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July 31, 2010

The Strengthen Social Security Campaign

Social Security is once again under attack.

Time after time Social Security has come under attack. Do you remember the Bush "privatization" campaign a few years ago? Each time the attack uses a different myth, repeated over and over. Then, in between attacks, the myths continue circulating. This time they're trying to make people think that Social Security contributes to the budget deficit. It doesn't. They say this because so many people are worried about budget deficits. If polling showed that people were worried that their arms are going to turn into green cheese, they would be repeating and repeating that Social Security is the reason your arms are turning into green cheese. Sheesh!

In response to the latest attack a coalition of groups has formed to fight back and protect Social Security, demanding that Congress not make any benefit cuts. The coalition represents 30 million members, who are asked to remind elected officials that Social Security remains the "third rail" of American politics and that any sort of benefit cuts are opposed by wide majorities, from liberals to Tea Partiers.

The coalition is saying Strengthen Social Security, Don't Cut It. Their website is strengthensocialsecurity.org and its blog is at strengthensocialsecurity.org/blog.

Most important, its petition is available to sign here.

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility is trying to cut Social Security benefits. We can't let that happen.

Can you sign our urgent petition to the Commission?

Social Security belongs to the people who have worked hard all their lives and contributed to it. Social Security is a promise that must not be broken. If you pay in, then you earn the right to benefits for yourself, your spouse and your dependent children when you retire, experience a severe disability, or die.

We need to strengthen Social Security, not cut it. That is why I oppose any cuts to Social Security benefits, including increasing the retirement age. I also oppose any effort to privatize Social Security, in whole or in part.

Meet Billy Bankster! Please watch this video from the coalition:

Here are videos from the launch event. First is Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW):

Hilary Shelton, director of the Washington Bureau of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP):

Richard L. Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO:

Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn.org:

Gerald W. McEntee, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME):

Ed Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans:

Dennis Van Roekel, President of the National Education Association (NEA):

Eliseo Medina, International Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU):

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:31 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

July 30, 2010

Even Wall Street Agrees: Govt Should Borrow To Invest

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Our current economic model depends on ever-increasing consumption. This model worked during the early industrial revolution worked because it filled existing needs: Farmers depending on horses needed tractors. Kitchens needed gas stoves and refrigerators, etc. Eventually the majority of needs were filled, and we invented demand creation: marketing and advertising made us want to buy things we don't really need. All the while population growth helped push demand along at a steady pace.

When the limits of demand creation joined up with declines in population growth consumption would slow, the economies would stagnate, and governments would prime the pump. This ended up creating bigger and bigger bubbles, and bubbles pop.

And never mind the whole chewing up the planet thing where we are fishing out all the seas, removing all the mountaintops, cutting all the trees, drilling and mining deeper and deeper holes, putting more and more carbon into the air.

Bill Gross of PIMCO, says government stimulus plans should borrow to invest, not to push consumption. Writing about "New Normal" in Privates Eye at Real Clear Markets, worries that declining population growth is a warning flag for capitalism itself,

Production depends upon people, not only in the actual process, but because of the final demand that justifies its existence. The more and more consumers, the more and more need for things to be produced. I will go so far as to say that not only growth but capitalism itself may be in part dependent on a growing population.

WIth a growing population, the growth model of capitalism continues for a while,

Currently, the globe is adding over 77 million people a year at a pace of 1.15% annually, but slowing. Still, that’s 77 million more mouths to feed, 77 million more pairs of shoes to make, 77 million more little economic units of demand – houses, furniture, cars, roads, oil – more, more, more.

Gross speculates that this is at the root of the wobbly economies we have seen in recent decades,

The lack of population growth was likely a significant factor in the leveraging of the developed world’s financial systems and the ballooning of total government and private debt ... Lacking an accelerating population base, all developed countries promoted the financing of more and more consumption per capita ... Finally ... there was nowhere to go but down.

Gross writes that continually borrowing to push consumption is not the right way to spend that money. You should borrow to invest, not to consume. Other countries are pe\ursuing policies of investment not consumption:

Far better to create and mimic other government industrial policies aimed at infrastructure, clean energy, more relevant education and less costly healthcare services.

If our government "stimulus" continues to push consumption -- i.e. tax cuts -- instead of spending that invests in infrastructure, education and health care, things can only get worse.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 29, 2010

Speaking Fees

Speaking fees are one way people in the conservative movement -- even bloggers --make significant money. Many corporate trade associations pay significant fees to have people speak. Local organizations pay significant fees as well.

Apparently Republican Party groups around the country pay pretty well, too: Fred Barnes not on a team? Why did GOP pay him? - Joe Conason - Salon.com

Go here and here and here for some examples of who is on the circuit and how much they're getting paid.

$5,000 here, $10,000 there, after a while it adds up. And you don't want to bite the hand that feeds you $5K and $10K every now and then.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:46 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Harry -- Roll Out The Cots! Again And Again And Again!

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Dear Senate Majority Leader, you are letting the public down. We, the People need you to get things done but everything is being blocked by a minority. The public doesn't understand that everything is being filibustered, so they are not applying the pressure that could break the tactic. That is your fault, not theirs: you have to show them. You owe it to the public, in the name of democracy, to let them know what is going on. There is a clear way to do that: Roll out the cots!

The country has so many things wrong that need fixing. A majority of the Congress, elected to make changes, is trying to get things moving for the people, but a corporate-sponsored minority is blocking almost everything. Their strategy is to frustrate the public and they count on misinformation to confuse people as to who is responsible for the logjam. As a result the public doesn’t see that there is a strategy of pure obstruction at work here.

The obstructionists have help in spreading the confusion. Newspaper stories rarely use the word "filibuster." Many in the media tell the public that Senate rules require 60 votes to pass bills. Other stories blame "partisan bickering" for the lack of progress. So the public blames "both sides" because they don't know what is really going on.

But you are helping spread the confusion too. You are not drawing a clear contrast and repeating it. You are not telling a simple story in a clear, understandable way. It is not getting through to the public that the hated filibuster is being used over and over. You need to put on a show that breaks through the haze and informs the public. There is a way to do that: roll out the cots! The public gets that. They associate cots with filibusters. It is theater but the public needs to have the information and without the theater – yes, the circus – of rolling out the cots again and again and again, the public is, in effect, having that information withheld from them.

Ever since the movie, "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" the public has believed that a filibuster is about Senators staying up all night, talking. If that is what they believe, then that is what you have to give them. You have a responsibility to democracy to find ways to break through the media filter and help the public to understand what is really going on. You need to roll out the cots, and do it again and again, until the point is made with the public that what is going on is not the normal operation of the Senate, but instead is pure obstruction, used as a strategy to prevent the public from getting what they need, to demoralize them and keep them from voting.

Look what happened in April when you did roll out the cots! The cots were only part way down the hall when the obstructors held up their hands in surrender! That was a clue, Harry!

A Senator might (probably would) say, “But Senate Rules don’t recognize the circumstances unless there is an amendment to an amendment that meets a motion from the designated parliamentarian over the division of the rule to the committee and the amendment amends the amdenment to amend, and we have to suspend the rule by consent to amend the amendment before the amendment can be amended."

I would respond, "ROLL OUT THE COTS." Roll out the cots every single time they try to filibuster. Every single day. Cots. Cots. Cots. Park a truck out front of the Capital, filled with cots, and every time any Senator starts to say “No” workers should be starting to unpack the cots from the truck.

