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February 28, 2009

Taking On The Lobbyists - President's Weekly Address

After a month in office President Obama talks about his upcoming budget, and the battle ahead. "It also represents a threat to the status quo in Washington."

This is a big deal. Watch this weekly radio address:

Here is a call to action: Get friends and family to watch this and future Presidential weekly addresses, and ask them to get their friends and family to do so as well.

Transcript, from the Whitehouse.gov blog:

Two years ago, we set out on a journey to change the way that Washington works.

We sought a government that served not the interests of powerful lobbyists or the wealthiest few, but the middle-class Americans I met every day in every community along the campaign trail – responsible men and women who are working harder than ever, worrying about their jobs, and struggling to raise their families. In so many town halls and backyards, they spoke of their hopes for a government that finally confronts the challenges that their families face every day; a government that treats their tax dollars as responsibly as they treat their own hard-earned paychecks.

That is the change I promised as a candidate for president. It is the change the American people voted for in November. And it is the change represented by the budget I sent to Congress this week.

During the campaign, I promised a fair and balanced tax code that would cut taxes for 95% of working Americans, roll back the tax breaks for those making over $250,000 a year, and end the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas. This budget does that.

I promised an economy run on clean, renewable energy that will create new American jobs, new American industries, and free us from the dangerous grip of foreign oil. This budget puts us on that path, through a market-based cap on carbon pollution that will make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy; through investments in wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient American cars and American trucks.

I promised to bring down the crushing cost of health care – a cost that bankrupts one American every thirty seconds, forces small businesses to close their doors, and saddles our government with more debt. This budget keeps that promise, with a historic commitment to reform that will lead to lower costs and quality, affordable health care for every American.

I promised an education system that will prepare every American to compete, so Americans can win in a global economy. This budget will help us meet that goal, with new incentives for teacher performance and pathways for advancement; new tax credits that will make college more affordable for all who want to go; and new support to ensure that those who do go finish their degree.

This budget also reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession. Given this reality, we’ll have to be more vigilant than ever in eliminating the programs we don’t need in order to make room for the investments we do need. I promised to do this by going through the federal budget page by page, and line by line. That is a process we have already begun, and I am pleased to say that we’ve already identified two trillion dollars worth of deficit-reductions over the next decade. We’ve also restored a sense of honesty and transparency to our budget, which is why this one accounts for spending that was hidden or left out under the old rules.

I realize that passing this budget won’t be easy. Because it represents real and dramatic change, it also represents a threat to the status quo in Washington. I know that the insurance industry won’t like the idea that they’ll have to bid competitively to continue offering Medicare coverage, but that’s how we’ll help preserve and protect Medicare and lower health care costs for American families. I know that banks and big student lenders won’t like the idea that we’re ending their huge taxpayer subsidies, but that’s how we’ll save taxpayers nearly $50 billion and make college more affordable. I know that oil and gas companies won’t like us ending nearly $30 billion in tax breaks, but that’s how we’ll help fund a renewable energy economy that will create new jobs and new industries. In other words, I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this:

So am I.

The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long, but I don’t. I work for the American people. I didn’t come here to do the same thing we’ve been doing or to take small steps forward, I came to provide the sweeping change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in November. That is the change this budget starts to make, and that is the change I’ll be fighting for in the weeks ahead – change that will grow our economy, expand our middle-class, and keep the American Dream alive for all those men and women who have believed in this journey from the day it began.

Thanks for listening.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:00 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

February 27, 2009

Uh Oh

Some bad news might be coming up about things the Bush people have done. This is about the Leahy Truth commission, so it probably involves torture. Watch this whole thing:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:11 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Senator calls Obama 'world’s best salesman of socialism'

For the second time in as many days, a prominent Republican has likened Pres. Obama's policies to socialism.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Another prominent Republican told the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday that the president’s spending plans are pushing the country to the brink of socialism.

Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the only member of the senate to earn a perfect rating from the American Conservative Union, called President Obama “the world’s best salesman of socialism” on Friday in describing his prime time speech earlier this week.

Socialism is the new GOP meme word for the successful execution of democracy in America by the people.

The strategy is brilliant and the Dems are clueless as to how to respond, and in fact have been caught flat footed.

The GOP machine has won another important battle on another important front in the war to control the terms of the discussion.

Posted by Ron Sheridan at 10:43 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Republicans and No

Take a look at this great ad from Americans United for Change.

New Ad: Americans won’t take NO for an answer | Americans United:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:41 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 26, 2009

How They Win

The Fairness Doctrine was a policy on use of the broadcast airwaves that said that since the public owns the airwaves we have a right to demand that companies we license to profit from them support democracy by presenting news and information that is in the public interest and present a diversity of opinion. The idea was that big corporations cannot buy up and use the public airwaves to spew right-wing corporate propaganda.

In 1969 the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the Fairness Doctrine.

Ronald Reagan got rid of the Fairness Doctrine, saying that "markets" should decide what information, news and opinions people are presented with. The Congress immediately voted to bring back the fairness rules, but Reagan vetoed this.

Under George Bush the Congress again voted to restore these rules, but Bush vetoed it.

Under Clinton a majority of the Congress again voted to restore these rules, but the Republicans in the Senate filibustered.

So today they had a chance to bring back rules of fairness and democracy. What happened? DEMOCRATS cut their own throats and overwhelmingly voted to back corporate control of what we are allowed to know. "Democrats cave again." Does this sound familiar?

Do they think the corporate media is now going to say good things about Democrats and unions and democracy? Do they think Rush Limbaugh is going to praise them for backing him?

Senate Backs Amendment to Prevent 'Fairness Doctrine' Revival,

The Senate approved an amendment Thursday that would outlaw the so-called "Fairness Doctrine," an off-the-books policy that once required broadcasters to air opposing viewpoints on controversial issues.

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint's amendment passed by a wide margin of 87-to-11.

THIS is how Republicans win. They don't give up. They deny the popular will. And eventually they wear down the Democrats until they just cave.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:22 PM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos


I asked a friend if she thought people would join a union where she works. She said "I think everyone would be too scared." But a recent survey found that 60% of all workers would choose to join a union if they could.

The Employee Free Choice Act is coming to the Congress one of these days. Keep that name in mind for when it comes up. This law would protect workers from being fired for talking about unions, and would allow workers to organize without the boss finding out using a method called "card check." Once a majority of workers in a company or at a location sign up for a union, the union is recognized as the bargaining agent and laws protecting organized workers take effect.

The current methods of organizing a union, where the workers have a day when they all vote in a secret ballot,will also still be available. The Employee Free Choice Act, though, lets them choose to have card check instead. The problem with the current method is that it happens entirely on management's terms, often delayed and delayed, and with the manager calling workers into the office one at a time to "explain" what will happen to the worker if a union comes in.

It would be nice if our economic system didn't have the kind of outcomes that make unions so necessary. But they are.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:54 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 24, 2009

Bobby Jindal

Hi boys and girls, my name is Bobby.

