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Who: Kimball Corson. Text and Photos not disclaimed or that are obviously not mine are copyright (c) Kimball Corson 2004-2016
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On a Major Economic Folly
Kimball Corson
06/29/2016, American Samoa

In a modern country with a sovereign fiat currency, more public debt is not a problem until the spending of the revenue from it begins to generate inflation. This is a key lesson of modern monetary theory (MMT) and of history. Another is public debt in a country that honors and services it has never caused a financial crisis or recession. Interest can always be paid by printing more money, if that is necessary, subject again to the inflation limitation.

Private debt is a different matter and the problem. Where it cannot be serviced, rolled over or repaid in large dollar volumes, financial crises ensue and recessions follow. This happened in 1929, in 2007 and at other times, too. This is also a lesson of economic history. But people confuse the two and rail on against debt generally, and many, against the public debt as well. Some even ignore private debt. They misunderstand economics and its history.

Often they are republicans, permabears, conservatives and some democrats who do not understand that a government with such a currency is not subject to a budget restraint like households, individuals and businesses are. They refuse to learn.

Here is a typical full blown nonsense rant:

"The public debt is not a problem (they say) until it is, but analysts project the U.S. will spend $880 billion per year to finance its debt in 2024. That is the equivalent of all federal revenue in 1987. The U.S. currently owes $60,000 per citizen.The federal debt now exceeds our national gross domestic product. Only 10 nations in the world, including Greece and Japan, have debt to GDP ratios worse than the U.S. The federal debt is projected to increase 50 percent--to $29.3 trillion--in a decade. All of these debt projections use "cash accounting" instead of "accrual accounting," which ignores unfunded liabilities to government entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Using accrual accounting, which is lawfully required by corporations, the current debt would be closer to $100 trillion.

"Our current Federal Debt conventionally measure is fast approaching $20 trillion?"

That is pretty much the unabridged rant. So what else is wrong with it beside what I have explained above. Two things, I submit.

First, it is a testament to MMT that such debt has risen to almost $20 or 100 trillion and NOT precipitated a SINGLE financial crisis or recession. Those who make this rant miss that point altogether.

Second, the contention that the debt "isn't a problem until it is" can be said or made at every dollar point along the way from $0 to $20 or 100 trillion. At some point one saying so should get tired of being wrong so frequently, or 20 or 100 trillion times, and should seriously wonder if "until it is" will ever come. Crazy is continuing to be wrong so often and and still making the rant, or perhaps that is just a chronic learning disability instead.

Regardless of which, many republicans, conservatives, permabears and not a few democrats still have the problem in spades, but then too few of them have a very good or decent understanding of economics. On matters economic, they flay about, like tall grass in the wind.
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MMT is not taught in top economics departments in the US because it offends the conservative and oligarchical controlled corporations and foundations that fund the research at such institutions. It is therefore a taboo subject. However econ students at such universities, knowing their educations are being slighted, not infrequently fly leading MMT scholars in from other universities to give guest lectures. This has happened several times at Harvard and other universities.

The Price of Folly
Kimball Corson
06/28/2016, American Samoa

Many leading Brexiters now have serious pause. Dan Hannan, for example, has tempered his victory glee with acknowledgement that they need to respect the 48% who wanted to stay and should want a compromise, perhaps some sort of "associated member" status for Britain, which would preserve access to the single market if not more.

That is sensible enough but overlooks the fact it will be hard to sell to a shocked EU leadership which feels it is essential to demonstrate that departure is not a pain-free option. Nigel Farage's insults afterward to the EU Parliament also won't help. Brexiters will discover leaving is not any solution to their discontents, but only an new and augmented set of headaches and grievances to those they already have. Estimates are the British economy will shrink by from 3 to 7 percent starting sooner than later. The pain to the Brexiters, who wanted a Tory poke in the eye, will be significant. They and everybody else will pay for it.

The leaders of Leave have shocked the world, unleashed profound economic instability and prolonged uncertainty, exploded relations with the UK's closest allies, toppled a prime minister only recently elected and imperiled the very unity of the United Kingdom. Economic misery is sure to come for all, including the Brexiters.

This explains why as woeful as Cameron was in defeat, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove look even grimmer in victory.

