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Turns out Zuckuss was just really polite

He just didn't want to disturb the other bounty hunters while they were working.

By fnord12 | May 24, 2018, 1:23 PM | Star Wars & Ummm... Other? | Link

What I'm Hearing is I Should Be Taking More Naps


When we rest, a brain region called the hippocampus becomes active, replaying recent events to transfer them from short- to long-term memory. During rest after the social task, the mPFC connected with the hippocampus, providing support for the idea these social regions have an important memory function. "One of the main reasons--or adaptive potentials--to take breaks, even short breaks throughout our day-to-day life, is to help us retain information longer and transfer it into long-term memory," Andrews-Hanna notes. "The Meyer study is the first to extend these findings to social information and our memory of other people."

Meyer says one real-world application of the study could be that people need to get more rest throughout the day. "I think this data highlights that it might not always be a bad thing to be distracted with this system [the default mode network]. It might be doing something important for us that's helping us learn about social information," she says. For example, "taking a break after a big meeting might help you learn whatever you just witnessed socially."

By min | May 24, 2018, 12:07 PM | Science | Link

Business Insider embarasses itself for Jeff Bezos

Watch this switcharoo:

Senator Bernie Sanders called out Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Twitter on Tuesday, comparing the executive's wealth to the typical Amazon worker who makes a little over $28,000. While Bernie Sanders may have been making a point about workers' wages, Bezos' annual salary is likely much smaller than what most might expect.

Even the headline, Jeff Bezos' annual salary is a lot less than Bernie Sanders probably thinks, is garbage. Did Bernie say anything about salary? No, but he "probably thinks" something about Bezos' salary, so let's build a whole article around that to obfuscate around what Bernie says about Bezos' wealth compared to that of his workers.

You also have to love this line (currently being employed by Elon Musk stans as well) that a business owner doesn't draw a large salary from his company. No, he just hoards all the wealth the company is generating. Imagine thinking that saying that you can live your (lavish) life without drawing a salary is a defense against not treating workers fairly.

By fnord12 | May 24, 2018, 9:55 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Steve Sweeney is a Republican

Using New Jersey as an example, Jeff Stein says that "higher taxes on the rich may be easier to campaign on than to enact" and the Twitter conversation is just about how this is just a normal feature of our (weird) democracy even when one party controls all branches. But the real issue is that Steve Sweeney is a corrupt conservative who runs as a Democrat because he knows that's what he needs to do to win in New Jersey (same as New York's IDC). Which i guess also may be a feature of our (weird) democracy, but i feel like that context is missing from the discussion.

Stein did good with counteracting Sweeney's obvious nonsense, for what it's worth:

A spokesman for Sweeney, the state Senate president, said families earning over $1.1 million in New Jersey already face an average $738 tax hike under the GOP law, citing data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), a left-leaning think tank...

"It is not logical to consider provisions that raise taxes on the rich, while ignoring provisions that cut their taxes," said Steve Wamhoff, ITEP's director of federal tax policy, in an email.

By fnord12 | May 22, 2018, 1:49 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

"If people are truly surprised by this information and not just outraged..."

"...that means journalists, including Playbook's reporters, are failing at their job of informing Americans exactly how corrupt their political system is."

Libby Watson on why Politico Playbook (among others) can fuck right off.

By fnord12 | May 12, 2018, 10:57 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Burn it all down

In the midst of an article about the first victim of Jeff Sessions' attack on "black identity extremists" (aka the New COINTELPRO) comes this gem:

The FBI, [special agent Aaron] Keighley said, learned of the protest from a video on Infowars, a far-right site run by the commentator Alex Jones, known for spreading false news and conspiracy theories.

We need to build a whole new justice system from scratch. Departments and agents who get their intel from Infowars can't be redeemed.

By fnord12 | May 11, 2018, 12:35 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Happy Slip

Milwaukee lawyer Michael Brennan confirmed for U.S. Court of Appeals, ending long vacancy amid bitter partisan dispute:

Milwaukee lawyer Michael Brennan was confirmed for a key federal judgeship Thursday, filling the oldest appellate vacancy in the country but deepening a partisan schism in the U.S. Senate over judges...

...He was confirmed 49-46 with only Republican votes, over the objections of Democrat Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin's junior senator.

That has typically been enough to sink a nomination in recent years, because senators from both parties have enjoyed an effective veto over the selection of federal judges from their home states, a tradition known as the "blue slip."

