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February 29, 2008

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As nearly as I can figure out, somewhere around the beginning of the 21st century, mysterious beings from a higher dimension used their unimaginable powers to swap the meaning of the two English words "support" and "exploit".

Fiscal, moral, and legal irresponsibility. Does that cover everything?
No doubt not.
Snark retires from the field, acknowledging one mightier, He Who Would Be King.
The accounting will take many painful years, nor am I speaking of mere money.Soon we may be— all but the best insulated— gnawing at our vitals.
Looking like the hard rain will be a real gully-washer.

I read the article.

Far better, he suggests, to leave rapidly and in a dignified manner, and to spend some of it on helping Iraqis reconstruct their own country…

Stiglitz has become delusional after too much time in the Clinton Administration and as a professor at Columbia. They’ll all pick up little shovels and get to it. That’s right Professor Stiglitz. They’ll get over that Sunni-Shia thing once we leave.

I support a withdrawal to remote bases, but cost has little to do with it. Hard costs of the war run around $120 billion or so per year. That works out to around $400 per head per American. The future promises that Stiglitz references are as likely to be paid as a 30-yr Treasury Bill. We make $3 trillion in unfunded promises to our own population every year.

It costs our society upwards of $10,000 per year to teach kids whatever we try to teach them in grade school. It costs God knows how much ($40,000 per year?) to send a student to Columbia to expose them to Professor Stiglitz. Spending $400/yr to expose Americans to that part of the world and learn what we’re learning is a bargain.

The men walking the streets and their families are the ones paying the true costs. Not the taxpayer. Not Professor Stiglitz.

I'm tired of getting angry at Bill's ongoing flood of ignorant hatemongering. From now on, when I see that he is commenting in a thread, I just won't be reading the comments. I need that energy for more important things. You win, Bill, here's one less voice that will be raised in opposition to your nonsense.

It appears Mr. Stiglitz wants to just move wasteful government spending from one sector to another. At least the constituition calls for the federal government to provide national defense. I'm not going to dispute that the Iraq war hasn't been costly, but wasting taxpayer dollars on entitlement programs is not the only other option.

Bruce, I still read comment threads even when Bill is infesting them: I just ignore Bill. And comments responding to Bill. (And FWIW, no, Bill, this is not about not being willing to pay attention to people who disagree with me: this is about only having conversations with people - agree or disagree - who can say something.)

LT Nixon: It appears Mr. Stiglitz wants to just move wasteful government spending from one sector to another.

I think you kind of miss the point of the words "By way of context".

It's possible that Stiglitz does prefer education, healthcare, and housing to the war in Iraq, but I think you're overlooking the fact that to most people the scale of $3 trillion is hard to grasp without a benchmark of some kind.

Only because I’ve been personally attacked and economics are the topic:

There are some small banks "that are heavily invested in real estate in locales where prices have fallen and therefore they would be under some pressure," Bernanke said. He added he doesn't expect "any serious problems" among larger banks.
-Bernanke today, via Bloomberg

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aUMXW_ib2a9A&refer=home

Ahem. Cough.

5. Regional bank failures (Wrong. the Fed will deflate the currency to prevent this; only small banks will be allowed to fail; oil $100 is just getting started).
-Bill, February 19th, correcting Financial Times’ Professor Roubini on Hilzoy’s ‘No Surprises’ thread.

On February 19th, gold traded at $905 an ounce. It’s trading at $970/oz right now. Large banks will not be allowed to fail for civilizational reasons.

That’s my contribution to world economics. No Nobel Prize for Bill on the horizon, I’m afraid.

But I am a fan of Norman Rockwell’s image of a man standing up in a public forum, holding his hand up in anticipation of being heard.


Well, Bill, you've helped to demonstrate the deflate the dollar part, though I think there is a lot more to it than that. What you have in no way demonstrated is that this is going to prevent banks from failing. After the market close yesterday, it was announced that Fremont General, a $9 billion bank, is suspending dividends on its preferred stock, and is likely headed for bankruptcy. It won't be the last.

"But I am a fan of Norman Rockwell’s image of a man standing up in a public forum, holding his hand up in anticipation of being heard."

Then there's that other great Norman Rockwell image, where the man, having had his say, and noticing that the crowd is reacting in an oddly restless and hostile manner, slinks quietly out the back door of the auditorium.

one thing we absolutely mustn't do is raise taxes on the well-off.

