Saturday, July 30, 2011

How the universe appeared from nothing

Warning: this could expand your mind -- by blowing it!

This is indeed what is is.

Seriously though, physicists are studs. I mean, who else could be like, "Yeah, I can explain to you how existence came into being" just as casually as an auto mechanic explains how a car engine works?

If life were fair, the best physicists would be world-famous, highly-respected billionaires who dated supermodels and littered the earth with statues and monuments to themselves. Instead, well... we know what real life is like.

Respect, nerds!

By MacGregor Campbell
July 28, 2011 | New Scientist

'Press zwei for German'? America's lost heritage

Too bad we didn't have the the Internet, talk radio, and cable news back in the mid-19th to early 20th centuries to whip up hysteria about Germans trying to take over English with their language. For generations, German immigrants insidiously preserved their mother tongue and traditions, until thankfully WWI, Prohibition, and WWII put a stop to their Gem├╝tlichkeit nonsense like a 1-2-3 combination to the dumbkopf.

Seriously though, read and remember this pair of articles snagged by my Deep Web fishing net next time you're about to forward another stupid e-mail about "press 2 for Spanish" or "press 3 for Arabic." Specifically, mull over these two facts:

  • In 1910, 25 percent of Americans told the U.S. Census that they spoke only German, no English. That was 50 years after the bulk of German immigrants had arrived in the midwest United States.
  • And in Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland and other cities, taxpayer-funded public schools taught half the school curriculum in German.

That's right. The more things change, the more they stay the same. So please, my fellow Americans, chill out. Or, as my Spanish-speaking friends might say, if I had any, ¡tranqui tronco!

By Jennifer Ludden
April 1, 2009 | All Things Considered on NPR

In the contentious debate over immigration, critics often assert that immigrants and their children aren't learning English as quickly as previous waves of newcomers did. But did European migrants of yore really assimilate quickly?

You might be surprised if you explore that question in the tiny town of Hustisford, Wis., an hour west of Milwaukee. There, local members of the town's historical society can give you a tour of the well-appointed, two-story white frame house of the town's founder, an Irishman from New York named John Hustis.

Hustis bought some 200 acres of rolling prairie here in 1837 and attracted enough Irish and English settlers to create a frontier town. But within a decade or so, a new wave of pioneers had arrived. In the mid-19th century, in a pattern repeated across the Midwest, large numbers of Germans began buying homes and farms. It was part of a mass migration that would profoundly change Hustisford — and the nation.

Speaking German At Home

Mel Grulke's great-grandparents came to Hustisford from a German speaking part of Europe in the 1880s, toward the end of the big migration. Some say Wisconsin's cold winters and good soil reminded the Germans of home. In any case, they brought a lot of home with them. Soon, two of three schools in Hustisford were teaching all their classes in German. Two churches worshipped in the hallowed language of Martin Luther. And German was the language of commerce.

As Grulke strolls down Hustisford's now largely abandoned main street, he points out the places where he remembers his parents chatting in German with the shopkeepers.

"This was a grocery store on the bottom; it was called Siefeldts." As with several other buildings, the German name of this one is still engraved along the top of the facade. "They had hand-packed ice cream cones, the best in town."

Though Grulke was born in 1941 — a fourth-generation American on one side and third on the other — his first language at home was German. He says of his grandmother, who was born in the U.S., "I don't recall her ever saying any more than three words in English. In fact, my grandfather was rather staunch. He would reprimand us that it was more like a slang language, English. He wanted us to speak German in his presence, which we did."

Grulke's grandparents apparently had plenty of people in Hustisford with whom to speak German.

"In 1910," says Joseph Salmons, a linguist at the University of Wisconsin, "a quarter of the population told the census taker they spoke only German and didn't speak English — a quarter of the population."

That fact stunned Salmons. When he set out to study the area's census, church and court records, he had no idea the language had thrived for so long. The year 1910 was already a full generation after the mass migration had dropped off, yet Salmons discovered not only that many in Hustisford and other farm towns were still bilingual, but that a sizeable portion was monolingual.

"It turns out a lot of these people were born in Wisconsin," Salmons says. "And a fair number were born of parents born in Wisconsin. That is, these guys were not exactly killing themselves to learn English."

Salmons says some Anglos in town even learned German to be able to do business. Court records show some of them used it to swindle the non-English speaking immigrants. Salmons also found records of Anglo children baptized in German churches, even attending German schools. And Wisconsin was not alone.

Taxpayer-Funded Bilingual Schools

"A number of big cities introduced German into their public school programs," says Walter Kamphoefner, a historian at Texas A&M University. Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland and other cities "had what we now call two-way immersion programs: school taught half in German, half in English," Kamphoefner says. That tradition continued "all the way down to World War I."

In other words, there were taxpayer-funded bilingual public schools in the U.S. a century ago.

How did that happen? "The simplest explanation is ethnic politics, ethnic lobbying," Kamphoefner says, "especially just after the Civil War, when the German vote was kind of up for grabs."

Not that the notion wasn't contentious. In 1889, Wisconsin and Illinois passed laws mandating that schools teach only in English. But Kamphoefner says the ethnic backlash was strong, and the laws were soon repealed. He has come across evidence that as late as 1917, a German version of the "Star Spangled Banner" was still being sung in public schools in Indianapolis.

[Imagine what would happen to the poor school that told its students to sing the "Star Spangled Banner" in Spanish or Arabic today! - J]

It has always taken immigrants a generation or two to fully transition to English, Kamphoefner says. Languages like Italian, Polish and Czech also popped up briefly in public schools. But German was unique.

"It was in a similar position as the Spanish language is in the 20th and 21st century," he says. "It was by far the most widespread foreign language, and whoever was the largest group was at a definite advantage in getting its language into the public sphere."

A Fading Legacy

At St. Michael's Lutheran Church in Hustisford, Bob Scharnell and other historical society members pore over musty, handwritten records of religious life. The baptisms, confirmations and marriages are still noted in German through the 1920s — well after the anti-German hysteria sparked by World War I. Then, in the 1930s, Wisconsin record keepers switched to English. Historians say not much daily use of German lingered anywhere in America after World War II.

In fact, the folks gathered around these old books represent a turning point. Bill Germer, who is the oldest at 79, can speak German but cannot read it. Mary Zastrow, 65, says when she's frustrated, she blurts out a German phrase her Dad used to say, but she's not exactly sure what it means. Scharnell, 68, never learned German, but he has held on to one small tradition. "We can say, 'Come Lord Jesus.' That's a table prayer that we pray around our table, that's in German. And every time we get together, that's what we do," Scharnell says.

