For Russia, Negatives Seem to Outweigh Positives of an Invasion

This might be a calming perspective.. that Putin’s objectives are not directly expansionism but to create enough troubles and tensions in Ukraine to make EU and NATO take a step back from inclusion….

But still…. this has a massive cost to Russia’s economy and diplomacy….

“Military intervention from Putin’s point of view is Plan B,”
Mark Galeotti, a New York University professor and expert on Russia’s security forces currently doing research here, said recently. “It is not off the table, but it is not the ideal outcome.”

Mr. Putin would rather feed the insurrection from afar, analysts said, never quite allowing the calm that would give Ukraine the opening needed to join the European Union, or worse, NATO. It is a tactic Russia has used successfully in previous attempts by former Soviet republics to shift westward.



The Mostly Solved Deficit Problem

Sooo.. it turns out that Obama has more or less fixed the fiscal stuff, and pretty soon might have stabilized the debt at an ok level too. Yelling about 16 trillion always sounds bad, but a 70% debt/gdp ratio is probably a good and healthy level.

From Krugman:

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a graph:

The vertical axis measures the projected ratio of federal debt to GDP. The blue line at the top represents the projected path of that ratio as of early 2011 — that is, before recent agreements on spending cuts and tax increases. This projection showed a rising path for debt as far as the eye could see.

And just about all budget discussion in Washington and the news media is laid out as if that were still the case. But a lot has happened since then. The orange line shows the effects of those spending cuts and tax hikes: As long as the economy recovers, which is an assumption built into all these projections, the debt ratio will more or less stabilize soon.

Constant-demography Employment (Wonkish But Relevant)

Krugman takes a fresh look at the employment figures the last decade.. as percentage of the whole population… and adjusts them for a growing segment of seniors.. as the relative ratio of work force vs. total population is declining by nature..

And showing that yes.. the employment situation is getting better.. slowly…

Constant-demography Employment (Wonkish But Relevant):

These days everyone knows that the unemployment rate is a problematic measure, because it can fall not because more people are working but simply because fewer people are looking for work. (This isn’t what happened in September, but it has been an issue in the recent past). An alternative is therefore to count employment rather than unemployment; one simple measure is the employment-population ratio, which suggests no improvement for years:

But this measure too has problems; it’s the fraction of people 16 and over at work, which means that the denominator includes a rapidly growing number of seniors, who presumably don’t want to keep working. How can we correct for this demographic bias?

One answer, which I’ve used before, is to focus on prime-age adults, between 25 and 54; Calculated Risk did this yesterday, and pointed out that there has been some real improvement over the past year. This is a good quick-and-dirty approach. But it can lead to (false) accusations of cherry-picking, and it also throws out information.

So here’s an arguably better measure: constant-demography employment, which shows what would have happened to the employment-population ratio if the age structure of the population had stayed constant.

For my calculation, I’ve divided the population into three age groups, 16-24, 25-54, and 55 plus, for which employment-population ratios are available in the BLS databases. (Scroll down and use the one-screen data search). I’ve then taken a weighted average of these ratios, where the weights are the 2007 shares of each group in the civilian noninstitutional population. And here’s what you get:

Aha. So there is real if modest improvement over the past year. Also, the September numbers looks not like an aberration but like a return to trend from what looks like noise in the data over the previous couple of months.

This story is, by the way, broadly consistent with the payroll data, from a different survey, which also suggest employment growing somewhat faster than population.

So contra Romney, this is a real recovery. Modest, but real. Unless, of course, you believe that there’s a conspiracy of socialist statisticians

(Via Paul Krugman)

Romney’s claim on pre-existing conditions

One thing was the taxes… the other was this… on health care..


Romney’s Sick Joke:

OK, so Obama did a terrible job in the debate, and Romney did well. But in the end, this isn’t or shouldn’t be about theater criticism, it should be about substance. And the fact is that everything Obama said was basically true, while much of what Romney said was either outright false or so misleading as to be the moral equivalent of a lie.

Above all, there’s this:

MR. ROMNEY: Let — well, actually — actually it’s — it’s — it’s a lengthy description, but number one, pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan.

No, they aren’t. Romney’s advisers have conceded as much in the past; last night they did it again.

I guess you could say that Romney’s claim wasn’t exactly a lie, since some people with preexisting conditions would retain coverage. But as I said, it’s the moral equivalent of a lie; if you think he promised something real, you’re the butt of a sick joke.

And we’re talking about a lot of people left out in the cold — 89 million, to be precise.

Furthermore, all of this should be taken in the context of Romney’s plan not just to repeal Obamacare but to drastically cut Medicaid.

So enough with the theater criticism; Romney needs to be held accountable for dishonesty on a huge scale.

(Via Paul Krugman)

A Campaign Without a Plan

Rightwing pundit Ross Douthat joins the convervative chorus admitting that Romney’s one-note strategy on slamming a bad economy seems to have failed…

And guess what…. after GOPs three and a half years of outspoken political sabotage…. to hurt the economy…. and block the recovery…. it turns out that many voters blame THEM for the slow recovery.. and not Obama.

So much for all the wasted opportunities in the last few years….and for all the unnecessary delay and suffering for millions… 

And these things could potentially hurt the GOP for a very long time….. even generations…

A Campaign Without a Plan –

A Campaign Without a Plan

Yesterday, Mitt Romney finally stopped dodging a question he’d evaded for months, and stated that if elected president, he wouldn’t undo the visas for younger illegal immigrants that President Obama made available by executive fiat earlier this year. It’s a repositioning that’s likely to be swallowed up by the coverage of tomorrow night’s debate, but it’s worth pausing over because of how perfectly it crystallizes the strategic ineffectiveness of the Romney campaign.

Immigration is an issue where Republican politicians are often urged to move to “the center” — that is, adopt a pro-amnesty position — in order to win over Hispanic voters alienated by anti-immigration rhetoric. At the same time, it’s an issue where the more conservative, restrictionist position is often shared by a different bloc of swing voters: The kind of working class whites whose support Romney has been struggling (and struggling, and struggling) to win. There are potential political benefits, in other words, to branding yourself as the candidate of compassion toward illegal immigrants, as George W. Bush persistently did. But then again there are also potential benefits — sometimes greater ones, in my view — to taking a more restrictionist position and using the issue to portray the Democrats as beholden to their party’s ethnic interest groups and out of step with blue collar Americans’ concerns.

(..) Running a presidential campaign and selling a consistent message isn’t easy, obviously. But neither is it nearly as difficult as the Romney campaign has made it seem. You pick some issues that play well with your base, pick some issues where you want to move to the center, write a script with these choices in mind and do your best to stick to it. Of course events intervene and the script sometimes has to be rewritten. But on immigration, health care and indeed just about every topic worth mentioning, the Romney camp apparently decided that the weakness of the economy meant that they didn’t need a clear script at all, and that they could get by with evasions and improvisations instead. On the evidence of current polling, they were wrong.


Bain’s Offshore Strategies Grew Romneys’ Wealth –

NyTimes brings back the Bain stories…. and the tax avoidances… and indirectly the secrecy of his tax returns… on the FRONT PAGE today… the day before the first debate.. and muddles the Benhazi attacks story a bit… as this thing has been pounded all through the summer.. and goes into the “economic patriotism” narrative.. pushed by the Obama Campaign..

The piece concludes.. that it might very well be tax avoidance on a personal account… but certainly avoidance through his companies… not illegally perhaps… but potentially damaging…. once again……. 

Bain’s Offshore Strategies Grew Romneys’ Wealth –

Offshore Tactics Helped Increase Romneys’ Wealth

Buried deep in the tax returns released by Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign are references to dozens of offshore holdings with names like Ursa Funding (Luxembourg) S.à.r.l. and Sankaty Credit Opportunities Investors (Offshore) IV, based in the Cayman Islands.

Bain Capital’s headquarters in Boston.

Bain Capital’s mailing address for its funds in the Cayman Islands.

Mr. Romney, responding to opponents’ barbs about his use of overseas tax havens, has offered a narrow defense, saying only that the investments, many made through the private equity firm he founded, Bain Capital, have yielded him “not one dollar of reduction in taxes.”

A review of thousands of pages of financial documents and interviews with tax lawyers found that in some cases, the offshore arrangements enabled his individual retirement account to avoid taxes on its investments and may well have reduced Mr. Romney’s personal income tax bills.

But perhaps a more significant impact of Mr. Romney’s offshore investments has been on the profit side of the ledger — in the way Bain’s tax-avoidance strategies have enhanced his income.

Some of the offshore entities enabled Bain-owned companies to sidestep certain taxes, increasing returns for Mr. Romney and other investors. Others helped Bain attract foreign investors and nonprofit institutions by insulating them from taxes, again augmenting Mr. Romney’s bottom line, since he shared in management fees based on the size of each Bain fund.        


OP-ED COLUMNIST; The Real Referendum

Krugman puts it right today…. that larger issue put to referendum this election is the progress of the 20th century.. with FDR and LBJ…. or whether to return to the Gilded age of the late 19th century… a very different kind of society and country….

And he’s also started a private campaign against the Simpson-Bowles plan.. on the cutting side..



OP-ED COLUMNIST; The Real Referendum:

Republicans came into this campaign believing that it would be a referendum on President Obama, and that still-high unemployment would hand them victory on a silver platter. But given the usual caveats — a month can be a long time in politics, it’s not over until the votes are actually counted, and so on — it doesn’t seem to be turning out that way.

Yet there is a sense in which the election is indeed a referendum, but of a different kind. Voters are, in effect, being asked to deliver a verdict on the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society, on Social Security, Medicare and, yes, Obamacare, which represents an extension of that legacy. Will they vote for politicians who want to replace Medicare with Vouchercare, who denounce Social Security as “collectivist” (as Paul Ryan once did), who dismiss those who turn to social insurance programs as people unwilling to take responsibility for their lives?

If the polls are any indication, the result of that referendum will be a clear reassertion of support for the safety net, and a clear rejection of politicians who want to return us to the Gilded Age. But here’s the question: Will that election result be honored?

I ask that question because we already know what Mr. Obama will face if re-elected: a clamor from Beltway insiders demanding that he immediately return to his failed political strategy of 2011, in which he made a Grand Bargain over the budget deficit his overriding priority. Now is the time, he’ll be told, to fix America’s entitlement problem once and for all. There will be calls — as there were at the time of the Democratic National Convention — for him to officially endorse Simpson-Bowles, the budget proposal issued by the co-chairmen of his deficit commission (although never accepted by the commission as a whole).

And Mr. Obama should just say no, for three reasons.


Finally, despite the bizarre reverence it inspires in Beltway insiders — the same people, by the way, who assured us that Paul Ryan was a brave truth-teller — the fact is that Simpson-Bowles is a really bad plan, one that would undermine some key pieces of our safety net. And if a re-elected president were to endorse it, he would be betraying the trust of the voters who returned him to office.


(Via NYT > Paul Krugman)

Krugman on Romney’s FP intervention.

Krugman makes a good point – about the practical consequences for the campaign:

But the real impact probably comes via the press. (..) Romney has really ensured that everyone in the news media, the GOP propaganda organs aside, is going to view him with distaste and alarm — as well they should.

Romney could still win, but he has just made it even harder for anyone to consider him suitable for the job.