Grass Stalks Rain Drops wallpaper
This is from a Paul Krugman blog posts from a couple of days ago some of you may have missed, Stimulus Denial, Part N
Mark Thoma posts about another Cochrane rant, and about what John Taylor really said. Go read. I thought I should point out something else about Taylor’s claim (pdf) that aid to state and local governments had no effect, because they would simply have borrowed the money. Christina Romer (pdf) has already answered this, in devastating fashion:
Cogan and Taylor (2011) present a different view. They show that states had been borrowing heavily before the Recovery Act, and then borrowed less after the receipt of the state fiscal relief. From this, they conclude that the state fiscal relief in the Recovery Act had no net benefit—it just replaced state spending financed by borrowing with state spending financed by Federal aid.
Cogan and Taylor’s analysis shows the importance of specifying the counterfactual. Most states have balanced budget requirements. The requirements leave some room for deficit financing of current spending for a year or two, by running down rainy-day funds or the use of various accounting devices, especially if the deficit is the result of a downturn that was not expected when the budget was passed. But states didn’t have the option of continuing the pace of borrowing they had done in the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years. Absent the Recovery Act, states would have been forced to contract spending greatly. Therefore, relative to the plausible baseline, state spending was substantially higher following the receipt of the Recovery Act funds.
This is just one of those things where you have to ask, what is Taylor thinking? Does he really believe that states and localities could have borrowed all the money that they received from the ARRA, and thus spent at the same rate? Because if he doesn’t believe that — and he shouldn’t — his whole case falls apart.
Many of us thought states were using stimulus funds to balance their budgets – which they did do in part – including conservative tea baggers like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Florida’s felon-in-chief Rick Scott. With those stimulus funds ( Recovery Act) they still proceeded to lay off a few hundred thousand teachers and public employees – people who buy stuff and create demand. The net result, those darn stimulus funds still helped state economies and the national economy. How much more effective the Recovery Act would have been if conservatives had not sucked at the stimulus tit all the while cutting public employees and giving tax breaks to corporations that were sitting on precession level profits. Krugman did a kind of follow-up in his regular column and wonders out loud what the economy would look like if conservatives were not doing their best to sabotage it purely for spite, States of Depression
In fact, if it weren’t for this destructive fiscal austerity, our unemployment rate would almost certainly be lower now than it was at a comparable stage of the “Morning in America” recovery during the Reagan era.
Notice that I said “government in America,” not “the federal government.” The federal government has been pursuing what amount to contractionary policies as the last vestiges of the Obama stimulus fade out, but the big cuts have come at the state and local level. These state and local cuts have led to a sharp fall in both government employment and government spending on goods and services, exerting a powerful drag on the economy as a whole.
One way to dramatize just how severe our de facto austerity has been is to compare government employment and spending during the Obama-era economic expansion, which began in June 2009, with their tracks during the Reagan-era expansion, which began in November 1982.
Start with government employment (which is mainly at the state and local level, with about half the jobs in education). By this stage in the Reagan recovery, government employment had risen by 3.1 percent; this time around, it’s down by 2.7 percent.
Next, look at government purchases of goods and services (as distinct from transfers to individuals, like unemployment benefits). Adjusted for inflation, by this stage of the Reagan recovery, such purchases had risen by 11.6 percent; this time, they’re down by 2.6 percent. ( Obviously Reagan was a much bigger Marxist than Obama)
And the gap persists even when you do include transfers, some of which have stayed high precisely because unemployment is still so high. Adjusted for inflation, Reagan-era spending rose 10.2 percent in the first 10 quarters of recovery, Obama-era spending only 2.6 percent. ( the right-wing conservative site Real Clear Politics ran this article on April 14, 2011 – Obama’s Plan: Massive Government Growth. Do not hold your breath waiting for them or any of the other conservative sites who have run similar stories without a shred of supporting evidence and certainly no heads-up comparisons to Saint Ronnie)
Why did government spending rise so much under Reagan, with his small-government rhetoric, while shrinking under the president so many Republicans insist is a secret socialist? In Reagan’s case, it’s partly about the arms race, but mainly about state and local governments doing what they are supposed to do: educate a growing population of children, invest in infrastructure for a growing economy.
In public policy there are moral imperatives. Do what is best for the country – the Democratic agenda. Or do what makes the conservative movement look good in the eyes of people whose lips are glued to the asses of conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge and Bill O’Reilly. Conservatives who have genuine difficulty doing the moral thing because their moral compass has been broken for over half a century and they have no plans to fix it.