Scharnell likes to recite that prayer in German when his grandchildren visit. But that may be about all that gets passed on around here. After all, Hustisford schools don't teach German anymore. Instead, these local keepers of history say, their grandchildren are studying Spanish.

Keeping Up The Mother Tongue

While the German language is a cherished but distant legacy for most folks in the tiny town of Hustisford, Wis., 67-year-old Mel Grulke works hard to keep it up. Grulke's great-grandparents immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1880s, yet three generations later, his farmer parents still spoke German at home, attended German language church services and chatted in German with shopkeepers when they brought their farm eggs into town to sell. As a child, Grulke remembers feeling shame about this.

"It was old-fashioned," he says — just like the homemade summer sausage his mother put in his lunchbox, instead of the coveted Oscar Meyer hot dogs and Twinkies that his town friends ate.

But by high school, Grulke says, it dawned on him that being bilingual was a great asset. He joined the military hoping to be stationed in Germany (he was sent to France instead). He did eventually travel to his ancestors' homeland, and keeping in touch with friends there is one way he hones his language skills. Grulke married into a family of German heritage, and he and his wife practice speaking together.

Grulke also sings with Madison Maennerchor, founded in 1852, the second oldest German singing organization in the U.S. Its goal is "the perpetuation of choral music, both German and American, German culture, and Gemuetlichkeit."

Even as German died out in every other aspect of daily life in Hustisford, Bethany Lutheran Church offered German language services into the 1970s. Last Christmas, in an effort to make its holiday service special, the church asked Mel Grulke to deliver a Bible reading in German.

Pastor Timothy Bauer says worshippers enjoyed it, even if many didn't understand every word, "because it's how they were raised." He says some feel so strongly, "it's almost as if they believe God spoke German."

[Again, imagine if some American said without any guile about his immigrant relatives: "It's almost as if they believe God spoke Arabic"! Instant hysteria. Glenn Beck would be organizing a protest rally on the guy's front lawn. - J]

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Big banks' payday loans dressed up as 'checking advance products'

And before you blame poor minorities for this phenomenon, chew on this statistic: "Social Security recipients, whose financial situations can be especially precarious, make up nearly a quarter of payday-loan borrowers."

We know that fewer than one-third of U.S. households have more than $100,000 in retirement savings. No wonder retirees need emergency loans! Meanwhile, Republicans want to cut Social Security and Medicare.

By Alexander Eichler
July 22, 2011 | Huffington Post

Two years after the recession officially ended and one year after the creation of a landmark financial law meant to prevent another financial crisis, predatory lending practices remain a part of mainstream American banking, a new report from the Center for Responsible Lending shows.

On Thursday, the CRL, a nonprofit research organization, published a report saying that some mainstream banks are offering payday loans -- short-term, high-interest loans that can take customers months to pay off.

Payday loans have long been offered by non-banking establishments, such as shops that cash checks and money orders. But in recent years, well-known banks have started offering them too.

Here's how a payday loan works: You, the customer, borrow money from the bank. The bank lends it to you at a high APR, or annual interest rate.

When your next paycheck comes, the bank repays itself out of your direct deposit -- taking the loan, plus whatever interest the bank charges. It doesn't matter if you don't have enough money in your account; the bank goes ahead and repays itself anyway, even if this triggers overdraft fees. Often customers end up having to take out another loan to get by until the next paycheck -- and so the cycle continues.

The CRL report isn't the first indication that mainstream banks have adopted this practice, which is sometimes called a "direct deposit advance" or a "checking account advance."

In 2010, Bloomberg reported that banks including Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp and Fifth Third Bancorp were offering services called "checking advance products" -- which functioned very similarly to payday loans -- as a way to recoup billions in lost revenue after new overdraft-fee regulations were passed.

Wells Fargo, Fifth Third and U.S. Bancorp were also among the banks named in a 2009 piece for the Twin Cities Star Tribune. That article, by Chris Serres, noted that in 2003, John Hawke, then head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, spoke strongly against payday loans and warned such lenders to "stay the hell away from national banks."

According to the Center for Responsible Lending report, the average 10-day payday loan from a bank carries a 365 percent APR. The one-month payday loan has an interest rate of 120 percent -- significantly higher than the average interest rate on a credit card, which is only 13.1 percent, the report notes.

Social Security recipients, whose financial situations can be especially precarious, make up nearly a quarter of payday-loan borrowers, according to the report.

In addition to offering payday-style loans directly, banks have also been accused of financing non-banking establishments, like the check-cashing shops, that make payday loans available. In 2010, a report from National People's Action and the Public Accountability Initiative linked payday loan companies like Advance America, First Cash and EZCORP to financiers including JP Morgan, Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, payday lending is one of the practices that consumer groups would most like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which launched on Thursday, to address.

Where our national debt came from (Hint: it starts with a W)

All grown-up readers must take note of these conclusions about where our national debt came from, understanding that G.W. Bush inherited a budget surplus in 2001 and turned it into a huge deficit:
First, the Bush tax cuts have had a huge damaging effect. If all of them expired as scheduled at the end of 2012, future deficits would be cut by about half, to sustainable levels. Second, a healthy budget requires a healthy economy; recessions wreak havoc by reducing tax revenue. Government has to spur demand and create jobs in a deep downturn, even though doing so worsens the deficit in the short run. Third, spending cuts alone will not close the gap. The chronic revenue shortfalls from serial tax cuts are simply too deep to fill with spending cuts alone. Taxes have to go up.

By Teresa Tritch
July 23, 2011 | New York Times

Tax bad food, subsidize good food

See, liberals believe incentives work, too!

This is the kind of intrusive left-wing social engingeering we need more of.

By Mark Bittman
July 23, 2011 | New York Times

Friday, July 22, 2011

Texas shows why Big Guvmint is needed

It must be hard being a thoughtful Texan. Sure, you get to be proud of its bigness, its cowboy lore, its football prowess, Tex-Mex, Austin's music scene, but beyond that?.... And then everyday in the news those few thoughtful Texans see yet another story about the Christian Taliban trying to turn their state into Jesus Land.

Besides all that, this story just underscores the inanity of elected boards of education. Why do we elect people from one party or another to make education policy for our kids? What's liberal or conservative about the 3 Rs? It's the politicization of children's learning. It's madness.

