December 31, 2009
I think Jerome a Paris does a good job answering the question in his diary, Daily Kos: Obama is better than the extreme-right,
I've already described Obama as a "sane conservative" - he is running policies that would have been mainstream right-wing 30 years ago, and which would be mainstream rightwing in most of Europe, he's restoring competence in government (something I consider a major thing in itself, even if it makes few headlines) and he's mostly governing on the line he promised. It's welcome progress from recent years, and it beats the available alternatives on offer at the voting booth. He's doing the best with the system he inherited. But is he a progressive? In my view, not really. I'm of the opinion that the current system is hopelessly flawed and cannot continue as it is in the long term. And I'm not happy that Obama's policies have been to basically patch the system as it is, and push any resolution of its current contradictions further down the road. There will be a real crisis (a much bigger one than last year's) at some point in the future, but it's hard to tell if it's going to be next year or in a decade. Many people think authorities did a good job in avoiding the worst following last year's financial collapse, and that we're now back on the right track; if you're one of them, then the criticism of Obama as a hostage (or, if you're less kind, ally) to the banking lobby makes little sense and I fully appreciate that. [emphasis added]
December 30, 2009
Just so you know the facts:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that once the incident occurred, "the system worked." AFTER the bombing attempt people did their jobs and procedures were followed.
Republicans have twisted this into a widespread big lie that she claimed that "the system worked" in response to questions about how the guy got on the plane with explosives.
Well OF COURSE no one would say that. And the system did work, AFTER the bombing attempt.
Here is what she said, unedited and complete, which you won't see on any Republican news networks:
NAPOLITANO: One thing I’d like to point out is that the system worked. Everybody played an important role here. The passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action. Within literally an hour to 90 minutes of the incident occurring, all 128 flights in the air had been notified to take some special measures in light of what had occurred on the Northwest Airlines flight. We instituted new measures on the ground and at screening areas, both here in the United States and in Europe where this flight originated. So, the whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively went very smoothly.
Rachel Maddow did a good job on this the other day, so take a look here: Rachel Maddow systematically dismantles GOP attacks on failed Christmas Day bombing attempt.
All they have is smears and lies. Don't fall for it.
Are you concerned about the country’s large budget deficits? Are you wondering how we are going to pay for two wars, bank bailouts and economic recovery projects while continuing to maintain our roads and bridges and pay for our schools and police and firefighters? Are you wondering what we can do about the great concentration of wealth and income into the hands of a very few at the top?
There are so many budget problems. It would be so nice if we could just go back to a simpler time.
Well there is something we can do to solve most of these problems in one fell swoop. We really can just go back to a simpler time. Why don’t we just go back to the income tax structure that we had back when budgets were balanced, our infrastructure was maintained, our schools were good, the economy grew at a nice, fast clip and the middle class knew that their incomes would grow steadily? What I am suggesting is that we just return the income and corporate tax rates to where they were during the Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations.
After these “golden years” we cut those top taxes and things started to fall apart. Then we started borrowing to make up for the lost revenue and even borrowed all of the money in the Social Security Trust Fund. We deferred maintenance of our infrastructure of roads and bridges, etc. We cut school budgets. We cut … well almost everything except what the richest were taking home.
Cutting and passing the savings to a few at the top became the corporate business model, too, once executives no longer had to pay high taxes.
As a result of these policies income and wealth have concentrated at the very top ever since. While working people haven’t had much of a raise since the 70’s, the top 1% now recieve the highest share of the nation’s income since 1929. (If that date rings a bell, there’s a reason.) UC Berkeley Professor Robert Reich recently wrote, “In the U.S., the root of the problem is a growing share of total income going to the richest Americans, leaving the middle class with relatively less purchasing power unless they go deep into debt.”
Suppose we did go back to the tax rates of a simpler time? What effect would such a change have on how our country is doing?
The United States now has to pay a huge share of its budget just to cover the interest on the borrowing that tax cuts made necessary. Raising taxes, stopping the borrowing and paying off the debt would remove this huge drag on our economy.
Raising the top tax rates removes the incentive for corporate executives to lie, cheat and steal. Today they can pocket huge sums in a single year, and leave behind the mess they make for others to fix. But high taxes at the top would force longer-term thinking. When it takes years to build up a fortune you want your company to be around for a long time, and you need the surrounding public infrastructure to be in good shape to support your enterprise. So we would all benefit.
I know I am going to be accused of wanting to “punish the rich.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Taxes are not punishment; they are what we all pay to have the benefits and protections of modern society. Those benefits and protections enable people to become wealthy, and we ask that they give some back so others can prosper as well. We all want to be rich. With this tax structure, the more people make the more they can pay in taxes so we all benefit.
So of course we want our corporations to make money, too – and lots of it. That way they can distribute the money so shareholders benefit – and pay taxes.
I am asking that we return to a tax structure that builds wealth but also leaves the companies and communities that helped build the wealth intact and in good shape for the long term.
December 29, 2009
I just came across this over at Huffington Post
The post and the video both send you over to http://moveyourmoney.info/
December 28, 2009
Here's a typical right-wing propaganda operation. The right has been working to knock down the public's positive impression of John F Kennedy for decades because JFK is a stand-in for "liberals" in people's minds. If they can get people to think negatively about JFK they can get them to think negatively of liberals. I've been watching this campaign unfold for decades. Some billionaire somewhere put a ton of money into this and the funding still hasn't run out...
So out comes a nasty hit piece on JFK, with an old "snapshot" on old, crinkled-up photo paper, supposedly showing JFK on a yacht with naked women.
The sensational headline: "The JFK Photo That Could Have Changed History." The cover story:
The photo was eventually given to a man who owned a car dealership on the East coast. The man kept it in a drawer for years, and would brag to friends he had an image of JFK on a boat with naked women. The man died 10 years ago and one of his sons inherited the photo.
