The Deaf Claque

Because they’re worth clapping for…probably…

Bush Vetos Spending Bill

By Nathan Schmitt

Yesterday, President Bush vetoed a $600 Billion spending bill after its passing through congress. Here is a summary:

The bill Bush vetoed Tuesday includes about $150 billion to run those departments and more than $450 billion in mandatory spending on Medicare and Medicaid, the federal health care programs for the elderly and poor, according to the House Appropriations Committee.” (1)

This is the text of “Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.”

The President was very critical of congress to the point of resulting to ad hominem name-calling:

The majority was elected on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, but so far, it’s acting like a teenager with a new credit card.” (1)

I think this next part speaks for itself:

At the same time, Bush signed a $459 billion annual Defense Department spending bill that increases the Pentagon’s budget 9.5 percent to fund operations other than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although that legislation also includes what he calls unnecessary spending, he said he considers it important to deliver money to the military in a time of war.” (2)

I don’t think something like this can go without mention. This is blatantly trying to create a causal connection between two things where it is really a correlational relationship.

If i were to donate money to a school’s athletic program, I wouldn’t claim to be helping the academics. Both serve their purposes but are not effectually equivalent.

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November 14, 2007 Posted by | Economics, George W. Bush, Nathan Schmitt, Presidential Vetos | , , | Leave a comment

The Racial Divide: Socio-Economic Inequality NOT a Thing of the Past

By Nathan Schmitt

A study released today by the Economic Mobility Project

In brief, trends show that median family incomes have risen for both black
and white families, but less so for black families. Moreover, the intergenerational
analysis reveals a significant difference in the extent to which parents are able
to pass their economic advantages onto their children. Whereas children of white
middle-income parents tend to exceed their parents in income, a majority of black
children of middle-income parents fall below their parents in income and economic
status.
” (1)

This is also rather disturbing, considering how much people think that the playing field has leveled out in the past few decades:

Startlingly, almost half (45 percent) of black children whose parents were
solidly middle class end up falling to the bottom of the income distribution,
compared to only 16 percent of white children. Achieving middle-income
status does not appear to protect black children from future economic
adversity the same way it protects white children.
” (1)

The L.A. Daily News has a good summary of the data (The graph above shows this data visually):

“Median incomes for white families, with wage earners in their 30s, increased from $50,262 in 1974 to $60,000 in 2004, when adjusted for inflation. That is an increase of 19percent.

Median incomes for black families of the same age group increased from $31,833 in 1974 to $35,010 in 2004, a gain of 10percent.

Median incomes for white men in their 30s were relatively stagnant, dropping slightly from $41,885 in 1974 to $40,081 in 2004.

Median incomes for white women of the same age group increased more than fivefold, from $4,021 in 1974 to $22,030 in 2004.

Median incomes for black men in their 30s dropped, from $29,095 in 1974 to $25,600 in 2004.

Median incomes for black women of the same age group nearly doubled, from $12,063 in 1974 to $21,000 in 2004.” (2)

Here are a couple of other studies that relate to this one in that they deal with the economic mobility of specific demographics. They’re really short and very interesting. It seems that America’s opportunity isn’t quite as equal as we would like to think.

In summary:

One reason for the growing disparity: Incomes among black men have actually declined in the past three decades, when adjusted for inflation. They were offset only by gains among black women.

Incomes among white men, meanwhile, were relatively stagnant, while those of white women increased more than fivefold.” (3)

 

November 13, 2007 Posted by | Economics, Income Gap, Nathan Schmitt | , | Leave a comment

FOMC Cuts Federal Funds Rate by .25%

By Nathan Schmitt


Yesterday the Federal Open Market Commission cut the Federal Funds rate by a quarter of a percent in an effort to avoid adverse effects of a possible economic slump as a result of a variety of factors including disruptions in various financial markets. In their press release the FOMC said,

Economic growth was solid in the third quarter, and strains in financial markets have eased somewhat on balance. However, the pace of economic expansion will likely slow in the near term, partly reflecting the intensification of the housing correction. Today’s action, combined with the policy action taken in September, should help forestall some of the adverse effects on the broader economy that might otherwise arise from the disruptions in financial markets and promote moderate growth over time.” (1)

Economist Mark Thoma provides some context. Check out the comment section, there is a lot of extremely informative information there as well.