What's the deal with this speaking style, like we are all children?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:25 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Who Is Our Government For?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

dday, writing in Giving Away The Tax Argument at Digby's Hullabaloo blog, asks why so many California newspapers have "tax increase calculators" but no calculators that show people how much the budget cuts affect them.

In my life, I have never seen a "spending cut calculator," where someone could plug in, say, how many school-age children they have, or how many roads they take to work, or how many police officers and firefighters serve their community, or what social services they or their families rely on, and discover how much they stand to lose in THAT equation. Tax calculators show bias toward the gated community screamers on the right who see their money being "taken away" for nothing. A spending cut calculator would actually show the impact to a much larger cross-section of society, putting far more people at risk than a below 1% hit to their bottom line.

[. . . The media already highlights the tax side of the equation over spending, dramatically portraying tax increases while relegating spending cuts to paragraph 27. It feeds the tax revolt and distorts the debate. And it's completely irresponsible.

In Why Are Public Assets Being Cut Right When We Need Them Most? Jay Walljasper, of OnTheCommons.org wonders why public transit, libraries and other things the government does for us are all being cut at exactly the time people need them? As the economy turns downward more people need to take the train or bus, or use the library. Jay makes the connection,

Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, one of the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, proposes closing the state's budget gap by reducing corporate taxes and slashing state aid to local governments. This will mean painful cuts in public assets, such as transit and libraries.

. . . This loss of our public assets is an alarming threat to our society. The things we all own in common and depend upon--libraries, transit, parks, water systems, schools, public safety, infrastructure, cultural programs, social services--are being gradually but steadily undermined.

For many years I have been blogging at Seeing the Forest, often coming back to a question, "Who is our economy for?" For some time now regular incomes have stagnated, while incomes at the very top just go up and up. The GDP keeps rising, productivity keeps going up, but regular people see less and less of the benefit of this increase. In fact, if you look at charts and data, the stagnation of incomes started almost exactly at the same time as President Reagan took office and started implementing the corporate agenda of anti-tax and anti-government policies. So is this a coincidence?

Throughout human history we have seen one scheme after another wherein a few people seize power and devise a system to hold it and use it to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else. This is human nature and through history we have seen it happen over and over.

America formed in reaction to the British monarchy's exploitation of its people. We, the People formed our government to band together and protect each other from attempts by the powerful few to exploit us. Our Constitution was supposed to be include a system of checks and balances to account for the nature of power.

It is time for the people to take back that power and use it to again benefit each other. And it is time for California's newspapers to do something for We, the People and include a "budget cuts calculator" as well as tax increase calculator. It is just as important, maybe more so, that we all understand how we're injuring and jeopardizing our future with the budget cuts the Republicans required in this year's budget negotiations.

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:31 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos


Here's a policy suggestion. There are too many people. Population growth is unsustainable. How about we phase out the dependents tax deduction for more than two children? Phase it out over, say, ten years. At the same time phase in some kind of extra tax for more than three children.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:44 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Social Security and Taxes

Someone wrote to me the following. You have heard a thousand variations of the same thing:

"Starting in 2012, Social Security won’t take in enough to cover the benefits it is paying. So either we cut other federal programs to pay for Social Security, or we cut Social Security benefits."

Actually, the shortfall in 2012 has nothing to do with paying back Social Security in particular. Reagan and then Bush used the Social Security surplus to give huge tax cuts to the rich (further concentrating wealth at the top.) The government owes Social Security a lot of money, but -- and this is the thing -- it also owes all the other bond holders.

Social Security might need to start cashing in some of its bonds in 2012 or so.

Other bond holders need to cash in their bonds at other times. We never ask other bondholders to accept less when they ask for their money for their bonds. That would be called "defaulting."

So why does this bondholder, Social Security, get special treatment in our thinking? Why do we think that people who get Social Security should get less?

The answer to this and a lot of other problems is to raise taxes on the wealthiest. History shows that our economy does better when there is a VERY high tax rate on the very top incomes. It used to be 93% on money made after you hit a few hundred thousand. And that money was used to build infrastructure, educate kids, and all the things that made this a country that could compete. That is part of what got us out of the depression.

Let me add that a very high tax rate at the top removes the incentive to go for quick-buck schemes, and makes business owners plan for the long term.

Think of it this way -- if we had a 90% top tax rate hedge fund managers would only bring home a hundred million or so a year, but the rest of us would have health insurance and good roads and better schools.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:10 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

February 23, 2009

Washington Post -- Own Up To It

File this under Why People don't Bother With Newspapers and their Aging Conventional-Wisdom Columnists Anymore

George Will must have a new client: Exxon. He wrote a column denying global warming, filled with stuff that was just wrong. Some of the "sources" he cited have demanded that the Post print corrections, because Will flat-out misrepresented their positions and reports.

The Washington Post and George Will refuse to print a correction to the misinformation.

Go read Think Progress: When will the Washington Post issue a correction for George Will's error-filled global warming denial column? They show that the aging Will is now recycling 1992 columns.

TPM Muckraker: Hiatt, Will, On Global Warming Misinformation: Talk To The Hand

Hilzoy at Washington Monthly, The Washington Post's "Multi-Layer Editing Process",

If Will actually read these two articles, it's hard to see how he's not being deliberately deceptive by citing them as he did. If, as I suspect, he just got them from some set of climate change denialist talking points and didn't bother to actually check them out for himself, he's being irresponsible.
Matthew Yglesias, Washington Post Stands By Climate Change Denialism,
This started as a problem for Will, his direct supervisors, and the Post’s ombudsman. But now that the Post as a paper is standing behind Will’s deceptions, I think it’s a problem for all the other people who work at the Post. Some of those people do bad work, which is too bad. And some of those people do good work. And unfortunately, that’s worse. It means that when good work appears in the Post it bolsters the reputation of the Post as an institution. And the Post, as an institution, has taken a stand that says it’s okay to claim that up is down. It’s okay to claim that day is night. It’s okay to claim that hot is cold. It’s okay to claim that a consensus existed when it didn’t. It’s okay to claim that George Will is a better source of authority on interpreting the ACRC’s scientific research than is the ACRC. Everyone who works at the Post, has, I think, a serious problem.

And just out from Think Progress' Wonk Room: George Will’s ‘Global Cooling’ Column Is Almost Old Enough To Vote with Matter of Fact -- a PDF fact sheet from Think Progress

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:18 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Chris Matthews -- Voice of the Village -- Says

Chris Matthews says that the stock market is a "scorecard" for how Obama is doing. And he says Americans are going to be really mad at Obama because "their" stocks are just going down and down.

Barack Obama didn't elect George Bush, and then elect him again even after it was obvious that a criminal conspiracy was dismantling the government and was looting the treasury. And it was the corporate media that enabled this, not Barack Obama.

So now the problems are really bad. Really bad. And not just the economic problems, the climate problem might be even worse than the economic problems.

