...misplaced focus said a lot about our political culture, in particular about how disconnected Congress is from the suffering of ordinary Americans. But it also revealed something else: when people in D.C. talk about deficits and debt, by and large they have no idea what they’re talking about — and the people who talk the most understand the least.
Perhaps most obviously, the economic “experts” on whom much of Congress relies have been repeatedly, utterly wrong about the short-run effects of budget deficits. People who get their economic analysis from the likes of the Heritage Foundation have been waiting ever since President Obama took office for budget deficits to send interest rates soaring. Any day now!
And while they’ve been waiting, those rates have dropped to historical lows. You might think that this would make politicians question their choice of experts — that is, you might think that if you didn’t know anything about our postmodern, fact-free politics.
But Washington isn’t just confused about the short run; it’s also confused about the long run. For while debt can be a problem, the way our politicians and pundits think about debt is all wrong...
The question remains, wrong for whom? The Austerian bank$ters are doing fine these days, thank you. Which is the 300 lb gorilla in the room we aren't talking about: Austerity to stabilize the banks who created the need for it in the first place.
Similarly, the Editors at the New York Pravda bemoan the Republican game plan on energy and jobs:
...The payroll tax cut bill, which Mr. Obama signed last month, gave him 60 days to decide on the Keystone XL pipeline. That is not enough time to complete the required environmental review of a project that, in its present design, crosses ecologically sensitive territory and risks polluting an aquifer critical to Midwestern water supplies.
The Republicans’ claim that the pipeline will create tens of thousands of new jobs — 20,000 according to House Speaker John Boehner and 100,000 according to Jon Huntsman — are wildly inflated. A more accurate forecast from the federal government, one with which TransCanada, the pipeline company, agrees, says the project would create 6,000 to 6,500 temporary construction jobs at best, for two years.
The country obviously needs more jobs. Mr. Obama needs to lay out the case that industry, with government help, can create hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs without incurring environmental risks — by upgrading old power plants to comply with environmental laws, retrofitting commercial and residential buildings that soak up nearly 40 percent of the country’s energy (and produce nearly 40 percent of its carbon emissions) and promoting growth in new industries like wind and solar power and advanced vehicles.
By even the most conservative estimates, the power plant upgrades required by the new rule governing mercury emissions are expected to create about 45,000 temporary construction jobs over the next five years, and as many as 8,000 permanent jobs as utilities install pollution control equipment. And while the projects are new and the numbers tentative, the Energy Department predicts that its loan guarantee programs could create more than 60,000 direct jobs in the solar and wind industries and in companies developing advanced batteries and other components for more fuel-efficient cars.
Much more needs to happen. Europe has encouraged the commercial development of carbon-reducing technologies with a robust mix of direct government investment and tax breaks, loans and laws that cap or tax greenhouse gas emissions. This country needs a comparably broad strategy that will create a pathway from the fossil fuels of today to the greener fuels of tomorrow.
We are under no illusions that such an appeal by Mr. Obama would win support among Republicans on Capitol Hill. House Republicans voted 191 times last year to undermine existing environmental protections or reject Democratic efforts to strengthen them — even killing off a modest regulation requiring more energy efficient light bulbs — and in general have vowed to resist new energy strategies or do anything at all that might disturb their patrons in the fossil fuel industries.
American voters are smart enough to see through the ridiculous pipeline gambit. And they will surely listen if Mr. Obama makes a compelling argument for both protecting the environment and investing in clean energy industries that will create lasting jobs.
All of this is attributed to shortsightedness. But that doesn't even begin to describe the real motivations.
