Smart people saying smart things

Linda J. Bilmes and Shelby Chodos: “Want to stimulate the economy? Let’s hand cash directly to the states

A state-directed recovery initiative would be the quickest, easiest way to reduce unemployment and get the economy moving again. Congress would simply distribute money to the states, based on population and with no strings attached. Each state could use these funds however it chooses, whether by cutting taxes on small business and families, or by investing in education or infrastructure. …

The economic logic is compelling. The federal government can borrow money at historically low interest rates, meaning that almost anything we spend it on — infrastructure, schools, scientific research — will produce a positive return. The catch is that much of this money needs to be spent at the state and local level. States maintain infrastructure and spend more than a third of their tax dollars on education. But they are obliged to balance their budgets. Moreover, they lack access to the rock-bottom interest rates available to the U.S. Treasury.

Mark Ames: “The Quiet Extermination of Labor Rights From Human Rights

While progressives and labor are arguing, sometimes viciously, over labor’s current sorry state, one thing progressives haven’t done is serious self-examination on how and where this abandonment of labor manifests itself, how it affects the very genetic makeup of liberal assumptions and major premises.

So I did a simple check: I went to the websites of three of the biggest names in liberal activist politics: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the ACLU. Checking their websites, I was surprised to find that not one of those three organizations lists labor as a major topic or issue that it covers.

… It wasn’t always this way: Economic rights and workplace rights were for decades at the very heart of the human rights movement. This was officially enshrined in 1948, when the United Nations adopted a 30-point “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” putting labor rights and economic equality rights alongside those we’re more familiar with today, like freedom of expression, due process, religion and so on. But somehow, labor rights and economic justice have been effectively amputated from the human rights agenda and forgotten about, in tandem with the American left’s abandonment of labor.

David Luban: “The President, Drones, and Just War Theory

Whether targeted killing by drones does more harm than good is far from a settled question. Just a day after the Times article, the Washington Post reported that drone strikes in Yemen are infuriating and radicalizing Yemenis, turning them into Al Qaeda sympathizers, and enabling Al Qaeda to expand its membership and the territory under its control. The Post raises the terrible thought that the president and his advisors, focused on their Power Point presentations and “baseball cards” of suspected militants, are missing something vital and conducting a campaign that may undermine national self-defense rather than secure it. That would be a moral failing, not merely a failure of self-interest. One of the classical criteria of just war, dating from the seventeenth century, is the requirement of reasonable likelihood of success. A counterproductive campaign is an unjust campaign, because it sheds blood and shatters peace to no good end. Whether the president’s strategy satisfies this criterion remains to be seen. He has a heavy reckoning to make.

 

  • Münchner Kindl

    Congress would simply distribute money to the states, based on population and with no strings attached.

    Yeah, that isn’t a terrible idea at all, given how many States are governed by “Give taxcuts to the rich” Republicans or “away with government” Teapartiers.

    So I did a simple check: I went to the websites of three of the biggest names in liberal activist politics: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the ACLU. Checking their websites, I was surprised to find that not one of those three organizations lists labor as a major topic or issue that it covers.

    Um, because amnesty international has always focused on political criminals and conditions in prisons (and death penalty)? For them to focus on something else would be leaving their field of expertise.

    And ACLU – isn’t it about protecting the rights that exist in the constitution, like free speech or seperation of Church and State? Labour rights are not part of the constitution.

    Of course, the general problem for US organisations is that the US neither recognizes nor cares about Human Rights or UN treaties. Partly because of that part of Americans who believe the UN is the One World Government conspiracy; partly because of the reverence for the constitution to the exclusion of everything else; partly because they don’t want to let “foreigners” tell them what to do; partly the US hasn’t even signed the treaties: when the Universal Rights of Children are not recognized in the US because it would interfere with the death penalty for persons who were minors when committing the crime, or because the right to education and respect interferes with the right of parents to do what they like – then labour laws are a bit down the list

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Linda J. Bilmes and Shelby Chodos: “Want to stimulate the economy? Let’s hand cash directly to the states“

    Wasn’t the ARRA premised on this kind of thing? And Republican state governors decided to cut their noses off to spite their faces by ostentatiously refusing to accept the funds?

    Frankly, the US government needs to hand out checks to each citizen at this point.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    On the second article, it’s important to recognise that socially progressive and left wing are not the same thing. There is a lot of overlap between the two groups, but they’re not identical. There are progressive right wingers and plenty of progressive centrists.

