“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, May 17, 2015

U.S. spending on infrastructure is just 2.4 percent of GDP, half of what it was 50 years ago.

Why The Us Needs A Trillion Dollar Spending Spree

The Fiscal Times
January 30, 2015
At the beginning of a new congressional session, virtually every elected official presents a legislative agenda. Usually these efforts fall victim to gridlock, but they almost always situate themselves within an acceptably narrow range of discourse in Washington. Sometimes, though, a politician offers more than a set of policy ideas, but a new way of thinking, a challenge to long-held orthodoxy. And that makes what Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been doing this week critically important.
Sanders is the new ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and he has thrown out the rulebook for that leadership position. He hired a sharply progressive staff, including chief economist Stephanie Kelton, a leading advocate for Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), which warns of the dangers (yes, dangers) of balanced budgets that take money from the hands of ordinary people, and counsels that economies in control of their own currency can never “run out” of money.
According to this theory, federal deficits do matter, but only when the economy is at full capacity and full employment, and inflation starts to rise. We’re nowhere near there at the moment, so the goal of government should be to encourage full employment through broad investments.
The deficit has been the overwhelming concern in Washington for nearly the entire Obama presidency, of course, leading to sequestrationbudget caps and a fiscal drag that objectively harmed economic growth. But MMT applies the words of economist John Maynard Keynes: “Look after the unemployment, and the budget will look after itself.”
Traditional economists and D.C. political operatives typically look at supporters of MMT as if they’ve sprouted horns. But Sanders hired one for a top policy job, and we’re starting to witness the effects of that.
You can see it in Sanders’ opening remarks to the Budget Committee, which described the budget as an expression of priorities, not a series of numbers that must balance out. “While we must continue to focus on the federal deficit, we must also be aware that there are other deficits in our society that are causing horrendous pain for the vast majority of the American people,” Sanders said. “There are deficits in decent-paying jobs. There are deficits in the infrastructure. There are deficits in income. Deficits in inequality. Deficits in retirement security. Deficits in education. And deficits in trade.”
This question of emphasis — on what deficits to fix — shows in Sanders’s first big bill, a $1 trillion infrastructure program called the Rebuild America Act. Over five years, Sanders’ bill would commit this money to upgrading roads, bridges, water systems, airports, shipping ports, mass transit, electrical grids and even broadband, a wider vision of infrastructure than the usual surface transportation bill, which expires this summer.
U.S. spending on infrastructure is just 2.4 percent of GDP, half of what it was 50 years ago. Ramping up this investment — much of it for deferred maintenance that could be costlier to fix later — would increase efficiency, productivity and public safety, while creating 13 million decent-paying jobs, according to Sanders. “If you want to create jobs, the fastest way to do it is through rebuilding infrastructure,” Sanders noted in remarks introducing the bill.
Both parties pay lip service to infrastructure spending, because the public overwhelmingly supports it. But Sanders’ bill is different, because he doesn’t include a way to pay for it. The official story is that everyone supports infrastructure until you get to the funding, and Sanders wants to get people to agree on this urgent need first.
There are many other reasons to put the funding aside, though. Democrats in recent years have been trapped by the burden of fiscal responsibility. Statutory language they supported called “paygo” forces them to find a funding source for every new program. Since that usually leads to endorsing increased revenues, it allows Republicans to easily demonize Democrats as the party of higher taxes. 
But there’s ample reason to question this obsession with offsetting spending. The Congressional Budget Office’s recent forecast identifies the past few years as the largest period of deficit reduction since the end of World War II, with a massive $4 trillion slashed from budgets over a 10-year period, more than called for by deficit blueprints like Bowles-Simpson.
CBO also found a $600 billion drop in federal health care spending estimates, even with the coverage expansions in Obamacare. Since everyone agrees that health care represents the biggest driver of future deficits, this dramatic slowdown throws cold water on the often-hyped fears of runaway debt. In fact, the only reason CBO sees a return to higher deficits down the road comes from higher interest payments on the current debt, a dubious projection.
As Matthew Klein explains, the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates low for going on seven years. If the economy got strong enough to necessitate much higher rates, that would also mean that jobs would grow, tax revenues would rise and spending on things like unemployment and food stamps would fall, canceling out the expense of higher borrowing costs. The specter of interest rates is, to quote Paul Krugman, "just an assumption, with nothing solid behind it."
If austerity policies succeeded in bringing about broad prosperity, that would be one thing. But as Sanders pointed out in a remarkable speech on the Senate floor Thursday, the top 1 percent has taken all of the gains from the economy since the Great Recession, with real median household income dropping to 1996 levels. Despite massive supply-side support — deregulation and giant reductions in taxes for the wealthy and corporations — the only result has been widening inequality, sclerotic growth and slower recoveries from more persistent downturns.
There’s reason to wonder if Washington has it backwards. The only time we’ve seen balanced federal budgets recently was when full employment in the late 1990s brought in surplus tax revenue. This makes sense if you recognize that 2/3 of the economy comes from consumer spending: “Our economy runs on sales,” as Sanders put it. If all the benefits go to the top, the rich cannot possibly spend enough to sustain demand.
In Sanders’ view, infrastructure programs that inject spending into the economy give millions of people a decent salary to buy necessities, and cycle money through the economy. “Paying for” such investments by cutting elsewhere would only weaken their impact.
This idea of middle-class consumers as the real job creators turns the deficit argument completely on its head. It frames government as an aide to growth, not a scold that takes away jobs and opportunity. It sees an ambitious role for government as a way to achieve broadly shared prosperity through smart investments. It prioritizes full use of economic resources to solve society’s problems over constraining what government can do. And it rejects the argument of scarcity. “Spending isn’t just the right way to grow the economy,” Sanders concluded Thursday, “it’s the only way.”
Maybe that isn’t MMT precisely, but it’s shockingly close for a political culture that usually puts up walls to keep out new ideas. Those walls still remain, of course; at a time when Republicans control Congress, valuing full employment over so-called fiscal responsibility may never get a proper hearing.
Still, consider what else has happened recently. Not only has the Obama administration rejected its prior flirtation with cutting Social Security benefits, but its new budget next week will call for an end to sequestration, the automatic cuts to discretionary and military spending. Obama’s budget goes $74 billion higher than the sequestration caps. Sanders leaped to support the move to “end artificial spending limits,” in his words.
Even Republicans want to increase spending this year, albeit largely for the military. It wasn’t so long ago that Dick Cheney, while vice president, proclaimed, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”
Sometimes, Washington backs into its best ideas without even knowing it. Sanders’s MMT-tinged push for higher spending comes at precisely the right time, when politicians are looking to respond to inequality and economic despair. If trillions can be committed to fight wars and save Wall Street, a trillion can certainly be committed to give millions of people good-paying jobs. Nobody may want to admit they’re relying on a theory that would get them excommunicated from the church of Washington seriousness. But it’s so crazy it just might work.
- See more at:


