Monday, September 30, 2013

Manufactured Crisis: Since When Did Erick Erickson Become the Voice of Reason?

     I don't know but listen to what he has to say now:
     "Erick Erickson, the editor-in-chief of the conservative website, expressed his displeasure with the current state of affairs in the House of Representatives by tweeting Monday night, hours before a midnight deadline to fund the government, in favor of capitulation.
House Republicans are struggling to unify around a continuing resolution to fund the government past the Sept. 30 deadline that includes language delaying President Obama's signature health care law. After a small wing of moderates balked Monday in face of a newly announced plan by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) slated for an evening vote, Erickson urged the party to pass a "clean" continuing resolution instead."
     He says they should just go and vote for a clean CR as they've 'already embarrassed themselves.' Mission accomplished? Certainly Boehner never seems done with embarrassment but is going for more with this latest anti Obamacare bill. Will it fail stillborn in the House as so many 'Plan Bs" he's come up with-the fiscal cliff, the farm bill, etc.?
    From what Peter King is saying the answer sounds like yes:
    "Rep. Pete King (R-NY) told National Review Online that moderate Republicans would revolt against House leadership's latest ploy to derail Obamacare in exchange for funding the government.
King said he had 25 House Republicans who would oppose the latest plan, which would delay Obamacare's individual mandate for a year and eliminate subsidies for Congress members and staff. If that's true and House Democrats united against the plan, it likely wouldn't have the votes to pass.
“This is going nowhere,” he told NRO. "If Obamacare is as bad as we say it’s going to be, then we should pick up a lot of seats in the next election and we should win the presidency in 2016. This idea of going through the side door to take something you lost through the front door -- to me it’s wrong.”
     However there are some 'lemmings' whose resolve is rather weak:
     "King acknowledged, though, that the verbal commitment of those moderates to oppose the plan wasn't a guarantee that they would actually vote against it when the House votes Monday evening.
“How many of them are going to follow up today with the pressure and everything else, I don’t know,” King said.
       We have Congressman Nunes as a case in point. After castigating the 'lemmings' that will support Boehner's latest poison pill, he has joined them.         The real problem is minority rule. Not only has the GOP been able to thwart the will the majority repeatedly who want no part of this brinksmanship, but even within the GOP we see the minority more and more ruling, the tail also wags the elephant. King argues that he may have 25 House GOPers to oppose the new anti Obama bill tonight. It's being argued by some that as many as 175 Republicans would be willing to vote for the 'clean CR' but will Boehner ever allow that bill to get a vote?       And Byron York reports this:
There are 233 Republicans in the House. Insiders estimate that three-quarters of them, or about 175 GOP lawmakers, are willing, and perhaps even eager, to vote for a continuing resolution that funds the government without pressing the Republican goal of defunding or delaying Obamacare.
But will the House GOP leadership ever allow that vote to happen?

In Just a Few Hours We'll Know if There'll Be a Govt. Shutdown

     Evidently, Boehner is determined to make a liar out of me as I've predicted that we'd avoid it all along.
    Now many see it a shutdown as a more or less foregone conclusion. Certainly Boehner is still posturing at the 11th hour of the deadline with yet another bill to cut back on Obamacare has been promised:
    "In a move that would make a government shutdown all but inevitable, House Republicans intend to pass yet another bill Monday night to undermine Obamacare, just hours before a midnight deadline to keep the government open."

     "Their new strategy is to attach a one-year delay of Obamacare's individual mandate and a provision denying subsidies under the law to members of Congress and staff, commonly known as the Vitter amendment. Numerous Republican lawmakers expressed some doubt in the afternoon that the plan had the votes."

       "It's a matter of fairness for all Americans," Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters. Would he bring up a "clean" continuing resolution? "That's not going to happen," he said.

       "If that's the case, the federal government will shut down one minute after midnight, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) promised to reject any provision that messes with Obamacare. Exiting a closed-door meeting Monday, multiple Republican lawmakers told TPM that a stopgap measure to continue the status quo was not even discussed."
     We can certainly argue about the worth of predictions.
      It certainly wasn't a winner for me yesterday in Kansas City. It's still difficult that Boehner will really be this silly. He necessarily has to convince his base he is this silly. But surely at the last minute he'll take his finger off the button.
      We do get conservatives trying to rewrite history. For years it's been understood by the GOP establishment that the government shutdown of the 90s was disastrous for the GOP-Gingrich has himself admitted to mistakes in how it was handled. Yet we are hearing noises from the Right that maybe a shutdown is not so bad just as in those who want to believe that failure to accomplish immigraton reform won't hurt them so bad.
       So we are now hearing talking points like John Cuncan, GOP Congressman from Tennesse:
       "Look, the government has been shut down 17 times in the past," Duncan said. "This isn't about shutting the government down. ... Obamacare is actually shutting America down."