    It’s my hypothesis that “centre left” parties, over the last 2-3 decades, have become dominated by people who are first and foremost social progressives, and that a significant proportion of these are not left wing. I certainly see it in the centre left party in my own country, of which I am a card-carrying member. Those of us with left wing economic views are in the minority. The majority are people who want to see social equality between genders, races, religious and cultural groups, and who want the poor to be not utterly oppressed but expect the free market to fix up problems of economic inequality in a hands-off manner that they don’t apply to non-economic issues.

    It’s further my hypothesis that this has been driven, in part, by the success of social democracy. The great social programs of the 20th century have improved the lot of the working class in many developed countries (talking about outside the US here; you guys have been pretty screwed for decades). We no longer have children obviously starving, and a greater percentage of us from poor backgrounds are able to move up the social ladder. But I see my fellow party members, overwhelmingly from middle class backgrounds, largely dismiss the possibility that economic inequality is still a powerful force–or to be precise, economic inequality between the middle and the bottom. So the focus is on issues of social equality that they, as middle class Australians, are aware of. The middle class experiences homophobia, racism, sexism, religious intolerance. They don’t experience the awfulness of being significantly poorer than their fellow citizens.

    I need to be educated on the particularities of the American situation. From my observation, you have a cultural history that makes your attitude to economic inequality, including labour rights, unusual in the developed world. So I’d be interested to hear how that factors in. But I do think there is something in the separation of socially progressive issues from economically progressive ones, and the emphasis on the former over the latter.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    If it helps, Canada is a kind of “in between” of the USA and Europe in a lot of ways. If you study the Canadian situation you’ll find that Canadians, like Americans, tend to discount economic inequality as a potential presence in the lives of people, particularly the poor.

    Mitigating this is that the welfare state is stronger, likely because the possibility of using racism to derail the effective expansion of the welfare state didn’t exist to anywhere near the kind of extent it did in the US – e.g. we have universal health insurance, and probably better support of our K-12 and post-secondary systems than in the US.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    My other post was too long already, but I wanted to add this: I’ve read many political scientists and philosophers who pin the issue down to neoliberalism. Neoliberalism, they argue, is socially progressive and economically right wing. (In Australia we call such people “small l” liberals, to distinguish from the socially-all-over-the-place economically right wing Liberal Party). Neoliberalism is the dominant political philosophy in the Western world since the early 1980s.

    Walter Benn Michaels discussed the progressive/left distinction in a 2009 article in the London Review of Books. In it he says

    An obvious question, then, is how we are to understand the fact that we’ve made so much progress in some areas while going backwards in others. And an almost equally obvious answer is that the areas in which we’ve made progress have been those which are in fundamental accord with the deepest values of neoliberalism, and the one where we haven’t isn’t. We can put the point more directly by observing that increasing tolerance of economic inequality and increasing intolerance of racism, sexism and homophobia – of discrimination as such – are fundamental characteristics of neoliberalism. Hence the extraordinary advances in the battle against discrimination, and hence also its limits as a
    contribution to any left-wing politics. The increased inequalities of neoliberalism were not caused by racism and sexism and won’t be cured by – they aren’t even addressed by – anti-racism or anti-sexism.

    My point is not that anti-racism and anti-sexism are not good things. It is rather that they currently have nothing to do with left-wing politics, and that, insofar as they function as a substitute for it[emphasis mine], can be a bad thing….

    The neoliberal ideal is a world where rich people of all races and sexes can happily enjoy their wealth, and where the injustices produced not by discrimination but by exploitation – there are fewer poor people (7 per cent) than black people (9 per cent) at Harvard, and Harvard’s not the worst – are discreetly sent around to the back door….

    [T]he primacy of anti-discrimination not only performs the economic function of making markets more efficient, it also performs the therapeutic function of making those of us who have benefited from those markets sleep better at night.

    Before anyone arcs up, I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time. I want us to pursue socially progressive, anti-discriminatory policies AND policies that reduce economic inequality for all social groups. I am definitely a social progressive, but first of all I’m left wing.

  • Victor Savard

     
    (((It wasn’t always this way: Economic rights and workplace rights were for decades at the very heart of the human rights movement. Whether the president’s strategy satisfies this criterion remains to be seen. He has a heavy reckoning to make.)))

    STOP “IT” sinner vic cause you know that Fred’s readers are not going to fall for your so called “Cardstacking Comment”.

    OK Victor Butt have “IT” your way! Some of our alien imaginary friends were going to show ya how “IT” could all “Bee” done in time http://www.metacafe.com/watch/206326/asian_giant_hornets_vs_honey_bees/ if ya know what “I” mean cause as far as we U>S (usual sinning) aliens are concerned, violence is the only thing human gods of the twenty-second century will listen to.

