Stimulus and sabotage If you want to understand the depths of the country’s economic trouble, and what to begin doing about it, Nobel Prize-winning economist Pau Krugman is must reading. He has a regular column and a blog at the New York Times. You can subscribe to either or both through a variety of RSS feeds. A sample from last Friday’s really scary column:
It’s hard to exaggerate how much economic trouble we’re in. The crisis began with housing, but the implosion of the Bush-era housing bubble has set economic dominoes falling not just in the United States, but around the world. …
Would the Obama economic plan, if enacted, ensure that America won’t have its own lost decade? Not necessarily: a number of economists, myself included, think the plan falls short and should be substantially bigger. But the Obama plan would certainly improve our odds. And that’s why the efforts of Republicans to make the plan smaller and less effective — to turn it into little more than another round of Bush-style tax cuts — are so destructive.
It’s time for Mr. Obama to go on the offensive. Above all, he must not shy away from pointing out that those who stand in the way of his plan, in the name of a discredited economic philosophy, are putting the nation’s future at risk. The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe, and much of the Republican Party is trying to push it over that edge.
As you think about Republicans’ attempts to sabotage the economic stimulus package, remember how well they did with with the bank bailout, per the AP report published in the Strib
The Bush administration overpaid tens of billions of dollars for stocks and other assets in its massive bailout last year of Wall Street banks and financial institutions, a new study by a government watchdog says.
The Congressional Oversight Panel, in a report released Friday, said last year’s overpayments amounted to a taxpayer-financed $78 billion subsidy of the firms.
There’s much more, if you can bear to read it. (Or you can read the official report.)
More wrong answers in MN T-Paw’s broadband committee decided that MN should not use stimulus money for ready-to-go broadband projects in MN. Steve Alexander writes in the Strib that the Pawlenty’s Ultra High Speed Broadband Task Force’s rejection of the funds came after Comcast and other private providers objected.
The list of ready-to-go broadband projects in Minnesota included a $27.5 million municipal broadband system in Monticello, a $5.4 million Minnesota Department of Health plan to expand rural health care, and a $2,500 project to extend high-speed Internet service to a library in Worthington. Other projects included a $19.6 million plan to provide high-speed Internet to 11 Minnesota communities, including Cannon Falls, Zumbrota and Lake City, and an $18.5 million Internet-TV-telephone system in North St. Paul.
And in another area, Met Council chief Peter Bell says he wants to use stimulus money to pay off the operating deficit, rather than to expand metro transit. MPR reports:
Bell’s suggestion for how the money could be used for something it isn’t intended for, illustrates a dilemma facing stimulus supporters — that money will be moved from account to account to keep everything legal, but in the end nothing gets done that wasn’t going to get done anyway.
Milking the consumer, screwing the farmer MPR forwards a brief report from the West Central Tribune about plunging milk prices, which fell from about $20 a hundredweight last fall to half that now. Farmers are losing money — nothing new there — and consumers haven’t even noticed. I’ve been working on an article on the food industry recently, so I can offer a little more detail.
The farmer sees very little of the consumer food dollar — about 17 cents for the wheat in a loaf of bread or ten cents for the corn in a box of corn flakes. All the rest goes to processing, marketing, advertising, and everyone else’s profits.
Milk provides the most dramatic example. There are approximately 12 gallons in a hundredweight of milk. (Farmers get paid by the hundredweight, consumers pay by the gallon.) At the tip top of the farm price cycle, the farmer got $1.71 per gallon of milk. That same gallon of milk cost $3.80 in the supermarket. The farmer’s price for milk at the beginning of 2009 had dropped to about 92 cents per gallon. The price in the supermarket? Still over $3.80.
Quote of the day Remember that Holocaust-denying Catholic bishop, who also thinks that “Judeo-Masonry brought about the first two world wars”? Turns out he headed up a seminary in Winona, and lived there from 1988-2003, according to a long and interesting article in the Winona Daily News. But the quote of the day, from a September 2001 letter written by Bishop Richard Williamson, came to me last week, courtesy of my web-surfing partner:
…[A]lmost no girl should go to any university! The deep-down reason is the same as for the wrongness of women’s trousers: the unwomaning of woman… [S]ince she is not respected and loved for being a woman, she tries to make herself a man. Since modem man does not want her to do what God meant her to do, namely to have children, she takes her revenge by invading all kinds of things that man is meant to do..…[O]nly in modern times have women dreamt of going to university, but the idea has now become so normal that even Catholics… may have difficulty in seeing the problem. […A]ny Catholic…recognizes that women should not be priests – can he deny that if few women went to university, almost none would wish to be priests? Alas, women going to university is part of the whole massive onslaught on God’s Nature [of] our times. That girls should not be in universities flows from the nature of universities and…girls.
(You read it here, and you might have trouble finding it elsewhere – the bishop or his Society of St. Pius X have removed his papers from the web.)
MN Job Watch As PiPress union employees reluctantly voted to accept management’s proposal for a one-week unpaid furlough between now and April 30, Strib employees got minimal good news, reports David Brauer in MinnPost. A bankruptcy judge reversed the Strib’s earlier position, and said that the newspaper must pay 43 workers who accepted buyouts between April and September 2008 the full amount of their buyout contracts. The Strib had asked the court for permission to make the payouts. On the other hand, Strib publisher Chris Harte warned that revenue continues to slide, and axed many benefits for non-union employees while asking union employees to accept a double-digit pay cut.
In Owatonna, SPX is laying off 100 workers, about 14% of its workforce. The cuts are part of 400 layoffs nationwide for the NC-based company, which makes tools, shop equipment and automotive components.
The Recount grinds on On MinnPost, Jay Weiner captures the mind-numbing tedium of the recount trial, without losing sight of the weight of the decisions being made. Is an end in sight? No.
We, the People “The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?” That’s just one of the questions on the new on-line citizenship study guide being piloted by the Minnesota Literacy Council. Katherine Glover writes in MinnPost that the new citizenship self-study materials are part of a larger project called Learner Web, which is developing programs includeing GED prep, computer skills and family literacy for eventual release to the public in the form of open source software. The MLC decided to go with citizenship prep software because of “Teacher Ron,” Ron Mazurowski, who has been teaching citizenship for more than 10 years and helped to put together the material. Check out the materials on-line.
St. Paul pays protester The city will pay $5,000 to anti-war activist Mick Kelly, who sued the city after he was arrested while passing out leaflets outside a Barack Obama rally at the Xcel Energy Center in June. The leaflets promoted RNC protests, and Kelly was later shot by police with a non-lethal weapon during the RNC. Kelly plans a second lawsuit over that incident. City Attorney John Choi emphasized that the settlement did not include any admission of wrongdoing by the city, reported Laura Yuen on MPR.
Ramsey County Sheriff’s employees sent to jail Two employees caught taking money in an FBI corruption sting were sentenced to nearly three years in prison on Friday, reports David Hanners in the PiPress. The two were close friends and confidants of Sheriff Bob Fletcher. Their attorney continued to insist that the two had only taken the $6,000 as a joke, writes James Walsh in the Strib, but U.S. District Judge Patrtick Schiltz “told the men that their actions were no laughing matter, but a violation of the public trust.” Fletcher declined to comment.