September 30, 2009
THIS is how to do it! This is Rep. Grayson who spoke out about Republican opposition to health care reform, and here he is fighting for it on CNN! Imagine, a Democrat fighting!
Absolutely watch this! And watch the shock of the rest of the "villagers" on CNN who just cannot understand a Democrat with a spine!
P.S. Reward good behavior, throw a few dollars, or a thousand, his way! He has a tough fight coming up to keep his seat.
How do we build a new economy out of the collapse of the old economy? How do we start fresh to begin creating jobs again, while building in economic and environmental sustainability, as well as workplaces that respect human needs and rights? How do we change things so that we all get to share the benefits of the economy rather than just contributing to the increasing wealth of a few vastly wealthy people?
While we look for a vision for a new economy, we should examine what has worked in the past. America had periods in which regular people enjoyed sustained increases in their standard of living. For a long time it was a conventional wisdom that each American generation would do better than the previous generation, more people would receive good educations, medical care would get better, the middle class would grow, leisure time would increase, poverty rates would decrease, retirement would be easier, etc.
But this pattern stopped. Beginning in the late 1970s and especially in the 1980s incomes began to stagnate, wealth increasingly concentrated at the top, working hours and workplace pressures steadily increased, availability of good health care started to decrease, etc. The standard of living of most Americans began to and continues to decline. At the same time corporations became more predatory as consumer protections vanished. Meanwhile outsourcing, deunionization and other anti-worker policies led to increasingly unpleasant, stressful and unrewarding worklives for more and more people.
Many of today's problems are traceable directly to the policy results of anti-government propaganda that was blasted out from well-funded conservative think tanks starting in the 1970s. The anti-government campaign led to defunding of many national, state and local government programs that improved education, helped the poor or enriched people's lives. We suffered deregulation in many areas where the government had protected consumers, workers, investors and the environment. Huge reductions in taxes for the wealthy were either offset by tax increases for the rest of us or government borrowing. And that borrowing has led to increasing problems of paying the interest and threats to funding even basic programs like Social Security and education.
So what worked, before the conservatives trashed the place?
One thing we know for sure now, learned the hardest way thanks to the financial crisis: regulation worked. Regulation was necessary, it worked, it kept firms from taking risks that could bring down the economy. And we can also see now how regulations protected consumers from predatory corporate activities, workers from wage theft or unsafe working conditions, and the environment from exploitation and destruction.
Before Reagan the tax rates at the top were very high. After you reached - and took home - a certain very high income you paid a high percentage of the rest in taxes. This had many beneficial results – even for the people who paid higher taxes. Government could afford to keep the physical, education and legal infrastructure in good condition without borrowing. Government could afford to invest in programs that improved our standard of living, health, knowledge and technology, which helped businesses grow. Businesses thrived in such well-watered soil.
The high tax rates also kept the bad side of human nature in check. When it took years to build up a fortune businesspeople had to rely on the health of the greater community to nurture their own wealth-building enterprises and keep them thriving over a long period. They had to think and act long-term. The roads needed to be kept in repair, the schools needed to provide excellent education to potential employees, the courts needed to be functional to enforce contracts, and they wanted the communities they were going to have to stay in to be pleasant places to live.
But once taxes were lowered vast windfalls could be realized from a single event and it made more sense to try to fleece the community with quick-buck schemes than to rely on it. We began to see corporate raiders break up solid, ongoing companies, steal pension funds, etc., while encouraging communities to cut spending on schools, roads, etc. It became more profitable sell off or outsource our manufacturing capacity. And then, as things fell apart, the few who benefited could just fly away in their private jets or sail away in their huge yachts. The greater community was no longer any use to them except as crops to be harvested. Vulnerable consumers are the only crop that is coming up in this economy.
Government is We, the People making the decisions. "Big government" is simply another way of saying that more of the important decisions are made by the people. Shrinking government means handing the decisions over to big corporations. In the real world this is the choice. And in the real world big corporations make decisions that benefit them, and only them. Before you badmouth government think carefully about what the alternative is.
Old-Fashioned Government Planning
As I said in a post a few months ago,
The phrase “industrial policy” sounds so Walter Mondale, 1970s, smokestacks and brick factory old-fashioned. I suspect the subject turns people off, eyes glaze over, hands reach under the table for iPhones and Blackberries…But here we are without an industrial policy. How’s that working out for us? Every other country has one. China seriously has one. We instead have huge trade deficits. We don't make things here so we have to borrow money to buy things made elsewhere.
To add insult to injury, recently Deutsche Bank released a research note advising investors that the U.S. was not a good investment because of our lack of a government industrial policy. See Deutsche Bank: Absence of US Clean Energy Policy Will Send Global Capital Elsewhere.
While we envision a new direction for our economy, maybe we should also be looking at returning to a few old-fashioned ways of doing things, too.
According the Wall Street Journal Bush's final budget year will have a deficit of more than $1.2 trillion. (Note that the WSJ story was written before President Obama was sworn in.)
When Clinton left office the country had a budget surplus of over $230 billion. Carter submitted a balanced budget to Congress in his last year. LBJ balanced the budget.
September 29, 2009
I was in Pittsburgh and I have never seen anything like the police atmosphere there. I go back to the 60s protests, including Mayday when they set up machine guns on the White House grounds so I have seen it. But that was more military, not police. There were almost zero "civilians" in the city and a massive militarized police presence beyond anything I have ever experienced.
Here are a few impressions. Everyone had been whipped up with fear leading up to the Summit - both police and townspeople. It seemed as though the police had been through some sort of military training in advance of the Summit. The militarized attitude was not what I have seen from police before. It appeared they had been led to expect massive trouble on the order of tens of thousands. What I suspect happened was that the local media scared the wits out of the population by playing clips of huge WTO protests over and over until people were convinced that they were going to be besieged by a violent Woodstock of some sort. (Like how they have scared people to the point where they won't let their kids walk to school anymore.) I don't know that but what I saw there makes me thing it was something like that.
Everyone had brand new equipment. The uniforms were new, freshly pressed. Riot helmets without a single scuffmark. New trucks, rifles, communications equipment, body armor, all new. Millions upon millions of anti-terrorist gear was finally going to be tried out.
The weirdest thing was that buildings clear across town from where the would be any expectation of trouble had anti-tank barricades set up around them. I mean the concrete divider segments that are put between oncoming lanes on highways had been moved into place around builds, entrances, etc all over town! Of course the security around the perimeter for the Summit was crucial, the barricade with the trucks filled with heavy materials at every intersection stops potential attacks from a hijacked bus or truck. The fencing and checkpoints ... these are 20 of the world's leaders in one place. Fine. But why anti-tank barriers on buildings on the other side of town?
There were thousands of police. There was police from all over the East and Midwest. There were police on horseback, bicycle, motorcycle, van, car, truck, dump truck, military-style vehicle, helicopter, speedboat, and on foot. There were police dogs. There were Coast Guard, Secret Service, National Guard, State Police, Park Police and every other agency you can imagine.
The actual People's March was orderly, almost fun, except for the masses of police. It went on for quite a while, followed by hundreds of Falun Gong, then followed by hundreds of police on foot, followed by mounted police, followed by dozens of police vehicles with doors open, fully-armored police with machine guns ready to jump out.
The really, really needed a police marching band as part of the display. Seriously. This was a missed opportunity.
The effect was intimidation. No way around it, no one could have been anywhere near Pittsburgh for this Summit without receiving a loud and clear message, "We are in charge, we don't want to hear what you have to say, shut up and behave." And for the public, the expectation that an unspeakable force of evil was coming - and then when the DFHs show up, this has to translate to the message the people who protest against elites are somehow in the wrong. Massive intimidation. The security was necessary for the Summit, but the rest of it was intimidation of democracy. Police are trained to respect the citizens, but this militarization changed that, turned "the other side" into enemies.
Another problem was the effect of anticipation. The police were intimidated, too, led to expect a massive wave of weirdos attacking them. And so of course after months of preparation and anticipation were naturally ready to go after them and win.
September 28, 2009
HUGE headline at the Drudge Report: FOX-TV CHICAGO ORDERED NOT TO RUN ANTI-OLYMPICS STORY.
Sounds REALLY bad. The Obama administration ordering Fox not to put things on the air!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
But when you click through you find out that the News Director of a Fox affiliate ordered the staff not to air for a second time an anti-Olympics segment -- after they aired it once. That's it. That's the whole story! A News Director ordered the staff not to run it again.
P.S. The segment is about a website that pushes for the Olympics to be held in Rio, with no information about who put up the website. D'ya think it might have been paid for by the committee trying to get the Olympics in Rio? Duh???
The hallmark of the Bush administration was lawlessness. Laws and regulations were ignored, enforcement was scoffed at. The powerful were always, always given a pass. Political opponents were prosecuted, or in the case of things like wearing anti-Bush t-shirts, were just harassed, removed, etc.
Question: Is the Obama administration now enforcing laws and regulations? I don't mean in the cases of torture, bribery, contracts inappropriately given to political supporters, launching illegal wars, political manipulation of the government, etc. all of which occurred under Bush -- we already know they are not investigating and enforcing existing laws in those cases.
No, I mean, except for the obvious. I mean the day-to-day enforcement of regulations and laws.
I ask because I have not heard of any new enforcement of employment regulations here in Silicon Valley. For example, in the rare cases where any hiring is occurring, is the government checking to make sure that the rampant age discrimination has stopped? Are they making sure that women are paid the same for the same jobs? Are they going after companies that pollute? etc?
September 26, 2009
Since there are no Republicans supporting health care reform anyway, what if Democrats just give everyone Medicare, and pay for it by taxing the super-rich and big corporations?
Would this bring more or fewer votes for Democrats from now on?
I am asking a political question about votes only. Would the general public feel that the Democrats had delivered something they want - Medicare for everyone? Or would they feel it was wrong to tax the super-rich?
Benefits of this would include taking a huge burden off of American companies. Any company now providing health insurance would have its costs dramatically reduced. Ans this would probably increase profits enough that those paying increased taxes would be taking more more than they were before.
September 25, 2009
Dave Johnson, Speak Out California
A "study" called Cost of State Regulations on California Small Business Study makes some wild, wild claims! From the summary,
The study finds that the total cost of [business]regulation to the State of California is $492.994 billion which is almost five times the State's general fund budget, and almost a third of the State's gross product. The cost of regulation results in an employment loss of 3.8 million jobs which is a tenth of the State's population.Scary. Wild. Mostly, though, just unbelievable. I wonder who paid for the study?
KQED's Capital Notes blog tracked down some of the sources of the wild, wild claims.
The authors previously released a study wildly, wildly claiming that California's AB32 climate change legislation will cost California's small businesses $182 billion a year and cost 1.1 million jobs. I wonder who paid for that study?
For this "regulations" report they relied data from on a Forbes Magazine report listing California as a bad state in which to do business. The Forbes report relies on data from the Pacific Research Institute.
This reminded me that the Pacific Research Institute released a 2007 "study" making the wild, wild claim that allowing people to sue companies that harm them costs $865 billion per year. I wonder who paid for this study?
David Dayen writes about this at Calitics,
Basically, regulations take your wives, enslave your children, throw your ice cream on the ground, and write "loser" on your chest in sun tan lotion when you fall asleep at the beach. It's amazing how in line this study is with standard conservative tropes about onerous regulations and big government. I wonder why that is?