November 2, 2007 Posted by | Economics, Nathan Schmitt | , , , | Leave a comment

President Bush Criticizes Congress: A Response (Video)

By Nathan Schmitt

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Yesterday, I wrote about the President’s very harsh criticisms of Congress in a speech he gave that morning. I was glad to see this clip from “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” a mainstream news media source, point out some of the rational flaws (to say the least) with that speech. However, I must say that I could do without Olbermann’s openly hostile tone and occasional jabs. There seem to be a lot of things wrong with the system and those in charge, but hostility doesn’t seem like the most effective means of change.

Near the end of the video, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi responds to Bush’s criticisms of Congress.

October 31, 2007 Posted by | Congress, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Economics, General Discourse, George W. Bush, House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, Nathan Schmitt, Video | , , , | Leave a comment

2007 U.S. Intelligence Budget: $43.5 Billion

By Nathan Schmitt


For the first time in almost a decade, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released the the Intelligence budget for 2007. There is very, very minimal information on the distribution itself, but the total amount is $43.5 Billion. Director Mike McConnell says,

Any and all information concerning the intelligence budget, whether the information concerns particular intelligence agencies or particular intelligence programmes, will not be disclosed.” (1)

Also, according to the WaPo,

The director of national intelligence will disclose today that national intelligence activities amounting to roughly 80 percent of all U.S. intelligence spending for the year cost more than $40 billion, according to sources on Capitol Hill and inside the administration.

The disclosure means that when military spending is added, aggregate U.S. intelligence spending for fiscal 2007 exceeded $50 billion, according to these sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the total remains classified.” (2)

That is about a quarter of the amount that Bush requested for next year to fund the war in Iraq. The two aren’t directly related, the comparison is just for scale.

October 30, 2007 Posted by | Economics, Nathan Schmitt, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Pirates: “We’re coming back!”

By Nathan Schmitt


Non-news.

Speaking of non-news, pirate attacks are on the rise worldwide. Perhaps I should make some cliched remark correlating this rise of attacks with Pirates of the Carribean and, although I am decidedly against such references, I just did.

The IMB said Southeast Asia’s Malacca Strait, one of the world’s busiest waterways, has been relatively quiet with 198 attacks on ships reported between January and September, up from 174 in the same period in 2006.

It said 15 vessels were hijacked, 63 crew members kidnapped and three killed.” (1)

Also, I think I should qualify that it is a problem as valuable goods, as well as lives, are being taken so it’s not something to be lightly laughed at. It does sound rather absurd rolling off the tongue though…

October 30, 2007 Posted by | Economics, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

President Bush Urges Congress to Pass Appropriations Bills

By Nathan Schmitt


This morning, the President gave a speech highly critical of congress saying that,

They have not been able to send a single annual appropriations bill to my desk, and that’s the worst record for a Congress in 20 years.” (1)

The bill that the President is referring to throughout this speech is presumably his war funding request for $194.6 Billion:

I hope the leadership feels that way, and they ought to give me a bill that funds, among other things, bullets, and body armor, and protection against IEDs, and mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles.” (1)

There was, however, an inherent contradiction in the President’s speech. On one hand he said that Congress is spending–or hoping to spend–far too much money yet urges them to send him a war funding bill.

Spending is skyrocketing under their leadership — at least proposed spending is skyrocketing under their leadership…

I again urge them to pass a clean Defense appropriations bill, and a war supplemental bill to fund our troops in combat.“(1)

It appears to be rather obvious that the President doesn’t have a problem with how much money is being spent, but instead, where he thinks the money should be going. This is no revelation by any means, but his juxtaposition of blatantly contradictory arguments serves to highlight the trend of quality of discourse taking place in contemporary politics. This disingenuous discourse cannot be specific to any person, party, or group but seems to be a general trend of thought that may (though not necessarily) emerge when reaching for ends of power and influence.

Perhaps Socrates–through Plato, of course–meant something relevant to this when he said, “I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live.

October 30, 2007 Posted by | Congress, Economics, General Discourse, George W. Bush, Nathan Schmitt | , , , | 1 Comment

The People Pay for the War: What Did You Expect?

By Nathan Schmitt

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.) hates this ‘misbegotten, stupid, ill-advised’ Iraq war. He won’t even consider President Bush’s latest war funding request until next year. And he wants to tax Americans to pay for it.

