february 28 8:39 AM

Mitt Romney’s health care hypocrisy – On Real Time With Bill Maher last night, Financial Times editor Chrystia Freeland made the point (I’m not getting this word for word) that Republicans have every right to declare they oppose any kind of comprehensive health care reform and declare they aren’t interested in covering the uninsured.Sure, of course they do. But then Freeland referenced Mitt Romney’s criticisms of Democratic health care reform at CPAC as legitimate and fair. Ahem.There’s just one problem: Governor Romney’s 2006 health care plan for Massachusetts comprised the exact three core components as the current private sector-oriented Democratic bill — insurance regulations, subsidies and an individual mandate. Don’t take my word for it. Here’s the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board:

Rep. Trent Franks Suggests That Blacks Had It Better During Slavery – (video & commentary) FRANKS: In this country, we had slavery for God knows how long. And now we look back on it and we say "How brave were they? What was the matter with them? You know, I can’t believe, you know, four million slaves. This is incredible." And we’re right, we’re right. We should look back on that with criticism. It is a crushing mark on America’s soul. And yet today, half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery. And I think, What does it take to get us to wake up?

The White House Calls Out Senator Bunning – "But just when we thought we were seeing progress, we have been confronted with a disappointing return to tactics that could be harmful to the American people, with Senator Bunning (R-KY) blocking the extension of several critical priorities for middle-class families. If Senator Bunning gets his way, hundreds of thousands of people could be ineligible for COBRA tax credits for health coverage created by the Recovery Act; 400,000 individuals who cannot find work will lose their unemployment insurance; thousands of small businesses will lose access to credit; transportation projects and public safety programs across the country would be halted; critical transportation safety personnel will be furloughed at a time of increased concern about the safety of our roads and highways; and 600,000 doctors across the country who care for our seniors and veterans could be subject to a 20 % pay cut, including 8,105 in Senator Bunning’s home state of Kentucky."

By How Much Does GDP Rise If the Government Buys More Output? -Abstract: During World War II and the Korean War, real GDP grew by about half the increase in government purchases. With allowance for other factors holding back GDP growth during those wars, the multiplier linking government purchases to GDP may be in the range of 0.7 to 1.0, a range generally supported by research based on vector autoregressions that control for other determinants, but higher values are not ruled out. New Keynesian macroeconomic models yield multipliers in that range as well. Neoclassical models produce much lower multipliers, because they predict that consumption falls when government purchases rise. Models that deliver higher multipliers feature a decline in the markup ratio of price over cost when output rises, and an elastic response of employment to increased demand. These characteristics are complementary to another Keynesian feature, the linkage of consumption to current income. The GDP multiplier is higher—perhaps around 1.7—when the nominal interest rate is at its lower bound of zero.

 Plastic rubbish blights Atlantic Ocean – Scientists have discovered an area of the North Atlantic Ocean where plastic debris accumulates.  The region is said to compare with the well-documented "great Pacific garbage patch".  Kara Lavender Law of the Sea Education Association told the BBC that the issue of plastics had been "largely ignored" in the Atlantic. She announced the findings of a two-decade-long study at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, Oregon, US. We found a region fairly far north in the Atlantic Ocean where this debris appears to be concentrated and remains over long periods of time," she explained.  "More than 80% of the plastic pieces we collected in the tows were found between 22 and 38 degrees north. So we have a latitude for [where this] rubbish seems to accumulate," she said. The maximum "plastic density" was 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometre.