After a while the public will get it. You owe it to them to do this. Roll out the cots.




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Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:03 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 28, 2010

Iraq Money Stolen - Will There Be Accountability?

The Obama administration STILL has not prosecuted anyone from the Bush administration - for anything. But maybe now that we have learned this?


See Where Did the Money to Rebuild Iraq Go?

P.S. After the S&L crisis there were 1,852 prosecutions, over 1,000 jailed. This time? not so much.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:44 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Bravo To Congress' Making It In America Push -- What It Still Needs

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

House leaders deserve praise for fighting for working people by launching a "Make It In America" initiative which they officially unveiled today. The country still badly needs an immediate job-creation effort, but this is a very important longer-term initiative for reviving America's manufacturing base and restoring our competitiveness in the world economy. Good work!

Manufacturing is the core of our country's income. Making things that we sell is how we earn money to buy things that others make. This is why it is so important to restore America's manufacturing base and the infrastructure that supports it. People want to go into a store and have a choice to buy things that are made here.

This week these important bills made it to the House floor: (click through for details)

  • National Manufacturing Strategy Act

  • Clean Energy Technology Manufacturing and Export Assistance Act

  • End the Trade Deficit Act

  • As the Congress rolls out this initiative here are important components it should include:

    Buy American

    Public money should be going to our people. This is what other countries, like China, are doing with domestic preferences and "indigenous innovation" policies.

  • Pass "Made in America" policies in every phase of any manufacturing plan, boosting domestic content requirements in federal procurement, (state and local government should do the same with their procurement policies).

  • Trade policies

    (Is "trade" even the right word for making the same things in other countries that we used to make here.)

    We are doing very little to combat the mercantilist nations, in particular China and Germany. China manipulates its currency and will not match its exports with imports. Germany is limiting domestic consumption -- the resulting trade surplus is out of balance.

  • End tax incentives to move production overseas; create incentives to keep production at home. Current laws allow corporations to defer taxes on income earned overseas, which almost forces companies to develop schemes to make goods outside the country.

  • Require tariffs on goods from countries that manipulate currency, to overcome the pricing advantage this creates.

  • What about a "democracy tariff?" This is a tariff on imports to counter the advantages that come from moving factories to countries where the people don't have the power or opportunity to insist on fair wages and worker and environmental protections.

  • Encourage the "Green Economy"

    Stimulate American manufacture of wind turbines, solar panels, biofuels, etc. This creates jobs and makes us competitive in the new green economy that will replace the carbon economy.

  • Create a domestic non-carbon energy market with a strong Renewable Energy Standard (RES) and a direct carbon tax (since the Senate has blocked cap-and-trade).

  • Use government procurement to help trigger this market. Phase in purchases of non-carbon energy, creating a strong market, triggering increased investment. Procurement should require American-made components. For example, wind-power purchases should require American-made turbines are used.

  • Infrastructure

    Our roads, bridges, rail, water and electrical systems, etc. are the backbone of a competitive economy. The infrastructure enables business to thrive. If it is not kept in good working order and up-to-date (and it has not been), businesses do not thrive (and they aren't).

  • We need the Congress to create a National Infrastructure Investment Bank, capitalized with public money to lure private capital for investment in rebuilding key components of America's infrastructure. Stop the obstruction - we need this!

  • Rebuild existing, crumbling infrastructure. This "spending" investment earns the money back many times over.

  • Pass the surface transportation reauthorization bill. This will boost American industry as while creating jobs, saving energy and incentivizing green development.

  • Build new infrastructure-for-the-future like high-speed internet and high-speed rail and a national electric "smart grid".

  • Require companies to make the infrastructure components in America.

  • This is a brief outline of some of the needed components in a Make It In America strategy. These are things that Congress can do. Congress must not back away from bold reforms in the face of resistance from the right-wing monopolist business lobbyists, who speak for the job exporters, and their "free-trade ideologue" allies.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:24 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Get Progressive Breakfast

    Every morning the Progressive Breakfast delivers a roundup of new of interest to progressives.

    You can sign up for it at the end of today's progressive breakfast, by entering your email address.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:04 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 27, 2010

    Shouldn't High Unemployment = Less Work To Do?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Simple question: have we reached a point where machines and computers leave us with less work to do? If so it can mean a lot of people are left without jobs and incomes, losing their homes and health, while the rest have our wages dragged ever downward. Or we can make some changes in who gets what for what, and every one of us ends up better off.

    Cake or death? Which will it be? (*explained below)

    Somewhere around one in five of us is un- or under-employed while at the same time so many of the rest of us, still employed are stressed, tired, doing the work of those laid off. With too few employed many stores, restaurants, hotels and many other businesses are falling behind. As Bob Herbert puts it today, "Simply stated, more and more families are facing utter economic devastation: completely out of money, with their jobs, savings and retirement funds gone, and nowhere to turn for the next dollar." The government has stepped in with stimulus to pick up some of the slack in demand but that can’t go on forever and we need to find long-term solutions.

    Is it structural?

    There are signs that the jobs crisis may now be structural, or built into the system. This means that the usual solutions are not going to "restart the engine" and trigger a return to an economy that had where almost everyone can find a job, (even if it is a menial, boring time-suck).

    Our unemployment emergency may really be about less work to do. Hale "Bonddad" Stewart writing at 538.com, Labor Force Realignment and Jobless Recoveries concludes, (click through for gazillions of charts and full explanation)

    The "jobless recovery" is in fact a realignment of the US labor force. Fewer and fewer employees are needed to produce durable goods. As this situation has progressed, the durable goods workforce has decreased as well. This does not mean the US manufacturing base is in decline. If this were the case, we would see a drop in both manufacturing output and productivity. Instead both of those metrics have increased smartly over the last two decades, indicating that instead of being in decline, US manufacturing is simply doing more with less.

    So it may be that machines and computers are doing more of the work that people used to have to do.

    Robert Reich sees signs of structural unemployment as well, writing in The Great Decoupling of Corporate Profits From Jobs,

    ... big U.S. businesses are investing their cash in labor-saving technologies. This boosts their productivity, but not their payrolls. [. . .] The reality is this: Big American companies may never rehire large numbers of workers. And they won’t even begin to think about hiring until they know American consumers will buy their products. The problem is, American consumers won’t start buying against until they know they have reliable paychecks.

    So what do we do?

    Maybe we need some changes in who gets what for what. Right now we have an economy that is structured to send most of its benefits to a few at the top, while the rest of us -- the help -- sink ever downward into less and less security. People with power and wealth benefit when they figure out how to cause other people to receive lower pay -- or just lose their jobs. Eliminating jobs brings bonuses to the eliminators -- a perverse incentive if ever there was one. 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 (and conservatives say you're lazy). If you don't own the company you're out of luck.

    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. We're living the result.

    Also, this perverse incentive structure 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?

    These are structural problems that we can change. Let me just brainstorm a few possibilities for structural changes into the mix here:

  • Today when they replace a worker with a machine, the few at the top get another chunk of income, the worker gets nothing. But suppose a worker got to keep some of the economic benefit from getting laid off! Suppose that if your company replaces you with with a machine you get, say, 15% of the cost-savings as ongoing income. Heck, getting laid off would be a good thing, like winning a prize. After you get laid off a few times you only have to work part time. Get laid off enough times, you can retire.