Barack Obama has been in office one month now. We are all going to have to grow up, make sacrifices, stop being consumers and start getting involved, and pitch in to solve the country's problems.

And you, with your million-plus-dollar paycheck, if you can't grow up, just shut up. Really.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:55 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 22, 2009

Paying Off Italy?

Read about how a contract for petentially unsafe Italian helicopters that will be used to fly the President might just be a Bush payoff to Italy for helping get us into the Iraq war, in Is the U.S. Paying Off the Italian Government for Forging the Niger Documents?,

that they were doing something extraordinarily wrong. The rigged bidding process bypassed, for example, Marine One pilots who repeatedly sought to give input. They had many safety concerns. At the time of the bid, the helicopter chosen was not certified to fly in the U.S. It was an old model made of heavy materials; this flew in the face of why the President supposedly needed a new fleet: i.e., so many extra security devices had been added to Marine One after 9/11, it was struggling to lift off. In its losing bid, the Connecticut-based Sikorsky, which had manufactured virtually all presidential helicopters since Eisenhower first ordered one, proposed a new model made of much lighter, composite materials.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:36 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 20, 2009

Today's Economic Crisis Post -- What Do We Need More Of?

Calculated Risk: Overcapacity Everywhere quotes Mish Shedlock of MISH'S Global Economic Trend Analysis,

Some analysts say over-capacity is so rampant that it will stymie government efforts to unfreeze credit markets. Banks have little reason to lend not only because they still have bad debt on their books but also because businesses don't have a pressing need to expand, said Mike Shedlock, an investment analyst with Seattle-based Sitka Pacific who writes the popular blog Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis.

"What is it that we need more of?" Shedlock said. "Do we need more Wal-Marts, more Pizza Huts, more nail salons?" [emphasis added]

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:19 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Obama To Use Honest Deficit Accounting

You're going to hear a lot of complaining that Obama is growing the federal budget deficit. One reason is that the deficit is about to rise is that the Bush administration used gimmicks to make it look smaller, and Obama is changing over to honest accounting.

Obama Bans Gimmicks, and Deficit Will Risem,

The new accounting involves spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Medicare reimbursements to physicians and the cost of disaster responses.

But the biggest adjustment will deal with revenues from the alternative minimum tax, a parallel tax system enacted in 1969 to prevent the wealthy from using tax shelters to avoid paying any income tax.

. . . “The president prefers to tell the truth,” he said, “rather than make the numbers look better by pretending.”

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:30 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

The Crisis Explained

In Chocolate Covered Cotton Billmon explains the extent of the financial crisis. Yikes.

Bottom line: great big chunks of Big Shitpile aren’t "impaired," or "illiquid," or "distressed," they’re worthless, now and forever – unless the peak real estate values of the bubble can miraculously be restored and a whole bunch of deceased LBOs can be raised from the tomb.

So what about the proposed solutions?
One of the things that creeps me out about the political system's response to the crisis so far --€“ the insolvency of the banking system in particular --€“ are the increasingly desperate attempts to maintain a phony façade of free markets and private enterprise, in an economy now utterly dependent on the federal safety net. I totally expected that from Hank Paulson and the Cheney Administration, but is Obama's financial team really pressed from exactly the same Wall Street mold?
LOTS to read there. Especially read the end and follow the link.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:43 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

Everybody Watch This Video On Worker Pay

The mayor of Lansing Michigan takes on Fox propagandist.

The $70 per hour figure is a lie that Fox repeats. Auto workers are paid much less than that. This $70 figure takes all the health care and pensions earned by RETIRED workers and adds them to the "hourly labor cost" to make a new car. The auto companies were supposed to have set that money aside to cover those benefits but instead paid it out as bonuses and dividends, and are now asking current workers to make it up.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:21 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 19, 2009

The California Budget Agreement

Dave Johnson, Speak Out California

California finally passed a budget. It is a bad budget, cutting essential services, borrowing a tremendous amount, selling our lottery revenues and giving a huge tax break to big out-of-state companies. Each of these came from demands by the very, very few Republicans who agreed to vote for the budget at all will, of course, just get us through another year while making it ever more difficult to pass future budgets.

California's 2/3 requirement means that a few corporate-funded extremists can hold the rest of us hostage. So they had to make a terrible deal to get the three Republican votes required by the 2/3 rule, or else lay of tens of thousands and stop paying California's bills. We the People of California were all held hostage to that threat.

The resulting deal was that if We, the People want schools, police, firefighters, roads & bridges, courts, all the things our government does for us, we had to agree to tax breaks for the big multinational corporations that kick in so much money to help elect the anti-government extremists. So the big companies - the kind that come in and crush local California businesses - get a big tax break while the rest of us have our taxes raised. Oh, and the oil companies can continue to take our oil out of the ground for free and then sell it back to us.

Here are some reactions around the California netroots:

David Dayen at Calitics,

"The cuts are going to be really, really bad: 10% across the board for education, huge cuts for public transit operations, health care, etc. The new revenues basically fill in the loss of revenue from massive unemployment.

[. . .] The "single sales factor apportionment," which is the massive business tax cut, doesn't kick in until FY2011, predictably and conveniently after Gov. Schwarzenegger is out of office and it will be someone else's problem to make up the revenue! It's almost like somebody planned it that way!"

Richard Holober at Consumer Federation of California,

"The deal reported today does not call on all California taxpayers to share in the sacrifice. Working Californians will face billions in higher sales tax and income tax rates. But businesses win about one billion dollars in new tax breaks. $700 million in corporate tax cuts result from a recalculation of how California taxes the profits of big multinational corporations. According to the Senate Analysis, the windfall to multinational corporations, and the revenue loss to California will eventually grow to $1.5 billion."

Robert Cruickshank at the Courage Campaign blog,

"The only way out, and the first reform that we must undertake - the tree blocking the tracks, the door that opens the path to all other reforms - is eliminating the 2/3 rule that gives conservatives veto power over the state and turns the majority Democrats into a minority party on fiscal matters. It's been talked about frequently on Calitics and in what remains of the media's coverage of state politics. So it seemed time for an in-depth discussion of the issue and the prospects for restoring majority rule to California."

David M. Greenwald at California Progress Report,

"Many Democrats and political observers fear that Maldonado strong-arming the legislature may set a bad precedent for future attempts at getting a budget on time."

So here we are. Our structural problems have enabled extremists to increase ... our structural problems. We are one more step down the road to intentional ungovernability.

Over the next several months, we who love this state must act to fix this. We must get rid of this 2/3 budget-vote requirement that allows extremists to hold us hostage. An initiative changing the 2/3 vote requirement is long-overdue but we'll need the support of every forward-thinking voter to make it happen. Let's work together to ensure that it does.

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 18, 2009

Banks Gouging Customers

Someone I know has a balance on a credit card, has never missed a payment, and just got a letter that the bank is raising his interest rate to 30%!