Chicago Economics is Disgusting
Kimball Corson
06/27/2016, American Samoa

I get the University of Chicago Magazine, the College magazine (although I took only one course in the College), the Social Science Division magazine, the Law School Quarterly and recently now the quarterly Economics Department magazine. I could whine about the amount of work I do, reading them, but I have a bigger complaint.

Taking just the current issue of the Econ Department magazine, I learn see they have a lot of money for fancy new econ buildings and facilities and learn that selected faculty are singled out for the spot light and particular honor.

Robert Lucas, who during the depths of the Great Recession said all employment was voluntary because his models told him so, was awarded the Social Science Division Phoenix Prize "for changing the trajectory of research in the social sciences" presumptively for his work leading to and on Dynamic Equilibrium Stochastic Models, which are much criticized as being too incomplete, too ridge and to impractical, in contrast to general economic forecasting models, still very much in use.

Then comes Magne Mogstad, a full professor at Chicago, was highlighted for receiving the Fridtjof Nansen prize (don't ask) for his work seeking to show disability insurance has grown excessively, undermines work and results in future family members being on DI. Finally, Assistant Professor, Manasi Deshpande, received the APPAM Ph.D Award (again, don't ask) for taking the baton on her work showing how social insurance and public assistance programs "affect individual decisions about work, education and family formation," which is to say how it undermines all three. All three people are very Chicagoan.

But this is not all. "Summer Schools" on "Price Theory" and "Socioeconomic Inequality" are offered. Nothing on "Macro Theory" per se which has been displaced at Chicago by micro (read price theory) foundations being aggregated up into DESM macro models. The Inequality Summer School will focus on the educational and psychological differences between rich and poor people which is what lead to income and wealth inequality.

Pardon me while I wretch and throw up at the obvious bias. Even Milton Friedman would turn over in his grave. He believed informed guesstimates by good economists were better than aggregate macro models. Also, such work, even if well done, can be easily misused in the wrong republican hands.

Chicago Economics, founded and now very much funded by the oligarchy, is the groin kicker of the bottom half and the apologist for the one percent. Its motto should be, "Our research finds what they want."
_______

You see, the trick is to do a technically correct study with perhaps some good and humane normative program corrective suggestions that can then be read by stupid conservatives and republican congressmen to support axing, for example, the DI and social insurance programs. That way, you serve your patrons and the goals of scholarship at the same time while you get your take home pay.

One tip off is always what is studied. Conservatives pet peeves and concerns are at the top of the list, while some other topics or conclusions are strictly taboo. Another tip off is the supply side or productivity goal orientation of the study, when in truth demand side problems are the real issues.

That is how to get tenure at Chicago. That message is loud and clear in this econ dept quarterly journal. The full professor is leading the young female assistant professor along the way and indeed she is out doing him.

Scholarship without true integrity.

Ill-informed Democracies Are Unmanageable
Kimball Corson
06/27/2016, American Samoa

The Republican Party is an amalgam of know nothings. Ted Cruz wanted to and did shut government in the USA down briefly, at a cost of $25 billion dollars, in an effort to block Obamacare. Attending Republican threats to default on the public debt shook financial markets. Now, Trump's popular base is furious, too, but it is also spectacularly ignorant and ill-informed on most issues, like Trump himself. The British populace is mad as well, but its spectacular ignorance was on display when a voluminous and key Google search AFTER the Briexit vote by Brits was "What is the EU?" And the US and Britain are among the advanced nations with democracies.

Increasingly, the populations of too many advanced nations are mad, economically injured, hateful of their leadership and extremely ignorant about their plight and matters in general. This is not a workable formula for any viable democracy or for domestic stability.

Now, on the continent, will other nations seek to leave the EU? Will the Scots vote for Scottish independence? Will they renew military skirmishes with England? What will America's lower and lower middle classes do as they continue to be hammered? It likely won't be very democratic. Immigration from the Middle East into Europe cannot help the cause of democracy there. The Middle East and it migrants are angry as well and have no heritage of or appreciation for the needs of democracy.

It seems matters are slowly slipping out of control in democratic countries worldwide. People are mad about what is happening to them and they don't understand why. They become enraged at their political leadership more quickly. Leaders become heat sinks for rage. America is arming itself. A few but growing number of psychotics are reaping havoc and mass murdering with guns. Can more chaos not be far behind? Each country has its own brand or contour of imminent chaos and bedlam.