Baldwin's GOP colleague from Wisconsin, Ron Johnson, used his blue slip power to block one of Democratic President Barack Obama's nominees for the same 7th Circuit seat that his party filled Thursday.

But with Republican Donald Trump now in the White House, GOP senators are effectively ending the veto power of home-state senators for nominations to the influential appellate courts, the second-highest rung of the federal judiciary.

Urging her colleagues this week to reject Brennan's nomination, Baldwin warned on the Senate floor that his confirmation will "send the message neither this nor future presidents needs to respect the role of home-state senators in the selection of judicial nominees."

Blue slips are garbage and any idiot could have seen that the Republicans would ditch them at the first convenient moment. The fact that Democrats honored them during Obama's administration (allowing this exact seat to go unfilled during all that time) is the real political malpractice.

By fnord12 | May 10, 2018, 3:46 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The sooner the US is made irrelevant, the better

Ryan Cooper on Trump's withdrawal from the Iran deal.

This sends a powerful signal to the rest of the world, most especially close U.S. allies: America is a deranged, crumbling basket case of a nation that can't be trusted to understand elementary logic or hold to its word, much less treat other nations with a modicum of decency or honor. The United States has become a rogue state.

...France, Germany, Russia, the U.K., and China are all still parties to the deal, and all of them still believe the agreement is holding. There is virtually no chance that diplomatic system will be able to be reimposed. Indeed, many Iranian elites have argued Iran should continue to stick to the deal despite the U.S. betrayal, if European powers will continue to uphold it.

...Trump is scheduled to try to negotiate a deal with North Korea soon which of necessity would look very much like the Iran deal. In fact, in addition to his Iran deal announcement, the president said Tuesday that he had dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang for a series of meetings with North Korean officials. But the only reason such a thing could possibly succeed now is if the Koreas and China have sufficient confidence in their own arrangements so as to make U.S. participation basically unimportant.

By fnord12 | May 8, 2018, 10:49 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

"Democrats had assumed a defensive posture" being an evergreen statement

As someone who used to donate regularly to ACORN, a group that did great work, their demise and especially the Democrats' complicity in it has always pissed me off. Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney have put up an overview of that, arguing that it was an important turning point in our history.

(One new thing i learned is the role that Jon Stewart played, and i found more on that here.)

By fnord12 | May 5, 2018, 10:17 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Roundup is in everything

Monsanto has poisoned us all.

By fnord12 | May 5, 2018, 10:04 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The Future is Female

And also four-legged.

By min | May 4, 2018, 8:57 PM | Ummm... Other? | Link

What the hell kind of logic is this?

Elaine Kamarck previously argued for more superdelegates. Now she's defending the DCCC's interference in primaries on the grounds that uh, there weren't many black people in the districts.

Left-wing Democrats frequently argue about the need to mobilize the base as a reason to run progressive candidates. But the strongest part of the Democratic base consists of African-Americans, and among the districts the D.C.C.C. has intervened in, only two have African-American populations that are in the double digits, and the average African-American population in these swing districts is only about 7 percent... In those districts, the name of the game will be to turn out Democrats but also to move some white voters into the Democratic column.

Kamarck's general argument is equally incoherent but it seems to stem from the idea that political parties are private clubs and the leaders of those clubs ought to be able to do whatever they want with them because they are, er, "more concerned with electability than with ideological purity". Leaving aside the fact that the DCCC's track record on determining who is "electable" has been terrible, the real issue is that voters should get to vote for their candidates in fair elections. Voters can use whatever criteria they like - electability, purity, whatever - in deciding who to vote for. But the elections should be fair. The quaint notion that political parties are private clubs is technically true thanks to a lack of foresight from the framers of the constitution, but we've been correcting that mistake over the years by making primaries more and more open, and Kamarck is weirdly invested in trying to undo that. What's ironic is that the same people who make the argument about the parties being private clubs will howl and scream when people vote for third parties, and will fight to exclude those parties from ballot access, debates, etc.. The two main parties are the only game in town, and they shouldn't be rigged by "party leaders".

By fnord12 | May 3, 2018, 9:20 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Poisoning our skies to beat the Russians

This kind of reporting is getting more common. Upwards of sixteen Russian social media accounts said encouraging things about an anti-pipeline protest! Don't those dedicated activists know that they're Useful Idiot dupes?

See also what happened to Anoa Changa.