So here we see yet another unapologetically stupid Maud Flanders/Michelle Bachmann-type in Texas lamenting to the media that there are only "six true conservative Christians on the board." (And alas no true blondes.)

But why should one's religion matter? Well, now that she went and mentioned it like it did, it does matter: nobody's religion should play any part in deciding education policy, so she just disqualified herself! Unfortunately, most Texans don't see it that way; they think one qualifies oneself for public office by juggling Bibles while speaking in tongues at a gun show.

Texas and the rest of America's states need a big dose of Big Government in education, just like our competitors prescribe to their people. Washington, DC should shove a standard national education policy down their unwilling throats.

I'm sorry for putting it that way, but shoving ignorance down unwilling people's throats is exactly what these parochial bumpkins want to do. They are silly and should be replaced with disinterested career bureaucrats in Washington.

By Jim Vertuno
July 20, 2011 | Huffington Post

STEM education myth pervades UK, too

Looks like they have the same situation in the UK as we have in the US: near unanimous agreement that the country needs more science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) graduates to be competitive globally; and at the same time, statistics showing a large number of their STEM graduates out of work, or not working in a STEM profession, even before the recession.

I'm not a conspiracy nut, but on our side of the pond, I'm starting to think this is partly about inflating the bubble for school loans, which now totals nearly $1 trillion in the US -- more than credit card debt!

Or more likely, it's just lazy thinking by people on both sides of the Atlantic who should know better. Namely, scientists who are trained to analyze numbers and reach inescapable conclusions.

There is a third, more alarming possibility though: our business leaders and policy makers may have no other answers, because the neo-liberal consensus has ruled out all others. We've already vilified and destroyed private-sector unions who might have prevented STEM jobs from leaving the country. Raising taxes or cutting subsidies on corporations which ship STEM jobs abroad is out of the question. Government and university budgets for research are on the chopping block, despite the many innovative ideas -- and business startups -- they spawn. And protectionism is now a dirty word on the left and right. And so public and private sector leaders continue to say that more and better education/training is a panacea for disappearing high-skilled, middle-class jobs in developed countries, because they have to say something.

I admit it, it's frightening to think that even more MAs and PhD's in STEM won't make us more competitive, because if not, then what in the world can we do? But hard truths must be faced. How long are ordinary folks going to passively accept the STEM education myth instead of demanding real answers to the lack of good jobs?

By Charlie Ball
July 20, 2011 | NewScientist

Most sales at Family Dollar, 99-cent stores for food

Dumpster diving will be the next step down for middle-class Americans. Maybe behind the Dollar Store. They can charge a fee for it.

Posted by mybudget360 | July 20, 2011


Monday, July 18, 2011

'Boutique' education and suburban anti-charter 'revolt'

This NYT story confirms what I've been saying: charter schools are really about de-funding public schools. All public schools, not just in the ghetto. If they succeed in that, then the extremists' next goal will be privatizing schools altogether.

However, chances are slim they'll succeed, because once that corporate-socialist model is established, there will be strong moneyed interests lobbying to keep government funds flowing to privately managed (charter) schools. We'll have a system of only private schools financed by taxpayers, i.e. the worst of both worlds.

But some parents are wise to what's happening. Witness the anti-charter "revolt" in Millburn, New Jersey:

Millburn's superintendent, James Crisfield, said he was caught off guard by the plan for charters because 'most of us thought of it as another idea to help students in districts where achievement is not what it should be.' He said the district could lose $270,000 — or $13,500 for each of 20 charter students — and that would most likely increase as the schools added a grade each year.

'We don't have enough money to run the schools as it is,' Mr. Crisfield said, adding that the district eliminated 18 positions and reduced bus services this year.
"'Public education is basically a social contract — we all pool our money, so I don't think I should be able to custom-design it to my needs,' said [one Millburn parent Matthew Stewart] opposed to charters, noting that he pays $15,000 a year in property taxes. 'With these charter schools, people are trying to say, 'I want a custom-tailored education for my children, and I want you, as my neighbor, to pay for it."

Tea Parties want 'death by 1,000 cuts' for Constitution?

The truth is that nobody is perfectly happy with the U.S. Constitution, especially those conservatives who claim to love and cherish it.

It's always been that way: the Constitution was a compromise document from the start. Just look at the Bill of Rights, and the Federalists and Anti-Federalists' debates. From its birth the document was always a bit ugly, a bit misshapen. I would argue that over time it has become more beautiful. To really love the U.S. Constitution is to love the principle of rational compromise required to preserve the union and ensure the general welfare.

The Balanced Budget Amendment would make the Framers weep.
By Doug Kendall and Dahlia Lithwick
July 15, 2011 | Slate

For a group that claims to revere the Constitution, the Tea Party appears pretty determined to deal it a death by a thousand cuts. Its latest attack involves a nasty little piece of constitutional revisionism, complete with a "How can you be against that?" title: the "Balanced Budget Amendment." Putting aside the political questions about whether such a law is wise or practical, it also crashes headlong into the very constitutional principles the Tea Party purports to cherish. Not only that: Now there comes word that Republicans will hold a vote on this amendment next week before even considering raising the debt ceiling. So as part of their misguided effort to undermine the Constitution, they also plan to hold hostage the full faith and credit of the United States of America.

First, a little context. Shortly after the November 2010 election, Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm, released a poll showing that 80 percent of Republican voters wanted America to "return to the Constitution." That was funny, since so many Tea Party candidates also demanded changes to important parts of the Constitution, supporting either outright repeal or odd mutations of the 14th, 16th, and 17th Amendments. Respectively, these amendments, among other things, guarantee citizenship to everyone born in this country; allow the progressive taxation of incomes to fund the government; and allow "the people" of each state, as opposed to its legislature, to select senators.

[I've also heard some Tea Partiers who are against the principle of universal suffrage; they pine to return to the 18th century when only those who owned property could vote. The obvious goal of this tactic is to prevent poor people from voting, ostensibly to allow the rich landowning class a free hand to abolish the welfare state and tear up the social safety net. -- This is "paleoconservatism" at its most ancient! - J]

The question is the same today as it was last fall. Which is it, Tea Partiers: Do you want to "return to the Constitution" or to some pulpy version of it you have clubbed in your own image?

Noteworthy as the earlier amend-and-repeal efforts have been, none is being pursued with the vigor devoted today to the Balanced Budget Amendment. Introduced in the Senate by Tea Party favorite Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, it requires that revenues equal expenditures each year, and that they not exceed 18 percent of the gross domestic product in any given year. Only if two-thirds of Congress agreed could these limits be exceeded, and any bill that would "levy a new tax or increase the rate of any tax" would also need approval of two-thirds of both Houses.