"Because, as we know, while every nickel spent on the health of children counts as wasteful government spending and must be fought for tooth and nail, defense spending doesn't count as spending at all. " This is a sad truth which cannot be repeated often enough. It's well-known we are now communicating over something created with millitary funds. It's not so well known that the traditional justification for the arpanet, that it could keep functioning after a nuclear attack, was a ridiculous lie they employed to secure public funds.

"Then there was the discovery that sign-up bonuses come with conditions: a soldier injured in the first month, for example, has to pay it back. Or the fact that "the troops, for understandable reasons, are made responsible for their equipment. You lose your helmet, you have to pay. If you get blown up and you lose your helmet, they still bill you." One soldier was sued for $12,000 even though he had suffered massive brain damage."

That is so awfull that it makes me speechless.

Hilzoy: Yet somehow we managed to embark on an ill-conceived war without bothering to think seriously about the cost.

Donald Rumsfeld, January 19 2003:
Rumsfeld: Well, the lesser important is the cost in dollars. Human life is a treasure. [So say the 1.2 million dead.] The Office of Management and Budget estimated it would be something under 50 billion dollars.
Stephanopoulos: Outside estimates say up to 300 billion.
Rumsfeld: Baloney.

--
Five years ago, almost to the day:

Rep. Chris Shays (R): "The bottom line is we need a better and fuller understanding of the financial commitments we are undertaking, and how much of these costs our allies are willing to bear."

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz: "Such estimates are so dependent on future, unpredictable circumstances as to be of little value."

---
Paul Wolfowitz again, March 27 2003:
"The oil revenues of Iraq could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years... We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon."

---

Yeah. Somehow.

I wouldn't get angry at Bill. He doesn't make arguments. He seems to think being a professor at Columbia makes a person *dumb* or *delusional*.

He seems to think that Stiglitz's estimate is an outlier. In fact, it's right within the range that many others have estimated.

Hoo boy, Bill, I am in awe.
What a (painful) treat to watch a master at work.
I will join Bruce in not speaking to your first entry, for much the same reasons.
Though when it’s cold outside as it is here, I suppose a little boiling blood at leasts boosts the circulation.
But, ah, those banks you speak of? It’s not the mighty capitalist heart that’s keeping them alive, it’s Gulf State sovereign funds.
Sorry.
I would have expected you to have known that. Sorry I was the one who had to break the news. Not that it isn’t widely known elsewhere. I suppose that means you’ve been elsewhere. Was the weather nice?
Cuckoo cloudland nice?
Sounds as if, if you’re relying on Bernanke’s sound bites. Too much sun I guess.
Love the way you spat on Stiglitz who however well padded has been on the ground in a lot of desperate places. And is a model of conscience many of us find wanting in certain other places— the list is too long to go through here, but read the news, you’ll find it.
And then in a death-defying leap across the laws of logic, you land genuflecting to someone who, someone who— shows no observable markings different from the treasure-chest-crawling spiders in the executive branch, creepy-crawlies all. Bold move.
Ahh, yes. Thanks Bill. I feel all snark is not lost.

Principles of economics, a different view.

What is money, anyway? Just numbers on a piece of paper.

Just in case anyone takes me seriously, here is another explanation of money:

The other thing coding theorists are concerned with is information. Nothing else is like information. Information is very peculiar stuff. It can both be created and destroyed. You can steal it without removing it. You can often get some just by guessing. Yet it can have great value. It can be bought and sold.

One type of information is called Money.

There are people who refuse to concede that money can be created and destroyed. They spend their entire lives altering records and making adjustments to ensure that every time a bit of money leaves some place, an equal bit seems to appear somewhere else. These people are called accountants.

The Alice and Bob After Dinner Speech given at the Zurich Seminar, April 1984, by John Gordon, by invitation of Professor James Massey

LTNixon: Like Jes, I don't think Stiglitz was recommending spending the money on other stuff, just trying to show how much money we're talking about. For my part, I would absolutely not have spent all of it -- the deficit is too big a problem -- but we do have some crying needs in this country that I would have spent it on.

cleek, I can do you one better. The following letter appears in today's Cleveland Plain Dealer. Read it twice, then ask if it's OK to use the f-word yet:

Robert Reich's suggestions in "Fresh out of ways to raise cash" is a classic version if socialistic income redistribution (tax and punish the most productive and coddle the least productive) which always drives the economy down.

One thing I agree with is the need to improve education for children and families in lower- and moderate-income communities. If you are going to redistribute wealth through a higher earned-income tax credit, then make it contingent on education and job training success for all members of the family.