  1. Privatize Amtrak.

    Sell it to the highest bidder.

    1. If there is a bidder.......

      If not, we got a problem.

    2. No, take the $3.5 billion that we send to Israel and spend it where it will do Americans some good. Privatize farmer and rancher welfare recipients. Make them pay for the real cost of water and take away all their subsidies in using federal lands for next to nothing.

    3. Privatize the rural federal highways that are subsidized by federal taxes on gasoline burned on mostly non-federal streets in the East.

    4. Any more bright doctrinaire hayseed recommendations?

    5. Deuce: No, take the $3.5 billion that we send to Israel and spend it where it will do Americans some good. Privatize farmer and rancher welfare recipients. Make them pay for the real cost of water and take away all their subsidies in using federal lands for next to nothing.

      Sure deuce, and do you know how many America JOBS will be lost?

      But you cannot see that can you?

      Aid GIVEN to Israel comes back directly as American contracts.

      Now there is the other thing.. Which you don't believe.. Israel is a bargain as a dependable ally that tomorrow we could land a plane, preposition arms in and all sorts of other benefits that you'd just say were bullshit..

      but they aint bullshit...

      at least to those in the know.

  2. We have no problem spending money that we don’t have to engage it one idiotic war after another. It is estimated that Afghanistan and Iraq alone will cost us north of $3 trillion . Here is what the Neocon spin was:

    7/11/02 "Iraq is a very wealthy country. Enormous oil reserves. They can finance, largely finance, the reconstruction of their own country. And I have no doubt that they will."—Richard Perle

    1. And yet you BLAME 3 billion a year in aid, (which is mostly spent in the USA) for Israel as for causing American's having to eat cold oatmeal.

      Do you ever step back and ponder how foolish you sound?

      3 trillion for Iraq and Afganistan, that's 3 THOUSAND Billion....

      How much of that 3 trillion is SPENT in those arenas on local supplies, rent and fuel transit costs? Money pissed away...

      But let's blame israel for aid we give to an actual ally, which of course you dismiss as a "so called" ally...

