The Carson Show Rolls On

The petabytes of information that would compose the voluminous tomes of Things Ben Carson Doesn’t Know A Damn Thing About now includes an updated entry on the debt ceiling in this interview with Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal.

Ryssdal: All right, so let’s talk about debt then and the budget. As you know, Treasury Secretary Lew has come out in the last couple of days and said, “We’re gonna run out of money, we’re gonna run out of borrowing authority, on the fifth of November.” Should the Congress then and the president not raise the debt limit? Should we default on our debt?

Carson: Let me put it this way: if I were the president, I would not sign an increased budget. Absolutely would not do it. They would have to find a place to cut.

Ryssdal: To be clear, it’s increasing the debt limit, not the budget, but I want to make sure I understand you. You’d let the United States default rather than raise the debt limit.

Carson: No, I would provide the kind of leadership that says, “Get on the stick guys, and stop messing around, and cut where you need to cut, because we’re not raising any spending limits, period.”

Ryssdal: I’m gonna try one more time, sir. This is debt that’s already obligated. Would you not favor increasing the debt limit to pay the debts already incurred?

Carson: What I’m saying is what we have to do is restructure the way that we create debt. I mean if we continue along this, where does it stop? It never stops. You’re always gonna ask the same question every year. And we’re just gonna keep going down that pathway. That’s one of the things I think that the people are tired of.

Ryssdal: I’m really trying not to be circular here, Dr. Carson, but if you’re not gonna raise the debt limit and you’re not gonna give specifics on what you’re gonna cut, then how are we going to know what you are going to do as president of the United States?

Carson: OK, let me try to explain it in a different way. If, in fact, we have a number of different areas that are contributing to the increasing expenditures and the continued expenditures that are putting us further and further into the hole. You’re familiar I’m sure with the concept of the fiscal gap.

Ryssdal: Why don’t you explain that a little bit, though.

Carson: OK, well, the fiscal gap is all of the unfunded liabilities that the government owes. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, all the departmental programs, all the agency and sub-agency programs extending into the future, which is a lot of money, versus the amount of revenue that we expect to collect from taxes and other revenue sources. Now if we’re being fiscally responsible, those numbers should be fairly close together. If we’re not, a gap begins to occur. We bring that forward to modern day today’s dollars, and that’s the fiscal gap, which sits at over $200 trillion and is continuing to grow. Now the only reason that we can sustain that kind of debt is because of our artificial ability to print money, to create what we think is wealth, but it is not wealth, because it’s based upon our faith and credit. You know, we decoupled it from the domestic gold standard in 1933, and from the international gold standard in 1971, and since that time, it’s not based on anything. Why would we be continuing to do that?

Oh good, in addition to knowing jack squat about foreign policy, criminal justice issues, the workings of the US Constitution, and basic civics, ol Doc McNothins here has no idea how modern macroeconomics works either, because we owe a bajillion zillion trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities because America’s GDP is just going to go to zero tomorrow and how can we pay for Medicare in 2065 because argle bargle collapse of all fiat currency GOLD WEED END THE FED.

Meanwhile, Ben’s over here reading Louie Gohmert’s bookmarked posts on Zero Hedge and going “You know, we don’t really need to pay for budget debts we’ve incurred because I’ll just magically cut waste so we don’t need to ever raise the debt ceiling.”

That seems like it’ll work.  Can’t wait until he overtakes Trump on which cartoon idiot is winning the beauty contest.



We’re On A Road To Nowhere

I’m curious to see how far this proposal to raise the federal gas tax goes before the Republicans completely kill it and then complain about how Democrats don’t have any proposals to fix America’s crumbling transportation infrastructure.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) is introducing legislation that would nearly double the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax to help pay for road and transit projects around the nation.

Carper’s bill would increase the gas tax by 4 cents per year for the next four years, resulting in a 16-cents-per-gallon increase by 2020. 

The legislation would offer tax credits to offset the impact of the gas tax hikes on drivers, according to Carper’s office.

The Delaware senator said the failure of Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill this summer showed it is time to raise the gas tax, which has not been increased since 1993.

“Rather than lurching from crisis to crisis, increasing country’s debt, and borrowing more money from foreign governments to pay for our transportation system, I say it’s time to do what’s right,” Carper said in a statement, referring to the three-month transportation funding patch that was approved by Congress before lawmakers left for recess last month.