I think I'll do a "study" that makes a claim that conservative "studies" cost us more than $12 trillion a year. The trouble is, who would pay me to write it?
Click through to Speak Out California
Isn't "government takeover" just another way of saying "We, the People making the decisions?"
I am posting from Pittsburgh on the G20 Summit, over at Campaign for America's Future's
Blog for OutFuture| Here is my first post today -- go over there for the rest.
Today the world leaders attending the G20 Summit get down to business. The main issues are economic restructuring to prevent another collapse, addressing trade imbalances, and discussions of climate change solutions. But the overriding issue for all of us boils down to jobs.
The G20 countries see GDP growth as the holy grail. But we have seen that GDP growth alone does not by itself improve living standards - or even create jobs. Instead, as we have seen, in fact it can even be destructive to job growth as well as the environment. As the articles I linked to yesterday discussed, the GDP growth measure is not a measure of people's well-being, or of "life liberty and the pursuit of happiness." This focus on GDP might make a few already-rich people even richer but it does not lead to the kind of restructuring of income and wealth distribution that benefits the rest of us around the world.
It's funny that I find myself writing "as we have seen" again and again, because in defiance of the conventional wisdom what we have actually experienced keeps turning out to be different from what the experts tell us will result from the actions of those making the decisions for the world. Bloggers joke "who could have known" because over and over the bloggers are writing about the things that the experts later declare no one could have known about... Bloggers are really just the voice of democracy -- the voice of regular people across the country and world writing about what they are seeing, bypassing the "expert" media gatekeepers. Some things you can just see in front of your face, and the bloggers see these things, while the experts just keep missing them. One of those things is that the regular people out here in the rest of the world are having a harder and harder time, while a few rich people are getting vastly richer, and that just can't continue.
The streets of Pittsburgh are quiet ... too quiet. (Just kidding.) Outside the streets are largely deserted - even more so than yesterday. But late yesterday and into the night there were several hundred anarchists outside of town breaking windows and trying to break through police lines to get into the city.
Today large demonstrations are expected, but they are certainly expected to be peaceful. The problem is that there is no chance that they will be seen by the world leaders gathered for the Summit. The nearest place they can reach is the street below the windows at the Media Center where I am working, and this is nowhere in sight of the convention center. Well, that isn't exactly accurate, I can get a glimpse of the roof of the convention center, which is two blocks away (see picture).
So this is the limit of where demonstrators can go. On the one hand, there are obvious security concerns. But it also leads to an environment that isolates the leaders from the concerns of the rest of us.
The main concern of the rest of us is jobs.
September 24, 2009
Hey I am posting all day and tomorrow from Pittsburgh on the G20 Summit, over at Campaign for America's Future's
Blog for OutFuture|
September 23, 2009
The New York Times business section has this today, With a Receptive White House, Labor Begins to Line Up Battles. Oddly this "news" story incorrectly casts enforcement of trade agreements as opposing "free trade." From the story,
While labor’s opposition to free trade is nothing new, having an ear in the White House is. The Obama administration, though it says it supports free trade, has so far seemed more aligned with labor’s trade agenda than has any administration in decades.Here's the thing. This is not about opposition to free trade. This is about enforcement of existing agreements. This is nothing more than a request to the proper enforcement authorities to investigate if agreements are being violated, and to take the agreed-upon steps to remedy that if they are. But in recent years it because the expectation that the White House made decisions that were not based on rule of law, but rather on ... something else. From the article,
What has alarmed America’s trading partners is the steelworkers’ victory when the president imposed a 35 percent tariff on Chinese tires under special trade rules that allow punitive measures without a finding of illegal trade practices.
... The president’s move has stirred worries that other unions and industries will rush to seek similar relief.
In four safeguard cases, President George W. Bush declined to impose penalties even though the United States International Trade Commission, a bipartisan panel, had found that Chinese imports hurt particular industries.THAT should have been the shocking news, not the current news that agreements are going to have to be lived up to! A President of the United States sided with other countries, against American companies and workers, even after the trade enforcement bodies found clear violations of the agreements!
It seems that after eight years of general lawlessness we're at a point where it is expected that those with power can do anything they want regardless of agreements or laws. So now "the Village" (blogger term for comfortable "inside-the-beltway" Washington DC insiders) is shocked and offended when the rabble -- the rest of us -- actually wants the authorities to enforce the rules instead of deferring to power -- even when, as in this case, that power is being used against America. For example, when Attorney General Holder was looking into investigating whether laws against torture were broken, "the Village' was all atwitter and scandalized over the audacity of President Obama letting such a thing happen -- as if it was in any way appropriate for a President to make a political decision to keep the Justice Department from an investigation.
Under the previous administration it was expected that such decisions would be decided politically, based on who was donating the most to The Party or its supporting infrastructure of think tanks, etc., on any given day. Now we are seeing a return to rule of law. It's the same thing with this request to see if trade agreements are being honored.
The Village owes the concept of rule of law an apology.
ACORN corruption is no trivial matter$55 billion?
In his interview with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, ex-ACORN attorney President Barack Obama denied any knowledge of that organization having received over $55 billion in federal funding. He stated he had not paid attention to such trivial matters as he had bigger issues to deal with. That the liberal media swallow such indigestible fodder is reinforced by the Nick Anderson cartoon (Opinion, Sept. 21). Like our president, this gullible cartoonist views the ACORN corruption as an nonevent stirred up by contentious conservatives.
In the last 15 years ACORN has received a total of $53 million - with an 'M' - in funding from the government. That comes to $3.5 million a year. That amount is more than 1000 times less than SJ News readers would now believe. Almost all of this is to "ACORN Housing" for providing assistance with low-income housing programs -- things like helping poor people fight off foreclosures.
September 22, 2009
It turns out that ACORN employees also called police in Philadelphia.
AND ACORN employees in San Bernadino called the police [PDF].
The G20 is a meeting of the Group of Twenty (G-20) Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors of "systemically important industrialized and developing economies to discuss key issues in the global economy."
From their website,
The G-20 is made up of the finance ministers and central bank governors of 19 countries: Argentina,Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America [See, since Bush we are last on every list! - DJ]
The European Union, who is represented by the rotating Council presidency and the European Central Bank, is the 20th member of the G-20. To ensure global economic fora and institutions work together, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the President of the World Bank, plus the chairs of the International Monetary and Financial Committee and Development Committee of the IMF and World Bank, also participate in G-20 meetings on an ex-officio basis. The G-20 thus brings together important industrial and emerging-market countries from all regions of the world. Together, member countries represent around 90 per cent of global gross national product, 80 per cent of world trade (including EU intra-trade) as well as two-thirds of the world's population. The G-20's economic weight and broad membership gives it a high degree of legitimacy and influence over the management of the global economy and financial system.
We should call it the JOBS summit because that is what this is really about. How will the world restructure the economic system after the financial crisis? How can we change things to regular people share the wealth? Of course Wall Street wants everything kept just the way it is. But the rest of the world is demanding that we make changes.
Then there will be a lot of talk about "protectionism," because President Obama actually enforced a trade agreement! Here's the thing, agreements are not agreements unless they are enforced. By enforcing this agreement with China, it means we might start having fair, honest, balanced trade again.
Anyway, I look forward to this trip and to writing about the G20 Summit. Check in at Blog for OurFuture over the next few days. I think we're going to solve the world's problems -- don't miss out!
Police say a worker with the activist group ACORN who was caught on video giving advice about human smuggling to a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute had reported the incident to authorities.
Wanna guess how widely this is reported?
Just look at this nonsense, prominently featured at the Republican TownHall site: John Hawkins : 5 Reasons Obama's Election Is Bad For Race Relations
Against this backdrop came Barack Obama with an unspoken promise: elect me as President and America can put race in the rear view mirror once and for all. After all, if Americans elected a black President, how racist could the country really be?
[. . .] With black Americans, race comes first. If white Americans felt the same way, there's certainly no way that Barack Obama could ever have been elected President.
[. . .] Too many people have used racism as an all-purpose excuse for their failures in life. But, after a black man with mediocre qualifications rose all the way up to the become President of the United States, it seems natural to ask how much of an impediment race can really be in America?
[. . .] Barack Obama is playing an extremely cynical game with the race card. ... He doesn't ask his supporters to stop crying "racism." So, everyone who opposes him politically gets smeared as a racist, while he doesn't have to personally get his hands dirty. For a cynical, sleazy, manipulative politician, it's the best of both worlds. For the rest of the country, it's an ugly game that serves the country poorly.
. . . Obama is a bumbling, corrupt, megalomaniacal train wreck who has been a disaster at home and a weakling abroad. He can already legitimately be compared to the worst Presidents in American history -- yet, his approval rating with black Americans is still above 90%.
How healthy is it for the country to have 92% of black Americans approving of the job Obama is doing while only 42% of white Americans approve?
It is weird how color is the only thing Republicans seem to be able to see. That and the color of big-corporate money..
This really looks like a flat-out cash payment to kill health care reform.
Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross -- a Blue Dog Democrat playing a key role in the health care debate -- sold a piece of commercial property in 2007 for substantially more than a county assessment ... and an independent appraisal ... say it was worth.
The buyer: an Arkansas-based pharmacy chain with a keen interest in how the debate plays out.
Ross sold the real estate in Prescott, Ark., to USA Drug for $420,000 -- an eye-popping number for real estate in the tiny train and lumber town about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock.
"You can buy half the town for $420,000," said Adam Guthrie, chairman of the county Board of Equalization and the only licensed real estate appraiser in Prescott.
But the $420,000 was just the beginning of what Ross and his pharmacist wife, Holly, made from the sale of Holly's Health Mart. The owner of USA Drug, Stephen L. LaFrance Sr., also paid the Rosses $500,000 to $1 million for the pharmacy's assets and paid Holly Ross another $100,001 to $250,000 for signing a non-compete agreement. Those numbers, which Ross listed on the financial disclosure reports he files as a member of Congress, bring the total value of the transaction to between $1 million and $1.67 million. [emphasis added]
I've said before that I think the Blue Dogs are all about leveraging their position for personal cash.
Not my choice of words. A European paper declares Obama the impotent because of US inaction on climate and financial reform.
The reason for the Congressional inaction on these issues is corporate money and Obama's insistence on "bipartisanship." Since the Republican Party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of big corporations, this means Obama is insisting on the big corporations telling the rest of us what to do.
I will be covering the G20 this week from Pittsburgh, where topic number one is U.S. financial reform.
September 21, 2009
Chris Bowers says that the health care debate isn't as much about health care as Its About Who Runs The Country,
So this is about who the Democrats in Congress and the White House are going to govern with:
--Those who think that protecting large industries is more important than providing lower cost health care;
--Those who think offering lower cost health care is more important than protecting large industries.
Dave Johnson, Speak Out California
The Governor's tax commission - called COTCE - is proposing a "flat tax." Peter Schrag begins his LA Times op-ed today, A flat-wrong flatter-tax plan, by writing,
The most obvious thing about the big, complicated tax reform scheme that will go to the Legislature this week is that millionaires would save an average of $109,000 a year.Exactly. When you understand your mission as helping the wealthy, as COTCE everything about this commission makes it appear they have done (the plan also eliminates the corporate income tax), what does that say about what is in store for the rest of us?