Of course the right's blogs pick it up... eliciting the comments that give voice to what we are all supposed to think:
It just another affirmation that the Kennedy's were PIGS and they lived a life of LIES. They then FORCED their disgusting liberalism on Conservative Americans while professing to live the life of good Catholics while living the life of TRASH!
But now in the age of the internet these kinds of things get exposed and we all find out pretty quickly.
In reality, the photo appeared in story about Playboy's "Charter Yacht Party: How to Have a Ball on the Briny with an Able-Bodied Complement of Ship's Belles." As seen in the below page from the November 1967 issue, the Playboy photo is in color. The "Exclusive" TMZ image is the same photo, just reproduced in black and white.So, was it up on Drudge and pulled down, or hadn't they put it up yet. Is the Washington Times quickly pulling a front-page story? Will Limbaugh talk about it anyway? Will it become another conservative "truth?"
All you have to do is look around to see that something has changed in the American diet. Everyone is gaining a lot of weight. It isn't "personal responsibility" if it is systemic. You can't blame everyone who is getting fat if everyone is getting fat at the same time.
Many have suspected that corn syrup has something to do with it, and the timing certainly makes it look that way.
The corn problem is huge: The big ag corps get these huge subsidies to grow corn. So they pump corn products into everything. They use some of the subsidies to bribe legislators to give them more subsidies, further corrupting our government. Animals are fed corn, which makes them sick, which makes them need antibiotics, which eventually makes the antibiotics useless. The Gulf of Mexico has a huge dead zone coming out of the mouth of the Mississippi because all the fertilizer from growing corn runs down the river and pollutes the Gulf. Poor farmers in Mexico can't make a living growing corn because American corn is so heavily subsidized, so they give up and migrate north.
So take a look at this: High Fructose Corn Syrup Proven to Cause Human Obesity.
Stop the corn subsidies. Just stop them. Cut them off. This will lower "government spending" - especially when you add in the amounts spent on the resulting health care needs - and save our health, Mexican incomes, reduce government corruption, reduce pollution in the ocean, help stop animal suffering and even help us have antibiotics that are effective.
(Bumping this up to the top, adding a bit)
Are you disappointed in the results of the health care reform fight? Do you feel swamped by all the conservative/corporate "talking heads" on the right? I think progressives should work to reach the public and create demand for progressive policies. But to do this we need to build "progressive infrastructure" institutions that employ people to blog, write op-eds, appear on TV and radio, write books, and generally push for progressive solutions to our problems.
How do we build a movement that brings about change, instead of relying on politicians to make it happen?
Go read this and donate some money to help make it happen. How much did you give to Obama's campaign? Well that money just went up into the air for TV ads. Campaign ads do not change the public's long-term thinking.
We have to change people's minds. We have to reach out to the public and explain to them the benefits to them of a progressive approach. We have to create demand for progressive policies and candidates.
THAT will change the things that are happening in Washington.
December 27, 2009
Apparently the government has secret information that terrorists will only try to blow up planes during the last hour of a flight.
December 26, 2009
Just why is corporate money used to influence legislation? It is either to bring about a profitable result, or it is not. For those who make the argument that bribing lawmakers is running the business, by benefiting the shareholders, the answer is that such a quid pro quo is bribery under our laws, and we should put the people making the decision to use the company's money like this into jail.
But if they argue that they are not using the company's money with the expectation of a return, they should be fired for using the company's money and getting no return.
So which is it? It is one or the other. But both of them already are prohibited under our rules, just not enforced.
As long as we think of corporations as sentient entities we are keeping ourselves from identifying the real problem - which keeps us from fixing it. It is not corporations, but PEOPLE using corporate resources that are the problem.
We need to do is keep corporate resources from leaking out of the corporation. We need to apply strict accounting standards and laws about use of corporate money for anything other than running the business.
Health care: huge majorities of the public want something - anything - along the lines of a "public option" or Medicare buy-in. In the last election people turned out and overwhelmingly voted in Obama, 60 senators and a huge majority in the Congress.
But after "the system" plays itself out we instead end up with government power ordering all of us to buy insurance from giant insurance corporations. It remains illegal for us to buy into Medicare because this would interfere with the stream of money flowing from all of us to a few already-wealthy executives and owners.
It is so clear now what our system has become. The wealthy have a lock on our politics, and we can't help but see it. It is in the way of getting anything done. It is blocking our ability to do anything about our urgent problems like health care, climate change, financial reform, and of course the low-wage, everything-to-the-top structure of our jobs.
The other day I wrote, Concentration Of Wealth = An Influence Lock On Our Politics,
We have now reached the point where wealth is at least as concentrated as it was in 1929. With similar consequences.
The societal consequences are dramatic. This happened as a result of wealth's ability to influence our country's decision-making. And that influence was used to increase the wealth of the influencers, which increased their influence. But this has come at the expense of regular people, whose incomes have stagnated, forcing them into increasing debt.
We have reached a breaking point where a consumer-based economy can no longer be sustained. But this has not led to any loosening of the grip that money has on our political system. If we don't force the political system out of that grip and restore democracy we will not be able to fix our economic system.
The question is, with the mask pulled aside - with everyone seeing how the wealthy are controlling the system - will we find ways of fixing it? Will we be able to take back democracy from the malefactors of great wealth? The obvious steps include getting all corporate money and influence out of our politics - and our lives. But even if we manage to vote in 100 Senators and 100% of the Congress, will we be able to accomplish this?
We all have to start talking about this, and making it the #1 priority of our political efforts. Nothing else can be accomplished until we take this on, but if we take this on then we can finally get on with the business of governing for the people.
December 25, 2009
The back of the card reads:
Published by Sudeep Johnson
Doggie Paw Cards Inc.
Many thanks to Toby, Paddington, Cooper, Fergie and Popcorn, without whom there would be no card.
