Category Archives: Economy

Let’s Necklace Romney With Ryan’s Economic Plan!

Updates below

First, according to Wikipedia here’s what necklacing is (you can probably get the drift by looking at the above photo too):

Necklacing is the practice of summary execution and torture carried out by forcing a rubber tyre, filled with petrol, around a victim’s chest and arms, and setting it on fire. The victim may take up to 20 minutes to die, suffering severe burns in the process.

The fun bunch in South Africa during the 80s and 90s used to spring this on fellow black folks (it was mostly black on black violence) when someone was “sentenced” as a collaborator with the government.

Sentence Romney By Wrapping The Flaming Ryan Budget Around His Neck

Mitt Romney thought enough of Paul Ryan (and his budget plan) to rope him into the 2012 presidential race. So, we shouldn’t let Romney wiggle away from that budget.

clown paul ryan
The clown, Paul Ryan. From WMxdesign

Despite what you might have heard from the popular media, Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin, 1st District) is a clown. He doesn’t dress up like a clown (not that I know of), but he likes to clown around with budget numbers, and play games like “who’s really going to pay for all this?”.

This page is an archive of all the links to articles detailing exactly what the Ryan budget is proposing. There aren’t a lot of details, mostly just aspirational goals without realistic, specific numbers.

Have you got more evidence from the Ryan Clown College to light that necklace around Romney’s neck? Leave links and comments below.

Paul Ryan’s Fairy-Tale Budget Plan – David Stockman, the director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1981 to 1985 (The Reagan years!) (NY Times, 8/13/12)

Mr. Ryan showed his conservative mettle in 2008 when he folded like a lawn chair on the auto bailout and the Wall Street bailout. But the greater hypocrisy is his phony “plan” to solve the entitlements mess by deferring changes to social insurance by at least a decade.

A true agenda to reform the welfare state would require a sweeping, income-based eligibility test, which would reduce or eliminate social insurance benefits for millions of affluent retirees. Without it, there is no math that can avoid giant tax increases or vast new borrowing. Yet the supposedly courageous Ryan plan would not cut one dime over the next decade from the $1.3 trillion-per-year cost of Social Security and Medicare.

Instead, it shreds the measly means-tested safety net for the vulnerable: the roughly $100 billion per year for food stamps and cash assistance for needy families and the $300 billion budget for Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Shifting more Medicaid costs to the states will be mere make-believe if federal financing is drastically cut.

Pink Slime Economics – Paul Krugman (NY Times, 4/1/12)

As Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center points out, to make his numbers work Mr. Ryan would, by 2022, have to close enough loopholes to yield an extra $700 billion in revenue every year. That’s a lot of money, even in an economy as big as ours. So which specific loopholes has Mr. Ryan, who issued a 98-page manifesto on behalf of his budget, said he would close?

None. Not one. He has, however, categorically ruled out any move to close the major loophole that benefits the rich, namely the ultra-low tax rates on income from capital. (That’s the loophole that lets Mitt Romney pay only 14 percent of his income in taxes, a lower tax rate than that faced by many middle-class families.)

Understanding the Ryan plan – Matt Miller (Washington Post, 8/12/12)

Ryan is not a “fiscal conservative.” A fiscal conservative pays for the government he wants. Ryan never has. His early “Roadmap for America’s Future” didn’t balance the budget until the 2060s and added $60 trillion to the national debt. Ryan’s revised plan, passed by the House in 2011, wouldn’t reach balance until the 2030s while adding $14 trillion in debt. It adds $6 trillion in debt over the next decade alone — yet Republicans had the chutzpah to say they wouldn’t raise the debt limit! (I remain mystified why President Obama never hammered home this reckless contradiction by insisting that the GOP “raise the debt ceiling just by the amount it would take to accommodate the debt in Paul Ryan’s budget.”)

Ryan’s Tax-Rate Drop Would Require Lawmakers to Consider Favored Breaks – Richard Rubin (Bloomberg News, Apr 6, 2011)

The fiscal plan outlined by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan calls for reducing the top individual and corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 25 percent, which would require lawmakers to consider eliminating tax breaks such as the mortgage interest deduction to meet his revenue targets.

Over the next decade, the Wisconsin Republican wants the government to collect $4.2 trillion less than it would if Congress did nothing, and $1.8 trillion less than under the budget proposed Feb. 14 by President Barack Obama. Ryan’s targets in the plan he released yesterday are similar to the amount of revenue that would be raised if Congress extends tax cuts set to expire at the end of 2012.