  • Suppose we just shorten the workweek? What if we change from a 40-hour workweek to a 30-hour workweek? Economist Dean Baker has been offering ideas for workweek reductions for some time:

    The other obvious way to provide a quick boost to the economy is by giving employers tax incentives for shortening their standard workweek or work year. This can take different forms. An employer who currently provides no paid vacation can offer all her workers three weeks a year of paid vacation, approximately a 6% reduction in work time.

  • Suppose the corporations and wealthy were taxed at the rate they were taxed before all the deficits and income inequality started, and the government just sent everyone a check, which served as a base income? Then everyone's wages would be higher because desperate people wouldn't be fighting over the few jobs. So then the better those at the top do, the better all of us do.

    These are just a few ideas for restructuring the economy in ways the help all of us instead of just a few at the top. Please add your ideas in the comments.

    We have a choice. We can continue with the system we have, and most of us -- the help -- will just get poorer and poorer while a few at the top take home more and more. Or we can change who gets what for what, and everyone comes out ahead.

    *So which will it be, cake or death?

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:52 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

    Cut Social Security To Pay For Tax Cuts For Rich?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    We have a deficit because we cut taxes for the rich, increased military spending, started two decade-long wars and handed tons of money to Wall Street. The Washington elite crowd says therefore, to fix a deficit caused by cutting taxes for the rich and sending military spending up into the stratosphere we have to ... cut Social Security?

    I see. And while we're at it I have a bridge I want to sell you, too.

    Social Security and the deficit are like apples and oranges. They are different things. Social Security has nothing to do with the budget deficit. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at Netroots Nation last week,

    "To change Social Security in order to balance the budget, they aren't the same thing in my view," the Democrat said today at the Netroots Nation conference in Las Vegas. "When you talk about reducing the deficit and Social Security, you're talking about apples and oranges."

    As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said at Netroots Nation,

    During a question and answer session, Reid ... argued against "fear tactics of those who say Social Security is going broke. It's not." ... "Social Security is the most successful social program in the history of the world," he said.

    Don't fall for it. The way to fix a budget deficit caused by cutting taxes for the rich and increasing military spending way beyond what is needed is to ... well see if you can figure it out. Hint: get the money from where the money went.

    Coming Soon: Strengthen Social Security Campaign

    On Thursday there will be a news conference to announce a Strengthen Social Security Campaign. A coalition of 60 groups are getting together to fight this latest effort to kill Social Security. At the announcement: Richard Trumka (AFL-CIO), Gerald McEntee (AFSCME), Justin Ruben (MoveOn.org), Dennis Van Roekel (NEA), Eliseo Medina (SEIU), Terry O'Neill (NOW), Donna Meltzer (Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities), Hilary Shelton (NAACP), Ed Coyle (Alliance for Retired Americans).

    You can go sign the petition at strengthensocialsecurity.org

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:36 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Atrios More Popular Than Jesus

    He says so in Bringing The Band Back Together.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:48 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    July 26, 2010

    Back From Vegas

    I am back from Vegas, but having trouble getting myself restarted.

    So in the meantime just go read everything Paul Rosenberg writes. Everything.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:34 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    July 25, 2010

    Why We're Disappointed In Obama

    Frank Rich in There’s a Battle Outside and It Is Still Ragin’ - NYTimes.com,

    Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture who fired Sherrod without questioning the video’s patently spurious provenance, was far slower to reverse himself than the N.A.A.C.P. Good for him that he seemed genuinely chagrined once he did apologize. But an executive so easily bullied by Fox News has no more business running a government department than Ken Salazar, the secretary of interior who let oil companies run wild on deepwater drilling until disaster struck. That the White House sat back while Vilsack capitulated to a mob is a disgraceful commentary on both its guts and competence. This wasn’t a failure of due diligence — there was no diligence.
    Kind of says a lot, no? It feels like the Obama administration governs based on a fear that Rush Limbaugh will say something bad about them.

    Dear President Obama: Rush Limbaugh IS going to say something bad about you no matter what. So go ahead and do the right thing.

    By the way, how many banksters have been prosecuted so far? Weren't there more than 1,000 prosecutions after the Savings and Loan crisis?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:50 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    In The Vegas Airport

    How often do you flee TO the airport to escape the prices?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:22 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 24, 2010

    Pelosi: Congress' Coming 'Making It In America' Initiative

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    At the Netroots Nation convention today in Las Vegas, Speaker Nancy Pelosi talked about an upcoming Congressional initiative to help restore American manufacturing. The initiative, called “Making It In America” will include a series of bills to be introduced after the summer recess.

    A few days ago Politico wrote about the upcoming initiative,

    Democrats are priming the House floor for a manufacturing agenda they hope will bolster the economy, produce easy bipartisan votes and boost their chances in the midterm elections — at least if the polls they’re using are on target.

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) teased the plan — sometimes dubbed “Making It in America” — after a White House meeting with President Barack Obama last week. The agenda appears to be the Democrats’ final pre-election push to clear the deck of jobs-related bills that have been sitting around for months.

    Democrats plan to present the agenda as a means of creating jobs, promoting green manufacturing through tax credits and grants and enhancing national security by rebuilding the domestic manufacturing sector at a time when many Americans are worried about China’s strength, according to aides.

    The Politico story referred to the impact made on members of Congress by a new poll from the Alliance for American Manufacturing. According to the poll,

  • A majority believe the U.S. no longer has the world’s strongest economy—a title they want to regain
  • Voters are anxious about the economy—specifically China debt, spending and loss of manufacturing
  • 86% of voters want Washington to focus on manufacturing, and 63% feel working people who make things are being forgotten while Wall Street and banks get bailouts
  • Two-thirds of voters believe manufacturing is central to our economic strength, and 57% believe manufacturing is more central to our economic strength than high-tech, knowledge or financial service sectors
  • Across all demographics, voters’ economic solutions center on trade enforcement, clean energy, tax credits for U.S. manufacturing and replacing aging infrastructure using American materials, a surprising overlap between Tea Party supporters, independents, non-union households and union households.
  • Wednesday the House passed the first bill of the initiative, H.R. 4380, the U.S. Manufacturing Enhancement Act, to help American manufacturers by temporarily suspending or reducing duties on materials these companies use that are made abroad or opposed by domestic producers.

    California Rep. John Garamendi has introduced three bills to close corporate tax loopholes that reward the off-shoring of jobs and end taxpayer subsidies for foreign-produced clean energy technology, buses, railcars, and ferries.

    Garamendi says "I want to walk into Target and see "Made in America" throughout the store. We can make it in America,"

    At Netroots Nation Speaker Pelosi also said that Congress is looking at addressing the China currency problem, where China is manipulating its currency to give goods made there a huge pricing advantage. She also pointed out that China imposes many other barriers to free trade, including not allowing American companies to bid on government procurement, even when the goods are made in China.

    I will be writing more on this, but it is a breaking story and I want to get the news out.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:03 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Still In Vegas

    Last night I went to the bowling party and it was a blast but I had to leave for a 9:30pm meeting for an hour on manufacturing policy but then I went back to the bowling party, and went to watch the poker tournament... Ah the blogger life.

    Hey, down in the left column there is a DONATE button. Might need it.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:11 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 23, 2010

    Where's Dave?

    I am at the Netroots Nation gathering in Las Vegas. I'll probably be too busy to post much.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:03 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 22, 2010

    Republican Plan Working So Far

    The plan: Block everything Congress does, then run against Democrats as ineffective.

    What they have done: Blocked almost everything so far.

    Triumphant headline today at Drudge Report:

    Why aren't the Senate leaders making everyone stay on cots until filibusters end?