       Whatever is giving Republcans this optimism it's not polls which show the opposite:

       "Senate Dems today flatly rejected the House GOP measure funding the government while delaying Obamacare for a year, kicking the ball back on to House GOP turf. House Republicans promptly announced they would hold another vote on a measure funding the government – this time with a delay of the individual mandate attached, along with a provision nixing Obamacare subsidies for Members of Congress and staff. Harry Reid then promptly said this will be a nonstarter, too.
And in the midst of all this, new Washington Post/ABC News polling finds overwhelming public disapproval of the GOP’s handling of negotiations over the budget. Only 26 percent of Americans approve, versus 63 percent who disapprove. Among independents, those numbers are 21-66; among moderates they are 22-66."

         Soon we will know whether I had way too much faith in Boehner and the GOP establishment. I still find it hard to believe that they really thin they'll get a different result this time. If they won't Boehner is playing a great hand as no one watching him has any sense of hope that he gets that shutting down the government will never be a winner for the GOP no matter ho many 'other government shutdowns' Tea Partiers like Duncan come up with.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Steven Levitt, Freakonomics and the Rudy Gulliani Myth

     Speaking of Phillip Mirowski- and I speak of him a lot-

     -he's not a fan of Steve Levitt either. Of course, he's not a favorite of many heterodox proponents as he is seen as justifying Neoclassical econ. Still I've got to give him this-at least he punctures the Gulliani myth.

    I think doing so is a rather timely thing to do as we seem poised to get a Democratic Mayor again here in NYC after 20 years of Republican rule. We've had some discussion of Bloomberg's legacy.

   I think it's a mixed bag. He had his strong points though he doesn't get it on inequality-not so surprising that a billionare doesn't get it on how tough it is to be poor.

   Still, I guess one argument the Republicans could make going into this November's election is that we are a much safer city for 20 years of Repubs-I know Bloomberg's party designation changes with the season but on economics he sings from the GOP hymn book even if he used to be nominally a Dem and is now and 'independent.'-so why upset the apple cart? Maybe a Dem Mayor will take us back to the bad old days of the Dinkin years when crime was raging?

   Leavit does a great job of keeping Guiliani honest who has been happy to call himself the savior of NYC and that our crime rate that has plummeted so much is all thanks to his police methods-presumably the episodic cases of gross police brutality is a low price to pay along with stop and frisk and profiling?

   Leavit points out that

   1. Crime actually plummeted across the country.

   2. It had dropped 20% before he came into office.

   So correlation and causality is as so often is the case, much harder to draw conclusively. So, no, the next Mayor-likely de Blasio-will not cause the crime rate to skyrocket even though he will be the most liberal Mayor since John Lindsay.



Stiglitz's Price of Inequality: What are the Costs of Monopoly

     I just started reading his The Price of Inequality and it's pretty good.

    I've written about Mirowski's great book recently Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste-a kind of dystopian tale of Neoliberal intellectual dominance to explain why so many zombie ideas have survived the 2008 Crisis and the subsequent slow recovery. 

   Mirowski tends to see Stiglitz as part of the problem-as he is still a New Keynesian Neoclassical. Still, Stiglitz from within the NC establishment thinks out of the box more than anyone. I do think that time may show that the NC baby must indeed be thrown out with the bathwater-I really don't get why Macro needs 'microfoundations' either. 

   Still, like it or not for the foreseeable future NC will be the dominant school though it's position is much more precarious than it was prior to 2008, certainly much less than the Era of Good Feeling during 2003 we were were hearing that the Great Moderation showed that the business cycle was solved and we could just forget Macro altogether-as we know exactly what to do here-and concentrate on NC Micro. I think there has been a fissure from within as well, as the old fissures between Saltwater and Freshwater has reopened. 

  Krugman has also made some-admittedly tentative-noises about maybe there's something lacking even in the original NC Synthesis of Samuleson and Hicks-for Krugman the Patron Saints. So even within NC there are clearly changes and fissures. It's a much more heterogeneous school than it was 5 years ago. Then we have the heterodox schools on the outside which will assert more pressure. Where we end up only time will tell but it will be interesting to see where we are in 10 t0 20 years in Macro. 

  Most of what Stigliz writes I agree with-at least to the point where I am and I'm still early in the book (pg. 49)-however, one thing I'm not sure about is monopolies. I don't know how much they are an evil and how much they can even be beneficial. 

  Of course, monopolies are a problem for NC models which claim that over time 'excess profits' tend towards zero-so they shouldn't even exist with perfect competition.. Stiglitz argues for the abusiveness of monopolies. He lists their ill effects as

  1. By driving out competitors they can inflate prices and inflict pain on the consumer. 

 2. The monopoly achieves it's dominance and high market share not by innovation but through rent seeking which Stiglitz defines as achieving great profits in ways that add no value to the economy. He offers a classic case of abusiveness of a monopoly as Microsoft. 

 3. He talks about the abusive practice of producing at below capacity to keep prices high but driving up capacity and lowering prices massively if competitors try to break in. 