“At a time when gas prices are some of the lowest we’ve seen in recent memory, we should be willing to make the hard choice to raise the federal gas tax,” Carper continued. “To balance the 16-cent cost of a gas tax hike, I’ve suggested making permanent certain expiring tax cuts that will directly benefit hard-working Americans.”

Naturally, since this is a reasonable attempt at actual governance, it will immediately explode into flames along with several highways and bridges before the end of the year.

We have hundreds of billions, if not trillions in infrastructure repair and rebuilding needs in this country, and nobody in charge seems to want to actually do anything about them.

Oh wait, President Obama did, but that plan was instantly killed by the party we rewarded with control of Congress.  That seems like that’s working out.



Greeced Skids

The Kroog points out that despite five years of doing everything that it was told to do by the troika and sucking down that Good Ol’ Austerity Juice, Greece still finds itself in the bank holiday/capital control stage of the mess that it was supposed to avoid.

But doesn’t the ultimate cause lie in wild irresponsibility on the part of the Greek government? I’ve been looking back at the numbers, readily available from the IMF, and what strikes me is how relatively mild Greek fiscal problems looked on the eve of crisis.

In 2007, Greece had public debt of slightly more than 100 percent of GDP — high, but not out of line with levels that many countries including, for example, the UK have carried for decades and even generations at a stretch. It had a budget deficit of about 7 percent of GDP. If we think that normal times involve 2 percent growth and 2 percent inflation, a deficit of 4 percent of GDP would be consistent with a stable debt/GDP ratio; so the fiscal gap was around 3 points, not trivial but hardly something that should have been impossible to close.

Now, the IMF says that the structural deficit was much larger — but this reflects its estimate that the Greek economy was operating 10 percent above capacity, which I don’t believe for a minute. (The problem here is the way standard methods for estimating potential output cause any large slump to propagate back into a reinterpretation of history, interpreting the past as an unsustainable boom.)

So yes, Greece was overspending, but not by all that much. It was over indebted, but again not by all that much. How did this turn into a catastrophe that among other things saw debt soar to 170 percent of GDP despite savage austerity?

The euro straitjacket, plus inadequately expansionary monetary policy within the eurozone, are the obvious culprits. But that, surely, is the deep question here. If Europe as currently organized can turn medium-sized fiscal failings into this kind of nightmare, the system is fundamentally unworkable.

For whatever reason, this time around was different, as they say. Maybe PM Alexis Tsipras miscalculated, maybe the troika miscalculated, Junker and Merkel and the like, but the rules of the EuroCalvinball changed and now we’ve got ATMs across Greece closed today and a whole lot of people asking a whole hell of a lot of questions.

The other lesson is austerity kills economies, as can be evidenced from Greece to Kansas to the UK to Puerto Rico. I’m not sure how many more financial meltdowns we need to get this into the heads of the suits that make the decisions, but you don’t need a Nobel Prize in order to figure out that maybe drastic reductions in spending for programs that people depend on isn’t the way to save a struggling economy.



We Don’t Need No Education

Ol’ Perfessor Glenn Reynolds argues that America needs a college dropout like Scott Walker in the White House dammit, because really we’re a country of stupids rock-ribbed salt-of-the-earth types who need a stupid man of the people to lead us.

Though Walker attended Marquette University, he left before graduating, which has caused some finger-wagging from the usual journalistic suspects. After all, they seem to believe, everyone they know has a college degree, so it must be essential to getting ahead. As the successful governor of an important state, you’d think that Walker’s subsequent career would make his college degree irrelevant, but you’d be wrong.

And that’s why a President Walker would accomplish something worthwhile the moment he took office. Over the past few years in America, a college degree has become something valued more as a class signifier than as a source of useful knowledge. When Democratic spokesman Howard Dean (who himself was born into wealth) suggested that Walker’s lack of a degree made him unsuitable for the White House, what he really meant was that Walker is “not our kind, dear” — lacking the credential that many elite Americans today regard as essential to respectable status.

Instagoofball goes on like this for a while, but the bottom line is a tenured law professor is arguing that the leader of the free world really doesn’t need a degree because really, only elitists view “education” from a “university” or “college” as “valuable” compared to experienced governatin’.

In other words, America really needs to set its sights lower than that elitist Ivy League snob George W. Bush to get a Real American(tm) in the White House.  He was terrible, so what we really need is somebody less educated than him.

