Sunday, November 16, 2014

Neo-liberals and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)

Cass Sunstein was appointed head of OIRA from 2009-2012 and led it to delay and eviscerate a host of environmental regulations.  Pres. Reagan created the office ostensibly to improve decision making by insisting on benefit-cost analysis of all rules, but industry used it to escape and delay regulation.  An example of its over-reaching and bizarre twists is to count lost pleasure from smoking as an off-set to health benefits of reduced smoking.  Besides, early death saves health care costs over the smokers' lifetime they claim! All of this is justified by the neo-liberal championing of what they call liberty-enhancement. If some want to kill themselves, they should be free to do so.  This is a neat trick that diverts blame from systemic corporate malfeasance to individuals. 
   This is documented in Robert Kuttner, "Obama's Obama" Harpers, December 2014." A must read by those interested in good government and avoidance of the siren song and paternalism of the neo-liberals. Obama does not come off well. Sunstein and Obama prove once again that smart and wise are not the same thing.

Virunga, Congo

Oil companies are circling Virunga National Park in the Congo, home to several endangered wildlife species such as mountain gorillas.  The oil company thugs stoop to bribery and murder.  The Government is silent saying they must support anything that will lift their people out of poverty.  One could be more impressed if they were putting a large part of their royalties into a trust fund for all its citizens, such as Alaska did.  
 The Congo has been home to natural resource exploitation by the Belgians for generations and where are the jobs it was supposed to create?  Any natural resource eventually runs out and the people who get rich are government officials and foreign companies.
Source: NYT 16 Nov 2014

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Japan's Folly

Japan's economy has been in the doldrums for years.  So what are they doing? Their central bank is buying government debt just like the US Fed was doing.  Supposedly, these purchases keep interest rates low and stimulate borrowing and growth.  But the evidence is to the contrary in  a country with zero interest rates and still little investment. If this policy worked it would have worked before now, but evidence be damned! We live in a world driven by ideology and bankers.

Brussels Riots

Riots broke out a few days ago in Brussels as people protested the government's austerity policies. In Europe when people are fed up, they riot while in the U.S. our low income people accept their fate and believe it is their fault. Austerity policy has not worked anywhere in Europe, but they hold to it like a dog with a bone.  Germany lost WW II but they dominate Europe and the EU and insist all countries should follow them no matter how different are their economies.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Belief and Experience

A post-election message by Harry Cook
"How lovely it would be to trade belief and believing for experience and reason. That was the great contribution of Franklin Delano Roosevelt who birthed an America that, like the autumnal doe, takes care of its young, its weak and those however disadvantaged through no fault of their own.

It was not a hardcore belief system that informed Roosevelt. It was experience. Experience is a far better guide than belief. The former is rooted in what eye can see, ear can hear and heart can feel. The latter is rooted in abstraction and, as often as not, self-serving."

Monday, October 27, 2014

Obama Popularity

Why has Obama's popularity plummeted?  He has accomplished a great deal that is not getting talked about.  He is the victim of the press and his opponents (some racist) that keep chanting "Obama Care" is bad.  This seems to stop further thinking about actual consequences.  It reminds of Gov. George Romney whose campaign for the presidency coincided with the Vietnam War.  He went on a fact-finding mission and came back and said he had been "brain washed" by the generals.  Well, we can't have a president who can be brain washed and the press repeated this trope over and over again and Romney's quest for the presidency was over.  The press and many people did not want to know more. 
Culture is a strange animal that is hard to understand.  Words can enter the language, and no matter how misleading, they have a life of their own, albeit pushed along by opinion makers.  Why is not "Affordable Care" is easy to say as "Obama Care?"  But, then the opponents would have to admit that they simply don't want to give aid to the poor--they don't deserve it.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Due to computer glitches, there have been no posts for some time.  Hopefully, the problem is fixed and posts will continue on a more regular basis.  Thanks for sticking with the "Troublesome Economist."