Yikes, is this happening to lots of people?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:02 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs got $10 billion in bailout money from the Bush admin, and paid $6 billion of it straight out in bonuses to top execs.

Goldman Sachs owns much of Burger King. Full-time workers there are paid about $14,000 a year. If that bonus money had gone to them it would have meant $18,000 each. Instead Burger King workers cost the government an estimated $273 million a year "because workers lack access to affordable employer health coverage, are paid sub-poverty wages, and must rely on publicly-funded healthcare, income support, and food stamp programs."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:46 PM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos

February 17, 2009


The Obama administration has put up a new website, Recovery.gov, to help people track how the recovery/stimulus money is spent.

From the site:

Recovery.gov is a website that lets you, the taxpayer, figure out where the money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is going. There are going to be a few different ways to search for information. The money is being distributed by Federal agencies, and soon you'll be able to see where it's going -- to which states, to which congressional districts, even to which Federal contractors. As soon as we are able to, we'll display that information visually in maps, charts, and graphics.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:04 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Trade Question

If an American company closes a plant here, opens a plant in China and builds the same thing there as they were building here, and ships all of it to the US to sell, is that "TRADE?"

Isn't that just moving the jobs offshore? That's not trade. The US trade deficit gets bigger. The US gets poorer. Someone in China gets paid off, the workers there get very little.

That is not "trade." It's what propagandists call "trade" so they can accuse anyone who wants to do something about it "protectionist."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:50 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Media Coverage of Recovery/Stimulus

Media Matters took a look at media coverage of the Recovery/Stimulus package: (It passed, by the way.)

They also released some facts and figures
: (Click through for links)


In January, Media Matters noted several media figures falsely suggesting that a partial Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of the economic recovery plan was in fact a full analysis of the bill and falsely suggesting that in that analysis, the CBO found that, in the words of The Washington Post, "the majority of the money in the Democratic plan would not get spent within the first year and a half." According to the CBO's most recent analysis of the entire bill, 74.2 percent of the total package would be spent within 19 months.


In December, Media Matters documented columnists Mona Charen and George Will cherry-picking unemployment figures to assert that the New Deal did not reduce unemployment, continuing a trend among conservative media of attacking the New Deal and President Roosevelt in an attempt to discredit Obama's stimulus plan. Both Charen and Will ignored that unemployment fell every year of the New Deal except during the 1937-38 recession and that economists have said that it was a reversal of New Deal policies that contributed to rising unemployment in 1937-38. This cherry-picking of data continued as Obama's economic recovery package moved through the legislative process, with a number of conservative media figures making similar claims.


Echoing "fast facts" released by House Minority Leader John Boehner's office, a number of media figures falsely suggested that $4.19 billion of the stimulus would go to ACORN, referring to the $4.19 billion in the bill for "neighborhood stabilization activities." This falsehood persisted after the Conference bill was released (except now purportedly appropriating only $2 billion). As Media Matters documented, the bill does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding. Moreover, ACORN has denied that it is eligible for "neighborhood stabilization funds," and has stated that it does not intend to apply for them.


Many in the conservative media eagerly advanced the false claim that the economic recovery package contained $30 million to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's district. The story was traced back to an email from a Republican staffer that said an unnamed federal agency, when asked how it would spend its share of the stimulus money, said that $30 million would go toward wetland restoration - including work to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse. That same staffer later conceded that "[t]here is no language in the bill that says this money will go to this project."


The week that Congress voted on the Conference version of the economic recovery package, Media Matters documented Rush Limbaugh leading several conservative media outlets in parroting former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey's falsehood that a provision in the House-passed version of the bill grants the government authority to "monitor treatments" or restrict what "your doctor is doing" with regard to patient care. In fact, the provision in question contained no such language. It grants authority to establish an electronic records system so that doctors can access complete and accurate medical information "to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care."


Following a Drudge Report headline reading "HILL REPUBLICAN: STIMULUS GIVES CASH TO ILLEGALS," Media Matters documented several examples of the media falsely claiming that undocumented immigrants without Social Security numbers could be eligible for tax credits included in the economic recovery package. In fact, the legislation specifically disqualifies anyone without "a social security number issued to an individual by the Social Security Administration" from eligibility for the Making Work Pay tax credits. The Drudge Report headline had linked to an Associated Press article that cited a single anonymous "top Republican congressional official," and the article was amended four hours later, making clear that the GOP official's claim was false. Even after this correction, several media figures and outlets repeated the falsehood.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:13 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 16, 2009

CA's Budget Problem Is Paragraph 10

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

Today's San Jose Mercury News front page story is about California's budget problem: that they are still one vote short. But Californians reading the story are not told why one more vote is required, not are they told who it is required from -- until the 10th paragraph. The 10th paragraph reads,

The votes were there in the Assembly. But in the Senate, only two Republican senators were prepared to buck party orthodoxy and vote to raise taxes. Three were needed.

Even in this 10th paragraph readers are not informed that every Democrat is voting for the budget.

Before this paragraph, readers are told that "lawmakers" cannot agree and that "the deal still was held hostage by the thinnest of margins." But there is nothing telling them who or why.

The reason this is such a problem is that the people of California need this information, to help them play their part in the functioning of our state government. The voters need to know who to hold accountable or they will not make their wishes known through calls to their Assemblymember's or Senator's office. And they can't make informed decisions at election time.

This is typical of stories about the budget impasse -- across the state the major newspapers, radio and TV stations are not giving the voters the information they need in order to participate in their government. The result is that the state is becoming ungovernable -- and going broke.

So let's be clear about what is happening here. California's elected Republicans have all signed a "no-new-taxes" pledge with Grover Norquist's organization. (He's the guy who says the plan is to make government small enough to "drown in a bathtub.") So now they see the budget crisis as an opportunity to force mass layoffs of state employees and reductions in support for people who need things like state-supplied oxygen tanks. They call that "reducing government." And even with all the budget cuts that the Democrats have all voted for, they still will not vote to pass a budget. They want more, and then more, and then they want the state government to go away.

This is ideology. They repeat an ideological mantra that will ruin the state. And they say this is their goal -- to get rid of government. They say government is bad. They say government spending is bad. They say taxes are bad. They say corporations are good. Ideology.

California can not continue to fund our schools, universities, roads, public safety, firefighters, health services, services to the poor, blind and elderly, provide funding for local government, etc. without additional revenues. Do the Mat (George Skelton, LA Times):

It's Republican dogma in the Capitol that to vote for a tax increase is "career-ending." Even if true -- and there's evidence both ways -- so what?

These are folks, after all, who sermonize against making politics a career, publicly pretend to worship term limits and preach the virtues of private enterprise. You'd think they'd be eager to return to the private sector. Yet, they're afraid to risk losing out on their next political job.

Another item not reported is that the Republicans demanded a huge tax cut for large corporations -- the very kind that are killing off California's smaller independent, job-creating businesses.

And they still won't vote for the budget. And the public still doesn't have a chance to learn what is going on here.

