The Talk: Congressional Recess and the Economic Mess

The Talk: Congressional Recess and the Economic Mess
August 5, 2011

Chip Lebovitz: The debt ceiling crisis has been finally defused, or at least, temporarily disarmed. Congress has fled the capitol for its August recess. With unemployment over 9 percent, how should the president be trying to get the country back on track?

Ross Freiman-Mendel: Having just turned 50, the president should probably just celebrate his birthday. The most effective thing that he can do at this point is nothing — this vacation could be the least destructive weeks of his presidency. In all seriousness though, the name of the game when Congress and the president return will be the economy.

Chip Lebovitz: Think more proactively: the name of the post-recess game may be the economy, but the unemployment numbers determine the score. The president has a couple of options moving forward to help bolster the flagging economy. A smart first step would be to demand a resolution to the recent Federal Aviation Administration shutdown. 75,000 workers should not remain unemployed because members of congress are more focused on their recess and fundraising than actually running the country.

Ross Freiman-Mendel: Again, Congress remains divided on the FAA issues, with both houses having offered different plans. The president displayed his immaturity as a negotiator and inability to lead during the debt-ceiling debate, so I don’t expect much from him. With a failed attempt at stimulus, can you be more specific in what the current administration can do?

Chip Lebovitz: Don’t gloss over the differences between the two houses even if the shutdown was resolved mid conversation, because it’s a symptom of Republicans undercutting every part of the president’s agenda. But instead of criticizing the stimulus, which by the way with the recently downgraded GDP statistics has been more explicitly highlighted as the wall protecting the fragile economy from the full ferocity of the recession, the president could continue unemployment benefits and the payroll tax holiday. A part of the December deal to extend the Bush tax cuts, these two provisions have some of the largest effects on the economy, with every dollar spent on these benefits boosting GDP by a $1.60.

Ross Freiman-Mendel: Chip, I think you’re wrong on unemployment benefits: they have the adverse effect of keeping unemployment higher, as job-seekers either look for a suitable job or become complacent. Aside from jobs, the GOP should capitalize on the president’s unpopularity. The House is the only impediment against his liberal-social agenda.

Chip Lebovitz: That’s just pure partisan pontificating. Instead of reciting rote memorizations from the Republican austerity playbook, look around and see that it has become progressively harder for the long term unemployed to get jobs, as employers are often seeking currently employed individuals for new openings. Predicting another similar argument from you about alleged worker laziness, how about instead consider investing in America’s education infrastructure. As this American Society of Civil Engineers report shows, we desperately need to spend more on school infrastructure, creating jobs through a politically popular method.

Ross Freiman-Mendel: Just because it’s an attack on a liberal president — or dare I say, truthful attack — doesn’t relegate my comments to “partisan pontificating.” I will proudly stand up for any austerity, be it Republican or not, in light of $14.3 soon to be $16 trillion national debt and $144 trillion in unfunded liabilities (see http://www.usdebtclock.org/). For me Chip, it’s a simple issue: we’re broke and we don’t have any more money. On a more fundamental level, how do we rectify that issue in order to preserve, for example, investments in education and infrastructure?

Chip Lebovitz: Ross, incredibly everything does not revolve around your obsession of automatically disagreeing with the president – a misguided conflagration that has in this case unfairly singed the unemployed who lost their jobs in the recession (clearly due to laziness, I’m sure). To raise the money necessary for education investment, let’s take a page from the book of Reagan and marginally raise the gas tax. If that doesn’t sit well with you then what would you do to restore the economy, other than institute a Götterdämmerung?

Ross Freiman-Mendel: I don’t disagree with the president automatically; I just think he has been wrong on most issues. Since my party and I had to take the heat during the Bush years — the president whose ills were to be rectified with change we can believe in — there’s no need for you to be on the defensive. If education is your concern, we can begin by scrapping the Department of Education (and its great results) and limit the corrupting influence of the teachers unions.

Chip Lebovitz: Education in this case isn’t my concern, jobs are. Stop dancing around the question. What plan do you have to create jobs?

Ross Freiman-Mendel: My party controls only the House. It is not I who am dancing, but rather the president.

