Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Here Comes the Sun! Occupy Movement Shows No Signs of Slowing - Why Fake Conservatives Love "The University of Chicago Way" (Keeping the Rich Rich(er) - Time for Transformation to Solar? "Fracking Kills!"

Your local news stations and the Mainstream Media (MSM) may not be covering this, but we are. From The Big Picture:

Occupy Wall Street Global Protests

Global protests against economic injustice gripped cities over the weekend, predominantly on Saturday, October 15. Solidarity with Spain's "Indignants" and New York's "Occupy Wall Street" protesters brought demonstrations over the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and the worldwide economic crisis to cities from Hong Kong to Tulsa. Hundreds of thousands joined the mostly peaceful demonstrations, although arrests were made in many cities, and clashes with police in Rome became particularly violent. The movement shows no signs of slowing. Gathered here are images from cities large and small.

-- Lane Turner (40 photos total)
(Click on picture to enlarge.)

Members of Occupy Wall Street stage a protest near Wall Street in New York on October 15, 2011. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

The University of Chicago Way


Paramount Pictures

"The Untouchables"

Republicans like to accuse President Obama of being a "Chicago style" politician. By "Chicago Style" they mean thuggish... it's one of those dog whistle codes they use. But the real Chicago-style politics is happening on the Republican side. Specifically, University of Chicago style politics. Or, more to the point, University of Chicago style economics.

People know The University of Chicago as 'the place where fun goes to die'; but to right wing economists it's Jerusalem and Milton Friedman is Moses.

Friedman led conservative economists out of Keynesian bondage, into the promised land of low government spending, reduced regulation and a laissez faire approach to the markets. (OK, it's not a perfect metaphor... Moses never made it to the promised land, and Friedman lived in Hyde Park... but you get the point). Just about everything you hear in a Republican debate traces its DNA back to the Chicago school.

Here's the problem for Republicans. If you accept that the biggest short-term problem in our economy is the catastrophically high unemployment rate... even more than long term challenge of the debt... then you have to campaign on ideas to increase employment. But that is not the University of Chicago way.

NPR financial reporter Adam Davidson called out the problem in the New York Times Magazine:

Chicagoans believe that economies can only truly recover on their own and that policy interventions only slow the recovery. It’s a puzzle of modern politics that Republicans have had electoral success with a policy that fundamentally asserts there is nothing the government can do to create jobs any time soon.
Mitt Romney dropped the dime last month in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He accused President Obama of "slow walking" the foreclosure process (that's kind of a Baines-y Wall Street term, 'slow walking'); and called on the administration to foreclose on more families faster:

"Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom. Allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up. And let it turn around and come back up."
That's pure Chicago school: let the suffering run its course; let the market fix the problem, without government interference. While no one will ever go broke saying 'Romney is hard to pin down', this was one instance where we maybe saw the essential Mitt.

In his Times article, Davidson put a bow on it:

Of course, Romney, Perry, Herman Cain and the rest won’t come out and say, “If elected, I will tell you to wait this thing out.”
Instead, Republican candidates fill their jobs plans with Chicagoan ideas that have nothing to do with the current crisis, like permanent cuts in taxes and regulation. These policies may (or may not) make the economy healthier in 5 years or 10, but the immediate impact would require firing a large number of America’s roughly 23 million government workers.
In other words, don't let a crisis go to waste - at least, that's what the mayor of Chicago would say.

PS: Original Chicago gangster Al Capone ultimately went to prison for tax violations. With cutbacks at the IRS and other financial regulators, that would be less likely to happen under Republicans.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Paul Krugman: Here Comes the Sun

Who doesn't like solar energy?
...We are, or at least we should be, on the cusp of an energy transformation, driven by the rapidly falling cost of solar power. That’s right, solar power. If that surprises you,... blame our fossilized political system, in which fossil fuel producers have both powerful political allies and a powerful propaganda machine that denigrates alternatives.
Speaking of propaganda..., let’s talk briefly about hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking.
Fracking — injecting high-pressure fluid into rocks deep underground, inducing the release of fossil fuels — is an impressive technology. But it’s also a technology that ... contaminates drinking water; there is reason to suspect ... that it also contaminates groundwater; and the heavy trucking ... inflicts major damage on roads.
Economics 101 tells us that an industry ... should be required to “internalize” those costs... Yet ... the industry and its defenders demand ... that it be let off the hook... Why? Because we need that energy! ...
So it’s worth pointing out that special treatment for fracking makes a mockery of free-market principles. Pro-fracking politicians claim to be against subsidies, yet letting an industry impose costs without paying compensation is in effect a huge subsidy. ...
And now for ... the success story you haven’t heard about.
These days, mention solar power and you’ll probably hear cries of “Solyndra!” Republicans have tried to make the failed solar panel company ... a symbol of government waste — although claims of a major scandal are nonsense...
But Solyndra’s failure was actually caused by technological success: the price of solar panels is dropping fast, and Solyndra couldn’t keep up with the competition. ... If the downward trend continues — and if anything it seems to be accelerating we’re just a few years from the point at which electricity from solar panels becomes cheaper than electricity generated by burning coal. ...
But will our political system delay the energy transformation now within reach?
Let’s face it: a large part of our political class, including essentially the entire G.O.P., is deeply invested in an energy sector dominated by fossil fuels, and actively hostile to alternatives. This political class will do everything it can to ensure subsidies for the extraction and use of fossil fuels, directly with taxpayers’ money and indirectly by letting the industry off the hook for environmental costs, while ridiculing technologies like solar.
So what you need to know is that nothing you hear from these people is true. Fracking is not a dream come true; solar is now cost-effective. Here comes the sun, if we’re willing to let it in.

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