A balanced budget amendment sounds like a great idea—until you read a little U.S. history and count all the times America spent more in a fiscal year than it raised in taxes and why that was necessary for our very survival. Debt helped fund the War for Independence, complete the Louisiana Purchase, and preserve the Union during the Civil War. Debt not only helped us weather the Great Depression; it also gave us the tools we needed to emerge victorious from two world wars.

This new version of the Balanced Budget Amendment also includes provisions—requiring a supermajority to override its rules or to raise taxes—not included in the version of the Balanced Budget Amendment passed by the House (but rejected by the Senate) in early 1995, during the height of the Contract with America craze. These new "Crazier than Gingrich" provisions would remove huge swaths of lawmaking power from majority rule and arbitrarily limit the size of government to a level not seen since the 1960s. Under the guise of promoting fiscal responsibility, we would be creating a government that could not govern.

But beyond all these questions lies one that should give pause to every member of the Tea Party with a pocket Constitution: What would the Framers have thought of this amendment?

It's fairly certain that George Washington and the other Founders gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 would be appalled by the Lee amendment. It is not an accident that the first two enumerated powers the Constitution vests in Congress are the power "to lay and collect Taxes … to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States" and "to borrow money on the credit of the United States." The Constitution's broad textual grant of power was a direct response to the Articles of Confederation, which had imposed crippling restrictions on Congress's power to borrow and tax. These restrictions plagued the Revolutionary War effort and made a deep and lasting impression on Washington and other war veterans. Lee and the other proponents of shrinking the federal government to restore freedom misapprehend that the Constitution recognized there would be no freedom without a strong federal government to promote it.

Moreover, in creating a supermajority requirement, the sponsors of the Balanced Budget Amendment do violence to another central tenet of the framer's project: The need for majority rule. The Founders made majority rule the default rule for our democratic Constitution. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, majority rule "is the natural law of every assembly of men, whose numbers are not fixed by any other law." The Constitution specifies a handful of departures from this default rule, but each exception warrants a particular justification that is consistent with the Constitution's democratic structure. Nowhere does our Constitution burden a substantive enumerated congressional power with the leaden weight of a supermajority.

Finally, in a Constitution filled with broad principles of governance, the amendment's arbitrary spending limit of 18 percent of GDP—an awkward and unworkable figure—would stick out like a sore thumb. Contrary to Chief Justice John Marshall's warning in the landmark decision of McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), Lee's arbitrary spending limit "partake[s] of the prolixity of a legal code," and would be out of place in a document that is designed to "to endure for ages to come … to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs."

We face a high duty when amending the Constitution: to match the Framers' maturity and foresight. By every measure that would have mattered to the Founders, Lee's proposed amendment easily flunks this test. Sen. Lee fancies himself a friend to the Constitution and an originalist. So why is he pushing for the ratification of an amendment that would take us back to the days before the Constitution was even ratified? The framers trusted in the wisdom of future legislators. The Balanced Budget Amendment represents a betrayal not only of our future but of our past as well.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Welfare abuse by Negroes goes back to 1866?

I stumbled upon this picture here. To see it is fascinating, sad, and in an odd way encouraging for my convictions, because it just confirmed for me that ignorant or just plain racist whites have always found excuses to call blacks lazy welfare moochers.

Think about it: Some whites back then had the gall to complain that Negroes were enjoying idleness at the expense of taxpayers, when only one year earlier almost all 4 million African-Americans had been slaves, working for nothing! And work for nothing they did -- for 240 years!

Jesus, I thought the annoying phrase "Get over it," was a recent invention, but it seems the sentiment behind it is very American and very old. Whites were telling freed slaves to "Get over it" only months after slavery had ended. Imagine!

You can read more about the Freedmen's Bureau, initiated by President Lincoln before his assassination, here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Low growth, not gov't. debt, is the real danger

Get edumacated on this, teabaggers!

By John Ydstie
July 12, 2011 | All Things Considered on NPR

The sluggish U.S. economy disappointed most forecasters, not to mention job seekers, in the first half of this year.

It grew at an annual rate of just under 2 percent, which is below the average for the last half-century when the U.S. economy grew about 3 percent each year.

And although it may not seem like much, that 1 percentage point makes a big difference — influential analysts are saying we're in for a "new normal."

The "new normal" is a term coined by the brain trust at the giant bond fund PIMCO. Anthony Crescenzi, a PIMCO vice president, strategist and portofolio manager, is part of that brain trust.

"The difference between 2 percent growth and 3 percent growth is of major importance and has major implications for the entire economy, for financial markets, for the budget," he says.

And the heart of the problem is job creation. Crescenzi and his colleagues argue that the U.S. economy could actually grow 2 percent a year without adding any new jobs. That's because the productivity of current workers is rising at about 2 percent a year.

"In other words a company can produce 2 percent more goods and/or services a year even if it doesn't increase the number of people it employs," he says.

Smaller Incomes

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, thinks some new jobs would be added in an economy growing 2 percent a year, but far fewer than one growing 3 percent.

"In a 3 percent world we'd create roughly 1.6 million jobs a year," he says.

The New Normal
A look at what it means to live in a 2 percent growth economy versus a 3 percent growth economy.

A look at what it means to live in a 2 percent growth economy versus a 3 percent growth economy

But he says that in a 2 percent world, job creation would be less than half — around 700,000 jobs.

"That would not be enough to absorb the increase in the labor force each year and therefore the unemployment rate would rise," Zandi says.

Zandi estimates it would rise a quarter of a percent each year and in less than five years be back in double digits. In 10 years the unemployment rate would be close to 12 percent. Of course, that means many of the workers sidelined during the recent recession would remain out of work.

Incomes would also be affected. Zandi estimates that in a 2 percent world the average household income would increase $17,000 less over a decade than it would in a world of 3 percent growth.

For a family that's car shopping, that's the difference between the price of a Hyundai compact and a Lexus sports sedan.

And PIMCO's Crescenzi says U.S. auto sales — more than 16 million vehicles a year before the financial crisis — have declined substantially in a 2 percent world.

"These days, the sales rate, because of high unemployment plus the lack of credit availability, car sales are running at a 12 to 13 million annualized rate. That's a new normal," he says.

Government Problems

Higher levels of unemployment in a 2-percent-growth world would make government budget problems much worse. People without jobs and income don't pay income taxes.