Lowering rates that much while reaching the revenue targets in Ryan’s budget would require lawmakers to consider eliminating so-called tax expenditures, including the mortgage interest break and the deduction for charitable contributions, said Mel Schwarz, partner at the Washington national tax office of Grant Thornton LLP. Both have long been viewed as politically difficult to challenge.

How Bruce Springsteen learned what’s most important to the economy

While working on a writing project, I had to create a transcript of a 1998 interview that Charlie Rose had with Bruce Springsteen. This is an answer he gives in the 60 minute interview, about the central idea in his writing: work.

My music, because of what I wrote about, always had political implications. I suppose that came up originally out of my home life, my experience growing up, and my relationship with my father. And trying to understand the concept of work, and how work plays a central role in your life. I had two real, very different examples. My mother’s relation to work was very joyous. Very happy. It provided the entire family with stability. What she gained from it was an entire mode of behavior. You get up in the morning, at a certain time. You prepare yourself. You get yourself ready to go to a job. You walk down the street and you’re there at a particular time of the day. And you interact with your co-workers. And that’s a big part of your social life, your work life, and your place in the world. You’re doing something that has a purpose. There’s a reason you’re there besides just feeding your family. You’re a part of the social fabric. You’re what’s holding the world together. You’re what’s holding the town together, that’s holding your family together. I always remember that she walked with tremendous pride and strength, enormous strength, and it gave such great comfort, such great great comfort to a child. That makes sense. I understand that.

My dad had a different experience. Work was involved with pain. He lost his hearing when he worked in a plastics factory. Lost a lot of his hearing. He struggled to find work and go to work. The regulation of behavior that work provides wasn’t a big part of his life, and that was painful for everybody involved.

That’s essential. That’s central to the way that we live and think about ourselves, and who we are, and the place we live in. And so I saw both sides of it. I saw what happens when that’s not present there is pain, and there is anger. And deep, deep … it’s a destructive force. You wither away. You waste away. You don’t know where you’re going or who you are, and you take that out on the people that you care about. And that’s something you don’t want to do. But it happens.

So that’s what I wrote about. That was really really important. It’s the single thing that I’ve written about, my entire life, that fundamental idea. The importance of that idea in society. The cost of not providing that for … whether it’s for people to be able to take care of their families, to have productive jobs. The debasement of ourselves, in not having a society where that’s provided to all our citizens.

It all grew from there. It grew from my experience, and my trying to sort out my experience. I didn’t grow up in a political household. I didn’t have some particular ideology, or be a political person from where I came from, but I needed and wanted to write about those things because they were essential. A lot of my music has grown out of that place over the years.

Photo by Barack Obama and republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Tax resistance in Western Massachusetts [VIDEO]

In 1992 I made this 30 minute documentary about federal tax resisters in Western Massachusetts. The event precipitating the video was the arrest for nonpayment of taxes by US Marshals and IRS agents of Randy Kehler on December 3, 1991. Kehler, his wife Betsy Corner and daughter, had been living in their house since 1989 when the IRS seized it.

Path of Greatest Resistance: tax resistance in Western Massachusetts,  tries to understand the motivations of a variety of tax resisters that lived in Western Mass. along with Kehler and Corner. In addition to Kehler, featured in the video are Andrea Ayvazian, Wally Nelson, Brayton Shanley, among others.

Looking back at the video, it holds up pretty well (only the first 4 minutes make me cringe). Of course the quality isn’t up to today’s digital standards, but I think the story is still a compelling one. There are some interviews where the video is dark. Believe it or not, at the time both the Shanley’s and Wally Nelson were homesteaders — that is, they were living without electricity, so our recording was done with battery power and no extra lights.

The video is from a VHS transfer, pre-digital recording or editing. I’ve remastered the audio and created new title and credit sequences. Otherwise, the video is as it was in 1992.

Emily Harding-Morick was my primary collaborator on this project, and deserves much credit for helping me make the documentary a reality.

Sustainable Seafood For People With Lobotomies

Mark Bittman writes in the New York Times today about a company in California that’s claiming to be selling “sustainable seafood.” The company, I Love Blue Sea, sells only seafood that’s found on neither the Greenpeace Red List nor the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Those lists track seafood fished in an unsustainable manner, which usually means one of three things according to Greenpeace:

  • there’s little data proving fish stocks are heathly
  • seafood is being sourced from depleted stocks
  • or, fishing methods are destructive to other fish habitats

All of this makes sense, right? I can’t argue with eating seafood only from healthy fish stocks.