  On number 1, this makes sense logically but it seems that even then there are limits to how high they can raise their prices. Whatever you think of Microsoft, Windows has steadily dropped in price. I mean the real complaint has not been that it's so expensive but that it drove out competitors that were actually better innovators. I mean what does the empirical record say about this-does it support this theory of raising prices endlessly? My guess is that there are cases of abusive monopolies charging exorbitant prices perhaps particularly in captive Third World countries. 

  Still, it's not always the case. Indeed, there are benefits in certain kinds of monopolies it seems to me. One of the worst uses of anti-trust law was when the DOJ took so long to grant Sirius and  XM a merger as it would be anti competitive. In this case, competition-in the sense of having many firms-was not a feature but a bug as the only way the industry could survive at all was via combination so that both firms could eliminate duplicative costs. 

  It wasn't about charging a huge price for service-as the market was hardly captive-it was about survival. Indeed, the classic example of beneficial monopoly is the railroads. The era of heavy competition in the railroad industry in the 19th century was a little shop of horrors. There was huge overcapacity and too much duplicative tracks being built. The consumer whether individual or business was greatly inconvenienced as often they had to take 2 or 3 different trains for one trip-as different companies had the rights in different states and areas. 

   Standardization as Stiglitz acknowledges is often a very beneficial thing. To be sure, Microsoft's tactics in achieving dominance were hardly laudable and did often drive out better products. Still there may be some benefit in standardization in principle. At this point while they may have the operating market, that's become a much smaller fish in a bigger pond 

   This doesn't mean that we shouldn't have antitrust laws and that there aren't abusive monopolies just that I don't think it's black and white. At the end of the day the consumer wants low prices and great products. If they get that they don't care how many companies are in an industry. At least sometimes having just one or a few companies in an industry achieves consumer satisfaction in these terms 

  The question of what a company doses to achieve it's dominance-how much it drives out innovation-it depends. In the case of the 'monopoly' in satellite radio the answer is not at all. Microsoft wasn't a great innovator and achieved its dominance by what Stigliz calls rent seeking. However, the answer is quite different with Google. 


As Long as I'm Predicting No Govt. Shutdown I May as Well Predict the Giants Beat KC Tomorrow

     So I will go off further into the prediction business. My prediction of no Govt. shutdown.

Of course, we know that Neoclassical economists have a perfect answer to why they didn't predict the crisis-the EMH says it's impossible.

     My prediction for a Giants win tomorrow is partly based on another concept of economics: reversion to the mean. While there is momentum in say baseball-when a player gets a hit he feels like he can get another and another there is also the fact that the principle of mean reversion means that if he got a hit last time at bat he's less likely to get one this time.

     On the other hand it's possible to go too far: like it has been predicted that over time business tends towards mediocrity-as the mean. However, this is not true.

     "Many phenomena tend to be attributed to the wrong causes when regression to the mean is not taken into account."
     "An extreme example is Horace Secrist’s 1933 book The Triumph of Mediocrity in Business, in which the statistics professor collected mountains of data to prove that the profit rates of competitive businesses tend toward the average over time. In fact, there is no such effect; the variability of profit rates is almost constant over time. Secrist had only described the common regression toward the mean. One exasperated reviewer, Harold Hotelling, likened the book to “proving the multiplication table by arranging elephants in rows and columns, and then doing the same for numerous other kinds of animals”.[7]"

     "The calculation and interpretation of “improvement scores” on standardized educational tests in Massachusetts probably provides another example of the regression fallacy.[citation needed] In 1999, schools were given improvement goals. For each school, the Department of Education tabulated the difference in the average score achieved by students in 1999 and in 2000. It was quickly noted that most of the worst-performing schools had met their goals, which the Department of Education took as confirmation of the soundness of their policies. However, it was also noted that many of the supposedly best schools in the Commonwealth, such as Brookline High School (with 18 National Merit Scholarship finalists) were declared to have failed. As in many cases involving statistics and public policy, the issue is debated, but “improvement scores” were not announced in subsequent years and the findings appear to be a case of regression to the mean."

     In any case on the elements the Giants would seem to be in a bad spot. They've lost all three games so far and looked worse each week while the Chiefs have shaken the NFL going from 2-14 to 3-0 to start this year-already more wins than the entire 2012 season.  Still there's very little chance that the Chiefs are really this good or the Giants are this bad. Unless you think the Chiefs will go 16-0 and the Jints 0-16. 

    My prediction is also predicated that the Giants:

    1. Still have some heart. I have no question that at least their coach and QB still do. 

    2. They have not become a bad team. It's possible though that they have and if so they may well lose tomorrow. 

    No question this team has holes, most glaringly at running back so far. Wilson has not yet realized his promise-though in fairness his body of work is very small. It's gotten so bad that the Giants have brought Jacobs back who was very good in the past but does he still have it? If so he didn't show it last week. 

    I disagree though with those who blame this on Eli. I would say that he's really the team's only hope. Yes he has been a horror show with the ints and turnovers and one reason you can't totally kill the defense is that the offense has turned the ball over so much and the lack of a running game keeps them on the filed too long as do the turnovers. 