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30 responses to “The Talk: Congressional Recess and the Economic Mess

  1. Ross, two things. First, on the President’s performance in the debt ceiling debate, I’ll ask again: Where in the Constitution (ha ha, yes, I know) is the President given the power to make laws? Or, for that matter, where is he given responsibility for economic policy? I haven’t read that clause, so I’d love for you to enlighten me. Second, why do you act like having the House is some small thing that just barely prevents the Executive from pushing across whatever laws he wants? Having the House, as we saw in the debt ceiling debacle, is absolutely huge from a political standpoint. “My party only controls the House” is a terribly misleading statement; your party has more political efficacy right now than any other party. I’d like for you to answer Chip’s question.

  2. Constitutional Scholar! To your first question. The Constitution doesn’t explicitly give the President the power to make laws, but he does exercise legislative power, for example, when he uses the veto, i.e. total separation of power doesn’t exist. The President leads on issues. When Obama urged for stimulus, he implicitly assumes responsibility for the economy. And just look at the past century — Presidents, both Republican and Democrat, actively try to manipulate economy. At this moment, I am reminded of FDR. To your second question. I don’t mean to portray the House as a small thing. On the contrary, it’s crucial, and perhaps more importantly, the GOP has used its control of that chamber quite effectively. If we’re talking about political efficacy, I think the GOP outmaneuvered the President, but don’t forget that Democrats control both the Senate and the White House. Think public opinion — only the President has the ability to command every one’s attention during prime time to the extent he did. To Chip’s question about fixing the economy. Repeal Obamacare, lessen regulation, reform the Tax Code. Government can’t tax and regulate their way to growth. And to finish off with some shameless ChrossTalk advertising, please tune into our Krauthammer episode next week, where he answers all of these questions far more effectively than I ever can or will 🙂 -Ross

  3. Krauthammer will be sick, I’m psyched for that. Who’s doing the interview?
    With respect, though, the idea that the President “implicitly” takes responsibility for the economy, at least individually, is bizarre to me. The stimulus may be an exception, since Obama defended an explicit policy, but I don’t think that a) that makes him any more responsible than anybody else who supported that policy and b) that that makes him indefinitely responsible for the entire economy. In this case, the President attempted to bring together disparate actors to fashion a bipartisan solution that built on suggestions from both parties. He doesn’t have power to do anything beyond that (I don’t understand how he could use the veto power to raise the debt ceiling…), and shouldn’t be expected to. During the health care debate, everybody was mad because he was “pushing his agenda”. Now, everybody’s mad because he didn’t put forth a plan. You can’t have it both ways, and I think that the extent of Obama’s involvement in this debate was entirely appropriate and within constitutional limits.
    I agree that the GOP won politically on this issue, but I don’t think that’s what we should be rehashing. I mean, this may be totally radical of me, but policymakers should do what they think is best for the country, not what they think will score them political points. Both parties looked terrible throughout this debate, in both houses, but the idea that the GOP doesn’t bear at least equal responsibility simply because “they only control the House” is preposterous. But, oh well, agree to disagree, that’s democracy.

  4. Here we on on Saturday morning 1 week out from the fiasco that was the debate. While much of what is spoken about here is intelligent opinion, the the fact is is that:
    1. The Dow began the week at about 12300 and closed at 11445.
    2. Gold was up a little over 50.00
    3. The Swiss Franc was up well over 400 pips.
    4. Europe moves ever closer to the brink only to be saved by yet another bailout. Stand by…the next will most certainly needed by Monday at 10 am.

    While these clowns in DC think that that all is well with this dance that they have been doing for years(on both sides), they are no longer fooling the “money’.”

    And with the first S and P downgrade of the United States in 70 years mysteriously coming after the close of business on Friday, the only thing that will be more historic than the election of the Nobel Prize winning leader of the free Western World, will be the markets talk come Futures opening Sunday evening. And this time, not the firepower of our esteemed treasury secretary, nor the craftiness of “the one with the beard” nor any speech made by our president will be able to reverse that chain of events that have been set in motion by the complete cluelessness and ineptitude of the people that we have elected to represent us. We are truly about to experience a change that we can believe in. Job well done by BOTH SIDES!

  5. BTW this came to me yesterday from one of my most respected mentors.
    It very simply explains how critical a situation we are in.

