The rumored grand bargain would cost the economy about half a million jobs in 2013
Are you ready for a grand bargain? A deficit hawk party! Yes? No? Maybe? (Is this John Boehner?).
With the deadline for the fiscal cliff -- which is really more of a slope -- looming, President Obama and House Republicans have reportedly come close on an agreement that would kick most of the fiscal can. Well, they did for a few hours at least. It didn't take long for Boehner to walk back his support for the plan, but that hardly means it's dead. If there is a grand-ish bargain to be had, it will probably look something like this latest iteration of a deal.
As Ezra Klein reported, the deal comes in three parts: revenue, cuts, and stimulus. Let's break it down, and then break down what it means for jobs in the coming year.
REVENUE. Let the Bush tax cuts expire for households with adjusted gross incomes of $400,000 or more, and limit the value of itemized deductions to 28 percent. In other words, set tax rates for the top 1 percent back to where they were under President Clinton, and stop richer households from taking bigger deductions than middle-class households. All told, it raises a little more than $1 trillion in revenue over the next decade relative to a world where all of the Bush tax cuts continue. As Paul Krugman points out, it's unclear whether this includes the higher taxes on capital gains and dividends scheduled to kick in on January 1, 2013 -- on top of the 3.8 percent Obamacare surtax on capital gains.
Taxes would also go up from switching to chained CPI. As my colleague Derek Thompson explained, chained CPI is an alternative (and perhaps more accurate) measure of inflation that assumes consumers substitute to similar, lower-priced goods when other prices rise. In other words, it says inflation is lower. Tax brackets are indexed to inflation, so a lower measure of inflation means they will rise less -- and more people will creep into these higher brackets. It adds up to about $60-90 billion over ten years.
CUTS. Say hello to chained CPI again. It's not just a tax hike. It's a Social Security cut too. Remember, Social Security benefits are indexed to inflation as well, so the logic of a lower measure of inflation kicks in here too -- benefits will rise slower than they otherwise would have, with the compounded effect hitting older retirees the worst. It's about a $100-200 billion cut over a ten-year window. Congress is supposed to negotiate on another $1 trillion or so of cuts, and if they cannot agree on them there will be -- wait for it! -- a new sequester in the future. Because the last one worked so well.
STIMULUS. Extend unemployment insurance and the refundable tax credits from the stimulus, but not the payroll tax cut. There's also some new, albeit unspecified, infrastructure spending thrown in.
There are a lot of moving parts here, but only three of these moving parts will matter in 2013: the end of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, the end of the payroll tax cut, and new infrastructure spending. In other words, it's unlikely any of the cuts will hit the economy next year. The can known as the sequester would get kicked for another year or so -- unless, haha, Congress can agree to other, immediate cuts -- and chained CPI will be the same as CPI-W in 2013. That leaves the three aforementioned changes -- changes that add up to about a half million less jobs in 2013 than if there was no fiscal cliff at all, as you can see in the chart below. The payroll tax cut is a political orphan in need of a champion.
The Cliff Notes version of why this deal would cost us 500,000 jobs next year is it sucks more money out of the economy than it puts back in. Let's look at it piece-by-piece.
Bush tax cuts for the rich expire. Less money for the rich means less money for the rich to spend. But the rich are different from you and me -- they tend to have money left over after they buy the things they want. In other words, they spend less of their incomes, so a tax hike on them doesn't hurt demand as much as a tax hike on the middle-class would (as we shall see). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) figures higher taxes on higher earners would subtract about 200,000 jobs next year.
Payroll tax cut ends. Less money for everybody means less money for everybody to spend. That's what the payroll tax, which, remember, hits the middle-class harder than it does the rich, does. But it gets worse. A higher payroll tax means a higher cost of hiring and that means less hiring. A lot less hiring. Working backwards from thesetwo CBO reports shows it means about half a million less jobs in 2013. As the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) points out, it's almost twice as stimulative as the Bush tax cuts for the rich, at similar costs. Spending the $115 billion to extend it another year would be money well spent.
Infrastructure. This is where things get admittedly speculative. We don't even know how much infrastructure spending both sides have talked about, let alone what kind of projects, but we can make some informed guesses. President Obama has asked for $50 billion of new infrastructure spending before, which he probably wouldn't get, but we'll use here as a best-case. If we take former Vice Presidential economic adviser and current CBPP fellow Jared Bernstein's rule of thumb that every $1 billion of construction or repair spending adds roughly 9,000-10,000 jobs, and then assume that this new spending would come in over two years, that gives us about 250,000 new jobs in 2013. Again, this is a pretty generous estimate.
As far as can-kicking goes, this ain't too shabby. The CBO figures that the fiscal cliff will cost us 3.4 million jobs next year if Congress does nothing; suddenly, half a million less sounds okay. But Washington can do better. It just needs to go over the fiscal cliff first.
