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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

Category: Politics and the economy
April 18, 2014 at 10:46 AM

Vote: Are we an oligarchy?

Abraham Lincoln, like many of the Founding Fathers before him, knew that government of the people, by the people and for the people, “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” was something new in the world, especially for a continental empire. Throughout history, democracies had existed in small places and not for long….


Comments | More in Politics and the economy | Topics: Citizens United, McCutcheon

October 19, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Vote: Presidential economic issues

I’m not interested in how you intend to vote. We have too many polls already. Today’s poll has more to do with which candidate is making, or failing, at economic issues. Under normal circumstances, this should be an economic election, with growth still slow and unemployment high. Yet it’s close.

Maybe enough Americans give President Obama credit for averting a second Great Depression. Maybe many are wary of Mitt Romney because of his shape-shifting, the hard dogma of the right and his history not as a “businessman” but as a private-equity guy. In other words, an emblem of the financialization of America and the crash — and he’s offering more Bush policies of tax cuts and deregulation.

So, a couple of angles (you can make multiple selections):

The most effective arguments

What worries me

Read on for the links of the week and the haiku:


Comments | More in Campaign 2012, Politics and the economy

October 8, 2012 at 10:30 AM

October, beyond the election

Whatever happens in the American electioneering over the next month, here are a few things to watch that touch only peripherally on the campaigns:

1. Slowing in Asia. The World Bank today lowered its growth forecast for East Asia and the Pacific region, chiefly because of China’s ongoing slowdown and lack of effective stimulus. This will have a direct effect on the Pacific Northwest because of our trade dependency on Asia (China is Washington’s No. 1 export destination).

2. The eurozone. Yes, this is getting old, but it’s not getting better. Greece is still in the monetary union, barely. Germany continues to resist more aggressive measures to restart growth. Austerity is causing a deep recession in many eurozone nations. It’s amazing how far they can kick the can down the road. But the best outcome on this trajectory is a long downturn complete with social unrest. The worst: A sudden crisis that causes all the dominoes to fall down.


Comments | More in China economy and business, Debt ceiling debate, Dollar, Eurozone, Federal Reserve, Interest rates, Macro/Big picture, Oil prices, Outlook, Pacific Northwest economy, Politics and the economy, Stock market

October 4, 2012 at 10:15 AM

You call this an economic debate?

Mitt Romney showed up at the first presidential debate, President Obama didn’t. Like the former private-equity mogul that he is, Romney was willing to say anything to close the deal, whether it was truthful or sincere. Obama was in his passive mode, as if he were still waiting for that one elusive Republican vote in the Senate to pass the Affordable Care Act. The moderator was an embarrassment. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post does a good job unpacking a debate low on specifics, especially from the reborn Republican moderate who did show up.

Aside from Romney’s support for qualified mortgages in Dodd-Frank, neither candidate addressed one of the most critical issues facing the republic: The failure to apply the rule of law to Wall Street and the banking “industry.” Neither called for a 21st century Glass-Steagall. Neither discussed the continued danger the boyz pose to the financial system.

At least we were treated to some sober truth-telling about the economic (and environmental and societal) costs of human-caused climate change and the sensible policy responses required. Oh, wait. That didn’t happen, either. We can have “energy independence” (which means finding a way to keep all the cars running) and the president has been insufficiently solicitous about corporate welfare for greenhouse-gas emitters.


Comments | More in Politics and the economy

October 3, 2012 at 10:40 AM

A few economic questions that ought to be asked tonight

Here are some economy related questions for the presidential debates that probably won’t be asked, but should:

For President Obama:

Mr. President, why is it that your Justice Department has not prosecuted a single major banking executive connected to the financial crisis, despite compelling evidence from congressional hearings and the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission chaired by Phil Angelides?

For Governor Romney:

Governor, you suggested that General Motors and Chrysler should go bankrupt. While you made some good points about management and shareholders being held accountable, there was no private capital available in 2008-2009 to provide a “managed bankruptcy.” The automakers, along with hundreds of suppliers, would have been closed and their assets liquidated. Do you still believe that Presidents Bush and Obama made a mistake by intervening to save Detroit?


Comments | More in Politics and the economy

September 25, 2012 at 9:50 AM

Inslee, McKenna and the economic debate

I despise the false-equivalency of “both sides do it” journalism, but in reading about the economic debate between gubernatorial candidates Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna, I say both sides to make important points.

Inslee is correct to focus on enhancing the clusters most important to the state: Clean energy, aerospace, life sciences, agriculture, information technology, military and maritime. A B&O tax credit for small businesses that hire people is also worth a look. McKenna is wise to want to emphasize funding education and push for paring back regulations that hurt job creation.