They also purchase fewer goods and services, meaning less sales tax revenue for state and local governments. Crescenzi says if the economy continues to grow at a 2 percent annual rate, U.S. budget deficits would hover where they are right now at about 10 percent of GDP, a dangerous and unsustainable level and twice what they'd be if the economy were growing 3 percent a year.

Zandi also cautions that, with 2 percent growth, the U.S. could easily be pushed back into recession by events, like an oil price spike or Europe's debt crisis. He also says even 3 percent growth isn't enough cushion.

"We really need to see growth that is closer to the 4 percent range for a couple of years," he says. "Get the unemployment rate down and then the risks of falling into recession would be a lot lower."

Zandi is actually predicting growth close to 4 percent in the next year and in the year after. He cautions against too much pessimism about the future.

"We've been through things like this in our history and we've always overcome them," he says. "So I would counsel against expecting the world to look — five to 10 years from now — the way it looks today. I think our prospects are much brighter than that."

But the PIMCO brain trust believes the "new normal" could easily last for five more years.

Doing Business 2011 benchmark

Now for those of you who think the USA has become a socialist backwater, here's another international benchmark for you.

The U.S. ranks 5th overall in the world in Ease of Doing Business, 9th in ease of Starting a Business, 6th in getting credit, 5th in protecting investors, and 8th in enforcing contracts.

Keep in mind that Republicans' only concrete ideas for creating jobs and improving the U.S. economy are: 1) cutting the federal debt; 2) cutting taxes on the rich; and 3) cutting "costly" regulations. Never mind that 1) will create more unemployment, and 2) has tried and failed throughout the 'oughts, but regarding 3), you have to ask yourself, U.S. regulations are costly compared to what country -- actually, compared to what island?

We also see Euro-socialist Denmark and semi-socialist Canada popping up in the top 10:

1 Singapore
2 Hong Kong SAR, China
3 New Zealand
4 United Kingdom
5 United States
6 Denmark
7 Canada
8 Norway
9 Ireland
10 Australia

Measuring Business Regulations
The World Bank | July 2011

MB360: FDIC staff nearly doubled, troubled banks quadrupled since 2008

Folks, take note: the FDIC has double its staff compared to 2007 to deal with troubled banks, and the number of troubled banks is higher than ever -- almost 900.

The banking crisis is not behind us, and the bailouts did not "work." Well, actually they accomplished their real goal (in my opinion) of keeping Wall Street's biggest banks in business, but other than that -- FAIL. Remember this was all about keeping credit flowing to small business? Remember October 2008?

MB360 hits the nail on the head what the real problem is:

"Frankly, both parties are beholden to the checkbooks of large financial institutions. On a bigger level, if we want politicians to represent the interests of the people without worrying about financing a campaign we should seek radical reforms in our political financing system. [That means publicly financed federal campaigns! - J] There is little desire to do this from Wall Street investment banks since their return on investment (ROI) has yielded a fantastic sum. Nothing better than guaranteed taxpayer money when all you have to do is funnel a tiny percentage of this back into the political machine every two years."

Assuming we can get Wall Street out of Congress here's what we must do:

"We need to bring Glass-Steagall back. We need to split commercial and investment banking once and for all."

And here's MB360's take on the debt ceiling brouhaha:

"The debt ceiling debate is comical in many ways. After decades of spending like maniacs we all of sudden want to find restraint especially after we've given the banking system trillions of dollars! [$2.84 trillion is currently stored on the Fed's balance sheet. Remember that next time you hear somebody say, "The bailouts (meaning TARP) worked." - J] First, the interest payments would skyrocket so right off the bat we would increase our own interest payments. Not smart at all. We need to be honest and like any household facing tighter times, we need to find more revenues and cut spending."

Posted by mybudget360 | July 13, 2011

Finally, honesty what 'school choice' is about

Finally, a "school choice" group tells the truth about their desired endgame.

This Tea Party group also gives the lie to those voucher advocates who say vouchers are all about helping poor and minority students to attend private schools. Their ultimate goal is to de-fund public schools and make children's education entirely private.

By Zaid Jilani
July 11, 2011 | Think Progress

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tax unfairness hurts the rich?

I've been meaning to take John Cornyn and Orinn Hatch out to the rhetorical woodshed for their comments about income tax "unfairness."

Sure, it's true that about 46 percent (not 51) of U.S. households will pay no income tax in 2011, while 18 percent will have no tax liability because they have no labor income, and 17 percent are elderly with no income, or elderly with income below $20,000.

So essentially, Cornyn, Hatch & Co. want 28 percent of households to pay up. But are they right? Are the lower and middle classes not paying their fair share?

Although it's true that the richest 20 percent of Americans pays nearly 70 percent of federal taxes, and the top 1 percent alone pays nearly 30 percent, it's also true that richest 20 percent earns more than 60 percent of all U.S. income, and the top 1 percent alone earns more than 20 percent. Moreover, the top 20 percent owns 75 percent of all U.S. net wealth, with the top 1 percent alone owning about 35 percent of all net wealth!

If we look at all taxes (federal, state, and local) the system skews farther toward the rich's favor. The top 20 percent (top quintile) of income earners pays about 30 percent of its annual income in taxes, whereas the bottom 20 percent (bottom quintile) pays about 17 percent of its income, the second quintile pays about 20 percent, the third (middle) quintile pays 25 percent of its income, and the fourth quintile pays nearly 29 percent.

That is, the fourth quintile, made up of people making average $66,000 per year, pays nearly the same percent of its income in taxes (28.5%) as the top 1 percent, made up of Americans earning average $1.3 million per year (30.8%). That is tax unfairness, just not the kind Republicans complain about. There is even unfairness among the richest quintile: I mean, is it fair that somebody earning $100,000 pays 30.2 percent in taxes, nearly the same share as somebody earning over $1 million??

Clearly, the super rich -- specifically the top 1 percent -- are not taxed nearly enough. Don't believe Republicans' lies and disinformation. This is especially relevant when discussing the national debt and where to find revenue vs. where to cut spending. To find more revenue, go after the millionaires who aren't paying their fair share! It's tremendously simple. That is, if you believe at all in the principle of progressive taxation -- the principle that those who earn more, pay more. If you don't, then you must be a millionaire or a talk radio/FOX zombie who has been tricked into opposing his own economic interests. --> This is not class warfare, mind you, just simple math and a simple principle that those who earn more should pay more.