      How much does the USA spend on Arabia and the Gulf states keeping the shipping lanes open?

      We've gone over this before, about 653 billion a year...

      How much for NATO? 582 Billion a YEAR...

      United States' share is huge. In 2014, the US spent about $582 billion (£400 billion), almost three times more than all the other NATO states combined.

      So your complaints about USA military aid to Israel causing a lack of funds to feed Americans? Pure crap...

  3. Quirk's 'proclivity' for laziness, except for Vodka fueled bursts of activity, and career choice of advertising finally explained - "Laziness gene" identified -

    >>>The proclivity to work or not work has a genetic basis and the genes are close to being identified. The fact that there is a laziness gene in the human genome shouldn’t be a surprise because there are genes for other things such as violence. Thankfully, the violence genes were largely rinsed out of western society over the last thousand years thanks to the execution of murderers by the state, as detailed by Steven Pinker in “The Better Angels Of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.” One thousand years ago, England had a murder rate similar to that of current day Afghanistan, which is thirty times higher than the current English murder rate. What happened in between is that the English judicial system rinsed out most of the genes for impulsive violence. Afghanistan and places like it never had that rinsing and thus they have a genetic disposition to much higher levels of violence than what we are used to. <<<

    >>>Human diversity is something to be celebrated, so we are told. One major kind of diversity is in the range of human intelligence, with the Bushmen of southwest Africa at the bottom end with an average IQ of 60 and Ashkenazi Jews at the top end with an average IQ of 115. Ashkenazi Jews have had assortative mating for intelligence for more than a thousand years, as an end in itself for a community that valued learning. That started to pay off in the mid-19th century when they exploded out of the ghettoes with the introduction of competitive entrance exams to the professions.

    Human intelligence is 70% heritable......<<<

    May 17, 2015
    Genes, Mutations, and Behavior
    By David Archibald

    Really really interesting long article.

    1. Here is an example of criminality and the violence gene not getting washed out of the genetic system through capital punishment -

      Jack HawkinsThu May 14, 01:12:00 PM EDT
      How much cash I got from the cartels is hard to say, but they were happy
      with the body count I gave them…

      I was desperate to raise money for my 350 acres of bottom lands in AZ

      My wife is 'law and order', and peace loving, and wants these genes 'washed out of the system' through 'creative' capital punishment, as she calls it.

    2. Another way to explain all these behavioral and intellectual differences is the older and at least just as true and perhaps more so Hindu/perennial philosophy way of 'Karma'.

      They may be two sides of the same coin, built into the nature of things by the nature of things.

    3. "Robert "Draft Dodger" Peterson's punishment is, not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.”
      ― George Bernard Shaw

  4. The US Government has brought in RECORD amounts of TAX revenue in the last 6 years and now has doubted the debt to 18 TRILLION PLUS, no one knows for sure since the numbers have stopped coming about 8 weeks ago...

    Now couple that with the Economic stimulus of 800 billion that obama spent (part of the debt to be fair) we have had a tremendous push for "shovel ready" and infrastructure spending.

    Heck we spend 1.5 billion a year on Amtrak, they can afford to raise the prices of burgers and fries!!!

    Now there is also the fun numbers of quantitative easing that have kept interest rates to almost zero for Obama...

    What happens when the fed stops printing?

    Think about it...

    It's quite scary...

    1. Why do you think the Fed will stop, "O"rdure?

    2. They have been at it for one hundred years ... who is going to stop them, now?

  5. Not a Muslim in the building ...

    9 dead in biker gang gunfight at Texas restaurant

    1. From the looks of the photo, no Mexicans were involved, either.

    2. So two biker gangs (or more) are involved in a shoot out...

      Sounds like what Hamas, Fatah and the Islamic Jihad does in Gaza all the time...

      Great results... No innocents injured and the savages killed and wounded each other..

  6. More riots in ISrael ...

    All of the non-Europeans are discriminated against by the Zionists in Occupied Palestine.

    Last week in was Ethiopian Jews, those that have rejected the Synagogue of Satan" and the Babylonian Talmud, today it was the Palestinians of Jerusalem.

    The UN should institute Resolution 181, using NATO troops to occupy the city until the negotiations for a peaceful resolution of the political disputes are settled.

    1. I notice no facts, nor any links...

      Nor any definition of what a riot is...

      Typical misinformation of the resident "spiritual nazi" Jack "I hate the Jews" Hawkins....