Hannah-Beth Jackson pointed this out the other day, in COTCE Parsky Commission: Even More Tax Breaks for the Wealthy,
Contact the Governor, Senate President Pro tem Darrell Steinberg and Speaker Karen Bass and tell them:
NO MORE GIVEAWAYS TO THOSE WHO HAVE THE MOST AT THE EXPENSE OF THE REST OF US. NO TO THE COTCE COMMISSION REPORT THAT CONTINUES TO PUSH ITS RIGHT-WING AGENDA BY GIVING TAX BREAKS TO THOSE WHO HAVE THE MOST AND PUTTING THE BURDEN ON THOSE WHO HAVE THE LEAST.
What we need is a tax system that is fair, places the most responsibility on those who have the most so that all Californians have the opportunity to get the best education possible; be safe in their homes, schools and on the streets; are able to access quality, affordable healthcare and live a life of dignity and respect, regardless of their financial circumstances.
Urge the Legislature to take up a tax reform package that incorporates the ideas and principles recommended to the COTCE Commission (which were thrown aside by Parsky and his wealthy cronies) but which would make the system fairer, promote jobs, protect the environment and reflect a 21st Century economy.
Let's do what she suggested! For information on contacting state elected officials click here.
Click through to Speak Out California
The last election proved that we want Republican policies and Republicans running the government. I guess.
If Democrats present the public with a good health care plan that doesn't cost much the public will thank them and vote for them. If the public hears that Republicans tried to block it, they'll vote against Republicans in the future.
They will not care if it raises the deficit. If they get health care cheap they will love it.
I mean, how much did the public care when Republicans forced through Bush's tax cuts for the rich? That was forced through using "reconciliation," and took the budget from a $250 billion surplus to a $1.25 trillion deficit.
September 20, 2009
The reason we have a 40-hour workweek is that it was mandated by GOD! It cannot be changed.
This is why we cannot solve unemployment by lowering the workweek to 30 hours. We also cannot give people 5 weeks vacation a year, which workers in Europe get.
Do not even talk about health insurance. Are you a communist?
Wow. Go read where Ayn Rand's ideas for the libertarian cult of individualism that forms the values core of the modern right come from: Open Left:: The Cultural Contradictions of Conservatism-Part 1
Always worth reading again: Tentacles of Rage: The Republican propaganda mill, a brief history
This is a 2004 story looking at the history of how the right became so prominent in American politics in recent decades, roughtly from Gioldwater to George W. Bush. They had enormous funding - in the hundreds of millions per year - in those decades. Huge checks went to anyone who would promote right-wing corporate values. For example, mid-1970s:
... the terms of the offer an annual salary of $200,000, to be paid for life even in the event of my resignation or early retirement—spoke to the seriousness of the rightist intent to corner and control the national market in ideas.
In the 1970s $200K a year promised for life wasn't bad at all. And supplemented with speaking fees, book advances, the occasional $10K check for an article denying global warming, etc...
September 19, 2009
Excellent idea: Why We Need a Government Agency to Defend the Pursuit of Happiness,
Our happiness is kept from us by prisonlike schools and meaningless jobs, un(der)employment and untreated physical and psychological ailments, by political leaders who scare the votes out of us and corporate "persons" that buy up all the resources that have been created and defined by our labor.More thinking like this, please!
September 18, 2009
Government is us, democracy, We the People in control of the decision making. Conservatives rail against "big government," which literally means they are against We the People making decisions. And that necessarily means they want big corporations and a wealthy few making the decisions instead because that is the only alternative.
THAT is the choice - either the people through our government, or control by and service to a few big corporations and wealthy people.
“Protectionism” is a very powerful word. In fact, simply evoking the word is capable of ending debate on any subject related to trade. Invoking the magic words, “You can’t do that, it would be protectionist,” settles all arguments.
Why, exactly, is protectionism so bad? Why can't we have fair trade that lifts workers and protects the environment instead of unregulated free trade that exploits workers and the environment? Well, after spending time looking for evidence to support the "protection is bad" arguments what I find boils down to, basically: "Because it is. Shut up."
Here is how it works, in the current discussions of how to fix the problems that led to the financial crisis there are established discussion-enders. Often the 1930s depression is invoked. For example, if you want to bail out big financial corporations and executives (and their bonuses) you say it was a “credit crunch” that caused the depression so we have to prevent another credit crunch. Booga-booga, end of discussion (even though lending is still declining even a year after the huge bailouts...) If you want to maintain low-cost import pressures to force low wages you say "protectionism caused the depression." For other arguments, you can say it was unions that caused the depression, or perhaps government regulations, or perhaps taxes. You get the picture. Booga-booga, end of discussion.
By the same magical mystique, current trade and economic discussion rules prohibit ever, ever suggesting that the depression and hence the current economic problems (because of course they are exactly the same thing, just as Vietnam was exactly like World War II) happened because of:
• extreme concentration of wealth at the top,
• monopolistic and predatory corporate practices,
• wages and compensation that are too low for regular people to participate in the economy,
• insufficient taxation of the wealthy,
• exporting manufacturing capacity,
• unsustainable practices,
• encouraging people and businesses to borrow too much,
• coziness between government and wealthy special interests,
• insufficient regulation of corporations,
• or any argument that might result in people thinking that regular people should participate fairly in the economy or have a degree of control over the government and corporate practices.
So with these rules in mind I would like to address a few of the myths about protectionism that have grown into a “conventional wisdom” that always serves the interests of the wealthiest few.
Myth: Protectionism caused the depression or made it worse. Thom Hartmann addresses this very well, so I’ll leave it to him. In 2004's, Democracy - Not "The Free Market" - Will Save America's Middle Class, Thom wrote,
When conservatives rail in the media of the dangers of "returning to Smoot Hawley, which created the Great Depression," all they do is reveal their ignorance of economics and history. The Smoot-Hawley tariff legislation, which increased taxes on some imported goods by a third to two-thirds to protect American industries, was signed into law on June 17, 1930, well into the Great Depression. In the following two years, international trade dropped from 6 percent of GNP to roughly 2 percent of GNP (between 1930 and 1932), but most of that was the result of the depression going worldwide, not Smoot-Hawley. The main result of Smoot-Hawley was that American businesses now had strong financial incentives to do business with other American companies, rather than bring in products made with cheaper foreign labor: Americans started trading with other Americans.
Smoot-Hawley "protectionist" legislation did not cause the Great Depression, and while it may have had a slight short-term negative effect on the economy ("1.4 percent at most" according to many historians) its long-term effect was to bring American jobs back to America. [emphasis added]
Myth: Protectionists are “against trade,” and the similar argument protectionism is about creating barriers or just keeping out foreign goods. This is a way to short-circuit the actual arguments that trade should be fair to both sides instead of just unregulated and exploitative. Fair traders want trade to be conducted in ways that are fair and respectful of working people on both sides of the transaction. They want people to be paid fairly and their working conditions to be safe and they want the environment to be protected. When trade is conducted this way everyone benefits in the long run.
Myth: Protectionism costs jobs. This scare-tactic is used by opponents of almost every policy that benefits working people. "Raising the minimum wage costs jobs." "Taxing corporations costs jobs." Etc. Fair trade policies would increase the number of jobs because the workers making the goods that we import would be paid enough to buy the things we make here.
Myth: Protectionism ties up manufacturing resources in outdated uses. This is a valid criticism of protectionist trade policies if those policies were enacted as the result of lobbying by interests seeking to protect themselves from competition that is based on innovation and increased efficiencies. This is a key point and I want to repeat it. Fair trade advocates oppose exploitation of workers or the environment. Fair traders do not oppose fair competition, and it is important that trade regulations reflect this.
There is no question, as I pointed out earlier this week in Myths of Protectionism: Stories You Are Likely to Hear in the Wake of the China Tire Trade Tariff Case that protectionism can be misused by wealthy interests to feather their own bed in ways that harm the rest of us such as by companies that protect their franchise from fair competition. I wrote,
As with all rules they can be manipulated by the currently-powerful. This was done to keep some prices unreasonably high, encourage monopolistic practices, reduce access to localized or regionalized specialties ... So after we built up a manufacturing base the time came to start selling to others. This necessitated back-scratch trade agreements: you scratch my back by lowering your tariffs, we’ll scratch yours by lowering ours. Etc. And each country's markets expand - as does the competition.
We always have to protect against wealthy and powerful interests seizing the government's decision-making processes to further their own interests. That is just human nature. It is not an argument against the idea of having government and law, it is the reason it is necessary for us to be eternally vigilant of powerful interests and have systems and procedures in place to protect the rest of us. As with anything trade can be beneficial or harmful depending on how it is managed.
Fair traders want trade managed in ways that lift people and the environment up, increasing our standard of living and protecting the environment. Yes, we want to protect our workers and our manufacturing capacity but this is the key to prosperity and economic power. Wealthy interests are using trade as a way to pressure us to force lower wages, loss of benefits and removal of restrictions on polluting the environment.
September 17, 2009
If you think the economic crisis has affected the super-rich ... This Ginza Tanaka’s Purse sells for $1.63 million.
September 16, 2009
Take a look at Fight Clean Energy Smears!.
Who's behind the smears? What are the facts of the particular smears?
What is the "cost" of ordering 30 million uninsured to buy health insurance? Let's say that no one else will have to pay anything, only the uninsured. Let's say that they get off lucky at $250 a month average. That comes to $3000 a year times 30 million is $90 billion a year, is $900 billion over ten years.
That "cost" is not in any of the figures, it is shifted from the government as a huge uncounted tax that goes straight to insurance companies. It's also money people won't be spending elsewhere and is not redistributed to useful functions which real taxes are.
It's also 30 million people who will never, ever vote for a democrat again.
September 15, 2009
A big problem with the new health care plans is "affordability." The government is going to "mandate" that we buy a shitty product from the big insurance companies.
So how will people pay for the health care they are ordered by the government to buy? The current idea is to "subsidize" part of the bill for people making up to some multiple of the poverty level. This turns it into "welfare" instead of government-for-all, especially when the word "poverty" is applied. Why do people who make less than a certain amount have some right to health care that the rest of us do not? This is a sure-fire formula for resentment.
Also the proposed welfare subsidies are way too low. Even with the subsidies you will still have to pay huge amounts, and if your income is $1 more than that you have to pay a huge, huge amount.
This is a disaster in the making.
Drudge Report has a huge headline:
WHITE STUDENT BEATEN ON SCHOOL BUS; CROWD CHEERS
This was three high school kids fighting in a little town in Illinois and "Students intervened to help the victim both times." But now it is a national racial issue.
I really don't want to go see what the right-wing blogs are doing with this. Or FOX News. Or Limbaugh.
I wonder if President Obama will apologize.
September 14, 2009
Watching a discussion the polarization in our politics on PBS today the "villagers" (DC beltway insiders and media) were saying how people said bad, terrible things about George Bush, and there were demonstrations, etc., and this shows how the anti-Obama stuff you see now is really just the same thing from "the other side."
Here is the difference. People rallied behind Bush as our President after the 9/11 attacks. The Republicans cynically used that to force a right-wing corporate agenda on the country. And then they lied and manipulated the country into a war, for reasons that have not yet been fully explored.