Israel passes law to restrict free speech

While Glenn Beck was over there last week fluffing Israel's Knesset (Parliament) with all manner of praise, they went and passed a law to restrict Israelis' free speech.

Which is hypocritical, because conservatives like Beck say money = speech.

By Mark Lavie
July 11, 2011 | Huffington Post

Negligent discharge - PRICELESS!

"I experienced a negligent discharge," bravely admitted Derek "Tex" Gruber in his own YouTube video. "The reason that I share this," he continued, "is because negligent discharges happen, and I don't want them to happen to anybody else.... I have done that...stroke thousands of times with no problem."

Now before you think, "Take it easy, it's not such a big deal, Tex. That happens to lots of guys," you must understand he means he accidentally shot himself in the leg. He "f--cking shot" himself, to be more precise. (His words).

Now, I'm certainly not sayin' morons like Tex, Arizona state senator Lori Klein, or Homer Simpson should compel us to repeal or severely restrict the 2nd Amendment -- 12,000 needless gun murders a year should compel us to do that -- I'm just sayin' that talking about "safe" handling of firearms is a lot like Steve Irwin talking about safe interaction with stingrays.

"Things just tend to happen," summed up Tex, who ends his, er, educational video with pleas to "join the NRA and protect our rights."

That's right, Tex, morons do happen. And while the Constitution does not give us the right to be morons, thankfully it does give us the right to keep and bear arms. Woo-hoo, God bless Amurica!

Seriously though, watching him demonstrate after the fact how it happened, I couldn't help but fear he would somehow manage to shoot himself again.

Commenting on another version of Tex's embarrassing discharge, @squanto2 perfectly illustrated the absurdity of the "more guns keep us safer" argument: "Maybe if the left hand had a gun to protect him from his right hand that would not happen." Indeed. It's too bad there wasn't another armed citizen nearby to shoot Tex before he could shoot himself.

UPDATE (07.14.2011): One gentle reader was kind enough to pass along even more, and more outrageous negligent discharge videos. Honestly, I didn't realize the situation was this bad. Jesus....

But this one's not funny at all, just sad:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

More black men in prison today than were slaves in 1850

Gee, maybe those knuckle-dragging reactionaries are right, the days of slavery really were better for blacks!....

By Torrance Stephens
July 7, 2011 |

Thus far, in the New World, African Americans have been able to survive the voyage during the Middle Passage, slavery, lynchings, Jim Crow and second-class citizenship in America. Although, on the surface, the appearance of change in the form of open acceptance and material gain is projected, this may not actually be the case for African American men.

Historically, the criminal justice system has targeted African American males in a manner that defeats mathematical logic. Now, data suggest the unthinkable — that there may be more African American males incarcerated currently than there were in the bondages of slavery. A [sic] U.S. Bureau of Justice Department report estimates that, as of 2008, there were more than 846,000 black men in prison.  This figure accounted for more than 40 percent of all inmates in correctional facilities.

In a recent interview, Michelle Alexander gave additional detail to these figures to suggest that there are "more African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850 before the Civil War began." Alexander is the author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and a professor of law at Ohio State University. Her comments were made recently while addressing a group sponsored by the Pasadena branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

In an interview that aired on Feb. 20 on CSPAN's program, "Washington Journal," Alexander indicated how incarceration is a form of legal discrimination similar to that our parents may have experienced during the time of Jim Crow. "Employment, housing, access to education" and "the right to vote" are all impacted when one is incarcerated. In summary, she postulates that incarceration is the newest form of economic and social disenfranchisement for young African American men. 

Senate Dems made their own $4 trillion debt-reduction plan

But if we raise taxes on the richest 1 percent of Americans it will stifle investment, innovation, and job growth!  

Sorry, that was the idiot in me talking.  

BTW, why is nobody talking about how these historically low tax rates Americans are enjoying have not pulled the U.S. economy out of the doldrums?  

And why haven't the lib'rul media or Democrats demanded that Republicans explain precisely how cutting government spending will lead to job growth (which really means small business growth)?  There is no economic fact or theory behind their view, just bald assertion.  And they're getting away with it.

By Lori Montgomery
July 9, 2011 | Washington Post

'Pro-life' isn't really

This is why I can't accept the "pro-life" side's moral argument as bona fide: "Black women [in the U.S.] are about 60 percent more likely than white women to deliver babies early, and black infants are about 230 percent more likely than white infants to die before their first birthdays." If pro-lifers really cared then they'd do something to help pregnant and new mothers to care for their babies.

"But churches and private charities offer these women help!" they might reply, but obviously this help is insufficient (see statistic above). At the same time, pro-lifers object to government spending on prenatal and neonatal care because they think, with some justification, that such programs might encourage some poor women to get pregnant and have babies. But this contradiction in their moral terms again forces me to doubt pro-lifer's bona fides.

Religious pro-lifers' views can be summarized as follows:

1. Don't have sex outside of marriage.

2. Don't tell people, especially young people and minorities, about birth control because they shouldn't be having sex in the first place; knowledge of birth control will only encourage them.

3. If women do have sex and get pregnant, they must carry the child to term, regardless of their personal circumstances.

4. The pregnancy and child are the mother's problem; government should not help women out before or after birth, it should only forbid them from getting abortions.

If you want to encourage life, then you should support the most effective means of doing so: making sure every child is wanted; and giving needy women support during and after pregnancy. If you are against the state providing help to pregnant women and mothers, then you are not really pro-life, you're simply a moral prude.

By Michelle Norris
July 8, 2011 | NPR

Reagan adviser: 5 myths about debt ceiling

Here's my favorite part: "[Republicans] made the same argument in 1982, when Ronald Reagan requested the largest peacetime tax increase in American history, and again in 1993, when Bill Clinton also asked for a large tax boost for deficit reduction. In both cases, conservative economists' predictions of economic disaster were completely wrong, and strong economic growth followed."

And for those of you who think Obama would have to slash spending automatically were the ceiling not raised, understand that it's not his prerogative to make those choices; Republicans would put him in a position where he could not avoid violating the law: either by defaulting on Treasury payments; or by slashing spending already authorized by Congress.

By Bruce Bartlett
July 7, 2011 | Washington Post

In recent months, the federal debt ceiling — last increased in February 2010 and now standing at $14.3 trillion — has become a matter of national debate and political hysteria. The ceiling must be raised by Aug. 2, Treasury says, or the government will run out of cash. Congressional Republicans counter that they won't raise the debt limit unless Democrats agree to large budget cuts with no tax increases. President Obama insists that closing tax loopholes must be part of the package. Whom and what to believe in the great debt-limit debate? Here are some misconceptions that get to the heart of the battle.

1. The debt limit is an effective way to control spending and deficits.

Not at all. In 2003, Brian Roseboro, assistant secretary of the Treasury for financial markets, explained it best: "The plain truth is that the debt limit does not affect the deficits or surpluses. The critical revenue and spending decisions are made during the congressional budget process."

The debt ceiling is a cap on the amount of securities the Treasury can issue, something it does to raise money to pay for government expenses. These expenses, and the deficit they've wrought, are a result of past actions by Congress to create entitlement programs, make appropriations and cut taxes. In that sense, raising the debt limit is about paying for past expenses, not controlling future ones. For Congress to refuse to let Treasury raise the cash to pay the bills that Congress itself has run up simply makes no sense.

Some supporters of the debt limit respond that there is virtue in forcing Congress to debate the national debt from time to time. This may have been true in the past, but the Budget Act of 1974 created a process that requires Congress to vote on aggregate levels of spending, revenue and deficits every year, thus making the debt limit redundant.

2. Opposition to raising the debt limit is a partisan issue.

Republicans are doing the squawking now because there is a Democrat in the White House. But back when there was a Republican president, Democrats did the squawking. On March 16, 2006, one Democratic senator in particular denounced George W. Bush's request to raise the debt limit. "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure," the senator thundered. "Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. . . . Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren."

That senator was Barack Obama, and he, along with most Democrats, voted against a higher limit that day. It passed only because almost every Republican voted for it, including many who are now among the strongest opponents of a debt-limit increase.

3. Financial markets won't care much if interest payments are just a few days late — a "technical default."

Some Republicans believe that bondholders know they will get their money eventually and will understand that a brief default — just a few days — might be necessary to reduce future deficits. "If a bondholder misses a payment for a day or two or three or four," Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told CNBC in May, "what is more important [is] that you're putting the government in a materially better position to be able to pay their bonds later on."

This is nothing but wishful thinking. The bond-rating agencies have repeatedly warned that any failure to pay interest or principal on a Treasury security exactly when due could cause the U.S. credit rating to be downgraded, which would push interest rates up as investors demand higher rates to compensate for the increased risk.

J.P. Morgan recently surveyed its clients and asked how much rates would rise if there was a delay in payments, even a very brief one. Domestic investors thought they would go up by 0.37 percentage points, but foreign buyers — who own close to half the publicly held debt — predicted an increase of more than half a percentage point. Any increase in this range would raise Treasury's borrowing costs by tens of billions of dollars per year.

Some may think that a rise in rates would be temporary. But there was a case back in 1979 when a combination of a failure to increase the debt limit in time and a breakdown of Treasury's machines for printing checks caused a two-week default. A 1989 academic study found that it raised interest rates by six-tenths of a percentage point for years afterward.

4. It's worth risking default on the debt to prevent a tax increase, given the weak economy.

While Republicans' concerns about higher taxes are not unreasonable, most economists believe that any fiscal contraction at this time would be dangerous. They note that a large cut in spending back in 1937 brought on a sharp recession, which undermined the recovery the country was making after the Great Depression.

Republicans respond that tax increases are especially harmful to growth. However, they made the same argument in 1982, when Ronald Reagan requested the largest peacetime tax increase in American history, and again in 1993, when Bill Clinton also asked for a large tax boost for deficit reduction. In both cases, conservative economists' predictions of economic disaster were completely wrong, and strong economic growth followed.

5. Obama must accept GOP budget demands because he needs Republican support to raise the debt limit.

Republicans believe they have the president over a barrel. But their hand may be weaker than they think. A number of legal scholars point to Section 4of the 14th Amendment, which says, "The validity of the public debt of the United States . . . shall not be questioned."

Some scholars, including Michael Abramowicz of George Washington University Law Schooland Garrett Epps of the University of Baltimore Law School, think this passage may make the debt limit unconstitutional because by definition, the limit calls into question the validity of the public debt. Thus Treasury may be able to just ignore the debt limit.

Other scholars, such as Michael McConnell of Stanford Law School, say the 14th Amendment will force Obama to prioritize debt payments and unilaterally slash spending to pay bondholders. But this would involve the violation of laws requiring government spending.

Either way, a failure to raise the debt limit would force the president to break the law. The only question is which one.

Stimulus, RIP?

By David Weigel
July 8, 2011 | Slate

The stimulus bill passed more than two years ago, when Dave Obey still chaired the House appropriations committee. Obey's now retired from Congress, working as a lobbyist, but he talks about the stimulus fight as if it's still going on. Which, in many ways, it is—only now the battle is to convince people that it wasn't failure.

"This is the era of 24-hour news cycles," said Obey, who represented Wisconsin's 7th district for 42 years before retiring in 2011. "You can have 95 percent of what you do make perfect sense, but when networks are starved for news, and politicians are starved for attention, all you need is one example of something going wrong and it's easy for demagogues to discredit what you're doing. It's like what Donald Rumsfeld said about terrorism. In order to be successful, we had to stop 100 percent of terrorist attacks. If you're a terrorist you only need to get it right once."

Veterans of the stimulus wars talk about it that way—as a war. They lost. The implication of the loss is that Keynesian economics are, arguably, as discredited with voters as neoconservative theories were discredited when the invasion of Iraq failed to turn its neighbors into vibrant democracies, highways clogged with female drivers.

This week, we got a concrete example of what it meant to lose. The Weekly Standard published a back-of-the-cocktail-napkin analysis of the seventh quarterly report on the stimulus, stipulating that every job created by its spending has cost $278,000. Republicans, who'd previously said the stimulus created no jobs, immediately started repeating the $278,000 figure. They kept doing it even after the magazine followed up, suggesting that the cost-per-job could have been as low as $185,000. $278,000, $185,000. $0.00? It didn't really matter, because the White House and liberal response was perfunctory. As the stimulus winds down, with most of the money spent, everyone knows that it failed.

This is a little strange. Yes, the economy is rotten, so voters can be excused when they pan the government's response to unemployment. But there's a lot of data that isn't terribly hard to read suggesting that the stimulus did create jobs. The analysis that the Weekly Standard tore apart found that the stimulus increased employment by about 400,000 jobs in the first quarter after it went into effect, and increased it by about 2.7 million at its peak. If you're deriding the price tag for those jobs, you're acknowledging that the jobs exist.