     However, part of Eli's trouble is no running game to take the pressure off him. If they can get more production-or any-from the running game they'll look a lot better. 

     Let's just hope last Sunday's performance by the offensive line was an aberration as Eli was sacked 6 times in the first half-which I believe is a record number of sacks of Eli. One his many great strengths is his durability-he simply doesn't get injured. Too many more Sundays like against Carolina and that may change. 

My Prediction: We Avoid the Government Shutdown

     It's all up the Boehner. That's not a great place to be-the entire machinery of the government itself hanging on Boeher's rationality, but I think he has enough that this won't happen. So I'm predicting it ultimately doesn't happen. In the end he will let the House vote on the Senate bill and that of course has the votes to pass. Mind you it may seem thin gruel to expect salvation from Boehner who regularly makes comments like this:

    "After President Obama reiterated that House Republicans should pass a spending bill and give up their effort to stop Obamacare, House Speaker John Boehner's office chastised the president for "grandstanding."

    “The House will take action that reflects the fundamental fact that Americans don’t want a government shutdown and they don’t want the train wreck that is Obamacare," Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said in a statement. "Grandstanding from the president, who refuses to even be a part of the process, won’t bring Congress any closer to a resolution.”

    "Boehner's press office also noted, after Obama also announced he had held a historic phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, that the president had not called Boehner this week."

     Talk about chutzpah. After all, Boehner has often spurned the President's calls to his office. Even refusing to honor the normal protocol of speaking with the President the night after his reelection in 2012. 

    If, before election day, Barack Obama still maintained any illusions about the possibility of working with Congressional Republicans in a second term, he's got to be over that now, because...
   "When Obama tried to do the gracious thing--calling Republican leaders John Boehner and Mitch McConnell after accepting Mitt Romney's concession--not to gloat, but  probably planning to say something like, "I look forward to working with you," both of those "leaders" REFUSED TO TAKE HIS CALL."
  So if Obama does call will he answer? In fact Boehner is probably lying about Obama not calling now. So why do I have hope? Because Boehner is actually the pot calling the kettle black: in fact he's the one engaging in grandstanding. This is why we have to always go to the brink in every hostage situation. It's so Boehner can plausibly argue to the base that he did everything he could but in the end Obama is just too irresponsible and he had to do the responsible thing. 
  However, now that the Senate as expected has passed the CR without any defunding of Obamacare, it's up to him if he really wants to go over the brink. Unless he's much crazier than I think he is-and I do think that he like almost all GOPers today is unhinged to quite a degree, he will let it through after every other nonstarter-like House Repubs demanding a unilateral acceptance of a one year delay of Obamacare-falls flat. 
  It's not just Boehner, the only way for any Republican who is reasonable on any issue to survive the most absurd and maudlin theatrics are necessary. Check out Ted Cruz:
  "Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said the House probably won't accept the "clean" bill to avert a government shutdown. GOP leaders are mulling several options on what to do next. One possibility, according to sources, is to attach two Obamacare-related provisions to the continuing resolution -- repeal of the medical device tax, and a provision denying members of Congress subsidies under the health care law -- and send it back to the Senate."
    "But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) categorically ruled that out on Friday.
"Let's be absolutely clear: we are going to accept nothing that relates to Obamacare.," he toldreporters after the bill passed, calling on Republicans to "get a life" and talk about something other than Obamacare.
That leaves House GOP leaders in a very tough spot. Their predicament is exacerbated by the fact that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the leader of the quixotic push to defund Obamacare, is privately telling conservative House members to defy Boehner's fiscal strategy, according to theNational Review. Boehner has been trying to persuade members not to shut down the government over Obamacare by dangling all sorts of conservative goodies before them in a bill to lift the debt ceiling and stave off a catastrophic debt default."

    "I very much hope that when the House bill comes back all 46 Republicans stand together, stand united against Obamacare," Cruz told reporters, standing beside Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). "The House was always in a position where it was going to lead. And I know from my perspective and Sen. Lee's perspective we look forward to helping and supporting the House, standing up and doing the right thing for the American people."

    However, wouldn't this be more believable if Rubio had actually voted against the motion to take up the CR with no rollback in Obamacare? In fact he was one of the unanimous 100 Senators to let it go to a vote 

   All this rhetoric now it to convince the base that he didn't betray them when he obviously did. After all, if he wants the House to stand against Obamacare why did he vote to allow it to be voted on and not use the filibuster to stop it? That we have the rare specter of the Senate actually passing something without a supermajority proves that this CR win no cut to ACA has their blessing. 

  I see that GOP Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma agrees with me. He thinks Boehner caves.

  Look, I'm no fan of Boehner and I know he's crazy as virtually all Republicans are these days. Still. I think he still has some level of sanity. I mean the record is clear. This never helps the GOP politically. Not in 1995, not in 2011 and 2012. It sure won't now. Yes the GOP is a slow learner but surely it gets that it can't win in a government shutdown. I mean surely the height of illogical is to do the same thing that's brought endless failure and expect a different result?  