They told the public that Iraq was responsible for 9/11 and was preparing to attack us with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Do you remember the scares about smallpox?
But there were no "weapons of mass destruction" and they knew there weren't. Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, and they knew that.
They tortured people. They wiretapped US citizens -- all US citizens. They enabled corporate corruption. They massively concentrated wealth at the top. They destroyed the country's budget. They destroyed the economy.
It is a fact: Bush lied and people died. People became angry at Bush because of the things he did.
Contrast all of that with the claims that Obama is going to bring old people before "death panels" that will decide whether they are allowed to live or die! A poll released today shows that 41% of the public has been convinced that this is true.
Why do so many people confuse capitalism and markets? Capitalism is the system where a few people control the resources, etc., and the rest have to pay those people to use them. That's it, Period.
Markets are just systems where people trade things.
Myths of Protectionism: Stories You Are Likely to Hear in the Wake of the China Tire Trade Tariff Case
President Obama has decided to enforce our trade laws and imposed a 3-year tariff on Chinese tires. I suspect the country is about to witness a corporate hissy fit that will surely rival any righteous teabagger’s demands to see the President’s birth certificate.
Here is what is going on: when the US endorsed China entering the World Trade Organization the agreement was that if any of our industries were significantly disrupted, we could call “time out” and give those industries 3 years to adjust. In case after case President Bush refused to enforce this agreement as China took over one industry after another. Since we then had to buy what we used to make, our balance of trade deteriorated and we now owe China vast sums.
In this case the U.S. International Trade Commission found that America’s tire industry was, to say the least, disrupted by a surge of imports of cheap tires. As with so many industries, cheap Chinese imports quickly dominated the market, American factories closed, American workers were laid off, American communities were devastated and instead of having to pay wages and maintain factories, American CEOs and Wall Street executives pocketed more and more short-term profits at the long-term expense of their own companies and our country's economy.
So this time President Obama is enforcing the agreement and applying tariffs. In fact he is applying a lower tariff than the 55% that was recommended, but the tariff of 35% is still substantial and may save jobs, preserve some manufacturing capacity, and hold the trade deficit down just a bit.
The corporate hissy fit is beginning right on schedule. The word being shouted loudest is “protectionism” and there are threats that this will lead to a trade war.
The headline at the Drudge Report screams: “CLASH OF THE TIRES LEADS TO TRADE WAR,” linking to a Financial Times story that doesn’t actually say anything about a “trade war.” In the story China’s minister of commerce Chen Deming says, “This is a grave act of trade protectionism,” and Eswar Prasad, professor of trade economics at Cornell University, calls the enforcement of the agreement “protectionist measures” while at the same time saying the tariffs are not “substantive restraints on trade.”
The Washington Post, rather than lead with the pro-American viewpoint, chose to lead with China's, “China blasts US tire duties as protectionist blow.” Many other corporate-dominated media outlets followed in a similar vein, arguing how this is a bad decision. Wall Street Journal, “A Protectionist Wave” and "Tariff on Tires to Cost Consumers". Others, like Business Week, just reported the news: “In China Tires Case, Obama Strikes Middle Ground.” (Forbes, to its credit, led with a neutral pun, “China and US: Tire-d of Fighting.”)
So what is “protectionism” and why is it supposed to be wrong for a government to protect a country’s manufacturing interests? Isn’t America borrowing so much money from other countries because we don’t manufacture enough goods here anymore to sell and thereby pay for the things we buy?
In the past a major portion of America’s tax revenue came from collecting tariffs on imported goods. This helped fund development of our competitive infrastructure while maintaining internal markets that encouraged development of industry to make goods here both for use in the country and for export. This led to manufacturing jobs. Every country that has built up a manufacturing base has done so by restricting competitive imports.
But there were problems with this “mercantalistic” approach. As with all rules they can be manipulated by the currently-powerful. This was done to keep some prices unreasonably high, encourage monopolistic practices, reduce access to localized or regionalized specialties and discourage others from importing our domestically-made goods. So after we built up a manufacturing base the time came to start selling to others. This necessitated back-scratch trade agreements: you scratch my back by lowering your tariffs, we’ll scratch yours by lowering ours. Etc. And each country's markets expand - as does the competition.
Unfair competition led to the idea of protecting our standard of living. Unfair labor costs, kept low by use of child or prison labor, exploitive wages in non-democratic countries, even use of forced labor or slaves undercuts our own companies’ ability to compete. Failing to provide worker safety protections, or allowing pollution also provide trade advantages to offshore competitors. So to protect ourselves we imposed tariffs that raised the store price on those goods to prevent them from undermining our own standard of living and safety and pollution standards. We protected our national interest.
The idea of these "protection" policies is to encourage these competitors to pay better wages, improve worker safety and/or stop polluting. This way their own economy and environment could improve and their workers would be able to buy the things that we make. Used this way, the policy of protectionism improves living standards for workers everywhere, while growing our economy and improving our standard of living in the process.
The idea of “free trade” theorizes that without “government” involvement these disadvantages will disappear and prices will eventually reflect supply and demand instead of tariffs and regulations. Of course, this ignores that government as constituted in democracies is a banding together of the citizens for mutual protection, empowerment and benefit. The result of "free trade' is a downward spiral of wages, benefits, worker protection and environmental standards as countries race to the bottom in competition.
Expansion of trade is beneficial to all parties if done fairly. Of course, “fairly” is a difficult state to attain when powerful interests compete for dominance in rule-making. In this case we have the competing interests of American workers and manufacturers pitted against Chinese manufacturers. There are also the powerful interests of distributors and retailers who make a percentage off a sale, whatever the source of the goods, and Wall Streeters who buy up companies and demand short-term profits, and profit from debt.
This is where the opposition comes from. Certain powerful interests are doing just fine without any of this goody-goody do-gooder stuff, thank you, and they want things kept that way. So they will fight against changed in the status quo, no matter how necessary or beneficial to the rest of us. We see this so clearly in the health care reform fight and soon we will be hearing some outrageous lie on the order of "death panels" and "government takeover" to try to scare people away from fighting for their own jobs, wages and benefits by asking for reasonable trade and manufacturing policies.
Their primary scare word in use today is "protectionism."
Part II will examine some of the specific myths surrounding the mystical and powerful word “protectionism.”
September 12, 2009
If you want low wages you say "protectionism caused the depression."
If you want to bail out banks it was a credit crunch that caused the depression.
A recent analysis of the 2007 financial markets of 48 countries has revealed that the world's finances are in the hands of just a few mutual funds, banks, and corporations. This is the first clear picture of the global concentration of financial power, and point out the worldwide financial system's vulnerability as it stood on the brink of the current economic crisis.Here is the report itself.
September 11, 2009
Dave Johnson, Speak Out California
The Commission on the 21st Century Economy, known as the "Parsky Commission" and COTCE is supposed to be figuring out how to reform the state's tax structure. Back when the commission was announced Brian at Calitics wrote that he was hopeful that the Republican domination of the commission would lead to some solutions that were both sensible and that Republicans could vote for. In Gerald Parsky, Bush acolyte, to head tax commission he wrote,
For some background, Parsky is the former chair of George W. Bush's California campaigns in 2000 and 2004.
[. . .] As a Republican with a strong background supporting Bush and McCain, Parsky will presumably have a better shot at convincing some of the Republican legislators of the importance of some of these reforms. He's raised millions of dollars for Republican candidates, so if money counts, and it does, he should have the ear of the GOP legislators. In many ways we need a prominent Republican voice on this commission, the Republicans need cover from a big-time money guy who has a track record on the GOP private sector trickle-down mumbo jumbo.
But no, instead the commission has floated one proposal after another designed to shift taxes from the wealthy and corporations to the rest of us. There is the flat tax, for example, which lowers taxes at the top and pays for it by raising taxes on the rest of us. There is the idea to get rid of taxes on corporations. Etc., Etc. The sensible idea of a pollution tax has been sidelined.
In Trying to Hide More Tax Breaks for the Wealthy, Hannah-Beth Jackson writes,
In that spirit, what is the first thing Parsky recommends? As the first order of business, he proposes a flat tax which will blow another $14 Billion hole in the state's already reeling general fund. But given his decision that one of the criteria of this commission is "revenue neutrality," ... somebody or something must pick up the slack. So in the tradition of the Bush tax cuts, where virtually all the benefits went to the wealthiest 1% of
Americans, Mr. Parsky would have the rest of us paying more.
Then, yesterday, out of the blue, a different idea was introduced: expand offshore oil drilling. This idea came from (surprise of surprises) Michael Boskin, who is on the Board of Exxon!
Calbuzz has been following this. From Slimy Parsky Oil Play and a Yorba Linda Lecher
The recommendation came as a shock, not only because the offshore issue was only casually discussed during the commission's months of hearings, but also because it deepened the atmosphere of secrecy and sleight-of-hand in which Parsky assembled the agenda for the panel's
final, crucial meeting. ...
The proposal for more offshore drilling seems to have worked its way onto the commission's plate at least in part at the request of conservative Hoover Institution economist Michael Boskin, who also sits on the board of Exxon Mobil.
So here we go again. Another last-minute, shock-doctrine attack, this time on the environment, this time enriching oil companies. note that the idea does not include asking the oil companies topay for the oil they take from us and sell back to us. Calbuzz,
The recommendation, sure to draw the ire of environmentalists and coastal legislators, pointedly does not suggest imposing a new severance tax on oil companies. California is the only oil-producing state that does not have such a tax, which is being pushed in the legislature by several members of the Assembly, including Assemblymen Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, and Alberto Torrico, D-Fremont.
BTW: There's no frigging way the agenda and agenda packet was ready early enough for the public to have legal notice. Not that Parsky seems to give a rat's butt.
Brian at Calitics in yesterday's Parsky adds Oil Drilling to His Recommendation, writes,
How oil drilling got into a so-called tax commission shouldn't be a
surprise when there was a faux transparency. The website laid out a slew of emails and written conversations, but apparently Parsky and his cronies were working on something else entirely.
This is not the process that gets to determine whether we will set up oil rigs off of the entirety of our coast line. That is an entirely seperate conversation, and frankly Mr. Parsky, I don't care one iota what you think about that. Not that I really much cared about what you thought about our revenue system either at this point, but this was not your assigned task and frankly none of your business.
It's nice to see that ExxonMobil has its dirty hooves in just about political conversation where it can possibly make a buck. But if ever anybody thought that the Parsky Plan had any credibility as any sort of unbiased scheme, well, that can just about be written off right about now.
Even though this is health care week we need people to make some noise about this. Hannah-Beth writes,
The way Mr. Parsky is running the show, his welfare for the wealthy and questionable corporate giveaways are all he wants to consider. He thinks he is running out the clock with his wealthy cronies way ahead, but we can let him know that feathering the beds of the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and the neediest of us is so not going to happen.
To help let them know this isn't where we want the state to go, please send your comments to the public comment section of the COTCE website at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask that your comments be posted.
Tell them NO to reducing the personal income tax on the wealthy and NO to their hide-the-ball efforts to push through a proposal without the necessary public debate. These issues are too important to the future of our state to be handled so secretively and so obviously in favor of the rich at the expense of the rest of the people of California.
