Posted tagged ‘Republican follies’

While Weasels Gnaw Our Flesh

June 18, 2017

Just a quick hit to remind everyone that while the criminal investigation of Trump and co. widens, they’re still pissing on us at every opportunity, and calling it rain.

So how’s this: it’s going to be legal again/stay OK for profit-making higher ed to rip off their students/protect the banksters:

The U.S. Department of Education is hitting pause on two of the Obama administration’s primary rules aimed at reining in for-profit colleges.

Department officials said they will block a rule, set to take effect next month, that clarifies how student borrowers can have their loans forgiven if they were defrauded or misled by their college. The plan was first reported by Inside Higher Ed Wednesday.

The Trump administration will pursue a do-over of the rule-making process that produced that regulation, known as borrower defense to repayment, as well as the gainful-employment rule. The latter holds vocational programs at all institutions and all programs at for-profits accountable when they produce graduates with burdensome student loan debt.

Given that college debt is one of the most iron-clad ways to crush upward mobility, this is another move by Trump and the grotesque DeVos to ensure that the current class structure in the United States remains intact.

Putting this in the long view:  the GI Bill, followed by the prioritization of public higher education in the 60s by leaders like Governor Pat Brown of California and Governor George Romney of Michigan, put first class advanced education and training within reach of an unprecedented amount of Americans.  The retreat from that ideal led by (mostly but not exclusively) Republican state governments, beginning with Reagan in California and then in the White House, have incrementally narrowed that opportunity.  Now, the combinatio of cost and constraints on access meant that the debt involved makes higher education as much or more a burden as it is the engine of a better life.

Today’s Republican party is just fine with that.  DeVos is not an outlier; this isn’t on Trump, or only on him.  The idea that higher ed (or education in general) is a business in which students are the product on whom to make a profit is utterly destructive of either a democratic ideal or any plausible concept of social justice.  And it is the core tenet of today’s radical conservatives calling themselves members of the Party of Lincoln.

One last thought:  I had dinner last week with a Democratic Party senior statesman.  He told me that in his view we’ve made the mistake of thinking better policies are argument enough for elections.  They’re not; we surely know that now, right?

Instead we have to convey something more, the framework in which specific good policies can work.  DeVos’ current obscenity gives us a hint as to what that might be. Republicans throw obstacles in the way of Americans making better lives.  Democrats are — and we should say so as loud as we can — the party of opportunity.

At least that’s my take.  I know it’s hardly original.  But whatever the particular frame you may favor, I think one of our biggest needs right now is to find a way to both describe and be (ever more) the party that can lay claim to affirmative allegiance, and not just the true fact that we are better than the other side.  Your feeling?

(Oh — and happy Father’s Day, all.  This thread should be open enough to tell us your plans, completed or still in prospect, for the day.  Mine? Pick up one of the rib-eyes on sale at Whole Paycheck today, and smoke it in the Weber egg.)

Image: Winslow Homer, The Country School 1871

The Company He Keeps

March 21, 2016

Look who Ted Cruz has recruited as his economic advisor:

If it’s true that a man can be judged by the company he keeps, what are we to make of the appointment of former Sen. Phil Gramm as economic advisor to the Presidential campaign of Ted Cruz?

Cruz made the appointment Friday, when he collected Gramm’s endorsement of his quest for the Presidency.

As Micheal Hiltzik points out in his coverage of this — what’s the word?– curious appointment, Gramm is exactly whom you’d choose if one global financial meltdown just wasn’t delicious enough:

Gramm left a long record as a dedicated financial deregulator on Capitol Hill, with much of his effort aimed at freeing up trading in derivatives. That’s why he’s often identified as one of the godfathers of the 2008 financial crisis, which was spurred in part by banks’ imprudent trading and investing in these extremely complex financial instruments.

JMWTurner_Sunrise_with_Sea_Monsters

Gramm himself is undeterred by his own disastrous record, and clearly Cruz is equally unbothered.  That would be why both men are ignoring Gramm’s last appearance as a campaign surrogate:

Gramm’s previous stint as a Presidential campaign advisor ended inauspiciously. That was in 2008, when he served as co-chairman of John McCain’s Presidential run.

Gramm’s most notable moment in that position came on July 10, 2008, when he dismissed the developing economic crisis as “a mental recession” in an interview–and video–released by the conservative Washington Times. “We’ve never been more dominant,” he said. “We’ve never had more natural advantages than we have today. We’ve sort of become a nation of whiners.” McCain immediately disavowed the remarks, and a few days later Gramm stepped down as his campaign co-chairman.