Here is last year's card, and you can trace back through all the cards over the years.
December 24, 2009
Here is what I think. Fight like hell to change this health care bill, but start now to put the blame where it belongs - on the obstructionist Republicans.
This year we can realistically expect only one gain - kill the mandates.
Then, at the beginning of next year's legislative session change the rules of the Senate so that raw obstructionism no longer works, and pass something better for the public. One suggestion I read somewhere is keep the same 60 vote requirement on the first vote to end a filibuster, wait 2 days and require only 57 on the next, two more days and make it 55. And maybe go a bit lower, like 53 after a few more days. The objecting Senators get to make their point and get some time rally the public if they can. If they can't rally the public the bill has a chance to pass.
So next year bring in free Medicare-for-All paid for by taxing the rich, and maybe settle for a strong, strong public option.
And kick Lieberman out of the Democratic caucus.
I recently read a novel by Eric Lotke, Research Director at the Campaign for America’s Future. The novel is called 2044. The title is based on the idea of picking up where Orwell's 1984 left off. 2044 depicts a world and culture that is completely corporatized. The big corporations control everything and don't play fair. Your life is work - for the corporation.
In the novel a researcher discovers that there is a way to turn salt water into fresh water, which is in short supply and badly needed by people. But this doesn't suit the interests of the corporations that sell fresh water.
From the novel's website:
"2044 is an adventure story with a political edge. Set in a world that follows our current social and economic trajectory to the extreme, 2044 is a world of consolidated multi-national corporations, mass produced culture and too much stuff. Private businesses manipulate greed and fear to keep people busy, afraid, and dependent on expensive new products or services just to survive."
You can buy it here.
December 22, 2009
It is possible that there is going to be a “deficit commission” to look for ways to reduce our country’s budget deficits. I have some questions for them to ask to help get things started in the right direction:
1) President Reagan increased Social Security taxes, but used that money to cut the very top tax rates that only the wealthiest pay. Now that the money borrowed from Social Security is coming due, which income group is better positioned to pay it back, wealthy people or the elderly to whom this money is owed?
2) President Clinton left office with a huge budget surplus. Then, President Bush gave tax cuts to the wealthy, and his last budget had a $1.4 trillion deficit. How much of this change was because of those tax cuts for the rich?
3) How large was the country’s yearly budget deficit and total debt in the “Eisenhower/Truman” decades when the top tax rate was 90%?
4) Today we have an “infrastructure deficit” – the amount needed to repair our country’s roads, bridges, sewers, etc. – of somewhere upwards of $1.6 trillion. Was our infrastructure kept in good repair before the top tax rates were cut?
5) Concentration of wealth is long recognized as a threat to democracy, and now we are seeing a low-wage, everything-to-the-top economy with the greatest ever concentration of wealth going to a few at the top. Was the problem of wealth concentration increasing or decreasing before the top tax rates were cut?
6) When top rates were high people couldn’t take home vast fortunes in a single year. When it took several years to make a fortune did corporations depend on long-term or short-term thinking? Did the executives of corporations care if the infrastructure and communities their companies depended on were in good shape? Did large corporations fleece customers and exploit employees for quarterly returns as they do now?
7) The military budget is the largest item in our country’s budget. Was the military budget larger or smaller when we faced the cold war threat from the Soviet Empire?
8) Just how big is our military budget, if you add in veterans programs, nukes, intelligence and the military budget’s share of accumulated debt interest? How large is it in relation to all of the rest of the countries in the world, combined?
10) Some will say that proposals to bring back the tax rates of the Eisenhower administration are “socialist.” What was the name of the organization that accused President Eisenhower of being a Communist?
11) Does the following chart stimulate any ideas about how we might solve the debt problem?
December 19, 2009
Here is a health care solution I can live with, amongst al the bad choices: Open Left:: That Gollum-like Feeling on Health Care,
3. One of the things progressives should absolutely extract before they even consider voting for this is a promise from Obama, Pelosi, and Reid that health care is revisited again, through reconciliation and in general, to keep improving the legislation as long as the Dems are in control. This should absolutely not be one of those deals where leadership says, "okay that was hard, we'll never go back to that issue again". Progressives should also demand a firm promise from Obama that the primary person doing the implementation of this bill in HHS should be a strong progressive, because the initial regs on this bill will be hugely important.
December 18, 2009
I'm switching the Seeing the Forest twitter from my personal account http://twitter.com/dcjohnson to a Seeing the Forest account http://twitter.com/seeingtheforest
Feeds will continue to go to both but sign up at seeingtheforest specifically for the site feed.
To be clear, I don't say that the Congress should not pass the health care bill. I think if they pass this health care bill as it is in the Senate it is political suicide. This is easily remedied: remove the mandates.
What I think is the best solution is simple: Medicare buy-in with subsidies. Let anyone just buy in to Medicare at cost plus 5 or 10 percent for overhead. Add subsidies so people with lower incomes can afford this.
Wondering what 2010 will be like if you pass mandates with no public option? Watch this:
December 17, 2009
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
A letter in the San Jose Mercury News the other day expresses the misguided but oft-repeated Republican "spin" that tax cuts and deregulation "create jobs". As usual it bears little resemblance to the truth.
Create jobs by helping business
The two ways government can affect the job market are by spending on projects through borrowing or by reducing the tax burden on families and businesses. If it borrows, it causes another tax through inflation and interest expenses that will go on forever. If it reduces taxes and regulations, the loss in revenue will be far less than the amount the Democrats are planning to spend, and without any interest.
You create jobs by making it easier for businesses to hire people through reductions in taxes and regulations, such as a tax break for every person they hire and retain. You don't make it harder for them by raising their expenses. Let's do what worked in the past.
- Businesses hire the employees they need to hire to meet demand. If demand is low no amount of tax cuts can induce a business to hire people. Why hire and pay people to have them just sit around?