Right now, Obama is offering lower revenues than he originally asked for and entitlement cuts for more stimulus -- and he's not even getting all of the stimulus! It's all because of the baseline illusion. As long as the Bush tax cuts are around, Boehner can claim he's the one offering concessions on revenues by saying he'll raise them at all. It's a silly argument, but it's a silly argument that goes away after January 1, when tax rates automatically go up. Then, Democrats can push a bill that cuts middle-class taxes and cuts deductions for the rich -- the $1.6 trillion from Obama's first offer -- and tell Republicans they have a choice. They can either get less revenue or less entitlement spending, but not both, and in return they have to sign off on all of the stimulus -- extended unemployment insurance, the payroll tax cut, and infrastructure spending. They could even set up a commission -- or a supercommittee, if they're feeling bold -- to cut spending in a year's time, with a new sequester to incentivize them to find cuts.
It's a deal that would bring our medium-term budget closer to balance, without costing the economy in the short-term. Now that would be grand.
Black poverty is fundamentally distinct from white poverty—and so cannot be addressed without grappling with racism.
There have been a number of useful entries in the weeks since Senator Bernie Sanders declared himself against reparations. Perhaps the most clarifying comes from Cedric Johnson in a piece entitled, “An Open Letter To Ta-Nehisi Coates And The Liberals Who Love Him.” Johnson’s essay offers those of us interested in the problem of white supremacy and the question of economic class the chance to tease out how, and where, these two problems intersect. In Johnson’s rendition, racism, in and of itself, holds limited explanatory power when looking at the socio-economic problems which beset African Americans. “We continue to reach for old modes of analysis in the face of a changed world,” writes Johnson. “One where blackness is still derogated but anti-black racism is not the principal determinant of material conditions and economic mobility for many African Americans.”
As Coldplay blandly strained for the universal, she and Bruno Mars pulled off something more specific and more daring.
What a perfect Beyoncésong name: “Formation.” All great pop involves people acting in formation. So does all great change. And while fans scream that Beyoncé’s a “queen” and “goddess,” her core appeal really is as a drill sergeant. With Beyoncé in command, greatness is scalable, achievable, for the collective. Everyone waves their hands to the same beat. Everyone walks around like they have hot sauce in their bag.
But in pop and in politics, “everyone” is a loaded term. Stars as ubiquitous as Beyoncé have haters, the “albino alligators” who “Formation” informs us she twirls upon. And in a more general historical sense, “everyone” can be a dangerous illusion that elevates one point of view as universal while minimizing others. Beyoncé gets all of this, it seems. As a pop star, she surely wants to have as broad a reach as possible. But as an artist, she has a specific message, born of a specific experience, meaningful to specific people. Rather than pretend otherwise, she’s going to make art about the tension implied by this dynamic. She’s going to show up to Super Bowl with a phalanx of women dressed as Black Panthers.
The insects are miniature transformers that can compress to half their size and still run really fast. The creepy little buggers might even inspire a new generation of search and rescue robots.
Cockroaches get everywhere. There they are, somehow, against all odds, in that room that looked to be totally sealed from the outside world, in that cupboard you swore was tightly shut. Now, Kaushik Jayaram and Robert Full from the University of California, Berkeley have discovered the secret behind their feats of infiltration.
By confronting American cockroaches with an ever-narrower series of crevices, the duo found that although this insect typically stands 12 millimeters tall, it can squeeze through gaps of 3 millimeters—the height of two stacked U.S. pennies. It does this by squatting down and then compressing its body by half. It is the world’s worst Transformer: instantly changing shape from a cockroach into a much flatter cockroach. Delightful.
Will the Democratic Party nominate a candidate who hasn’t been a member of their party, and who has long denounced it?
When a party chooses its presidential candidate, it also chooses its party leader in the election. This year the Democrats face an unusual situation. Bernie Sanders isn’t just an outsider to the party establishment; he’s not even been a member of the party, and has long excoriated it in unsparing language. Although the media haven’t much focused on this history, the early signs suggest it could become a problem for Sanders in getting the nomination—and a problem for the party if he does get it.
According to the entrance polls at the Iowa caucuses, there was a 30-percentage-point split between self-identified Democrats and independents in their support for Sanders. Hillary Clinton won 56 percent of self-identified Democrats but only 26 percent of independents, while Sanders won only 39 percent of Democrats but 69 percent of independents.
For decades the Man of Steel has failed to find his groove, thanks to a continual misunderstanding of his strengths.
Superman should be invincible. Since his car-smashing debut in 1938, he’s starred in at least one regular monthly comic, three blockbuster films, and four television shows. His crest is recognized across the globe, his supporting cast is legendary, and anybody even vaguely familiar with comics can recount the broad strokes of his origin. (The writer Grant Morrison accomplished it in eight words: “Doomed Planet. Desperate Scientists. Last Hope. Kindly Couple.”) He’s the first of the superheroes, a genre that’s grown into a modern mass-media juggernaut.
And yet, for a character who gains his power from the light of the sun, Superman is curiously eclipsed by other heroes. According to numbers provided by Diamond Distributors, the long-running Superman comic sold only 55,000 copies a month in 2015, down from around 70,000 in 2010—a mediocre showing even for the famously anemic comic-book market. That’s significantly less than his colleague Batman, who last year moved issues at a comparatively brisk 150,000 a month. Mass media hasn’t been much kinder: The longest-running Superman television show, 2001’s Smallville, kept him out of his iconic suit for a decade. Superman Returns recouped its budget at the box office, but proved mostly forgettable.2013’s Man of Steel drew sharp criticism from critics and audiences alike for its bleak tone and rampaging finale. Trailers for the sequel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, have shifted the focus (and top billing) to the Dark Knight. Worst of all, conventional wisdom puts the blame on Superman himself. He’s boring, people say; he’s unrelatable, nothing like the Marvel characters dominating the sales charts and the box office. More than anything, he seems embarrassing. Look at him. Truth? Justice? He wears his underwear on the outside.
The former president’s heated assault on Bernie Sanders is a reminder of how the Clintons have long reacted to any opposition.
One of my oldest Hillary Clinton memories: Twenty-six years ago, I stood in the second-floor rotunda of the Arkansas Capitol half-listening to a news conference by Tom McRae, an earnest Democrat challenging Governor Bill Clinton for re-election. Then I heard it: Click. Clack. Click. Clack. Click. Clack.
The sound of Hillary Clinton’s low-heeled shoes on a hidden marble hallway jarred McRae, who in 1990 was Bill Clinton’s biggest obstacle to a fifth term and a presidential bid two years later. The first lady of Arkansas rounded the corner and stormed his news conference. “Tom!” she shouted. “I think we oughta get the record straight!”
Waving a sheaf of papers, Hillary Clinton undercut McRae’s criticism of her husband’s record by pointing to McRae’s past praise of the governor. It was a brutal sandbagging. “Many of the reports you issued not only praise the governor on his environmental record,” she said, “but his education and his economic record!”
A photo series reveals what expectant mothers in various countries bring with them to the hospital.
For most expecting mothers in the Western world, a hospital bag is something that makes the birthing process marginally more comfortable. You’ve just brought a new being into the world; you deserve to wear your own sweatpants.
But in some parts of the world, hospitals are so bare-bones that women in labor must tote everything with them, from rubber gloves to water pans to gauze.
To draw attention to the difficulty of giving birth in regions where water is scarce, the organization WaterAid recently dispatched photographers to ask expecting and brand-new moms in various countries to open up their hospital bags. Here are their photos, as well as lightly edited interviews with the moms conducted by WaterAid.
Tracking them down is a globe-trotting adventure that rivals any jungle expedition.
In the darkness of the Akeley Hall of Mammals, swarms of kids gawk at beautifully staged dioramas of Africa’s wildlife. The stuffed safari, nestled in the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York, includes taxidermied leopards stalking a bush pig, preserved ostriches strutting in front of warthogs, and long-dead baboons cautiously considering a viper. In one corner, in a display marked “Upper Nile Region,” a lone hippo grazes next to a herd of lechwe, roan antelope, and a comically stern shoebill stork.
“This is my favorite one,” says Evon Hekkala, pointing to the display. “There’s a taxidermied crocodile tucked away down there.”
It takes a while to spot it and I have to crane my head to do so, but yes, there it is—a large crocodile, in the back, mouth agape, next to the hippo. It’s mostly hidden from view, and until recently, it was hidden from science, too.
The trust people tend to feel toward others in the same ethnic, racial, and political groups makes them easy targets for scammers.
Last week’s ABC mini-series chronicled the most famous financial fraud in recent American history: Bernard Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme, which devastated elite institutions and families of the American Jewish community. The scale of Madoff’s crimes was breathtaking. There’s much to be said about his crimes—not least about the incompetence of the regulatory apparatus that failed to stop him despite repeated warnings and what researchers Greg Gregoriou and Francois Lhabitant quite appropriately called “a riot of red flags” over many years.
Immediately, the pings from fellow journalists (and media-adjacent folk) came pouring in, all saying something along the lines of, “Can you actually let me know what you find out? I’m addicted to that stuff.”
They mean “addicted” in the jokey, dark-chocolate-and-Netflix-streaming way, but the habit can border on pathological. For me, rock bottom was a recent, obscenely long workday during which an entire 12-pack of coconut La Croix somehow made it down my throat, can by shining can.