White at McClatchy:
U.S. refineries exported a record amount of refined fuels in 2011 to markets in South America, Central America and Europe. It was one reason why Americans spent a record amount on gasoline this year: Supplies that might have helped lower prices here had been shipped abroad. In 2007, U.S. exports of all kinds of fuel held steady throughout the year at 1.24 million to 1.25 million barrels a day, according to Energy Department statistics. But by 2011, exports of diesel, gasoline and other products surged. In November and December, U.S. fuel exports averaged between 2.77 million barrels a day and 2.89 million barrels a day, the highest ever. Meanwhile, U.S. drivers paid an average of about $3.50 a gallon for gasoline during the year, also the highest ever. Nationally, the average cost for a gallon of regular Friday was $3.269, or 19.8 cents a gallon more than ever on a Dec. 30, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. The trend was predicted as early as last January, when two analysts with the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration delivered a presentation to the 2011 Argus Americas Crude Summit in Houston. Joanne Shore, lead operations research analyst at the Energy Information Administration, and colleague John Hackworth said that U.S. refineries had found thriving and lucrative markets overseas for their products, even as they were shutting down domestic facilities because of low demand...
That's "low demand" meaning "prices not high enough", and you can bet those margin differentials are not needed for investment in developing alternative sources of petrochemicals.
Which brings us back to an awkward Op-Ed by Whatcroft that the Pravda editors sank out of sight, and quickly.
...Unknown knowns were things that were not at all inevitable, and were easily knowable, or indeed known, but which people chose to “unknow.”
Unknown knowns were everywhere, from Wall Street to Brussels, from the Pentagon to Penn State. Ireland merely happened to offer an extreme case, where “everyone knew.” They just chose to forget that they knew — about the way that Irish banks ran wild, how easy credit fueled a monstrous explosion of property prices and speculative house-building. Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister at the time of the rapid economic growth, merely boasted, “The boom is getting boomier,” preferring to unknow the truth that booms always go bust.
Beginning in 2008, the skies were lighted up by financial conflagrations, from Lehman Brothers to the Royal Bank of Scotland. These were dramatic enough — but were they unforeseeable or unknowable? What kind of willful obtusity ever suggested that subprime mortgages were a good idea? An intelligent child would have known that there is no good time to lend money to people who obviously can never repay it.
Or recall how we were taken into the Iraq war. That was the origin of Mr. Rumsfeld’s curious words 10 years ago. When he murmured about “things we do not know we don’t know,” he was touching on the unconventional weapons that Saddam Hussein might — or might not — have held.
In a sense, Mr. Rumsfeld was more right than he realized. Those of us who opposed the war may be asked to this day whether we knew what weaponry Iraq possessed, to which the answer is that of course we didn’t. Nor, as it transpired, did President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld or Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain.
But that was the wrong question. It should have been not “what weaponry does Saddam Hussein possess?” but “Is Saddam Hussein’s weaponry, whatever it may be, the real reason for the war, or is it a pretext confected after a decision for war had already been taken?” The answer to that was obvious and could have been known to all, but too many people chose to unknow it.
Then there was another unknown known: the likely consequences of an invasion. Shortly before it began, Mr. Blair met President Jacques Chirac of France. As well as reiterating his opposition to the coming war, Mr. Chirac offered the prime minister specific warnings. Mr. Blair and his friends in Washington seemed to think that they would be welcomed with open arms in Iraq, Mr. Chirac said, but that they shouldn’t count on it. It was foolish to think of creating a modern democracy in an artificial country with a divided society like Iraq. And Mr. Chirac asked whether Mr. Blair realized that, by invading Iraq, they might yet precipitate a civil war.
This has been described in a BBC documentary by someone present, Sir Stephen Wall, a Foreign Office man then attached to Downing Street. As the British team was leaving, Mr. Blair turned and said, “Poor old Jacques, he just doesn’t get it,” to which Sir Stephen now adds dryly that he turned out to get it rather better than “we” did...
Sir Stephen, have you looked at how much money guys like Cheney made on the War on Terra and Iraq in particular? Perhaps the only ones not getting it are Sir Stephen and the Editors at The New York Pravda. But one suspects they are also heavily invested in the illusions they reflect.