Friday, 27 November 2009

Yet another non-failure... Asia trip success

While we're on the subject of things that are working better than people say, it's worth pointing out that apparently Barack Obama's trip to Asia- though a miserable failure in the "not generating stories critical of Presidential bowing" competition - seems to have been rather successful in the lesser known "winning important concessions and agreement with major world powers" stakes.

James Fallows points out that following Obama's trip, China has now agreed to:
Fallows has lots more fascinating details of the trip on his blog. He concludes:
To sum it up: the Administration may or may not end up getting what it hoped for from this trip to Asia, especially China. But its members had a clearer idea of what they were after, how they could get it, and how to represent American interests and values than most coverage gave them credit for. The words that stick with me through this whole episode are those in the subtitle of Tish Durkin's piece last week: "Even through a veil of censorship and propaganda, the Chinese people managed a clearer view of Obama's visit than the US media did."

Experts Agree: "Without the Stimulus It Would Have Been Worse"

One of the really hard things about governing during a time of economic downturn is that people are understandably uninterested in being told taht things are bad, but they could have been so much worse.

Heck, it's an argument I hate making. People that I love are hurting, badly, in this economy - people that I love are worse off financially than they have ever been in their lives. So it's not very comforting to know that, while bad, things were very nearly much, much worse.

Uncomforting though this truth may be, however... it is true.

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's and an occasional adviser to lawmakers from both parties, said, "[T]he stimulus is doing what it was supposed to do -- it is contributing to ending the recession." Zandi added that without the recovery bill, the "G.D.P. would still be negative and unemployment would be firmly over 11 percent. And there are a little over 1.1 million more jobs out there as of October than would have been out there without the stimulus."
For example, remember that a great deal of the stimulus money went directly to states to fund programs that they would have otherwise had to cut because of the downturn in their tax revenues.

"Programs" sound clinical, though - the types of things states were need to cut back on were teachers, firefighters and police. Let's say your small town loses one firefighter, one teacher, and one police officer. OK, now you've got three peopele out of work - that's three people who won't be buying much stuff in your town now. Direct effect = bad.

But the loss of that teacher means slightly larger class sizes for all the other kids. There's a proven correlation between class sizes and student performance - that means an entire school's worth of kids are slightly worse off in ways that will harm their future.

One fewer police officer on the street means the PD needs to reorganise their shifts - slightly more of each officer's time is now focussed on emergency callouts, for instance, and slightly less on patroling. Areas that aren't patrolled can become more welcoming for a small number of criminal elements.

Let's not even talk about what happens if the fire department is down one many (possible consequences = detroyed property and lost lives).

Long term indirect effects = even worse.

A LOT of money was spent by the government trying to forestall the worst effects of the recession. But in the long run, in my view, this was all DEFICIT busting expenditure. It costs a lot more to fix a community once it's broken than it does to keep it from breaking in the first place. The President wasn't free to spend as much money as he would have liked in the stimulus package. But there simply is NOT ARGUMENT whatsoever based on fact that says the stimulus didn't save jobs - it paid salaries of people who would otherwise have been fired.

Unfortunately, an awful lot of people who deserve a hell of a lot better got badly burned anyway. It's heartbreaking.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Things I'm Thankful For...

In no particular order.

1) My health.
2) Speaking of which, the NHS. Not only do they keep me healthy, they have transformed my life.
3) My family. Most of whom are across an ocean. Miss you!
4) Feeling proud to be an American.
5)Pret a Manger lattes. One of life's daily pleasures.
6) My husband. Another of life's daily pleasures
7) You Know Who.
8) You Know Who's sense of humor. On turkey pardoning: "There are days when I remember why I ran for this office. And then there are days like today, when I pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland."
9) Michelle. Just because. You've gotta love Michelle.
10) Democrats Abroad. Registering overseas voters, lobbying for American's abroad, getting out the vote, allowing us to be politically active though far from home. They are a lifesaver. Speaking of which...
11) Being Vice Chair of Democrats Abroad, UK. Although some folks felt more inclined to offer me sympathy than congratulations when I was elected, I still consider it a great honor to represent the wonderful people in our membership.
12) Matthew Yglesias.
13) Andrew Sullivan.
14) Josh Marshall. Without these three men, my life would be so much duller and less informed!
15) New Media. I blog, I tweet, I Facebook. And I never thought I would love it... but I do. Thanks for reading.
16) Moving Past 9/11. It felt like the world would end that day. It didn't.
17) Discovering New Places. This year, Asturias in Northern Spain was a revelation.
18) Work. Difficult, interesting, challenging, inspiring projects - that they pay me for! My first year of self employment is turning out to be profitable in all sorts of ways. (Knock on wood.)
19) The London 2012 Olympic Games. Providing much of the afformentioned interesting work. And transforming my neighborhood - hurray for East London!
20) The New Yorker. Still the best magazine in the world, and the only one that can make me read about subject I am otherwise not at all interested in.
21) London.
22) Lovefilm. A constant supply of fresh DVDs has saved us from the rubbish TV options.
23) Comprehensive Healthcare Reform being passed out of all 3 House Committees.
24) Comprehensive Healthcare Reform being passed out of both Senate Committees.
25) Comprehensive Healthcare Reform being passed by the full House.
26) Comprehensive Healthcare Reform arriving on the floor of the Senate.
27) The possibility that comprehensive Healthcare Reform might pass the Senate by Christmas.
28) The most progressive Presidential budget in generations.
29) The Stimulus.
30) The stimulus starting to work.
31) Live chat on Facebook. And how it let's me keep in touch with folks.
32) Hope. I've still got it.