Sunday, October 29, 2017


The Future of the Fed
Credit for recovery from the financial crisis of 2008 belongs almost exclusively to the Federal Reserve.  The fiscal stimulus Obama managed to extract from Congress was just barely large enough to register, so monetary policy had to be stretched beyond its previous limits.  Led by Bernanke and Yellen, the Fed had to use unorthodox mens to engineer our long, slow recovery.

Now, the future of the Fed is in the short-fingered hands of the author of The Art of the Bankruptcy.  His personal swamp of banker-advisors care only about curtailing the Fed's regulatory powers, and with four open positions on the Fed's seven-member Board of Governors, there is a strong possibility that technocratic non-partisanship could be swept away.

Right now, most attention is focsed on who will serve as Chairperson.  Since the very competent Janet Yellen was named to the post by Obama, and Tr*mp is temperamentally incapable of letting anything Obama did stay in place, she won't be reappointed.  That leaves candidates John B. Taylor, who would like nothing better than to destroy the institution entirely, and Jerome H. Powell, who would be content merely to destroy the Fed's regulatory function.  The smart money is on Powell, the "compromise" candidate.

The Opiate "Emergency"
Our President has it all figured out, once again demonstrating just how smart he is: if nobody ever started using opiates, nobody ever would become an addict!  The obvious means to achieve that goal is an advertising campaign.  Let's see, we'll need a really clever and original catchphrase.  Oh, I've got it!  We can use Just Say No!

Clearly, no Federal money can be spent on addressing the opiate crisis: it's hard enough already coming up with ways to offset the costs of tax cuts for the rich, and the Good People really have little interest in helping a bunch of junkies — even if most of them are white.  Hey, does anybody remember where we stashed those promos from Nancy Reagan?  It's time to run them again.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


"Not my fault"
He still can't find Niger on a map, and still doesn't know it's different from Nigeria, but that wasn't the problem.  "Why can't they give their kids names someone can remember, Kelly?  Tell me that!"

It's a real dilemma when the guy who wants to slash your taxes also insists on screwing up your supply chains and demolishing your agricultural exports — not to mention the little problem of a five-year renewable trade agreement being the same as no trade agreement at all.

Tax Reform
Reagan exploded the deficit and the debt, so Republicans just might be willing to do it again to satisfy their wealthy patrons.  With mortgage interest, charity, and 401K deductions proclaimed "safe," and elimination of the deductions for state and local taxes on thin ice, the "deficit hawks" might have to reveal themselves as the hypocrites they've been all along.

Sexual Politics
Predatory behavior by powerful men may suffer a setback in light of scandals in Hollywood, the tech sector, and at Fox News, but America still has a long way to go to overcome its stubborn belief in female inequality.  Who's going to "reform" the religious right?  Mike Pence?

The Republican "Rebels"
It would be nice if some Republicans who weren't about to retire (or die) were willing to point out some of their nominal leader's glaring flaws, but things may have to get a lot worse before that happens.  Self-interest continues to outweigh the interests of their party or their country.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Representative Government?

The sock puppet you see here is Lee Zeldin, a Republican from New York's 1st Congressional District, the east end of Long Island.  I live there.

Zeldin was elected in our Tr*mp-leaning district by a collection of xenophobes afraid of our Latino immigrants, religious bigots afraid of our homosexuals, and rich people who just don't want any of their money spent on anybody who isn't them.  Based on his voting record in the House, he needn't worry about being "primaried" from the right. 

One might say Zeldin's supporters got what they wanted, but they're about to get something they won't like at all.  Long Islanders pay seriously high state and local taxes, and Zeldin soon will vote to make those taxes non-deductible.  Why?  Because Zeldin's party loyalty is absolute.  The people he "represents" don't matter.

Ours is a swing district, so if Democrats mount a competent campaign,  Zeldin's vote on taxes ought to cost him his seat in 2018.  Most congressional districts, though, are not swing districts: they are heavily gerrymandered "safe" districts whose "representatives" can safely ignore the needs of their voters.  Only the deep-pocketed donors who dictate party policy positions must be satisfied.

Voters in very different districts have very different needs.  If legislators were truly representative of those who send them to Washington, far more legislation would be the product of bargains, trade-offs, and compromise.  Today's extreme partisanship is a clear indicator that our democracy is broken.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Leaving his mark

Do you remember this guy?

He's Stephen Paddock — and in case you've forgotten, Stephen Paddock was the guy who brought an arsenal to his Las Vegas hotel room and shot all those people at the country music concert.  He would have been quite upset had he anticipated you would forget his name so quickly, consigning him to a broad category of "mass shooters."

I think I understand his supposedly mysterious motive: Paddock was 64, rapidly approaching that magical age of 65 when many men believe their lives are effectively over.  It's a time when we older gentlemen are likely to observe that our greatest accomplishments are behind us — and not especially memorable.  Most of us greet that observation with a shrug and a sigh.

Stephen Paddock's accomplishments at 64 actually were admirable.  Starting as a low-level postal clerk, he rose to become a comfortably wealthy landlord and investor who was enough of a high-roller to earn comps at various Nevada casinos.  He should have been satisfied with the arc of his life, but he was one of those poor suckers who found his late-life existential crisis especially irksome.

If you want to leave a mark on history, it's a lot easier to do it as a monster than as a hero or a saint.  All it takes is one especially heinous act (preferably record setting) to "win" your place in the books.

I can think of another old man with an unhealthy desire to leave his mark on the world.  He has no great regard for how he does so as long as he's the "winner" — and he's a man who controls a much larger arsenal than Stephen Paddock did.  Let's hope somebody can stop him from making his existential crisis into ours.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Guns again

It's no surprise that the NRA endorsed "regulating" the bump stock when you remember that the NRA doesn't lobby for "gun lovers" — it lobbies for gun manufacturers.  The bump stock isn't marketed by gun companies — it's an aftermarket add-on that provides no profits at all to the major players.

Don't feel sad for Slide Fire® or the other small businesses that produce these items, though.  Bump stocks were slow sellers until Stephen Paddock made them a must-have item for all the paranoids and toy soldiers who previously hadn't realized just how much they needed them.  Now they've sold out, and the aftermarket sellers have plenty of capital to invest in technology that legally can convert a shotgun into a bazooka.