Perhaps a Walker/Palin ticket would guarantee the lack of elitist thinking that’s been holding America back these last several decades.  After all, if we can’t expect the President of the United States to finish college, why should we go out of our way to make sure any of you have the opportunity for it, either?

You don’t want to be an ivory tower egghead, do ya?



E-A-T M-O-R…

Remember Trestin Meacham, the Utah man who was on a weeks-long hunger strike to oppose same-sex marriage? Looks like he can go ahead and snarf down a Chick-fil-A with a side of hate today:

Marriage equality advocates were dealt a heavy blow on Monday, as the U.S. Supreme Court moved to grant Utah’s request for a temporary halt on same-sex nuptials.

The decision ends a two-week stint of gay couples’ marrying in the Mormon-dominated state, one of the reddest in nation and the 18th to legalize same-sex marriage. All weddings between couples of the same sex will now be on hold until an appeals court hears the case.

Bummer for those who were hoping Meacham would self-deport from the planet. On the other hand, the article John cited in the earlier post linked above said this:

Meacham claims he will fast until Utah decides to nullify the court’s decision — nullification being a theory that the states have authority in all matters, not the federal government.

And since Utah sought a stay from the US Supreme Court rather than nullifying a federal court decision, technically, Meacham should continue to starve himself to death in a bigoted snit. But I’m betting he leaps on this ruling like a homophobe on a ham sandwich.



Cue the World’s Tiniest Violin, Ted Cruz (Office) Style

Ambrogio_de_Predis_007

Via Brad Friedman, we learn that Sen. Ted Cruz’ speech writer and senior communications adviser Amanda Carpenter put this up on the Twitter machine:

It’s almost November and I have no idea what my health plan will be or what it will cost in January. This. Is. Awful.

Well, maybe if you hadn’t spent the last whatever helping your boss help the GOP conspire to take away your congressional staff health benefits…

…Aww.  Fekkit.  Not even going to try to argue the logic.  Just — if you don’t want gov’t. to help you, don’t kvetch when it doesn’t.

Or, to put it another way:

BWAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Image:  Associate of Leonardo da Vinci (Francesco Napoletano?), Angel with violin / Panels from the S. Francesco Altarpiece, Milan, between 1490 and 1499.

 



Infuriating, Sad and Stupid

The Philly schools are pushing back on the accusation that a sixth grader who died of an asthma attack last month did so because budget cuts meant there was no nurse on duty at her school:

The child’s medical emergency occurred at her home, said Fernando Gallard, spokesman for the School District of Philadelphia, and not at the school in West Philadelphia. He said if a child has an attack in school, an adult will respond.

“You see that a child is not breathing, you will call 911,” he said. “That’s the same situation you will have in any location, a mall a school, a day-care center.”

I hear the drum, Fernando, but don’t piss on my shoes and tell me that it’s raining. Yes, this child was still breathing, I’m sure laboriously, at school. But she was sick enough that someone from the school apparently drove her home, and she stopped breathing while her dad was driving her to the hospital. Would the school nurse have recognized the seriousness of the situation, administered medication, and called an ambulance even if the kid wasn’t breathing? We will never know, but my guess is that inner city school nurses are pretty damn good at recognizing and treating the onset of an acute asthma attack because they see a lot of asthma.

I don’t know the rules in Philly, but I suspect they are a lot like New York State. Up here kids can’t carry medication with them at school unless there are very special circumstances. Parents are encouraged to have the nurse take care of their child’s meds because the nurse won’t lose them, they won’t end up in the hands of other kids, and because the nurse has the training and judgment to determine if the kid needs medicating. So, to address Fernando’s stupid example, if a kid is at a mall and they’re having an asthma attack, they can pull their inhaler out of their pocket and use it. At school, they’re supposed to go to the nurse’s office. It’s been that way for at least 18 years here. You can imagine how yanking nurses out of schools used to relying on nurses to dispense meds would endanger students’ lives.

Replacing school nurses with calls to 911 is just extra stupidity. Just like the Republicans’ rejoinder that everyone has health care because they can go to the emergency room, the 911 solution is the most expensive possible way that government can intervene. In addition to the lives they save, think of the thousands of 911 calls school nurses prevent every year.

By the way, what happened with school nurses in Philly is happening in all kinds of ways across the country right now. The only place where you can discontinue government services without planning and expect everything to go hunky-dory is in movies, books and the tee-vee. In the real world, when you send the CDC or the NRC home, you’re taking a big fucking risk.