Did the stimulus do less than President Obama said it would? Absolutely. In the first months of 2009, when the president sold the bill, got it passed, and defended it, he tossed off predictions for job growth that got progressively higher and were never matched. At his most optimistic, he said the stimulus would be a success if it "created or saved" 4 million jobs. It fell far short of that. But ambitious, expensive bills have fallen short before, and it hasn't discredited their reasons to exist. George W. Bush's tax cuts were supposed to balance the budget by 2010. That hasn't happened, obviously, but tax cuts have not been discredited—in fact, they're central to the discussion about how to dig out of the recession now. Tax cuts are popular. When CNN polled public opinion of the stimulus in January 2010, it found that 56 percent of Americans flat-out opposed it, and 63 percent of them thought most of the funding had been included for "purely political reasons." A little while later, a CBS poll found that only 6 percent of people thought the stimulus created any jobs.

The people who wrote and defended the stimulus blame bad messaging.

"The president was never able to explain to the public that the debt and deficits being run up were not an accident," said Obey. "It was purposeful, but the administration never took on the core debate of why we had to borrow money in the short term, even though in the long term we had to pay it back. They didn't explain it, which led people to believe we were throwing money at a wall and seeing what stuck. The country needed to be re-educated about the Great Depression and the role deficit spending played in getting out of it. It needed to be told the story of 1937, when FDR prematurely pulled back from stimulating the economy."

This is what people who lose a political argument always say: We didn't get our message out. But in this case it's true. The demand-side spending argument was part of the stimulus sales pitch, but not the biggest part. When House Republicans unanimously voted against it, Democrats attacked them for their crime against "bipartisanship," and for opposing the tax cuts that made up about $280 billion of the package. Those tax cuts allowed Obama to fulfill a campaign pledge to give "a tax cut to 95 percent of Americans." The spending was more stimulative than the tax cut. The White House just didn't convince people of that.

So Keynesians started the stimulus debate in a hole, and it got deeper as watchdogs and Republicans looked for waste, frivolity, or anything that sounded like waste or frivolity. It didn't really work. When Obey uses the 95-percent-of-what-we-did-was-good line, he's hinting at how the worst-sounding stimulus projects defined the enterprise.

"Our Waterloo on this was the quote-unquote 'non-existent congressional district' problem," said Ron Klain, the former chief of staff to Joe Biden, who helped manage the effort to spot dumb-looking spending. A few hundred of the first reports on how money was being spent—a few hundred of about 90,000—misreported the details, showing spending in congressional districts that did not exist. The projects were real, the jobs were real, but there is no 57th district in Minnesota or 22nd in New Mexico. Someone had put the wrong number on a form. Still, those fictitious districts were the story. "We had a week of stories taking us apart on The Colbert Report and what not," sighed Klain.

The end result of stories like that has been a virtual collapse in the belief that government spending can spur economic growth. This week, which ended with a jobs report that points in big, flashing arrows to more recession, will change nobody's mind about the need for spending cuts. When I asked Sen. John McCain whether spending cuts should be approached with caution about the impact they'd have on employment, he rejected the premise.

"The people I rely on say that spending cuts are vital to the future of our country," he said, "because we don't want to emulate Greece. If we emulate Greece, then we have huge unemployment."

But was it a problem that the stimulus money was running out?

"We just learned, apparently, that the stimulus package was only $278,000 per job," said McCain. "We certainly can't keep that up."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cost per job under stimulus bill?

Speaker Boehner and other Republicans have been citing the cost figure of $278 K per job created under the Recovery Act, aka the stimulus bill.

Boehner got it from a Weekly Standard report, which "arrived at its figure by dividing the cost to date of the stimulus bill, $666 billion, by the low end of the estimate of how many jobs the Council of Economic Advisers reported had been created by the legislation, 2.4 million."

But the Council of Economic Advisors' report also gave a high-end estimate of 3.6 million jobs created, which would lower the cost to $185 K per job.

Regardless, the White House correctly pointed out such math is "flawed," since such "spending didn't just fund salaries, it also went to the actual costs of building things -- construction materials, new factories, and such."

And if you think about it, it's logically impossible to spend $666 billion purely on jobs, jobs, jobs without any administration, materials, or overhead costs. Even simply cutting folks checks from the US Treasury and telling them, "Go out and work!" would entail an added cost.

For more info, I examined the NYT's detailed breakdown of stimulus "spending" and found about 37 percent of it was actually tax cuts for business and individuals. Pure spending was somewhere in the range of $420 billion. For those of you who never saw a tax cut you didn't like, check it out:

$116,200,000,000 New tax credit for workers
$69,800,000,000 Extend ATM for individuals
$14,800,000,000 Extend eligibility Child Tax Credit
$6,600,000,000 Incentive for first-time home buyers
$14,000,000,000 Tax incentive for alt. energy facilities
$4,700,000,000 Increase earned income tax credit
$5,900,000,000 Extension of bonus depreciation
$3,200,000,000 Deduction for banks buying bonds
$3,200,000,000 Tax cut for GM
$1,700,000,000 Energy; tax cuts for individuals
$1,600,000,000 Energy; tax cuts for business
$1,600,000,000 Tax cuts for bus. recognition of debt income
$947,000,000 Tax cut for business - loss carry-back
$829,000,000 Tax break for small bus. stock sales
$415,000,000 Reduce tax holding for S corporations
$231,000,000 Tax incentive to hire disabled
$203,000,000 Tax cuts - industrial dev. bonds
$192,000,000 Tax cuts for individuals - mass transit
$54,000,000 Tax incentive for alt. fuel pumps
$41,000,000 Increased small bus. tax deductions

$246 billion in tax cuts = 37 % of total Recovery Act

Now, I'm sure all you 'Bama hatas will now go out and spread the good news to your conservative buddies: that the stimulus gave almost $250 billion in tax cuts, resulting in 3.6 million jobs, $27 billion in small business loans, and 75,000 national projects.

This is not to mention Obama's payroll-tax cut for employees, enacted in December 2010 and which Democrats want to extend, which lowered Social Security payroll taxes paid by employees to 4.2 percent of earnings, putting $112 billion in workers' pockets over two years.

Over the next campaign cycle, I'm sure we won't hear a darn thing from the lib'rul media about Obama giving Americans more than $350 billion in tax cuts. But now that you know, I'm sure you'll evangelize the truth!

UPDATE (07.14.2011): I've seen the figure $280 billion in tax cuts used, so either my addition was deficient, or my source was not correct. Anyhow, that higher figure only bolsters my argument.