The world's democracies are in trouble at the top and democracy worldwide is largely failing. Ignorance is King.

Economic Doldrums and its Pain Flow Down Hill
Kimball Corson
06/27/2016, American Samoa

The bottom half of the US population fairs poorly in economic matters. So do the bottom halves of the populations of Great Britain, France, Italy and Spain.Those reading the media of these countries think all is well albeit controlled by national leaders and policy makers, but that simply is not the case. The media only focuses on and addresses the top half. This is why Trump, as a rouser of the US bottom half, fairs so well and why Briexit happened. The bottom ends are rebelling and this is just the start of it.

The elite worlds of finance and monetary policy have much less impact on the larger world of the real economy and its bottom populations in most circumstances than is supposed, especially to those with their noses glued to the small world of finance. The bottom halves of populations in most countries are often hurting, but the top halves of those populations are geared and policy-targeted to fair much better, if not well by the politicians and the oligarchies of those countries. Economic pain flows almost exclusively down hill, but the aggregate economies can continue to look good or adequate because dollar growth in the top halves can swamp no or little growth in the bottom halves when simple averages are used.

This fact aids ignoring the bottom halves and proclaiming the totals really do reflect aggregate successes. A blind eye and a little thoughtlessness also helps. The American economy is doing wonderfully many proclaim, ignoring who is getting what of the pie and who gets nothing more or even less of it. Other countries are fairing even less well with their data aggregates and numbers games, but everywhere the bottom end populations are beginning to hate, roar and howl. Their destructive urge is growing and their propensity for self injury is too. Witness Briexit.

Almost no one looks at how things could and should be for all to do much better relative to the status quo. Anger and hate, and isolationism and retrenchment are not useful for thinking about or considering these matters. They are preludes to rebellious, disruptive and destructive activity modeled theoretically on republican (congressional) behavior in the US. If I cannot have a good life, I won't let you or anyone have one either is the growing sentiment in bottom populations. Common threads and causes are emerging worldwide.

Change is coming in the form of a ground swell around the globe. The French revolution, our republican congress and oligarchical behavior almost everywhere have developed overlapping and angry sensibilities. We are just getting started.

Yours truly, taking a photograph
Kimball Corson
06/27/2016, American Samoa

And don't ask me what kind of tree that is. I am a botanical ignoramus.

IQ and the Wealth of Nations Are Substantially Correlated
Kimball Corson
06/25/2016, Pago Pago, American Samoa

IQ and the Wealth of Nations is an interesting book written by
Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen. The authors argue that differences in national income (in the form of per capita gross domestic product) are correlated with differences in the average national intelligence quotient (IQ). They further argue that differences in average national IQs constitute one important factor, but not the only one, contributing to differences in national wealth and rates of economic growth.

National IQ correlates with gross domestic product per capita at 0.82, and with the rate of economic growth from 1950-1990 at 0.64, both noteworthy. This explains why the pacific rim countries and those in Europe do so well and those in Africa and the Middle East, except obviously for Israel, do so poorly.

Major migrations -- blacks being brought to the US and middle easterners immigrating into Europe alter indigenous IQs. Indeed, native Americans were overwhelmed in the north Americas by European immigration. There is much moving about, but if a country wishes to do well economically, it would do well to consider the IQ of those it permits to immigrate. The USA has substantially cherry picked the world of top brain power by that means but those numbers are dwarfed by those already here because they are so small a percentage.

IQ or g matters whether people like it or not.

Ill-informed Democracies Are Unmanageable
Kimball Corson
06/25/2016, American Samoa

The Republican Party is an amalgam of know nothings. Ted Cruz wanted to and did shut government in the USA down briefly, at a cost of $25 billion dollars, in an effort to block Obamacare. Attending Republican threats to default on the public debt shook financial markets. Now, Trump's popular base is furious, too, but it is also spectacularly ignorant and ill-informed on most issues, like Trump himself. The British populace is mad as well, but its spectacular ignorance was on display when a voluminous and key Google search AFTER the Briexit vote by Brits was "What is the EU?" And the US and Britain are among the advanced nations with democracies.