    Will the President use his Constitutional power to make the Senate stay in session through the summer to hilite to voters what has been going on? That would be called governing.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:21 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 20, 2010

    President Obama, Make Congress Stay In DC Until They Pass Jobs Legislation

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    The Constitution of the United States, Article II, Section 3: "He may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them..."

    We have a jobs emergency and the Congress has not acted. Almost everything the Senate does is being blocked by an obstructionist minority that is trying to tank the economy, hoping a demoralized public will blame the other party and won't bother to vote, which will help them take power in November.

    The government is not governing and the consequences for working (and out-of-work) people are severe. Millions of unemployed are not finding jobs. People can't pay their mortgages or rent and are losing their health care. Small businesses are reaching the end of their ability to hold out. Communities, even whole states are out of money to cover even basic services.

    The President has the the power to do something about this. He has the power to show the public where he and his party really stand on doing something about the jobs crisis. He has the power to show that he can put his foot down and demand action.

    The Congress is planning to go on recess in August and the President has the power to make them stay until robust jobs legislation is passed.

    This is an opportunity to apply pressure to get badly-needed job creation and further stimulus underway. This is an opportunity to show the public who is acting and who is blocking. This is an opportunity to clarify for the voters who is working to get jobs going and who is keeping the Congress from acting.

    The President has the opportunity to lead. He has the opportunity and the responsibility to govern.

    This is an emergency. Make them stay.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:51 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 19, 2010

    Netroots Nation Panel: The 2010 Elections: Channeling The Power Of Jobs, Populism And The Angry Voter

    Will you be at Netroots Nation in Las Vegas later this week? I will be on a panel, The 2010 Elections: Channeling the Power of Jobs, Populism and the Angry Voter, Thursday at 10:30am. Come on by and attend the panel!

    Here is the complete description:
    The 2010 Elections: Channeling the Power of Jobs, Populism and the Angry Voter
    THURSDAY, JULY 22ND 10:30 AM - 11:45 AM, PANEL, BRASILIA 6

    "The rising tide of populist anger in the face of Wall Street bailouts and continued high unemployment threatens to take an ugly reactionary turn unless it is channeled to more progressive policies of job growth. This panel will address current public attitudes and ideas for steering opinion and action more progressively."

    Also on the panel will be:

  • Scott Paul, founding Executive Director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM).
  • Annabel Park, documentary filmmaker, political activist and community volunteer. Founder, Coffee Party USA.
  • Mark Mellman, one of the nation’s leading public opinion researchers and communication strategists. He is CEO of The Mellman Group and recently named "Pollster of the Year" by the American Association of Political Consultants.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 17, 2010

    Alan Greenspan And Things Forgotten

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Ah, the things we forget.

    This was then: Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan greenlighted the Bush tax cuts, saying that Clinton was paying down the country's debt too fast as a result of modest taxes on the wealthy. So the Bush tax cuts for the rich passed, which immediately brought us the huge, huge deficits. Bush called the deficits "Incredibly positive news" because they would force a debt crisis.

    In the 80's Alan Greenspan's Social Security Commission raised taxes and cut benefits on working people, providing a huge amount of revenue which was then handed out as tax cuts for the rich. And now, rather than pay back that money borrowed from Social Security from where it went, our elites are insisting that Social Security must be cut back, we must all work until 70, etc.

    Decades earlier Alan Greenspan was smack in the center of the Ayn Rand* cult that called the non-wealthy "parasites,"

    Mr. Greenspan had married a member of Rand’s inner circle, known as the Collective, that met every Saturday night in her New York apartment. . . . Mr. Greenspan wrote: “ ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should.”

    This is now: Greenspan Calls for Congress to Let All Bush Tax Cuts Expire

    Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, whose backing of George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts helped persuade Congress to pass them, said lawmakers should allow the reductions to expire at the end of this year. “They should follow the law and let them lapse,” Greenspan said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Conversations with Judy Woodruff,” citing a need for the tax revenue to reduce the federal budget deficit.

    And there was his "I was wrong" testimony,
    ... a humbled Mr. Greenspan admitted that he had put too much faith in the self-correcting power of free markets and had failed to anticipate the self-destructive power of wanton mortgage lending.

    “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief,” he told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

    Alan Greenspan is in his 80s. He forgets -- or at least wants us to forget. Don't let anyone forget.

    The debt crisis was the plan, right there for everyone to see:

    • Step 1: Cut taxes to "cut the allowance" of government so that it can't function on the side of We, the People. Intentionally force the government into greater and greater debt.
    • Step 2: Use the debt as a reason to cut the things government does for We, the People. When the resulting deficits pile up scare people that the government is "going bankrupt" so they'll let you sell off the people's assets and "privatize" the functions of government. Of course, insist that putting taxes back where they were will "harm the economy."

    So don't forget.

    * One more thing not to forget. I mentioned Ayn Rand. Rand's work is very popular among conservatives now. It forms a core justification for their "on your own" philosophy praising the wealthy and discarding the rest. So it is useful to explore the formation and core of this philosophy. Early in her writings Rand became fascinated with a serial killer named William Hickman. Rand wrote that the serial killer was an "ideal man," a superior form of human because he didn't let society impose their morals on him. He didn't worry about what others thought and just did as he pleased.

    "Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should," Rand wrote. Hickman had "no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel 'other people.'" She considered these to be good qualities! And so does her cult.

    This is the foundation of the modern "tea party" conservative thinking. So when you look at the modern capitalism that has grown up around Rand's philosophy and the big corporations that are chewing up the planet to enrich a very few at the expense of the rest of us, and think it seems sort of psychopathic, maybe that's because it literally is.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:10 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    July 16, 2010

    Blog Birthday, 8 Years!

    It is the eighth birthday of Seeing the Forest.

    skippy is 8 years old. Pen-Elayne on the Web is 8 years old. Atrios is four months older (scroll to the bottom.) Liberal Oasis was June, 2002. Daily Kos was May, 2002. MyDD was even older. Credit where it is due: Dave Winer (scroll alllllll... the way down for a real shock).

    8 years is many, many lifetimes in internet time. This blogging career enabled me to be the first person ever to post a picture of my dog from a national political convention and they can never take that away from me! (When you get there scroll down a bit, but then scroll up a few posts for another.)

    To celebrate, here is a favorite post from August 2005, The Trade Problem:

    View of San Francisco from Sausalito.

    See how this ship is riding high off the water? This ship is loaded with empty containers, bound for China.

    Ships come into the port loaded with goods that we buy from China. But China doesn't buy very much from us. So we have to send ships back loaded with empty containers. (Well almost empty, they're actually filled with dollars, and jobs, and the future.)

    Or scroll through the Housing Bubble series starting in 2005. But who could have known?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:50 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 14, 2010

    skippy -- 8 Years Today

    skippy the bush kangaroo: happy blogiversary

    Seeing the Forest is 8 years old on the 16th.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:48 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    Against All Odds: Save the Middle Class and the American Dream

    The American Dream is what is at stake for the Obama Administration, and they know it. This is the dirty, little secret that can longer be contained -- it is escalating, cannot remain hidden, and may have significant political ramifications for the 2010 elections. The atrocity of the past years is this broken promise with the people, and it is deeply affecting the way they think, behave, vote and live. Moreover, it could begin to explain the groundswell response to candidate Barack Obama in 2008. The power of his words helped them believe that the dream was recoverable. He exemplified what was possible through education and hard work in his meteoric rise through American politics to the Oval Office. Further and more importantly, it also explains why we are now suffering such profound political despair reflected in the dropping poll numbers.