- The way to get more customers into the businesses - i.e. to create demand - is to get more money circulating in the pockets of regular people. Cutting taxes for the already well-to-do doesn't accomplish this. The way to do this is with government policies that increase wages and reduce working hours, like how raising the minimum wage and mandating 40-hour weeks and weekends off helped create America's middle class. Helping regular people is good for business.
- The writer says we should do what has worked in the past. The fact is that the economy has always done better when the tax rates on the wealthy and corporations were highest. Just look it up. The reason for this is that our economic system when left to itself always becomes a low-age, everything-to-the-top system, because the wealthiest always game the system to get the most for themselves. The way to fix that is to apply regulations to prevent this, and high taxes at the top so the government can implement policies that raise the wages of the rest of the public. This is how we got out of the depression after the huge concentration of wealth that built up until 1929.
- Taxes are not an "expense." Businesses pay taxes on the profits (revenue minus expenses) -- so the businesses that need help don't need tax cuts, they need customers. It doesn't make sense to try to help businesses that are not doing well by giving even more money to their profitable competitors. We should be using that money to instead help the businesses that need the help. Helping the already well-to-do is bad for business.
Click through to Speak Out California.
People talk about how the conservatives brought us deregulation, which led to the financial crisis. But there was something else the conservatives brought us that I think is just as responsible: corruption, crony capitalism and the predator state. Why isn't anyone making the connection?
And why isn't anyone investigating and prosecuting, holding the corrupt accountable? This is the main area where I feel that Obama has let us down, the return to rule of law. It isn't happening.
This is the must-see video for the week: Happy Bonusmas! : NPR
Click through to see it!
Then watch this:
This explains a lot: David Axelrod: Left 'insane' to sink health bill,
“To defeat a bill that will bend the curve on this inexorable rise in health-care costs is insane,” Axelrod said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” "I don’t think that you want this moment to pass. It will not come back."
This is what I feared. The groupthink has set in. To them this is about "cost control," not about providing health care to citizens. And they criticize Howard Dean for wanting this health care reform to serve the people, but they haven't criticized Joe Lieberman for forcing out the popular public option and Medicare buy-in.
Asked his response to progressives who say “kill this bill now,” Axelrod replied: “I think that would be a tragic, tragic outcome. … I guess if you’re hale and hearty and have insurance, it’s fine to say, ‘Kill this bill.'"
Well I have health insurance through COBRA, and I really, really resent that COBRA "allows" me to purchase corporate insurance at a very expensive price. Without it I wouldn't have health insurance at all because it is illegal for me to buy into Medicare. It is illegal because of the need to preserve corporate profits, at the expense of my health. The current health care bill REQUIRES me to purchase corporate insurance at a very high price.
Dear Senate: here is something the public will love and only takes 51 votes: Just give everyone Medicare buy-in. You can do that using "reconciliation" so the Republicans can't filibuster it. The public will LOVE it.
December 16, 2009
Obama keeps "reaching out" to Republicans and compromising his agenda. Republicans are working to obstruct everything. The result? The public blames both parties for not getting things done.
In a new NBC/WSJ poll just released 81 percent of the public believes that 2009 was a year of division where neither party showed a willingness to compromise.
There is a simple solution to my objections to the health care bill as it stands. My objection is that the government is ordering everyone to buy expensive insurance from giant corporations. The solution is to just drop that mandate that orders everyone to buy insurance, and keep everything else that is in the bill.
How hard is that?
December 15, 2009
I posted this earlier at Open Left
Back in July I wrote here, in Democrats Had Better Find Hiding Places
I said it the other day, and I feel the need to repeat it: the public does not yet understand that the government is about to order people to buy health insurance, with their own money. Yes, the government is about to order people to cough up hundreds of dollars a month each.
When the Republicans start using their toxic message-machine magic on this, and the public starts to understand that they are being ordered by the government to cough up a huge amount of money every month, Democrats had better have good hiding places, because things are going to get really bad out there.
This is the kind of policy that results when "centrist" Democrats give in to to the demands of Republicans and big corporations and the top 1% of the wealthy. Instead of just taxing the wealthy and corporations at reasonable rates and using the money to provide We, the People with health care -- thereby vastly improving the economy for ... the wealthy and big corporations -- they instead come up with a scheme to order regular people to pay for health insurance because they don't already have it because they can't afford it.
Now it is December and the current health care reform bill orders everyone to buy very expensive insurance from the big corporations, with no public option and no Medicare buy-in. Even if you are in the income range where you receive subsidies you have to pay "only" 9 or 10% of your income, at a time when people are runnng up credit cards just to get by as it is. That is with the subsidies. Above that level you pay more.
The public hasn't really tuned into this yet, but if this passes and Republicans start working their toxic magic (with of course little or no organized effort by Dems to counter their lies and sell it to the public) I expect this will be as unppular as Bush's bailout of the big financial firms, which the Republicans have largely engineered the public into thinking was Obama's, just as they did with the Bush deficits.
So I think that when all these factors come into play for the next election, passing this will turn out to be suicide for the Democrats who hold office. They don't see that because at this point are in a mindset that the public wants them to just get it over with and pass anything.
But this is bad beyond just the next election.
Here is the larger problem: the public is going to judge US - progressives, liberals, Democrats, etc. - based on what these clucks pass.
This health "reform" bill plays right into decades of conservative/corporate propaganda about liberals and their policies - and government in general. Republicans will sell it as "big government ordering you around and reaching into your pocket" and the corporate media will echo that until everyone sees it that way. There won't be a word explaining that this money actually goes to big corporations, it will be about everyone losing the insurance they have and how people will soon be paying big money to a "government insurance bureaucracy." (Are we going to counter this by saying, "well, no, actually it goes to big corporations not government"?)