  7. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Sunday that Islamic State militants had gained the advantage in fighting in Ramadi and that if the western Iraqi city fell, the U.S.-led coalition would support Iraqi forces “to take it back later.”

    While stopping short of confirming Islamic State’s statement it had seized full control of Anbar province's capital, the Defense Department appeared to leave open that possibility, which would mark a major defeat for the Baghdad government.

    “Ramadi has been contested since last summer and ISIL now has the advantage,”
    Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith said, using another acronym for Islamic State. She said the loss of the city would not mean the overall Iraq military campaign was turning in Islamic State’s favour, but acknowledged it would give the group a “propaganda boost.”

    “That just means the coalition will have to support Iraqi forces to take it back later,”
    Smith said, adding that the United States continued providing it with air support and advice.

  8. American arms being captured by ISIL...

    As one ISIS supporter tweeted, they found enough arms inside the base to “take 3 more Mosuls and about 10 Ramadis.” ISIS members also tweeted rough video of celebrations in Mosul.

    Read more:


  9. I wonder if ol' Rufus the Welsher would accept them vids as 200 proof 'nough ?
    Ramadi Falls, More U.S. Weapons Seized: See the Gains ISIS Made in Just Two Days

    by Bridget Johnson
    May 17, 2015 - 2:21 pm

    Via Islamic World News, this was Ramadi on Friday. The red represents Iraqi forces, the dark gray ISIS, and the magenta areas, including bridges, were contested.

    On Thursday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey was asked about Ramadi’s imminent fall. “The city itself is — it’s not symbolic in any way. It’s not been declared, you know, part of the caliphate, on the one hand, or central to the future of Iraq. But we want to get it back. I mean, the issue here is not — is not brick and mortar. It’s about defeating ISIL. So, as I said, this — I — you know, I would much rather that Ramadi not fall, but it won’t be the end of the campaign should it fall. We got to get it back. And that’s tragic for the people, as have — as we’ve seen along the way,” Dempsey told reporters at the Pentagon.

    In a Friday teleconference, Brig. Gen. Thomas D. Weidley (USMC), chief of staff for Operation Inherent Resolve, said the coalition has conducted 420 airstrikes total in the Fallujah-Ramadi area, including 165 in support of Iraqi Security Forces in Ramadi just over the past month, “which have destroyed operational resources and facilities such as Daesh-controlled buildings, fighting positions, armored and technical vehicles.”

    “After a period of relative stability in the tactical situation, Daesh executed a complex attack on Iraqi Security Forces today. These forces were able to repel most of these attacks, but some gains were made by Daesh in previously contested areas,” Weidley said. “At this point, areas of Ramadi remain contested as Daesh terrorists attempt to consolidate and defend some of their recent temporary gains in the east and south of the city. Iraqi Security Forces, as well as federal and local police, continue to control most of the key facilities, infrastructure and lines of communication in the area. Ramadi is a major population center, the provincial capital of Iraq’s largest province, and a location where Iraqi Security Forces, police and local tribes have been working together for nearly a year to defend.”

    Today, two days after the commander’s statements, Ramadi, 80 miles west of Baghdad, fell.

    Here’s the updated map via Islamic World News:

    Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 4.50.25 PM

    The red area bearing the Iraqi flag, home of the 8th Army Brigade, was stormed by ISIS fighters today. Within the compound they reportedly captured more U.S. military equipment, including missile launchers and tanks.

    As one ISIS supporter tweeted, they found enough arms inside the base to “take 3 more Mosuls and about 10 Ramadis.” ISIS members also tweeted rough video of celebrations in Mosul.

    On Friday, Weidley also dismissed ISIS gains as “episodic temporary successes” and maintained “Daesh does remain on the defensive.”

    “These typically don’t materialize into long-term gains. We’ve seen similar attacks in Ramadi over the last several months of which the ISF has been able to repel. And we see this one being similar to those, where the ISF will eventually take back the terrain that’s been lost at this point,” he said.

    A tribal leader who had fled to Baghdad told the New York Times today that “men, women, kids and fighters’ bodies are scattered on the ground” in Ramadi, and “all security forces and tribal leaders have either retreated or been killed in battle. It is a big loss.”

    Read more:

    In three hours it will be only 7 (seven) days until Iraq ISIS Free Memorial Day 2015, according the the World Famous Prediction of our 'Military Expert' Herr rat's ass.

    Then we can all relax.

    It will all be over.

    1. >>>"captured more U.S. military equipment, including missile launchers and tanks"<<<


      That sounds like stuff they could use to march on Baghdad, though I don't think they can take Baghdad.