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:08 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

5 Million New Jobs Instantly

Dean Baker explains how to put 5 million people into jobs right away, in

Quick, What's Wrong With a Tax Cut that Shortens Work Hours?For example, if employers of 50 million workers cut hours by 10 percent, and then seek to replace the lost hours with additional workers, they would need to hire 5 million workers. If they got a $2,500 credit per worker, this would cost the government $125 billion a year.

There seem many benefits to going this route, and no obvious disadvantages. First, it can be put into place immediately. The day Congress passes the legislation employers can begin adjusting work schedules to benefit from the tax cut. In other words, this proposal is as shovel ready as it gets.

Please read the whole piece -- it is for real.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:36 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 15, 2009

Revive The Fairness Doctrine

Let's start a discussion about reviving the Fairness Doctrine to re-introduce the commons and the idea that we tell the corporations what to do!

A few years ago, in a popular post about the Fairness Doctrine, I wrote,

This "Fairness Doctrine" requirement was intended to protect the public from the possibility of moneyed interests buying up all of the information sources, leaving the public hearing only their viewpoint.
I think that this may be an opportunity - if done right - to reintroduce the public to the idea of the commons: that the public owns the resources of the country, and the laws, and has the power to tell corporations what to do instead of the other way around. If we can project that into the discussion, it leads straight to a discussion of the tight concentration of ownership of the media by a few corporations. What better issues than something called "Fairness" and that so clearly can be demonstrated. There just are no voices of labor and other non- corporate opinions on the airwaves. The public is ready to hear that.

The demise of the Fairness Doctrine paved the way for this media consolidation, because issues around media consolidation were no longer discussed in the media. And that's the problem now, as well, because it will be very difficult to get a good, honest, all-sides discussion of the commons and the Fairness Doctrine and media consolidation started -- because of media consolidation and lack of a Fairness Doctrine.

So do we let the corporations just win this? Reagan unilaterally scrapped public control of the airwaves, vetoed it when Congress voted to bring it back, and then the Republicans filibustered the majority in following years every time the Congress tried again. Does that mean the Congress should stop trying and we should all just let the matter drop, and leave the public thinking that corporations have the right to control the airwaves?

Or does renewing the fight revive public discussion and understanding of these issues, leading to increased understanding of the need for Net Neutrality so big corporations can't just block the public from even seeing union and progressive websites?

So I think reviving this fight is strategic, preparing the public for upcoming fights on all issues of public vs corporate control of public resources and decision-making.

In 96 I wrote,

Restoring the Fairness Doctrine would open up America's "marketplace of ideas." It would help to restore civility to our public discourse. It would help restore our democracy.
I say it is time to restore the Fairness doctrine.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:33 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos

February 13, 2009

Stimulus Passed

It passed the Senate. Who else would spend a Friday evening watching C-SPAN 2?

So you don't have to.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:56 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Imprisonment For Profit

In Pennsylvania they caught two judges jailing kids for profit. Here's the scheme: Two privately-run detention centers are built. The judges make a deal with the companies, and order state juvenile detention facilities shut down for being in poor condition. Then they start sentencing lots of kids to serve jail time in the private facilities. Always jail time, for anything, an no lenience. The kids are taken away in shackles. The state gives money to the private facilities for taking the kids, and the judges get kickbacks.

We're talking about 5,000 kids.

See Judges Plead Guilty in Scheme to Jail Youths for Profit

I think it would be a good idea to look into ALL situations of people of ALL ages being sentenced to any privately-run facility. There is a profit motive involved, and we have learned from the banks and from the Republican destruction of the economy what can happen when a profit motive is involved.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:45 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Ronald Reagan Movie!

Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny - Citizens United Productions -- from Gingrich Productions.

Newt Gingrich was the married guy who was porking his secretary in a car in the parking garage of the House of Representatives, while upstairs they were impeaching the President for having an affair. That kind of says it all, don't you think?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:28 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos


The other day I suggested that President Obama demonstrate bipartisanship by nominating Newt Gingrich For Supreme Court!

Today, in the spirit of bipartisanship I suggest nominating Sarah Palin for Commerce Secretary. I also suggest he ask all Democrats in the Cabinet to resign, to be replaced by conservative-movement Republicans. In addition all Democratic members of the House and senate should step aside and allow the Republicans to take their seats. Or at the very least allow them to dictate votes.

After all, the country did overwhelmingly vote Democratic in the last two elections, indicating that they are sick and tired of Republicans and want them gone. The voters made it very clear that they do not want Republicans making policy. So in the spirit of bipartisanship the Republicans should be allowed to dictate all policies.

Note - read this on bipartisanship, and why I use Newt as an example.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:24 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 12, 2009

California Readers

If you live in California you should check in at Calitics California Politics Blog every day.

And, of course, check in at Speak Out California every day. Please sign up for their email list.

ALSO be sure to do the same at the Courage Campaign!

Send this post to your California friends and family.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:56 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos


This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

After decades of anti-government speeches claiming that government holds back business, government takes money out of the economy and government is less efficient than corporations, people came to believe that, as Ronald Reagan famously said, "Government is the problem, not the solution." This led to deregulation and budget cutbacks in all areas including education and infrastructure.

If you think about it, government really is what We, the People want it to be. In a democracy we jointly make decisions about the best way to manage our affairs. So saying that corporations do things better is really an anti-democracy message. What they are saying is that organizations run by a few wealthy elites telling everyone else what to do, with the benefits of everyone's work mostly going to those few at the top, is a better way to manage society than to have everyone making the decisions and sharing in the results.

As the financial crisis hits, and the fabric of that pro-big business philosophy is shredding the fabric of our society, we can see clearly just how foolish and destructive the right-wing machine has been to our economic, social and political values. (Not to mention cutting off peanut processing plant regulation and inspection, leading to the current situation of 9 dead and hundreds seriously ill across the country. This is just ONE more example of the consequences of right-wing policies.)

Alone those lines, here is an interesting video, making fun of some of the anti-government propaganda we have heard over the last few decades:

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:45 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Stimulus Bill Summary

While the corporate media writes about "who wins" without writing a word about matters that people care about, Chris Bowers put together a readable summary of what is in the package. Open Left:: A Readable Summary of the Stimulus / Jobs Bill

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:52 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Three Weeks

Obama has been President for, what, three weeks now?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:32 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Urgent - Call Congress For Stimulus

I received this from Bill Scher:

We are receiving word that right-wingers are flooding Congress with phone calls against the final deal. For this to pass on a wave of momentum that strengthens political will for further bold action, please get the word out to your networks and readers to call Congress TODAY in support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The Americans United toll-free number 1-866-544-7573 that takes you to the congressional switchboard is still up, but people are having a hard time getting through to the switchboard because of the volume of calls. So I suggest giving people options.

Anyone can find out how to contact their House and Senate members directly, in Washington or at home, at these links.