And, frankly, why should the public ever again listen to anyone left of John McCain after this, if this is what happens when Democrats get power? It is just wrong to use that power to order everyone to shell out a huge amount of money - while Wall Street hands out billions of taxpayer dollars as bonuses. They will be portrayed as confirming what the right has been saying about "liberals" they use the power of the state to order people to follow elitist schemes - which is exactly what this is, a scheme where elite people with power decide what is good for the rest of us - mandates are important because you can't cover pre-existing without them, etc. THIS is where a President is supposed to be a leader come in and insist on broader guidelines with a veto threat.
What I am most afraid of is what will happen when Republicans start making up shit about what passed, while people feel no immediate benefit. It doesn't take effect right away so it will just be this looming, terrifying, expensive "big government" program coming at people in a few years that is going to cost everyone a lot of money and ruin our health care system. Without sufficient immediate benefits that people feel, on the scale of free insurance for everyone, the Republicans will have lots of time to just make up shit about what is coming if they don't vote for Republicans so they can repeal it.
Unless you're pretty sure that Repubilcans wouldn't do that, wouldn't just make shit up to scare people. If you're like Senate Democrats who seem to think that, don't worry about this.
Here is what I am talking about. Last night I was driving and heard on the radio that there will be a 15-year jail term if you don't buy this government insurance. The announcer also said the bill bans things like Snickers bars, and that there is funding in the bill for government to come in and check your house for unhealthy food, as the liberals define it.
That is what I heard on the radio last night. This is what's out there now -- just the beginning of the 2010 election mantra.
And what are we going to do, explain that it isn't a 15-year jail term, only a big fine?
The bigger picture - the sellout.
Isn't this mandate to buy insurance really just another form of privatization of a pubilc service? In this case it is maintaining a privatization-by-refusing-to-provide. Most other countries provide health care as a right - a core function of government. But here privateers have seized it for themselves for profit. So to maintain this, to keep taxes low for the rich and keep the profits privatized we are ordered to buy it from companies instead of having it provided as a government service. This is the battle between democracy and plutocracy.
If this bill is passed and signed (progressives can filibuster, too) it means that Democrats as a party have abdicated their role as defenders of democracy against the forces of organized wealth.
Wrap it up
I hate to say this but money flowing out of big corporations has outmaneuvered the public good once again. If we don't pass a health care bill the Democrats have done little to show the public the value of showing up and electing Democrats: there is very high unemployment, no one has been held accountable for the crimes and corruption of the Bush years and Wall Street got and kept their bonuses after crashing the economy - $140 billion just this year. But if we do pass this, the way it is, it's even worse. And the joke is that this fix we're in is being engineered by a bunch of lobbyists!
So I'm with Chris,
I don't intend to help this bill pass. If progressives get backstabbed by Lieberman and then ordered to cave at the finish line, then as far as I am concerned the White House has made its own bed with this. They can try and pass the bill, but they are going to have to do it on their own. I'm not helping. In fact, I kind of just want to hang out in the tall grass for a while and plot my revenge.But I am also trying to sound a warning, to wake up Democratic leadership and try to head off this disaster. Pass a good bill, not an insurance lobbyist's dream.
Tell me again, why was "Medicare-For-All" off the table? All of this complicated, 2000-page jumble of backroom deals and mandates and confusing formulas is to avoid just giving the people what they want - health care. And the reason it was off the table was to avoid being called "socialst."
December 14, 2009
The current health care reform bill orders everyone to buy insurance from the big corporations, and has few cost controls or other controls on those companies to make sure they don't just cheat people like they do now.
This is bad on a scale equivalent to Bush's huge bailout of the big financial firms.
Passing this is suicide for the Democrats who hold office. But not just for them. The public won't ever listen to anyone left of John McCain if this is what happens when Democrats get power. They use it to order everyone to shell out a huge amount of money? Never even mind that it is to evil corporations.
This bill provides subsidies that limit insurance payments to $8,000 for a family making $82,000 a year. This is with subsidies! If you make more than that there are no subsidies and no limit on what you have to pay!
December 12, 2009
Anyone who wants to understand Libertarianism should read Romancing the Stone-Cold Killer. You'll be shocked.
Aside from oil and coal companies, I can think of another group with a BIG stake in climate change denial and that is developers, property owners and realtors who are trying to sell coastal property.
Imagine what happens to the value of property that is less than 50 feet above sea level if people realize what is really happening?
December 11, 2009
I'll be doing my weekly segment on the radio show The Fairness Doctrine at 1:30 pacific, 4:30 eastern.
Click through the link to listen live or to get recordings of previous shows.
December 9, 2009
But most of the public probably thinks the deficit is because of Obama... Propaganda works, that's why they do it.
American competitiveness is severely hobbled by our "free market" and anti-government attitudes. One way our competitors hold us back is by encouraging this outdated ideology. Result: other countries have national economic/industrial strategies and we don't. So we lose.
Remember how "chips" was a major driver of the economy in the 80s and 90s? Then the Internet drove the economy late 90's and early 2000s? The world understands that "green energy" is the next big industry that will drive the world economy. Actually, the rest of the world has understood this for some time and has been investing and inventing and innovating and building. Meanwhile over here America's big oil and coal companies bought themselves a Presidency and an anti-government ideology and a climate-change-denial industry that has cost us 8 years and counting.
Now we're playing catch-up, and the rest of the world is determined to keep us from taking the lead.
In The Big Chickens Keep Coming Home to Roost, Leo Hindrey writes about the Chinese plan to buy part of the wind-generation arm of a company called AES,
China's state-controlled investment fund, China Investment Corp. (CIC), plans to invest $2.2 billion to acquire 15% of the stock and, forebodingly, 35% of the actual wind-generation business of AES, the Arlington, VA-based company that is deeply involved in developing and managing vital aspects of our nation's critical infrastructure - specifically, our power grids, electricity transmission and alternative energy production.
Hindrey expects China to use its stake in this company to get them to buy components from Chinese instead of American companies, as they help grow the American green grid.
...anyone who has ever been in business knows that a massive 35% ownership stake will inevitably create "incentives" for Chinese-sourced products to be used in AES's projects here in the U.S., incentives which will undercut our domestic innovation and against which no fair-dealing American manufacturer can easily compete.
. . . And strong evidence of this predisposition can be found in the new Chinese-sponsored $1.5 billion wind farm in Texas that recently applied to the federal government for financing from the stimulus package - a wind farm that will create only 30 permanent jobs in the U.S. but 2,000 to 3,000 permanent jobs in China where the wind turbines will be manufactured.
This will means lots and lots of jobs going to China. His solution?
Rather than allowing CIC and others to, on the one hand, use U.S. tax dollars to stimulate their economies and, on the other, often acquire the very technologies which represent much of our future jobs opportunity, our government needs to start buying American, bolstering domestic manufacturing, and protecting our intellectual property.
American competitiveness is severely hobbled by our "free market" and anti-government attitudes. Other countries have national economic/industrial strategies and we don't. Please read this from Hindrey:
In the world today, there are two general sets of business and trade rules. One set resides in the older developed countries, such as the U.S. and Europe, where companies still compete mostly on their own on the basis of their business acumen and product value differentiation. The other set resides in the world's largest emerging markets, most notably China, where there are elaborate policies to protect domestic enterprises, induce foreign corporations to shift their production facilities and technology to them, and anoint selected "champions" as the nations' chosen global competitors - and, as we are seeing with the AES deal, make overseas investments that gobble up competing facilities and technologies.
It is crucial to our future to understand that the rest of the world is moving ahead full-speed with the green revolution and that our competitors have developed national strategies where their governments work to guide/assist and grow their businesses to this end. And we have not. We are held back from this by our "free market" belief that it is "wrong" for our own government to help our own people and businesses.
One way our competitors hold us back is by encouraging this internal American "free market" and anti-government ideology. When we tried to get a "Buy American" requirement in the stimulus plan our competitors cried "protectionism" - so we weakened it. The result was that our stimulus dollars created lots of jobs - in other countries! One Texas wind farm deal, for example,
The group’s calculations last week put the number of American jobs at a little more than 300 — most of them temporary construction jobs, along with about 30 permanent positions once the wind farm is operating. Mr. McGarr told The Wall Street Journal that more than 2,000 Chinese jobs would be created by the deal.
Look, it is time to just drop this ideological nonsense. Just stop listening to these self-serving ideologues and leave it behind. The free-market deregulation nonsense created the conditions that caused the economic collapse. We know that. Leave it behind. The anti-government nonsense is holding us back from repairing our economy and developing strategies to take part in the green manufacturing revolution. We know that. Leave it behind.
When people keep telling you that the earth is flat and demanding that we follow flat-earth policies that keep harming us and holding us back, over and over, you finally have to stop listening to them and leave them behind. It's time. Let's start doing what organized, intelligent adults should be doing: taking care of each other, empowering each other, bringing each other up. That is what government is and that is what it can do if we let it. Let's give it a try.
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
In last week's post progressive voters on strike? Santa Barbara blogger Retired UC Santa Barbara Professor of sociology and renowned social activist, Richard Flacks looks at recent polls showing Democratic voters to be unenthusiastic about voting while Republican voters are highly motivated. Professor Flacks writes,
These numbers tell us that the Democrats are going to lose the elections in 2010, but the underlying data are even more disturbing. They show that the heart of Obama;s support base is not planning to vote next year.
. . . The same sort of disillusionment pervades the ranks of liberal and progressive activists. Each week we can add new instances of administration betrayal of our hopes. The latest include the handling of the Honduras coup (defying near unanimity in the rest of the
hemisphere), and the continuation of Bush policies on the land mine treaty. The escalation of the war dwarfs all these other failures.
This is not President Obama's fault, necessarily,
I've said in this space that it's the structure of power in America rather than Obama's weakness of will that accounts for the growing feeling that the chances for progressive reform are slipping away.
Professor Flacks' post looks at a national poll, the "base" sense of betrayal is on national issues, and President Obama is not from California, but there is no reason to believe California Democrats are any more enthused More likely less so. California Democrats who do pay attention see Democrats in Sacramento caving over and over again to the demands of an extremist Republican minority, while those not paying attention see generally that nothing good is happening and government is doing very little for them.
What might come along to raise democratic enthusiasm and encourage them to vote? Jerry Brown running for Governor? With the statements he's been making, don't bet that Democrats are going to be enthusiastic about Jerry Brown as their standard-bearer either.
Click through to Speak Out California.
There is one and only one reason YOU can't have Medicare: to preserve the huge checks for CEOs of giant health insurance companies. That is how our country works now.
December 7, 2009
Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, doesn't think it is a good idea to audit the Fed. Speaking Monday he said,
... the Fed chairman also took a moment to repeat his objections to a bill in the House to audit the Fed. Much as he said during his confirmation hearing, Bernanke stressed periodic audits of monetary policy would subject those important decisions to undue political pressures.
"The Fed Reserve fully agrees the Congress should have access to all of our financial transactions ..." he said. "Our concern would be that we would take some action on monetary policy that would be unpopular in certain quarters, and Congress, by taking some action with that audit, would [be able to overturn them]."
If just knowing what the Fed is doing would subject the Fed to "political pressure" then what they are doing must be pretty darn alarming.
A lot of money is at stake here. The American People have a right to know what is going on.
Campaign for America's Future says, Before You Appoint Ben, Audit Ben!
I am a Fellow with Campaign for America's Future.
December 6, 2009
I strongly recommend listening to this radio interview (click to download/listen) on Madison's "Sly In The Morning" show. Mary Bottari of BanksterUSA.comtalks about what is going on with banking reform and regulation.
Here is the original post about it, with a media player that lets you listen without downloading: Sly In The Morning: Mary Bottari On New Banking Laws
Here is BanksterUSA's video:
December 5, 2009
So I had dinner at a friend's house last night. She works hard (caring for mentally challenged people in a facility), but of course doesn't make a lot (she only has a Master's degree). She tells a story about how she went to the bank to be sure she had money in the account, they assured her she did, she didn't withdraw anything or write any checks, and a week later she had over $300 in bank overdraft "fees." Her account was very low so they held a check until the account was low enough that it would run out, then took out the large amount, and after that a number of earlier debits were charged, so each of them incurred a large overdraft fee, even if they were for very small amounts.
I am hearing these stories over and over from people who are being charged these outrageous "fees" for using their debit cards, so this bank overdraft fee scam must be just massively widespread. One way the bank scams you by holding all your checks and ATM usage, and then processing the largest first regardless of the order they come in, which means if you are overdrawn you will get a large number of overdrafts instead of just the large one.
You can't do anything about this. They won't just deny the debit, and you cannot get them to turn this off.
Here is the solution: If you do not have a large balance in your account do not use cards for any reason. Use cash. Why let the bank scam you?
Credit cards a nothing but a scam at this point. Never hold a balance on a credit card. They depend on this, and use every trick in the book to make you think it is OK to use a credit card to borrow money. Don't do it, you are just enriching the worst elements.
When I use Firefox the CPU meter goes way up, and the fan runs constantly. Sometimes when I am watching a YouTube the computer just shuts itself off. If I run Firefox and Skype at the same time I have to anticipate the shutdown.
Does anyone else have this problem?
I have a fairly new HP laptop with an AMD dual-processor. This happened in Windows Vista and now Windows 7. I really don't want to have to switch back to IE and Safari isn't quite there yet...
Others have written about this problem: Firefox: Heat and the CPU usage problem
I think this is a significant post from Natasha, who is on her way to Copenhagen to cover the climate treaty talks: Is China Still A Developing Nation? | OurFuture.org
The details of climate treaties are complex and wonky, but important. There is a "Clean Development Mechanism" in the Kyoto treaty, which helps developing nations get the money to develop clean energy sources. China qualifies as a developing nation, and has been getting the bulk of the subsidies. Is this appropriate? Read her post.
Not Under The Bus is serving as a hub for online info about action centers fighting for women's health care in the health care reform bill before Congress.
This is not a redundant or competing effort, it links to all the groups, sites, etc. that are working on this.
December 4, 2009
This is the must-read blog post of the month: The Greatest Deception in the History of Finance | The Big Picture
I won't give anything away here. Go read it.
December 3, 2009
In today's hearings Bernanke called for cutting Social Security to cover the shortfall that will occur when the money borrowed from Social Security to fund tax cuts for the rich is needed.
As David Dayen wrote today at FDL, "And this is what he’s saying when he WANTS his job back. What will it be if he gets it?"
"Well, Senator, I was about to address entitlements," Bernanke replied. "I think you can't tackle the problem in the medium term without doing something about getting entitlements under control and reducing the costs, particularly of health care."
Bernanke reminded Congress that it has the power to repeal Social Security and Medicare.
"It's only mandatory until Congress says it's not mandatory. And we have no option but to address those costs at some point or else we will have an unsustainable situation," said Bernanke.
December 2, 2009
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein has joined a group of Senators threatening to allow the nation to default on its debt unless a commission to "fast track" cuts to Social Security is created.
Talking Points Memo describes what is going on,
Moderate and conservative Democrats want to empower an outside entitlement commission to reshape major domestic spending programs like Medicare and Social Security, and they're threatening a truly nuclear option to get their way. If Congress does not create this commission, they say, they will vote against must-pass legislation to raise the nation's debt ceiling, which would trigger a default, and, perhaps, economic calamity.
"I will not vote for raising the debt limit without a vehicle to handle this," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told McClatchy. "This is our moment."
About this commission,
As proposed, it would hand a significant amount of Congressional authority over entitlement programs to an outside body. That body would make recommendations that Congress would have to vote on, up or down--no filibusters.
That's a bridge way too far for liberals, who see the commission as a backdoor approach to gutting Social Security.
Here's the problem. Many people believe that there is a problem with Social Security - that it is "going broke." But the fact is that Social Security has a huge reserve in the bank. Social Security runs a huge surplus, and that surplus has been added to this reserve every year for decades. Social Security will continue running a surplus until at least 2017, and can then draw on that trust fund to make up any shortfalls for at least the next 30-40 years.
Ah, but where is that trust fund? According to a recent Washington Post story,
The Treasury Department has for decades borrowed money from the Social Security trust fund to finance government operations. If it is no longer able to do so, it could be forced to borrow an additional $700 billion over the next decade from China, Japan and other investors. And at some point, perhaps as early as 2017, according to the CBO, the Treasury would have to start repaying the billions it has borrowed from the trust fund over the past 25 years, driving the nation further into debt or forcing Congress to raise taxes.
So there is the problem in a nutshell. They spent it. They spent it on tax cuts for the rich, and now that people are retiring and want that money, Senator Feinstein and the others don't want to raise taxes on the rich to pay back what was borrowed from the nation's retirement account.
This is the same as the situation in California. They cut taxes and made up the shortfall with various gimmicks, until the gimmicks ran out. So now that the bill is due the protectors of the wealthiest talk about "spending" - which is government coming through for the people - as the area to cut, instead of turning to the people who received all the benefits of the earlier actions.
Senator Feinstein, keep your hands off of my -- and everyone else's -- retirement account. You borrowed that money, now pay it back. Don't think you can solve this problem by asking me to accept less than what I was promised because you handed that money out to the wealthy. The people who got it should be the ones paying it back, not the people it was taken from. You already took money from the taxpayers to bail out the wealthiest, don't do it again.
Here are my reasons for supporting this strategy of a surge with a timeline at the end:
First and foremost, women and the Taliban. This is the main reason I support this - we cannot abandon the women and people of Afghanistan to the Taliban.
This is not an "escalation" in the way that we are used to from Vietnam. This strategy - the one Bush resisted for years - has shown success in Iraq and has reduced the fighting, allowing the society to stabilize.
This is not Vietnam, where we were fighting the people. We are not fighting against a popular insurgency. We are helping the people throw off a bunch of thugs.
Which leads to the government, we are not there to help a corrupt government maintain power against its opposition as we were in Vietnam. Part of this plan imposes accountability on the corrupt government there. That is part of the trap Bush left behind. But we can't just abandon the people there because of the corruption in the government.
Always keep in mind the impossible position that we are in because of Bush. We wouldn't be there at all now except for Bush. He used corrupt strategies to win, aligning us with the corrupt elements of the country. After going in they just dropped it, letting the Taliban come back.
The “Jobs Summit” is Thursday. Are they going to try to get things back to normal? I hope not!
“Normal” isn’t an option anymore, because it is what led to where we are.
The financial sector bailout is based on the idea that things will get back to “normal” if the credit machine is restarted and consumers and businesses are able to borrow more. The stimulus is based on the idea that the economy is an engine that runs smoothly and just needs to be restarted and things will get back to “normal.” While we wait for “normal” to return the government is stepping in to make up the slack in demand, and to help those hit hardest by the downturn. (Never mind that COBRA subsidies start expiring as you read this and unemployment has been extended and extended.)
The idea that you can get the financial sector and the economy back to “normal” desperately assumes that a sustainable “normal” existed in the structure of the 20th-century western economy. It assumes that there really is an “invisible hand” that takes care of things without human intervention. It assumes that perpetual growth of consumers and their incomes and of consumables could just go on and on.
This all assumes that “normal” was OK. This is such a nice, comforting idea. It is wrong.
What if that “normal” system really was unsustainable and that is what led to its collapse? What if there was a limit to how many jobs can be outsourced, wages cut, factories closed, people born, trees cut down, fish taken from the sea, nutrients taken from the soil, water taken from the aquifers? And, of course, the big one: what if there is a limit to how much carbon can be put into the atmosphere?
If people and nature and markets finally reached a limit, and things broke down -- what then? What then is we need to give up on returning to that “comfortable” dream and get to work designing a sustainable system that benefits and respects all of us and the planet we rode in on.
We need a restructuring, a redesign, a new direction. Our "normal" system has turned into a low-wage, everything-to-the-top economy and this must be restructured.
The core of what needs to be restructured is that we have a system where people with power and wealth benefit when they figure out how to cause other people to receive lower pay and benefits -- or just lose their jobs. The incentives come down to this: if someone can figure out how to cut your pay and benefits or just get rid of you (“eliminate your position”) they get to pocket what you were making, and you get nothing. If you don't own the company you're out of luck.
Now that is a perverse incentive if there ever was one. (Another perverse incentive: People with power and wealth benefit when they "externalize" costs like environmental or health damages. If they figure out how to hurt you or the planet without having to pay the costs of healing those harms, they get to pocket the savings.)
In the past this perverse incentive was mitigated by people banding together in governments and/or unions and forcing the wealthy and powerful to share. But modern marketing science has been successful at making people believe that government and unions are bad for them.
This was also mitigated by the ongoing need to find people to do the jobs that needed to get done. But with continual improvements in technology this need is reduced. For example, here is a story about a factory that builds large-screen TVs without any employees.
Also, this perverse incentive assumes an infinite pool of customers to sell to, ignoring that the transaction of benefiting from eliminating a job also eliminates a customer. But modern business has become so efficient at job elimination that this comes into play. Who will be able to buy theTVs that the employee-eliminating factory makes, if all the employees are eliminated and have no income?
Three decades ago productivity and wages decoupled. Where wages used to always increase along with productivity Reagan initiated an era where that increase was no longer shared, and the benefits of our economy now increasingly flow to the few at the top. Now they have all the money, and everyone else is loaded with debt from just trying to keep things "normal."
You might be lucky enough to still have a job today but you probably haven’t had a raise for a long time. And if you did rising costs of health care, etc. took it back. But even if you are ahead, what about tomorrow? Do you have a job that absolutely can't be outsourced or replaced by technology? If you think so I have news for you, millions of newly-unemployed can see that you have a rare necessary job, and they're all going to try to get it from you.
So good luck with the Jobs Summit. But if we don't hear about a fundamental restructuring that involves changing basic ideas of what work means and who "owns" the companies and shares the wealth in a technologically advanced, overpopulated and overproducing world, well, I won't think we're hearing the answers we need to hear. Put more simply, my example of the employee-eliminating TV factory is becoming more and more real. But certainly something can be done with a situation where there are plenty of TVs being made, and everyone has a lot of free time because there aren't enough jobs. How obvious is the answer to that?
Yes, I'll be posting ideas so check back for future posts on this. In the meantime please leave a comment with your ideas.
December 1, 2009
My take on Obama's speech is that Bush left Obama little choice on how to proceed, and this is the best that can be done with it.
Bush had the chance to conclude Afghanistan years ago but neglected it, just like how he let bin Laden go, because he had his agenda with Iraq. So the Taliban came back. And here we are.
I don't see any alternative to the strategy that Obama outlined. The people of Afghanistan want peace and security. If we "just leave" they get the Taliban instead, and we get decades of insecurity from the region.
Americans form the region also deserve to see security brought to Afghanistan because they can't even go home and visit their families. etc. without falling under suspicion.