  Now it has become painfully clear that the GOP has learnt nothing from the 2012 election. Even the one thing it seemed they did learn-immigration reform-they have allowed themselves to believe that may it's just that not enough white people voted in 2012. However, that a government shutdown will kill the GOP I can't believe anyone in the party's establishment doesn't fully understand that. 

  If Boehner really believes that this time they'll somehow convince everyone that it's all the Democrats' fault then using the word 'logic' in the same sentence as 'Republcan' has now become an absolute oxymoron. 

  So I take my stand in saying there won't be a shutdown. At the 11th hour-and he has to wait till then to please the base that he really did everything he can-he will let the House vote on the clean version of the Senate bill. We will know the answer pretty soon. If I gave Boehner-and therefore the GOP establishment-d a lot more credit than he deserves. 


Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Latest Major Happenings in the Life and Times of the Diary of a Republican Hater Owner

     Lately I've been struggling to keep up my normal volume of posting-generally I try to post-at a minimum-3 posts per day-which should leave me with roughly 90 or so posts a month. The high water mark is still August and September 2012 when I got 159 and then 168 posts respectively-an average well over 5 posts per day and getting on to 6.

     Of course, those heady times were back when I was totally unemployed-before I became just underemployed. I then went to a job fair at-where else?-the Baldwin Public Library where I would spend the whole day hanging out and blogging and got a part time evening job as an appointment setter at Slomin's oil in Hicksville-for those unfamiliar this is all on Long Island New York.
    I've managed to usually keep up at least a pretty good rate per day-at worst of 2 and a half per day. Until September. Starting in mid August I've had two jobs-which is what I wanted-but during September between everything I've been so tired and I also spent a weekend at a friends house and didn't blog much there.

   So I've been behind. At this point only 39 posts for the month. In any case I'm in the middle of trying to make a big move with work. My goal since I got the Slomin's job was to get a second job as that obviously wasn't enough by itself-$11 an hour but only 20 hours per week.

   Jay, the supervisor who had hired me had claimed that once you're with the company for a certain amount of time-3 months or 6 months, it tended to vary from what you heard-then you could be in line for a customer service job within the company that was not only full time but offered plenty of overtime. In any case, he rather oversold this option-after all, he's a telemarketer right?

   Any way I was looking elsewhere for a second job. I finally found it in June of this year-so I'd been with Slomins about 10 months when I got hired by a home improvement company in Melville in the mornings working 8:30 to 1:30. So I would do this in the morning and then Slomin's 5 to 9. This worked great-for a whole week. Then Slomin's suddenly fired me. I wasn't Jay but this young kid, Matt, who had taken over for him. Matt claimed that it 'came from the top'-basically the trouble is that I had gotten only 1 lead for the week for 3 successive weeks. No question I was in a slump. It's tough to do telemarketing for too long and never have one but Matt made it cut and dried. Evidently he had his orders and couldn't factor in all the weeks I had produced a good amount of leads.

   I get the argument that you can't live off your past numbers but just the same this was a pretty silly decision-whoever made it. While you can say you can't live off my past numbers what about my future numbers? I mean I would have broken out. Ok, I guess they couldn't know that I would but based on my 10 months of performance it's a reasonable guess.

    So I was back to one job again-one part time job though this was 5 hours more per week, but $10 an hour. So $45 more per week. Though the company pays biweekly. It's a very small company in Melville-right by the Melville Mall. Just about 6 of us on the phones-7 including Ray, the manager. The owner, Joe had his own office, the company has only been open at least in this incantation since May 2012 though on the phone we tell people it's been open 15 years-this may be technically true in the sense that Joe has had other companies. He's been in home improvement his whole life.

   Anyway, for the most part I heave quite enjoyed working there. I was referred there by a fellow I met one night while waiting for the bus on Hempstead Tpke while waiting for the bus coming back from Slomin's one night. However, the trouble is that Joe's expectations may be a little unrealistic. He expects 2 to 3 leads a day but no one has ever really gotten this consistently.

   Now the obvious question is whether then it's a wholly realistic goal. However, by July we began to here-from Ray the manager, Joe deals very little with the appointment setters, he spends his time with the sales guys and running his own jobs.

   No question things begun to be a little slower in the Summer. However we figured that in September they'd heat up. Actually it's gone south. Again, even in the good times I don't think anyone ever consistently always averaged '2 to 3 leads per day'-the idea being that this will give the 3 sales guys enough leads from 10 to 6.

   I had a few weeks where I did or close to it. However, more usually I seemed to average about 1 lead per day. In September we've had a lot of days where the entire room has gotten only 3 leads. Ray is a good guy but the pressure gets to him and he can become a pain in the neck asking for leads. He's on the phone too and knows what it's about.

  In any case, even in the best of times I never have really gotten that much money from this job. I get the salary which is about $200 a week give or take. The commissions are 1% of sales. The First 3 months I've averaged about 20,000 in sales so that's just an extra $200 a month-it' still just about $250 a week give or take.