I’m assuming that Ted Cruz does actually hope to become president, and thus makes his choices in the belief that they will advance him to that end.  So I can only see two possible interpretations for this exhuming of one of the most egregious poster children for GOP economic failure.

One is that this is what epistemic closure looks like when it’s at home.  It takes a hermetic seal between you and reality to think the “nation of whiners” trope is a winner this year (or ever, really, but especially now).

The other is that this is just trolling, or rather yet one more instance of believing an action is simply good in itself, transcendently so, if it pisses liberals off.  Which lands Cruz — and the GOP — in exactly the same place as option one: doubling down on the crazy for reasons extremely clear only to those with the correct implants in their upper left second molar.

All of which is to say that I remain firm in my belief that the entity identifying itself as Senator Cruz is in fact one of these guys.

“Where are we going?”

“Galt’s Gulch”

“When?”

“Real soon!”

Image:  J. W. M. Turner, Sunrise With Sea Monsters, 1845

Please Proceed, Governor

March 3, 2016

I admit it.

I’m only posting this so I can use that title.

Mitt Romney did his blind pig act today, speaking truth, up to a point, to the looming power that is breaking the china at what should have been the dancing-horse-rider’s-husband’s party:

“If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished,” Romney said in a nationally televised speech at the University of Utah…

“Dishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark. He claimed that he had spoken clearly and boldly against going into Iraq. Wrong. He spoke in favor of invading Iraq. He said he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11. Wrong. He saw no such thing. He imagined it…He’s not of the temperament of the kind of stable, thoughtful person we need as leader. His imagination must not be married to real power”

“Mr. Trump has changed his positions, not just over the years, but over the course of the campaign, and on the Ku Klux Klan, daily for three days in a row. We will only know if he’s the real deal or a phony if he releases his tax returns and his tape of the interview with the New York Times. I predict there are more bomb shells in his tax returns,” Romney said. “I predict he told The New York Times that his immigration talk is just that, talk.”

[via TPM]

 

R-Money being who he is, the reason he gave for the urgency in stopping Trump was not for The Donald’s sin of describing Republican views and gut-feelings accurately, but because it would ensure a Clinton presidency — and that family is, of course, simply too gauche, too nouveau for true representatives of better-established dishonest money to accept.

But thanks anyway, [former] Governor! Plenty of good stuff there for ads in the fall.

Or, as the man said:  please proceed.

Image:  James Ward, Ferrets, undated, before 1860.

Because I Love My Son, And You

October 29, 2015

The sprout asked me to post this:

View post on imgur.com

//s.imgur.com/min/embed.js

I think I’m raising my boy right, don’t you?

As The WarCons Reunite, Let Us Trip Down Memory Lane

April 7, 2015

Twelve years ago today, Donald Rumsfeld composed this:

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 10.37.26 AM

(h/t Rob Golan-Vilella)

As the entire Republican party brays for war in Syria, Iran, Ukraine, wherever next…remember:  their reunion tour will make us long for Nickleback.

That bad.

More Of This Please

January 5, 2015

Via TPM, this from White House spokesman Josh Earnest:

“Mr. Scalise reportedly described himself as David Duke without the baggage. So it’ll be up to Republicans to decide what that says about their conference.”

There’s an old political story — I’ve heard it told about LBJ — about the candidate who tells his campaign manager to spread a rumor that their opponent enjoys the carnal knowledge of barnyard animals.

“I can’t call him a pig-f**ker!” the staffer replies. “No one will believe it.”

“Sure,” says LBJ (oh heck. Go with it).  “But make him deny it.”*

Darwin_Domestic_102

The beauty here is that there is no phantom pig in the room at all.  There’s no possible denial, just, at best a bit of weaseling:  “I didn’t know; I didn’t mean it; I’m sorry if anyone was offended.”

Republicans are who they are, the people their actions define them to be.  The Democrats’ job is to make sure they own it.  To that end, Mr Earnest, keep stuff like this coming:

“It is the responsibility of members of the House Republican conference to choose their leaders,” Earnest said. “Who they choose to serve in their leadership says a lot about who they are, what their values are and what the priorities of the conference should be.”

*The line works best when you really bear down on “deeeennnnyyyy”

Image:  Charles Darwin, Head of Japan or Masked Pig, Copied from Mr. Bartlett’s paper in Proc. Zoolog. Soc. 1861, p. 263.illustration in The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, Vol. I, Ch. 3 1868.

Don’t Need To Quit You (Cheney Follies, Contd.)

November 18, 2013

Following on the schadenfreude of this morning, a couple of larger points about the Cheney clown car ride in the Wyoming senate race.

The first is that I don’t buy the reflex assumption of many here — and, I think, Liz Cheney’s camp — that Wyoming is fertile ground for gay-baiting and a bolted-horse-barn-door take on same-sex marriage.

It’s not.

In a poll from last summer with a sample that identified itself as 55% somewhat or very conservative, 62% Republican vs. 22% Democrat (and, in a marked display of either bravery or foolhardiness, in which 54% of respondents would accept an invitation to go hunting with Dick Cheney), 28% of Wyoming-ites support gay marriage, while 36% support civil unions.  Only 32% opposed any recognition of same-sex relationships.

Mull on that for a moment:  politically Wyoming is just about as red as it gets.  Hilary Clinton doesn’t get with 20 points of any Republican in 2016 matchups.  There’s nothing of Montana’s purple hue spreading over the Grand Tetons (except when sunset hits just right).  But still 64% of that very conservative electorate isn’t bothered about the idea of gay folks forming legally recognized households.  I get that civil unions are either a fig-leaf for and/or an unacceptable diminution of same-sex marriage…but I don’t see how you can look at those numbers and not see the fact that increasingly, most folks in Wyoming seem to have figured out that gay couples and families are here, they’re ordinary, they’re not going anywhere, and their legal status will in short order match that of opposite sex relationships and families.

Li_Kung-lin_001

I give it a year before the “opposed” group hits 27%

More, the trend in Wyoming is exactly what it is everywhere else.  A group doing a poll analysis has both attempted to determine the level of support for gay marriage state by state as of 2012 — and to look back at 2004, to see how things have moved.  By their method, Wyoming support for same-sex marriage hit 41% year ago, up fifteen points since 2004.

Also of note:  the real hold-outs on gay civil rights live (no surprise here) in the deeper-south neighborhoods of the old Confederacy. Even there, though, the trends tell the story, with double digit moves in favor over eight years.To the point of the Cheney race, Wyoming is only the 30th state out of fifty in same-sex marriage support.  It leans against the tide of history on this one, but not with much conviction.

Which is what makes the Cheney family fight so damn odd, as well as hateful.  Increasingly, it appears that outside of the hard core religious right redoubts of the south, the zest for the fight on this one is waning, even if there is still some unease (that 36% civil union number) with invoking the word “marriage” in this context.  What I take out of all this is that the Cheney family record of fail is in no danger of breaking here:  Liz C. has chosen an issue to break up her family over about which her (alleged) state seems not to be terribly bothered.

Hence my other take-away:  I’ve read the murmurings of a rat f**k here, the notion that this is all a put-up job, that the Cheney sisters have agreed to a public feud to bolster Liz’s capital with the bigot wing of the Wyoming GOP.

Maybe I’m just too old-fashioned to get how things get done these days, but I can’t see any upside to that.  This seems more an evil-stupid thang here, and rather than anything Machiavelli would have nodded at in approval.  It takes a particularly honed toned deafness to think this would play well to non-insane people:

“Liz has always believed in the traditional definition of marriage,” the vice president and his wife said in a statement on Monday according to The Hill. “She has also always treated her sister and her sister’s family with love and respect, exactly as she should have done. Compassion is called for, even when there is disagreement about such a fundamental matter and Liz’s many kindnesses shouldn’t be used to distort her position.”

“Compassion?” “Kindnesses?” Is Mary Cheney some kind of whipped mule for which her sister must care?  Not quite human, but still worthy of Liz’s to-be-granted-or-withheld kindness?

Again: however “culturally conservative” (“conventional” in Richard-Cohen-speak) one may be, I just don’t see how one sister on the make referring to her hale and seemingly happy sister as in need of compassion sits well.

Mary, it seems, agrees:

Mary Cheney later told the New York Times that she would not be seeing Liz Cheney at Christmas.

Yup, nothing says family values like making sure on sibling and her kids don’t feel welcome at the holidays.

Thanksgiving is around the corner. One thing we can all be thankfull for (while offering Mary our compassion on this one point alone):  We’re not related to Dick, Lynn, or Liz.  Hoseannas!

Image Li Gonglin, Beauties on an Outingbefore 1106, after an 8th century handscroll painted by Zhang Xuan.

Old Folks Boogie

June 30, 2013

Most folks realize that we are all heading for our second taste of non-existence at a constant rate of one day per day (don’t give me none of those event horizon/Protoss portal/twins paradoxical time bending maundering, either  you denizens of  ‘con and SciFi channel) .

Titian_-_St_Jerome_-_WGA22838

What’s more — and I’ll admit this may be the fifty-something me talking, so feel free to challenge this presumption in the comments — I’m guessing that most of us recognize certain rewards that accrue as we successfully complete each circuit ’round the sun.  Losses too, of course, and more of them as the decades past (I’d love to reacquaint myself with my knees of twenty years ago, and certain summers, and the people now gone always and most of all).

But I wouldn’t want to give up what I’ve learned, the stuff I now know how to do, the way I come at the world with enough understanding to help me act each day with at least a bit more capacity than I had in my happy, high energy, dumb 20s (or 40s).  What’s more I value evidence of that kind of accumulated judgment in folks who seek to lead me and my country (and world).  I don’t think I’m entirely alone in this.*

Which is why I read this in today’s NYT with such…well…

Glee.

Jonathan Martin’s piece on the GOP’s emerging strategy for dealing with the presumptive Hilary Clinton juggernaut is in fact a masterpiece of subtle knife work.  I join with many here in frustration with the Grey Lady’s op-ed page, and its lean towards unexamined establishment assumptions in some of its journalism, and the Style page and all the “trends” crap that shows up there, in the magazine and elsewhere can go DIAF. But the paper still boasts the deepest bench of journalists and some very smart observer/analysts (to compensate for the BoBos and the MoS’s), and Martin here shows what can be done with artfully presented absolutely straight reporting.

The shorter: Clinton is old. She’s oldy-oldy-sere-ancient-and-by-the-way-did-I-mention-she’s-an-antique?-old is the new line of attack that that the usual-suspects GOP choir seem to think will propel one of their new, fresh faces to the top prize.

Apparently those new faces are Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Bobbie Jindal (no, really! Don’t laugh) and Chris Christie.  And the case being made for these stalwarts (in order: Mr. bring back apartheid lunch counters, bundle o’nerves reaching for his water bottle, Kenneth the Page, and the fanboi of that Demo-Socialist Bruce Springsteen and unofficial 2012 Kenyan Usurper running mate) is that such youth and vigor will so contrast with Hilary Clinton’s wrinkles and general decreptitude so as to sweep away any niggling doubts on substance.

It’s the branding problem again, of course:  if you believe that, then there’s no need to attend to any doubts about what the party would sell with any of these pitchmen — and here’s where Martin’s piece turns into such a nicely thrust stiletto.  He mentions in passing the fact that if anyone views Obama’s relative youth and lack of experience as a negative, that won’t enhance the chances of  anyone less seasoned still, and I think that’s fair enough.  But the real wounds come from simply his straight reporting: these guys ain’t got nothing.  Those that aren’t already roadkill (Bobbie Jindal? Aqua Buddha, please) have no more than Rand Paul’s claim that he’ll ride to victory powered by marijuana farmers and those for whom electoral politics begin and end with the NSA.  That’s some folks, I’ll grant you…but I don’t think they’re enough to withstand that portion of the electorate mobilized by the quote with which Martin ends his article:

The radio host Rush Limbaugh, echoing his commentary from her first presidential run, asked his audience in April whether the American people “want to vote for somebody, a woman, and actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?”

Yup, says Rush. American ain’t gonna vote for a non-hawt female.  Just can’t happen. Nope, no way, no how.

Did I mention how happy I am that the Republicans are already letting their freak flag fly on this one?

Just to recap:  The current Republican party’s strongest demographic is older white folks.  Some of those will be pissed off at the dismissiveness of age, experience, accumulated knowledge and competence acquired over a long haul.  Younger people too, I’d guess; the idea of letting someone four years into playing senator on C-span after a career as a self-accredited eye doctor anywhere near the launch codes is, frankly, pretty scary to a lot of folks up and down the demographic ladder.

Now add this thought:  the Republican party is desperate to overcome its gender gap.  And here it seems to be making  its case by asserting that the presidency shouldn’t go to a women it views as getting less attractive by the day — because she grows older one day per day.

Damn!

What can I say?

Proceed gentlemen.*

*What about Obama v. McCain, then?  Well, just to get this out of the way…(a) actual policy choices are what I look at first, and if one soundly beats another there, that’s the game, for my vote at least.  And (b) to paraphrase a quote from James Michener’s DFH novel, The Driftersthere’s a subset of old farts who may say they’ve got fifty years of experience when what they really have is one year, repeated fifty times.  McCain in a nutshell, IMHO.

Image: Titian, St. Jerome, betw. 1570 and 1575.

 

 

 

In BoBo’s World, Pointing Out How Much The GOP Hates Data Is Bad Manners

May 1, 2013

I don’t even know how to begin with this.

Republican members of the House of Representatives have decided that knowledge of what actually is happening in US society and its economy is just too….

I don’t know what…

Inconvenient?…Unfortunate?…Too…useful?…Too important to the actual act of governing?

That last is the one, I think.  Representative Jeff Duncan, out to make sure that his great state of South Carolina doesn’t lose the lunacy title to its sibling to the north, has introduced a bill that would bar the US Census [PDF] from conducting any surveys or censuses except for the constitutionally-mandated decennial one.

Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Census_at_Bethlehem_-_WGA03379

What would that mean?  Over to this report from the Huffington Post:

Such a step that would end the government’s ability to provide reliable estimates of the employment rate. Indeed, the government would not be able to produce any of the major economic indices that move markets every month, said multiple statistics experts, who were aghast at the proposal….

“It’s hard to take this seriously because they’re really saying also they don’t want GDP. They want no facts about what’s going on in the U.S. economy,” said [Maurine] Haver, [founder of business research firm Haver Analytics and a past president of the National Association for Business Economics]. “It’s so fundamental to a free society that we have this kind of information, I can’t fathom where they’re coming from. I really can’t.”

“It’s so unimaginable. It would be like saying we don’t need policemen anymore, we don’t need firemen anymore,” said [Ken] Prewitt, [the former director of the U.S. Census who is now a professor of public affairs at Columbia University]. “To say suddenly we don’t need statistical information about the American economy, or American society, or American demography, or American trade, or whatever — it’s an Alice in Wonderland moment.”

I get Duncan’s reasoning, by the way.  It’s a simple syllogism.  If the data show that tax cuts, or austerity, or universal gun ownership don’t actually solve all economic and social ills, then, who needs data?

Ladies and gentlemen, your modern Republican party.

Oh, and with a nod to Mr. David Brooks and his paean to disinterested opining:  this is engaged writing.  I got a horse in the race.  I think the Republican party in its present form constitutes a clear and present danger to the Republic.  I believe it needs to go the way of the Whigs, so that we can go about the business of constructing an actual second party to engage the necessary debate our politics requires.

It is in the context of that belief that I certainly pay attention to stories like this one.  This is the anecdata that, as it accumulates, tells you the problem is real; the Republican party is increasingly simply a freak show, divorced from any conception of governance.  But it ain’t my fault — and it is no indictment against this or any other comment like ti that the Republican party continues to advance my argument.

Another thing:  I’d vastly prefer it didn’t.  But the problem isn’t that I don’t — because I can’t — say that the Democrats are just as bad on, say, anti-empiricism, for example, or that the issue of paying attention to what happens in the world is kind of important in modern political and social life.  Rather, it is that in this reality there are consequences when a failed party retains its access to power — and hell, may very well expand its reach.

IOW, pace BoBo, I believe it is my patriotic duty to point in horror at the crater that is all that remains of the Party of Lincoln.

Image: Pieter Breughel the Elder, The Census at Bethlehem, 1566.

None Dare Call It Treason…

June 6, 2011

But, at least as I read it, that’s what the Republican party — and by that I mean, actual office holders and acknowledged leaders, not yahoos conspiring on some mountaintop — are edging ever closer to these days.

Evidence for such a serious charge?  Just the latest comes from an event Mistermix annotated earlier this morning:  the murder of Peter Diamond’s nomination to serve as a governor of the Federal Reserve.

A little backstory:  Peter Diamond is a member of the Economics Department at MIT (and hence, one of my colleagues).*  He is the author, co-author or editor of twelve books, and his CV lists 143 published papers.  He is perhaps best known recently for his work on social insurance and Social Security in particular, but his interests have ranged very widely indeed, to include among much else foundational research on what happens when buyers and sellers in a market have to look for each other, the problem of “search markets.”  Think, e.g., the problem that  employers and job seekers face to find specific matches in order for the job hunter to sell his or her labor to an employer-buyer.

That’s work that was just honored with the 2010 Nobel Prize for Economics.** [For more details, see the paper to be found at the “advanced information” tab here.]

Now every Nobel comes with a story, and I heard a couple of them at various celebrations I attended to honor Diamond.  One nice touch came at the economics department party for the prize, where department grad students and colleagues wore replica Peter Diamond Red Sox jerseys, in recognition of perhaps his most treasured honor, throwing the first pitch at a regular season game at Fenway a year or so ago.  Nobels are nice and all, but in the Athens of America, the Sox rule.

Then there was the one Diamond himself told at another reception this spring, which suggested the potential for trouble when an anonymous Swedish-accented female voice sounds at one’s home number at 0-dark-hundred, asking for the man of the house, then en route from an overseas trip — and refuses to say what it’s about to his just-awakened partner.  Hmmm.  But that’s the rule:  the laureate gets told first, no ifs/ands/buts.

But the most telling anecdote came from the current head of the MIT economics department, Ricardo Caballero, who told of contacting his immediate predecessor as head, James Poterba, who promptly handed over the brief he had prepared years earlier listing what to do when the call came from Stockholm with Peter Diamond’s name attached.  Which is to say — Diamond has long been recognized as a giant in the field.  The MIT department along with much of the profession had for a while seen the ultimate award of a Nobel as a matter less of “if” than “when.”

The signal importance of Diamond in our current predicament is that he is two creatures at once:  A mathematician by early training, he does a lot of what many academic economists do: prove theorems within models in an attempt to capture essential features of experience within the rigor of mathematical analysis.  At the same time, he is a committed observer and parser of the real world, with a direct focus on critical current policy issues.  In his own words [see entry 4: “My Research Strategy]:

I found I liked doing policy.  And I found that looking at policy questions fueled identification of good theory questions to model and analyze.  As a public finance economist, I was naturally interested in policy (rather than becoming a public finance economist because I was so interested in policy), although that has reversed.  And as a theorist more interested in constructing models to analyze questions than to getting new results in existing models, my taste ran to simplifications that seemed to preserve the important properties and so provide plausibly robust policy insights, an approach that fit with finding questions from involvement in policy discussions.

Hence work on Social Security, on pension systems around the world and so on.

So, just to recap the game so far:  we have in Peter Diamond someone recognized by everyone qualified to do so as one of the pre-eminent economists writing today. His work addresses major issues at the level of both theory and policy/application.  His questions include several that are pressing right now, notably employment and the understanding of essential social insurance programs.

And yet, because of the actions of one or a small minority of United Senators, supported by a unified Republican Senate caucus, the citizens of the United States of America will not secure the benefits of Peter Diamond’s knowledge and intellectual skills at a time when almost one in ten job-seekers are out of work, and our pension and health care systems face the prospect (threat) of enormous and individual-life-changing transformation.

So, why do Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama and the entire slate of the GOP Senators so hate the rest of us ?

Well, that would be (according to Shelby) because Diamond is unqualified to be a Fed governor.  This despite the overwhelming testimony of his profession.

But wait!  There’s an “argument” (sic) Shelby attaches to his presumptively stupid argument that a Nobel laureate economist can’t handle a Fed post.  Shelby’s rationalization?…

…Diamond, it seems, lacks specific expertise in monetary policy, the proper responsibility of the Fed.  Mistermix’s post details the duplicity of this claim:  at the time of Diamond’s nomination, three of the five sitting governors were not monetary specialists.  We’re back to the old trick of inventing criteria as needed to cover blatant political manouvering.

And anyway, Shelby’s just wrong (surprise! Dog bites man!), as Diamond himself made embarrassingly clear in a New York Times op-ed published today:

Last October, I won the Nobel Prize in economics for my work on unemployment and the labor market. But I am unqualified to serve on the board of the Federal Reserve — at least according to the Republican senators who have blocked my nomination. How can this be?

The easy answer is to point to shortcomings in our confirmation process and to partisan polarization in Washington. The more troubling answer, though, points to a fundamental misunderstanding: a failure to recognize that analysis of unemployment is crucial to conducting monetary policy….

…understanding the labor market — and the process by which workers and jobs come together and separate — is critical to devising an effective monetary policy. The financial crisis has led to continuing high unemployment. The Fed has to properly assess the nature of that unemployment to be able to lower it as much as possible while avoiding inflation. If much of the unemployment is related to the business cycle — caused by a lack of adequate demand — the Fed can act to reduce it without touching off inflation. If instead the unemployment is primarily structural — caused by mismatches between the skills that companies need and the skills that workers have — aggressive Fed action to reduce it could be misguided.

In my Nobel acceptance speech in December, I discussed in detail the patterns of hiring in the American economy, and concluded that structural unemployment and issues of mismatch were not important in the slow recovery we have been experiencing, and thus not a reason to stop an accommodative monetary policy — a policy of keeping short-term interest rates exceptionally low and buying Treasury securities to keep long-term rates down. Analysis of the labor market is in fact central to monetary policy.

Seems like this guy might be useful, just about now, doesn’t it?

Diamond’s most important point was not that Shelby’s malign influence is evidence of a poisoned political process, (though it is) nor even that the point of monetary policy is to influence things like the labor market (which it is, and is what makes direct knowledge of such spheres kind of important).  Rather, Shelby and the Republican Party are actually playing a much more dangerous game, one much more hostile to the interests of the United States and its citizens than any mere power squabble.   Here’s how Diamond wraps up his piece:

To the public, the Washington debate is often about more versus less — in both spending and regulation. There is too little public awareness of the real consequences of some of these decisions. In reality, we need more spending on some programs and less spending on others, and we need more good regulations and fewer bad ones.

Analytical expertise is needed to accomplish this, to make government more effective and efficient. Skilled analytical thinking should not be drowned out by mistaken, ideologically driven views that more is always better or less is always better.

And this is where Shelby’s — and the Republican Party’s — become guilty of what some may think is too strong a charge.

We face real, enormous problems.  Yet the Republican party has decided that its return to power by any means is more important than the interests of the United States. Why else block an obviously overqualified person to help set monetary policy, except for the fear that his policy ideas might work?  How else to describe — other than the pursuit of party advantage over Country First — the increasingly vocal murmurings that the GOP should push the US into default in order to so damage the American (and world!) economy that even as weak a candidate as any in the current GOP pool could defeat President Obama in 2012?

And so on — readers of this blog can continue the litany as needed.

Rush Limbaugh laid this out back in 2009 of course:  it was better then and it’s still the preferred option, from his point of view and from that of the Republican Party as a whole, that President Obama fail and the US suffer.  Heaven forfend that this administration to succeed and for GOP governance to be thus revealed as the disaster it is.

Oh — and one more thing.  As Diamond writes in the passage quoted above, blocking his nomination has the effect of making it more and more difficult to bring  “skilled analytical thinking” to bear on great public problems.

This despite the fact that deriding the possibility of competence as a tool of governance is both a disaster in the short term (near 10 percent unemployment, remember) and utterly corrosive of US power and influence looking to longer horizons.  If we barricade the government against even the possibility of having to act on the best disinterested advice we can get…what do you think will happen over time?  Nothing good…

I suppose there are some out there (a quotidian gossip, perhaps) who might find the use of words like “treason” to be, well, uncivil in this context.

But how else do you describe actions that harm Americans now and are likely to weaken the US relative to competitors and potential adversaries over the years and decades?  And when those deeds are in the service not only of trying to defeat a sitting President, but to deny that President the levers of government within the term for which he was duly elected?  I don’t know words strong enough to excoriate such Benedict Arnolds.

This is your modern Republican Party.  It is, IMHO, beyond salvation.  We do need an opposition, but this one does not retain any claim to the traditional epithet, “loyal.”  Time to start over.

Factio Grandaeva Delenda Est.

*I’ve met Diamond at a couple of large events.  I don’t know him though and have never had a real conversation with him — and I’ve never discussed with him or any other MIT economist what the hell was going on with his Fed nomination.  What follows is thus all mine; don’t blame him.

**Strictly speaking, the Sveriges Rijksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Honor of Alfred Nobel…but most everyone still calls it simply a Nobel Prize. #vampirepedantcrucifixfootnote

Images:  Max Liebermann, Women in a Canning Factory, 1879.

Agostino Carracci, Arrigo el peludo, Pedro el loco y el enano Amon (Hairy Arrigo, Crazy Peter, and the dwarf Amon), before 1602.