Also, send a quick email to our legislative leaders Darryl Steinberg at Senator.Steinberg@senate.ca.gov and Karen Bass at email@example.com will help put pressure on the Commission to back off these outrageous approaches to our state's difficult tax situation and force greater transparency in what they're doing.
Click through to Speak Out California
Sara Robinson ended up in the emergency room Wednesday evening!
Sure, you SAY that, but what did it COST you?
I had my first gallbladder attack. Not life-threatening, just the worst pain I can remember being in since the last time I was in labor. It started up just before dinner Tuesday night. At 2 am Wednesday, still awake and in worsening pain, I found my keys and shoes, stumbled down to the car (leaving the rest of the family sleeping), and drove the 25 blocks down to the hospital.
... First, the waiting time between walking in the door and being admitted was literally about 45 seconds. American conservatives have filled people's heads with images of Canadians packed into old, worn-out, badly-lit, overcrowded emergency rooms bustling and echoing with writhing, moaning souls enduring waits that can stretch to days. Sorry to blow the fantasy, but last night, I walked into a newly-remodeled, gently-lit, serenely quiet lobby that I had completely to myself.
No bills. No worrying about how to pay for the surgery, either -- that will be covered, too.
Go read the rest.
September 10, 2009
There was a surge in imports because of dealers buying for the "Cash-for-Clunkers" program, and there were "only" 550,000 new jobless claims.
Also "good news" -- except that the reason was people have been unemployed so long that their benefits are running out:
The U.S. trade deficit in July hit the highest level in six months as a record rise in imports outpaced a third straight increase in foreign demand for American products...
A rebound in the American labor market has yet to take hold, but first-time claims for jobless benefits did fall more than expected last week.
Companies are laying off fewer workers as the U.S. economy shows consistent signs that the recession is over.
For perspective, in the 2000-2001 recession the number of new jobless never got as high as 500,000 in any single week.
The number of people continuing to receive benefits fell by 159,000 to nearly 6.1 million, the lowest level since early April.
September 9, 2009
The Republicans tried to bring their summer town hall disruption strategy into the President's speech.
During President Obama's speech the Republicans were rude, heckled him, and at one point, when the President talked about the lie that undocumented immigrants one even disrupted the speech, shouting "Liar!"
The Republicans have become the party of Crazy.
It's up on the we now, not very long. Go read: The Obama Plan: Stability & Security for all Americans | The White House
I'm going on the Mike Malloy radio show shortly to talk about health care, the meaning of government and progressive values generally.
I think Obama hit it out of the park, and we will get a health care bill with a solid public option.
"We did not come to fear the future we came here to shape it (republicans all sit on hands and frown)
THAT is our character"
President Obama faces a tough decision soon that will signal how his administration will tackle the problem of balancing our trade policies. This is the upcoming "Section 421 Tire Case" decision. Summary: American has been importing more and more tires from China while closing tire plants here. The surge in imports violates an agreement known as "Section 421" that we made with China when they entered the World Trade Organization. The US International Trade Commission has ruled that China is violating Section 421 and recommended tariffs on tire imports. Obama has until September 17 to choose to implement this remedy, ignore it or do something in between. (Click through to a post with a number of links to background information on this decisions.)
When these trade issues came up in the past President Bush always decided against American manufacturers, allowing China and others to capture one industry after another, forcing more and more American factories to close and building up the huge trade deficit that forces us to borrow ... from China. The resulting trade deficit meant that we had to borrow more and more money to buy things that we used to just make for ourselves.
And this meant fewer and fewer well-paying jobs for our citizens. This also meant that the American consumer, the “engine” of the world economy, finally ran out of shopping power. The economic collapse shows that trade policies that make the American people poorer just make everyone else poorer, too.
So this case is part of a bigger picture. The real issue goes beyond trade. The real issue is getting America's economy back in balance for the long term with real jobs that are not dependent on financial or housing or stock market bubbles. The issue is the larger economic paradigm, not the resulting slowdown. To get there America needs a real industrial policy that takes a national view of the importance of manufacturing and supports it through: investment, education, R&D, etc. as well as trade policy.
One trade ruling doesn't do that, but it will signal whether President Obama is ready to take on a tough fight and tackle this problem. The appointment of Ron Bloom as Senior Counselor for Manufacturing Policy is a solid beginning in the right direction. According to the White House Bloom will assist with “the President’s agenda to revitalize the manufacturing sector.” Just having an agenda to revitalize the manufacturing sector is an important and and promising step!
Of course, at the same time, this is a tough challenge. Obama's predecessor dug the country into a deep hole. Thanks to the "free trade" policies that got us where we are today, China is our banker and it is very difficult to go against your banker's wishes. However, our trade partners would do well to recognize that the American consumer is the engine of economic growth, and well-paying jobs are the engine of that consumption. Trade policies based on raising living standards on both sides of the border solves this problem.
Bob Borosage writes today, in Obama's Next Speech: Telling Our Banker We Want Out of Debt,
Next week, the president will address the convention of the labor federation, the AFLCIO ... That same week, he must decide what to do about the ruling of the International Trade Commission recommending that he slap tariffs of up to 55% on rubber tires being dumped in the U.S. market by the Chinese.
[. . .] We can't recover the old economy -- and shouldn't want to. … We were shipping jobs, not goods abroad, losing three million manufacturing jobs under Bush before the crash while the economy was growing. Not surprisingly, wages stagnated, family incomes lost ground, debts soared. And that was in the good times.
[. . .] [China] lends us the money to buy the goods that American companies make with jobs and technology they sent there. It does so because it pursues what has been a remarkably successful mercantilist policy designed to make it the dominant global center of manufacturing, a 21st century version of what the U.S. did in the late 1800s and early part of the 20th century.
. . . China has to be weaned of its export addiction, just as America has to revive its ability to make things in America. This is best done cooperatively, with a grand bargain revaluing the Chinese currency, while both nations join others in creating a more balanced global economy. But at the end of the day, it won't happen unless the U.S. is ready to stand up and act to protect its interests.
Some predict Obama will take the middle ground. From The Hill today,
“The deadline for his decision comes on the eve of the G-20 heads-of-state meeting in the Steel City on Sept. 24-25. G-20 leaders have pledged to avoid protectionism, and just last week Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner joined other finance ministers in the group to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to fight all forms of protectionism.
[. . .] The best option for Obama might be to find middle ground. He can go along with the ITC’s recommendation, and he may also reject it completely. He can also impose tariffs somewhat smaller that those proposed by the commission, which might make both sides unhappy but allow the president to say he has found a middle ground.”
From U.S. Steel Pushes Obama to Choose Workers Over Trade,
“The one thing that is on the line here is the president’s credibility,” said Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a coalition of steel companies such as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based U.S. Steel and the steelworkers union. “If they want to pursue an activist trade agenda, they need to pursue an active enforcement agenda, and this is the first thing on their plate.”
On April 14, 2008, candidate Obama spoke to the United Steelworkers in Pittsburgh, a week before the contested Democratic primary in Pennsylvania.
“I have consistently supported in the Senate going after China,” Obama said then, after embracing union President Leo Gerard. “Here’s the thing that people don’t understand: China needs our market. Their economy is dependent on exports to the United States. We have bargaining power.”
Keep an eye on this. It is not just about tire imports, it will signal the direction that the Obama administration will take.
September 8, 2009
Why am I prevented by law from just being allowed to buy into Medicare for some formula of cost plus?
Think about it. This would not cost the government anything. In fact, by adding maybe 10% they would come out ahead. In fact, it would help the system a great deal because anyone who buys in is younger than the people in the system now, so generally would be less costly.
It would add no bureaucracy. The system is already set up to handle millions of people. All of the intake procedures are there.
Why am I prevented by law from just buying into Medicare? What is the logic of that? Except to keep a "market" alive -- people for insurance companies to feed off of.
OPEN UP MEDICARE!
Compare and contrast Glenn Beck:
"Not just a communist, a radical communist. Like Van Jones" heh
Beck says Obama is putting WHAT in our drinking water?
"Loss of essence"
The REALLY important political event this week is not President Obama's health care speech. This week the Supreme Court begins the procedure that will lead to a 5-4 vote (same as when they put Bush in office) to remove restrictions on the use of corporate money in politics.
The only reason the Supreme Court is considering this case is in order to overturn these restrictions. It will be a 5-4 vote. They would not be considering it at all if this were not what the 5-vote majority intends.
The removal of restrictions on corporate money in our politics will effectively mean the end of what is left of American democracy. It will finalize that America is a one-dollar-one-vote wealthocracy instead of a one-person-one-vote democracy.
"A country’s economic power comes from manufacturing. But while other countries have industrial policies, America has a de-inustrialization policy. We have handed our country’s manufacturing capacity over to other countries, and as a result we have to borrow more and more to be able to buy the things that we used to make. How did this come to be? Who would be against American manufacturing?"
In Who Would Be Against American Manufacturing? I wrote about,
“representatives of foreign interests lobbying in the US for trade policies that benefit companies in other countries at the expense of America’s factories, workers, companies, communities and economic power. It is to be expected that a country will work to increase manufacturing within its borders – even if we don’t – and these firms helping the efforts of other countries are required to register with the Department of Justice as “foreign agents.” I traced an anonymous comment left at my own blog back to one of these ...”
Of course other countries have an interest in taking the business away from us to have for themselves.
In Part II, Who Opposes American Manufacturing? II I wrote about Cato Institute, a conservative “ideological” think tank that opposes manufacturing in America. But they receive funding from interests outside of America – the very interests who do the very kind of fighting for trade policies that the Cato Institute opposes for us.
"WHY would Cato Institute advocate this? Is it just weird libertarian cult ideology? Perhaps a look at who is paying for this advocacy will provide a clue. While mostly funded by individuals, Cato’s funders include many of the usual right-wing funding suspects: Koch, Scaife, tobacco companies, Exxon and other oil companies, Wall Street… But one sponsor jumped out at me: the Korea International Trade Association. (Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volkswagon are sponsors as well.) Dots connected: Cato is receiving funding from the Korea International Trade Association, and then turning around and advocating that American hand over its manufacturing capacity to other countries!
So I checked, and did not find that Cato Institute registered as a “Registered Foreign Agent.” Why not?"
Beyond explicitly foreign interests and possible foreign-interest-funded lobbying, are there other reasons that Americans would advocate that we just hand over our manufacturing capacity and instead just borrow to get by? There are domestic interests that benefit from America giving up our manufacturing capacity because there are domestic interests that benefit when the rest of us borrow.
Part III – Americans Opposing American Manufacturing
Our beloved-and-bailed-out financial sector has done very well for itself in the decades since we embarked on the great “free market” and “free trade” experiment. Wall Street has greatly increased its share of our economy. While finance expanded the manufacturing sector shrank until just before the crash the financial sector had risen to 40% of all corporate profits.
Kevin Philips wrote in 2008’s post, The Destructive Rise of Big Finance,
Over the last five years, financial services has reached a swollen 20-21% of U.S. GDP -- the largest sector of the private economy.
Manufacturing led financial services by 2:1 back in the 1970s, but by 2006 beaten goods production had shrunk to just 12% of GDP.
As Wall Street doubled, manufacturing declined.