If a family is too dysfunctional for the children to be educable and the parents to be productive, consider placing them in some form if institutional living where health, education, training and discipline are imposed. Expensive, and a form of social engineering, yes; but far better than just throwing money at the less- educated and less-productive members of society."

Yes, you read it right. Mr. Dick Rowley of Aurora,OH wants to put entire families into work/re-education camps.

At least the constituition calls for the federal government to provide national defense.

Yes but I'm fairly certain the founders were referring to our own nation.

Did they cover Opportunity Cost in Yale's Econ101 class back in the day? This seems like a classic example of guns vs butter economics.

Yes, you read it right. Mr. Dick Rowley of Aurora,OH wants to put entire families into work/re-education camps.

.. and he wants to do this because he hates socialism. yeah, we can use the f-word.

The future promises that Stiglitz references are as likely to be paid as a 30-yr Treasury Bill.

The Treasury bonds will be paid back. The alternative is to try and beat back an invasion by the creditors with our now-broken army. We'll pay them back with cheap, inflated dollars to be sure, but we'll pay them back. We really have no choice.

one thing we absolutely mustn't do is raise taxes on the well-off.

The Bush administration may wind up doing what the Great Depression never did--lead us into a socialist revolution.

Bill has a point here in his first pose, as does LT Nixon, and I don't see anything that can be characterized as "hatemongering". (Really, I don't.) You may not like or agree with what Bill's pointing out, but it's wrong to simply dismiss it.

Von: as does LT Nixon

LT Nixon missed the significance of the words "By way of context".

If you think Bill had a point to make, do make it for him.

LT Nixon missed the significance of the words "By way of context".

I see you made that comment above, Jes.

As for Bill, (1) his points are not my points and (2) he seems perfectly capable of defending himself. I just object to characterizing his post as "hatemongering" when there is nothing of the sort in it. (Now, there may be other posts that deserve this title, but this ain't one.)

Regarding the article itself, I am having a very difficult time understanding where the 3 trillion figure is based on. Moreover, the article appears to (1) aggregate two separate wars (Afghanistan and Iraq); (2) includes reconstruction, financial aid, and other benefits that may be "war related" in the present context, but need not be; and (3) doesn't undertake the crucial comparative analysis, e.g., what additional "war related" costs are actually not war related but would have been paid regardless.

I don't dispute that the Iraq war has been enormously expensive. It's also perfectly legitimate to cite the expense of the Iraq war as a reason someone to oppose it, or to think that it never should have been fought. But this study seems designed to generate a headline rather than actually answer a question (how expensive?) in a meaningful way.

Von: I see you made that comment above, Jes.

Yes, it's probably a good idea to read down the whole thread before adding comments, isn't it?

As for Bill, well: he's all yours if you want him, I don't.

I am having a very difficult time understanding where the 3 trillion figure is based on.

My guess is you probably need to read the book. I'm not having a difficult time understanding where the 3 trillion figure is coming from in general, and I would expect exact detailed figures/tables to be found in a book rather than an interview.

I fully expect there to be ideological objections to the accountancy, but given that the US deficit is currently standing at 9.333 trillion, I don't find the idea that less than a third is war-in-Iraq costs unbelievable. But, just as war supporters objected to the idea that their war had killed 1.2 million people, so will there be objections to the idea that it cost $3T.

While I'm much more of a 'classical liberal' (ie libertarian before it became a cult movement) than most people aligned with 'the left', the infrastructure investment doesn't sound like a bad alternative. Our national infrastructure is badly outdated, and it's harming our overall economic efficiency. Even if it causes the same kind of cash deficit - but not life deficit - as the Iraq war, it's likely to make up that money for both the government and the country in the long run. That is, after all, what borrowing & deficits are supposedly for.

Yes, it's probably a good idea to read down the whole thread before adding comments, isn't it?

Jes, my point was that you've already made your point above, so why are you repeating it? (And, yes, I agree that it is "a good idea to read down the whole thread before adding comments", just as it's a good idea not to be a jerk.)

von: the article is an interview. It doesn't purport to give the full basis for its conclusions. Here are two earlier papers (pdfs) by Stiglitz and Bilmes on the same topic. They give a better sense for the methodology. 1, 2

My guess is you probably need to read the book. I'm not having a difficult time understanding where the 3 trillion figure is coming from in general, and I would expect exact detailed figures/tables to be found in a book rather than an interview.