“I (David Obey) went to Nancy a week before we did it, and I told her: ‘Nancy, I’m gonna do two things. One of them you’re gonna like, and one of them you’re not,” Obey said. He told her he wouldn’t take up Bush’s funding request for Iraq until next year. “And she said: ‘I like that. What won’t I like?’ ”

She doesn’t like that war tax. ‘We don’t go forward lightly when we’re talking about a tax on all the American people,’ Pelosi said. No problem — Obey will introduce the tax proposal anyway on Tuesday. (1)

Says an article a week ago from the Washington Post.

A war tax huh? Well, it’s certainly not a surprise. I can’t say I’m excited about the possibility of this tax, and I can’t even begin to form an opinion about it because there are so many factors pulling me in every direction.

On one hand, it seems like it’s completely permissible, if not necessary by this argument: The American people are responsible for the war in Iraq. As much as people hate to hear it, and as much as it sounds like I’m ragging on all of us (which I’m not), it’s hard to argue against. If you think we live in a democracy, then it’s pretty straight forward: the decisions of the representative government reflect the values of the people. If you look at the United States (from what is in my opinion a more realistic point of view) as a democratic constitutional republic the same representative argument still holds. In addition to that, it is written into the Declaration of Independence that,

“When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards of their future security.” (2)

Don’t think I’m implying support for a government overthrow or anything, this is just to show that the responsibility of the people is no new idea. In addition to that, the government itself is made up the people. There is nothing different about politicians and lawmakers except that they are people put in positions of power their peers.

At the same time, it is true that political figures can misuse power in such a way as to misrepresent the population they supposedly represent. In any case, it completely misses the point to blame at this point. There are countless factors that play into the responsibility for this war and it unrealistic and unfair, not to mention counterproductive, to try to narrow it down to one or two parties.

I guess the point is this: can the society responsible for such an absurdly costly war rightfully deny their economic responsibility to it? Regardless of whose fault it is, the responsibility of the action rests on those who permitted it, as well as those who carried out the actions. I’m not making an assertion either way, just think about it.

October 27, 2007 Posted by | Economics, General Discourse, House of Representatives, Iraq War, Nathan Schmitt, Tax | , , , | Leave a comment

Iraq War Costs

By Nathan Schmitt


Lets take a look at the monetary costs of the war, and lets let economist Mark Thoma give us a hand. This piece of his includes text from the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) cost of war testimony:

Including both funding provided through 2007 and projected funding under the two illustrative scenarios, total spending for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and other activities related to the war on terrorism would amount to between $1.2 trillion and $1.7 trillion for fiscal years 2001 through 2017.” (1)

That is a pretty amazing amount of money. And out of who’s pocket?

Also from Mark Thoma:

According to this, there is an additional $700 billion in interest expenses bringing the total (under the $1.7 trillion dollar scenario) to $2.4 trillion.” (2)

October 26, 2007 Posted by | Economics, Iraq War | , , , | Leave a comment

Private Security Contractors: Now $4 Billion from the State Department


The New York Times published a story today that explores the drastic increase in State Department spending (federal money) for private security contracts over the past four years, which now stands at a little under $4 Billion. Here is this year’s State Department budget in brief, and here is next years budget as it stands now (recall that Bush requested an additional $45.9 Billion earlier this week).

The largest problem seems to be the lack of ability of the State Department to manage all of these contractors. I discussed this yesterday with respect to a possible private contractor oversight program.

“State Department contracting officials complain that they do not have nearly enough people to properly oversee the more than 2,500 contractors now under their informal command around the world. And a proposal to charge contractors a fee to pay for additional government compliance officers has stalled in the State Department bureaucracy.” (1)

In the past, for the most part officials have done little to try to submit contractors clearly in the wrong to any sort of reasonable justice process. This example stuck out to me:

Congressional investigators say the security bureau has sought to minimize episodes like the shootings of civilians.

‘We are all better off getting this case — and any similar cases — behind us quickly,’ one State Department security official in Iraq wrote to another, after Blackwater guards killed a father of six in Hilla in 2005, according to an internal State Department memo turned over to Congress. He recommended paying the man’s family $5,000.” (1: Page 2)

Monetary compensation of $5,000 for irresponsible behavior that resulted in death hardly seems equitable. In any case, this and similar examples aren’t near this level of contemplation because there first has to be some recognition of accountability before specific terms can be discussed.

October 24, 2007 Posted by | Blackwater, Department of State, Economics, Iraq War, Private Security Contractors | , , , | Leave a comment