Profits incentivize corporate behavior and these giant Wall Street corporations profit from our ever-increasing levels of debt. They profit from the transactions that occur when companies move their operations out of the United States. They profit from convincing communities to privatize infrastructure. They profits when companies externalize costs onto the larger community. They profit from the transaction involved when the country borrows to fund our government and trade deficits.
Wall Street profits from debt. So they have an incentive to encourage debt. Who do you think it was that convinced Americans it is normal and even preferable to carry debt and to use credit cards? Marketing works, and the following is based on marketing we have all been exposed to:
- Making minimum payments on credit card debt? $250 a month.
- Making car payments for five or six years? $400 a month.
- Being in debt for the rest of your life, forever making interest payments and being forced to work at corporate jobs? Priceless!
During Greenspan's 1987-2005 tenure, the sum of public and private debt in the United States quadrupled from just over $10 trillion to $43 trillion. Finance became the industry that was not allowed to fail but was permitted to enlarge and metastasize its behavior almost at will.
In the movie Wall Street, based on actual events and people in the news at the time, the greedy corporate raider Gordon Gecko buys companies, chops them up, steals the workers’ pensions, destroys people’s lives and their communities, etc. and pockets the profits. Gecko claims that because he can profit from doing these things, “the market” wants it done, demands it in fact, and therefore he plays an important economic role of making things more “efficient.”
To Gordon Gecko and market fundamentalists the fact that they can profit from something is proof that it should be done. “The Market” is for them a God that takes responsibility and ethics and morality and humanity out of their hands. “The Market - God - says it must be this way and who are you to question?” (Convenient for them.)
Of course, a large part of why Gordon Gecko could pocket such a profit so fast was because un President Reagan the country had just changed the tax laws. Before Reagan there was a very high top tax rate that prevented people from amassing a vast fortune in a short time (usually at the expense of the rest of us). This tax policy encouraged long-term thinking and planning instead of short-term greed, and encouraged business to maintain interdependency with the larger community and its interests. If it takes ten or twenty years to amass a huge fortune you and your business rely on other businesses and on the community’s infrastructure to be maintained and modernized so it will support your business activities. And you want a thriving, educated community surrounding you
But in a quick-buck scenario you are incentivized to feed off of rather than rely on the greater community. If you can defer infrastructure maintenance and pocket the savings then that is what you will demand. If you can chop up the supply chain and pock the proceeds that is what you will demand. If you can profit from exploiting and abusing skilled workers who would otherwise be needed in coming years, that is what you will demand. and if the community around you deteriorates it doesn't matter because you'll be cashing in big soon, and flying away in your private jet to your tax-haven privatized island. It is no coincidence that pensions started being stolen, companies started outsourcing, communities started privatizing, etc. right after top tax rates and regulations were cut.
Wall Street has an interest in helping dismantle manufacturing in America. (pun intended)
September 7, 2009
What would be different if the government had not bailed out the big Wall Street banks starting a year ago?
Serious question, what specifically would have happened differently?
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
In April we posted A Warning About The Tea Parties here. The post warned:
They are not what they claim to be. They are not "spontaneous" or "grassroots." They are another corporate-funded campaign to trick people into supporting more cut taxes for the rich.
. . . The events have been widely promoted by corporate-funded conservative PR professionals who specialize in "astroturf." This is a term for the use of money to create an appearance of widespread "grassroots" support. Currently the corporate-funded conservative lobbying groups Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity, are organizing the events and conservative media including talk radio and FOX News are widely promoting them. Support appears to be coming from Koch Industries, the largest privately-owned company in the country.
Many blogs and organizations have conducted research into these "tea party" groups, and warned that this corporate-built group was put together by lobbyists, for lobbyists, to further the goals of their corporate clients. The names of the lobbyist groups organizing these events were posted along with their own documents proving they were behind the groups. Their strategies were exposed. The entire operation was laid out in advance.
Then we watched the operation unfold. Over the summer summer the groups were sent to Congressional town hall meetings that discussed health care reform. They were given specific instructions to disrupt the meetings, while presenting an appearance of being ordinary citizens who are upset and against the health care reform. Copies of these instructions were posted on the web. The instructions include:
- Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: "Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington."
- Be Disruptive Early And Often: "You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep's presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep's statements early."
- Try To "Rattle Him," Not Have An Intelligent Debate: "The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions."
These are the actual instructions given to these groups. They were instructed to disrupt the town hall meetings, and not let others speak. And this is what they did, across the country. The entire time, blogs and organizations tracked this, showed how the lobbyist organizations were organizing it, showed where their online calendars were sending people to the different meetings, posted photographs of the signs they carried, that were printed by the lobbyist organizations, and showed newsletters printed by these lobbyist organizations taking credit for their work.
Now the summer is over, and we are witnessing phase two of the strategy. The lobbyists and Republican members of Congress are going on news programs and claiming that "the public" opposes the health care reforms, because of the disruptions and occurred at town hall meetings! This is utterly transparent to anyone who follows the news. It was set in stone that they would say this now, even before the first town hall meetings began, because this was the strategy all along. The script was written before the first town hall meeting: make it look like people are upset at the health care reform, then try to kill health care reform based on these manufactured corporate astroturf performances.
Legislators: do not fall for it.
The oil and coal corporations have already started organizing these groups to show up and disrupt meetings on climate-change legislation, again creating a false appearance of public opposition to efforts to fight global warming. Bloggers and organizations are writing about this now.
A leaked memo sent by an oil industry group reveals a plan to create astroturf rallies at which industry employees posing as "citizens" will urge Congress to oppose climate change legislation.
Do not be fooled when it happens again. And if you allow this lobbyist strategy to succeed this will become "the new normal" for politics in this country. If the corporations get away with organizing people to disrupt meetings and intimidate legislators of course they will continue to
Click through to Speak Out California
September 6, 2009
Please go read Jane Hamsher's Van Jones: A Moment of Truth For Liberal Institutions in the Veal Pen. She is asking the liberal organizations to stand up for Van Jones. Read the whole post, this is a key post at a key moment.
Glenn Beck calls someone a communist and they have to resign? Any one of us can be thrown under the bus at any moment if we don't fight this.
September 5, 2009
Watch this video: "We need a fighter."
I strongly suspect that last week's news on Obama backing off the public option led to a perception that Obama is weak, and backs down when intimidated, and was part of the calculation that led to this: West Bank settlement growth looks likely and this: North Korea: Uranium Program Near Completion
If you back off from bullies they don't just go away. Apparently Obama needs to learn this, and fast.
Six of [California's] largest insurers rejected 45.7 million claims for medical care, or 22% of all claims, from 2002 to June 30, 2009, according to the California Nurses Assn.'s analysis of data submitted to regulators by the companies.Source: HMO claims-rejection rates trigger state investigation, LA Times, September 4th, 2009.
The rejection rates ranged from a high of 39.6% for PacifiCare to 6.5% for Aetna for the first half of 2009. Cigna denied 33%, and Health Net 30%. Anthem Blue Cross, the state's largest for-profit health plan, and Kaiser, the state's largest nonprofit plan, each rejected 28% of claims."
The saying, "if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention", has never been truer. This is the system that the Democrats in Congress, and Obama, want to force us to participate in. One in which we'll be forced to pay $13,500 a year to private sector health insurance companies, plus deductibles, co-pays, and uninsured ancillaries, for the right to be randomly screwed over and financially devastated (if we live through the process) when we place a claim for coverage.
We're being played, folks - the debate over inclusion of a "public option" is a classic diversionary maneuver by the powers that be: get all of us radicals and progressives and liberals worked into a lather over defending and demanding that they follow through on some bullshit half-assed compromise which they've arbitrarily defined as being within the realm of political feasibility, and keep us off the street and from demanding what we really want, and NEED - Canadian style SINGLE PAYER healthcare.
Instead, we're sitting here desperately hoping the god damn yellow bellied Congressional Democrats will squeak some kind of lame ass, watered-down "public option" into what my local Congresscritter Sam Farr is now deliberately calling "health insurance reform" (because it doesn't touch anything else about the system other than how we pay for our health care). This despite the fact that a vast majority of physicians support universal health care, and at least 40% of the population at large does so as well (despite constant demonization by entities with a vested interest in the status quo).
Here's what they're talking about forcing everyone to pay for - this is the plan that Senator Roy Wyden, D-Oregon, is covered by:
Plan: Blue Cross and Blue Shield standard family plan Cost: $1,120.47 a month (or $13,445.64 a year)
Wyden's share: $356.59 a month (up $42.12 from 2008)
Annual deductible: $300 per member or $600 per family
Routine physical: $20 for doctor, screening tests fully covered*
Well-baby care for the twins: fully covered*
*with preferred providers
Source: Just how good a health plan does Congress have?, The Oregonian, August 3rd, 2009.
One way or another, the person covered pays for the insurance -- as anyone knows who has watched their local public employee unions accept a three year contract with no wage or salary increases, and increased employee contribution levels, just to keep their healthcare coverage intact. As a self-employed individual, I don't even have the fig leaf of pretending that my employer is paying a portion of this. ... and you there's no doubt that the "public option" will be priced right in the same range (otherwise it would be "anti-competitive").
Where the heck am I (or most other self-employed Americans) going to come up with over $1k a month to pay for crappy insurance?!? Plus deductibles and co-pays?!? My wife and I booked $35,000 in taxable income last year, after expenses, and we still owe roughly $5,000 in taxes. ... and that was when I was steadily employed for much of the year, billing out at least 25-30 hours a week. I'm supposed to drop almost half of my net income on health insurance?!? Pay almost as much for health insurance as I do on rent for my apartment?!? Are the folks in D.C. insane?
Seriously, this is what we're fighting for? The right to be forced to cough up $13,500 a year for health "insurance" to a private company (in most cases) whose sole goal is to turn as large a profit as it can by denying us access to healthcare (as the quote at the beginning of this posting strongly suggests is the case, and as the video except from Sicko that Dave posted earlier explictly states is the case)?!?
... and don't go ahead and think that giving everyone access to Congress' "Cadillac" health insurance plan will save the day. It's basically the same crappy insurance that everyone else has to put up with, with the proviso that they have to take all comers, and there are no lifetime limitations on coverage.
What does that actually get you? Let's take my Dad, who had essentially the same plan as Senator Wyden, via the state of California: last fall, he got sick with some mysterious illness, and wound up in the ICU - where he was taken care of beautifully... twice, as soon as he recovered enough to be let out of the ICU, he then wound up being dumped almost straight into an understaffed nursing home facility - the first time, he was left unsupervised for a long enough period to fall down on his way to the bathroom, aspirate (inhale vomit into his lungs) and have a heart attack... the second time, he was sent back to ICU less than a week after being released, and the nurse on duty immediately diagnosed the pnuemonia he had contracted (which lead to low blood oxygen and his eventual death) as being the product of inadequate "mouth care" (not being able to properly clean his palate after eating meant that unless a nurse did it for him, rotting food fell down his throat and into his lungs). Flat out, I believe that Blue Shield's cost-containment efforts killed him. A "public option" is going to function in the same marketplace, and provide care and treatment coverage that operate similarly.