    Don’t bee start sinner vic, you’re way off topic again and as a matter of fact, truth be known you’re even in the wrong Century and besides GOD (Good Old Dad) does not operate that way! :)

    Peace

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I’m told that Australia and Canada are very similar on a number of fronts, including leaning slightly more towards the Americans than Europeans when it comes to economics. I say thank God we got the framework of the welfare state underway before we (Aus) turned our cultural cringe from the UK to the US.

    Agree about the probably influence of the different strength of the racial element. Our founding bigotry was against Aborigines (who are a relatively quite small population) and the underclass of predominantly Irish Catholics. It’s perhaps no surprise that the big left wing initiatives in our founding generations of self-government were delivered by the party that had working class Irish Catholics as their core base.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Frankly, the US government needs to hand out checks to each citizen at this point.

    Substantial checks, not the $250 or whatever we got as stimulus from Bush. To everybody, not just those who filed tax returns. And make damn sure that the checks don’t all go to heads of household, in hopes that that’ll encourage victims of domestic abuse to take the money and run.

    I heard a rumor that that stimulus correlated with a dramatic jump in Internet porn subscriptions. Anyone got any confirmation?

  • Amanda

    I’d rather have a job than a check myself. I got my Master’s degree in Biology in 2009 and haven’t had a full time job since (and I was on unemployment for 10 months). And I don’t trust my governor, Rick Perry, with any federal money either. Like he would give that money to education! No, he’d probably use it to build some oil pipelines or something. The federal government would have to either attach strings, or just hire people directly.

    Ooh, unless it was a check that paid off my student loans. That would be sweet! I’m afraid I’m going to be still paying on that thing when it’s time for my own possible-future-kids to go to college!

  • Lori

     

    I’d rather have a job than a check myself. 

    So would I, but if I can’t have the job I’ll take the check. I haven’t had anything other than temp work, most of it very low paying, in years and I have student loans out the ying yang that I can’t pay. Unless a major miracle happens I will literally never pay off those loans. Assuming that it doesn’t involve doing something illegal or grossly unethical I’m not in a position to turn down anything that helps with that, and would in fact be grateful for it.

  • Wygrif

    “because it would interfere with the death penalty for persons who were minors when committing the crime”

    Whatever that claim’s historical merits are, it is currently inaccurate.  The death penalty for juveniles is banned in the United States, see e.g. Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005). 

  • heckblazer

    But why is the field of expertise of  the international human rights organizations so limited?  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 says in Article 23:

    (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Loophole: Try teenagers as adults under criminal law.

    TRY AGAIN PLZ.

  • DrocketX

    And I don’t trust my governor, Rick Perry, with any federal money
    either. Like he would give that money to education! No, he’d probably
    use it to build some oil pipelines or something.

    I rather doubt it. To build an oil pipeline, you’d have to hire some workers, thus stimulating the economy.  Sure, it might be a horribly inefficient form of stimulation, but it would still have SOME effect, thus giving Obama a claim for having accomplished something, no matter how minor or tainted that accomplishment might be.

    Far more likely they’d just use the money to give tax breaks to billionaires, or failing that, just make a huge pile of cash in front of the governor’s mansion and set fire to it.   And that’s basically the problem with the idea presented in the first post: there’s about 20-25 states, including some rather important swing states like Florida and Ohio, who’s governors would do anything in their power to ensure the money would be wasted/embezzled in the biggest boondoggle possible, just so they have a talking point about Obama wasting money.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Thing is, you really only need *one* governor to do the right thing. Soon as you’ve got that, it doesn;t matter how hard they try to waste the money and make Obama look bad. Obama just holds up his one shining example, and all those republican governors look like — well, they look like exactly what they are. 

  • Porlockjr

    Just give money directly to the states? Great idea, of course. Also, it’s exactly what Goldman Sachs recommended at the end of 2008.

    OK, I exagerate: they also recommended other places to give away money, stressing that it needed to go to places with a high propensity to spend it, not squirrel it away. Which meant clearly (almost explicitly, as I remember it) not to Goldman and its clients, but to people not making enough money to have any to spend.

    No kidding. This is serious. I read the limited-circulation document they made available to customers (by definition, people with real money, not your Merrill Lynch or Charles Schwab commoners), and probably have my copy of it somewhere still. Whether its small circulation is the reason it never made the papers, or it was merely not interesting to the papers, I don’t know. 

    OTOH they underestimated how much stimulus was needed. About 200-300 billion, as I recall, and they greatly feared that the timid people in power wouldn’t put up that much.