The reality is that if low taxes and “light” regulation were the key to economic success, then Mississippi would be Singapore. If all state government had to do was “get out of the way,” then Boeing, for example, would probably have built the Dreamliner elsewhere. State government must do many things well in partnership with business.


Comments | More in Aerospace/Boeing, Politics and the economy, Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, State fiscal conditions

September 14, 2012 at 10:05 AM

Vote: Are you better off than 4 years ago?

This is the question that Ronald Reagan used to devastating effect against Jimmy Carter in 1980, when inflation was nearly 14 percent and interest rates were around 21 percent. This time, the question is not so simple, as the New York Times pointed out. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post considers it a dumb campaign question.

Four years ago, the world financial system was headed into meltdown. Actions by the Bush and Obama administrations, as well as the Federal Reserve, prevented a new great depression. The Obama stimulus also worked to keep the collapse from being much worse. The remains of the safety net and the FDIC, put in place beginning with the New Deal, prevented financial ruin for many millions.

On the other hand, saving the banks didn’t bring financial reform. The banksters got away with it. The 30-year slide of the middle class has continued even as the plutocracy has gained even more political power. The Military-Industrial Complex and national security state are even more entrenched. For all this, the Republican Party has nominated a feckless character who has supported any position to “close the deal” and this week showed himself profoundly unprepared for the presidency (his “Lehman moment”).

So I’ll try to keep the poll simple. And you have the comments section to vent your spleen and say how I don’t know Econ 101. Constructive comments would be welcome, too.

Are you personally better off now than 4 years ago

Read on for the best links of the week and the haiku:


Comments | More in ALEC corporate support, Bailout, Banking, Campaign 2012, Politics and the economy

September 7, 2012 at 9:50 AM

Vote: Obama and the economy

The Democrats put on a good show in Charlotte, especially former President Bill Clinton’s speech. President Obama, who already knew today’s weak jobs numbers when he took the podium Thursday night, gave a cautious speech. His essential plea, like Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s, was “stay the course.” I suspect few minds were changed in our polarized nation.

To Obama’s credit, the collapse he inherited was arrested and many aspects of the economy have rebounded. He faced a united opposition whose first priority was his defeat. But 12.8 million remain unemployed, and far too little mention of this was made at the DNC. What’s the plan to address it? To his discredit, his Justice Department let the banksters get away with it. The Too Big To Exist banks are larger than ever. The stimulus was too small and poorly aimed. As the Atlantic puts it, the choice is “between Obama’s weak record and Romney’s worse alternative.” Of course, many will disagree and line up behind Romney.

So: The Friday poll:

Did Obama sell you on the economy?

Read on for the best links of the week and the haiku.


Comments | More in Campaign 2012, Politics and the economy

September 4, 2012 at 10:00 AM

The Democrats’ economic challenge

As the Democrats gather for their convention in Charlotte, they face the burden of an incumbent president in a weak economy. Growth is tepid. Unemployment is above 8 percent. The nation continues to face a jobs crisis, with long-term unemployment a special problem. A record number of Americans are on food stamps.

To be sure, President Obama inherited an economy in freefall, in the worst collapse since the Great Depression. The banking panic was arrested. General Motors and Chrysler were saved. The Obama stimulus saved millions of jobs that would have otherwise been lost. As a result, gross domestic product has regained its recession losses. Exports have improved. Corporate profits have hit record highs. Household net worth is 7.6 percent higher than at the end of the Bush administration. Some 3.9 million jobs have been created, but too few to fill the losses of the downturn, government jobs cut and growth of the labor force. American growth has also been held back by the eurozone crisis.

On the other hand, Mr. Obama’s stimulus was too small to fill the deep hole in demand. Adviser Christina Romer wanted as much as $1.8 trillion — for political reasons it was whittled down to $800 billion, far too small. This was only the beginning of the missteps.


Comments | More in Politics and the economy

August 31, 2012 at 9:40 AM

Vote: Romney and the economy

Conventions once had drama and tension. Now they’re mere television extravaganzas, the outcome predetermined. But then again, once it was considered unseemly for someone to personally campaign for the presidency. Anyway, my question is whether Mitt Romney convinced you he would be more effective on economic issues than the incumbent?

Now, Democrats won’t vote for him for a variety of issues. Conservatives may line up in the usual disciplined fashion, but many doubt whether Governor Etch A Sketch is really one of them. Social issues will attract Romney votes no matter his economic promises or possibilities. I want to focus on the economy alone. Here, his challenge is to 1) Convince the electorate that a reboot of George W. Bush’s policies will work this time, despite abundant evidence that they failed disastrously in the ’00s, and 2) Move beyond his embodiment of the finance capitalism that is so unpopular.

Did Romney sell you on his economics

Read on for the best links of the week and the haiku:


Comments | More in Campaign 2012, Politics and the economy

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