Bloomberg sheds a tear for bankers, makes up bogus numbers

Asked to comment on the Occupy Wall Street protests, plutocrat Mayor Michael Bloomberg—#12 on the Forbes 400, net worth almost $20 billion—painted a heart-rending portrait of suffering bankers: The protesters are protesting against people who make $40-50,000 a year and are struggling to make ends meet. That’s the bottom line.Those are the people that work on Wall Street or on the finance sector. We need to be nice to them, Bloomberg continued, so they’ll make loans and help the economy recover. No need to dwell on the past—let’s move forward. Fact-checking the Mayor, who is far from… Read More

Shaking a fist at the NYPD

There was a demonstration this afternoon organized by my friends Penny Lewis and Alex Vitale, among others, in front of NYPD headquarters to object to the nasty treatment of the Occupy Wall Street protesters and years of repression of dissent in what was once a rambunctious city. (Here’s the event’s Facebook page.) Since Giuliani and continuing through Bloomberg, the cops have used “quality of life” pretexts—keep the traffic moving!—to limit marches. And they’ve spied on organizers, arrested protesters en masse, and generally made peaceful dissent very difficult. The fact that a senior cop was… Read More

The Occupy Wall Street non-agenda

I’m not here to disparage Occupy Wall Street; I admire the tenacity and nerve of the occupiers, and hope it grows. But I’m both curious and frustrated by the inability of the organizers, whoever they are exactly, or the participants, an endlessly shifting population, to say clearly and succinctly why they’re there. Yes, I know that certain liberals are using that to malign the protesters. I’m not. I desperately hope that something comes of this. But there’s a serious problem with this speechlessness. Certainly the location of the protest is a statement,… Read More

1930s phantasms from the right: how to make up stories with numbers

Economists Harold Cole and Lee Ohanian have a piece in the Wall Street Journal that deserves a prize for the devious use of statistics. They want to argue that fiscal stimulus is bad, and the New Deal only made the Depression worse. This is a familiar argument on the right—and I even heard it once from a Marxist economist—but it’s just not true. Here’s the prize-eligible statement: But boosting aggregate demand did not end the Great Depression. After the initial stock market crash of 1929 and subsequent economic plunge, a recovery began… Read More

Visiting the occupiers of Wall Street

Occupying Wall Street We—my wife Liza Featherstone and son Ivan Henwood and I—paid a visit to the Occupy Wall Street protest yesterday afternoon. Here’s an illustrated report. I also did a segment for my radio show. Audio for that is at the bottom of this entry. The big media have largely ignored the OWS protest (though if you’re part of a certain kind of network on Facebook, you can’t miss it). Called first by Adbusters with only the most minimal agenda, it’s taking on a life of its own, as people trickle in from… Read More

The housing boom (cont.)

Matt Yglesias responded, sort of, to my comments (“Was there a housing boom? Yes.”) from yesterday, countering his curious assertion that there was no building boom in the mid-2000s, by conceding that there was a boom in construction employment after all. But he refuses to give up on the argument that there was no building boom. A few more words on this topic before laying it to rest. Yglesias graphs construction employment as a percentage of the civilian labor force with a line marking the average: Before proceeding, a little overview to… Read More

Does productivity = unemployment?

There’s a controversy aflame in the left–liberal blogosphere around a revelation in Ron Suskind’s new (and apparently error-riddled) book, Confidence Men. (Brad DeLong has the page.) Suskind reports on tense high-level meetings within the Obama administration as it became clear that the StimPak wasn’t really working. Unemployment was drifting higher, and the Keynesian faction—Christina Romer, then chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, and later Lawrence Summers, then resident wise man—was calling for more stimulus. Obama said no. It was politically impossible, but Obama also argued that the productivity revolution has made workers obsolete…. Read More

Was there a housing boom? Yes.

Matt Yglesias, striking that contrarian tone beloved of bloggers (something you’d never find here, of course!), declares that there was no housing boom. Or, more precisely, though there was a boom in house prices, there was no boom in construction. To make this point, Yglesias uses one on those ubiquitous St. Louis Fed graphs, this one of the history of housing starts since 1970. Sure enough, it sorta supports his point. But this is only a very partial view. Here’s a fuller one. First of all, the boom wasn’t just about new houses—there… Read More

Fitch memorial this Sunday

A reminder that the memorial to the wonderful Bob Fitch, who died in March (my remembrance of him is here), is this Sunday, 4–6 PM, at the Brecht Forum, 451 West St (between Bank & Bethune), Manhattan.

New radio product

Freshly posted to my radio archives: September 10, 2011 Mike Lofgren, former Congressional staffer and author of this spirited farewell to his long-time party, describes the furious insanity of the GOP • Jonathan Kay, author of Among the Truthers, and Kathy Olmsted, UC–Davis prof and author of Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, on conspiriacism, esp the 9/11 kind

Me on Al Jazzera English

I’m going to be on Al Jazeera English around 9 AM New York time discussing Obama’s jobs plan, such as it is. Watch here.  

Me & Graeber on the TV this weekend

A reminder: my chat with David Graeber about his new book, Book TV this weekend: Saturday, September 3rd at 12pm (ET) Saturday, September 3rd at 7pm (ET) Monday, September 5th at 7am (ET)

New radio product

Just added to my radio archives: September 3, 2011 David Cay Johnston on how corps and the megarich get away with paying almost no taxes (his Reuters column on GE is here) • Adolph Reed on the Dems, the inflated threat of the Tea Party, and the diminishing usefulness of race as a political category