An Ode to the Unemployed: Someone’s Gotta Write It

You know who never writes op-ed columns? Unemployed people.

Think about it. By definition, every op-ed columnist is employed — by the newspaper (or a syndicate). Unemployed people don’t have a voice in the press. Literally.

There are 14 million unemployed people in the United States, and not a single one gets to tell the world how they feel.

So when we debate the $447 billion American Jobs Act proposed by President Obama earlier this week, the people who are most affected by it have the least say in its success or failure. There’s something fundamentally undemocratic about that.   Continue reading “An Ode to the Unemployed: Someone’s Gotta Write It”

Don’t Blame the Fed for Holding Back the Recovery

Rick Perry must not spend much time in banks.

How else can you interpret his accusation that Ben Bernanke, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, “is almost treasonous” for “printing money”?

He must think that banks spend every dollar they get from the Fed. He must think that banks depend solely on the Fed for funding. Because that’s the only way that “printing money” — if that’s even what you could call what the Fed does — could result in any damage for the United States.

Rick Perry lives in the Bizarro World of Banking.

Here on Planet Earth, U.S. banks are holding $1.6 trillion in excess reserves. That’s $1.6 trillion that they’re not spending or loaning or investing. It’s just sitting there. Not doing anything for the economy.

Just to give you a little context, before this recession, excess reserves had never been higher than $20 billion.

In other words, most of the money that Perry is so angry about is just minding its own business. Nobody is spending it. Nobody is borrowing it. It’s not contributing to inflation or the depreciation of the dollar. It’s not eroding your purchasing power.   Continue reading “Don’t Blame the Fed for Holding Back the Recovery”

The Greeks Are Coming! The Greeks Are Coming!

Ronald Reagan signed the first of two famous tax cuts on August 13, 1981. A few months later, one of his senior advisors gave an interview to the Atlantic Monthly where he revealed that the administration really didn’t care about cutting most people’s taxes. The tax cuts that affected most Americans, he explained, were “a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate” for the rich.

The Trojan horse was the giant wooden gift that the city of Troy received from the Greeks, only to find that Greek soldiers poured out of the horse once they were inside the city. In the Reagan administration’s metaphor, the “Greeks” were tax cuts for the rich, and the unwitting city of Troy was, well, the rest of us.

It worked.

But it came at a price.

In the three decades preceding Reagan, the bottom 90 percent of Americans enjoyed a 75 percent increase in their inflation-adjusted incomes. In the three decades after Reagan, these same Americans enjoyed only 1 percent income growth, while the richest 1 percent saw their incomes grow by over 100 percent.   Continue reading “The Greeks Are Coming! The Greeks Are Coming!”