  So my feeling has been that I don't need pressure for a $200 a week job. As I mentioned above I got a night job in August-5 to 9 again just like Slomins. It's a mortgage company where you try to get people to refinance or help them purchase a house-or the new thing, reverse mortgages. The pay is only $8 an hour though they do say that if you set up a mortgage application with someone who ends up signing you get a $200 bonus.

   Yep, more promises. So this week I've tried to maneuver a big switch-I interviewed for a company that does 'chemical sales.' He hired me Monday but the company week starts on Friday. The cool thing is that it's full time, 9 to 5. It's straight $400 salary per week plus commissions. I've seen this setup before actually at my first sales job in Middle Neck back in 2010 at this company that calls itself Royal Chemical. You call various businesses and try to sell them chemical products-basically cleaning supplies or snow melt or whatever.

   The potential seems good though for some reason you only start receiving commissions checks after roughly 3 to five months. So this week the big question for me was how do I tell my bosses at the home improvement and mortgage jobs?

    I finally settled on: making stuff up that gives me an excuse to take about a week off. So I can always come back-hopefully-if things don't work out. I actually told Ray today that I have a very sick family member and I will be gone tomorrow and don't know when I'll be back but that it will likely be about a week.

     The weird thing is I almost feel bad as I really do like Ray. Yet, my thing is that Slomin's really left me with a bad taste in my mouth that they would dump me that quickly. I do kind of feel like I don't want to feel like that again-kind of like yesterday's toilet paper at Penn Station in Manhattan. They used me until they had taken everything-or so they thought-then threw me over board. In truth all those leads are valuable for them-after all what's more important and tougher to get than cold leads. Even those which didn't get sold will be useful for them in the future.

    So today, it was on. I managed to keep to my plan. I went it to Melville this morning and had a great day actually my best ever-4 leads. Partly because I went through all those sheets of the homeowners who had previously been leads-often with other companies. Then when I left I took those sheets with me. If I do go back I don't want anyone using them while I'm out.

    So I didn't want to get shafted like at Slomin's. However, I also need to actually get ahead which is hardly happening at these two jobs. At least this new 'chemical sales' job is ful time and I can finish work at 5 rather than starting up a new shift here in Lindenhurst at 5.

    The pay is at least as good-even assuming none of the commissions every materialize-which I don't believe.

    So here's the latest from what Phillip Mirowski calls the "Neoliberal economy.'

   Right now the sales jobs are a place that has a low barrier to entry. However, in exchange you don't exactly get job security. My thing is avoiding being disposed of yet again.

   P.S. Wish me luck tomorrow. Hopefully I'll get some real blogging in this weekend. Again, getting out at 5 will hopefully allow me to really crank them out.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ted Cruz: King of all Phony Fillibusters

      It's not easy being a Tea Party hero. Your shelf life is short. Just ask Marco Rubio. In 2010 he received more campaign money than any other Tea Party candidate.  The he did one thing the base didn't like-stand behind immigration reform-and it's over. He's now gone from Tea Party hero to Tea party villain. 

     The next Tea Party flavor of the month was Ted Cruz. Now he's in big trouble as he admitted the other day that they lack the votes to pass Boehner's latest defund Obamacare scheme in the Senate. Next some House staffers were saying he's less popular in the GOP House than Nancy Pelosi.

    That's where yesterday's absurd 'filibuster' comes in. In truth it wasn't a filibuster and achieved little but he's  hoping to win back some Street Cred with the base. In truth it was about nothing as just as he predicted the Dems will drop the defund Obamacare provision from the CR. However, while he can't substantively do anything about it he's hoping these theatrics will win him something. 

   As Rubio is in the same boat, he's playing the same game. He has lots of admiration for Cruz's 'filibuster' and thinks it will prove really productive too. 

   Rubio (R-Fla.) joined Cruz (R-Texas) on the Senate floor Tuesday and Wednesday, and told Fox News that he was not against Cruz’s strategy, instead asking how can it be negative.
“Let me say this, we are now— have the ability to spend over the last 18 hours, as Ted has done and those of us who have tried to help him and others, to inform the American public about the reality of what Obamacare is going to mean to their lives. How can that be a negative?” Rubio said.

Read more:

    In his admiration, however, he may be in the minority. Senator McCain doesn't sound too impressed. In fact McCain actually seems to think that-elections actually have consequences. Sounds lke a liberal to me!

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) ripped Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) after he gave an anti-Obamacare speech that lasted over 21 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The speech, which was not technically a filibuster because it did not delay any votes, was labeled an "extended oratory" by McCain, who spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday. McCain said he took issue with some of the content of Cruz's speech, including a Nazi comparison.
"If you go to the 1940s, Nazi Germany," Cruz said. "Look, we saw in Britain, Neville Chamberlain, who told the British people, 'Accept the Nazis. Yes, they'll dominate the continent of Europe but that's not our problem. Let's appease them. Why? Because it can't be done. We can't possibly stand against them.'"
"I resoundingly reject that allegation," McCain said. "That allegation, in my view, does a great disservice. A great disservice to those brave Americans and those who stood up and said, 'what's happening in Europe cannot stand.'"
McCain also recalled the the 2009-2010 debate over Obamacare -- before Cruz was elected to the Senate -- saying "the people spoke" on the issue when they reelected President Barack Obama in 2012. McCain said lawmakers shouldn't "give up our efforts to repair Obamacare" but said it wasn't worth shutting down the government.
"We fought as hard as we could in a fair and honest manner and we lost," McCain said. "One of the reasons was because we were in the minority, and in democracies, almost always the majority governs and passes legislation."
McCain said he "was extremely proud" of the anti-Obamacare effort by lawmakers and said they shouldn't "give up our efforts to repair Obamacare," but said it wasn't worth shutting down the government.
     Still it's not hard to get why we get these tactics from former Tea Party icons like Cruz and Rubio. If CR passes without defunding Obamacare-which it will-guess who will be blamed by the base and the Tea Party Repubs in the House? 
     UPDATE: I'm pleased to announce that the Senate has voted-unanimously, so even Cruz didn't vote against it-to begin debate on indeed passing CR without the Boehner's poison pill. 
      Shortly after Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) 21-hour talkathon, the Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to advance a continuing resolution to keep the federal government open beyond Sept. 30.

The final vote was a unanimous 100-0 and even Cruz voted to begin debate. His lengthy speech was a call for a filibuster to end debate unless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) agreed to make it easier for the GOP to block funding for Obamacare.

     Hmmm. Yet I had suggested that Rubio's filibuster was fake and just about theatrics. I guess his actually voting to begin debate disproves that. Oh wait. So how does he explain this?

    "The next vote we take will occur on Friday or Saturday and it will be on what is called cloture on the bill," Cruz said during his speech. "That is the vote that matters."

     Yes Senator. Typical GOP tactic. It's always the next battle that's going to give us Armageddon. Yet Cruz was telling Limbaugh just today that some Senators think their voters are 'gullible rubes.' He doesn't name any names but I can think of a couple...

      Like the last couple of Tea Party icons. 


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Is a Better World Possible? Neoliberals and Knowing Your Enemy

     Perhaps some might feel that Mirowski's attempt to fight back against the Right is a little over the top and conspiratorial. After all conspiracies don't happen do they?

    Mirowski on the Neoliberals: Know your enemy 

    I don't think it's over the top as I believe that conspiracies do happen. I actually still don't think 9/11 Trutherism is so crazy.This doesn't mean that I do-or don't buy Mirowski's premise. Actually I do think it deserves serious consideration and no matter what there is much to learn from it. 

    However, I think he's on the right track. He's certainly right that most attempts to fight back against his Neoliberals over the last 5 years have not been successful. The EMH is a perfect example. It's an idea that's too easy to criticize. While you can always criticize it, just the same it's proponents can always dismiss your criticism. Yes, Sumner is the perfect case in point.

    Note the way he puts it-'are there any good arguments against EMH?' he doesn't even quibble over its truth or lack thereof. He just argues 'you can't prove it's not true.' So basically he can assert anything provided you can't prove it's not true. Also, of course, he argues that EMH is useful.

    I also agree that Mirowski is right that the conservatives actually may be doing a better job of undersanding that 'you can't go home again' now, ironically enough. If liberals don't get this how do they create the better world they insist is possible?

    As far as 'knowing your enemy' is concerned the NLers have the right approach-they deny that Neoliberalism even exists outside the heads of overwrought leftists. Much of the NL is Republican or Republcan leaning-the leading NLers at Monte Perle were Friedman and Hayek. This is quite fitting as the Republicans started as the 'Know Nothing' party in the 1850s-for Free Soil, the Union, the American System, etc. 


Know Your Enemy Before You Start Dreaming of a Better World

     Mirowski uses this line, but I'll give you three guesses for who he's quoting here. Would you believe Carl Schmidt? I've got to say that seems sort of unprecedented in itself-who has quoted Carl Schmidt since the fall of the Reich?

     He argues that NTC understands that 'you can't go home again.' Also 'To preserve the Regime the conservative must reconstruct he Regime.' The argument is that what he calls the Neoliberal Thought Collective (NTC) fights a much better fight than its opponents, partly because Left wing opponents who hope that 'a better world is possible' mostly have not this faintest inkling about how debt and vast the NTC really is

   For many of us who wonder why for instance the American people believe so many schizophrenic totally contradictory things-the classic moment still being the Tea Party woman who wanted the government to keep it's hands off of her Medicare his answer is for one thing a very effective program of agnotology-ie, the deliberate fostering of ignorance, where only the market of Hayek's Spontaneous Order knows very much.

    For a look at how contradictory so many Americans beliefs are see here

    For previous posts on Mirowski please see here

    As you can see from the two links from previous posts on him, Mirowski is very critical of many attempts to critique Neoclassical Econ, largely because in his view the only way to correct grossly erroneous ideas like the EMH and DSGE is to accept that we must throw the baby out with the bathwater-that is to say, that the only way to truly get free of such Zombi ideas is to give up NC itself. The real problem is NC microeconomics and the requirement that you can't tell any kind of Macro story about the economy that doesn't pass a kind of performance review in Micro NC.