But … shipping that fish across the country, from California to my house in Massachusetts, can’t be good for the planet.

Buying two pounds of gulf shrimp ($23.14) and shipping it overnight using FedEx ($26.84) ends up costing $49.98. AND the cross country flight my shrimp makes will deposit about 2,500 pounds of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. I haven’t even figured the fuel cost for the flight.

Now, how sustainable is that seafood? I probably melted a glacier just to eat my two pounds of shrimp!

Photo by jpellgen and republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Profiling a social enterprise: Memory Magic

I needed to get a VHS tape transfered to DVD for a project you’ll see on this site soon. By word of mouth (Twitter, really) I found Memory Magic, a local business that provides all kinds of digital transfer services. The interesting thing about Memory Magic is that they’re run as a social enterprise by a human services agency to provide employment for people with mental disabilities.

The work they did for me is topnotch. Actually, it was better than I expected, and I probably would have paid twice the price without batting an eye. Plus, you can’t beat the mission.

Here’s a little story about this business.

Why UMass should improve the brand, then worry about the message

I had this thought: what would happen if an organization, instead of using a lot of effort to improve their brand message, instead did better work that would improve the brand itself? Instead of creating better messages about your product or service, you improved your product or service. Wouldn’t that be a more efficient use of resources?

After reading this story about the University of Massachusetts Amherst trying to create a more compelling brand message, I was left to wonder the difference between the brand message and the University itself. After all, they’re not selling laundry soap; it’s a institution of higher education, therefore the brand is not just the message. The stakes are higher than marketing soap.

Their research has identified 5 brand themes they want to focus on: “smart, wide open, real, entrepreneurial and maroon”. The theme that piqued my interest was “smart,” which they say “emphasizes the high caliber of the student body and the quality of the faculty”. Really? In no way do I want to disparage the current faculty, but doesn’t UMass Amherst at least need a consistent number of faculty doing strong work, if not a growing number of faculty, to be considered “high caliber”?

Let’s look at the numbers (you can find any of these stats at the UMass Institutional Research (OIR) site). The tenure system faculty has decreased 11% between 1988 and 2009, from 1,197 to 972 faculty, respectively. At the same time total faculty, tenure and non-tenure, decreased from 1,292 to 1,180.

In terms of total number of faculty the drop was around 100 (leaving aside the issue of tenure), but then there’s this problem: student population has increased. Between 1990 and 2009 undergraduate student population has increased from 17,717 to 19,440.

Okay, faculty population is decreasing and student population is increasing; who is teaching these extra students? The numbers don’t lie. Most of the increased workload is falling to non-tenure system faculty; between 2000 and 2008 the full time equivalent instructed student ratio increased from 20.3 to 25.5 for non-tenure faculty. All other categories of faculty remained constant during the same period, more or less.

What does this mean for the “smart” theme of the UMass brand? Shaky would be a good word to describe the relationship between the reality of the statistics and the brand message. Non-tenure faculty have no incentive to contribute to the community in the same way tenure track faculty do; moreover, good faculty will always look for tenure track opportunities, which offer more stability and salary.

Do you have anymore examples of brands not meeting the expectations of the brand message?

Photo (CC) by missmac

Employers That Appreciate Capitalism: Child Therapist

In these troubled economic times, it’s not surprising that employers will try to exploit people; after all, with unemployment reaching above 10% nationally, the pickings are easy. Why pay a living wage when keeping employees in poverty will do just fine?

What’s the best place for employers to find a cheap work force? Craigslist, of course! With no-cost job listings, there’s no harm in throwing an ad in the pond and seeing if a guppy will bite.

The living wage for this job – one adult and one child – is $17.22.

Exceptional Opportunity! Yes it is possible to really enjoy what you do for a living! Just ask us, we’ve built an organization around it. As a result we boast a remarkably supportive, dynamic, motivated and passionate group of employees working together to make positive change across the globe.

Seeking child development professionals, or individuals who are interested in entering the child development field. We are currently accepting applicants who are willing to make a commitment to pursue onsite training to attain a staff position

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We invite all to apply who believe in the limitless possibilities for each child and a willingness to strive in personal growth.

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Compensation: $8.00/ hr. starting salary. Increases with proficiency at training levels.