    Subject: FEDERAL BUDGET 101…

    Team – You might find this interesting – A simple, non partisan summary of the seriousness of the budget situation. Nothing new but it presents it as good as I’ve seen. “.

    This makes it so clear to someone not used to those giant numbers.

    Happy Budgeting!

    Federal Budget 101

    The U.S. Congress sets a federal budget every year in the trillions of dollars. Few people know how much money that is so we created a breakdown of federal spending in simple terms. Let’s put the 2011 federal budget into perspective:

    • U.S. income: $2,170,000,000,000

    • Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000

    • New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000

    • National debt: $14,271,000,000,000

    • Recent budget cut: $ 38,500,000,000 (about 1 percent of the budget)

    It helps to think about these numbers in terms that we can relate to. Let’s remove eight zeros from these numbers and pretend this is the household budget for the fictitious Jones family.

    • Total annual income for the Jones family: $21,700

    • Amount of money the Jones family spent: $38,200

    • Amount of new debt added to the credit card: $16,500

    • Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710

    • Amount cut from the budget: $385

    So in effect last month Congress, or in this example the Jones family, sat down at the kitchen table and agreed to cut $385 from its annual budget. What family would cut $385 of spending in order to solve $16,500 in deficit spending?

    It is a start, although hardly a solution.

    Now after years of this, the Jones family has $142,710 of debt on its credit card (which is the equivalent of the national debt).

    You would think the Jones family would recognize and address this situation, but it does not. Neither does Congress.

    The root of the debt problem is that the voters typically do not send people to Congress to save money. They are sent there to bring home the bacon to their own home state.

    To effect budget change, we need to change the job description and give Congress new marching orders.

    It is awfully hard (but not impossible) to reverse course and tell the government to stop borrowing money from our children and spending it now.

    In effect, what we have is a reverse mortgage on the country. The problem is that the voters have become addicted to the money. Moreover, the American voters are still in the denial stage, and do not want to face the possibility of going into rehab.

  6. Stuart, this is really great stuff. How much of it do you think has to come from spending cuts versus new revenue? The US government is uniquely in a position that the Jones family isn’t; it has substantial control over its own income. If only families could do that, eh?

  7. Government statistics are doctored? That seems like a lofty claim. I agree that the economy isn’t fantastic, and spending cuts are obviously necessary, significantly so, but lower taxes are also a major contributor to the deficit. Still, though, if government statistics are doctored, I don’t understand how we can possibly ascertain the correct policy choice.

  8. Believe it or not, here is A source:

    http://www.shadowstats.com/

  9. The federal government can print all the money it wants, so why play the game of taxing people at all?

  10. Jennie, the excessive printing of money leads to rampant inflation and ultimately hurts the economy. Taxation is obviously undesirable, since nobody likes giving away their property, but I don’t see a way around it. Insofar as a society wants to have a government that provides services (regardless of what those services are), how can the government fund those services without taxation?

  11. Evan, you wrote “the excessive printing of money leads to rampant inflation and ultimately hurts the economy.”
    Money is created out of thin air by
    1. Fractional reserve bank lending
    2. The Fed exchanging US debt(bonds, notes, ect) for Federal Reserve Notes that were produced from nothing and backed by nothing

    So when the US government needs money, it issues more debt, the debt is purchased by the banks who only, at best, have 10% of the purchase price(much less in reality). Then, the Fed exchanges their Notes, for the US debt and receives the interest. This is the process that is provided for by the Federal Reserve Act. This is the process by which QE1, QE2, and the soon to be announced QE3 was conducted. So, clearly, excessive money has been printed. But wait a second……there is no inflation, the government statistics tell us, why? because they don’t count food, energy, and some other minor stuff.
    Imagine returning to school in a few weeks and having your grades determined by your height and weight, not your performance. Too good to be true, yes but not if you are the government.

    As Marc Faber, a legendary investor, said last week : “This week we will see if Bernanke is a real money printer or just an amateur.”

    BTW, in a fiat based currency system, in order to have inflation, it is necessary to have expansion of credit. We have a contraction of credit now and so we are deflating.