      Time to bring 'the rat Doctrine' into full play, and right now.

    2. Some military guy on Fox News said yesterday that during the Bosnian campaign we were running 150 airstrikes PER DAY.

      >>> Brig. Gen. Thomas D. Weidley (USMC), chief of staff for Operation Inherent Resolve, said the coalition has conducted 420 airstrikes total in the Fallujah-Ramadi area, including 165 in support of Iraqi Security Forces in Ramadi just over the past month<<<

    3. Quirk has posted his solutions to all this right here on this Blog four or five times already, but no one can recall just exactly what they were, and Brig. Gen. Thomas D. Weidley (USMC), chief of staff for Operation Inherent Resolve, in particular, seems not to have noticed.

    4. I wonder what our Military Brass actually thinks of their Commander-in-Chief Obama ?

      I wish they were free to fully speak their minds.

      The 'grunts' have made their feelings clear - they can't stand our Napoleon on the Potomac, according to many polls.

      The American People continue, meanwhile, overwhelmingly supportive of Israel.

    5. The Fall of Ramadi

      May 18, 2015 by Christopher S. Carson

      This past week, the ISIS terrorist army kicked off its final assault into the Iraqi city of Ramadi by sending six jihadis to blow themselves up in cars next to the Iraqi Army (IA) front lines. The horde then pushed through the city center, sending IA forces to flee, and entered the government headquarters for all of Anbar Province. Soon the ISIS black flag was snapping smartly in the wind over the capital buildings. Apparently uninterested in future administration, ISIS later set fire to the compound for good measure.

      True to form, ISIS then opted to take the central city residents prisoner, confiscating their cell phones and publicly executing more than 50 tribal fighters who had opposed them.

      A police officer who fled told McClatchy news service reporter Mitchell Prothero that the people fleeing “are begging anyone to save them after the Iraqi government abandoned them because of fears that the Daesh will massacre their sons.” IA officials have now ordered the ragtag troops and some civilians into a soccer stadium on the outskirts of Ramadi for helicopter evacuation.

      An Anbar provincial official, Sabah Karhout, implored Baghdad for reinforcements and he urged the U.S.-led coalition to increase its airstrikes against the terrorists in Ramadi. “The city is undergoing vicious attack by Daesh and we are in dire need of any kind of assistance,” Karhout declared.

      Mr. Karhout can be forgiven for thinking that the Coalition might not be entirely serious about stopping the horde’s advance across the entire provincial capital. For over the last three days, at least according to CENTCOM’s own website, only two airstrikes have been conducted on ISIS “near” Ramadi. These “struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL fighting position.” That’s it: two strikes, two bombs, two positions—nothing else. For all intents and purposes, Ramadi is on its own.

    6. There is something almost perfunctory and haphazard about the Coalition’s Operation Inherent Resolve, something divorced from operational realities on the ground. Yes, we bomb individual ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq, but not as part of any coordinated effort with the Iraqi security forces. It seems rather that the free forces in Iraq and Syria are left to fight their battles, while we separately bomb a few targets across both countries that our intelligence services declare to be ISIS. Our bombing, called Operation Inherent Resolve, bears no relation to the kinetic intensity of any particular ISIS battlefield. It has nothing to do with where the action is. Over the last several months, ISIS has massed its forces into taking the strategically important large city of Ramadi, and it is Ramadi where the Coalition should have been concentrating its efforts.

      Victorious coalitions in history did not randomly bomb targets of opportunity; they bypassed targets that didn’t directly assist in the overall strategy for victory. In World War II, General MacArthur famously sent his armies “island-hopping” across the Pacific, bypassing any conquest of islands, no matter how many Japanese troops were present on them, which failed to conform to the ultimate goal of defeating Imperial Japan.

      In the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, General Tommy Franks also bypassed cities, many packed with Iraqi Army reinforcements, that were not essential to the regime’s center of gravity in Baghdad. Anything else would have been a waste of time and human life.

      Rather than randomly prowling over the deserts to find ISIS tents and trucks, CENTCOM should be focusing on supporting a definable strategy to actually defeat the enemy, and one that is coordinated with the Iraqi government’s own fight for survival on the ground. Perhaps it is too much to ask that a politicized Defense Department follow this basic rule of war. But is it not truly odd that no one in the international media thinks to ask these questions?

      Christopher S. Carson, a lawyer, holds a master’s in National Security Studies.

      I have offered up the description "pin pricks" and have been savagely attacked for doing so.