Perhaps, but the point was that the other figures in the article suggest that there is some degree of combination/conflation going on. Maybe the book doesn't have these issues ... but all we can assess right now is the article, and it does.

At least the constituition calls for the federal government to provide national defense.

It calls for a little more than that:

The Congress shall have Power To . . . provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States . . .

I'm not sure that it really makes sense to count the $1.6 trillion in "increased oil costs" as "costs due to the war."

Bill has a point here in his first pose, as does LT Nixon

LT has less a point, and more an argument with a straw man conjured up by his misreading of the article.

Bill has, by my count, something like three points:

1. If we leave, Iraq will devolve into a civil war
2. It's always the guy on the front line that pays the real cost
3. Stiglitz is an idiot

Re: (1), yes, it's true, if we stay it will suck and if we leave it will suck. Gee, I'd forgotten that somehow, thanks for the reminder.

Re: (2), couldn't agree more. All the rest of us will pay is money. We have, by far, the better of the bargain.

Re: (3), whatever. Everyone's entitled to their opinion.

As to Stiglitz' math skills, the three trillion doesn't suprise me a bit. There is nothing whatsoever that George Bush has put his hand to that hasn't become a stinking pile of turds for someone else to clean up. For that matter, there's noone who has traveled in the charmed circle of his administration who hasn't emerged with their reputation soiled.

The man is a walking disaster. If it were legal, I'd opt for buying him his own tiny island somewhere, just to give him something to f*#! up that wouldn't interfere with the rest of the world. We could even plant some cedar trees for him to chainsaw down, he seems to enjoy that. No horses, though.

We can't be shut of him soon enough.

Thanks -

One thing that Stiglitz fails to recognize is that present Defense spending, even as we are fighting two wars, is still less of a percentage of GDP than in most of the last 40 years. Defense spending now is a bargain.

Werewolf, why should defense spending be measured as a percentage of GDP, unless we're trying to determine how much it might be affecting the economy rather than how well we're defending the nation?

Trillion, schmegagillion .....

... it doesn't matter. It's just a little downpayment on this:

HTTP://www.talk2action.org/story/2007/3/5/105015/2167/

Kevin Drum links.

Crazy, dangerous people run the country. If I were Israel, I would begin terrorist activities in the United States immediately because the God of the Republican Party makes Louis Farrakhan look like a piker when it comes to anti-Semitism.

Regarding Defense expenditures, I can make anything look like anything statistically.

If I pointed out that non-discretionary Federal spending, not including discretionary defense spending, has been roughly flat at @3.5% of GDP over the past 45 years, there is not a single person who believes non-discretionary spending, ex-defense, is off the rails and needs to be cut drastically who would be swayed by a graph showing a flat percentage of GDP over half a century.

They say its spinach and to hell with it.

That would be "discretionary spending" ....not "non-discretionary spending".

If I were Israel, I would begin terrorist activities in the United States immediately

Good thing you're still Jacob, then...

I will display more of my ignorance. Bruce Baugh wrote on February 26th:

“Turkey is sponsoring a general overhaul of hadith, with an emphasis on purging traditional but non-Islamic elements and producing a body of Islamic reference more compatible with modern life.”

Mehmet Gormez, deputy director of the religious affairs authority Diyanet and supervisor of the project responds on February 29th:

"No Muslim in the right mind would dare delete any hadith or tamper with the Prophet's heritage."

"The Western media have read what are doing from a Christian perspective and understood it in line with their Christian and Western cultures."

Source: Islam Online

http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1203757550116&pagename=Zone-English-News/NWELayout

Bill’s hateful comment: We owe Muslims, at least those in the West, a chance to dare.

Although Bill is unable to simple directions, he'd never selectively quote:

[...] He added that Turkish scholars working on the project, which will be completed by yearend, are taking early Muslim scholars, who had already revised the Hadith, as their basic reference.

"We have compiled all hadiths and read them to reclassify them anew," he explained.

"We have also taken into account the unauthentic ones or those attributed falsely to the Prophet because to understand the true Hadith, you really need to (understand) the unauthentic sayings."

Presumably the lack of declaration that they were engaged in heresy, and were rewriting the Prophet's words, is a demonstration of hypocrisy. Also, Martin Luther and the Pope were just following identical paths of Christianity.

Bill makes some good points. The "hatemongering" charge, in this case. is nonsensical, as are many of the other posts.

Since when were Democrats concerned with wasted money, anyway? This is new.

I don't know; I've been concerned with wasted money ever since I can remember.