By fnord12 | May 3, 2018, 9:54 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Bundles of joy

In the run-up to Trump's reversal of the FCC's net neutrality rules, Comcast took out a lot of ads swearing that they were nonetheless committed to net neutrality. But these don't look like the actions of a company in favor of net neutrality.

By fnord12 | May 1, 2018, 5:52 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Amazon Enjoys Subsidies While Its Employees Must Rely On SNAP to Eat

Later this year, Amazon will begin accepting grocery orders from customers using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the federal anti-poverty program formerly known as food stamps. As the nation's largest e-commerce grocer, Amazon stands to profit more than any other retailer when the $70 billion program goes online after an initial eight-state pilot.

But this new revenue will effectively function as a double subsidy for the company: In Arizona, new data suggests that one in three of the company's own employees depend on SNAP to put food on the table. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, the figure appears to be around one in 10. Overall, of five states that responded to a public records request for a list of their top employers of SNAP recipients, Amazon cracked the top 20 in four.


The American people are financing Amazon's pursuit of an e-commerce monopoly every step of the way: first, with tax breaks, subsidies, and infrastructure improvements meant to lure fulfillment centers into town, and later with federal transfers to pay for warehouse workers' food. And soon, when the company begins accepting SNAP dollars to purchase its goods, a third transfer of public wealth to private hands will become a part of the company's business model.


Amazon has wormed its way into our lives to the point where i don't think we'd know where else we could go for some of the things we buy. We're a slave to the convenience even though it means we're subsidizing Amazon's greed and implicitly supporting its poor treatment of its workers. It's a terrible excuse. We're terrible people.

By min | April 26, 2018, 12:51 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Collective Bargaining is Ruining Men's Future Prospects

Or not. Link

A recent academic paper by economists Michael Lovenheim and Alexander Willén argues that men who lived as school-age children in states where teachers were allowed to bargain collectively are less likely to work as adults and, when they do work, they earn significantly less than men who grew up in states where teachers were not allowed to bargain collectively.

There are at least three reasons to be deeply skeptical of their findings.

First, the chain of causal links is extremely circuitous. The reasoning runs from a student's initial potential "exposure" to teachers' right to collective bargaining all the way through to the conclusion that this "exposure" significantly worsened labor market outcomes decades later as an adult. In most of their analysis, the authors rely on data that let them know the state where a person was born and the employment situation of that same person in a single year between the ages of 35 and 49. The researchers use this information to construct a simulated educational history for each adult, where they assume that the person attended K-12 school in the state where they were born. The researchers, however, don't actually know that an individual lived in the state of birth while at school age, or whether the school the individual attended was unionized, or even whether the individual attended a public or private school.

I think it's a stretch to call these guys "researchers". They couldn't be bothered to actually research the thing their entire argument hinges on - what state these men lived in while they were school-aged. Who let them publish this in the first place? Next, they'll be submitting academic papers with "research" that involves reading an encyclopedia entry.

By min | April 26, 2018, 12:39 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Neoliberal Arguments Concede the Main Point

Here's a write-up in Current Affairs that talks about how neoliberal arguments are based on conservative premises.

For example: Republicans argue that their tax cut will increase GDP, reduce the deficit, and reduce taxes for the middle class. Democrats reply that the tax cut will not increase GDP, will not reduce the deficit, and will not reduce the middle-class' tax burden. Both parties are arguing around a shared premise: The goal is to cut taxes for the middle class, reduce the deficit, and grow GDP. But traditional liberalism, before the "neo" variety emerged, would have made its case on the basis of some quite different premises. Instead of arguing that Democrats are actually the party that will reduce the middle class' taxes, it would make the case that taxes are important, because it's only through taxes that we can improve schools, infrastructure, healthcare, and poverty relief. Instead of participating in the race to cut taxes and the deficit, Old Liberalism is based on a set of moral ideas about what we owe to one another.
I gave a similar example recently of the difference between the way a neoliberal framework looks at things versus the way a leftist does. Goldman Sachs produced a report suggesting to biotech companies that curing diseases might not actually be profitable, because people stop being customers once they are cured and no more money can be extracted from them. The liberal response to this would be an empirical argument: "Here's why it is actually profitable to cure diseases." The leftist response would be: "We need to have a value system that goes beyond profit maximization."

Neoliberalism, then, is the best existing term we have to capture the almost universal convergence around a particular set of values. We don't have debates over whether the point of teaching is to enrich the student's mind or prepare the student for employment, we have debates over how to prepare students for employment. Economic values become the water we swim in, and we don't even notice them worming their way into our brains. The word is valuable insofar as it draws our attention to the ideological frameworks within which debates occur, and where the outer boundaries of those debates lie. The fact that everyone seems to agree that the purpose of education is "job skills," rather than say, "the flourishing of the human mind," shows the triumph of a certain new kind of liberalism, for which I can only think of one word.

If we accept the conservative framework when responding to conservative points, we've already lost the debate.

By min | April 24, 2018, 3:22 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The 'Kill Bernies In The Cradle' Proposal

Ruby Cramer at Buzzfeed:

In a forthcoming study for New York University's law journal, [DNC member Elaine Kamarck] said, she will propose a number of changes to the nominating system, from an increase in superdelegates to a new pre-primary endorsement process where the party's top elected officials would meet with the candidates, question their positions, and issue votes of confidence or no-confidence. Candidates who fail to meet a certain threshold would be barred from debates or from a spot on the ballot, depending on how the party decided to structure the system, she said.

"This whole idea runs completely counter to where the public is," Kamarck admitted, referring to the broad support particularly among Sanders supporters for a reduction in superdelegates. "However, if the Trump presidency crashes and burns and takes the GOP with it, which is not unrealistic, this dialogue will start."

Unclear what "Trump presidency crashes and burns and takes the GOP with it" actually means and why it would have any relevance on the DNC's rules. But this is definitely a good way to ensure that a huge percentage of potential Democratic voters never trust the party again.

By fnord12 | April 22, 2018, 11:24 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The mask slips

I think Wolf Blitzer had a black-out and said the wrong part out loud.

After Rand Paul talked about the moral and constitutional problems with the US's role in Saudi Arabia's bombing of Yemen, Blitzer responded:

So for you this is a moral issue... Because you know, there's a lot of jobs at stake. Certainly if a lot of these defense contractors stop selling war planes, other sophisticated equipment to Saudi Arabia, there's going to be a significant loss of jobs, of revenue here in the United States. That's secondary from your standpoint?


By fnord12 | April 22, 2018, 2:32 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Richard Cohen proves male privilege just by continuing to have a job

I had no idea that Even The Liberal* Richard Cohen was still being published, but his latest column came to my attention and he sure hasn't gotten any better.

The mere existence of this column, and the fact that he's allowed to publish such poorly argued and poorly written trash, defeats his thesis. Imagine writing lines like "The many dead of our national cemeteries suggest otherwise" and not having an editor reject your entire piece. Let along front loading your piece with six fucking paragraphs disproving your main point thinking that you can then follow it up with a BUT! followed by a personal anecdote and think that you've made a coherent argument.

*Richard Cohen's function has always been to exist so that conservatives can say "even the liberal Richard Cohen hates affirmative action", "even the liberal Richard Cohen supports the Iraq War", etc..

By fnord12 | April 17, 2018, 2:18 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

D&D rules

By fnord12 | April 13, 2018, 3:12 PM | D&D | Link

Why US?

Even if it turns out that the Iraqis did take the babies out of the incubators - oh sorry, i mean the Syrian government did use chemical weapons (this time), why does it mean that the US - or the US and a small coalition of western European countries - gets to bomb Syria? We have a United Nations. If we really have a case, take it to the UN, and if it's determined that an intervention is necessary, then we could join it under their banner.

I'm not talking about the procedural reason; i'm talking about the moral justification. (Also, i know the answer.)

By fnord12 | April 12, 2018, 1:59 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Recap 83

Retrieving Crulicar's Lore

By min | April 11, 2018, 9:12 PM | D&D | Link

Get your act in order

DDay at the Intercept:

The trend of senators disclaiming their power began in the opening statements. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told Zuckerberg, "If you and other social media companies do not get your act in order, none of us are going to have any privacy anymore." This is a ridiculous sentence for a government official to utter. It's not up to a social media company to govern privacy. It's up to Congress.

Reminds me of Clinton claiming she told Wall Street to "cut it out!".

By fnord12 | April 11, 2018, 12:02 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Hahahahahahaha -- what?!

The good news is that if there's any more erosion, we'll form a new Grand Canyon.

(The article itself is fine, but that subtitle blurb!)

By fnord12 | April 11, 2018, 11:07 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Thinking about this in the context of a Job Guarantee

Ryan Cooper on the continuing mess that is the ACA:

This kind of thing is what I mean when I wrote that the United States government is not good at complicated policies. Not only do we have to assume that such a thing will be overseen by unhinged lunatics roughly half the time, the liberal policy wonks who push this style of policy turn out to be lousy at building a Rube Goldberg machine that will actually do what it's supposed to. And one group of people paying a steep price for this failure are poor people in blue states.

By fnord12 | April 9, 2018, 4:50 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Dirt Can Make You Happy

No wonder my mother's in her garden 8hrs/day.

Did you know that there's a natural antidepressant in soil? It's true. Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has indeed been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier. Studies were conducted on cancer patients and they reported a better quality of life and less stress. Lack of serotonin has been linked to depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar problems. The bacterium appears to be a natural antidepressant in soil and has no adverse health effects. These antidepressant microbes in soil may be as easy to use as just playing in the dirt.


But will it still work after we've poisoned the ground with pesticides and herbicides? Is it actually unhealthier to expose ourselves more to these toxins despite the anti-depression bacteria?

By min | April 9, 2018, 2:13 PM | Science | Link

Put Down the Bottled Water, People

Every few years, the media discovers this like it's new. So every time they do that, i need to dust off my Tank Girl rant.

Flint, MI can't get clean water, but Nestle can get as much as they want for a song.


Last year, U.S. bottled water sales reached $16 billion, up nearly 10 percent from 2015, according to Beverage Marketing Corp. They outpaced soda sales for the first time as drinkers continue to seek convenience and healthier options and worry about the safety of tap water after the high-profile contamination in Flint, Mich., about a two-hour drive from Mecosta. Nestlé alone sold $7.7 billion worth worldwide, with more than $343 million of it coming from Michigan, where the company bottles Ice Mountain Natural Spring Water and Pure Life, its purified water line.

The Michigan operation is only one small part of Nestlé, the world's largest food and beverage company. But it illuminates how Nestlé has come to dominate a controversial industry, spring by spring, often going into economically depressed municipalities with the promise of jobs and new infrastructure in exchange for tax breaks and access to a resource that's scarce for millions. Where Nestlé encounters grass-roots resistance against its industrial-strength guzzling, it deploys lawyers; where it's welcome, it can push the limits of that hospitality, sometimes with the acquiescence of state and local governments that are too cash-strapped or inept to say no. There are the usual costs of doing business, including transportation, infrastructure, and salaries. But Nestlé pays little for the product it bottles--sometimes a municipal rate and other times just a nominal extraction fee. In Michigan, it's $200.

You've seen/read Tank Girl, right? We all know how this ends.

The United Nations expects that 1.8 billion people will live in places with dire water shortages by 2025, and two-thirds of the world's population could be living under stressed water conditions. Supply may be compromised in the U.S., too. A recent Michigan State University study predicts that more than a third of Americans might not be able to afford their water bills in five years, with costs expected to triple as World War II-era construction breaks down.
Nestlé has been preparing for shortages for decades. The company's former chief executive officer, Helmut Maucher, said in a 1994 interview with the New York Times: "Springs are like petroleum. You can always build a chocolate factory. But springs you have or you don't have." His successor, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who retired recently after 21 years in charge, drew criticism for encouraging the commodification of water in a 2005 documentary, saying: "One perspective held by various NGOs--which I would call extreme--is that water should be declared a human right. ... The other view is that water is a grocery product. And just as every other product, it should have a market value." Public outrage ensued. Brabeck-Letmathe says his comments were taken out of context and that water is a human right. He later proposed that people should have free access to 30 liters per day, paying only for additional use.

Stop buying bottled water. Stop supporting these psychopaths who think water shouldn't be a human right. Get a water filter if you have to, but ultimately, we must fight to get our infrastructure repaired and maintained. We must fight to improve water quality standards, not rely on out-of-date standards and water treatment techniques that don't factor in new contaminants (e.g. anti-psychotic medication and birth control).

By min | April 5, 2018, 10:23 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Pretty sure we are all butt heads

By fnord12 | April 4, 2018, 8:01 PM | Ummm... Other? | Link

"Restrictive supply-side climate policies"

The nerds have signed on to the concept of shutting down pipelines as a means of fighting climate change. If only the Water Protectors of Standing Rock had had created a bunch of fancy acronyms and charts back during the Obama administration.

By fnord12 | April 3, 2018, 8:33 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The NeoLibrul Media

As soon as i saw Corey Robin's headline, i said "Because they're happening in red states while Trump is president", and that's basically what Robin concludes.

I'm still glad that the strikes are happening and getting support!

By fnord12 | April 3, 2018, 2:31 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Job Guarantee FAQ

JG proponent Pavlina Tcherneva has a comprehensive FAQ addressing (not necessarily conclusively) some of the issues brought up in my previous posts on the subject. As i've said before, i think it's great that this (vs. UBI or otherwise) is being seriously discussed (and endorsed by several probable Democratic presidential candidates, etc.). Probably seems like fantasyland to most people.

By fnord12 | April 3, 2018, 1:46 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

NJ considering reducing hedge fund investments

So far, Murphy has been surprisingly good, but this will be the decision that confirms or allays my suspicious of a Goldman Sachs guy having bought our governorship.

For background, see David Sirota's original reporting on this.

By fnord12 | March 30, 2018, 12:14 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Ask not for whom the bell curves; it curves for thee

Ezra Klein's primary motivation in life seems to be to find a conservative that he can have a reasonable debate with. And so he's way too polite to these modern day phrenologists. But it's admirable that he took the time to address the arguments in a serious and data-driven way.

By fnord12 | March 30, 2018, 11:58 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Eight fake conspiracy theories ago

Congress is still defunding ACORN.

By fnord12 | March 22, 2018, 4:49 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

More JG

In my last post, i looked at the Federal Jobs Guarantee as competition for UBI, and found it wanting. Matt Bruenig is pretty down on JG just on its own terms. It's for a lot of the same reasons that i think UBI needs to come first. What i was most focused on is the odd way that JG proponents suddenly have all these right wing criticisms of UBI, which is weird on its own (since JG is clearly a left policy too) and especially weird since the same criticisms of UBI can apply to JG. I do think that in some ideal world after we have Medicare For All and UBI and (as Bruenig notes) Universal Child Care, we could move on to trying to implement JG, whereas Bruenig almost makes it seem hopeless (even ignoring the rhetorical nine children thing). I guess the key is to accept that JG jobs would have to be make-work, which is something that JG proponents won't come to grips with.

By fnord12 | March 22, 2018, 12:40 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Job Guarantee vs. UBI

This Sanders Institute video about a National Jobs Guarantee is worth watching, but i have some serious grumbles. I support a Job Guarantee but i hate the way it's being pitched as an alternative to Universal Basic Income. JG ensures that everyone who wants to get ahead by working can do so. UBI helps correct the major problem we have with financial (income and wealth) inequality. The two programs could be complementary. UBI creates a new floor; JG ensures that people who are willing and able to work can rise beyond that floor. But if the two must compete, UBI is a far superior solution.

What's extra frustrating is that the people who argue for JG - like Stephanie Kelton, who i otherwise admire - suddenly start using all the arguments against UBI that you'd expect to hear from a center-left liberal (or worse).

The first thing to understand about JG is that it is an almost ACA-level Rube Goldberg contraption of moving parts. It requires jobs to be invented. Jobs that match all possible skill sets. Jobs for physical laborers, jobs for displaced IT professionals, jobs for people with disabilities, etc., etc.. Additionally, the jobs have to be the sort that aren't important enough to be permanent, because the whole idea is that most people go into these jobs during recessions and come out of them when the economy gets good again. That suggests WPA style jobs like park beautification, the creation of art, the recording of oral histories (which was a WPA job; the modern equivalent might be updating Wikipedia pages or something), etc.. Things that i'm not at all against, but which you might describe as make-work. However, Kelton's proposal includes things like child & elderly care and moving to a green economy. Those are not temporary jobs! You don't want to funnel a bunch of semi-qualified people into those positions and then have them leave when the economy gets good again. So there's a massive amount of administration that needs to happen to coordinate and balance all of that. It also requires a massive bureaucracy to evaluate people and place them into the appropriate jobs. Per Kelton's proposal, this bureaucracy will be administered at the local level, which comes with all sorts of problems that i'll discuss below.

Additionally, the JG in Kelton's proposal acts as a stealth raise to the minimum wage and a stealth universal healthcare, because the idea is that these jobs will pay a minimum of $15 an hour (which Kelton calls a "living wage" but it is not) and will provide people with health insurance. So if you have some other job not providing those things, you can quit and get a job from the JG, and that puts pressure on employers. Which is a good thing in the abstract, but it also suggests that the JG is being put forth as competition not just to UBI but to Medicare For All and the Fight For Fifteen (and/or a true living wage).

So with all of that in mind, let's talk about the objections to UBI. The first thing you'll hear is the very conservative idea about the "dignity of work" and how people will just sit at home and grow mold if they're just handed (a very modest amount of) money. This nonsense was already intrinsically rebutted during the debate about the ACA. How many times did we hear about how once people weren't tied to a shitty job because of their insurance needs that they would become entrepreneurs, start their own business, take on some risky career that they've always wanted to, stay home to give some much needed care to their kids/parents, spend more time doing charity work, etc.? The same argument can be made here. Freed from the burden of having to scrounge for a basic living, people will do what they want to do and will be inherently more productive and give much more back to society. Anyone who's been on the internet knows that people do this naturally: they code free software, they do research and update Wikipedia, they make free music, they make free web comics, they make free Youtube videos, they spend massive amounts of time working on comic book fan sites. The idea that we're all going to sit home and drool is counter to everything we know about people.

All of the other arguments about UBI can also be made about JG. Kelton says that the UBI amount would be subject to Congress where budget "hawks" would always be trying to lower it. But the same is true of the minimum wage for JG, and the generosity of the health insurance, AND the amount of funding for the bureaucracy and available jobs.

Another argument is that some people arguing for UBI (mostly the Zuckerberg types) are proposing it as a replacement for existing social programs, which would of course be awful. But no progressive is arguing for this kind of UBI (and i feel like Kelton was downright disingenuous in the video for not acknowledging that). And people make the same argument about JG - it could easily replace TANF, for example. And even the stealth ways that it addresses minimum wage and universal health care raise problems along these lines.

Kelton also says that a problem with UBI is that rich people will get the check as well as poor people. This is literally Hillary Clinton's "Why should we pay for Donald Trump's kids to go to public college?" argument. The answer, obvious to anyone, is that you get the money back by raising the top marginal tax rate. Kelton knows this and it's very disappointing to see her using that line.

The concerns about inflation are the same for both as well, and so is the response (there's so much slack in the economy that we're not even meeting the Fed's current inflation target let alone in danger of real inflation, and in any event the Fed can control inflation with interest rates).

Kelton says that the money people would be getting from JG would result in a massive economic stimulus, which i agree with but the same would be true of UBI. And the question of how to "pay" for it - which would be weird coming from the country's premiere MMT economist - applies equally to JG and UBI.

Then we get to the bureaucracy. Progressives/leftists love universal programs (1,2) because they require very little administration and are inherently fair. But JG puts a lot of arbitrary power into the hands of local administrators. And the first thing that makes me think of is how the New Deal failed black people by allowing the programs to be administered at the local level, thus allowing racist bureaucrats to exclude them (c.f. When Affirmative Action Was White). In a time when every Republican-controlled state with a large black population opted out of the ACA, this remains a legitimate concern. Beyond that, you know that conservatives (including rightwing Dems) are going to demand that the job seekers pass drug tests and that there's a very easy way to fire people, making the "guarantee" not so much of a guarantee. And the grifting opportunity is huge - how do you prevent the local bureaucrats from creating jobs that benefit campaign donors? With a higher level of bureaucracy, maybe? Turtles all the way up? With UBI, everybody just gets a check.

Another kind of grift comes from the fact that in order to determine what types of jobs should be in the JG, the bureaucracies are going to need to hire "experts" from think tanks. In fact, i'd argue that center-left think tanks like CAP are pushing for JG precisely because of these grifting opportunities. Again, with UBI, everybody just gets a check.

It's good that we're talking about stuff like this. It's good whenever the left is pushing new ideas and isn't just trying to figure out how to undo the damage Trump is doing. But if these programs are in competition with each other, the Jobs Guarantee should get a much lower priority.

By fnord12 | March 21, 2018, 5:34 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link


Jeet Heer on why it's a lame line of attack.

By fnord12 | March 21, 2018, 1:44 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The disavowal game

Everything Keith Ellison says here is stuff he's said before (in fact, he links to himself saying it before). The people attacking him with this stuff will never be satisfied with the disavowals.

By fnord12 | March 19, 2018, 5:06 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Today in why the Jersey Dem Machine sucks

Part one.

Part two.

It's not too late to support Peter Jacob, though.

By fnord12 | March 19, 2018, 5:01 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

No need to stop here. There's plenty more SuperMegaMonkey where that came from.