Increasingly, the populations of too many advanced nations are mad, economically injured, hateful of their leadership and extremely ignorant about their plight and matters in general. This is not a workable formula for any viable democracy or for domestic stability.

Now, on the continent, will other nations seek to leave the EU? Will the Scots vote for Scottish independence? Will they renew military skirmishes with England? What will America's lower and lower middle classes do as they continue to be hammered? It likely won't be very democratic. Immigration from the Middle East into Europe cannot help the cause of democracy there. The Middle East and it migrants are angry as well and have no heritage of or appreciation for the needs of democracy.

It seems matters are slowly slipping out of control in democratic countries worldwide. People are mad about what is happening to them and they don't understand why. They become enraged at their political leadership more quickly. Leaders become heat sinks for rage. America is arming itself. A few but growing number of psychotics are reaping havoc and mass murdering with guns. Can more chaos not be far behind? Each country has its own brand or contour of imminent chaos and bedlam.

The world's democracies are in trouble at the top and democracy worldwide is largely failing. Ignorance is King.

On Happiness
Kimball Corson
06/22/2016, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Happiness is a ruse. It is hyperbolic, over-sold and much on it is largely nonsense. A side track of Hollywood where sex, money and power are the emoluments. For starters, we have to spend about 65 percent of our time maintaining and moving our bodies about, by sleeping, eating, eliminating, bathing and other cleaning, transporting them to and from, dressing and undressing them, giving them medical care, etc. and most would concede this is not the business of happiness or even very satisfying. Happiness or what we make of it, has to be stuffed into the other 35 percent of our lives.

Sex, money and power are, at their very best, lubricants for improved satisfaction in life, a more targetable state of being than happiness. This is because happiness has the elusive quality of forever escaping its direct pursuit. It is more the by-product of the unplanned and unexpected and regrettably, very transitory. The nature of our lives makes it at best fleeting.

Sex we understand. It is one of the more pleasurable pursuits with our bodies but it can be overdone. The divorce rate and cheating indicate as much. Sex is actually a complicated endeavor requiring considerable collateral effort. Money buys us what we want, but we then often lack the time to enjoy those things. Body maintenance, moving us and work often leave only the weekend for interactive use of the "things" and "stuff" of life we enjoy but that seems too little as the French are demonstrating. Worse, stuff too requires care and maintenance, as every boat, horse and fancy car owner can testify. Power . . . well forget that. Power is the biggest maintenance nuisance of all. Good luck finding even superficial happiness with sex, money and power.

If happiness cannot be pursued directly and is elusive and fleeting, how can one target and proceeded with good sense? A comfortable and stable satisfaction with one's life, I submit, is the more sensible and achievable goal for one's existence. But how is that to be obtained, one might well ask. I have some thoughts there. First, keep vexatious and anxious people out of your life. Seek out people who are good, intelligent and interesting. This is a key and important rule, even if those avoided include some family members. Life is too short and there are other people whose company and companionship can be better mutually enjoyed.

Second, live in a location where you like the climate and general environment. For me, the tropics are best. I don't have to fuss with taking on and off excessive wraps and clothing, the rain is warm and the physical environment is typically beautiful, as some of my posted photographs indicate.

Third, it is important to know yourself reasonably well in order to understand what you really like and don't like and in what measures. Then you can go about thinking of how to add those elements, people and activities you enjoy to your life and in what measure. Avoid like the plague those things and people you don't like.

Fourth, the courage to make changes is essential. Being gravity fed by circumstances is anathema. It cuts the whole effort short.Choices are de facto circumscribed. Default ensues. Goals fail and the whole effort does down the tubes.

A good education and the ability to read well are great aids to the pursuit of a satisfying and enjoyable life. They expand horizons, inform you about yourself and help you decide what to include and exclude in that part of your life that is free. You must also choose to do work that you enjoy, for a large part of your life is spent working. You should prepare well for work you enjoy. Thoughtlessness here hurts. Satisfying and rewarding work is very key. Avoid mistakes here.

Living well, that is, an enjoyable and satisfactory life is all about the choices we make and understanding well their consequences so that unintended consequences do not spoil your efforts. It is usually about pursuing things and the company of the people you enjoy all in good and proper measure. Balance and perspective are important. So is dying without significant regrets over matters you could have handled differently. As far as we know for sure, we only get one go at a life on the planet earth. We very much need to be good captains of our souls and capable masters of our own destinies.