  • DrocketX

    If only I actually thought it worked like that.  To see what would really happen, though, all you have to do is look at the media coverage of the first stimulus.  While it was completely insufficient to create a growing economy, it DID fix the tailspin into doom that the country was quickly moving towards.  How much media coverage did that get?

    What was covered?  Well, the GOP used bad math to declare that each job created cost half a million dollars.  Entirely untrue, but it completely dominated the news coverage of the stimulus for like a year, and still regularly comes up.  Also, Solyndra.  They got a few bucks, but still went under.  Again, months upon months of media coverage for what was quite literally a drop in the bucket of the stimulus money being ‘wasted’.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Thing is, you really only need *one* governor to do the right thing. Soon as you’ve got that, it doesn;t matter how hard they try to waste the money and make Obama look bad. Obama just holds up his one shining example, and all those republican governors look like — well, they look like exactly what they are.

    Oh God how I wish your optimism was warranted, but sadly I am certain that it is not.

    In Australia the government enacted an economic stimulus package as soon as the enormity of the GFC became apparent. It had several facets including direct cash payments to households (aiming to keep the retail sector afloat), more social housing and grants to schools to build stuff they needed like halls, shade areas, better play equipment etc (aiming to support the construction sector during the worst of the downturn). The evidence shows that it worked–the retail and construction sectors did much better than projected without the stimulus, people stayed in their jobs, and as a bonus schools got stuff they needed. Analysis also showed that, despite being rushed, the overall efficiency was pretty decent.

    If you listen to anyone who supports the opposition party, the economic stimulus was the greatest policy disaster in Australian history* because they found the odd person here and there whoo wasn’t happy. I remember when the policy was launched my local Senator saying how it was politically as well as economically a great idea, cos who would possibly oppose helping out schools? It turns out everyone who supports the other party, that’s who.

    *Unlike, say, INVADING IRAQ!

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Thing is, you really only need *one* governor to do the right thing.
    Soon as you’ve got that, it doesn;t matter how hard they try to waste
    the money and make Obama look bad. Obama just holds up his one shining
    example, and all those republican governors look like — well, they look
    like exactly what they are.

    You mean like all the governors Obama held up as examples after the ARRA was passed?

    Oh wait. He didn’t do anything, not even an attempt to shame Republican governors into accepting ARRA funds.

  • Dan Audy

    Loophole: Try teenagers as adults under criminal law.
    TRY AGAIN PLZ.

    There are few things that fill me more with seething rage for the criminal justice system (and I’ve got plenty o’ rage for it) than trying youth as adults when the system explicitly applies different penalties to them because they are not developmentally mature.  It undermines the entire system to say ‘well we are going to try them as an adult because their crime was particularly heinous’ because the more heinous the crime the more it suggests they are not developmentally mature. /rant

  • JonathanPelikan

    That would be shrill and partisan and us-versus-them and the very antithesis of Reasonableness and People Will Realize On Their Own, Right?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    There’s nothing more irritating than someone trying to rules-lawyer up the “proof” that some country meets some bare minimum of compliance with a treaty, only for a really common-place and well-known loophole to exist such that anyone with an ounce of sense would have put the caveat in in the first place instead of trying to use their omgreference as some kind of attempt at epic smackdown.

  • Anonymous

    More Mark Ames, please.  Everything  he says is wonderful.

  • Münchner Kindl

    Whatever that claim’s historical merits are, it is currently inaccurate. The death penalty for juveniles is banned in the United States, see e.g. Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005). 

    Um, you mean, you wait until the convicted person turns 18 and then carry out the death penalty?

    I’m talking about that if the person who committed a crime was a minor at that point, they are not eligible for the death penalty at all.

    Because if the death penalty for juvenlies is banned in all states of the US, then several states are in violation of that when they killed people who were now adults but minors at the time of transgression (which was reported in the media).

    It would also help  if you could link to a laymen’s cite and not just give a single number – I don’t have access to a database of US decisions by number.

  • Münchner Kindl

    Whatever that claim’s historical merits are, it is currently inaccurate. The death penalty for juveniles is banned in the United States, see e.g. Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005). 

    Um, you mean, you wait until the convicted person turns 18 and then carry out the death penalty?

    I’m talking about that if the person who committed a crime was a minor at that point, they are not eligible for the death penalty at all.

    Because if the death penalty for juvenlies is banned in all states of the US, then several states are in violation of that when they killed people who were now adults but minors at the time of transgression (which was reported in the media).

    It would also help  if you could link to a laymen’s cite and not just give a single number – I don’t have access to a database of US decisions by number.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roper_v._Simmons

    That said, I can’t see anything that specifically bans taking a juvenile offender and trying them as an adult to end-run the age restriction.


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