And Campaign for America's Future has an email tool you can point folks to at

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:13 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 11, 2009

OpenBeOS Haiku Approaching Alpha

Go take a look: BeOS Lives: Haiku Impresses

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:29 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

First Details of Stimulus Deal

It looks like they gave up on helping the economy, to give tax breaks to people who don't need it.

Agreement in Congress Appears Near on Stimulus - NYTimes.com,

. . . sharply curtailed health care subsidies for the unemployed . . . But the final bill retained a $70 billion tax cut that would spare millions of middle-class Americans from paying the alternative minimum tax in 2009, which some Democrats decried as wasting a large chunk of the bill on something that would do little to lift the economy and that Congress would have approved regardless of the recession.

[. . .] “I am not happy with it,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa. “You are not looking at a happy camper. I mean, they took a lot of stuff out of education. They took it out of health, school construction and they put it more into tax issues.”

Mr. Harkin said he was particularly frustrated by the money being spent on fixing the alternative minimum tax. “It’s about 9 percent of the whole bill,” he said, “which we were going to do later this year in a tax bill. Why is it in there? It has nothing to do with stimulus. It has nothing to do with recovery. This makes no sense whatsoever.”

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:48 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Understanding The Bailout Problem

Here is what the world is going to have to face: the banks are insolvent. Thyey are going to have to be nationalized. This is what we have always done with banks that are insolvent. They just want to avoid it this time because of the word "nationalize."

Here is what is going on. They have these "toxic assets." These assets are currently on their books at the prices they paid for them. If these assets are "marked to market" -- put on the books at their real, current value -- the banks have to show that they are insolvent. They will have to declare bankruptcy. So everything you are hearing about, all the bailouts, FED loans, "open windows" etc are all schemes to try to avoid having the government step in and take over the banks, reorganize them, and put them back out there with new owners. And they all involve giving them billions, even trillions of dollars. This is what the bloggers are referring to as "lighting a big pile of money on fire" or "burying money in a hole." That money just goes away, unless somehow magically the bad assets suddenly become worth something.


The banks bought the bad assets at high prices. They need to sell them at low prices. But this banker is arguing that they are too financially stressed to absorb the losses that would entail. Conversely, so long as they don't sell the assets, they can pretend they haven't lost any money on them, as they can pretend that they will rebound to a better price once the mania is over. The other way of putting this is that much of the banking sector is already insolvent, it's just not prepared to admit it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:44 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

February 10, 2009

GOP - REALLY The Party Of The Confederacy

Show Me Progress:: "War of Northern Aggression"?

According to Republican State Rep. Bryan Stevenson, the proposed pro-choice "Freedom of Choice Act" is the biggest federal power grab since the "War of Northern Aggression."
Go see the video clip.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:59 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Do You Think One Leads To The Other?

Remember a few years ago everyone was complaining about having to work harder and longer hours for less money? Meanwhile a very few at the top were getting vastly richer, corporations were reporting ever-increasing record profits?

And now we have a collapse of the economy. I wonder if this is related to the situation described in the preceding paragraph?

So how come the solution to the economic crisis is to give ever more money to Wall Street and banks?

THIS is why the stimulus package is so important. It provides things that regular people need -- at least it did before the Republicans got their hands on it.

I think an important but missing component of a stimulus is to raise taxes on high incomes. I'm serious -- look at history, the economy always has done better when high incomes were heavily taxed. It's just the historical record, go look it up.

There are a lot of reasons for this. One is that high taxes at the top redistributes the money and more people having more money is good in a consumer-based economy. But another reason is that the incentive to harvest the people for the benefit of the few goes away when you have very high taxes at the top. It makes you think long term. You build a fortune by earning it over time instead of coming up with quick-money schemes.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:18 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

February 9, 2009

Stimulus Money To Also Fight Cancer

Patrick Swayze, I'm Battling Cancer. How About Some Help, Congress?,

Congress is facing two proposals: a bill approved by the House of Representatives, which includes $3.5 billion for the NIH, and a Senate bill that provides $10 billion for lifesaving scientific work. At a moment when our economy is on its back, the money will also create high-paying jobs and spark economic activity in every part of the United States: The NIH funds projects at hospitals, universities and medical research facilities in towns and cities in each of the 50 states. This money will help every region of America, as well as the individual Americans who will be diagnosed with cancer across the land. Congress should be aggressive and vote for the $10 billion.

[. . .] According to Families USA, a nonprofit group that works for better health care, every dollar in federal research spending generates about $2.20 in total economic activity in communities that host funded projects -- about $22 billion in all under the Senate measure.

Wow, stimulating the economy AND fighting cancer at the same time.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:40 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

February 8, 2009

Gingrich For Supreme Court!

If Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg resigns for health reasons I propose that Barack Obama demonstrate his spirit of bipartisanship by nominating former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to the court.

Certainly a Justice Gingrich will reciprocate by adjudicating from the bench in a bipartisan fashion and we will all live happily ever after.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:07 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Senate Banned Spending On Community Parks???

I just found out that the Senate voted 73-24 to ban using any stimulus money to help any:

aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project
I want to know which Democrats were among those 73 who voted to prohibit using stimulus money for any of these.

How do I find out?

Update - found it. Here are the Dems who voted to prohibit using stimulus money for any aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, or highway beautification project.

YEAs ---73
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Brown (D-OH)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Johnson (D-SD)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Schumer (D-NY)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Warner (D-VA)
Wyden (D-OR)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:28 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Who Paid For Obstruction Of Alaska Palin Probe?

Interesting: Texas evangelicals helped effort to stop Palin 'troopergate' probe - Politics AP - MiamiHerald.com,

The legislators listed a $25,000 gift of services from the Texas-based Liberty Legal Institute. Liberty is the legal arm of the Free Market Foundation, which is associated with evangelical leader James Dobson's Focus on the Family, and lists its guiding principles as limited government and promotion of Judeo-Christian values.

The lawmakers also disclosed a $120,000 gift of services from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, a national firm that appeared at hearings on behalf of Liberty Legal.

So the McCain campaign gets $120K donated a big law firm that is prohibited from contributing to a campaign. Well, technically the money didn't go directly to the McCain campaign, it went to pay most of the expense of keeping Alaska from its duty to investigrate Palin's corruption.

And Focus On The Family kicking in $25K through front groups. Of course.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:14 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Let's Challenge Radio Station Licenses

Should we be organizing challenges to the licenses of radio stations that do not serve their communities in a balanced way?

Earlier I pointed to Bill Press' op-ed on how corporate radio shuts our progressive voices, Seeing the Forest: Corporate Radio Not Balanced. Press reminds us that companies are given radio licenses by We, the People and,

... according to the terms of their FCC license, "to operate in the public interest and to afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of issues of public importance."
Obviously many radio stations are violating the terms of their licenses, using OUR airwaves to spew anti-democracy corporatist right-wing crap all day every day.

Shouldn't we be organizing challenges to the licenses of these stations?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Corporate Radio Not Balanced

Corporate radio is using OUR airwaves to present only right-wing propaganda. The airwaves are used to tell us we should support right-wing Republican policies, and to mock the majority of us for wanting democracy.