For a more factual analysis, see what Physicians for a National Health Program has to say about why covering everyone the same way the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan does won't work. (PDF)
It's hard to convey the disdain and disgust I have for how the Democrats (and Obama) have let the debate on healthcare be framed. The white hot level of outrage I feel when I see headlines like the one quoted at the beginning of this article. The tears of rage and sadness I felt as I watched the woman in Sicko talk about how the hospital she worked for let her husband, her best friend, die of cancer because they wouldn't cover him.
This is a life and death issue, but it's not being framed that way. I'm actually in the process of applying for residency in Sweden (my wife is a citizen, so are my kids), for no other reason than I can't see any other way to be sure I'll have access to adequate health care... as soon as I get my national identity registration number (about six months from now), I'll have full and complete access to all healthcare services. Imagine that. Walking into a hospital and getting treated without worrying about how you're going to pay for it. Guess what? Most of the developed world doesn't have to.
I'll put it in the bluntest terms possible: the Democrats in Congress (and Obama) can take their $13,500+ a year "public option" and stick it where the sun don't shine. I want a Canadian style single-payer healthcare system. Anything short of that is unacceptable. Period.
September 4, 2009
The bailouts were done to save the big corporations. The citizens paid taxes, or money was borrowed in our name, and the money went to the big corporations. The big corporations then gave out huge bonuses. Some of the corporations actually gave out the exact amount they received from bailouts as bonuses.
Health care reform is something that is for the citizens. So do we ask big corporations to pay taxes, so citizens can have health insurance? No, instead our government is about to pass a low requiring citizens to cough up tons of money, to give to big insurance corporations. That is "reform."
Here is how it is now: We exist to serve the big corporations. That is the purpose of our lives - to be a "productive" member of society. We go to school to learn the things that best serve the big companies. Then we beg to have a "job" which means giving up our brains and labor so someone else can get rich. Once we get a "job" we are "allowed" to have some time off once in a while, if we are lucky. Some of us are allowed to take time off if we get sick.
All of the benefits of our economy now flow to a top few. Vast proportions of the income and wealth now sit at the top 1%. And vast proportions of that sit at the top .01%
Now watch this, from SICKO:
Send these to family and friends and ask them to do the same.
Go read Deja Vu All Over Again ... Again
Right-wingers are promoting this video. It's funny, you wouldn't think they would want to broadcast the consequences of Bush policies like this, but here we are:
Actually this is page two of the tax cut strategy. Page one was to defund the government. Page two is to then complain about government spending when the government isn't bringing in enough money because the rich aren't paying their share of taxes. But they word it as spending too much on the citizens.
By the way, when do we cut the military budget down to size? We spend WAY more than every other country on the plant COMBINED! Somehow I don't think that is the spending they are talking about.
Dod you ever hear a right-winger complain about spending and debt when Bush was President? No, they just voted for more spending and less taxes, over and over and over. Bush never one vetoed a spending bill.
But NOW it is a problem all of a sudden? The absolute hypocrites. IOKIYAR.
Question: Has Obama returned us to rule of law yet?
Or is politics still the deciding factor in who gets investigated or prosecuted, as was the case under Bush?
Do they just follow the law and let the chips fall where they may?
September 3, 2009
"Selfish men have always tried to skim the cream from our natural resources to satisfy their own greed. And they have always sought to control the Government in order to accomplish this. Their instrument in this effort has always been the Republican Party."
Here is Harry Truman campaigning in 1948:
This is not a new battle. Selfish men have always tried to skim the cream from our natural resources to satisfy their own greed. And they have always sought to control the Government in order to accomplish this. Their instrument in this effort has always been the Republican Party.
The Republican administrations of our time have done their best to make the West an economic colony of Wall Street. In the 1920's, under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, quick and greedy exploitation was the order of the day. Many parts of the West were withering--withering from the failure to develop its power and irrigation, withering actually from Republican sabotage.
Selfish men had control, and the great resources of the West were wasted with sinful disregard of the people.
. . . That was the situation in 1932 after 12 years of Republican rule.
. . . The long, costly job of rebuilding after the ruinous Republican years was begun with hope and vigor. Conservation of the forests and grazing land, control of soil erosion, propagation of fish and wildlife, and other sound measures were put into effect.
. . . Today, after 4 Democratic administrations, there are some 60 reclamation projects completed or under way in the West. When these projects are finished they will provide water for over 10 million acres, and will produce over 5 million kilowatts of power.
That's the record the Democratic Party has made.
. . . The Republican Party has shown in the Congress of the past 2 years that the leopard does not change his spots. It is still the party of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. It is still the party that gave you the phony Coolidge boom and the Hoover depression.
It is still the party whose money at election time comes from Wall Street. It is still the party which passes bills at the dictation of lobbies, and sacrifices the interests of the people for the profits of big business.
The Democratic Party is the party of the people. We are fighting with all our strength to prevent the gluttons of privilege from swallowing up the country. We are fighting the battle of the West, because it is the battle of all the country. We are fighting the battle of the farmer and the worker and the small businessman, because that is the battle of all the people.
Your Government is now planning the most ambitious irrigation development in all our history. The goal of our program is to bring every possible western acre under irrigation and to develop to the fullest extent the hydroelectric resources of this great region.
Now, I'm going to fight for this program with all I've got. Now, can I count on you?
You have the decision to make.
A vote for the Republicans stops the program.
A vote for the Democrats is a vote for a glorious West with wealth and security for our people.
He talks about how the Republicans want spending cuts, and the Democrats want projects for the people. The Democratic Party was the majority party, and talking like this -- telling it like it is -- kept them the majority party for several more decades.
New weekly unemployment claims "fell" to 570,000.
For reference, in the recession following the stock market bubble and 9/11 weekly claims never got as high as 500,000.
The crazies have a political party, a cable news network, and a loud, activist base. They're mad as hell and they're not going to take their medications anymore.
A country’s economic power comes from manufacturing. But while other countries have industrial policies, America has a de-industrialization policy. We have handed our country’s manufacturing capacity over to other countries, and as a result we have to borrow more and more to be able to buy the things that we used to make. How did this come to be? Who would be against American manufacturing?
The other day, in the first Who Would Be Against American Manufacturing? post I wrote about representatives of foreign interests lobbying in the US for trade policies that benefit companies in other countries at the expense of America’s factories, workers, companies, communities and economic power. It is to be expected that a country will work to increase manufacturing within its borders – even if we don’t – and these firms helping the efforts of other countries are required to register with the Department of Justice as “foreign agents.” I traced an anonymous comment left at my own blog back to one of these, after I wrote about President Obama's upcoming "China tire case" trade decision.
But are all foreign agents registering, as they are supposed to? The other day I came across an interesting example of an organization that is working to convince Americans to hand over our manufacturing capacity to other countries. In my post, National Association Of Manufacturers Blasts … American Manufacturing? I wrote,
“Why is the NAM blasting Meyerson for writing a column promoting American manufacturing? ... They quote Daniel J. Ikenson of the Cato Institute. . . . Cato receives a great deal of financial support from non-manufacturing interests including commodities and securities traders, tobacco companies, communications companies, software companies and oil companies. They also receive support from non-American manufacturing interests, including the Korea International Trade Association.”
Let’s connect the dots. For some reason NAM blasts a writer for supporting American manufacturing, and quotes the Cato Institute for support. The mission statement of the Cato Institute Center for Trade Policy Studies promotes “open markets. They claim that “open markets mean wider choices and lower prices for businesses and consumers.” They advocate that the United States open its markets to anyone, no matter what, even advocating American policies that “are not contingent upon reciprocal policies in other countries.” They say, “Studies by Trade Center scholars have found benefits in the elimination of U.S. trade barriers regardless of what other countries choose to do.”
Got that? They are saying we should allow other countries to cheat and like it, that free trade as a one-way street where we only buy and they only sell is just fine, and basically that we should just give up our manufacturing capacity and let other countries have it without a fight. Just let them take it from us – and by the way anything else is “protectionism” and “politicization of trade.” America should not “dictate marketplace results, or increase bureaucratic interference in the economy as a condition of market access.” The mission statement goes on about how the United States should lead by example and just open our markets, etc… It’s just amazingly anti-American. Go read it.
WHY would Cato Institute advocate this? Is it just weird libertarian cult ideology? Perhaps a look at who is paying for this advocacy will provide a clue. While mostly funded by individuals, Cato’s funders include many of the usual right-wing funding suspects: Koch, Scaife, tobacco companies, Exxon and other oil companies, Wall Street… But one sponsor jumped out at me: the Korea International Trade Association. (Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volkswagon are sponsors as well.) Dots connected: Cato is receiving funding from the Korea International Trade Association, and then turning around and advocating that American hand over its manufacturing capacity to other countries!
So I checked, and did not find that Cato Institute registered as a “Registered Foreign Agent.” Why not?
Also, according to SourceWatch, Cato provides “substantial” funds to several other “like-minded” think tanks. It would be interesting to see how many of those think tanks also advocate that America hand its manufacturing capacity over to other countries, and I am certainly interested in finding out whether Cato possibly serves as a “pass-through” for funds from outside of the United States. Is there “intellectual money-laundering” going on here?
Is funding from non-American sources reaching into our internal trade-policy discussion without disclosure? If so, we need to know about it. Let me be more specific: Is the Justice Department enforcing the Foreign Agent Registration Act, and investigating potential violations? Is there a public-interest group that will investigate potential “intellectual money-laundering”?
More Funny Business
In the previous Who Would Be Against American Manufacturing? post I brought attention to the American Coalition for Free Trade in Tires, which had commissioned a “Rutgers economist” to come up with some rather fascinating numbers claiming that if we don’t turn our tire manufacturing over to China it would cost 12 to 25 jobs for every manufacturing job we lose if we do. Good one! Scary!
While researching the story I came across an interesting article about American government officials leaving and taking lobbying jobs selling out American manufacturers, Chinese Tire Producers Hire Top Former U.S. Government Trade Officials In '421' Dumping Case
It didn't take long for a handful of the Bush administration's top trade officials to start representing foreign business interests. … five recently departed senior trade officials at the Department of Commerce who are representing Chinese tire companies in the "Section 421" case that was recently brought before the International Trade Commission ... have been hired by the "American Coalition for Free Trade in Tires"...
This is serious stuff and they are getting serious money cashing in from the jobs they did for the government, to sell out the country. Go look at who these people are, and who they worked for in the government. Clearly there was a culture of helping the other side for cash during the Bush years. Look at what these people are doing! Perhaps things like this helps explain why President Bush never followed through with remedies each time the ITC found that China was taking over another American industry with low prices.
Next Post: Who Else is Against American Manufacturing?
So in the previous post I found actual foreign agents working to undermine American manufacturing capacity. In this post I looked at some American groups who are working very closely, perhaps too closely, with foreign interests while they work to undermine American manufacturing capacity. In the next post I will look at how some purely American interests profit from undermining American manufacturing capacity.
Wealth comes from making things. Economic power comes from manufacturing. Every other country knows this. It’s time we remembered it.
September 2, 2009
They showed the video below about public service in a school in Utah. Right winders are calling it "radical leftist propaganda." Watch the video for yourself. I guess it's "leftist" because there are black people in it? Is not using too much gas, or not using plastic bags "leftist?"
Children at Eagle Bay Elementary School in Farmington were shown a short video called "I pledge" on Aug. 28. The video opens with an image of President Barack Obama and part of a speech in which he says, "Let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other." The video then features celebrities making pledges about how they will help the president and the world -- and that's where some say the problem lies.
