January 31, 2010
Despite White House overtures for congressional Republicans to work with Democrats, GOP leaders indicated Sunday they were unwilling to accept much of what President Barack Obama and the Democrats are proposing.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell showed little willingness on CNN's "State of the Union" program to seek common ground with Democrats on top legislative priorities such as health care, a jobs bill or creating a bipartisan statutory commission to come up with plans to reduce the federal deficit.
His counterpart in the House, Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, was more blunt.
Look, the Republican strategy is to block everything and then campaign saying "Democrats can't get anything done."
The question is, why do Senate Dems fall for it? There are lots of things that they could pass with 51 votes, but they claim that would be mean to the Republicans.
You can't turn on Fox news without hearing about Obama giving "Miranda rights to terrorists."
There are hundreds of references to this just at the Fox News website alone. And of course the right's echo chamber propels the propaganda. There are 163,000 websites that contain these words. Click the link and scroll down to see how this works.
The NY Times ran a story today about the "high jinks" of the right-wing smear artist O'Keefe, repeating the smears on ACORN, without mentioning the investigations that concluded his ACORN videotapes were doctored and that ACORN employees did nothing wrong.
Mr. O’Keefe made his biggest national splash last year when he dressed up as a pimp and trained his secret camera on counselors with the liberal community group Acorn — eliciting advice on financing a brothel on videos that would threaten to become Acorn’s undoing.
There is a problem with this NY Times report of the ACORN affair: O'Keefe was not dressed as a "pimp" when visiting the ACORN office, instead representing himself as a candidate for Congress trying to save girls from exploitation. He only dressed as a "pimp" when publicizing his videos, using the racist stereotype to amplify his false claims.
Compare the impression left by this NY Times story with : ACORN Report Finds No Illegal Conduct, which describes former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger's investigation of the accusations. Among the investigation's conclusions,
The videos that have been released appear to have been edited, in some cases substantially, including the insertion of a substitute voiceover for significant portions of Mr. O'Keefe's and Ms. Giles's comments, which makes it difficult to determine the questions to which ACORN employees are responding. A comparison of the publicly available transcripts to the released videos confirms that large portions of the original video have been omitted from the released versions.
I located this information after using The Google for maybe two minutes. I propose that the New York Times consider offering Google Training to its "reporters."
January 30, 2010
Republicans like to claim that Obama "tripled the deficit" and point to the huge 2009 budget deficit. They use charts that show the 2009 deficit was, indeed, huge and about triple the prior year's borrowing. But the 2009 budget was the last year of BUSH budgets.
When you look at charts or hear descriptions from Republicans, they always say that this was Obama's deficit. This is just propaganda- lies intended to deceive. For example, when Obama spoke at the Republican caucus retreat yesterday, GOP Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas said that Obama had "tripled the deficit." A CNN fact check addresses this,
Obama was essentially correct when he said he inherited a budget deficit of $1.3 trillion. Though the budget deficit for 2008 was a then-record $458.6 billion, the CBO issued a projection in January 2009, just days before Obama took office that the budget deficit would reach $1.2 trillion that year, before the cost of any new stimulus plan or other legislation was taken into account.So again, Republican claims that Obama has somehow increased the deficit are just lies intended to trick people. This massive increase that was reported after the fiscal year ended Sept. 20 occurred under Bush.
Don't believe me? See the conservative Cato Institute on this: Don’t Blame Obama for Bush’s 2009 Deficit | Cato @ Liberty,
Listening to a talk radio program yesterday, the host asserted that Obama tripled the budget deficit in his first year. This assertion is understandable, since the deficit jumped from about $450 billion in 2008 to $1.4 trillion in 2009. As this chart illustrates, with the Bush years in green, it appears as if Obama’s policies have led to an explosion of debt.Please click through to see the charts. And then look at Cato: Who's To Blame for the Massive Deficit? for an even better explanation,
. . . But there is one rather important detail that makes a big difference. The chart is based on the assumption that the current administration should be blamed for the 2009 fiscal year. While this makes sense to a casual observer, it is largely untrue. The 2009 fiscal year began October 1, 2008, nearly four months before Obama took office. The budget for the entire fiscal year was largely set in place while Bush was in the White House.
What about the so-called stimulus, they will ask, with its $787 billion price tag? Or the omnibus fiscal-year 2009 appropriations bill? And how about Cash for Clunkers and Obama's expansion of the children's health insurance program? Didn't these all boost spending in 2009?
The answer is yes. But these boondoggles amounted to just a tiny percentage of FY2009 spending — about $140 billion out of a $3.5 trillion budget — as the pie chart nearby illustrates.
Here are some examples of how this propaganda is applied. keep in mind as you read these and look at the charts that the 2009 budget was Bush's last budget, and began before Obama even took office.
Heritage Foundation: Bush Deficit vs. Obama Deficit in Pictures. Look at how the chart tricks you into think that 2009 is an Obama budget year.
Here is Heritage directly labeling the 2009 budget as Obama's in a chart.
Fox News: Obama Triples Budget Deficit to $1.4 Trillion (they have since changed the headline but here is it as it appeared:)
Here's a good one, using a Heritage propaganda chart: Obama’s Tripling of the National Debt in Pictures
Hat tip: The Big Picture
January 29, 2010
No one won, and this isn't about "winning." It was good for the country. I congratulate the Republicans for inviting President Obama and President Obama for showing up and having this discussion. Good for them and good for us. Maybe something good will come from this. Fat chance.
Let's say Democrats ran the government for several years, and ran the country into a ditch. Disgusted, voters elected a Republican president with a huge mandate, gave Republicans the biggest House majority either party has had in 20 years, and the biggest Senate majority either party has had in 30 years.
Then imagine that, despite the overwhelming edge, Democrats decided -- during times of foreign and domestic crises -- that they simply would not allow the GOP majority to govern. Dems ignored the election results and reflexively opposed literally every bill, initiative, and nominee of any consequence, blocking anything and everything.
In this hypothetical, despite two wars, Democrats rejected funding for the troops. Despite a terrorist plot, Democrats rejected the qualified nominee to head the TSA. Despite an economic crisis, Democrats rejected economic recovery efforts, a jobs bill, and nominees to fill key Treasury Department posts.
Now, in this hypothetical, what do you suppose the political climate would look like? Would the huge Republican majority simply wring its hands? Would GOP officials decide it's time to try "bipartisan" governing? Would Republicans shrink from pursing their policy agenda?
Go read the rest.
America's Competitors Will Use Supreme Court Ruling To Block Our Green Jobs Effort And Close Our Factories
It's not personal, it's business.
The Supreme Court recently ruled 5-4 that
George Bush will be President corporations can spend unlimited amounts to support or oppose candidates. Corporations! Since there are no restrictions on the citizenship of the owners of corporations foreign companies and governments now have a direct way to manipulate our laws and regulations.
Outside interests have been influencing American opinion for decades, but have not before this been able to directly support or oppose candidates. The Washington Times, Fox News, and other corporations with significant foreign ownership already work full-time to turn American public opinion against our own government. "Free trade" advocacy groups with funding from outside our borders work to get us to open our markets to imports that close our factories, outsource our jobs, lower our standard of living and drive us into ever-increasing debt. We have seen this with "grassroots" lobbying on important issues like climate change, trying to make people think that the science is a "hoax": see Grassroots’ Opposition to Clean Energy Reform Bankrolled by Foreign Oil, Petro-Governments.
But this new ability to directly support or oppose candidates offers a vastly more effective and immediate way for America's competitors to achieve their goals. What will they go after first? Of course a top goal of our competitors is to take down our manufacturing capacity -- the foundation of a country's economic power.
And, of course, this is exactly what is happening. Oil countries are already planning strategies to use this ruling to block our alternative energy and green jobs efforts. According to Think Progress:
For instance, Saudi Arabia has already signaled that the progressive effort to build a clean energy American economy is its “biggest threat”:Saudi Arabia’s economy depends on oil exports so stands to be one of the biggest losers in any pact that curbs oil demand by penalizing carbon emissions. “It’s one of the biggest threats that we are facing,” said Muhammed al-Sabban, head of the Saudi delegation to U.N. talks on climate change and a senior economic adviser to the Saudi oil ministry. [...] Climate talks posed a bigger threat, Sabban said, and subsidies for the development of renewable energy were distorting market economics in the sector, he said."
