research, by creating urban environments that nurture innovation, by spending money to give those outside the clusters new paths to rise.

I’d say the reform conservatives are still a little too Jeffersonian. They have a bit too much faith in the magic of decentralization. Some decentralized reforms do nurture personal responsibility and community flourishing. But as Alexander Hamilton (and Margaret Thatcher) understood, sometimes decentralization needs to be complemented with energetic national policies, to disrupt local oligarchies, self-serving arrangements and gradual national decline.

Can someone please translate that from Brookese to English?

Since the Reagan revolution, government  policies have favored capital over labor, so people with lots of capital to begin with have been doing very well. I have one modest proposal, tax investment income at the same rate as income from wages.  If you want to change the system, change the incentives. Only then will the outcomes will change. It is really not that difficult.

Brooks Brother is a Riot

The New York Times has added another Brooks to its opinion pages.  Arthur Brooks, the President of the  American Enterprise Institute is not really David Brooks’ brother, although their shtick is remarkably similar.  Along with a last name they share an ideology that comforts the comfortable, while appearing reasonable on the surface.  Now you can gather pearls of wisdom  from both men on the op-ed pages of the New York Times on the same day.  What a deal, two Brooks for the price of one.

Arthur Brooks  is the President of the  American Enterprise Institute.  In an earlier column he wanted the 99% to be happy with their lot, because envy is bad for you. Pointing out how the policies of the last thirty odd years have resulted in astronomical growth in the incomes of 0.01% and stagnation for everyone else is inciting envy.   Wage slave be happy with your lot, and be thankful that you are not a real slave. Show some magnanimity for the crumbs thrown your way, worship the rich, if  you know what is good for you.

In his latest column Brooks is using Dalai Lama as a spokesperson to advance his agenda.  Dalai Lama was recently a guest at the American Enterprise Institute.  According to Brooks this is what Dalai Lama had to say,

He insisted that while free enterprise could be a blessing, it was not guaranteed to be so. Markets are instrumental, not intrinsic, for human flourishing. As with any tool, wielding capitalism for good requires deep moral awareness. Only activities motivated by a concern for others’ well-being, he declared, could be truly “constructive.”

Brooks then proceeds to sing praises of free enterprise before grudgingly admitting the obvious;

But while free enterprise keeps expanding globally, its success may be faltering in the United States.

He is vague about what exactly he means by free enterprise. However, anyone with even a minimal background in economics knows that when the playing field is not level, markets don’t produce optimal outcomes for all participants. Look to the labor market if you don’t believe me.

After paying lip service to the problem of economic inequality brought about by the policies of the last few decades, promoted by his think tank,  Arthur Brooks puts forth suggestions to make capitalism constructive,

The solution does not lie in the dubious “fair share” class-baiting of  politicians. We need to combine an effective, reliable safety net for the poor with a hard look at modern barriers to upward mobility. That means attacking cronyism that protects the well-connected. It means lifting poor children out of ineffective schools that leave them unable to compete. It entails pruning back outmoded licensing laws that restrain low-income entrepreneurs. And it means creating real solutions — not just proposing market distortions — for people who cannot find jobs that pay enough to support their families.

Translation: Deregulate everything.  Privatize schools, gut all regulations.  Doing away with the New Deal era financial market regulations turned out well for Wall Street not so much for the rest of us.  Thanks but no thanks for your self serving advice, Mr. Brooks.  Modern barriers to upward mobility are same as that of the last gilded age, concentration of wealth and with it the  concentration of power.   Efficiency of the workers has gone up but their wages have remained stagnant, even when corporate profits have soared. Policy preferences skewed towards the interests of a few (top 0.001%) are responsible for the current situation. A step in the right direction would be paying workers a living wage.  Brooks’ American Enterprise Institute is not only against raising the minimum wage but wants the minimum wage to be $4.  I wonder what  real solutions he has in mind, slavery or indentured servitude?

One Percent Kittehs

By two_kittehs (Picture by: ME!)

Nicholas Kristof Pens Another Obtuse Column

Was Nicholas Kristof always a bard of false equivalence or did he become one recently? St. Nick thinks that the Republicans should get some credit for bringing to light the causes of poverty, even if they get the solutions wrong.   He may be damning them with faint praise but I think he is giving the Republicans far too much credit.

  According to St. Nick they get the rhetoric right, never mind  their actual policies.  May be that was true in some bygone era, these days, even their rhetoric drips contempt.  Has St. Nick forgotten the 47% moochers of the last election season?

So what are the conservatives/Republicans right about according to Kristof?

Strong Families: Conservatives highlight the primacy of family and argue that family breakdown exacerbates poverty, and they’re right.

Way to confuse cause and effect.   Poverty makes it hard on a family or to even have a family.  Being married is no guarantee to economic prosperity.    Also what is this strange obsession conservatives have about people’s marriages? At best, this is a peripheral issue to the macroeconomics of income inequality and poverty.  You are already entitled to bigger tax deductions if you have a family. What more besides arranging marriages can the government do on this front?


JOB CREATION President Reagan was right when he said that the best social program is a job.


It is sad that Kristof has the exhume Reagan to come up with a sensible Republican voice.  The actual policies of the Republican  are much more favorable to people with investment income, than they are to wage earners.  Despite productivity gains, trickle down economic policies have not made the average American wealthier. The gains have gone to a tiny sliver of the population, the so called 1%.

SCHOOL REFORM Republicans were right to blow the whistle on broken school systems, for education in inner-city schools is the civil rights issue of the 21st century.

How is demonizing teachers and their unions going to make  problem schools perform better?

Kristof may not accept the Republican solutions, but he adopts their framing which only serves to obfuscate the issue of income inequality and blames the poor.  Doesn’t NYT already have David Brooks to do that?

Why should the party of the Ryan Budget  get credit for shedding crocodile tears over the problems that they helped create and are doing nothing to solve.  In fact they have thrown every conceivable road block in President Obama’s effort to jump start the economy right from early 2009.  The refusal of Republican governors to expand Medicaid in their states is a recent case in point.   Via Paul Krugman,

this is what the health economist Jonathan Gruber, one of the principal architects of health reform — and normally a very mild-mannered guy — recently summed it up: The Medicaid-rejection states “are willing to sacrifice billions of dollars of injections into their economy in order to punish poor people. It really is just almost awesome in its evilness.” Indeed.

It is high time that supposedly liberal columnists stopped giving Republicans  a fig leaf to hide their sheer callousness and ineptitude. 

You are trying my patience, again.

Head Bead

By two_kittehs

Pundits React to the Cosmos Reboot

Greg Pollowitz at the National Review thinks Cosmos is boring;

I think we have a real dud of a show in the making.

I beg to differ, my reviews of Cosmos are here and here.

Daily Beast’s  David Sessions, argues that Bruno was a theologian not a scientist.

What Cosmos doesn’t mention is that Bruno’s conflict with the Catholic Church was theological, not scientific, even if it did involve his wild—and occasionally correct—guesses about the universe.

Sessions must have fallen  asleep while watching the episode, because I distinctly remember De Grasse Tyson mentioning that Bruno’s was not a scientist.

Andrew Sullivan at the Dish, finds the history lessons cartoonish.

The segment previewed above is on the 16th century priest and philosopher Giordano Bruno, which includes deGrasse Tyson intoning that the Roman Catholic Church sought to “investigate and torment anyone who voiced views that differed from theirs”. Really?

Yes, really. Has the great scholar of history not heard of Galileo? Besides, what does it matter if Bruno was not a scientist? I thought Andrew Sullivan was against torture. Or is torture okay if condoned by the Catholic Church?

Besides have Sessions and Sullivan not heard of Copernicus? He delayed the publication of his book until the year of his death.  The book, postulated a heliocentric solar system based on his observations of the planets.  Perhaps, because as a man of the cloth, Copernicus was aware of the blow back from the Church if he published his thesis.

What exactly is Bruno’s being a priest supposed to prove? In fifteenth and the sixteenth  centuries, not many besides priests and noble men had the time to dedicate their life to philosophical or scientific questions.  I don’t really get Sullivan’s and Sessions’ criticism.

Every Time I read a Column by NYT Op-Ed Contributor, Manu Joseph, My Brain Cells Die.

In his weekly Letter from India, Manu Joseph digests Indian politics into bite sized morsels and spits out fact-free gibberish for the readers of the international edition of the New York Times.   Let me give you two recent examples.    This is an excerpt is from a column published a couple of weeks ago:

The noise on social media, which is largely in favor of Mr. Modi, contains the low-stakes patriotism of
Indian residents of the United States who do not have to live through the
consequences of their long-distance affair with nationalism. They tend to be liberal
Democrats in the United States, but political conservatives in India.

Joseph lumps naturalized United States citizens of Indian origin, their citizen children; Indian citizens who are either Permanents Residents (Green Card holders) or long term but temporary (student and work) visa holders, all in one group. He  then asserts  that they are all supporters of Mr. Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party or the BJP,  without providing any data to back his claim.   Surely, it must’ve been due to the efforts of  Mr. Modi’s alleged fans that he was denied a travel visa by the United States government, following Godhra.

His latest column is even better, where he writes about the new breed of the Indian politician, who is in it for public service,

But then circumstances forced the voters to evolve and from them have risen
the mutants — engineers, activists, corporate executives, journalists, former
government officers and at least one actress — who have become politicians out of
necessity. Naïve and upright, they view politics as a transformational public

How is this different from any standard-issue politician, anywhere in the world?  I have to yet come across a politician who says that they are running for office to satisfy their own megalomania or to make a quick buck.  Also,  In what world is being naïve supposed to be a compliment either for a politician or  any adult for that matter?

For a supposed  expert on India, his lack of the knowledge about Indian political history is astounding.  Brave citizen activists are nothing new in Indian politics, we don’t even have to go as far back as Mohandas Gandhi’s generation. Surely, Mr. Joseph has heard of the socialist leaders, like Madhu Dandavate, George Fernandes, Mrinal Gore etc., who risked jail time for their courageous stance against the then Congress leader Mrs. Indira Gandhi when she had suspended democratic rule in the mid-seventies.   Also, Indian politics is replete with actors-turned politicians, unless Manu has been living under a rock I  he should know of both N. T. Ramarao and M. G. Ramachandran.  As for a journalist-turned politician, I can think of  Arun Shourie.    Either Mr. Joseph has  not done his homework or he has nothing but  contempt for his readership. Since he thinks he can shovel horse-shit their way and they wouldn’t know any better.

His examples of the brave new political breed are Meera Sanyal, the ex-CEO of the Indian operations of the  multinational bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and Tom Friedman’s friend, Nandan Nilekani, who supposedly came up with the flat world metaphor.  Mr. Nilekani was the CEO of one of India’s biggest body shops, the outsourcing giant Infosys,  for about five years.

I fail to see what is so wonderfully brave about these two Indian versions of Mr. Bloomberg.  Mr. Nilekani is political novice whereas Ms. Sanyal contested the Mumbai-South seat in 2009 as an Independent and got less than 2% of the total votes cast.   I will have more about Ms. Sanyal and her chances, later.


Your Stupid

By two_kittehs