Our Political Parties Are in Trouble
Kimball Corson
06/22/2016, American Samoa

29% of those eligible to vote are Democrats; 26% are Republicans; and 42% are independents, a rapidly growing contingent. Americans are sick of our two political establishments and disapprove of the job congress is doing by almost 90%.

Big change is coming. The questions are how and when.

The Greatest Unknown Heist by Stealth in World History
Kimball Corson
06/15/2016, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Real wages have not risen for decades because, beginning in 1973, corporate America or Capital stole all of Labor's productivity gains since then, leaving real wages flat since. It is the greatest, unknown heist in world history involving huge dollars. Corporate America did it by fiat and its proximity to and control of the the corporate revenue stream. Normally, wages would rise at the marginal rate of labor's productivity as before 1973, according to classical economics and marginal productivity pricing of productive inputs, the historical model earlier used. Here, greater real Labor productivity resulted in no gains to Labor because corporate America or Capital misappropriated them in the greatest heist ever.

It was done by fiat and simple accounting adjustments: hold Labor's real wages constant and have corporate America or Capital take all the gains. A major change in the capitalistic compensation model and a major factor in the skewing for the mal-distribution of income we have. Not surprisingly, capital's share of national income has risen in recent decades in proportion to the decline in Labor's share.

How was it done without a grand conspiracy or collusion. Simple. Greed coupled with conscious parallelism. How come we haven't heard about it? Because few have reviewed the data, few understand marginal productivity pricing of factor inputs, few have known about the accounting adjustments and few in academia dare to write about it for fear of jeopardizing their corporate funded research grants and funds.Just like there is comparatively little research in top American universities on the problem and implications of America's worsening income distribution.

If you are a young assistant professor at Harvard, Chicago, MIT or Stanford and seek tenure, you steer clear of those topics like they were the plague. It took a European, Piketty, to write "Capital in the 21st Century," on topics American academics could not deal with, at least objectively. Alternatively, you might take an apologist's position, such as explaining away the differences on the basis of CEOs and businessmen being better educated and smarter than the rest of us. Our corrupt congresses' role in granting economic favors to the rich who have good lobbyists and make large campaign contributions, operates to the same ends. It is a thoroughly rigged system without policing.

If America only knew. But this is too far above their heads and so they are the duped patsies.

Predictions
Kimball Corson
06/15/2016, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Hillary and Sanders will work out their differences, if the FBI and Justice don't kill her, and Hillary will cream Trump in the general, as independents, most dems and many republicans will get behind Hillary and make her happen, all as Trump continues to shoot himself in the foot. Obama will in effect get a third and maybe fourth term.

We will stay stuck in the mud. The occupy movement will suffer a temporary relapse, many Bernie supporters will scatter to the wind and not vote, and Wall Street, corporate America and the Fed will struggle to hold things together as they continue their looting of the Middle class.

Income inequality will worsen and federal fiscal policies will remain lost in the provinces. Congress will remain corrupt and big change will become a bad word. Thinking and the media will become stuck. Our thoughts will turn more to football and Hollywood.

Hillary
Kimball Corson
06/13/2016, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Even though I contend Hillary is a Republican Lite and a preserver of the domestic status quo, her salient virtue is she will keep another Scalia off the Court. No small virtue, indeed. With a few exceptions, he was generally a train wreck, and from my alma mater, to make things worse.

Being pro abortion, anti-gun and pro climate change is too largely irrelevant to our daily lives, especially if, regardless, she won't take material action on climate change, as is the likelihood, just as she won't take action to collar Wall Street. Hillary is too bought off to act boldly and progressively, and can only return private favors as she goes and, like Obama, worsen the mal- distribution of income.

Her desire to see Sanders gone and out of it is so she can swing to the right and pick up mega tons of republican voters to supplement her democratic voters and those of us independents who cannot stand her, but can't bring ourselves to vote for Trump instead and risk a bad Court choice. She has already been pushed left by Sanders but, whore-like, wants those republican votes that only a swing back to the right can assure. With an electorate having no good memory, such shifts are doable and done all the time.