Presumably because of the Citizens United ruling, Saudi Arabian-owned subsidiaries operating in the United States can now spend unlimited amounts advocating the defeat of candidates who support clean energy legislation. According to a ThinkProgress investigation, foreign-oil backed lobbyists in America are already instigating efforts to kill clean energy legislation.
What are we doing about it? What is our plan? Every other country has economic/industrial policies, but for one reason or another the American public has been persuaded that America should not have an economic/industrial policy of our own. We're bombarded with propaganda that says having a plan would be government - that We, the People thing - "interfering" with "the market." This ideology is like an anchor on our country, holding us back from progress.
We must rally and take back control of our democracy and our future. This Supreme Court decision must be countered with immediate legislation or it means the loss of so many things that we value. And we must develop an economic/manufacturing policy for our country's future. This time it's personal.
Guest Post by Mary Bottari.
The debate over banks and banking came front and center this week. In his toughest language yet, President Barack Obama vowed to veto financial reform legislation that is not tough enough on Wall Street. “The lobbyists are already trying to kill it,” Obama told Congress in his State of the Union address. “Well, we cannot let them win this fight. And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back."
The President’s rhetoric offers an important measure of progress. Now we can be assured that the political elite are paying attention to the poll numbers showing an unprecedented anger at the big banks and the Wall Street bailouts. Democrats are starting to figure out if they don’t take up this populist message and run with it in November, the Republicans will.
But the rest of the President’s speech and the other dramatic developments in the banking world this week indicate that Democratic actions are falling far short of their rhetoric, a pattern that voters are sure to notice.
First, the speech. Many had anticipated a big announcement on jobs. With jobless rates in the double digits and a projected 5-10 year haul to get employment back to normal levels, workers were hoping for something big and bold. Instead, Obama proposed $30 billion in TARP funds to get credit flowing to small businesses. $30 billion to put 16 million Americans back to work? $30 billion when the Wall Street bonus pool for a few thousand bankers was $140 billion this month? Democrats will live to regret this missed opportunity.
Also on Wednesday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was called on the carpet once again by irate members of the House for his mishandling of the AIG bailout. To their credit, several Democrats asked the toughest questions. But Geithner bobbed and weaved and no knock-out punches were landed. This is a problem for the Democrats. The whole incident paints an ugly picture of the federal response to the financial meltdown, best described by Representative Edolphus Towns (D-NY): "The taxpayers were propping up the hollow shell of AIG by stuffing it with money and the rest of Wall Street came by and looted the corpse."
On Thursday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was reconfirmed by the Senate for another four year term. His nomination had been in trouble and a record number of senators voted no, but Obama stood by his man and pushed him through. The problem with Bernanke is best summarized by economist Simon Johnson: “Bernanke is an airline pilot who pulled off a miraculous landing, but didn’t do his preflight checks and doesn’t show any sign of being more careful in the future – thank him if you want, but why would you fly with him again (or the airline that keeps him on)?” While Bernanke may have saved Wall Street, he has shown little interest in using his power as Fed Chairman to aggressively aid Main Street. He is not the man for the job in these tough economic times and that will soon be apparent to the detriment of the Democrats who secured his confirmation.
Ultimately, however, the most important developments of the week were played out behind closed doors in the Senate. Senate Banking Chairman, Chris Dodd, made the decision some time ago to try to devise a bipartisan financial reform package. His package of reforms was then handed over to four bipartisan working groups. With thousands of bank lobbyists swarming the hill, it is no surprise that these groups are busily making the Dodd bill worse.
The derivatives language is being weakened and bankruptcy is emerging as the preferred method of unwinding financial institutions, which could leave taxpayers to foot the bill for this expensive procedure. To truly end the "too big to fail" problem and crack down on the reckless behavior of the biggest banks, we need strong, specific preventative measures such as leverage limits, capital and margin requirements, limits on counterparty exposures, a ban on proprietary trading and limits on bank size through a low cap on total liabilities. Even Obama’s signature reform, an independent consumer agency is in danger of being whittled down to a corner desk in a failed federal agency.
The President understands that the Wall Street bailout was “about as popular as a root canal.” But if Democrats continue to peddle this type of rhetoric while neglecting meaningful reform as they have done this week, the Republicans will run away with the anti-bailout message and with the election in November.
January 28, 2010
Read about why bankers are claiming "hardship" because of England's new tax on banker bonuses:
...it's a hardship," Gary Goldstein, who runs Whitney Group, a financial-services job-search firm in New York, told the paper. What with multiple residences, private school tuitions, domestic employees, and various membership fees, a banker's expenses can demand a lot of cash.
They have to:
1) Maintain multiple residences
2) Pay hundreds of thousands in tuition for exclusive private schools
3) Pay all the servants
4) Pay membership at all the exclusive clubs to hang out with the other rich fucks.
May I suggest:
1) Live in only one house.
2) The kids can go to the same schools everyone else goes to.
3) Answer your own door drive your own car, clean your own house and cook your own dinners.
4) Quick the clubs and go to the pubs. Expose yourselves to some of the people whose lives you ruined.
January 27, 2010
I think this was a great speech. He spoke to Americans as adults. He didn't use any gimmicks. (For example, the Republican response will be in front of an audience selected in advance with no Democrats allowed.)
He scolded Democrats for being chickenshits, and the Republicans for blocking everything.
Very high taxes at the top force executives into thinking and acting for the long-term interest of their business and surrounding community. If they can't get wealthy from a quick windfall then they have to run a sustainable business, and that depends on the health of the surrounding community.
Today executives can pocket a windfall in a short time and take off, leaving the mess behind for the rest of us to clean up. For example, the executives at Lehman Brothers got rich by destroying the firm and kept the money after it collapsed, while the employees were all laid off and the economy destroyed.
If high tax rates on the highest incomes mean it takes a decade to get rich, then the executives must do their part to keep the business and surrounding community healthy for that decade.
Amber Lee Ettinger -- the buxom sensa tion who lip-synched about her love for then-candidate Barack Obama -- said she wishes he spent his first year in office more fo cused on fixing the abysmal economy.
. . . Her grade for Obama: B- minus.
She said she is still excited to see tonight's State of the Union speech.
Here's a scenario to consider.
Right-wing hero James O'Keefe got caught trying to bug Senator Landrieu's office. Senator Landrieu is on the Senate's Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. This is serious shit and bugging the office of a Senator on this committee is serious shit.
O'Keefe is a true believer, but just suppose that he wasn't working for who he thought he was working for. If you were looking to get intelligence info, who would be more obvious to turn to than the true believers of the conservative movement? They start out hating the government. These clucks will believe literally anything if it's worded correctly. So all you have to do is tell them they're engaged in an action that will "expose liberals" or something, and they'll do anything to help you.
I started thinking about this back when Reagan was running against Carter, and the story came out that the Reagan campaign was running an intelligence operation stealing secret documents right out of the White House. They got a military aide to steal Carter's briefing book, and columnist George Will to help them, without reporting it. So I started thinking, what if the Soviet Union was aware of this? And of course they were. What better way for them to penetrate the US Government? Surely the Reagan campaign's security had a lower bar than the US Government. The Republicans might have been using the documents to win elections, but who else was looking at them?
So let's not just dismiss this as some prank. They attempted to bug the office of a member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which handles secret information. Maybe O'keefe was just going to listen for stuff to put on Fox News, but who else was able to listen to his bugs?
January 26, 2010
A Republican operative has been arrested along with others, for attempting to bug the office of Democratic senator Mary Landrieu. From the Shreveport Times,
An FBI affidavit says the incident happened Monday. At least two of the suspects were dressed in work clothes and construction hats and claimed they were technicians for a telphone company.
The four were identified by the U.S. Attorney's Office on Tuesday as James O'Keefe, 25; Stan Dai, 24; Robert Flanagan 24; and Joseph Basel, 24.
Before this, O'Keefe was known for filming ACORN employees and editing the tapes to make it appear the employees were engaged in improper behavior. An investigation by the Congressional Research Service found that O'Keefe and the videotapers were the only party to the affair that had violated any laws.
Another investigation by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger found that,
The videos that have been released appear to have been edited, in some cases substantially, including the insertion of a substitute voiceover for significant portions of Mr. O'Keefe's and Ms. Giles's comments, which makes it difficult to determine the questions to which ACORN employees are responding. A comparison of the publicly available transcripts to the released videos confirms that large portions of the original video have been omitted from the released versions.
Obama is proposing a "spending freeze" because the public believes Fox News when they say that the huge deficit in Bush's last budget is because of Obama. The huge deficit is the fault of conservative policies, and they have successfully deflected blame.
A spending freeze is bad policy. You need to invest now, so that the deficit can be brought down as the investments pay off.
It is bad politics because it means the government won't be able to do a badly-needed second stimulus to create jobs. The public will blame Obama and Democrats for the employment crisis caused by conservative policies.
It is extremely bad messaging because it just validates right-wing anti-government nonsense. It says government is bad, spending is bad, etc.
But the thing I am most disappointed about is that it is a cheap gimmick. This is the first time I have seen the Obama administration play cheap politics and use cheap gimmicks. This is beneath them. Until now I thought that their heart was into solving problems and treating the public with respect. This breaks that.
January 24, 2010
The first problem I have with President Obama stems from his refusal to uphold the rule of law and hold the Bush administration accountable for possible criminal activity. It doesn't matter if we need to look forward, have big problems on the table, whatever. The first job of government is to uphold the rule of law, or the legitimacy of that government is undermined.
The conspiracy to invade Iraq needs to be investigated. If it is determined that these people lied, planted evidence, etc. in order to cause us to invade that country, this is the most serious crime imaginable. Enough people in this country and the world think this is a possibility that it undermines law and democracy not to look into this and see what we can find out.
Next move on to torture. This must be investigated, or else everyone will come to believe first that there are different standards in the law for people in power, and that it is the accepted policy of our country.
Now move on to the appearance of bribery, embezzlement, cronyism, favors to campaign contributors, selective prosecutions, no-bid contracts, improper political appointments, etc. These, if fond to have actually occurred, are all crimes. They are all supposed to be investigated and prosecuted. The rule of law demands that this is done. If they did these things and get away with it, then these things will happen again, with the bush administration as only a starting point next time.
President Obama's failure to uphold the rule of law is inexcusable.
January 23, 2010
The Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations to use their vast resources to directly influence the political process shifts the business playing field away from competing in the marketplace with products and services, to purchasing government/legal/reguatory advantages, subsidies and monopolies.
The marketplace is now irrelevant - only company size matters. It is just more efficient to beat your competitors by buying legislation than it is by competing in the marketplace. When you can purchase $1 billion in tax breaks, subsidies, mandates, contracts, whatever by spending a few million on candidates/influence, etc. it just makes more sense to do so. The return on investment is just so much higher than building factories, spending on research, paying employees, and other tedious, time-consuming, capital-intensive work.
For some time companies have recognized that the rewards from lobbying outperform the rewards from competing in the marketplace, and this ruling just amplifies that. This 2006 New York Times article, Google Joins the Lobbying Herd, discussed how Google felt it had “no choice but to get into the arena” to start “spreading its lobbying dollars” around to politicians and quotes Lauren Maddox, a lobbyist for Google, saying the "policy process is an extension of the market battlefield." This supreme court ruling just clinches this shift away from markets.
The game is necessarily going to be to use the superior resources of larger companies to purchase barriers that block smaller, innovative companies from getting anywhere, and force them to be absorbed.
Companies that think they can opt out of this and continue to compete with innovation, superior products and services are just mistaken. Any company that doesn't see this change will find that their competitors are working to buy legislation/rulemaking against them, and won't last long.
It's going to take a little while for this to sink in, but it is inevitable now.
Natasha, drop by and pick up your award.
January 22, 2010
Beer commercial lessons for Washington Democratic leadership:
And, as a side note, this merely confirms what we already know- whenever the Republicans accuse someone of something, they are already doing it. Class warfare? Has he watched the GOP the last twenty years?
Now just a minute, that's copyrighted. And trademarked. And patented. And placed in a lockbox. It's called the Seeing the Forest Rule. (Click and scroll down...)
The old "Seeing the Forest Rule" is "When right-wingers are accusing others of something it is usually a cover for something THEY are doing."
You'll be getting a letter from my lawyers.
The Supreme Court yesterday allowed corporate executives to tap into their company's resources and use that money to directly influence elections instead of for the profitable operation of the company. This use of company funds isn't considered bribery because the company executives can claim they are only engaged is "speech" to promote good government, not influence public officials to bring a return to the company.
To fix this we should pass a law that tightens up corporate governance and explicitly spells out - as law - that for-profit companies can only use company resources for the profitable operation of the company. This would make it illegal to use company money to "promote good government" or any other excuse currently used to get around the bribery laws. If by law executives can't use the company's money except for activities that return a profit, then use of this money in politics can't be just "speech" -- it is to return a profit. Therefore the federal bribery of public officials statute would apply to any use of corporate resources to elect candidates:
18 U.S.C. § 201 : US Code - Section 201: Bribery of public officials and witnesses (b) Whoever - (1) directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official or person who has been selected to be a public official, or offers or promises any public official or any person who has been selected to be a public official to give anything of value to any other person or entity, with intent - (A) to influence any official act; ...
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than two years, or both.
Currently it is the fiduciary responsibility of the managers of a company to use corporate resources only for the profitable operation of the company, but not law, and executives largely ignore this responsibility and get away with it. Give this responsibility the force of law. Spell it out. And by doing so, protect the corporation's shareholders from this misuse of their money by executives.
Would this end "corporate philanthropy? Yes it would! This is a good thing!
I completely agree with Milton Friedman that corporate philanthropy is nothing more than a scam - theft from the company by the few who make these decisions. If there is extra cash laying around and the money isn't used to bring back profit to the company it should be distributed to the shareholders or taxed. That is what a company is FOR. We need to restore this understanding of what these companies are for.
We shouldn't have our parks, symphonies, etc. decided by some executive's vanity. In a democracy we should have these things because We, the People want them. Tax big companies and let US decide how to use the money, instead of begging some executive to let us have these things. This is why we set up the legal construct that allows these companies to exist.
There is a common misunderstanding of what a corporation is that led to the Supreme Court getting away with this. A corporation is not a sentient entity, but we tend to think of it that way and this leads us to bad decisions about where they fit in society. It is simply a legal construct that allows the pooling of resources to reduce individual risk, so that large-scale projects can be accomplished. One person can't fund the building of a 747 airplane and even if one person had the resources it would be "putting all of the eggs in one basket." By bringing in thousands that risk is reduced and the necessary capital is gathered. To further reduce risk we excuse the shareholders from personal liability for the debts of the company - they don't have to pay the debts if the company goes bankrupt or is sued and they don't go to jail if the company does something bad.
We through our laws set this construct up for our benefit - to accomplish large-scale projects, create goods and jobs, and to pay back a portion to us as taxes. In return for giving the investors these advantages we expected a return. The advantages would lead to profits that would be shared so we could build the roads, schools, courts and other public structures that enable these companies and us to thrive. But over time that understanding has also eroded and the tax burden has shifted ever downward - or just borrowed.
Companies don't make decisions, think, act or speak and more than a book or a chair does. A few executives at the top make these decisions and then use corporate resources to implement them. Bob in Sales and Alisha in Accounts Receivable have nothing to do with these decisions. If the executives screw up or engage in schemes that enrich themselves Bob and Alisha get laid off, the executives have already pocketed their bonuses so they don't really care and "the company" doesn't "learn a lesson" because it can't lean any more than a book or a chair can.
We must restore this understanding of the role of corporations in our society. They exist to accomplish certain things. We, the People set this up to benefit US. We enabled the aggregation of vast resources and assumed that the fiduciary responsibility to only use those resources for operating the company would be upheld. This turns out to have been a mistake. The executives who control those resources are using them to tilt the playing field and bring advantage to themselves, in ways that have nothing to do with delivering better products or services. They instead use these resources to influence government to just hand them competitive advantage - or just cash.
So if we want to end corporate domination of our politics and our lives we need to tighten up corporate governance and spell out in law that the resources of a corporation must not leak out of that corporation, and should ONLY be used for the profitable operation of the company and nothing else.
January 21, 2010
I am sure that you have heard, over and over, that "the managers of corporations have a fiduciary duty to maximize corporate profits." This means that when they use corporate resources it must be for the purpose of increasing the profits of the company. Any other use violates their responsibilities to the company.
The Supreme Court ruled today that corporate executives will be allowed to use corporate resources to influence our elections, even placing advertisements asking voters to vote for or against candidates, with no limit on the amounts spent.
But corporate executives can only spend company funds with the expectation that the elected candidate will then act in their official capacity to further the profits and interests of that corporation. There is no other reason that executives can use corporate resources to influence elections, except with the expectation that the company will profit if and when the candidate is in office.
So read what federal law says about giving something of value with the intent of influencing an official to act.
18 U.S.C. § 201 : US Code - Section 201: Bribery of public officials and witnesses
(b) Whoever -
(1) directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official or person who has been selected to be a public official, or offers or promises any public official or any person who has been selected to be a public official to give anything of value to any other person or
entity, with intent -
(A) to influence any official act; ...
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than two years, or both.
It is illegal to provide something of value with the intent of influencing official acts. Obviously campaign ads are "something of value." And obviously the corporate executives are using corporate resources to influence the election with the expectation of influencing official acts for profit. Since corporate executives are violating their responsibilities to the company if they place campaign ads without the expectation that they are influencing official acts - which is bribery under the law - the only circumstances where a corporation does what the Supreme Court allowed today would be a violation of this federal statute. They can't use corporate funds to promote good government, help the CEO's friend get election, or any other reason except to make the company make money.
Did the Supreme Court overturn our bribery statutes?
It seems to me an opportunity for the Atty General to announce that the executives of any companies placing ads for a federal candidate will be given a choice of prosecution for attempted bribery or a shareholder suit for squandering company funds. They get to say whether they intended to influence official acts and be prosecuted, or were not trying to influence official acts and will be surd for misuse of corporate resources -- theft.
Reuters reported two hours ago that multiple financial industry sources claimed that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was unhappy with the President's plan he announced today to rein in the banks. The sources said that Geithner thinks Obama is sacrificing good policy for politics.
This is a BIG deal, and if true should mean immediate firing of Geithner.
The Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 to
make George W. Bush President allow large corporations to spend as much as needed to place their candidates in office, so that they will pass laws:
- giving them access to government funds
- restricting their smaller competitors
- allowing them to dump toxins in the water and air
requiring people to purchase health insurance- (already in progress)
- anything else they want
This ruling unleashes monopoly corporatocracy. The - currently - biggest corporations win. This sets in place that they get to run things now, and stay biggest. Of course first and foremost the biggest companies will use their vast resources to keep the playing field rigged to their advantage so they stay biggest. And then to get bigger. How long before they get antitrust laws off the books? And then of course we will see things like Exxon will get laws passed restricting alternate energy.
Imagine being a state legislator and a company tells you they will spend ten or a hundred million against you - smearing you like the Hillary documentary this case was about - if you don't do what they say. No one can stand up against that and if they DO they'll be out of office in a heartbeat.
This one-dollar-one-vote ruling is a sad day for one-person-one-vote democracy.
“I hope we shall... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and to bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to George Logan. November 12, 1816
January 20, 2010
The Wall Street banksters are giving out $150 billion in bonuses this year. This is money they have because the taxpayers:
1) provided cash to bail them out directly and through schemes like the AIG pass-through
2) guaranteed or just bought their toxic assets
3) pay a tax on savings accounts through low interest rates set bu the govt, which goes to the big banks
Obama says the bonuses are "excessive" but he can't really do anything.
Can you remember what the Bushies would have done when they wanted to stop something? There would be a huge, coordinated PR campaign smearing them, coming up with one smear or justification after another until something sticks. Every newspaper would be running headlines about how these evil bankers are ruining the country. The public wouldn't be discussing anything else. There would not be any law, opponent, etc. who could get in the way without being crushed.
No law, no rule, no ethics, nothing would have gotten in their way, they would just do it. And then they would justify it. They they would repeat something until no one remembered anything except what they repeated. They would just make their own reality.
Meanwhile, Obama says the bonuses are "excessive" but he can't really do anything. And with only 59 seats in the Senate they are going to have to pivot way to the right to get anything done. Etc.
One the one hand, Bush's disdain for the processes of democracy brought us to the edge of losing our treasured traditions - and may yet result in that loss. But on the other hand, Obama is not helping democracy with his reluctance to confront the very forces that are threatening to take that democracy away and replace it with corporatism -- government by the monopoly capitalists.
January 19, 2010
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
The Republican candidate won the special election in Massachusetts to replace Senator Kennedy, giving them 41 Senate votes. Senate Republicans have filibustered every single bill this year, and this clinches their ability to block the President's agenda. If this sounds familiar to Californians, it's because in California the Republican minority is able to block budgets, and we have seen the results.
There are lots of sophisticated explanations for the election's outcome, mostly involving people being upset at particulars of the health care bill. But I don't really think that the people who voted for the Republican candidate were all that well informed about differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, the "public option," or other intricacies of in-progress legislation.
Instead, when looking for the reasons people voted this way, I think we should take the Republican candidate's word for it. On his website he says it is for the following reasons:
At his September 12 announcement of candidacy for the U.S. Senate, Senator Brown articulated a core set of beliefs that guide his thinkingHere's the thing. Most of the assumptions underlying these statements are simply wrong - factually incorrect. They have been pounded out by a corporate/conservative misinformation machine that just makes stuff out and puts it out there on TV, the radio, email forwarding and every other channel they can find.
- Government is too big and that the federal stimulus bill made government bigger instead of creating jobs
- Taxes are too high and are going higher if Congress continues with its out-of-control spending
- The historic amount of debt we are passing on to our children and grandchildren is immoral
- Power concentrated in the hands of one political party, as it is here in Massachusetts, leads to bad government and poor decisions
- A strong military and vigorous homeland defense will protect our interests and security around the world and at home
- All Americans deserve health care, but we shouldn't have to create a new government insurance program to provide it
But the facts are that the federal stimulus didn't "make government bigger," the "out-of-control spending" occurred under the previous Republican president, we spend more on military than every other country in the world combined - and it is the largest government spending program contributing to the debt, and the health care reform specifically doesn't create a government insurance program (it should) and saves money rather than increase spending.
The Right has a message machine that has been repeating misinformation and getting away with it, because:
1) The leadership of the other party has let them get away with it.
2) There is no comparable megaphone with which to refute the misinformation.
The same is true here in California, and we may be heading for similar election turnovers. Republicans repeat things that simply are not true, but there is lack of leadership from elected democrats and almost no megaphone with which to counter the untruths. The example we regularly bring up here is the assertion, repeated over and over, that businesses and rich people leave California because of taxes and regulations. Of courase this just isn't true, but is formulated in a way that sounds like it could be true if you just don't think about it, and leads to large corporations having even more power over our lives and the wealthy having an even greater share of all income and wealth.
Of course, people and businesses that do leave the state do so because of the high cost of living, which is the result of so many poeple wanting to live here. It just costs more to live in a nicer place.And as I wrote last week, it is a nicer place because of the government and the public structures that We, the People built. In other words, California is a nicer place because of those regulations and taxes!
Guest post by Mary Bottari of Bankster
Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) was considering dropping the idea of creating an independent, stand-alone consumer protection body, empowered to crack down on banking abuses, in order to get a regulatory revamp passed this year with bipartisan support. Dodd is apparently considering shrinking the CFPA into a division of an already existing federal agency (no doubt one with a proven track-record of failing consumers.)
On January 6th, facing an impossibly tough re-election fight, Dodd announced that he was stepping down at the end of 2010. Analysis was mixed about what this would mean for bank reform, but Politico reported that one financial service lobbyist crowed: "Now that Dodd is retiring, he can ignore the demands of the special interests on the left (consumer groups, trial bar, unions) and dance with the special interests that brought him to the dance in the first place. Us, his loyal donors in the banking community."
Today, BanksterUSA released its new video, which calls upon Senator Dodd to dance with the people and not the special interests. The video features Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren, who came up with the idea of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Warren makes the simple argument, that if America has an independent regulatory body to police toasters so they cannot burn down your house, why don't we have an independent regulator to police deceptive mortgages that can put you out on the street?
The video also features Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in America based on market capitalization. The focus on Dimon is particularly timely. Dimon's firm survived the great meltdown, absorbed the failing WaMu and Bear Sterns, received billions in bailout funds and other government benefits which allowed the firm to prosper in 2009. Dimon has been lobbying hard against any size cap on big banks and he has been touted as a replacement for U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner who has come under fire for his mishandling of the AIG bailout while head of the New York Fed.
On Friday, JPMorgan Chase announced $11 billion in earnings for 2009, and an eye-popping $27 billion in bonuses. The New York Times dryly reported that the bonus numbers "underscored the gaping divide between the financial industry and the many ordinary Americans who are still waiting for an economic recovery.
Senator Dodd is considering having his first hearings on financial reform at the end of January. Now is the time to "Fill Dodd's Dance Card" by signing our petition to send Dodd the message that the American people expect him to make protecting Main Street his legacy, not dancing with Wall Street. Dodd's committee must pass meaningful reform, even if that means kicking big bankers like Jamie Dimon out of the ballroom and telling Senate Republicans "no deal" on a weak package of reforms.
I suggest checking out the new Progressive Breakfast from the Campaign for America's Future. This is a morning roundup of what's going on in the news.
You can sign up to receive this in your inbox every morning by entering your email address in the box on the right side of the page.
January 18, 2010
Way back in July President Obama had the option of keeping the Congress in session until they passed health care.
White House officials negotiated furiously on Thursday to keep major health care legislation on track after the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said his chamber would not vote on a health measure until after Congress returned from its summer recess.
The summer recess was when the corporate-and-Wall-Street-funded astroturf groups put so much effort into building up the tea party movement and reviving the Republican Party.
Just sayin'... He had the option to be tough and insist. So why didn't he? From the news story:
As Mr. Obama took questions from his audience in Shaker Heights, he was asked whether he intended to call on Democratic leaders in Congress to cancel their August recess to try to reach a compromise on health care. For now, he said, he had no plans to do so.Looking back now, it's just one blunder after another.
“I don’t want a delay just because of politics,” he said. “I have to tell you that sometimes delays in Washington occur when people just don’t want to do anything that they think might be controversial.”
Mr. Reid tried to blame Republicans for the delay, saying they had asked for more time. But he also acknowledged the cooperation of three Republican negotiators, Senators Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine.
“Working with the Republicans, one of the things that they asked for was to have more time,” Mr. Reid said. He added: “I don’t think it’s unreasonable. This is a complex, difficult issue.”
I saw this over at The Big Picture: George Carlin on the American Dream
January 17, 2010
Coming back from DC Friday I was in a very long security line at Dulles Airport. Very long. But there was a special, short security line for First Class passengers. The rich got to sail past the peasants. I guess this is our new post-Bush government-in-action, left in place by Obama.
This was a government service, in a public airport. This was not the entry to the passenger cabin of the plane, where the rich get to sit first and then you have to file past them, looking at the nice, comfortable seats and the champagne-and-orange-juice they are served before the peasants are allowed to enter. This was a government-operated security checkpoint, making the peasants stand in line while the rich got special service.
I guess it's similar to how the biggest banks get special treatment by the government, and smaller banks get the FDIC Friday-after-closing takeover. The large oil and coal companies get government checks while innovative startup alternative-energy companies are on their own, with potential investors aware that the government will help the fossil-fuel giants crush them.
We are truly in a post-democracy era and most of us are the post-industrial peasants. The government will help the already-rich stay that way, the rest of us are harvested for profits and as disposable workers.
Corporate governance is a big part of what happened. One needed regulatory fix is simple: Federal Corporate Charter. Apply federal standards for incorporation so Delaware's lowest-common-denominator incorporation laws stop screwing up other state effort to regulate. See The Big Picture: Failure of Corporate Boards Is Ruining America.
January 15, 2010
The country has a very large debt built up from years and years of borrowing since Reagan. Bush's last budget year had a deficit of $1.4 trillion! This borrowing was caused by:
1) Conservative tax cuts for the rich under Reagan and Bush II that broke the budget.
2) Conservative spending increases, mostly on military.
3) Interest that must be paid each year on the debt resulting from 1 and 2.
4) Emergency spending made necessary by the financial crisis caused by conservative "free market" deregulation and cronyism.
Conservatives propose to address this debt they caused by:
1) Gut Social Security because money that was borrowed from Social Security to pay for the tax cuts for the rich needs to be paid back to Social Security so citizens who paid into the system can retire.
2) Gut Medicare because it is a popular government program that helps regular people.
3) Gut other non-military government programs that that help citizens who don't happen to be rich and are not owners of big corporations.
4) More tax cuts for the rich and increases in military spending. (Because they propose this as the solution to everything.)
Currently there is a proposal being floated for a "debt commission" structured to force these solutions without the cumbersome processes of democracy getting in the way.
Senators Gregg, Conrad, Bayh and others are threatening to force the United States of America to default on its debt obligations if such a commission is not set up,
Conrad, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and a group of about a dozen other Democratic senators said that the enactment of a special fiscal process was key to their votes on the debt limit increase. The federal debt limit, now at $12.4 trillion, must be raised by mid-February to prevent the government from defaulting.
How are these Senators described by the media? As "centrists" and "moderates." For example, from the story,
The commission’s supporters, mainly centrist lawmakers in both chambers, have said that the special legislative process is necessary to any fiscal reform because lawmakers aren’t willing to consider the politically perilous tax increases and spending cuts necessary to bring down the deficit, which hit a record $1.4 trillion last year.
Again and again these pro-corporatist, anti-democracy politicians -- so radical that they are threatening to destroy the credit of the United States -- are described as "centrist" and "moderate!" Please click these two links.
Words have power, and the words "moderate" and "centrist" force people's thinking in certain directions. It is no accident that these words are repeated in the corporate media to describe those proposing policies that further the interests of the largest corporations over the interests of regular citizens and democracy.
The big bankers say they shouldn't have to pay any taxes because they have paid back the government's bailout loans. What they are missing is the cost to the world of what they did. The unemployment costs, the foreclosures - people losing their homes, the lost pensions, the suicides... they don't even see this or care. They certainly aren't taking any responsibility.
But they are getting huge bonuses. And paying hundreds of millions to lobby to block any reform.
January 14, 2010
Is anyone at all surprised that the big banks are skimming off the top of Haiti relief donations? See As Wallets Open For Haiti, Credit Card Companies Take A Big Cut
On top of last week's bad news on unemployment, with 85,000 more jobs lost in December, today's initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits report was 444,000, an increase of 11,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 433,000
The "rule of thumb" break-even point for this number is said to be 425,000. This means as many people are hired as laid off in a given week. (Even now new people get hired in our vast economy -- somewhere.) So the conventional wisdom is that when this number is 425,000 it is break-even and the economy is not losing or gaining jobs.
BUT what happens when the economy is not only laying people off, but also is not hiring at the usual rate? Then 425,000 layoffs isn't going to be breakeven, and this is what appears to be our situation now. Calculated Risk, BLS: Near Record Low Job Openings in November,
Openings near a series low can't be a positive sign. Separations [layoffs] have declined sharply, but hiring has not picked up. This also suggests that eventually (possibly when the March 2010 benchmark revision is announced in Feb 2011), the November net change in employment will be revised down.
Whether or not 425,000 people are still being hired every week this week 444,000 people were laid off, so we are clearly still losing jobs.
Government is the only positive force in the economy right now. President Obama's "stimulus" saved or created about 2 million jobs. Imagine where we would be without the stimulus. It would not just be worse by 2 million jobs, it is possible the panic that was happening might have continued or even increased. And imagine if we didn't have the FDIC insuring people's bank accounts. Every bank would have failed, and people who didn't get their money out in time would be flat broke. And imagine if we didn't have unemployment benefits, COBRA subsidies for the unemployed, Food Stamps, etc. Just imagine.
But what we don't have is a clear path out of this, triggering the rest of the economy to perform for us again. (and never mind doing so in a way that is sustainable, environmentally sound, healthy, etc.) We have government assistance until the economy gets better but we do not have a clear government plan to make the economy get better. We still have this failed conservative "free market" thinking standing in the way of We, the People working together to get things going again. This used to be called "industrial policy." Of course, not having an industrial policy is an industrial policy -- a really, really bad one -- especially when almost every competing country does have policies they are acting on.
China, for example, has very strong government policies for promoting Chinese companies and industries. And as a result China's economy is said to be strongly recovering, even as our own continues to stagnate. China's policies include holding their currency artificially low and otherwise subsidizing companies to gain market share at the expense of the rest of the world.
But a policy to help our economy doesn't have to be at the expense of others. It can be a policy to help bring workers in other countries up to our standards, so they can become customers for our own products and services. This lifts the economy in our country as well as for our trading partners (not competitors). We can apply tariffs at the border on products that are made by people who are not fairly paid, or who are not allowed to organize unions, or who are not allowed to vote for government officials who would protect their safety, wages, environment, etc.
So let's start thinking about how our government can work with us to help us, instead of this weird, failed conservative "everyone on your own" free-market approach that led to collapse, please.
January 13, 2010
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
It took years for liberalism's redistributive itch to create an income tax so steeply progressive that it prompts the flight from the state of wealth-creators: "Between 1990 and 2007," Voegeli writes, "some 3.4 million more Americans moved from California to one of the other 49 states than moved to California from another state."
Click through to Speak Out California!
Passing this along:
We Will Not Be Thrown Under the Bus!
On January 13th, Not Under the Bus, the premier women's health care campaign from the Women’s Media Center, is asking women everywhere to take action against the discriminatory, anti-choice language that exists in both the House and Senate health care bills. These bills would effectively roll back women’s health care coverage in the area of reproductive rights. It is up to all of us to make sure we don’t get thrown under the bus by politicians in Washington.
Here’s how you can TAKE ACTION on Wednesday, January 13th:
Tweet: Take Action today with @NotUnderTheBus. Demand that women’s rights be protected in #HCR: http://bit.ly/7u15IG #underthebus
Post our video to your Facebook page, Blog, or status:
Donate your Facebook Status to raise awareness:
“Today is Take Action Day with NotUnderTheBus.com. What are you doing to demand pro-choice, fair health care? http://bit.ly/7u15IG Take Action. Write an op-ed, call your Senator, and sign a petition. Demand that women’s rights be protected in health care reform.”
Sign and Share Our Petition: Tell lawmakers in Washington to keep women’s health care safe, fair and covered and urge them to strike any anti-abortion amendments from the final bill. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/do-not-throw-women-under-the-bus
January 12, 2010
Be afraid. Over at The Drudge Report, under a photo of a Chinese soldier (but no siren), are three headlines:
CHINA ENDS AMERICA'S REIGN AS LARGEST AUTO MARKET...
So OK, conservatives seem to be FINALLY starting to notice that their so-called "free trade" policies caused a problem!
When Ronald Reagan took office we had a trade surplus with China - we exported to China more than we imported from China. But the conservative "free market" ideologues said that "the market" must determine everything instead of the people in our democracy, that government is bad, that "free trade" lifts all boats, etc. -- even though there is no such thing as "free" trade or "free" markets... They negotiated trade agreements guaranteed to give away our strong trade position, stopped enforcing old or new trade laws, and got rid of any idea of having a national industrial policy.
By the time Bill Clinton took office instead of a trade surplus we had a trade deficit with China of almost $23 billion - importing from China much, much more than we exported to them. Under President Clinton, influenced by conservative "free trade" arguments, this trade deficit grew to $83 billion.
Then, under George W. Bush this trade deficit grew to $268 billion in a single year! Time after time Bush refused to enforce trade agreements and the imbalance just got worse and worse.
By last year the trade imbalance with China was 69% of our entire trade deficit.
So NOW the conservatives are looking at what they have done, and they are very afraid. They borrowed from China year after year, and now they are afraid that China will use all that borrowed money to collapse the dollar. If you are on any right-wing mail lists half of the emails you receive are saying that dollar could collapse any minute.
So a big headline at Drudge! I guess even they are ready to admit that their policies were bad for the country.
January 9, 2010
The Supreme Court could say as soon as Monday that corporate executives are free to use huge amounts of corporate resources to directly influence elections. The vote will probably be 5-4 and we know which 5 and which 4 and why.
If this happens it will fundamentally change the way our elections are decided, our leaders are chosen, and our laws are made. The ruling will complete the transition, already underway, from a one-person-one-vote ideal to a corrupt one-dollar-one-vote system run for the benefit of those with the most dollars to throw into elections. And of course those with access to the most corporate dollars will use their new influence to increase their own dollars - and influence - at the expense of those with fewer dollars. Monopoly capitalism will be the New World Order.
It is simple to imagine how unlimited direct use of corporate resources will change our lives. Just for example, suppose executives at a chemical company want to save money by dumping toxins into a nearby river. Suppose a county or state government is trying to block this. Imagine the effect unlimited direct corporate money can have in a county or even a state election. Of course those executives will be able put in place a local or state government that lets them dump into the river. They probably will be able to get laws passed preventing their company from being sued for the resulting cancers. I know that this sounds pretty darn close to the political system that we have today but with direct use of corporate resources to influence elections the corrupting influence will be much more direct and corrosive.
This is not what some call corporatism and is not about companies making decisions, because companies don't think or make decisions. This is about executives -- people -- at the helm of huge, powerful companies using the company's vast resources to benefit themselves. This is at the expense of people in other, smaller companies. It is so important to understand that it is done by people - executives using corporate resources because companies are not sentient entities, no matter what anyone says. They don't think and they certainly don't speak. And it isn't everyone in these companies. The people in Sales or Accounts Receivable don't make the decisions, a few people at the very top do. In order to address this problem we need to understand that the actions of corporations are really the actions of a few people. Corporations don't act or "do" anything, people do.
This is about monopoly capitalism. Of course executives in control of the biggest companies will use their financial power to consolidate their control over our system, for their personal benefit. Smaller companies in the same industries and startups that threaten to compete won't stand a chance because the rules will be bent against them. If you think the oil and coal companies are hampering efforts control CO2 emissions and foster new alternative energy sources now, then just wait until the resources of giant companies are allowed to directly control our elections and therefore our government. If you think giant pharmaceutical companies are getting favors like unlimited patent life now, just wait until the Supreme Court opens up direct use of corporate resources.
So how did we get here?
It is difficult if not impossible for individuals to raise sufficient capital to enable large-scale projects that can cost millions, even billions to get started. So we developed corporations which areprivate legal entities designed to pool individual resources and accumulate vast sums, far beyond the ability of individuals to gather. The corporate legal structure enables large numbers of people to contribute to an effort. This also spreads the risk. Even if someone could raise the kind of money it takes to design and build a 747, why put all the eggs into one basket?
This legal structure was developed and is supported by our laws to benefit all of us. In fact, we even grant "limited liability" to the investors in corporations to encourage their development so investors are not responsible for the debts of a corporation. This is just one of many benefits granted to corporations by we, the People. We set up this structure to benefit us - why else would we have done it?
These pooled resources are supposed to be used only for business purposes, and the businesses are supposed to operate on a regulatory playing field that is set up by us. Corporate executives are only supposed to use corporate resources to run the business for the benefit of the shareholders. Some argue that use of their company's money to influence the political system brings benefits back to the companies thereby benefiting the shareholders. But in this example influence comes with an expectation of gain which is just bribery and is therefore illegal. On the other hand, some claim that these companies only have our best interest at heart, and expect nothing but good government in return for their largess. Of course without direct corporate gain this use of corporate funds by executives is a waste of shareholder's resources, and is therefore theft. Bribery or theft, which is it? Either way it is wrong.
Democracy developed in reaction to corrupt rule by wealthy and powerful interests for their own benefit at the expense of the rest of us. So it was recognized from the beginning that such pooled resources are a danger to the democracy we fought so hard to develop, and rules were put in place to prevent this from happening. But like the smallest leak in a dam, any use of corporate money to gain influence of course turns into greater and greater influence. The first bribe led to greater resources to use for a larger second bribe, and so on. As each bribe increased the influence of a wealthy corporate few eventually we ended up with a political party entirely dedicated to furthering the control of that wealthy few, to the point of appointing Supreme Court justices dedicated to that end. And here we are.
What can we do about this?
First of all, if by some miracle the Supreme Court doesn't open up direct use of corporate resources in elections we must recognize how close we have come to losing democracy, and stop all use of corporate resources to influence not just elections but public attitudes as well. Even without the Supreme Court opening things up, we have been heading down this path for some time. We have to stop corporate resources from leaking out of the companies and affecting corporate rulemaking. This includes lobbying, which is really just bribery. Company resources will always be used to bring advantages to that company -- over other companies and the rest of us.
If the governmental systems come entirely under the control of a wealthy few with access to the resources of giant corporations we are in a heap of trouble. But we have been here before, a century or so ago. A strong progressive movement can turn things around. We will need to develop strong public outreach from progressive organizations to help the public understand what is happening,. We will need to support labor unions as they fight to restore the ability of people to make a living and have some power and control over the workplace. And we will need to help people learn to fight the propaganda that is and will be thrown at us 24 hours a day.
January 8, 2010
How giving all of our money to the big banks helped the economy.
I will be on Fairness Doctrine radio show today at 1pm PST / 4pm EST with Jim Dean.
Listen live at http://www.wdisam.com/shows/fairdoc/
January 7, 2010
I have a simple question: Why is moving a factory across a border called "trade"?
The process of building up a country is long and difficult. People over time unite and engage in a long, hard struggle to form a democratic government for themselves and build strong public structures -- a system of laws, environmental protections, wage and hour rules, worker protections, product safety standards, etc. -- all of which work to raise the standard of living for everyone. These strong public structures enable economic growth and empower the people and companies to prosper while protecting the investment that built it all. So people return a portion of the resulting prosperity as taxes to invest in building and maintaining this infrastructure.
That is how good, solid self-government should work. The people build the public structures that enable each other to prosper and that protect the investment. And it worked for us.
But then, along come the quick-buck artists, looking to grab what they can for themselves, as fast as they can, without doing their part or sharing their gains or leaving anything but a mess behind. And they found a way to accomplish this. They found places outside of our borders where the people had not yet built up the solid, democratic governmental institutions that protect people and the environment as ours do. They fired the workers who had built up the companies and communities, packed up the machines that made the products, closed the factories, and opened factories on the other side of those borders.
Moving factories across borders is just a way of evading our laws and our protections, that we have fought so hard to get in place. So why do we let them bring the same products that we used to make here, back across those borders to sell in the prosperous market that our hard-won public structures enabled?
People fought and died so we could maintain our own strong government that protected us and enabled our prosperity. We built up our prosperity over time and with many hard fights, and that is what has made our county the market that everyone wants access to. We should use that market power to set the terms of what can be brought in to this country. We should help the people in countries that have not yet build up the kind of strong, democratic governments that can protect them from the quick-buck artists and exploiters instead of letting those manipulative consters wipe out our jobs and tear down our own government and rules. We should say that before products get access into our market the workers that make them should be paid well, and the environment they are made in is protected. Maybe we shouldn't allow goods from undemocratic countries in at all. What do you think?
We worked hard to build what we have, and we are letting that be taken away from us. It is time to stop allowing our factories to be closed and moved across borders as a way to get around the rules and standards we fought so hard to put in place.
What the hell is Geithner still doing in the Obama administration?
New claims for US jobless benefits edged up by 1,000 in the past week to 434,000 while other claims data showed modest improvement in the troubled labor market, official figures showed Thursday.
The seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits in the week ending January 2 rose slightly from the prior week, when it had hit the lowest level in over a year.
I have a question. Economists generally consider 425,000 to be a break-even point for this number. While people get laid off, new people get hired in our vast economy and the general rule of thumb is that when it hits 425,000 it is break-even and the economy is not losing or gaining jobs.
BUT what if 425,000 people aren't being hired, because the economy is bad? I have not seen discussion of how this affects things. Doesn't that change this rule of thumb?
January 6, 2010
Science DEscribes what happens. Right-wing "free market" economics is about "if only people would do so-and-so, then such-and-such will happen." These are very different things. Right-wing economics doesn't work because people don't do what the wingers want them to do.
The math/science majors meant that I was obligated to take humanities and other (non-science) course work. So I signed up for (amongst other courses) Economics 101.
It took all of ten minutes into the first class for me to recoil in horror. I asked the prof: “What do you meant that humans are rational? That is obviously not true. How important is this idea to economics?”
The response was, in hindsight, not a surprise: “It is the fundamental building block for all of economics. If you fight that underlying concept, if you do not provisionally accept that premise, you will not be able to understand what comes later.”
So I made what turned out to be one of my very best academic decisions: I gathered my books and walked out the door, and dropped the class.
How many have gone to jail after the biggest financial crisis since the great depression? Bernie Madoff doesn't count, so that make's ... zero, I think.
But how many got bailed out with our money and continue to make million-dollar bonuses while people are being thrown out of their houses and jobs because of what they did?
And Democrats think that ANYONE is going to vote for them in 2010????
It isn't the job of a political party to create change, it is the job of a movement.
Campaign ads just literally go up in the air at the last minute and are very expensive. But donating to progressive organizations creates lasting demand for progressive change. If you give $1000 to a progressive organization that reaches the public and explains why progressive policies are better for them, then those people will vote for EVERY progressive candidate and support EVERY progressive initiative. That way your $1000 goes much, much further and you don't have to give $1000 to each candidate...
At the end of the year the Washington Post published as "news" a story, "Support grows for tackling nation's debt" that pushed the idea of "a special commission to make the tough decisions that will be required to dig the nation out of debt" and "rein in skyrocketing spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security" before the "unsustainable entitlement spending" before it can "undermine the nation's economy."
The Post called that "news." No alarm bells went off in their editorial department.
Where did this "news" story come from? The Washington Post has a deal with an outfit called “Fiscal Times” to provide “news” articles like this one. But Fiscal Times doesn’t really provide news, it is in reality a “front” – one of many – for an organization called the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Peter G. Peterson, a Wall Street billionaire, set up this foundation many years ago ostensibly to advocate that the government reduce its deficit spending and debt, but in reality the foundation advocates reductions in government benefits to citizens, forcing the citizens who can afford it to purchase private services instead. (Those citizens who can't afford it? Well, too bad but "the market" isn't about them.) The foundation says little about the larger government spending on military (cut "waste") and tax cuts for the rich (ending them "wouldn’t come close to addressing our fiscal gap").
The Peterson "news" story quotes people from other Peterson front groups like the Concord Coalition. So in essence the Peterson story quotes the people that Peterson pays to put out quotes. But it creates the impression that lots of "experts" agree this is what is needed.
This strategy goes back to a larger Wall Street effort to get rid of Social Security. A 1983 Cato Institute Journal document, "Achieving a Leninist Strategy" by Stuart Butler of Cato and Peter Germanis of Heritage lays it out for us. The document is still available at Cato, and select quotes are available at Plotting Privatization? from Z Magazine. It is worth reading the entire document (in particular the section "Weakening the Opposition") to understand completely the strategy that has been unfolding in the years since, but the following quotes give you an idea:
"Lenin recognized that fundamental change is contingent upon ... its success in isolating and weakening its opponents. ... we would do well to draw a few lessons from the Leninist strategy."
