Bill Gross, Deficit Hawk: Screw That, Right Now Jobs Are More Important

From Ezra Klein, at the Washington Post:

Bill Gross: Deficit reduction can — and should — wait
Bill Gross is the manager director of PIMCO, which makes him one of the most important bond traders in the world, if not the most important. And so his exit from the Treasury market a few months ago, plus his intense and very public concern over the deficit, has attracted a lot of concern. “Keep that in mind when you hear people arguing about austerity,” wrote Megan McArdle. “People like Bill Gross are the ones we ultimately need to convince, because they’re the ones whose defection will precipitate a crisis. And he’s not buying either supply-side claims that tax hikes will cause disaster, or the super-Keynesian argument that we can’t cut spending because the economy will contract so fast that we’ll actually end up with a bigger deficit.”
Or so we thought. But in an unusual mid-month note to his investors, Gross hammered the “anti-Keynesians” in both parties who believe “that fiscal conservatism equates to job growth.” The truth, he says, is just the opposite. “Fiscal balance alone will not likely produce 20 million jobs over the next decade. The move towards it, in fact, if implemented too quickly, could stultify economic growth.” […]
So what should we do? “Government must temporarily assume a bigger, not a smaller, role in this economy, if only because other countries are dominating job creation with kick-start policies that eventually dominate global markets.” But what about the deficit? “Deficits are important, but their immediate reduction can wait for a stronger economy and lower unemployment. Jobs are today’s and tomorrow’s immediate problem.”…
Gross’s credentials as a deficit hawk are unimpeachable, but he’s arguing here that, to be a deficit hawk over the long term, you need to be jobs-focused now, as no economy with 9 percent unemployment is going to achieve the growth necessary to get its deficit under control. And he’s right. The question is whether his call for the government to refocus on jobs and brush aside fantasies that deficit reduction is also job creation will get as much attention as his concerns about debt and deficits.

So: Next time the glibertarian co-worker or facebook friend-of-a-friend starts yammering about The Deficit, tell them that the Very Serious PIMCO Superstar wants the government to hire more people. The math demands it!

Also, in DougJ’s absence, it falls to me to point out that Megan McArdle stands fair to inherit Bill “Always Wrong” Kristol’s mantle for infailable inaccuracy, if only she can stop dithering about Himalayan pink salt and find some focus.

Praying for More, Sooner

(Ted Rall’s blog)

From the Washington Post, via Greg Sargent:

President Obama will announce Wednesday his decision on how many troops to withdraw from Afghanistan next month, concluding a process of consultation with his advisers and commanders that will set the military course for the rest of the war.
Administration officials said final numbers, while still to be determined, will chart the glide path for further withdrawals between now and the end of 2012, a period when Obama will face a reelection fight. Polls show that a majority of Americans believe the nearly decade-old war is no longer worth fighting.
The announcement will set a withdrawal schedule for the 33,000 “surge” troops Obama sent to Afghanistan early last year as part of an escalation that his commanders say has succeeded in clearing Taliban fighters from key areas in southern Afghanistan. […]
Obama has been under conflicting pressure on the pace of withdrawals from his own advisers, some of whom think that the broad civil-military campaign in Afghanistan has overreached and have argued that the killing last month of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan has greatly weakened al-Qaeda.
Outside the White House, lawmakers and a war-weary public have voiced their own opinions about what the president should do. In a resolution passed Monday in Baltimore at its annual conference, the U.S. Conference of Mayors urged Congress to quickly end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and spend the money — about $112 billion this year in Afghanistan alone — on jobs at home.

The Next Public Option

I went to an education forum at NN yesterday. Jeff Bryant, one of the panelists, charged that “progressives have climbed aboard the bandwagon of a conservative agenda for public schools”.

He singled out the Center for American Progress, which he says is indistinguishable from the American Enterprise Institute on public school issues.

I don’t know how true that charge is, but I think we’d do well if we’d first admit that we have a lot of for-profit charter schools and they’ve been operating long enough to leave a long paper trail. We could look at those schools, and see how the “reform movement” experiments are going, ten years in.

For-profit charter schools have been in operation in Ohio for more than a decade. They are not a thought experiment. They are not an abstract hypothetical. They are not just a topic being batted around at various “reform roundtables”. They have an extensive record of failure. Why we are pretending this is all just in the discussion stage is beyond me. The jury really isn’t still out. In Ohio, the jury came straggling back in years ago, and the verdict isn’t good.

We’ve talked about White Hat Management here before. White Hat is a for-profit charter school that operates in Ohio and Florida virtually without regulation and without any documented success. Former FOX News personality John Kasich isn’t only promoting his campaign donor White Hat, however. He’s now promoting ECOT, another for-profit that is a huge GOP donor, another for-profit with an absolutely horrendous record on actually educating people.

ECOT, The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, is the 21st largest “district” in the state of Ohio. The state spent $59,978,866 on the school last year – millions of which seem to go directly into the pocket of William Lager, the schools founder.

Lager has returned a lot of that money – hundreds of thousands of dollars just last year! – directly into the campaign coffers of some of his biggest (typically Republican) supporters – including tens of thousands of dollars directly to Speaker of the House Speaker William Batchelder, Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus and Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court Maureen O’Connor.

Which might explain why this school has been gaining support among Ohio’s Republicans even though it has been sucking hundreds of millions in state funding away from Ohio’s public schools while failing Ohio’s students for nearly a decade.

During the last campaign Kasich said he would push for State takeover of Cleveland Public Schools if they didn’t improve, but ECOT continues to have a lower graduation rate and a lower attendance rate than Cleveland Public Schools. Not only is Kasich not pushing for State takeover of ECOT – he’s promoting the school and of his party’s largest political donors – by speaking at their graduation.

I have this nightmare vision of the future: we’re all 90 years old, we’re begging Congress or a state legislature for a public option in elementary and high school education, we’re counting votes, and coming up short.

Hot Stuff

Over in Australia, where the plague of special interest enmeshed AGW “truthers” has been just as bad, if not worse than the miserable corps we have here,* an impressive cross section of the Oz scientific community is actually making some noise.

At a new website (still in beta) called The Conversation, set up to be a unfiltered source of news and analysis from the Australian academic community, a group of Australian climate scientists are trying to do to climate “skeptics” (aka buffoons and/or grifters) what Bruins forward Brad Marchand did to  Daniel Sedin’s chin in Game Six.  In an open letter announcing the start of two weeks worth of demonstration that climate change is real, due to human activity, and amenable to certain kinds of action within our power if not our grasp.  They write:

The overwhelming scientific evidence tells us that human greenhouse gas emissions are resulting in climate changes that cannot be explained by natural causes.

Climate change is real, we are causing it, and it is happening right now.


Bam! Short, simple, clear and true.

They name and shame:

…Understandable economic insecurity and fear of radical change have been exploited by ideologues and vested interests to whip up ill-informed, populist rage, and climate scientists have become the punching bag of shock jocks and tabloid scribes.

Aided by a pervasive media culture that often considers peer-reviewed scientific evidence to be in need of “balance” by internet bloggers, this has enabled so-called “sceptics” to find a captive audience while largely escaping scrutiny.

Australians have been exposed to a phony public debate which is not remotely reflected in the scientific literature and community of experts.

And they make a promise:

For the next two weeks, our series of daily analyses will show how they can side-step the scientific literature and how they subvert normal peer review. They invariably ignore clear refutations of their arguments and continue to promote demonstrably false critiques.

We will show that “sceptics” often show little regard for truth and the critical procedures of the ethical conduct of science on which real skepticism is based.

And they’ve begun.  You can check out the series here.

Now, while I was born at night, it wasn’t last night, so I know that even sharply argued rational discourse won’t make a difference to the professional skeptics.  Read more

It’s the Economy, Still

Looks like the fact — and, more important, the meme — that the Republicans are doing everything they can to further damage the American economy, in a deliberate attempt to improve their own electoral chances in 2012, might finally be gaining some traction:

E.J. Dionne at the Washingon Post, on “Gridlocking the Lives of the Jobless“:

The economy needs another jolt, but Congress is in gridlock. Democrats, or most of them, realize that their political futures and the well-being of millions of households hang on whether unemployment can be brought down. Yet Republicans have the capacity to block even the smallest steps forward…
For the moment, Republicans have no interest in moving the nation’s debate toward investments in job creation because they gain twice over from keeping Washington mired in discussions on the deficit. It’s a brute fact that Republicans benefit if the economy stays sluggish. And despite their role in ballooning the deficit during the Bush years, they will always outbid Democrats on spending cuts….

Kevin Drum, as befits a Mother Jones progressive, is pessimistic:

I wonder if this is ever going to become a serious talking point? It gets batted around now and again by the odd newspaper columnist or blogger, but that’s about it. No serious person in a position of real influence really wants to accuse an entire party of cynically trying to tank the economy, after all.
But it would sure make headlines if Obama decided to take up this ball and run with it. He’ll never do it, because it wouldn’t be postpartisan or pragmatic. But Republicans are all set to turn the next 18 months into the World War III of political campaigns, and this would sure be a way of showing them that two can play at that game.

Jonathan Cohn at eventheliberal TNR fact-checks the Republican’s “economic nonsense“:

A lot of us are begging, even pleading, with President Obama to focus more on economic stimulus and less on deficit reduction. But let’s not kid ourselves. President Obama isn’t the obstacle to passing a new jobs program. The Republican Party is…
According to the very best evidence we have, the Recovery Act prevented the economic downturn from becoming a full-brown depression or something very close to it. And private sector employment has been growing, albeit in fits and starts. The primary reason employment overall isn’t growing faster is that public sector workforces are shrinking, because low tax revenues are forcing local and state governments to balance their budgets with spending cuts.
Read more