Coffee producers ‘getting hammered’ by global climate change – Coffee producers say they are getting hammered by global warming, with higher temperatures forcing growers to move to prized higher ground, putting the cash crop at risk. "There is already evidence of important changes" said Nestor Osorio, head of the International Coffee Organization (ICO), which represents 77 countries that export or import the beans. "In the last 25 years the temperature has risen half a degree in coffee producing countries, five times more than in the 25 years before," he said.Sipped by hundreds of millions of people worldwide, coffee is one of the globe’s most important commodities, and a major mainstay of exports for countries from Brazil to Indonesia. But producers meeting in Guatemala this week are in a state of panic over the impact of warming on their livelihoods.
Mankiw at EEA – "Joe the Plumber", whom Meghan McCain called a "dumbass" was the inspiration for Mankiw’s talk. To his credit, the talk was about the rising trend in inequality, but took the Goldin/Katz line that it’s all about education and skill-biased technological change. I’d agree with him that, looking at recent US data, it looks pretty convincingly like we’ve had SBTC. But then, three other basic types of evidence completely contradict SBTC. One is the international evidence — inequality trends in mainland europe, japan, and korea look nothing like the trends in Anglo-Saxon countries. Secondly, the long-run time series in America also shows that there are periods, which correspond closely to changes in institutions, when inequality ebbs and flows — which suggests the more obvious conclusion that it’s the institutional changes which are important. Thirdly, when we talk about the rise in inequality, we’re mostly talking about just the top 1% of the population. And among the top 1%, we’re mostly talking about the top .1%. So this has nothing to do with increasing returns to education generally, or any of that nonsense… Perhaps he critiqued the SBTC later in his talk, but I didn’t stick around.

Pound under attack as debt worries grow – THE pound faces a rough week with uncertainty over the outcome of the general election and concerns over the public finances threatening to trigger a new wave of selling.  A dwindling Conservative poll lead is heightening fears of a hung parliament. Fears over Greek debt, which were undermining the euro, have begun to hit sterling, as concerns have grown that worries over sovereign debt could spread. The MPC, which meets this week, is set to leave Bank rate unchanged at 0.5% and stick with the existing £200 billion of quantitative easing, despite hints from some members that more could be done. The “shadow” MPC, which meets under the auspices of the Institute of Economic Affairs, has voted 6-3 to keep Bank rate on hold, with three members urging an immediate half-point rate rise. Several shadow MPC members said the Bank should be ready to announce further easing, with one, Peter Warburton, advocating an extra £25 billion immediately.

Details Emerges for Greece Plan WSJ – A plan to bail out Greece that could total as much as €30 billion is now being considered by German and French officials, according to a person familiar with the situation. The plan would call for the sale of debt to French and German entities, likely state-owned banks, as well as the public markets, this person said.  The sale roughly would be split between the states and debt investors.  The timing of any sale is unclear and is pending approval by German and French officials. While officials in those countries may want time to deliberate, there is an increasing sense that the financial markets want to see a resolution. That could increase pressure on government officials to sign off on the debt sale before problems extend to other European countries.

 If This Guy Is The Source Of Greek Bailout Reports, You Should Be Very Skeptical Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a German member of the European Parliament, announced in a TV interview Saturday night that France, Germany, and the Netherlands would snap up Greek bonds in an effort to bail the country out, according to Reuters. But who is Jorgo Chatzimarkakis? He’s a low-level, 43-year old politician of Greek descent, and even Reuters is forced to wonder how he would possibly be aware of such a plan. We’re not sure if this is connected to the forthcoming Greek bailout that the WSJ just announced, if so we’d remain highly dubious

US Banks Reject Effort by UK Bank Execs to Rein in Pay – 02/28/2010 – Yves Smith – From the Independent: But the recommendations were met by stiff opposition from the US banks JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, according to one source. “Some of the US bankers were furious about attempts to reduce pay throughout the industry, arguing that any such move smacked of socialism and would be fiercely resisted,” the source said on Friday. “It’s not the way the Americans like to go about their business.” Yves here. The evidence that US capital markets firms are firmly in the hands of hopeless sociopaths continues to mount. The fact set is undeniable: the big firms in the industry engaged in a massive campaign of looting, of running enterprises in which the employees were consistently overpaid relative to the risks and true profits of the firms. The result was that they were overleveraged. The only reason the industry survived was due to massive public subsidies, from equity injections to special lending programs to super low rates to regulatory forebearance. By any right, the firms should have failed, and the bankruptcy course should have gone full bore after the pay earned in the bubble years as fraudulent conveyance.

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