    The middle class, for its survival, needs life to return to a semblance of "normalcy" - a time when they didn't know how to spell the word "deficit" and didn't have to care. They want their retirement savings back so they don't have to work until they drop. They want a bank account that makes more then one percent interest. They want to know what their health insurance premiums will be this year and in ten. They want to know if their kids study, and if they save and sacrifice, that their lives will be better. They want their kids to get good jobs, and they want to hold onto our own jobs. And with despair and anger they realize that despite the heroic work of the Congress with this President in passing landmark legislation in all of these areas -- they still are not safe. Economic ruin may still be right around the corner, and makes it hard to sleep at night.

    You know we've all been hoodwinked and sold a bill of goods about the sanctity of the middle class in this country. It is a basic tenet of our lives, and made us different from other countries. The ranks swelled over the last decades after FDR to the present. But now for the first time since the Great Depression, the middle class is at risk of tipping over once and for all. They are not coming out of the financial, housing and environmental crises intact. Interest rates have ratcheted up on the family home, maybe there's a balloon payment on the mortgage and its impossible to refinance under the "new" programs; savings have virtually no interest and are drying up; pensions have evaporated; health insurance premiums are basically unaffordable until 2014 if then; schools are overcrowded and on the decline; there are no jobs except in China and they don't speak Mandarin; and unemployment is still at 9.5% -- higher in key areas throughout the country. The new legislation is riddled with loopholes, as all legislation can be after laborious compromises and extensive details. What is different is that each of these loopholes is flagrantly being exploited by the banks, the credit card companies and the health insurance companies. For example, many of the unemployed cannot qualify for COBRA because their companies failed which is code for closed their doors. COBRA is not available when a company terminates their health insurance plan, and 2014 is a long way off when you need health insurance coverage now.

    Frankly, this is not what the middle class signed up for. It was not part of the implicit promise made to them. As a result, they are angry (enter stage right the Tea Party to exploit this vulnerability), and depressed (evidenced in the lackluster June election voter turnout). This is a deadly combination that could seal the deal on the November elections for the big, bad guys. Yet somehow the middle class and its Democrats must rally again and rise above the collective depression (no pun intended). We cannot let the brilliant and effective message machine of the Republican Party lull them into universal amnesia -- forgetting all the wrongs of the past. Remember these are the same guys (Bush and Cheney) that put the nails in the coffin cementing the potential extermination of the middle class. These same guys two weeks ago even blocked the extension of unemployment benefits while they frolicked on vacation. How could they do that to working families in this country? The extension passed the House before the break, but was filibustered in the Senate. And given all that, imagine life when we essentially give away the House because we are too depressed to vote or disorganized to keep these seats.

    I will take liberal Speaker Nancy Pelosi any day over anti-choice, sanctimonious Republican Representative John Boehner as Speaker of the House. That would be a bad dream that just keeps on giving. This threat should be enough for the White House to saddle up and come out with a plan, a message (remember "hope and change"), and leadership to deliver - not the White House Press Secretary Gibbs message yesterday. David Gregory of Meet the Press has gotten so very good and Gibbs just walked into a fiasco announcing the potential lose of seats in the House. It was as bad as giving away candy instead of feeding the homeless, and maybe that's why White House Special Advisor, David Axelrod, was so snarky with CNN's Candy Crowley during the next hour on the Sunday morning political shows because it sure didn't make any sense.

    Snarky or not, we all know Obama and his team are awful busy with the economy, the oil spill and a few dozen Russian spies, but we need them to reach out to that disenfranchised middle class again, aka big voting block. After all, Obama is the master communicator and we know that he can do it because he has done it before to win in 2008. And now the stakes may even be higher. If we allow 40 seats in the House to go asunder and a few more in the US Senate -- we can start waving bye-bye to the American Dream, the middle class, economic recovery, and maybe the Supreme Court for the next couple of decades.

    Please see my Pearltree for some of the reference materials with more to come. This is a new tool to organize and share materials on the web. In full disclosure, I advise them as they build out the new features of this platform.

    Middlle Class

    Note, an earlier version of this article appeared this week on the Huffington Post.

    Posted by Michelle at 1:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Obama Didn't Deliver

    What Digby Said! Winning Isn't Everything, It's The Only Thing,

    ... the party in power is expected to do what's necessary to pass its agenda. If it can't, it is held responsible for the failure, not those who stopped them from doing it.

    There are SO many things Obama and the Dem leadership could have done.

  • Obama and the Dems weakened the stimulus "to attract Republican votes." When they didn't get any Republican votes, they left the compromises in anyway! They did this time after time since.
  • Obama could have kept the Congress in session last summer until they passed health care reform.
  • The Senate could have "rolled out the cots" every single time the Republicans filibustered. The one time they did do this Republicans immediately caved. Why didn't they keep doing it?
  • Senate leadership has to decide whether to keep letting Republican just block everything, or do what it takes to get things moving. They can do this, and are choosing not to.

    It is time to govern the country. It is time to get things done. Or get out of the way -- the people, the unemployed, those without health care, communities losing factories, states laying off hundreds of thousands, all are depending on you to get the job done, not accommodate right-wing kooks.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:24 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Today's Must-Read

    Everyone should read Chris Bowers' post, Open Left:: Real disposable income is the dominant swing voter ideology

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:14 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Make Them Work

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Conservatives seem to think of America's citizens as "the help."

    "Everyone knows Americans are lazy, shiftless, always looking for a way to shirk their responsibilities. People don't want to work so we have to make them work. And good dose of humiliation is good for the soul. If you let them have any dignity they might get uppity." That is what conservatives sound like when they talk about the long-term unemployed -- who, by the way, are out of work because of conservative policies.

    For example, from Tuesday's WaPo, No extension of unemployment benefits in sight for the long-term jobless,

    "Workers are less likely to look for work, or accept less-than-ideal jobs, as long as they are protected from the full consequences of being unemployed," said Michael D. Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. "That is not to say that anyone is getting rich off unemployment, or that unemployed people are lazy. But it is simple human nature that people are a little less motivated as long as a check is coming in."

    That's right, you have to make them work, or they'll just sit around and wont be "productive." They wont face up to the "consequences" of unemployment. These parasites will just suck the blood out of the producers. You hear language like this all the time from conservatives. The unemployed are "lazy," or "on drugs" etc. They are not "productive." They are mooching off the rest of us.

    This is all in sharp contrast to the noble rich, who are an entirely different species biologically and spiritually. They are the "wealth producers" who we must treat with kid gloves and certainly not ask them to pay for their use of infrastructure or government services lest they decide to stop working. They just want to keep working, and what they do is so important, so pure, so necessary to the sustenance of the rest of us that they must be coddled at all times lest we lose their golden-egg magic touch!