  12. Well, I don’t dispute that money printing is occurring, and I don’t have the authority to comment on its efficacy, at least not in this particular case, but we only need look at history to see examples of rampant hyperinflation following the printing of money (most notably the Weimar Republic and Zimbabwe). I’m not quite sure if I understand what you’re saying: are you saying that we should have inflation and yet don’t, or that the governments tells us we don’t have inflation but we actually do?
    In any case, I still think that ultimately, balancing the budget will take substantial spending cuts as well as tax increases. I’m not quite sure how we got sidetracked by talking about credit, but such is the nature of an Internet comment thread.

  13. Evan,I couldn’t agree with you more! The excessive printing of money DOES lead to rampant inflation AND hurts the economy. Yet that’s exactly what the Fed Satan has been doing (read: QE1, QE2 and for sure, the soon to be announced QE3 and QE4). Obama took office with the price of gas @ $1.80 a gallon… now it’s $4+ per gallon. Printing all this $ has degraded the value of the dollar. What’s a hard working Texas hick to do?

  14. The downgrade of US credit specifically had to do with the credit agency concerned about TOO MUCH SPENDING:

    David Beers, global head of sovereign and international public finance ratings at S&P, told “Fox News Sunday” that “governments and Congresses come and go, but spending on entitlements persistently drags U.S. debt further into the red.”

    Considering that 2% of US households reach the critical “rich” threshold as set by Obama, even if you tax them at 100% of earnings, you don’t come close to impacting the US debt drag. The administration plays the populist card, stirs up the masses to go after the “rich,” but in the end, the middle class pays for everything. The rich get on their jets and party in St. Barts. The middle class goes to work every day, worrying about how they will pay their bills.

  15. What I am saying is that we most certainly have inflation but that that forces of deflation are now greater. One must distinguish between deficit and debt. They are 2 different things. In my example above the debt of the jones family is 147,000. If we put the Jones family on a balanced budget, meaning that we get the family to spend up to but not over 21,700 that great but clearly does nothing about their debt. Similarly, balancing our budget would be great, but where do the trillions we owe come from? Just like the Jones’ most of the developed economies have been spending beyond their means for years. Bankruptcy anyone?

  16. Well, it isn’t just income taxes, there are other loopholes that can be filled (mortgage interest deductions, corporate loopholes, estate taxes, etc). Of course, I say this without denying that substantial spending cuts need to be effected as well. This is empirically true.

    Also worth noting, though, is the emphasis of S&P on Congress’ inability to reach a compromise in its justification for the downgrade (http://www.standardandpoors.com/ratings/articles/en/us/?assetID=1245316529563). I think the political impasse that this debate generated is pervasive and systemic and certainly puts our economic future in jeopardy, at the point where important policy options are held hostage as political bargaining chips. S&P rightfully points out that the intransigence of Congress puts our nation’s credit in a riskier position.

  17. Also, Jennie, while I did say that the excessive printing of money can lead to rampant inflation, note that I explicitly did not take a position on its efficacy. I’m not an economist, so I can’t ultimately say whether quantitative easing has been good or bad for the economy.

  18. Concerned Citizen

    I have no interest in getting back into long arguments, as I’ve shown by not engaging here. Needless to say, I think there are a lot of wrong-headed arguments and misrepresentation here, but I don’t particularly want to spend the time rebutting them. I’ve decided to post because I think I have something we can all agree on: http://thinkprogress.org/yglesias/2011/08/02/285525/needed-a-progressive-balanced-budget-amendment/. Basically, this says that everything that Congress does needs to be paid for. Yglesias calls it a “Progressive Balanced Budget Amendment,” but I have a different suggestion: the “Paying Our Bills Amendment.” I have a few problems with it, but overall, I think it’s great compromise policy.