Bernie is an obstacle to Hillary. He has a tenuous lock on a huge block of democratic voters under age 49 and the support of many younger independents as well. Sanders hangs on by withholding support of Hillary 1) to shape the party platform, 2) to see what the FBI and Justice will do, and 3) to keep Hillary from moving to the right too soon, as is her want. Meanwhile, Trump is stewing in his own juices, and is turning up the heat under himself. McConnell and many republicans who came out for Trump are now waffling, creating a victory path for Hillary if she can hold things together.

Geez. It is so good to be an ex pat living in the comfortable and lush South Pacific.

Some Belabored Misunderstandings
Kimball Corson
06/10/2016, Vatia, American Samoa

Conservatives rail against socialism, having not a clue what it is, and Sanders advocates for it, similarly misusing the word. A good measure of conservatives' misunderstanding or misuse is grounded in their delight in pointing out what failures the USSR, Cuba and Venezuela have been, as though capitalism has been a roaring success. yet another misunderstanding.

Socialism, as economists use the word is the collective ownership of all means of production except for labor which is hired by the state and paid what it is worth, tempered by sensibilities of social justice or distributive fairness. In practice, there have been few examples of it anywhere. The USSR came closest, but failed on both the production and distributive sides. Under most predominately socialist governments, those at the top of government determining production quotas and distribution practices have invariably taken more than their share and have done badly at determining those quotas as well. Shortages and excesses are common.

Most economies the world over, especially the 34 or so OEPC advanced nations, are a mix of capitalism and aspects of socialism or collectivism on both sides, although mostly capitalism on both the productive and distributive sides, as modified by considerations of socialism or social justice on the distributive side. The mixes and methods vary by country.

If pure socialism has been a colossal failure, so has capitalism been so, but only to a lesser apparent extent. As Piketty explained in "Capital in the 21st Century," capital comes to dominate over labor in most advanced capitalist economies as national income shares skew strongly in favor of capital over time and against labor. That is happening in the US as income inequality abounds and worsens.

Even in the US, with its capitalism dominated economic mix, its social safety net and with the services provided by government, thought by many to be a rousing success, " . . . nearly one-third of adults, about 76 million people, are either "struggling to get by" or "just getting by," according to the third annual survey of households by the Federal Reserve Board." (The first and second such annual surveys were thought perhaps to be aberrational, but the third survey has hammered the message home big time. So much for our success except for the top 10 percent.)

In truth and by most measures, the best economic mixes of capitalism, collective action and socialistic distributive justice are found in the northern European countries, especially the Scandinavian countries. They are models to the world. Some, only partially correct, contend, their models cannot work in the US because their populations are more uniform and intelligent. Although, the mean US IQ is barely 95 and we are plagued by many below the mean, adjustments and compensations could be made for a better economic mix, but few in control are interested in any progressive effort to try, and income inequality continues to rise.

The US is stuck in the mud. Our corrupt congress is controlled by the republicans who, along with many democrats, are guardian patrons of the controlling oligarchy who want lower taxes, less government and greater freedom to do what they want regardless. Stalemate ensues. Until that changes, we will continue to do much less well as a nation than we could and continue living in our "new lower low."

The Have's Suddenly Discover How the Have-Not's Live
Kimball Corson
06/03/2016, Pago Pago, American Samoa



The press and the Fed are all in a tither from what they just learned.

"In the United States, nearly one-third of adults, about 76 million people, are either "struggling to get by" or "just getting by," according to the third annual survey of households by the Federal Reserve Board."

The first and second annual surveys were thought perhaps to be aberrational, but the third survey has hammered the message home big time. The Fed is now shocked and rethinking its policies. The NY Times editorial board just addressed the results in a new Oped piece. Others are opining as well.The message has leaked through.

The have's now understand how many have-not's there are and how bad they have it. I have been arguing this for years, explaining how bad off the middle class in America has become, both economically and psychologically, to all of may many friends who haven't really believed it and have thought things in this quarter have been alright and the US is basically fine.

But nothing will change is the likelihood. Since when has the Fed set policy to please the bottom third. Its business is to take care of Wall Street and the top 10%, and barring congressional intervention and new law, it will continuing doing that and shove the present problem under the table. Washington and the republican congress couldn't care less either, so after this flap, the furor will die down and it will be business as usual.
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Pardon my cynicism, but the question is, am I correct? We'll see.

 

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