    Maybe this kind of attitude towards their fellow citizens comes from the slaveholder roots of conservatism. According to Robin L. Einhorn, author of American Taxation, American Slavery,

    ...Americans are right to think that our antitax and antigovernment attitudes have deep historical roots. Our mistake is to dig for them in Boston. We should be digging in Virginia and South Carolina rather than in Massachusetts or Pennsylvania, because the origins of these attitudes have more to do with the history of American slavery than the history of American freedom. They have more to do with protections for entrenched wealth than with promises of opportunity, and more to do with the demands of privileged elites than with the strivings of the common man. Instead of reflecting a heritage that valued liberty over all other concerns, they are part of the poisonous legacy we have inherited from the slaveholders who forged much of our political tradition. [emphasis added]

    As for this idea of low taxes, smaller government that we hear about so often, (and please read this, it is so important)

    It might seem strange to trace our antitax and antigovernment ideas to slavery instead of to liberty and democracy. Isn't it obvious that a democratic society where "the people" make the basic political decisions will choose lower taxes and smaller governments? The short answer is no. In this democratic society, the people might decide to pool their resources to buy good roads, excellent schools, convenient courthouses, and an effective military establishment. But slaveholders had different priorities than other people—and special reasons to be afraid of taxes. Slaveholders had little need for transportation improvements (since their land was often already on good transportation links such as rivers) and hardly any interest in an educated workforce (it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write because slaveholders thought education would help African Americans seize their freedom). Slaveholders wanted the military, not least to promote the westward expansion of slavery, and they also wanted local police forces ("slave patrols") to protect them against rebellious slaves. They wanted all manner of government action to protect slavery, while they tended to dismiss everything else as wasteful government spending.

    Compromises with the slave states became entrenched in our political system with consequences to this day,

    Majorities voluntarily renounced the right to regulate their society by majority rule. Giving up the essence of democratic self-government, they celebrated the outcome as democracy. The consequences would outlive the slaveholders who played such a large role in establishing this attitude toward government and taxation. Long after slavery was gone, a regime forged around preferential treatment for the slaveholding elite came to favor very different elites—commercial and industrial elites who shared little with their slaveholding predecessors except a demand that majorities renounce their right to govern what ostensibly was a democratic society.

    . . . Today, this brand of politics looks eerily familiar. We have experience with political parties that attack "elites" in order to rally voters behind policies that benefit elites. This is what the slaveholders did in early American history, and they did it very well. Expansions of slavery became expansions of "liberty," constitutional limitations on democratic self-government became defenses of "equal rights," and the power of slaveholding elites became the power of the "common man." In the topsy-turvy political world we have inherited from the age of slavery, the power of the majority to decide how to tax became the power of an alien "government" to oppress "the people."

    Please go read it all.

    It is time to take a fresh look at what it means to be a citizen in a country where We, the People are supposed to be in charge. This idea that we should force people into demeaning jobs with no minimum wage and make them work seems antithetical to democracy. A government of We, the People should be about taking care of each other, protecting and empowering each other and respecting each other. You are supposed to be the boss of you here. And we are supposed to be in charge.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:21 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    July 13, 2010

    Wait, Who Said We Want Less Government Protecting And Empowering Us?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Cut spending? Wait - where did that terrible idea come from? Government is We, the People and its job is to protect and empower us. Why in the world would we want to cut back on that?

    WSJ today, The Bush Tax Cuts and the Deficit Myth, "Runaway government spending, not declining tax revenues, is the reason the U.S. faces dramatic budget shortfalls for years to come."

    Wait a minute. Back up. Where did this come from? Who, anywhere, any time agreed to cut government? Why do We, the People allow these anti-government zealots to pre-frame the budget deficit as a problem of government doing too much for us? Which government function is the "too much" part? Reigning in runaway corporations? Consumer protection? Worker safety inspections? Food safety inspections? Maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure? Educating people? The courts? Keeping the water and air clean? There is a long list of things our government does for us. Why would we want less of that?

    Imagine if Democrats voted to just put $500 billion a year in rockets and shot the rockets at the moon, and spent the next 30 years demanding that conservatives do their part and raise taxes to pay for that. Do you think the top 1% would just say, "OH, OK, let's do that." Of course they wouldn't.

    But under anti-government conservatives all of these things that our government does to protect and empower us were cut to the bone or just ended, resulting in mine disasters, bank meltdowns, predatory corporations scamming all of us, and the BP oil spill. We, the people got poorer and less secure while the rich got really, really richer.

    Why would anyone in their right mind think that was a good idea?

    Conservatives cut taxes on the rich, resulting in the greatest concentration of wealth ever. The entire economy turned into an everything-to-the-top vacuum cleaner scheme, filled with scams shaking down and fleecing We, the People of everything we have and delivering it to a few wealthy corporation-owners. And then we get this bamboozlement that "the deficit" is out of control, so we have to cut back on anything that remains of government working for We, the People? I don't think so.

    Think about the level of bamboozlement that is going on here. Conservatives cut taxes on the rich, and then spend the next 30 years saying, "OK, now you have to do your part and cut the things government does for the people." The whole thing was a scheme to deliver power to a few at the top. In Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Drowning In Debt you can see the step-by-step outline of the plan, in their own words. The deficit plan was right there for everyone to see:

    • Step 1: Cut taxes to "cut the allowance" of government so that it can't function on the side of We, the People. Intentionally force the government into greater and greater debt.
    • Step 2: Use the debt as a reason to cut the things government does for We, the People. When the resulting deficits pile up scare people that the government is "going bankrupt" so they'll let you sell off the people's assets and "privatize" the functions of government. Of course, insist that putting taxes back where they were will "harm the economy."
    • Step 3: Blame liberals for the disastrous effects of spending cutbacks.

    So when did We, the People agree to this one-way bargain, cut taxes for the rich and cut what government does for us? We didn't, and we should stop acting like we did.

    Every single one of us knows that the deficits are the result of tax cuts for the rich and huge military spending increases. If we want to fix the deficit problem we know exactly what to do.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:01 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 12, 2010

    Call-In On Currency Tomorrow, July 13

    Call Congress tomorrow and demand action on Chinese currency. Visit www.metalworkingadvocate.org/action. Call 202-224-3121. China has up to a 40% pricing advantage resulting from currency manipulation and a lot of good jobs are riding on doing something about this.

    At the AFL-CIO Blog: Call-In Day, July 13: Tell Congress to Pass Currency Legislation.

    On July 13, tens of thousands of manufacturers across the country—members of the Fair Currency Coalition and the Coalition for a Prosperous America—will join with union members and citizen trade groups in a National Currency Call-In Day to ratchet up the pressure on the Obama administration and Congress to hold currency manipulators accountable.
    But wait, there's more:
    Tomorrow, call your senators and representatives at 202-224-3121 and tell them to support legislation to reign in currency manipulators or visit www.metalworkingadvocate.org/action to act now.

    Here are the details:

    Now that the Treasury Department once again has refused to label China as a currency manipulator, it is more important than ever for Congress to pass strong legislation quickly to stop the unfair and illegal advantage against U.S. producers that China and other nations gain by undervaluing their currency.

    On July 13, tens of thousands of manufacturers across the country—members of the Fair Currency Coalition and the Coalition for a Prosperous America—will join with union members and citizen trade groups in a National Currency Call-In Day to ratchet up the pressure on the Obama administration and Congress to hold currency manipulators accountable.

    A bipartisan group of senators is considering attaching S. 3134, the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2010, to legislation that may pass at anytime. Introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the legislation would give our government the tools it needs to address currency manipulation.

    Tomorrow, call your senators and representatives at 202-224-3121 and tell them to support legislation to reign in currency manipulators or visit www.metalworkingadvocate.org/action to act now.

    China and other countries routinely undervalue their currency to create a trading advantage. Their actions have robbed U.S. workers of jobs and undermined the nation’s manufacturing productive capacity and innovation. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who co-chairs the Fair Currency Coalition, has said it is time to enforce our trade laws and look out for the interest of American workers and their communities

    Last month before the G-20 summit, China announced it would allow its currency’s value to increase, a move former Labor Secretary Robert Reich called hokum. The University of California, Berkeley, professor further warned that China

    isn’t really changing anything. It’s only doing the minimum to prevent Congress from listing China as a currency manipulator, leading to a squeeze on Chinese imports.