  19. Well concerned, thank God you have again graced these pages to right our wrong headed ideas and to set our misrepresentations along the right path ie: the path that you believe to be right. And here, all the while, I thought you were counting your profits on your Dow short position engineered by the missguided policies of Washington
    The notion that everything Congress does needs to be paid for is meaningless since the problem is exactly what Congress does. So if I am reading this right, this simply says that if Congress for example decides to spend another trillion or two, it needs to be paid for. How nice. Since the members of Congress have gotten us into this mess over the last 40 years, maybe we should think about taking their credit card away from them or at least monitoring it in a meaningful way.
    And if we were to accomplish this amazing feat of a balanced budget, how to pay for the debt amassed over the last 40 years of fiscal irresponsibilty.
    Certainly, the first step would be a balanced budget, but then, we, as a nation need to do a whole lot more. History shows that when a country attains our level of debt, its pretty much over (pl see “This Time Is Different by Reinhart and Rogoff) aggregate demand stimulation not withstanding.
    BTW, thank you for translating your cited reference, because I read it 3 times and couldn’t understand what the point was…..but the phrase “sound
    Keynesian practice just made me crack up.

  20. I tried to look up “sound keynesian practice” and this is all I could find:

    ox·y·mo·ron
       [ok-si-mawr-on, -mohr-] Show IPA
    noun, plural ox·y·mo·ra  [ok-si-mawr-uh, -mohr-uh] Show IPA, ox·y·mor·ons. Rhetoric .
    a figure of speech by which a locution produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect, as in “cruel kindness” or “to make haste slowly.”

  21. Concerned Citizen

    Stuart, the BBA I proposed allows the country to have an *honest* discussion about the size of government that they want. It’s pretty laughable to imagine that the founders would’ve wanted a certain percentage of GDP as a spending cap (which the conservative BBA does and has nothing to do with balancing the budget, incidentally). Can you imagine George Washington and Thomas Jefferson arguing over whether the Constitution should cap spending at 18 or 19 percent of GDP? Me neither. The problem with our current system is that neither party is rewarded for austerity. In the ’90’s, Bill Clinton balanced the budget and had the country running surpluses. Then George Bush gave all those surpluses back through tax cuts and unfunded wars. Now Barack Obama takes office and suddenly everyone is shouting at him for austerity. Do you think the Bush tax cuts would have passed if Mr. Bush had had to come up with the savings by cutting spending? I don’t know, but the spending conversation would have been honest. Bush was able to make it seem like those tax cuts were costless, but now we know that they weren’t as we prepare to slash spending in all areas. This could very easily run the other way. Imagine in 2020 that a Republican president has the put the country back on the road to fiscal health, only to have his policies derailed by a massive expansion of government services. All I’m asking is that all politicians, Democrat or Republican, be honest about the costs of their policies. In a “new age of austerity,” is that so much to ask?

    Moving right along, I can’t help but mention the problems with your “US government as a family” analogy above. I know that it seems like an attractive comparison because we want our government to have to sit down and make tough spending decisions just like us. But the situation you’ve laid out is woefully incomplete. The real scenario, as Evan eluded to, allows the government to control both its spending and its income, but there’s even more to it than that. A real breakdown would involve a distinct minority of those in the family not working and instead abusing drugs and alcohol more, having higher rates of domestic abuse, etc. It would also allow the family to spend more to allow this minority of the family to work and earn money. Meanwhile, the family would be deciding over whether to send its children to terrible schools or dig a bit deeper now to send them to a better school. And, oh yeah, Ben Bernanke has to live with the family and do monetary policy… except in a way that fits with the analogy. Could be awkward. See what I mean about woefully incomplete? (And notice I didn’t even find a way to work in growth rates, probably the most important determinant of the deficit and debt.)

    Finally, for someone who says they are knowledgeable about finance, you seem to have some shocking gaps, Stuart. For example, to pay off its debt, America needs to really balance its budget… never. I know that will make you bounce off the walls, but so long as the deficit is smaller than economic growth, the debt will fall. So *that’s* how we pay for the “last 40 years of fiscal irresponsibility.” And I’m really, really glad you mentioned Reinhart and Rogoff. Probably the most important implication of their work said that central banks should aim for much higher inflation after a financial crisis like the one we’ve just suffered. Indeed, Rogoff has been talking and writing about the need for more inflation since “This Time Is Different” came out. I think you’ve misrepresented Rogoff and Reinhart’s stance on debt (is debt-to-GDP the metric you are using?), but if you’re willing to take the research seriously on that point, surely you also accept the need for more inflation?