Coincidentally a new report from the CBPP just came out which looks at where this mythical out of control government expansion is coming from, Are the Size and Reach of the Federal Government Exploding? Non-Interest Spending Outside Social Security and Medicare Will Fall Well Below Prior 50-Year Average as Economy Recovers
Total federal spending indeed rose considerably in 2008 and 2009 as a share of GDP and remained high in 2010 and 2011, in part because GDP was unusually low as a result of the severe economic slump. But, as an examination of the latest Congressional Budget Office (CBO) data indicates, the claim that this indicates a very large, permanent expansion of the federal government is very dubious. Total expenditures have already fallen noticeably from their 2009 peak. Most importantly, the government outside Social Security and Medicare is set to shrink significantly below its historical average size as the economy recovers.
[ ]….Under a continuation of current policies, total federal spending — including interest — will drop from 23.9 percent of GDP in 2011 and 23.5 percent in 2012 to 22.4 percent in the middle of the coming decade, then climb back up to 23.6 percent of GDP by 2022. All of the increase between mid-decade and 2022, however, will come from higher interest payments on the debt.
Interest payments are not a federal program, and increases in interest costs do not themselves represent an expansion of the government’s activities or reach. Moreover, a significant share of the projected increase in interest payments stems from the increase in the amount of debt on which interest must be paid that would result from extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. In other words, an important part of the increase in total federal spending as a share of GDP in the latter half of the coming decade will result from tax cuts. (Interest costs also will rise as interest rates return to normal levels after the economy recovers.)
If the conservative budget peacocks were genuine about reducing the deficit they would be first in line to let the Bush tax cuts expire. Sure we would all have to live with people who make a quarter million dollars a year pay an incredible extra 4% in federal income taxes – the same rates they paid during the Bush 41 presidency, but somehow I think most Americans would still be able to sleep at night knowing they would have inflicted this horrendous burden on people who biggest decisions are when to trade in their new Porsche.
The recent shift among conservative presidential candidates to cultural issues and their echo in the conservative noise machine has made some moderate Americans wonder if the conservative cultural agenda is not more radical and threatening than their economic agenda. GOP’s Economic Agenda Is Way More Radical Than Its Social Plan
Nocera actually equates Republican radicalism entirely with social conservatism. But ask yourself: what is this radical social conservative agenda? Well, they want employers to be able to offer health insurance that does not cover contraception, sure. But that’s a mere way station to the larger goal of denying any health care coverage at all to tens of millions of Americans. The GOP has committed itself to a host of radical new economic policy goals that Ronald Reagan never dreamed of. Where are the radical new social goals? (Yes, Republicans still want to overturn Roe v. Wade, but many advanced countries ban abortion; the United States is the only country where basic health care must be earned.)
Santorum may be more genuine about his social conservatism than most Republicans in Washington, but his actual program is no more radical than Romney’s, nor any more radical than the party social agenda has been for three decades. But economically, the party has abandoned Keynesianism, adopted hard money policy, and sworn to roll back seven decades of government. For Nocera to identify social conservatism as the locus of the party’s extremism shows just how unshakeable his assumptions are.
The conservative cultural and economic agenda is and always has been joined at the hip. By going the economic route and pretending to be cultural moderates or “compassionate conservatives” is just so much smoke up America’s back side. Paul Krugman nailed it in his book The Conscience of a Liberal. Conservatives never cared about balancing the federal budget when they had the power – they spent like “Drunken sailors” in the famous words of John McCain. If they ran up deficits – those very deficits gave them the ammo they could use to dismantle as much of the safety net as possible. All conservatives currently think the road to economic nirvana is through dismantling Medicare. Dismantle that or privatize it ( thus gutting it as in the Paul Ryan plan) and that is one liberal commie program down. Money for any program that might help people in dire straits – food assistance, supplemental heating fuel assistance, public education – look at the budget, we just can’t afford those things – American needs a fundamental change or we’ll need up like gasp…Sweden or Germany ( both doing very well in terms of education, health care, free market competition), but anything European serves as a good boogeyman (remember the French and freedom fries). If America is broke – in warped conservative minds – that is a good thing because it provides the perfect cover for dismantling anything that is not pure market solutions. Everything – for conservatives anyway – is going according to plan. This is why they are reacting so badly to any good economic news or studies that show President Obama has actually shrunk government and is running a much tighter ship under much more difficult circumstances than Reagan.
Limbaugh’s Justification For Attacking Fluke Is Nonsense
Rush Limbaugh’s ugly attacks on Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke have centered on the idea that she — and other women who think birth control should be covered by health insurance — “wants all the sex in the world whenever she wants it, all the time, no consequences.” For support, Limbaugh has referenced a CNS News blog post by CNS communications director Craig Bannister that’s headlined “Sex-Crazed Co-Eds Going Broke Buying Birth Control, Student Tells Pelosi Hearing Touting Freebie Mandate.”
The blog post obsessed about the cost of condoms and postulated that $3,000 — the amount Fluke said some female Georgetown students pay for three years of birth control — could buy enough condoms to have “sex 2.74 times a day, every day, for three straight years.”
First of all, Fluke wasn’t talking about condoms — she was talking about birth-control pills. And when used as contraception, birth control pills must be taken regularly to be effective, regardless of how much sex the user is or isn’t having.
As libertarian law professor Eugene Volokh noted on his blog:
The logic makes no sense. There’s nothing substantive in common between being paid to have sex, and having contraceptives be provided by a health plan. (Would you call a man a gigolo because he uses a condom that he got for free from some university giveaway?) The allegation that somehow Ms. Fluke is “having so much sex” strikes me as misunderstanding the way birth control pills work: You have to take them all the time even if you’re having sex only rarely, and even if you’re having sex with only one person (I mention this because the implication seems to me that Ms. Fluke is being promiscuous).
And second, Fluke’s testimony wasn’t about sex. Much of her testimony was about women who take birth control for medical reasons, rather than as a contraceptive, including the story of a friend who was taking birth control to prevent cysts from growing on her ovaries and ultimately had to have an ovary removed….
It is going to take up a lot of space, but this deserves to be posted everywhere. The Right has gone off on things that were never said. They have gone berserk on what their crazy brains have ground up for conservative fantasy politics. What Did Sandra Fluke Actually Say That Ignited Conservative Rush Limbaugh’s Psycho Misogynist Attack
My name is Sandra Fluke, and I’m a third-year student at Georgetown Law School. I’m also a past-president of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice or LSRJ. And I’d like to acknowledge my fellow LSRJ members and allies and all of the student activists with us and thank them so much for being here today.
We, as Georgetown LSRJ, are here today because we’re so grateful that this regulation implements the non-partisan medical advice of the Institute of Medicine.
I attend a Jesuit law school that does not provide contraceptive coverage in its student health plan. And just as we students have faced financial, emotional, and medical burdens as a result, employees at religiously-affiliated hospitals and institutions and universities across the country have suffered similar burdens.
We are all grateful for the new regulation that will meet the critical health care needs of so many women.
Simultaneously, the recently announced adjustment addresses any potential conflict with the religious identity of Catholic or Jesuit institutions.
When I look around my campus, I see the faces of the women affected by this lack of contraceptive coverage.
And especially in the last week, I have heard more and more of their stories. On a daily basis, I hear yet from another woman from Georgetown or from another school or who works for a religiously-affiliated employer, and they tell me that they have suffered financially and emotionally and medically because of this lack of coverage.
And so, I’m here today to share their voices, and I want to thank you for allowing them – not me – to be heard.
Without insurance coverage, contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school. For a lot of students who, like me, are on public interest scholarships, that’s practically an entire summer’s salary. 40% of the female students at Georgetown Law reported to us that they struggle financially as a result of this policy.
One told us about how embarrassed and just powerless she felt when she was standing at the pharmacy counter and learned for the first time that contraception was not covered on her insurance and she had to turn and walk away because she couldn’t afford that prescription. Women like her have no choice but to go without contraception.
Just last week, a married female student told me that she had to stop using contraception because she and her husband just couldn’t fit it into their budget anymore. Women employed in low-wage jobs without contraceptive coverage face the same choice.
And some might respond that contraception is accessible in lots of other ways. Unfortunately, that’s just not true.
Women’s health clinic provide a vital medical service, but as the Guttmacher Institute has definitely documented, these clinics are unable to meet the crushing demand for these services. Clinics are closing, and women are being forced to go without the medical care they need.
How can Congress consider the [Rep. Jeff] Fortenberry (R-Neb.), [Sen. Marco] Rubio (R-Fla.) and [Sen. Roy] Blunt (R-Mo.) legislation to allow even more employers and institutions to refuse contraception coverage and then respond that the non-profit clinics should step up to take care of the resulting medical crisis, particularly when so many legislators are attempting to de-fund those very same clinics?
These denial of contraceptive coverage impact real people.
In the worst cases, women who need these medications for other medical conditions suffer very dire consequences.
A friend of mine, for example, has polycystic ovarian syndrome, and she has to take prescription birth control to stop cysts from growing on her ovaries. Her prescription is technically covered by Georgetown’s insurance because it’s not intended to prevent pregnancy.
Unfortunately, under many religious institutions and insurance plans, it wouldn’t be. There would be no exception for other medical needs. And under Sen. Blunt’s amendment, Sen. Rubio’s bill or Rep. Fortenberry’s bill there’s no requirement that such an exception be made for these medical needs.
When this exception does exist, these exceptions don’t accomplish their well-intended goals because when you let university administrators or other employers rather than women and their doctors dictate whose medical needs are legitimate and whose are not, women’s health takes a back seat to a bureaucracy focused on policing her body.
In 65% of the cases at our school, our female students were interrogated by insurance representatives and university medical staff about why they needed prescription and whether they were lying about their symptoms.
For my friend and 20% of the women in her situation, she never got the insurance company to cover her prescription. Despite verifications of her illness from her doctor, her claim was denied repeatedly on the assumption that she really wanted birth control to prevent pregnancy. She’s gay. So clearly polycystic ovarian syndrome was a much more urgent concern than accidental pregnancy for her.
After months paying over $100 out-of-pocket, she just couldn’t afford her medication anymore, and she had to stop taking it.
I learned about all of this when I walked out of a test and got a message from her that in the middle of the night in her final exam period she’d been in the emergency room. She’d been there all night in just terrible, excruciating pain. She wrote to me, ‘It was so painful I’d woke up thinking I’ve been shot.’
Without her taking the birth control, a massive cyst the size of a tennis ball had grown on her ovary. She had to have surgery to remove her entire ovary as a result.
On the morning I was originally scheduled to give this testimony, she was sitting in a doctor’s office, trying to cope with the consequences of this medical catastrophe.
Since last year’s surgery, she’s been experiencing night sweats and weight gain and other symptoms of early menopause as a result of the removal of her ovary. She’s 32-years-old.
As she put it, ‘If my body indeed does enter early menopause, no fertility specialist in the world will be able to help me have my own children. I will have no choice at giving my mother her desperately desired grandbabies simply because the insurance policy that I paid for, totally unsubsidized by my school, wouldn’t cover my prescription for birth control when I needed it.’
Now, in addition to potentially facing the health complications that come with having menopause at such an early age – increased risk of cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis – she may never be able to conceive a child.
Some may say that my friend’s tragic story is rare. It’s not. I wish it were
One woman told us doctors believe she has endometriosis, but that can’t be proven without surgery. So the insurance has not been willing to cover her medication – the contraception she needs to treat her endometriosis.
Recently, another woman told me that she also has polycystic ovarian syndrome and she’s struggling to pay for her medication and is terrified to not have access to it.
Due to the barriers erected by Georgetown’s policy, she hasn’t been reimbursed for her medications since last August.
I sincerely pray that we don’t have to wait until she loses an ovary or is diagnosed with cancer before her needs and the needs of all of these women are taken seriously.
Because this is the message that not requiring coverage of contraception sends: A woman’s reproductive health care isn’t a necessity, isn’t a priority.
One woman told us that she knew birth control wasn’t covered on the insurance and she assumed that that’s how Georgetown’s insurance handle all of women’s reproductive and sexual health care. So when she was raped, she didn’t go to the doctor, even to be examined or tested for sexually transmitted infections, because she thought insurance wasn’t going to cover something like that – something that was related to a woman’s reproductive health.
As one other student put it: ‘This policy communicates to female students that our school doesn’t understand our needs.’
These are not feelings that male fellow student experience and they’re not burdens that male students must shoulder.
In the media lately, some conservative Catholic organizations have been asking what did we expect when we enroll in a Catholic school?
We can only answer that we expected women to be treated equally, to not have our school create untenable burdens that impede our academic success.
We expected that our schools would live up to the Jesuit creed of ‘cura personalis‘ – to care for the whole person – by meeting all of our medical needs.
We expected that when we told our universities of the problem this policy created for us as students, they would help us.
We expected that when 94% of students oppose the policy the university would respect our choices regarding insurance students pay for – completely unsubsidized by the university.
We did not expect that women would be told in the national media that we should have gone to school elsewhere.
And even if that meant going to a less prestigious university, we refuse to pick between a quality education and our health. And we resent that in the 21st century, anyone think it’s acceptable to ask us to make this choice simply because we are women.
Many of the women whose stories I’ve shared today are Catholic women. So ours is not a war against the church. It is a struggle for the access to the health care we need.
The President of the Association of Jesuit Colleges has shared that Jesuit colleges and the universities appreciate the modifications to the rule announced recently. Religious concerns are addressed and women get the health care they need. And I sincerely hope that that is something we can all agree upon.
Thank you very much. (all emphasis mine)
Bottom line, Limbaugh and his conservative minions attacked a woman because she thinks women deserve the same equal access to health care as men.
The Portraits of Thomas Jefferson by The Smithsonian
At the turn of the 18th century, Americans learned what their leaders looked like through paintings and drawings, explains a historian at the National Portrait Gallery.