    Call your member of Congress on July 13 and stop currency manipulation.

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:55 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Deficits: Get The Money From Where The Money Went

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    McClatchy news story, No full Social Security benefits until age 70?

    Young Americans might not get full Social Security retirement benefits until they reach age 70 if some trial balloons that prominent lawmakers of both parties are floating become law.

    Don't fall for it. Social Security did not contribute to the deficits or debt, it ran a huge surplus. That surplus was supposed to be set aside. Instead it was handed out to the very wealthy as tax cuts. Now the country needs to start paying it back to the elderly, and to prevent us from getting it back from where it went -- the wealthy few -- they're instead talking about making people wait until age 70 to retire, cutting benefits, etc.

    Every one of us knows that the budget deficits come from the tax cuts and military spending increases of recent decades. But every one of us also knows that the beneficiaries of those tax cuts and military spending use their wealth and power to corrupt the political system, preventing us from restoring sanity to our governance.

    Before the tax cuts on the top rates and military spending increases we didn't have these deficit/debt problems, we maintained our infrastructure, provided educations, we even spent enough on our military to oppose the Soviet Union globally. The country worked better then. When top tax rates were cut from 90% the result was immediately deficits, then under Reagan came the really big cuts that led to the "structural" deficits and the huge debt increases and resulting interest load.

    Since those tax cuts we have seen so many transformations for the worse. The wealthy now dominate every single part of our politics. Instead of having to build a fortune over time people can now reap a windfall from quick buck schemes -- so that is what people focus on. When upper income was taxed at a high rate people built equity over time that, when sold, was taxed at only half that rate, and people became wealthy. When it took time to build a fortune companies had long-term strategies that depended on serving customers, solid surrounding communities with solid infrastructure, supply chains, experienced workers, etc. Now you can make your fortune selling off those things and pocketing the proceeds.

    Those tax cuts were the direct cause of the deficit and debt problem. The military increases are a second cause of the problem. Social Security was never a cause of the problem. The clear way to fix the problem is to restore those tax rates and cut the military budget to pre-Cold War levels. The Soviet Union is long gone.

    So what do we do about it?

    What can we do about this? Learn the facts. This is a strategic assault on Social Security that has been underway for a long time.

    Spread the word. Tell everyone that Social Security did not contribute to the deficit, tax cuts for the wealthy and military spending are the reason we have these deficits and raising taxes at the top and cutting military spending will do much more than cutting Social Security to help solve the problem.

    Start calling members of Congress and telling them we will not tolerate Social Security cuts. Tell everyone you know, family members, friends and everyone else to call.

    Join Social Security Works.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:50 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 10, 2010

    Life Expectancy and Social Security

    The reason that life expectancy is higher now than in the 1930s, when Social Security started, is that fewer children are dying. If half the babies die and the rest live to be 100, the average life expectancy is 50. If none die and everyone still lives to 100 the average life expectancy doubles -- but no one lives a day longer.

    So yes, average life expectancy has gone up quite a bit since the 30s. But adulthood life expectancy isn't much longer than it was then. And the people who say we should raise the retirement age because of longer expectancy know that and know that saying this is a trick.

    Don't be fooled, it's another trick from people who want to cheat you and pocket the money..

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:36 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    Lies and the Lying Liars... At Stanford University, No Less!

    A video series by Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution, with Michael Boskin and Edward Lazear of the Hoover Institution and Stanford University begins by stating:

    "By January President Obama will have increased the federal deficit more in two years than President George W. Bush did in eight."
    And stuff like that. It says Obama "tripled the deficit."

    So how much more should anyone listen to?

    Obama's first budget year will end in September. Bush's last budget year had a deficit of $1.4 trillion, only a fraction of which was from the "stimulus." Even the conservative Cato Institute is pointing out this lie being spread.

    These are not economists they are propagandists and Stanford should not allow its good name to be ruined by employing them.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:39 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 7, 2010

    Too Old For A Job, Too Young For Medicare Or Social Security

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at OurFuture.org. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    Tell us your own story in the comments, please!

    Here is a fact: There. Are. No. Jobs. I'm in Silicon Valley where the official unemployment rate dipped in May to 11.2%. This dip was, of course, because of so many people just giving up trying to get a job, certainly not because of some wave of hiring. The underemployed figure, known as "U-6," is 21.7% in California, 16.7% nationally.

    You have to know someone to get a humiliating job standing on a corner waving a sign. And if you are over 40, things are even worse than that. Don't give me any conservative Rush Limbaugh-Ayn Rand dehumanizing nonsense about parasitic lazy people who won't lookthere are no jobs.

    I know so many people here who are over 40, were laid off in the 2000-era dot com crash, still haven't found a regular job and aren't going to. They have had occasional "contract" positions—which means no benefits, no security, a 15% "self-employment" tax and no unemployment check when the job ends. And now, 10 years later they're a lot over 40 and are not going to find a job because so many employers here won't hire people over 40.

    And now there are so many more who lost their jobs in the mass layoffs of 2008-2009 and can't find a job. So many of them are also over 40. In fact, many were laid off in obvious purges of over-40 workers, offered a small severance that they could only receive if they promised to take no age-discrimination action against the employer. (I don't say "company" because some of these worked at nonprofits.)

    Most of these people will not find another job, but are too young for Medicare and Social Security.

    One Person's Story

    I ran into a friend this weekend who I hadn't seen for a couple of years. He had been a computer engineer who had been making 6 figures in the dot-com years. Laid off in the 2000 crash, he moved in with his parents back in the Midwest and worked in a bakery. He came back out here when things picked up a bit and worked in one "contract" job after another. (Contracting is just a scam to get around employment laws—but the government doesn't enforce the rules.) But now he just can't find anything. He managed to get unemployment but now that is running out. He has no health insurance. He can't afford a place to live; he "house sits" for people or visits friends, and doesn't know what he is going to do even two days from now.

    What is he going to do? Can you tell me? He has gotten a few interviews, and when they are computer-related is always told he is way overqualified, doesn't seem energetic, probably won't be willing to work 20 hours a day, doesn't look like he is up to date on things that are happening with computers, etc. (How many ways can you say "too old?") He's about 45. If things pick up he will get another job. But people just a few years older will not.

    Blatant Age Discrimination

    Age discrimination is a thing with me because it is so blatant here. It's the culture here, some even say that for programmers it is "35 and out." At various times looking for work I've been told I "seemed tired" and things like that. I was even told once that I wouldn't be able to market some software because I "wouldn't be able to get my mind around" how it worked—when I had designed and written part of it in a previous life. One company here is said to have only 200 over-40 employees out of 20,000.

    But it certainly is not a problem that only exists in Silicon Valley. Tell your own story in the comments, please, get this discussion going!

    What are people supposed to do? You can't get Medicare until you are 65, and Social Security until 67. But it's near-impossible to get a job or health insurance if you are over 50. I wonder what the effect would be if the government started again enforcing its own rules on age discrimination and contracting.

    Among other things Congress needs to get things going by passing the George Miller "Local Jobs for America Act." .