. . . "Showing the video in a public school is completely inappropriate," said Jennifer Cieslewicz, whose daughter is a first-grader at the school. "I don't believe a video such as this that promotes certain values should be shown to elementary students, especially without parents being aware. "
. .. "It's very inappropriate to show a radical, leftist propaganda piece that political to children," Ruzicka said. "If parents want their children to learn about those things and do them in the home, wonderful, fine, but it's not the place of the school to show a one-sided propaganda piece to children without parents knowing about it."
You should read the comments that follow the article!
Wow, that video is like something you would expect to see in an Islamic or Communist country where they are brainwashing their children. Creepy.
Here's the video:
Update - Barack Obama is President of the United States. Deal with it.
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Why are Republicans so successful, even though they only have a tiny minority representation in our state government? Read on.
An invitation was sent for the upcoming California Republican Party Convention, which will be September 25-27 at the Rennaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa in Indian Wells, outside of Palm Springs.
Nestled at the base of the majestic Santa Rosa Mountains in the exclusive community of Indian Wells, the luxurious Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa is the desert's finest oasis. Offering unparalleled service and all the amenities of a world-class resort, Esmeralda invites you to indulge your every whim.Featuring,
[. . .] Spa Esmeralda is designed to nourish your soul. Marble floors, glass corridors and the sounds of a trickling stone fountain greet you. From that moment on, a transformation begins to take place.
Gaze at the alluring desert landscape from the tranquil Spa Garden and soothe away the day's stress under a therapeutic waterfall spa. This is Spa Esmeralda. This is Paradise.
Nice! Where do they park their yachts in the desert, though?
- Spa with lush garden
- Golf Club House
- Lounge with live entertainment
- Room Service
- 36-Holes of Championship Golf
- 3 swimming pools & Pool Bar
- Fitness Center
- In-room movies
- Complimentary in-room coffee
- Complimentary newspaper
I noted on the web page, "Special Thanks to San Manuel Band of Mission Indians for their generous support of the California Republican Party and the fall convention." Sponsorship is solicited on the following terms:
$100,000 Official Convention Title SponsorshipThere are also $50,000, $25,000 and $15,000 opportunities.
For organizations seeking maximum exposure and opportunities to network with Republican candidates for Governor, Congress and State Legislature, this Title Sponsorship opportunity is ideal, providing exclusive benefits. Title sponsorship of the California Republican Party's fall Convention is limited to one partner with a speaking opportunity during the convention and a customized sponsorship marketing plan tailored to your needs which will include ... Private meeting with all top state party leaders during convention.
I especially was interested in The Workshops At The '09 CRP Fall Convention, which are put on by various people including:
- David Kralik, Silicon Valley Representative for Newt Gingrich's American Solutions
- David Avella, Executive Director of GOPAC
- Philip R Hinderberger: Senior V-P & Govt. Affairs Counsel, NORCAL Mutual Insurance Company
- Larry Greenfield, The Reagan Legacy Foundation
- Mackenzie Eaglen, Research Fellow for National Security Studies, Heritage Foundation
- If you don't know, a Senior V-P & Govt. Affairs Counsel is a LOBBYIST.
- The Ronald Reagan Legacy Project was formed in 1997 as a project of Americans for Tax Reform - Grover Norquist's organization. According to SourceWatch: "Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) is ostensibly a group that pushes for lower taxes. It has close ties to the Republican Party and has frequently allied itself with the tobacco industry."
- Heritage Foundation is the premier right-wing, anti-government "think tank" located in Washington, DC.
These third-party groups lay the groundwork for elections by bombarding the public with corporate-funded messaging that is almost always anti-government and anti-tax, advocating the corporations replace government in our national and state decisionmaking. Grover Norquist is famous for saying he wants to make the government "small enough that it can be drowned in a bathtub" and this is why his organization has demanded that office-seekers sign a pledge to oppose taxes in all forms. They believe in "defunding" government, so that it cannot effectively regulate corporations.
After enough of this drumbeat of anti-government propaganda, with no response from people who believe in demcoracy and community, the public doesn't have much choice but to believe the only voices they hear, and turn against government and the taxes that support democracy.
This third-party infrastructure is why conservatives have been so effective at strangling government in California. It is funded by corporations and every Republican has take "the pledge." The corporations pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into our elections to put just enough of them over the top to keep the state from functioning.
What we need is a progressive infrastructure of organizations that reach the public and explain progressive policies, creating acceptance of progressive values and demand for progressive solutions that help everyone, not just a select, wealthy few.
Click through to Speak Out California
Is there any way to downgrade to an older, simpler version of Quicken? It used to be an OK program but they have "improved" it so much that it is pretty much unusable now. I just want to track my checks and balance my checkbook, just like I always did. But they made me upgrade - for as much as the original version cost. So now I am stuck with a program that is very, very hard to use, messes with my my checking account, and just makes it hard to do anything.
Is there a program that I can export all of my checking data into that will do this, so I can get released from the Quicken trap?
I just came across this: End Government Science Funding | Cato Institute: Daily Commentary.
"Scientists may love government money, and politicians may love the power its expenditure confers upon them, but society is impoverished by the transaction."
Yikes! This is what Bush came along and did, actually, based on nonsense like this. How did that work out?
September 1, 2009
The definition of “anti-American” might be up for grabs after so many years of conservatives using the label like a club, but can we all agree that when other countries are working against the interests of America, that it is fair to call that “anti-American?” I discovered something truly anti-American when I caught a registered foreign agent posting a comment on my blog.
We are all used to hearing lobbyists argue against the broad public interest for their various clients. Often some big corporation is trying to get a rule changed to give them an advantage over their competitors or otherwise line their CEO’s pockets. Other times it is wealthy people trying to get tax breaks. All too often it is some representative of Wall Street trying to convince us that our wages are too high, we shouldn’t receive health or retirement benefits, taking on more debt is good or schemes that externalize costs onto the community while privatizing the profits…
For example, Wells Fargo, recipient of $25 billion of bailout funds from taxpayers, is cutting off credit and forcing a plant that is one more component of America’s manufacturing supply chain to close because the too-big-to-fail bank would make themselves a few dollars today, rather than allowing the company to sell or stay open and maintain America’s manufacturing infrastructure. It costs only $1.6 million to keep the plant open, but will cost the community $6.1 million in jobs, tax revenue etc. to close it. Wells Fargo doesn’t care, they aren’t losing the $6.1 million – they won’t even accept offers to buy the plant, because they get a little bit more from closing it. Never mind the harm done to American companies, workers and communities. This is not a "buggy whip" factory, it is an active business.
We are used to this kind of bad – really bad – antisocial, economically destructive behavior from self-interested American companies, organizations and people. And for some reason we seem to tolerate it because we are so inured to it. But is this kind of lobbying always just done for the usual terrible reasons -- profits at the expense of the rest of us? Maybe not. Maybe sometimes it is from a source with a different kind of agenda that we just don’t expect.
Let me tell you a story:
Last week I wrote a post explaining the details of a trade decision that President Obama will soon make, “President Obama's Upcoming "Section 421 Tire Case" Trade Enforcement Decision” and cross-posted it at my own blog, Seeing the Forest. Someone calling themselves “TheFacts” left a comment there. The comment begins, “This is absolute drivel. Let me count the ways” and ends by saying I am advancing “a union-driven agenda.”
Bloggers know that posts on current issues affecting big corporations are frequently swarmed with people presenting the corporate viewpoint. Sometimes when we trace them (when the source is not well-masked) we find these comments originate at corporate-funded firms paid to lobby on the issue. I traced the IP address of the person who posted this comment to the DC office of the international law firm White & Case, a large firm representing clients on international trade issues, among other things.
This got me thinking. The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) of 1938 requires those “acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities.”
I checked at the Department of Justice database, and White & Case is registered as a “foreign agent.”
White & Case is registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent because White & Case represents foreign interests. This registration is required so that Americans can make judgments based on the knowledge that they are hearing from sources that do not represent America’s interests and instead represent interests that might be opposed to America's interests.
So what does it mean when someone from a firm that is registered with the Justice Department as representing foreign interests posts arguments anonymously at blogs like mine -- arguing that we should allow American factories to close, and instead import goods from other countries? Was this done for a client? Was it an employee acting without authority?.
How were the readers of this anonymous post supposed to know that they were hearing from someone at a firm that is registered as a foreign agent? Was this anonymous posting part of an effort to subvert the intent of the Foreign Agents Registration Act? Is this part of a larger effort by this firm, and if so how much is being done in ways intended to get around the Foreign Agents Registration Act?
What this foreign-interest representative is advocating is that Americans close factories and borrow money to buy imports from countries that take over the business that we give up. We have to borrow the money because America has given up so much of its manufacturing capacity already – to companies in other countries – that we aren’t earning our own money anymore with which to buy imports. This is not only not in our country’s interests, it is often being advocated by the paid representatives of the countries that benefit from this at our expense! And, of course, the other countries involved aren't giving up any of their manufacturing to us.
By the way, one of the arguments the foreign-agent commenter made was,
“According to Rutgers economist Thomas J. Prusa, the proposed tire tariffs would ripple through the U.S. economy. Prusa calculates that each job “saved” by the ITC’s tariffs would come at the cost of at least 12 jobs lost, and possibly more than 25.”
While checking out the aggressively hyperbolic statistic (already refuted by the ITC) that saving each job would cost 12 to 25 jobs I located the source in a Wall Street Journal piece, followed by this:
“Prusa’s research was commissioned by a group called the American Coalition for Free Trade in Tires.”
The American Coalition for Free Trade in Tires is a coalition of six tire importing companies – one is even named “Foreign Tire Sales Inc.” And by the way again we find the term “free trade” used as a club to try to shut down discussion of merits of closing factories and wiping out American jobs, industries and communities. "Free trade" is an ideological label for a theory that seems only to apply to the US, certainly not to the industry-subsidizing, tire-dumping China that the tire case is about. So the authority cited in the foreign agent's comment, while not a foreign agent himself, was not as represented either. He may be a “Rutgers economist” but in this capacity he was commissioned by the American Coalition for Free Trade in Tires to say this. (Rutgers allows that? Ouch.) So much for the 12 or 25 jobs statistic – and for the aura of independence and credibility that comes from citing a “Rutgers economist.”
I will have more on the American Coalition for Free Trade in Tires in the next post.
So here is what it comes down to. It is one thing to hear from American interests who are trying to convince us to give up America’s manufacturing capacity, just so they can make a quick buck at everyone else's expense. We’re used to that these days. But would you feel differently and consider the opinions in a different light if you knew that you were hearing from a Greek or Korean or Chinese manufacturer, trying to convince you that it is a good thing for America to give up our manufacturing capacity and let them do it, and let them make the money and have the jobs instead? Perhaps you would. If you knew.
NEXT: What about when you are hearing from lobbyists and organizations that are funded from other countries, but are not registering as “foreign agents?” Also I will tell you about the “revolving door” of American officials who leave the government and immediately go to work for interests who lobby the very offices where they worked, asking us to close factories, lay people off, etc.
Last year I wrote about a California Fire Smoke Map.
I also located a map of the LA fire.