Is Vancouver a name or a location? If it is a location (in Canada of course), I'd love to hear some north of the border perspective on waste and political alignments (especially in regard to the rise and fall of the Reform party), as well as any information on this amazing story

"Since when were Democrats concerned with wasted money, anyway?

Loaded question. But, with what?

Sam Chevre: I'm not sure that it really makes sense to count the $1.6 trillion in "increased oil costs" as "costs due to the war."

I'm not sure it makes sense to count all of the $1.6 tril increase as due to the wars, but it's pretty remarkable to me how rarely anyone makes any connection between the massive U.S. consumption of fuel for the wars and occupations and the steep rise in crude oil prices since 2001. It can't all be due to rising demand in China and India.

This was brought home for me during the period in 2005 and 2006 when I was checking the air force's weekly report on sorties and missions. Each one ended with the quantities of fuel flown in. The air force report doesn't include Army and Marine helicopter flights, and air sorties rose five-fold in the last year, so the fuel factor isn't trivial. Not to mention the constant stream of contractor trucks bringing supplies of all kinds, and the fuel to keep the bases air-conditioned.

re Jes's clip of Wolfowitz's testimony above: It is too seldom noted that this occasion, a full week into the formal invasion (which had begun at least nine months before with systematic bombing of Iraqi communication and anti-aircraft facilities under cover of "enforcing the no-fly zones"), was the first instance of formal administration testimony on the cost of the war.

Congress is as much to blame for that sorry fact as the administration. As has been said so many times before, but bears repeating as the events recede into the mists of five and six years ago: The crucial abdication was made by Democratic "leaders" in the House and Senate when they decided to allow a vote on war on Iraq before the November elections.

It was, as all of them understood at the time (no matter what they say now), a decision to allow the Bush administration to wage a wider war without asking many questions at all -- much less getting answers.

LJ: Do you mean this amazing story? Try Kady O'Malley of Macleans (helpfully collected by Lord Kitchener's Own) and my fellow Progressive Bloggers, who have been all over this scandal since it broke. (Impolitical's coverage has been especially excellent.)

Thanks mb for the links and correcting my link. The title of the mistaken link ('D'oh!') is mysteriously appropriate for my mistake.

For those of you who have access, BBC America will begin airing its "Newsnight" program tonight at 10pm EST, including an in-depth interview with Stiglitz.

@LJ: Eric may be in Vancouver, WA.

@Eric: Guess you never heard about the Truman Commission, then. Or the current effort by Webb, McCaskill, and others to get a similar scrutinizing body going today. McCaskill was the state auditor of Missouri, and is far from the only Democrat ever to have run on concern about (and expertise at reducing) wasted money.

But go ahead and nurse your stereotypes.

99% of Republican "concern" about "wasteful spending" is focused on money that benefits the people at the bottom of this rotten society. Billions get thrown at well-connected contractors, with zero oversight, but somehow that doesn't count as wasted money. And from the p.o.v. of Republican pols, it's not: it comes back to the party as contributions, part of the giant network of slush funds.

That's why the financial irregularities at the National Republican Congressional Campaign committee are such freaking poetic justice.

Thanks for the tip, Dawn.

Here, Bill. And here. Read all the links. Also this. HTH.

Eric, Democrats being concerned with money is "new" since when exactly? Al Gore was a bear on government waste, see http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/npr/whoweare/history2.html

Since Republicans keep cutting taxes much more than domestic programs and in inverse proportion to changes in the military budget, isn't it the party of "Reagan showed us that deficits don't matter," that is the standard-bearer for waste?

hilzoy: "Yet somehow we managed to embark on an ill-conceived war without bothering to think seriously about the cost."

Methinks those who truly understood the rationale for Iraq thought very, very seriously indeed about its cost, and how that cost was going to be borne by the American taxpayer and soldier with those mysteriously disappearing trillions going....where? Hmmm. Not ill-conceived at all, no, not ill-conceived whatsoever. Tons of torn human flesh, rivers of blood, and a bankrupted public trust - collateral damage. Massive wartime profits for all my friends - priceless.

Von: Jes, my point was that you've already made your point above, so why are you repeating it?

Because you seemed not to have read it, and had also managed to make the same misreading LTNixon had made. So I repeated the clarification in a portion of the thread you might not skip. Which you didn't. There you go.

Found this over at the ImPolitic site Matt referred to. Pretty cute. If only the rest of her campaign could show that kind of class.

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