    And, oh ho, good one jon! Can I get a rimshot please? Did you happen to catch the frontpage NYT story this weekend about how even most Republicans and, to an even greater extent, business leaders (who I thought you guys worshiped at an altar or something) are doubting the conservative push for more austerity and calling for more stimulus? If only *certain* conservative economists didn’t come running to come up with absurd justifications for whatever Republicans want to believe at the present moment….

  22. Concerned, during the nineties, and under Bill Clinton’s surpluses the national debt ranged from approx 5 trillion(beginning) to about 6 trillion(end). By running a balanced budget, the rate of growth of the debt decreased but still grew. After Clinton’s departure, the rate of growth resumed its exponential phase begun in 1980. In the late forties to the mid seventies the amount of our debt did decrease. Our debt curve (v time) is, and has been in a type of growth called exponential growth versus linear growth. Exponential growth can only proceed unabated in a situation of unlimited resources. Don’t think we have that.
    I stand by my statement re the level of debt. The main conclusion of Reinhart and Rogoff is that once a nation’s debt enters the late stages of exponential growth, its over.
    Despite your attempts to complicate the picture with the irrelevant information about drug addict etc, the family and the US cannot pay off its debt. So now we only have 2 choices
    1. Default on it
    2. Debase our currency to nothing or something close to it
    I guess we are going with option 2…..good job Bennie….I didn’t need my savings anyway.
    As for the need for more inflation, I ask in what in food prices? no, in energy prices?no,…oh, but wait, these don’t count, so since what we are experiencing is deflation, then yes in but in credit growth.

  23. What happened to, “I have no interest in getting back into long arguments…” ? ? ?

  24. To answer you specifically, CC, no, I didn’t catch the recent NYT frontpage. I don’t read trash.

  25. Concerned Citizen

    Yes, jon, I do apologize for being the only one here willing to confront every issue the other person raises, not just duck and weave while misrepresenting arguments and attacking strawmen. As for the NYT, I must have forgotten the conservatives number one principle about the media: all media that isn’t conservative must then, ipso facto, be liberal. This is why the NYT is “trash,” I presume? Also why NBC and CBS news are liberal trash heaps as well?

    Stuart, the national debt did decrease when Clinton was was running surpluses. Doesn’t mean it decreased under Clinton as a whole, but when Bush took control, the national debt was going down. Your historical statements about debt are also pretty strange. The US had HUGE levels of debt following WW2 in the 40’s because, you know, total war is expensive. We certainly didn’t pay it back, but we didn’t have a debt crisis in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s. Why? Because debt-to-GDP is the important metric. If GDP is growing faster than debt (i.e. the growth rate is larger than the deficit, as I said in my last post), debt-to-GDP goes down and the debt burden is lessened. That’s just math (denominator growing faster than numerator). Thus, the US could, theoretically, run deficits of 2% of GDP forever if the economy grew at 3% of GDP and we would never have a debt problem.

    Reinhart and Rogoff said that once debt levels are in advanced stages, the economy is done for, but they were talking about economies that had *high* borrowing costs. Indeed, that’s what makes the debt unsustainable: when the cost of servicing the debt becomes so high that the debt just keeps growing and growing. As I’ve said before, the US actually has *negative* borrowing costs right now. Investors are actually paying us to take their money. And the fact that we are in a liquidity trap means that there is no crowding out of private investment when the government borrows. Greece and Italy may have problems servicing their debt. We do not.

    I’m so damn sick and tired of hearing that the US “cannot pay off it’s debt” or “is bankrupt.” This is. not. true. The US could easily afford another $2 trillion in spending if it were offset with a credible long term deficit reduction plan. The US has ample resources to service it’s debt. By no definition of the word are we bankrupt (unless you want to count moral bankruptcy, as we let the unemployed suffer). My point about the “drug addict, etc.” is that people who are unemployed for a long period of time have higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, spousal abuse, domestic violence, and a lot of other very bad things. Those are the human costs of unemployment and it’s a fact that they happen.