" construct ... a coalition that will ... reap benefits from the IRA-based private system ... but also the banks, insurance companies, and other institutions that will gain from providing such plans to the public."
"The first element consists of a campaign to achieve small legislative changes that embellish the present IRA system, making it in practice a small-scale private Social Security system.
"The second main element ... involves what one might crudely call guerrilla warfare against both the current Social Security system and the coalition that supports it."
"The banking industry and other business groups that can benefit from expanded IRAs ..." "... the strategy must be to propose moving to a private Social Security system in such a way as to ... neutralize ... the coalition that supports the existing system."
"The next Social Security crisis may be further away than many people believe. ... it could be many years before the conditions are such that a radical reform of Social Security is possible. But then, as Lenin well knew, to be a successful revolutionary, one must also be patient and consistently plan for real reform."
So there you have it. Every time you hear that "Social Security is going broke" you are hearing a manufactured propaganda point. Every time you hear that "Social Security is a Ponzi scheme" you are hearing a manufactured propaganda point. Every time you hear that "Social Security won't be there for me anyway" " you are hearing a manufactured propaganda point.
Don't fall for it. If they can gut Social Security they stand to make a lot of money but you stand to lose your retirement. Ask the government to look into better ways to cut spending and mostly to go back to taxing the wealthy like they did back when there were no deficits and the economy worked for every one, not just a few wealthy people sat the top of the pyramid.
January 4, 2010
Tobacco companies killed approx. 443,000 people in the United States in 2008.
37,313 people were killed and countless more injured in traffic accidents in 2008 in the United States.
There were 14,180 people murdered in the United States in 2008.
565,650 Americans died of cancer in 2008.
Compare that to the threat of terror attacks. The terror threat is the only thing on the news.
Why is that?
What consequences have been suffered by the ratings agencies - Fitch, Standard & Poors and Moodys - for fraudulently giving AAA ratings to all of those securitized bundles of bad loans?
These fraudulent ratings masked what was going on, and helped lead to the financial collapse.
So far: none? Just like everything else.
And the executives that bankrupted Lehman Brothers and others get to keep the money.
So what are the lessons learned from the financial collapse?
This post by Ian Welsh is one of the best articulations of what is going on with the economy and the Democratic Party, that I have come across: Open Left:: Why Democrats Are Trying to Commit Electoral Suicide. I encourage you to read it.
Moreover they understand that with a few exceptions, the financial economy is the American economy. It's what the US sold to the rest of the world: pieces of paper in exchange for real money which could be used to import real goods, so Americans could live beyond their means.
Shut that down and what's going to replace it? How are you going to avoid an immediate meltdown of the US standard of living? How are you going to avoid a large part of the elite being wiped out? You or I may have answers to that, except to wiping out a large chunk of the elite, which is something which needs to be done, but those who grew up under the system, who believe in the system, and who ran the system don't. What they've done all their lives is what they understand. And more to the point the system has been good to them. The last 35 years may have been a bad time to be an ordinary American, but the elite has seen their wealth and income soar to levels even greater than the gilded age. The rich, in America, have never, ever, been as rich as they are now.
And if you're a member of the elite, your friends, your family, your colleagues—everyone you really care about, is a member of the elite or attached to it as a valued and very well paid retainer. For you, for everyone you care about, the system has worked. Perhaps, intellectually, you know it hasn't worked for ordinary people, but you aren't one of them, you aren't friends with them, and however much you care in theory about them, it's a bloodless intellectual empathy, not one born of shared experience, sacrifice and the bonds of friendship or love.
There is much more, so go read.
January 3, 2010
Given a national platform by Fox News, retired Air Force Lt. General Tom McInerney says it is really time to crack down on the kind of people who commit terrorist acts,
“We have to use profiling. And I mean be very serious and harsh about the profiling.”
I can't imagine how they are going to be able to handle intensely searching anyone who looks like or has a similar background to Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, Scott Roeder, ...
... oh, wait, he doesn't mean those terrorists. They don't count, for some reason.
He means only racial and religious profiling. Even though most terrorism here has come from white right-wingers. He continues, on his Fox News national platform,
“If you are an 18 to 28-year-old Muslim man then you should be strip searched,” he said. If we don’t do that, we’re going to lose an airliner, he explained.
So it isn't about keeping us safe from people who are known to have committed terrorism at all, it's all about going after people because of their race and religion. And Fox News gives this bigotry a national platform. Shame.
Has anyone been held accountable for torture yet?
How about lying to start a war that killed more than a hundred thousand people?
How about corruption, kickbacks, no-bid contracts, contracts to campaign donors, funneling government money to corporations then leaving government and going to "work" for those corporations?
Well, I guess it pays to do those things then. I guess it's official, that these things are not punished, so go ahead and do them. If you know the right people, I guess.
And I guess about 5 minutes after another Republican gets elected it all starts where it left off. because they know that no one will ever hold them accountable. Our current administration is making that clear.
January 2, 2010
Juan Cole writes about The Rise of the New Oligarchs,
At about 1.3 million adults, it is not too large to have some cohesive interests, and its corporations, lobbyists, and other institutions allow it to intervene systematically in politics. It owns 45 percent of the privately held wealth and is heading toward 50, i.e. toward a Banana Republic. Thus, we have a gutted fairness doctrine and the end of anti-trust concerns in ownership of mass media, allowing a multi-billionaire like Rupert Murdoch to buy up major media properties and to establish a cable television channel which is nothing but oligarch propaganda. They established 'think tanks' like the American Enterprise Institute, which hires only staff that are useful agents of the interests of the very wealthy, and which produce studies denying global climate change or lying about the situation in Iraq.
If you use credit cards then you are an idiot.
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
You hear it over and over again from California conservatives, "Cut taxes and cut spending," and "government spending is too high."
So what does this mean to YOU? How does this affect your life?
Simple answer, cutting spending means that your schools, roads, police and fire protection, lines at the DMV, parks, environment, food safety inspections, services to help small businesses and courts all deteriorate. It means that it costs more - much more - for you to send your kids to college. That is what "cut government spending" means.
And in spite of what you think, their promise of cutting taxes rarely means your taxes. There is a huge concentration of income and wealth at the very top, which means that tax cuts really mostly benefit the very, very wealthy. Even the well-known Prop 13, thought of as helping homeowners, shifted the tax burden from the corporate owners of commercial property to middle class citizens. From, Corporate loopholes make Prop. 13 crippling for state:
Thirty years ago, commercial property owners contributed 59 percent of property tax revenues and residential property owners contributed 41 percent. Today, we see a virtual flip: commercial property owners contributed just 43 percent of property taxes in 2008, while residential property owners contributed 57 percent.
Another thing you constantly hear are calls to cut the number of government employees and their benefits. If you think about it, layoffs and pay cuts for government workers (teachers, police, firefighters, road workers, etc.) translates into increasing pressure to cut your own wages as well, plus it means fewer customers for California's small businesses, fewer teachers in our schools, increased crime rates, etc. Cutting their benefits means that your own benefits come under pressure as well.
Conservatives promising that cutting taxes and spending are good for you have held sway for the last few decades. They are always promising that tax cuts will make things better for regular people. But they haven't gotten better. The real tax burden keeps shifting further and further away from the wealthy and powerful and onto the backs of the middle class. Meanwhile the things that our government does for us are reduced and reduced, so life gets harder.
The lesson to learn is: glowing promises of a free lunch usually mean that you are the lunch.
Here is how to turn the economy around: raise wages and cut hours.
Giving all the country's money to too-big-to-fail bankers isn't going to do it.
January 1, 2010
My local newspaper runs the Mallard Fillmore comic strip. Today's strip tells readers they shouldn't read newspapers.
This is brilliant thinking on the part of the big corporate owners of the news media. Cater to the right, which wants to destroy the news media. The right tells people not to trust the media. People stop reading newspapers. Brilliant. Business. Model.
A whole new look, new functions, new year, new decade over at MyDD :: Direct Democracy for People-Powered Politics
Happy New Year and New Decade. And good riddance to the 2000s. Really.
I mean, really.