     As I've mentioned before, there's a lot going on here, part of it not just on the content level but also in terms of form-in this sense it's also a Waite-y book (Geoff Waite). He starts out on the first page with a reference to Neoliberalism as personifying Nietzsche's Eternal Return. He later refers to Nietzsche as the Philosopher of Cruelty-in reference to the treatment of debtors by creditors-the student loans that literally follow you the rest of your life for starters.

     Overall, he is pretty critical across the board. He makes it clear that he sees New Keynesians like Stiglitz and Krugman as more part of the problem than solution. However, he's also very critical of the would be anti Wall St. Left as well.

    He has little good to say about Occupy Wall St. arguing the failure of the Occupy protests was thanks to them embracing the long discredited view that you can have sustained political action with no theoretical guidance or hierarchical organization of short to long term goals. Seems to me that this is part of what OWS took pride in-not having any theoretical basis and being truly 'leaderless.'

   He also points out that OWS was the brainchild of Adbusters and its founder Kalle Lasn who described the OWS project as trying to sell 'ideas rather than products' and that 'the purpose of life is not to find yourself but to lose yourself.'

  In many ways OWS saw itself as a 'cultural' movement but he argues that culturally they were much more Neoliberal themselves than they realized. 

  Overall, I certainly agree that the Right wing opposition-the NLers for Mirowski-are much more formidable than most so-called leftists realize. It certainly does seem that 'we can't go home again' in any easy way. As conservatives are the ones who ostensibly want to go back to the past, that's a pretty impressive insight for them. 

  UPDATE. I guess I should link to Mirowski again though I have in previous posts.

   He has some great lines regarding OWS:  'Disparagement of government was one script pratically plagiarized from the Tea Party. '

Monday, September 23, 2013

Boehner Has it in His Power to Really Blow 2014

     It's clear that the Dems are going to send his CR back to him without Obamacare defunded. What will Boehner do then? My guess is he'll eventually let it come up for a vote. However, if he doesn't he will please the Tea Party. He just won't please anyone else. Not even rank and file Republicans who don't identify as part of the Tea Party. Yes, the majority of Americans don't like Obamacare right now.

   Nevertheless, Karl Rove and the WSJ among other realistic Republican voices are admitting that this in no way means that the GOP can use this as a bargaining chip using a government shutdown as a threat.  Even the WSJ has admitted that going here is one way to throw a good 2014 election into jeopardy. Nobody supports such ransom notes, and most don't even want Obamacare defunded-yes that does point to a certain schizophrenia in voters; if you've been following things at all this is nothing new. 

    Americans basically want it all both ways. Still almost no one wants a government shutdown to defund Obamacare or any other reason. 

   "There’s a ton of chatter about today’s CNBC poll, which finds overwhelming opposition to ongoing conservative efforts to sabotage Obamacare. The poll finds that even without a shutdown Americans oppose defunding by 44 percent to 38 percent.  Steve Liesman has the rest of the gory details from the internals, and they’re striking:

Opposition to defunding increases sharply when the issue of shutting down the government and defaulting is included. In that case, Americans oppose defunding 59 percent to 19 percent, with 18 percent of respondents unsure. [...]
A 51 percent majority of Republicans generally support defunding with 36 percent opposed and 13 percent unsure. However, when including the issue of a government shutdown and default, the picture changes: 48 percent of Republicans oppose defunding Obamacare, while 36 percent support it.
However, a 54 percent majority of Republicans who also identify themselves as Tea Party supporters want the new health care law defunded even if it means a government shutdown – the only demographic measured in the poll with such a majority. Republicans who do not identify themselves as Tea Party supporters… oppose defunding Obamacare 44 percent to 36 percent with 20 percent unsure.
Independents…oppose defunding by a slight plurality of 44 percent to 40 percent. However, when the issue of shutting down the government is included, opposition to the measure swells to 65 percent, while support drops to just 14 percent.

    Yes, there is one group that does. 

     "Only Republicans who identify themselves as Tea Partyers want the law defunded even if it means a shutdown. Non-Tea Party Republicans don’t want it. Neither do independents. Neither do Americans overall."

    So which group is Boehner going to listen to? 

     P.S. A lot of Dems are even kind of cool with the idea of a govt shutdown-if the GOP forces one they assume it will be short and that it will remind Americans how out there the GOP has become. 

     "Democrats don't fear a shutdown. They do fear a debt-ceiling breach. Politically, Democrats think Republican brinksmanship is all gravy for them, and many believe some kind of massive Republican misstep would actually be healthy for the political system, as it might lead to a public rejection of the GOP's more extreme tactics. But in terms of actual impact on actual human beings, Democrats aren't particularly concerned about the consequences of a shutdown, while they're horrified by the potential consequences of even a short-lived default."

    Yet surely there's not a need for more proof of this is there?