    As for your typically bizarre point about inflation, what you have pointed out is the difference between “headline” inflation, which includes everything, and “core” inflation, which excludes energy and food principally. Core inflation is very useful; energy and food prices bop around all the time because of factors have nothing to do with the typical determinants of inflation. Unrest in Libya caused oil prices to shoot up; poor crop yields in the former Soviet Union (largely due to climate change, but I digress) did the same to food prices. Putting all of that aside, though, I’m not talking about core inflation. We haven’t seen a bump in core or headline inflation. Yes, we did have a bump in headline inflation due to very temporary factors like the ones I’ve already mentioned, but that’s already begun to subside as food and oil prices fall again.

    See, I can get wonky too. What else you got?

  26. trash (trsh)
    n.
    1.
    a. Empty words or ideas.
    b. Worthless or offensive literary or artistic material.
    c. New York Times

  27. CC, you last post made me laugh so hard that I had to go change my “Depends” before offering this, my last utterance on this you

    my·op·ic   [mahy-op-ik, -oh-pik] Show IPA
    adjective
    1.
    Ophthalmology . pertaining to or having myopia; nearsighted.
    2.
    unable or unwilling to act prudently; shortsighted.
    3.
    lacking tolerance or understanding; narrow-minded.

    bu·reau·crat   [byoor-uh-krat] Show IPA
    noun
    1.
    an official of a bureaucracy.
    2.
    an official who works by fixed routine without exercising intelligent judgment.

    So in my “typically bizarre style,” I would advise you immediately to apply for the government job of your choice..you are perfect. Hey….you might even get elected President one day.

    With that, goodbye to you, for if I stay, I just might pop a cerebral anyeurism…or worse.

  28. Concerned Citizen

    Typical Stuart: advance arguments, read responses, realize I don’t know how to respond, dismiss responses as preposterous and try to play it off so no one notices. Posting definitions isn’t a strong argument; it’s a clear evasion. Of course, I hadn’t expected you to make a point-by-point refutation of my arguments; you might even have started, before realizing that, you know, I was and am right. But no matter! Given that modern conservatism is simply a fig leaf for bankers to ramrod lower tax rates for themselves on an unsuspecting populace, there’s no need to think very hard or have, you know, ideological coherence. You might pop a cerebral anyeurism if you have to be rational!!!! Look, I can do it too:

    char·la·tan [shahr-luh-tn] Show IPA
    noun
    1.
    a person who pretends or claims to have more knowledge or skill than he or she possesses; quack.
    2.
    conservative commentators on Chrosstalk

    If you have the intellect and knowledge to challenge my argument on its merits, then do it. If you don’t, then admit it. And if you run away and hide now, I believe everyone who reads the comments will know why.

  29. Concerned, I agree with you that modern bankers ramrod lower tax rates for themselves on an unsuspecting populace, but let’s be fair and conclude that both sides of the political spectrum are in collusion with that. Your beloved Nobel prize winning constitutional scholar of a president (along with his pal the Fed Satan and a few others) is overseeing a debasement of the US dollar that is designed to pump the stock market (the so-called “wealth effect”) that primarily helps the fat cats. The average Texas hick is trying to buy dinner for her family and doesn’t care that the price of Apple is up because wealth is fleeing to the market in face of no returns elsewhere. The president plays the class warfare card and the media laps it up…..what’s the reality: favoring all the rich fat cats with his policies (actions) while bad mouthing them (words), hoping those dumb Texas hicks won’t notice. By the way, he didn’t hesitate to invite those private jet owners that he supposedly reviles, to have a private dinner with him at his birthday bash for $38,500…. there’s a man committed to the unsuspecting populace. And by the way, that environmentally conscious pres of yours won’t hesitate to take his entourage on a number of private jets to a cushy vacation on Martha’s Vineyard (where I’m sure he’ll remember to toast to his unsuspecting populace). I would have expected that behavior from George Bush… but our man of the people???? Yup, I’m seeing how the liberal side is materially different that the conservatives.. Revile away, but the polls show those Texas hicks are not quite as dumb as they look.

  30. By the way, thanks jon for the definition thing.

    Concerned, here’s my addition to the ever-growing Chrosstalk vocabulary list:)
    ir·ra·tion·al (-rsh-nl)
    adj.
    1.
    a. Not endowed with reason.
    b. Affected by loss of usual or normal mental clarity; incoherent, as from shock.
    c. Marked by a lack of accord with reason or sound judgment: an irrational dislike.

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