See Another Right-Wing Conspiracy in Washington?

Companies are given a license to operate public airwaves -- free! -- in order to make a profit, yes, but also, according to the terms of their FCC license, "to operate in the public interest and to afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of issues of public importance." Stations are not operating in the public interest when they offer only conservative talk.

For years, the Fairness Doctrine prevented such abuse by requiring licensed stations to carry a mix of opinion. However, under pressure from conservatives, President Ronald Reagan's Federal Communications Commission canceled the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, insisting that in a free market, stations would automatically offer a balance in programming.

That experiment has failed. There is no free market in talk radio today, only an exclusive, tightly held, conservative media conspiracy. The few holders of broadcast licenses have made it clear they will not, on their own, serve the general public. Maybe it's time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine -- and bring competition back to talk radio in Washington and elsewhere.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:54 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 7, 2009

Krugman: Senate Compromise Cuts Most Needed Parts Of Plan

What the centrists have wrought - Paul Krugman Blog,

Now the centrists have shaved off $86 billion in spending — much of it among the most effective and most needed parts of the plan. In particular, aid to state governments, which are in desperate straits, is both fast — because it prevents spending cuts rather than having to start up new projects — and effective, because it would in fact be spent; plus state and local governments are cutting back on essentials, so the social value of this spending would be high. But in the name of mighty centrism, $40 billion of that aid has been cut out.
I wonder if it is worse to pass a plan that fails than to pass no plan at all?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:48 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

Senate Compromise Costs 1.25 Million Jobs

Go read Firedoglake » Senate 'Moderates;€ Cut 1 1/4 Million Jobs from Stimulus Bill,

Using the CBO ratio of one job per $140,000 GDP, that means that "compromising" Senators managed to cut 1,271,000 jobs from the Senate stimulus package. In other words, the Gang of Four would lose even more jobs than the country has lost in the last two months, two of the highest job loss months on record.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:43 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Say Anything Is Back

Republicans are back to a 'say anything' policy. The more outrageous the lie, the more effect it has on their audience.

WorldNetDaily headline, huge, bold letters: Stimulus to ban religious worship

Another: Stimulus could supply illegals with 300,000 jobs

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:25 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

February 6, 2009

The Senate Stimulus Deal and Republican Priorities

To get a few Republican votes to stop a filibuster and actually pass a bill to save the economy, here is what has changed:

Latest Cuts To The Stim Package: Head Start, Child Nutrition, Food Stamps Public Transit | The Plum Line,

REMOVED money for:

Head Start
Education for the Disadvantaged
School improvement
Child Nutrition
Transportation Security Administration
Coast Guard
Violence Against Women
National Science Foundation
Western Area Power Administration
Food Stamps

REDUCED money for:

Public Transit $3.4 billion
School Construction $60 billion

INCREASED money for:

Defense operations and procurement
STAG Grants
Additional transportation funding

Also, reduced tax cuts for lower incomes.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:50 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 5, 2009

A TORT REFORM Lobbyist???! Updated.

Update - I have been assured by several people from consumer and trial lawyer groups that this person is OK, was not lobbying on tort reform, and is going to put a numb er of people into these positions who favor consumer rights over corporate. This person was previously an assistant to Joe Biden. However, I don't think people should be in government and then make millions working in any capacity that is based on the having been in government. That is not what workling for the public is supposed to be about.

Original post:

No, no, no. What is going on here?

Likely Justice Department nominee faces ethics hurdle - Los Angeles Times

The leading candidate to head the Justice Department office that oversees legal policy and judicial nominations recently has been a lobbyist for several business clients, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and would require a waiver from the Obama administration's recently imposed ethics rules.

. . . The likely nominee to head Justice's Office of Legal Policy, Mark Gitenstein, worked as a lobbyist for the chamber between 2000 and 2008, helping his firm earn more than $6 million in fees, according to federal lobbying records. The business alliance has pushed the White House and Congress to appoint judges and enact legislation that would make it harder for plaintiffs to sue large corporations and collect large damage awards, raising concerns from some activists.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:42 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Senate Stimulus Gets Even Weaker

Health Benefits For Unemployed Stripped From Stimulus, HuffPost Readers Find.

. . . the Senate had removed the House provision that would allow people 55 and over who are laid off to continue COBRA coverage at a subsidized rate until they're 65 and eligible for Medicare. The House version also made folks who were laid off temporarily eligible for Medicaid; the Senate version strips that out . . .
This is actually a very big deal because people laid off in their 50s do not tend to get rehired.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:19 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Barack Obama's Washington Post Op-Ed

Barack Obama - The Action Americans Need.

By now, it's clear to everyone that we have inherited an economic crisis as deep and dire as any since the days of the Great Depression. Millions of jobs that Americans relied on just a year ago are gone; millions more of the nest eggs families worked so hard to build have vanished. People everywhere are worried about what tomorrow will bring.

What Americans expect from Washington is action that matches the urgency they feel in their daily lives -- action that's swift, bold and wise enough for us to climb out of this crisis.

Because each day we wait to begin the work of turning our economy around, more people lose their jobs, their savings and their homes. And if nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

That's why I feel such a sense of urgency about the recovery plan before Congress. With it, we will create or save more than 3 million jobs over the next two years, provide immediate tax relief to 95 percent of American workers, ignite spending by businesses and consumers alike, and take steps to strengthen our country for years to come.

This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending -- it's a strategy for America's long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education. And it's a strategy that will be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability, so Americans know where their tax dollars are going and how they are being spent.

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis -- the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We've seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail.

Every day, our economy gets sicker -- and the time for a remedy that puts Americans back to work, jump-starts our economy and invests in lasting growth is now.

Now is the time to protect health insurance for the more than 8 million Americans at risk of losing their coverage and to computerize the health-care records of every American within five years, saving billions of dollars and countless lives in the process.

Now is the time to save billions by making 2 million homes and 75 percent of federal buildings more energy-efficient, and to double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy within three years.

Now is the time to give our children every advantage they need to compete by upgrading 10,000 schools with state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries and labs; by training our teachers in math and science; and by bringing the dream of a college education within reach for millions of Americans.

And now is the time to create the jobs that remake America for the 21st century by rebuilding aging roads, bridges and levees; designing a smart electrical grid; and connecting every corner of the country to the information superhighway.

These are the actions Americans expect us to take without delay. They're patient enough to know that our economic recovery will be measured in years, not months. But they have no patience for the same old partisan gridlock that stands in the way of action while our economy continues to slide.

So we have a choice to make. We can once again let Washington's bad habits stand in the way of progress. Or we can pull together and say that in America, our destiny isn't written for us but by us. We can place good ideas ahead of old ideological battles, and a sense of purpose above the same narrow partisanship. We can act boldly to turn crisis into opportunity and, together, write the next great chapter in our history and meet the test of our time.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 4, 2009

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Not Gonna Happen

There is all this talk about "reigniting the housing market." This is a joke.

Let me tell you what will make housing demand go up.

One: Everyone who lost a job or now works part-time since 2001 gets a well-paying job.
Two: Every group whose income has been flat since Reagan took office gets a raise to match the raises CEOs got.
Three: Bring the price of houses back to earth. Where I live you need an income of $10,000 A MONTH to qualify for the lowest-priced house on the market -- AFTER 20% down.

See Why housing is stimulative, and politically smart,

"Unless the stimulus bill includes some fix for housing demand, it just won't be successful," says Gear, whose coalition includes homeowner and community groups and home builders.
Oh, that reminds me, Four: Make everyone forget that housing prices actually CAN go down.

After taking ALL these steps, including dropping housing prices back to where they should be, then you might see housing prices stop dropping. Any ideas that you can "fix housing" in the stimulus package are fantasy.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:05 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Obama - Deafening Silence

Chris Bowers, Open Left:: What Does Obama Want Us To Do?,

What, exactly, does President Obama want his supporters to be doing? Even though millions are still willing to take action on his behalf, the calls to action have gone completely silent.

There is a major leadership vacuum right now. For the past two years, there was a consistent implication that Obama's grassroots network would play some sort of role in helping President Obama govern. So far, however, they have played no role whatsoever, and been asked to play none.

. . . What does President Obama want his supporters to do? For that matter, what does President Obama want the American people to do? We are in the midst of a major crisis right now, and shown time and time again that we are willing to take action to help remedy the problem. Millions, tens of millions, of people feel incredibly frustrated, trapped even, and are unsure what to do next. While they are ready to act, someone needs to make the ask. Right now, the person to make the ask is President Obama, but he isn't doing it. What does President Obama want us to do? The silence is deafening.

It's like Obama has gone completely insider, as if he was back in the Senate. He's starting to lose this out in the rest of the country and doesn't seem to see it. It is time to call on the PUBLIC to get involved. Is he afraid this will upset the "bipartisanship"?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:18 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

February 3, 2009

Something Good On CA Budget Mess?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

There is some good news on the prospects of getting a budget in California. Eleven California newspapers including Sunday's San Jose Mercury News carried a near-unprecedented front-page editorial titled, Outrageous budget fiasco has shamed California, calling out the Republicans for not participating in the budget process, saying,

"... [M]ost of the blame for the immediate crisis falls on Republicans in the Legislature, who this past summer -- to a person -- signed a pledge to not raise taxes. ... Democrats and the Republican governor have offered significant compromise, but GOP lawmakers cling to ideological purity -- schools, health care and other essential responsibilities be damned."

The reason this is good news is that this is a sign that California's media may be beginning to explain to the public that there is indeed a bad actor in this fight. Until now the public has been hearing from the media a simplistic "they're fighting like children in Sacramento" or "both sides refuse to compromise." Nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact is that the Democrats have voted for cut after cut, and have tried and tried to reach a compromise. They are trying to govern the state. But every single elected Republican signed a pledge with a Washington, DC anti-government organization -- the one that said they want to "drown the government in a bathtub" -- promising to vote against any budget that increases state revenues in any way. They took what they call "the pledge" and have refused to budge and refused to compromise in any way.

California's major media is finally, finally starting to bring these facts to the public, which means that the public will begin to apply the pressure that is needed in a democracy to move the Republicans and get them to participate in the budget and governing process.

And in the longer term, this information means the public will be able to decide whether they really do want to elect people who hate government -- and who take vows to defund government -- into positions of responsibility for managing the government.

If we cannot get an increase in revenues California's economy will be in real trouble. On a national level Rush Limbaugh says he "wants Obama to fail" and in California the far right is driving failure as well. We need responsible information sources to reach California's voters with honest information.

Click through to Speak Out California.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:55 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

My BBC Radio Hour Discussing Protectionism

"I'm not against globalization. I imported my wife from Bromley, Kent."

I was on BBC's "World Have Your Say" show today for an hour, taking the side favoring protectionism. You can download this segment in MP3 format here by visiting BBC - Radio - Podcasts - World Have Your Say, or just click the link below.

WHYS: 03 Feb: What's wrong with protectionism?

As the U.S Senate votes on a measure to "buy American" and when everyone is worried about their jobs and livelihood, why shouldn't each country look after their own ?

Duration: 52mins | File Size: 24MB

Download Episode

The show really starts about 3 minutes in. I'm on for the entire hour, but am introduced only as "Dave from California." I introduce myself and give out the blog URL later in the program.

Previously, with some links.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

On BBC in 15 Min

I am going to be on BBC's BBC World Have Your Say radio program in 15 minutes. There is a 'Listen Live' button there.

I am arguing in favor of protectionism -- protecting our workers' wages and living standards from being undercut by low-cost goods made in non-democratic countries that exploit workers and the environment.

This is based on my posts Bring Back Protectionism and Protectionism Means Protecting Ourselves.

Gotta run...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:46 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

February 2, 2009

What About Microsoft?

In today's NY Times: Justice Dept. Under Obama Is Preparing for Doctrinal Shift in Policies of Bush Years

Question: Will the Obama Justice Dept reverse the Bush DOJ's dropping the Microsoft case? Eight years ago, after the Clinton administration WON a major antitrust case against Microsoft the Bush administration came in and "settled" largely on Microsoft's terms. This signaled that the Bush administration was open for businesses, and that companies who payed up and helped fund the Republican lobbyist machine could expect favors. And the floodgates of corruption opened wide.

Now we have a new administration, and Microsoft still has a near-monopoly in operating systems and a total monopoly in office software. Little has changed. (Yes, Mac has a small share of OS, but even the Mac requires MS Office to be usable in business.)

Can the antitrust suit be revived?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:42 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

CALL Your Senators

If you want that stimulus bill to pass the Senate you need to CALL YOUR SENATORS TODAY and tell them.

Alternatively, you may phone the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:26 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

February 1, 2009

After Stimulus -- Then What?

Suppose the stimulus passes. In fact, imagine that triple or quadruple the stimulus passes. Fine. Then what?

What happens after the stimulus? Isn't the stimulus just the next bubble -- the next last gasp attempt to put off the reckoning? Isn't it just borrowing another trillion or two to try to prop up an economic system that over and over again demonstrates that it just doesn't work?

Of course we want to do this and do it right -- infrastructure investment instead of squandering on tax cuts or military. People need to have jobs, so they can eat. And investment has a longer-term payoff.

But to what end? Suppose the stimulus magically enables things to get back to where they were. My favorite term from TV was that it is hoped it will "reignite the housing market." Heh. So if the stimulus "works" do we continue to chew up the planet, cut all the trees, remove all the mountaintops, create vast landfills of tossed junk, and all work as near slaves to make a few vastly richer?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:37 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Blogroll Amnesty

Please go read skippy the bush kangaroo: b.a.d. days are here again!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:42 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos