Emerging GOP Argument Open Thread: Everyone Is Guilty, So Nobody Is Responsible!

Nay, nay!, cries the Wall Street Journal


How can you say we robbed that bank when it turns out the vault was empty?…



IOKIYAR Open Thread: Mick Mulvaney, All-Too-Honest Grifter

Yesterday:

 
Also yesterday:

In any other modern administration, Mulvaney would be gone by the time this post pops up (I’m writing it just after finishing the early-morning open thread). In *this* one, he’ll probably be given some special Trump-branded award for public service.

Mr. Mulvaney, who also runs the White House budget office, is a longtime critic of the Obama-era consumer bureau, including while serving in Congress. He was tapped by President Trump in November to temporarily run the bureau, in part because of his promise to sharply curtail it.

Since then, he has frozen all new investigations and slowed down existing inquiries by requiring employees to produce detailed justifications. He also sharply restricted the bureau’s access to bank data, arguing that its investigations created online security risks. And he has scaled back efforts to go after payday lenders, auto lenders and other financial services companies accused of preying on the vulnerable.

But he wants Congress to go further and has urged it to wrest funding of the independent watchdog from the Federal Reserve, a move that would give lawmakers — and those with access to them — more influence on the bureau’s actions. On Tuesday, he implored the financial services industry to help support the legislative changes he has requested…

The association, which invited Mr. Mulvaney to give the keynote address at its conference, strongly backs his efforts to consider the financial burdens on banks imposed by the bureau’s actions…


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King Knut Knew What He Was Doing. These Bozos Don’t

Today’s climate change updates in the LALALALALALALA I Can’t Hear You file…

Exhibit A:

National Park Service officials have deleted every mention of humans’ role in causing climate change in drafts of a long-awaited report on sea level rise and storm surge, contradicting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s vow to Congress that his department is not censoring science.

The document was supposed to report results of studies on the risks to National Park properties from sea level rise, which is one of the major proximate consequences of anthropogenic global warming.  Stuff like this:

The report, titled, “Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge Projections for the National Park Service,” reveals that national treasures will face severe flooding if global greenhouse gases keep increasing. Some of its projections, according to the drafts, include:

  • In North Carolina, the Wright Brothers National Memorial has the highest projected increase in sea level among parks nationwide – 2.69 feet by 2100 under a scenario of high growth of greenhouse gases. Along with Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras national seashores, the memorial could face significant permanent flooding. “Future storm surges will be exacerbated by future sea level rise nationwide; this could be especially dangerous for the Southeast Region where they already experience hurricane-strength storms,” the report says.
  • In Virginia, three parks – Colonial National Historical Park, home of Historic Jamestowne; Fort Monroe National Monument; and Petersburg National Battlefield – face the biggest potential sea level increases in the park service’s Northeast region – 2.66 feet by 2100.
  • Parks in the Washington, D.C., region could experience some of the greatest sea level increases – 2.62 feet by 2100. “Storm surge flooding on top of this sea level rise would have widespread impacts,” the report says.
  • If a Category 2 hurricane hit Florida’s Everglades National Park, the entire park could be flooded, with most of it under several feet of water.

This is the kind of information that would be useful — complete with an analysis of causes and mechanisms — to anyone trying to think how to protect America’s parks, and/or mitigate the damage that human action has set in train.  Interior Secretary Zinke and his staff — and the Trump administration as a whole, and the GOP in toto — seem to think that not saying certain words means that what those words name won’t happen.

Sadly, of course, carbon dioxide don’t care if Mr. Zinke doesn’t want to pay attention to its radiative properties. The atmosphere in bulk isn’t somehow going to get rid of the last 20 years of CO2 ppm increase just because Republicans shout at it.  The ocean isn’t going to turn around in its tracks because Deadbeat Donnie, the orange hemorrhoid-cream salesman now sadly infesting the White House wiggles his ample posterior over a putt (that he’ll miss) on some seaside golf course.

King Knut knew better, even if he had to make the live demonstration to prove it too his court.

And then there’s Exhibit B:

Dead Man Walking Trump/GOP Corruption Poster Child Scott Pruitt won’t be dynamited out of his office at the EPA without attempting to gut one more Obama-era accomplishment, the increase in fleet fuel efficiency requirements for American light trucks and cars:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced Monday that he would revoke Obama-era standards requiring cars and light trucks sold in the United States to average more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025, a move that could change the composition of the nation’s auto fleet for years.

This is no surprise from Pruitt, of course, who never met a fossil he didn’t want to burn (and whose long term livelihood and political ambitions turn entirely on making sure Big Carbon loves them some Scott).  It will be challenged in court, and California may yet save the day.

Before that gets settled, though, two thoughts:

First: this is a reminder that you cannot trust oligopoly capital under any circumstances. The new standards were negotiated over a quite a long time with the big automakers, and they signed on to the Obama deal. As soon as Trump was elected, they reneged:

Pruitt’s decision reflects the power of the auto industry, which asked him to revisit the Obama administration’s review of the model years 2022-2025 fuel-efficiency targets just days after he took office.

The Auto Alliance (these guys) will tell you that they’re all about clean transportation — just look at their home page!  But it took them less than a month (see p. 4) into the new guy’s term to write to the Trump administration and seek a do-over.  You could have had these guys put up Agamemnon’s pledge and they’d have backed out on this deal as soon as they got the chance.

So:  moral one. Don’t trust anyone with that much cash on the line until you have at least one of their kidney’s in pawn. And maybe not even then.

Moral two: this is how big US industries die.  I’m sure it will be nice for those who pay for their hookers and blow by selling SUVs that the gravy train will run a few years longer.  But the rest of the world isn’t completely ignorant of climate change and, more immediately, the insane and expensive toll that air pollution takes on their cities.

I’m old enough to remember the ’70s, when the Big Three US automakers discovered in a shocking short time just how destructive it could be to miss the next technological and design shift.  Fuel efficient and alternate fuel vehicles are not just coming; they’re here. If the US-based auto industry wants to let China or whoever get one, two, three generations ahead of domestic production, that’ll happen.  And those companies and vehicles will roll, and ours will straggle behind.

Again: our kleptocratic leaders can say what they want. Shortsighted corporations can grab for the next dollar, and miss next year’s millions. Don’t change a thing.

So, in sum: this is one dumb move on every level, and puts yet more pressure on an already breaking climate system. But I don’t think that a change in US fleet standards is nearly as big a deal as Pruitt et al. wish it were.  Much of the world doesn’t give a shit about our stupidity, and the creation of a more efficient transport system is already on rails (sorrynotsorry).  ISTM that this move is mostly a surrender of crucial industrial ambition and opportunity to other regions and will have only a minor effect on emissions going forward.

IOW: Trump, Pruitt, the Republicans and Big Auto just punched America in the nuts, for all the joy it brings them.

Also too: King Knut was a pretty smart guy.

Images: Joseph Mallord William Turner, Calais Pier1803.

Jan Steen, The Sacrifice of Iphigenia1671.



Apocalypse Very Soon

Via Alexander C. Kaufman at HuffPo, we learn that the EPA has decided that we’ve all just got to sit back and fry — and like it too, dammit:

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday evening sent employees a list of eight approved talking points on climate change from its Office of Public Affairs ― guidelines that promote a message of uncertainty about climate science and gloss over proposed cuts to key adaptation programs.

Here a couple of samples of the new guidance:

“Human activity impacts our changing climate in some manner,” one point reads. “The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue.”

The other states: “While there has been extensive research and a host of published reports on climate change, clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it.”

It’s clear enough what Scott Pruitt’s and Donald Trump’s EPA thinks we should do about the global test-to-destruction experiment on which we are now engaged.  F**k-all.  Hades here we come.
As Eric Levitz at New York magazine reminds us, this actually isn’t the limit of GOP and Trump climate sabotage:

It would be bleak enough if these talking points were an accurate reflection of our government’s position on climate change. “We will do nothing to stop this calamity from happening, but will help you prepare for its onset” isn’t the most uplifting sentiment. But the Trump administration’s actual position on the matter is even worse.

In truth, Scott Pruitt’s EPA is about as opposed to helping communities prepare for climate catastrophe as it is to regulating carbon emissions: Last year, the EPA shut down its climate-adaptation program, and proposed funding cuts* to another initiative dedicated to studying the effects of rising sea levels. [links in the original]

Again, as Levitz points out, unchecked climate change will (and almost certainly has already) kill a lot of people. Which is to say this isn’t garden valley Republican robbery of most of us to serve the interests of our former Secretary of State and his ilk.  Reckless doesn’t begin to describe what the GOP in general and the current administration in particular are doing to the planet, and to Americans’ well being, safety and security.

The climate change debacle is not only down to the United States, of course. But nowhere else has the power that we do to shift international action on this.  We’re doing the opposite, and the FSM knows how high the bill will go.

On that note: top of the evening to the jackals. Open thread, y’all

*Most of the cuts were undone in the omni-budget bill, but if we have a minor respite from environmental despoilation, it’s not thanks to Trump and Pruitt.

Image: D. Howard Hitchcock, Halemaumau, Lake of Fire, 1888



No, Virginia, Tax Giveaways To The 1 % Don’t Work

Just a check in on the astonishing economy building super duper special magical powers of GOP TAX CUT POTION™.

Spoiler: it works just as well as the utter, don’t-let-the-pointy-heads-at-the-FDA-f**k-up-a-good-thing  quackery Orrin Hatch has spent so long protecting.

The latest by Dean Baker:

The ostensible rationale for the big cut in the corporate tax rate that was at the center of the tax cut is that it will lead to a flood of new investment.

Since the outlines of the tax cut had been known since September, businesses had plenty of time to plan how they would respond to lower tax rates. If lower rates really produce a flood of investment we should at least begin to see some sign in new orders once the tax cut was certain to pass.

The January report showed orders actually fell modestly for the second consecutive month. The drop occurs both including and excluding volatile aircraft orders. While this is far from conclusive, it is hard to reconcile with the view that lower taxes would lead to a flood of new investment.

Remarkably, these new data have gotten almost no attention from the media. Both the NYT and the Washington Post ran an AP story that just noted the drop in passing. Doesn’t anyone care if the tax cut works?

As everyone who wasn’t a Republican and or a CEO said, the tax bill was a sham, a way to transfer yet more wealth from labor to capital, from most of us to a very few, already hugely rich.

Image: Reginald Gray, The Banker, Smoking, 2002.

 

 



We Can Always Use Some Bitter, Cynical, Gallows Humor, So Here’s A Kudlow Post

Larry Kudlow is the pure distilled essence of a Trump appointment, the type specimen of the breed, and the perfect expression of the state of Republican “thinking” on not just economics, but any matter in which actual knowledge and a respect for empiricism might help.

Via Wikipedia, we find he is barely educated, at best, in the fields in which he now works:

Kudlow graduated from University of Rochester in Rochester, New York with a degree in history in 1969. Known as “Kuddles” to friends, he was a star on the tennis team and a member of the left-wing Students for a Democratic Society at Rochester.

In 1971, Kudlow attended Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where he studied politics and economics. He left before completing his master’s degree.

I’ll admit that Kuddles is kinda cute, but an unfinished masters degree in a policy school is not one you’d usually associate with economics acumen.

He went on to a stellar business career, managing to get fired repeatedly for substance abuse on the job, including a claimed $10,000/month cocaine habit that got him canned from Bear Stearns in 1994. (It’s interesting to note that a frantic effort is underway today to diminish such inconvenient truths on Kudlow’s Wikipedia page.)

Fortunately for Kuddles, he cleans up well, dresses nicely, and can tok gud. So he was able to revive his career as a TV gasbag, with a series of appearances and then shows on CNBC, the network that figured out the markets could be covered like sports teams.

Unfortunately — for the rest of us, if not for the ever-failing-up Kudlow — he’s been wrong about almost every key economic call since Methuselah was in diapers.  He is a Laffer disciple, a supply-sider whose faith that there is no tax that is too low, no plutocrat whose needs must not be served, is impervious to any test of reality.

Consider this:

In 1993, when Bill Clinton proposed an increase in the top tax rate from 31 percent to 39.6 percent, Kudlow wrote, “There is no question that President Clinton’s across-the-board tax increases … will throw a wet blanket over the recovery and depress the economy’s long-run potential to grow.” This was wrong. Instead, a boom ensued. Rather than question his analysis, Kudlow switched to crediting the results to the great tax-cutter, Ronald Reagan. “The politician most responsible for laying the groundwork for this prosperous era is not Bill Clinton, but Ronald Reagan,” he argued in February, 2000.

And this:

Kudlow firmly denied that the United States would enter a recession in 2007, or that it was in the midst of a recession in early to mid-2008. In December 2007, he wrote: “The recession debate is over. It’s not gonna happen. Time to move on. At a bare minimum, we are looking at Goldilocks 2.0. (And that’s a minimum). The Bush boom is alive and well. It’s finishing up its sixth splendid year with many more years to come”. In May 2008 he wrote: “President George W. Bush may turn out to be the top economic forecaster in the country” in his “‘R’ is for ‘Right'”.

And this:

When Obama took office, Kudlow was detecting an “inflationary bubble.” That was wrong. He warned in 2009 that the administration “is waging war on investors. He’s waging war against businesses. He’s waging war against bondholders. These are very bad things.” That was also wrong, and when the recovery proceeded, by 2011, he credited the Bush tax cuts for the recovery. (Kudlow, April 2011: “March unemployment rate drop proof lower taxes work.”) By 2012, Kudlow found new grounds to test out his theories: Kansas, where he advisedRepublican governor Sam Brownback to implement a sweeping tax-cut plan that would produce faster growth. This was wrong. Alas, Brownback’s program has proven a comprehensive failure, falling short of all its promises and leaving the state in fiscal turmoil.

The reviews are coming in. Via the BBC:

David Stockman, Mr Kudlow’s former boss during the Reagan administration, told the Washington Post in 2016 that Mr Kudlow’s prediction that tax cuts would lead to growth was “dead wrong”. Instead, he said the cuts led to budget deficits.

More recently, he has warned that Mr Kudlow would not be able to rein in the president.

“As much as I love him … Larry’s voice is exactly the wrong voice that Donald Trump ought to be hearing as we go forward,” he told CNBC.

Liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has been sharply critical, noting that Mr Kudlow missed signs of the housing bubble and recession.

“At least he’s reliable — that is, he’s reliably wrong about everything,” Mr Krugman tweeted.

Indeed in December 2007 – just as the recession was beginning – Mr Kudlow wrote in the National Review: “There’s no recession coming. The pessimistas were wrong. It’s not going to happen.”

It is interesting that Kudlow himself doesn’t seem to disagree with his predecessor on the issue that got Cohn out. From a quick take bylined by him, Laffer and Stephen Moore (another stellar, always-wrong econ public intellectual) here he is on Trump’s tariff announcement:

Tariffs are really tax hikes. Since so many of the things American consumers buy today are made of steel or aluminum, a 25 percent tariff on these commodities may get passed on to consumers at the cash register. This is a regressive tax on low-income families.

I wonder how that squares with the new job. ETA: I know how it squares. It’s already been forgotten. We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

But that’s just SOP in the circles in which Kudlow travels:  intellectual rigor doesn’t actually matter.  He’s under no obligation to be consistent in any of his pronouncements, and he certainly doesn’t have to be right about anything as long as he provides cover for the true Republican (n.b.: not just Trumpian) policy goal: the transfer of more and more of our society’s wealth to those who are already wealthy — and hence, in the GOP/Rand/Sociopath view of the world, those who are virtuous enough to deserve such riches.

For all of you who’ve wondered why the US can’t be more like Kansas — we may now we get to find out.

Image: Thomas Shields Clarke, A Fool’s Fool,  c. 1887.



Iconoclasts

Give those crafty Europeans credit for knowing their symbols:

“We will put tariffs on Harley-Davidson, on bourbon and on blue jeans – Levis,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told German television.”

It is worth noting that not only are these the stereotypical (one might almost say, caricature) emblems of Americana, Harley’s are made in Wisconsin, just north of Paul Ryan’s district and, as we all know, McTurtle is from the great corn-mash state of Kentucky.

Funny how a policy conceived in ignorant petulance has obvious, immediate, and hugely stupid consequences.

You may consider this both a proof-of-life post and an open thread.

(Truly astonishing NSFW the-world-was-sure-different-then image below the fold)

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