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:22 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    July 6, 2010

    If You Feed Them They Breed -- And Other Dehumanizing Conservative Idiocy We Should Ignore

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    The country is in an economic emergency. Unemployment -- especially long-term unemployment -- is at extremely high levels and the recovery is faltering. Conservatives are obstructing efforts to solve this because they believe it helps them in the November election. To this end conservatives are throwing out every possible argument against helping the economy to see if any of them stick, and to provide cover for opposing taking any action that might help matters.

    The latest nonsense they are spreading is that helping the unemployed keeps them from finding jobs. Good Lord! This is basically the old "if you feed them they just breed" storyline. They say "it makes them dependent" as if hard-working people laid off because of Wall Street's scams are squirrels. Or, to hear the nasty way conservatives talk about these human beings, they are like rats. "Hobos," one Congressman called the unemployed! And the DC elite listen, chuckle and repeat.

    But while they say unemployment assistance keeps these lazy parasites from finding jobs, they also obstruct bills that create jobs by maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure. This tells you it's just something they say, to cover for what they do. And what they do is obstruct any effort to fix the problem because they believe they will benefit if it is not fixed.

    For example, the big DC drumbeat right now is against "spending." They claim that government spending caused the crisis, ignoring and passing the buck on everything that actually caused it, especially their deregulation and their lack of oversight. They blame government for everything, so why should this be different.

    Along these lines they claim that the stimulus didn't work, or even that spending made the problem worse, because there are still people out of work. But look at the following chart. The right side of the chart shows the effect of the stimulus. (Source, Jed Lewison and Karina Newton)


    A conservative, anti-government myth that is everywhere now is that "Government forced banks to give loans to people who couldn't pay them back, and this caused the financial collapse" -- and its variant that it was about forcing banks to "help minorities. This is an example of the tactic of repeating a lie over and over until enough people believe it. To deflect people from understanding what really caused the crisis and from seeing that they are obstructing the effort to reform the financial system they made this one up" Unfortunately this has become what bloggers call a "zombie lie" -- no matter how many times you prove it is just a lie, it comes back from the dead.

    The Zombie Lie Problem

    The "zombie lie" problem shows that it is a mistake to think that just arguing facts is a way to shoot this stuff down. Spending your time arguing facts with people who are trying to mislead misses the point. The lie is not about the facts, it is cover for the obstruction. When you try to argue a fact they will make up something else to throw you off track. Facts are not what this is about, feeding a narrative of no action is what this is about, because they understand that a bad economy helps them in the Fall.

    Listening to this stuff at all, and trying to argue facts just contributes to the lack of action. There comes a point when you have to stop llsteneing and getting bogged down by intentional distractions and get something done for the economy and the public.

    It Is Time To Stop Listening To This Stuff And ACT

    Enough with these stupid, heartless, dehumanizing right wing "if you feed them they breed" arguments that are preventing action. People are out of work and the recovery is faltering. It is time to push aside the nay-sayers, and get something done. The government simply has to step in and act. First, do the minimal, obvious things:

    1) Pass the unemployment extension, because people can't find jobs.

    2) Continue COBRA subsidies, because so many of the long-term unemployed are older people who cannot get or afford insurance any other way. This is simple humanity, people! And, by the way, COBRA itself is running out for many people, never mind subsidies.

    3) Send aid to the states. 900,000 jobs in the states are riding on this help.

    At a minimum do this. Don't get lost in the weeds of what bill to attach it to. Just do it. Bring it out by itself for an up or down vote so the public can clearly see who is helping and who is voting against jobs and help for the unemployed.

    But what Congress really ought to be doing is passing the George Miller "Local Jobs for America Act." .

    As economists like Paul Krugman keep saying we risk going into a serious depression. At the least we are entering a pattern of slight recovery, slight decline for a decade. Look at what happened to Ireland when they tried "austerity."

    Here is an undeniable fact about government spending. Government spending on infrastructure creates the conditions that enable businesses to prosper. Tax cuts leave nothing behind, but the roads, transit systems, ports, electric grid, Internet, courts, schools, universities, research, and all the rest that government spending creates make us competitive and are needed by businesses

    Do it. Ignore the obstructors who are trying to set the stage for November. Put people to work. Help the long-term unemployed. Pass jobs bills.. And spend on modernizing our infrastructure so American can be competitive again.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:47 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    July 5, 2010

    They Own This Place

    George Carlin on the American Dream:

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:27 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Crisis of Capitalism

    Seen this yet?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:04 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 4, 2010


    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    July 4, 1776, Independence Day celebrates our fight to cast off colonial rule by a wealthy elite who were keeping the benefits of our labors for themselves. We fought this system and we won our independence.

    In the years since We, the People have built up solid public structures like our system of laws and courts, schools and universities, roads and transit systems, police and fire departments, food and drug regulations, worker protections, minimum wages and maximum hours -- all of which have enabled us to prosper together.

    In 1776 democracy and government by the people were literally revolutionary concepts but even now they continue to face constant attack from the interests of concentrated wealth. Today we face a new form of this attack on our shared prosperity. Where we have fought and built protections and rule by the people, companies evade our rules by moving factories and jobs to places that have not, and remain exploited. They hold us hostage, saying “give in or we’ll just move your job, too.” They create conditions where we are forced to fight each other for lower and lower wages just to keep a roof over our heads. They corrupt our democracy with floods of cash, and our politicians with promises of jobs as highly-paid lobbyists. They buy our news sources and pollute our information. Their propaganda poisons our people against their own leaders.

    When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to cast off the chains of corporate rule and great concentration of wealth and power, we must do so. We can fight this now, just as we fought it in 1776, and fought it again and again in our history. We built this country and its government and democracy, and we ought to keep it.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Did I Mention?

    Did I mention that I'm sitting in at the Firedoglake News Desk over the weekend? I guess I didn't. Anyway I'm over there.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:35 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Union Values

    This is the hat:


    And this is the story: AFL-CIO, Union Values: Made In America,

    Our country was born out of a fight to cast off colonial rule by a wealthy elite and govern ourselves as We, the People. This fight continues, and nothing more clearly represents this American effort to lift each other up than organized labor. On July 4, as we celebrate our independence I encourage people to recognize our ongoing battle by buying Made in USA goods, and by working for democracy and the rights of workers everywhere.

    I recently bought a hat with “AFL-CIO” written on it. Inside the hat there is a label that reads, “Union Made in the USA.” I was thinking about how unions wouldn’t buy cheap hats made in China or by some nonunion sweatshop, even if it was in the United States. They stick with their values.

    Go read the AFL-CIO's 4th of July message.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:27 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 3, 2010

    Types Of Libertarians

    24 Types of Libertarians | The Big Picture

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:15 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 1, 2010

    Bloggers Were Warning About A Coming Financial Crash

    Atrios notes Greenspan saying "nobody could have predicted." He was writing about it in 12.07. I'm sure he was writing about it earlier.

    My Housing Bubble archives go back to April, 2005, but only because I switched over from the terrible Blogspot blogging system. I was already titling my posts "Today's Housing Bubble Post" (sometimes several a day.)

    This one in March, 2005, ends with, "How many of you remember the Savings and Loan crisis, and the root causes?"

    September, 2004, "let's see, massive trade deficits, massive budget deficits, housing price bubble, dollar overpriced, interest rates held unnaturally low... LOTS of rubber bands ready to snap back just after the election... Watch your backs!"

    Here is one from July, 2002, the very first month of this blog. Not housing, but warning about another part of the current problem: The Pension Problem - "at least 50 WorldComs"

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:12 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos