Democratic capitalism: Freeing people from the corporate special interest definition of ‘corruption’

January 18, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Monument to the victims of capitalism in Montreal. (photographymontreal/Flickr)

This week someone asked me if I’d heard any questions about IDEA, the federal law protecting students with disabilities (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), during Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearings.

I get these types of questions a lot because I write about politics. It’s kind of funny because I don’t think I know much about politics—at least not when it comes to policy details. I’ve had people tell me in response, “But I love listening to you talk. You know so much.”

Here’s a secret: It’s more important to know what you believe in—and how to talk about what you believe in.

The problem is that corporate special interests “get” this, and all too often we don’t—especially many of us who come from academic backgrounds, where arguing is the accepted way to flesh out ideas and learn.

Let me demonstrate by showing you how corporate special interests redefined “corruption,” why this is so important, and how you can help break people out of this trap.

Why we have a progressive income tax

June 7, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Pictures are a really powerful way to tell a story. If you can find an easy way to explain something through pictures, you can often make great strides in a very short period of time.

One of the things that often gets brought up in conversations with conservatives is this idea of a flat tax. Many conservatives think this is somehow “fair.”

progressive_tax012

Here’s a simple drawing to illustrate why we have a progressive tax and to show how the flat tax is really just a loophole for the wealthy.

Economists discover people don’t behave rationally

May 30, 2016 at 1:28 pm

“Contrary to our original thinking, I’ve come to believe that people don’t behave like the economic textbooks say they should behave,” wrote Dr. Paul Wingfield, an economist at Cato University. “People don’t behave rationally.” Wingfield and his colleague, Dr. Summer Redaction, recently published an article inHigher Economics titled “Outside our corporate […]

Twelve questions for Bruce Bartlett, economic historian and former Reagan adviser

March 8, 2016 at 9:56 am

Bruce Bartlett is a historian and former Reagan adviser who describes himself as a lifelong conservative that believes the current GOP panders to fools. He’s written for the Economix blog at the New York Times and has authored several books including The Benefit and the Burden: Tax Reform – Why We Need It and What It Will Take. I’m a longtime fan of Bruce’s work and when he contacted me about a post, I asked him if I could pick his brain about economics and economic myths.

Bruce Bartlett in a 2012 interview with Bill Moyers. Bruce Bartlett in a 2012 interview with Bill Moyers.[/caption]

Why regulations increase when you privatize government

November 15, 2015 at 11:17 pm

Every now and then some politician pulls a stunt where they print out a list of regulations from some agency or other to try to make the point about the “burden” of regulation.

Mitch McConnell speaking at the CPAC 2011 conference. Photo CC 2.0 courtesy of Gage Skidmore. Mitch McConnell speaking at the CPAC 2011 conference. Photo CC 2.0 courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

What they don’t talk about is that privatization creates more regulations.

Why?

Robert Reich’s “Saving Capitalism” or how to have better conversations about the economy

November 6, 2015 at 7:19 pm

A few weeks back, I saw Robert Reich speak at Joseph-Beth Booksellers here in Cincinnati. He is an outstanding speaker and if you ever have the chance, go see him talk. Brilliant. Funny. Experienced. Gregarious. He is just as good in person as his writing.

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He started out by joking that his new book alienated everyone. He said, half the people I spoke with said, what needs saving? And the other half said, why save it? First of all, I could tell he spoke with a lot of people on both sides because he spoke about the elephant in the room – how the conversation is so often framed. And second of all, he used this as a great segue to how to get out of this trap we so often face, that the conversation comes down to some kind of less government/more government argument. The beauty of Reich’s book isn’t necessarily economic. The beauty of it is that Reich understands how to have better conversations with people about the economy. This ability to have better conversations about the economy is important because almost every discussion relates back in some way to our views about the economy. Every one. So today, I’m going to set aside self-publishing and talk about a few of the things Reich said, because this is a conversation I have with people all the time, and his new book, Saving Capitalism.

Two charts that explain the difference between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and unions

September 14, 2015 at 1:51 pm

We often hear that unions are somehow on a par with corporate special interest groups when it comes to lobbying.

From 2008-2015, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its Institute for Legal Reform spent $792,420,000 (#1 and #3 in the graphic). This is roughly 3x what second place lobbying organization the National Association of Realtors spent.

lobbyist_top10_2005_550

By comparison during the same time period, the first union to appear on the list at #182, the AFL-CIO, spent $22,300,000. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent roughly 35x the AFL-CIO on lobbying over this eight year period.

Must read economics books: On value and values

May 20, 2015 at 2:57 pm

For a recent project, I’ve been researching organizations and values within organizations. I happened to come across On Value and Values by Douglas K. Smith because of the following quote: For many years now, I have heard people speak about value and values disjointedly, as though the singular, value, and […]

How Ohio Pulled $4 Billion+ from Communities and Redistributed It Upwards

February 27, 2014 at 11:52 pm

Monday night Ohio Governor John Kasich delivered his state of the state speech.

Governor John Kasich speaking with attendees at the 2016 First in the Nation Town Hall (photo by Gage Skidmore/CC-BY-SA-2.0) Governor John Kasich speaking with attendees at the 2016 First in the Nation Town Hall (photo by Gage Skidmore/CC-BY-SA-2.0)

He cribbed the biblical Reagan “city on a hill metaphor” to describe Ohio:

All of these things have helped Ohio move up to higher, more solid ground, and, if you look, the clouds are moving apart and the sun is beginning to shine, and we can get a glimpse of the summit ahead. We’ve got much further to go, but the success we’ve had gives us the confidence to climb higher. We’re not hopeless, we’re hopeful. We’re not wandering, we have direction. Let’s keep going.

As an Ohioan, I’d like to tell a different story.

It’s a story that appears in bits and pieces in city & school financial reports, in letters to the editor and editorials, in economic analyses, but the full story has largely hid from public sight because it’s not a single sensationalist event.

It’s not a story about a person or administration because you have to go back further than that to see the pattern.

You have to go back further than that to see how a state gets budgeted back to the stone age.

The pattern is simple but takes place over a long period of time: shift tax burden, create deficit, blame government, defund government, repeat.

And unfortunately, it’s a story that’s not just happening in Ohio, but at a national level and in many states across the nation because it’s being pushed by influential corporate groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The story begins in 2005 …

Finally, Someone Says Something Sane About Taxes

July 8, 2011 at 8:41 pm

This should be the economic platform of the Democratic party: “The small businesses are the ones we have to protect, and they don’t think it’s fair they pay more in taxes than the largest corporations who ship jobs overseas,” Kathy Hochul (D- NY)