August 31, 2010
The President has a commission looking at ways to reduce the budget deficits which were caused by tax cuts for the rich and military spending increases. Social Security – which has no legal authority to borrow money, so it can't contribute to deficits – is on the table for cuts, at least as far as We, the People are allowed to know. (The commission meets in secret.) That's BS.
Another reason we know SS is on the table is that almost all of the members of the commission have spoken in the past of their inclination to cut or privatize the program. That’s BS.
Republican members of the commission have said in advance that taxes will not be on the table. That’s BS.
In fact, conservatives of both parties are arguing to extend the expiring Bush tax cuts for the rich! That's BS.
The country spends up to $1.2 trillion a year on wasteful, bloated military and related programs, more than all the rest of the countries on earth combined, but the commission isn't talking about cutting that down to, say, only three times our nearest possible competitor? That's BS.
Social Security being involved with this commission at all is BS. If they want to cut something they should cut the BS.
If you want to fix the deficits, fix the problems that caused the deficits, not things that can't. Speaker Pelosi said in July that talking about SS and the deficits are like apples and oranges. With this in mind Rep. Raul Grijalva says Congress should preempt this, and demand that Social Security be left alone.
August 30, 2010
America was formed as a government of, by and for We, the People. It says so right in the first words of our Constitution. To get that Constitution we rebelled against the King and England's aristocracy and their corporations, with their concentrated wealth and power. And we continued that fight and over time we extended our system of one-person-one-vote, adding women and minorities to that equation.
The fight has gone back and forth. When our democratic government works, it pushes for increasing the protections and benefits of a strong economy for We, the People. This has included, for example, the mandated 40-hour workweek and minimum wages to fight exploitation, both pushed by labor. But at other times our government was "captured" by the power of concentrated wealth and working people are not well-represented. Even then we're still not necessarily each on our own. During those times we have depended on labor unions to push back against that power of concentrated wealth. Working people can organize into labor unions to bargain for higher wages and better treatment than workers could obtain individually.
What difference can unions make? In 1945 labor unions represented about 1/3 of all workers. When American unions were strong working people got the minimum wage, the 40-hour week, weekends off, paid vacations, health insurance, pensions, dignity and respect. This was when America built the middle class that everyone has been taking for granted since. Even the wealthy benefited greatly over the long run as more consumers with more money to spend lifted the whole economy.
But what has happened to us since the Reagan Revolution, when concentrated power of the big corporations weakened America's unions? Since the days of FDR membership in unions has fallen, but in 1980 unions still represented 24% of American workers. The Reagan administration famously launched an all-out assault on organized labor, resulting in membership falling to 16.4% by 1989. And the trend continued: by 1998 union membership fell to 13.9 percent. By 2009 that had decreased to 12.3%, but only 7.6% in the private sector. And here are the results:
This is a chart of working people's share of the benefits from our economy. Note the brief return to normal under Clinton, erased by Bush II. But the assault on working people has recently been bipartisan. Clinton pushed to pass the Bush I-negotiated NAFTA treaty which hammered the bargaining position of workers, while Bush II consolidated the practice of "outsourcing" labor competition from non-democratic countries where workers didn't have rights or protections.
As we all know, since the Reagan Revolution weakened the negotiating power of working people, wealth and income have concentrated at the top, our country's debt has massively increased, household debt as well, the country is crumbling and everyone except the wealthy few and big corporations is generally worse off.
Unions still make a difference. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "In 2009, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $908, while those who were not represented by unions had median weekly earnings of $710." Union members also often have paid vacation, paid sick leave, health insurance and other benefits that non-union workers do not. The difference is dramatic. In March 2009, 78 percent of union workers were covered by health insurance through their jobs, compared with only 51 percent of nonunion workers. Seventy-seven percent of union workers participate in defined-benefit pension plans, compared with 20 percent of nonunion workers.
When you hear someone complain about unions and complain that people in unions are paid better than the rest of us, let them know that they are reaching the wrongest conclusion. They shouldn't resent union members and complain about their pay, they should join a union and support unions, so they they and everyone else can come out ahead.
Does the White house know that the mid-term elections are just over two months from now? I wonder if someone can wake up the President and ask him to start making a case?
So far the Dems are just letting Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh make the case. This is not good for the country.
So here's what you do. As the Federal Reserve you sell $100 billion of the toxic waste on the open market. Set an actual price for it. Then you make the banks mark their assets to market value. They go bankrupt. You nationalize them. (Why not? They are actually bankrupt after all, and they haven't increased lending like they were supposed to; in fact, they have decreased it.) You make the stockholders take their losses and the bondholders too, then you reinflate the banks. (If the Fed can print trillions to keep zombie banks 'alive' it can print money to reinflate nationalized banks.) The banks lend under FDIC and Fed direction, at the interest rates the Fed directs. The FDIC and Fed eventually break the banks up into a reasonable size. And while they're at it, they get rid of the entire executive class which caused the financial crisis, and have the DOJ go over all the internal memos and start charging everyone who committed fraud. (Hint: that's virtually every executive at a major bank.) Again, this is completely up to Obama - the DOJ answers to him.
Think Obama can't do this without Bernanke? Wrong. Obama can fire any Fed Governor for cause and replace them during a Congressional recess with no oversight.* ('Cause' is never defined, but Obama can note that the Fed's mandate includes maximum employment and not stopping the financial crisis in the first place is certainly plausible as cause as well.)
August 29, 2010
Obama's opponents say he has "increased spending" and "increased the debt."
Can you provide any specifics? WHAT spending has increased? Has Obama increased or decreased borrowing from when Bush was president?
Seriously, please answer in the comments.
August 28, 2010
Here's the thing. Beck promotes both Christianity and Ayn Rand, but his followers don't know that Rand strongly promoted atheism, teaching things like this:
"the concept of God is degrading to men."
There is a great, basic contradiction in the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was one of the first great teachers to proclaim the basic principle of individualism -- the inviolate sanctity of man's soul, and the salvation of one's soul as one's first concern and highest goal; this means -- one's ego and the integrity of one's ego. But when it came to the next question, a code of ethics to observe for the salvation of one's soul -- (this means: what must one do in actual practice in order to save one's soul?) -- Jesus (or perhaps His interpreters) gave men a code of altruism, that is, a code which told them that in order to save one's soul, one must love or help or live for others. This means, the subordination of one's soul (or ego) to the wishes, desires or needs of others, which means the subordination of one's soul to the souls of others.
This is a contradiction that cannot be resolved. This is why men have never succeeded in applying Christianity in practice, while they have preached it in theory for two thousand years. The reason of their failure was not men's natural depravity or hypocrisy, which is the superficial (and vicious) explanation usually given. The reason is that a contradiction cannot be made to work. That is why the history of Christianity has been a continuous civil war -- both literally (between sects and nations), and spiritually (within each man's soul).
Have you heard it on the news
About this fascist groove thang
Evil men with racist views
Spreading all across the land
Don't just sit there on your ass
Unlock that funky chaindance
Brothers, sisters shoot your best
We don't need this fascist groove thang
Brothers, sisters, we don't need this fascist groove thang
History will repeat itself
Crisis point we're near the hour
Counterforce will do no good
Hot you ass I feel your power
Hitler proves that funky stuff
Is not for you and me girl
Europe's an unhappy land
They've had their fascist groove thang
Brothers, sisters, we don't need this fascist groove thang
Democrats are out of power
Across that great wide ocean
Reagan's president elect
Fascist god in motion
Generals tell him what to do
Stop your good time dancing
Train their guns on me and you
Fascist thang advancing
Brothers, sisters, we don't need this fascist groove thang
Sisters, brothers lend a hand
Increase our population
Grab that groove thang by the throat
And throw it in the ocean
You're real tonight you move my soul
Let's cruise out of the dance war
Come out your house and dance your dance
Shake that fascist groove thang
Gotta say I really like this later version:
And this dance remix:
We went into health care reform looking to free ourselves from a predatory industry that was harming us and the country, and get ourselves Medicare-For-All.
We came out the other side with all of us ordered to buy health insurance from the predatory health insurers.
This has been another chapter in democracy v.s. predatory corporatist plutocracy.
August 27, 2010
When we pack up a factory here -- and all of its jobs and supply chain and its support/.maintenance structure -- and send it all over there to a country that doesn't have the wage and safety and environmental protections we have, just to save a bit of money today we are also sending them the ability to make money in the future. And that future is here now.
The country's second-quarter GDP was revised down sharply to 1.6%. So the "stimulus," by raising GDP somewhere between 1.7% and 4.5%, is the only thing that has kept us from falling completely over the cliff. But we can't just get by on stimulus forever (especially when we waste one-third of it on tax cuts that leave nothing behind but debt). We have to fix the causes of the problems.
One big reason we are having so much trouble is that we haven't solved the trade problem and our efforts to get growth going are just being used to help other countries grow.
In The Washington Post today, Flow of imports drags down economic growth:
The government said the trade deficit subtracted almost 3.4 percentage points from second-quarter GDP - the largest hit from trade in 63 years.
Corporate conservatives talked us into sending our manufacturing out of the country. In the short term some executives got huge bonuses as assets and capacity were sold off and payrolls reduced. But in the long term the ability for the country to earn money has been sent "over there."
I recently came across this talk by Ian Fletcher, author of Free Trade Doesn't Work, given at the Heritage Foundation. I recommend watching, and clicking through to order his book. Ian doesn't come from the left or right (watch him make this clear in the video) but instead just looks at trade with a scientific, fact-based, analytical approach.
Here is the most important point he makes, 20 minutes in (use that slider bar), in regards to the problem of moving factories to cheap labor countries. Comparative statics: Free-trade economists argue that cheap labor is a "comparative advantage." Fletcher explains that this means that if they are already making something more efficiently, today, then our best move today is to buy it from them. But it doesn't make sense to just pack up an industry and reassemble it in a different country with low wages because then you are doing nothing more then sending away your ability to earn a living.
Yes, as I said, some people make a bunch of money in the short term doing that. But "it's obviously going to cause a decline in our capacity to produce goods and services in the future."
August 26, 2010
Psywar movie. You can watch it online.
Former Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson is co-chair of President Obama's Fiscal Commission. This is what he said the other day about the relationship between the American people and our government:
"We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits!"
This country that was once run by We, the People with government "of the people, by the people and for the people" has become instead a country where the ruling elites can talk about the public as babies, the unemployed as parasites who are jobless because they are "lazy." The prevailing attitude about the public, from the new Versailles that has grown up around Washington, DC -- what bloggers call "the village" seems to be if you feed them they will breed.
Look at the weird situation we are in today. The wealthy are wealthier than ever. The gap between the rich and the rest of us is bigger than ever. Big corporate profits are soaring and the too-big-to-fail multinational corporations have more power than ever. At the same time wages that were stagnant for decades are now dropping, people with jobs are working longer and harder, more of our people are unemployed and unemployed for longer, more without health insurance, more are depending on food stamps for basic nutrition, more are losing their homes than ever with bankruptcies soaring, and small businesses are barely hanging on or are going under at an alarming rate.
But what are our political leaders up to? On the one hand, the deficit commission is focused on cutting Social Security (which does not contribute to the deficit or debt) at a time when more people need it and need it more than ever. On the other hand many in the Congress are looking for ways to extend the deficit-causing Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%.
And few are talking about our government hiring or helping the unemployed, stimulating the economy, or holding the bad actors who caused this mess accountable. In fact, far from talking about helping our fellow citizens, our ruling DC elites have a different view of things entirely. We, the People are just in the way. It is our own tit-sucking fault, they say, and we need to step up and sacrifice because we are not doing enough to help the people who really deserve it: the producers, the "job creators."
Did you catch the rhetorical trick I used above? I said "our" people, and "our" government. How quaint. You don't hear that kind of talk much anymore. Instead you hear about "personal responsibility," which makes everything that is done to someone by the wealthy and powerful their own fault.
This Is About Democracy vs. Corporatist Plutocracy
These battles over cutting Social Security and extending tax cuts for the wealthy expose the competing worldviews of We, the People democracy vs corporatist plutocracy. Is our country a community of the people, by the people and for the people? Or are we "the help," only here for the benefit of the wealthy few.
In the democracy worldview we are a community that takes care of and watches out for each other. We are each citizens with equal rights and equal value, to be respected equally. Our government and economy are supposed to be for us. In the democracy worldview we should be increasing Social Security's benefits because people really need it.
In the plutocratic worldview held by conservatives and corporatist moderates we are "the help," 310 million loafers ("parasites" is the Randian word) sucking their " unearned sustenance" (more Rand) from the tits of the milk cow when we all ought to be working harder because the portfolios of the "achievers" (and more) are down a bit. Your value to society is only what you "produce." Your role otherwise is to "consume." In that worldview the wealthy deserve tax cuts and the parasites shouldn't be getting Social Security checks at all.
So what is it going to be? Will we see and understand ourselves as citizens, who share this country on an equal basis with the rich and the poor, with rights and entitlements, deserving dignity, respect, protection and empowerment from a government that is of, be and for We, the People? Will we demand those things and fight for them? Or will we quietly yield those hard-won rights to our "betters" and allow ourselves to be told what to do, fleeced by giant corporations, hoping to get a flat-screen TV out of the deal if we behave?
August 25, 2010
Did we have these deficits and debt before Reagan cut taxes for the rich, and the huge rise in military spending?
Obama wants tax cuts? Tax cuts leave nothing behind, infrastructure spending leaves behind ... infrastructure!
"The economic team provided an update on the next steps to keep the economy growing, including assistance to small businesses and the extension of tax cuts to the middle class," it said.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) gave a speech yesterday describing his party's positions on jobs & the economy going into the fall election. Summary: Our economic policies destroyed the country’s economy and millions of lives, but it made a few of my buddies really REALLY rich, so let’s do more of it.
I write about the specifics of Boehner's call to return to disastrous trade policies below, but first I just have to say a few words about his economic ideas in general and how utterly wrong they are. In the speech Boehner said we have an "economy stalled by ‘stimulus’ spending." But according to FOX News' Wall Street Journal, yesterday the CBO reported that "the impact of the stimulus program estimated ... the plan lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points." In addition, the Washington Post reported, "The CBO said the act also increased the nation's gross domestic product by between 1.7 percent and 4.5 percent in the second quarter, indicating that the stimulus may have been the primary source of growth in the U.S. economy."
Boehner also said that "each dollar the government collects is taken directly out of the private sector." This is the old "taxes take money out of the economy" argument, which is intended to trick people into thinking that the money just disappears instead of being used to pay for the schools, courts, agencies and infrastructure that enable businesses to thrive and drive the country's prosperity. If you think that President Eisenhower's spending on the Interstate Highway System "took money out of the economy" you really need to see someone about your problems and not take them out of the rest of us.
Taking direct shots at democracy, Boehner complained about "big government" -- namely We, the People making decisions instead of a few wealthy corporate owners making decisions for us -- and said, "As Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, recently said, "You'd really be amazed at how much government you'd never miss." Boehner really has a problem with this whole "We, the People" thing.
Boehner on Trade
Boehner wants to go back to the trade policies that brought us massive job losses and trade deficits. In the speech he called for “passing free-trade agreements” with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. He doesn’t mention what is IN these agreements, only calls for passing them. These trade agreements were negotiated by the Bush administration. Here are charts showing the Bush administration's record:
This is bad enough, but these "free trade" agreements create a worldwide race to the bottom, allowing companies to bypass the protections that democracies fought to provide for their citizens, pitting exploited, low-wage workers against citizens in democracies, forcing wages and standards ever lower.
These "free trade" agreements need to be reviewed and reformed, so they protect wages, the environment., worker's rights and small businesses around the world. We have a chance to lift each other up instead of push each other down. In February I wrote about Whirlpool closing a refrigerator plant in Evansville, moving the jobs to Mexico where workers are paid $70 a week. The problem is that Mexican Workers Paid $70/Week Can't Buy Refrigerators! If they were paid decent wages, we could sell things we make to them, while they sell things they make to us. But if we follow Boehner's trade ideas everyone just gets poorer and eventually the economy stops.
Oh, wait, we DID follow Boehner's trade plans, and everyone DID get poorer, and the economy DID stop! But a few of his buddies got really REALLY rich. So he wants to do more of that.
This speech by Boehner is just more calling for a return to the policies of the past: we’ve been seeing the trade deficit soaring in the last few months, as the economy tries to go back to old economy. China is 96% of our trade deficit. Boehner sayting lets go back to the path we followed when we were borrowing $2 billion a day, it took away 2.8% growth in 1st quarter, sapping the recovery. This notion that Boehner calling for continuing course shows a perverse blindness to changes country has to make.
August 24, 2010
The President has appointed a commission to study ways to reduce the deficit, but the only thing anyone is hearing from this commission (they meet in secret) is that they are going after Social Security instead. For this reason it has become known as the "Catfood Commission" instead of the "Deficit Commission" because any reductions in benefits will force so many older Americans to eat catfood instead of more expensive human food.
Congress should preempt the commission from targeting Social Security by making it clear that they will not accept cuts or an increase in the retirement age.
Social Security cannot legally borrow, so it is not possible for it to add to the deficit at all. In fact it is entirely self-funded and has a huge surplus. But Presidents Reagan and the Bushes borrowed from Social Security to give those huge tax cuts to the rich, and the money is coming due. This is the reason Social Security is the focus of the commission instead of the things that actually caused the deficits and debt. They are trying to find ways to avoid having to pay that money back to Social Security. Congress should tell the commission to look at the real causes of the deficits and debt and not at Social Security which does not contribute to deficits and debt.
Every one of us knows that the deficits come from the tax cuts for the rich and huge military spending increases of recent decades. 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 -- it isn't allowed to borrow and instead ran a huge surplus. The clear way to fix the problem is to restore tax rates to pre-deficit levels and cut the military budget to pre-Cold War levels.
Representative Raul Grijalva, Co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, says that Congress should preempt the catfood commission by making it clear that they will not accept cuts in Social Security. In fact the program actually needs to be expanded. In a call today, Grijalva said, (from notes)
"Long term we should be promoting preservation, strengthening Social Security now instead of playing hide-the-ball to see what commission does. It is ironic that all we hear from the commission is Social Security, but nothing about taxation of upper 2 percent, and other things are off the books like the wars, and the trillions of deficit spending they caused. Nothing should be off the table. Defense spending and taxation have to be part of it, we have to close corporate loopholes, address corporate taxation, royalty relief for use of public lands. At what point do we repeal tax cuts?"
"It took a long time to build this debt. We should conquer the deficit over 10 years or so. There are ways to do that. But Social Security is one important issue that should be taken off the table, it does not add to debt. It should not be a factor."
"Members of Congress should state NOW they will not support cuts in Social Security, and pre-empt what the commission might say, state their opinions now. They wold be wise to represent constituents on this. There is no risk attached to doing that."
Members of Congress are asked to take a pledge to protect Social Security. The pledge reads:
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.
Click here to see who has taken the pledge, and please call your member of Congress and Senators and ask them to take the pledge.
Is it possible that we are in a period like the Hoover period, when the government didn't do anything about unemployment and other concerns of the public, instead following the prescriptions of Wall Street as things got worse and worse?
August 23, 2010
The way a lobbyist argues for or against anything today is to say it will create or cost jobs.
Prohibiting lawsuits against giant corporations that harm people creates jobs. Making oil drilling safer costs jobs. Tax cuts for the rich creates jobs. Just getting rid of government will create jobs.
So, of course, we hear now that passing the South Korea trade pact will create jobs. From the Washington Post today.
...administration officials estimate the deal could mean more than $10 billion annually in increased U.S. exports to Seoul and tens of thousands of new U.S. jobs.
Maybe, and maybe not. South Korea currently has high tariffs and other restrictions on American goods, so a trade pact that gets rid of these tariffs would increase American exports, creating American jobs. As the story says,
[South Korea] remains in some ways a closed shop with extensive tariffs, a paltry share of its large auto market devoted to imports, and a notorious set of non-tariff barriers that has prompted companies such as Peoria-based Caterpillar to complain that their products are routinely excluded for minor regulatory problems.But ...
Skeptics of the proposed agreement include some major corporate interests such as Ford Motor Co., which argues that the pact isn't aggressive enough in trying to open the South Korean market. Ford officials, for instance, noted that imports now represent less than 5 percent of South Korea's auto market.
Unions, environmental advocacy groups and other organizations, meanwhile, are urging Obama to keep his campaign promises and stiffen the terms for South Korean access to the U.S. market.
Meanwhile, Pork Magazine writes,
The latest supporter is South Korean Ambassador Han Duk-soo, who has assumed the unusual role of a foreign official promoting U.S. jobs. "This is an opportunity to stimulate the U.S. economy at no cost to U.S. taxpayers,” he says.The Koreans are telling us how good this pact will be for us? That is a warning sign. Their job is to take care of (certain interests in) Korea. Our government's job should be to take care of our interests - meaning ours - We, the People - not the interests of a few wealthy executives and major owners of a few big, multinational corporations.
There are jobs and then there are jobs. There are good jobs that raise living standards and enable people to buy things others make, and there are low-paying jobs that companies use to extort concessions from workers and communities that create a worldwide race to the bottom. And there are trade deals and then there are trade deals. There are trade deals that help working people on both sides of a trade boundary. And there are trade deals that allow companies to ship jobs overseas and evade the protections our democracy has fought so hard to build.
This trade deal was negotiated by the George W. Bush administration. This (along with the South Korean ambassador pushing this treaty as good for America) is a warning flag if every there was one. The Center for Economic and Policy Research writes,
The trade agenda of the United States had been about reducing barriers to trade in manufactured goods with the purpose of putting non-college educated workers in direct competition with much lower paid workers in other countries. The predicted and actual result of this policy is to reduce the pay of non-college educated workers, thereby increasing inequality in the United States. This is a policy of one-sided protectionism. It has nothing to do with "free trade."
As I wrote last month: This is a test and an opportunity. Does the accord show a path to a new way of relating to trade that will help us and our partners? This Korean trade deal should be revised into a model for how we change our trade relations with countries like Korea and China. We can trade in ways that benefit both sides, not just one side.
I'll be following this debate as it continues.
The things that people "know" are very different from the "reality-based" things those of us reading a blog like this know, and those things seem to always, always serve the corporate right.
I have been away on vacation. While away I have been talking to "regular" people who are outside of the circles many of us who follow progressive blogs and news closely live in. The particular group I spent time with might not fairly represent "regular" people but whenever I spend time talking to people who are outside of our highly-informed circles, whether it is talking to relatives, doing call-in radio shows or just talking to people I meet I come away very discouraged by the things that most people "know." The corporate right has been very effective at spreading an anti-government, anti-democracy narrative that, when believed, puts their interests on top.
Some of the things that people "know" that I heard in one form or another on my trip include:
1) Government caused the financial crisis. A lot of people know this, and a lot more have heard it repeated over and over. Government forced banks to give mortgages to poor people and minorities. Taxes and government spending "take money away" from and generally harm the economy.
2) Obama bailed out the banks. The most a lot of people know about the stimulus is that it was a lot of money and it went to bailing out the banks. Obama's massive spending increase (Democrats "tax and spend") is the cause of the deficit and the government is at risk of going bankrupt.
3) Corporations (plutocracy) are always more effective and efficient than government (democracy). Government messes up everything that it touches.
4) "Entitlements" are welfare and are destroying people's independence and work ethic. People think the government will solve their problems so they don't turn to themselves. Illegal immigrants immediately get welfare and have lots of babies on welfare and this is why states are going bankrupt.
5) Social Security is going broke and won't be there for younger people.
Of course all of these are just wrong, and of course acting on these beliefs leads the country to results that are terribly destructive to the economy and people's lives while a few at the top make out very very well for themselves. I'm not going to spend any time here getting into how much is wrong with each of these. I do want to get into why people believe these things.
So many of us -- by "us" I mean people likely to be reading this -- spend our time in somewhat insular information environments, where the blogs and other information sources we read and the people we talk to tend to follow news closely, and to be very highly informed with "reality-based" information. But "regular" people do not follow the news closely, and the "news" they get does not come from the same places as the news sources you and I carefully seek out.
Why The Right Controls The Narrative
It's simple. The corporate right controls the narrative because they make an effort to do so, and the forces of We, the People democracy, community and caring humanity do not. (Peace love and understanding, truth and happiness.)
Corporations and conservatives have invested a ton of money in a huge ideological message machine because they understand marketing. There is FOX News, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of talk radio, Drudge Report, a vast, vast Astroturf operation and all the rest of the right's propaganda operation. It is very, very well funded. They have constructed an effective narrative and they repeat it and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it -- and then they repeat it.
But there is also the corporate-owned "mainstream" media that largely echoes and often directly transmits the right's narrative. First, they echo these anti-government themes. Then, as with the current anti-Muslim "ground-zero mosque" frenzy they carry the things that distract from the real issues. Why? Because it serves their interests, too. If people are focused on distractions instead of looking at the real causes of their economic woes it is all the better for the real causes of their economic woes: namely the big, monopolist corporations.
(Does the mainstream media reflect corporate interests against those of the rest of us? Without going into detail here is a simple test: When was the last time you saw, heard or read someone on TV, radio or in a newspaper explain the benefits of joining a union?)
Meanwhile progressives and the forces of democracy are barely reaching out to regular people at all. We seem to focus our efforts mostly on elections, and do very little between elections to persuade the public that there are benefits to them of a progressive approach to issues. (And never mind our political leaders who repeat and reinforce the right's frames and narratives.)
A big part of this is that it takes a lot of money to reach out past our circles. But we sure do seem able to come up with money for elections. In fact the return on investment of reaching people outside of the election cycle should be obvious. We wouldn't have to raise and spend so much money in the election cycle if we were making the case that progressives bring more benefits to regular people, because then regular people would be more inclined to vote that way in general.
I plan to write more about this.
I think I did an OK job going into more detail on the things people "know" and why in this video from the Netroots Nation panel, The 2010 Elections: Channeling the Power of Jobs, Populism and the Angry Voter. Use the bar to slide this to the 40:00 minute mark, and watch for about 5 minutes.
And, while I'm showing videos, here is Love, Peace & Happiness by the Chambers Brothers. (I can't get it out of my head since writing "Peace love and understanding, truth and happiness" above...)
August 22, 2010
I'm back and you people better shape up.
August 20, 2010
Hey I have been out of town all week, in Alaska, with very little connectivity. (I'm in Glacier Bay right now.)
I'll be back Monday.
Vacations are wonderful things.
August 14, 2010
The guy drove all around the country to put the message "Read Ayn Rand" on a map of the United States.
Ayn Rand ranted against democracy, favoring a system where the biggest corporations run things.
August 13, 2010
This is pretty important, because, as we know, when a huge housing bubble bursts it takes an economy down with it. China's Coming Property Bust
So everyone recognizes that a correction must come soon, right? Not exactly. “I don’t see any bubbles,” 44-year-old Zhang Xin told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post ( SCHPY.PK - news - people ). “The next few months will be a fantastic time to buy.”
Really? There were, a few months ago, 64.5 million urban flats that showed no electricity usage for six consecutive months. That’s one in four city apartments, enough housing for some 200 million people. The value of vacant apartments held by speculators is about 15% of gross domestic product. Beijing’s bank stress tests assume a 60% fall in property prices. In fact, official statistics show that property price increases slowed in July.
64.5 million empty urban flats now, but,
And there is more bad news for the residential market. Property developers, who are already building 20 million flats, have company. Local governments are constructing another 20-30 million, and other government agencies and companies are also building housing for employees.
Real trouble ahead, if China doesn't manage this properly.
Tomorrow is the 75th birthday of Social Security. It is the most successful government program, demonstrating that government of the people, by the people and for the people works. For this reason a new poll shows that politicians will face major voter backlash if they advocate cuts in Social Security benefits or choose deficit reduction over job creation. Let's get candidates on the record with a pledge to honor and protect this valuable program.
Yesterday in Social Security – A Divide Between DC And The Rest Of Us, I wrote about a new poll that shows that the public understands something that the DC elite don't seem to get: The public gets it that the way to fix the deficit is to ask the rich to start paying taxes again, invest in infrastructure which provides jobs and enables businesses to prosper -- and don't touch Social Security benefits. (Click here for more on the poll.)
The clear message of the poll: Politicians will face major voter backlash if they advocate cuts in Social Security benefits or choose deficit reduction over job creation.
So now it is time to get our politicians on the record. Campaign for America's Future is asking candidates running for Congress to make this pledge: Hands off Social Security: No increase in the retirement age, no privatization, no Social Security cuts. Sign the petition to your member of Congress. And you can find out your member of Congress stands on Social Security. Use ourfuture.org/handsoffsocialsecurity to find out. And bookmark this page so you can come back and watch the list grow.
You can help us hold Congress accountable: Ask candidates to make the pledge and email firstname.lastname@example.org with the answer.
And again: Politicians will face major voter backlash if they advocate cuts in Social Security benefits or choose deficit reduction over job creation.
Here are some useful websites for engaging in this fight to save Social Security:
One more time: Politicians will face major voter backlash if they advocate cuts in Social Security benefits or choose deficit reduction over job creation.
August 12, 2010
I wrote earlier that Republicans are complaining that Obama is not cleaning up the terrible mess they made fast enough, so people should vote for them.
Now Newt Gingrich writes that "many firms are having trouble filling job openings."
He actually writes that we should not provide unemployment checks to people because,
So there are actually many jobs out there that need to be filled. Yet, in the worst recession since the Great Depression, many employers can’t make hires.
This is an example of someone who spends so much time with millionaires and DC elites that he is unable to even begin to understand the country. I mean, who dies he think agrees with this stuff, except other wealthy Republicans?
The DC-elite think that "the responsible thing to do" is to cut Social Security benefits. The public who they are supposed to represent overwhelmingly thinks that Social Security is one of the few remaining lifelines and must not be cut. The public strongly favors investing in rebuilding the country's infrastructure, returning to taxation of the wealthy and corporations -- especially Wall Street, and cutting back the enormous military budget as the key ways to address the budget deficit.
This morning the results of a new poll were announced, and politicians would do well to take note. The poll, A Research Study On Investment and Deficit Reduction, By Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Democracy Corps, Campaign for Amerca's Future is described as follows:
Politicians will face major voter backlash if they advocate cuts in Social Security benefits or choose deficit reduction over job creation, according to a poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner commissioned by the Campaign for America’s Future and Democracy Corps, with support from MoveOn.org; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the Service Employees International Union.
I'l like to bring that first sentence out and repeat it so that it is clear: Politicians will face major voter backlash if they advocate cuts in Social Security benefits or choose deficit reduction over job creation.
And again: Politicians will face major voter backlash if they advocate cuts in Social Security benefits or choose deficit reduction over job creation.
Key findings of the poll:
One more time: Politicians will face major voter backlash if they advocate cuts in Social Security benefits or choose deficit reduction over job creation.
"Obama isn't cleaning up the terrible mess we made fast enough, so vote for us."
That's the Republican campaign theme.
And it seems to be working.
August 11, 2010
In the news today, a familiar story: imports increased, exports declined. About $50 billion in one month alone. The trade gap isn't just costing jobs, it's a significant factor in the slow recovery as well. See below.
In 2005, when we were halfway down to where we went, I wrote a post at my own blog titled, The Trade Problem. With (my) permission, here is the entire post:
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.)
June 2010 Trade Numbers: We're Back To Terrible
That was 2005, And now we're importing shiploads of stuff again, and sending the ships back filled with cash - and what's left of our future. The trade deficit widened to $49.9 billion in June,
The trade deficit in the U.S. unexpectedly widened in June to the highest level since October 2008 as consumer goods imports rose to a record and exports declined.
[. . .] Exports from the U.S. decreased to $150.5 billion from $152.4 billion, reflecting fewer shipments abroad of semiconductors, computers and steelmaking materials. Imports increased in June to $200.3 billion from $194.4 billion, led by telecommunications equipment, automobiles and consumer goods such as pharmaceutical preparations, televisions and furniture.
The quantity of imported petroleum increased, while the price per barrel fell to $72.44 from $76.93 the prior month, according to today’s report.
Trade Deficit Cuts Jobs And GDP
We are not just outsourcing jobs, we are outsourcing our own economic growth to others! Charles McMillion of MBG Information Services writes that, "the worsening trade deficit cut the Q2 GDP growth rate by -2.8%."
That is, if trade and production losses in Q2 had remained at Q1 levels, all other things equal, GDP would have risen at a 5.2% rate in Q2 rather than the actual estimate of meager 2.4% growth. Today’s report suggests BEA must now revise its estimate which could show the worsening trade deficit lowering the Q2 growth rate by a full -3.0% leaving growth at just 2.2% with, apparently, worse to come.A lot of people think it's just "old stuff" like steel that is losing out. But look at this chart:
Note how the chart has to be extra tall to fit the huge decline in exports of advanced products. There are more charts with more bad news. (PDF)
Congress And The President's New "Make It In America" Initiative
More than 75 percent of Americans support a “national manufacturing strategy to make sure that economic, tax, labor and trade policies work together to help support manufacturing in the U.S.”
Not surprisingly, the Democrats’ lead initiative now is the National Manufacturing Strategy Act ... It calls for quadrennial review of U.S. manufacturing policy — including assessing strategic industries, reviewing tax and trade subsidies and requiring agencies to coordinate strategies.
. . . Obama’s “new foundation” for the economy offers first steps: public investment in 21st-century infrastructure, in education and training, in research and development. Yet these, slighted in years of conservative control, are necessary but not sufficient.
To ensure products are “made in America” requires hardheaded steps to balance trade and challenging the mercantilist countries, starting with China.
AAM: "Wrong Direction" and "Giving China Benefit of Doubt on Currency Falls Short
Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) Executive Director Scott Paul on this morning's latest monthly U.S. trade figures:
"The trade deficit is headed in the wrong direction, and that's bad news for American workers. ...
"The White House strategy of giving China the benefit of the doubt on currency has fallen short. The House and Senate must now step in and pass strong legislation to penalize China's currency manipulation and bring down our trade deficit. Over the longer term, we're encouraged that the recent focus by Congress and the Administration on 'Made in America' solutions to revitalize our manufacturing base and create jobs will bear fruit ...
"The drop in exports is also an enormous blow to the Administration's efforts to double American exports. ... The biggest internal obstacle is the lack of an aggressive strategy to boost American manufacturing. ...."
Are we right back to the "new normal" with even more jobs and industries being shipped overseas? Or are we going to learn from the past and do something about it this time? Conservative "free trade" and "free market" nonsense just doesn't work. It's time to leave that stuff behind instead of trying to accommodate and appease, and all the resulting backup that brought us, keeping us from moving forwards: We need "Buy American" in procurement. We need high-speed rail and local mass transit projects. We need a huge infrastructure rebuilding and modernization effort. We need the Local Jobs for America Act. We need a national Renewable Energy Standard. We need to set a high price on carbon. We need to build out the smart electrical grid. We need to address Chinese currency manipulation and trade violations. We need to restore taxation of the wealthy. We need free education for our people. We need to extend unemployment and COBRA subsidies for the "99ers." We need to increase the minimum wage. We need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. We need Immigration Reform.
And this is just some of what we need. And these all just buy time until we can figure out how to restructure the economy by reforming who gets what for what and ideas of what "ownership" means, so that we can all move into a prosperous, progressive future.
THIS is how Republicans win elections. They also say that the 2009 $1.4 trillion deficit was Obama's.
August 10, 2010
Ever since President Obama set up the Deficit Commission all the talk has been about Social Security? Why?
Social Security is separate from the rest of the US budget, is separately funded, has a huge trust fund and, most important: Social. Security. Does. Not. Contribute. To. The. Deficit. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said it best at Netroots Nation last month, calling it "apples and oranges,"
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."
So is it a DEFICIT commission or is it a SOCIAL SECURITY commission? If it is a deficit commission, then stop all of this talk about cutting Social Security, please, and start talking about the deficit. Everyone knows the deficit was caused by tax cuts for the rich and the huge increases in military spending that occurred under Reagan and then again under Bush II. (Note - there is no more Soviet Union.)
But instead, every day now, there is another round of attacks on Social Security. For example, this just in: Social Security, the trust fund and funny money, in today's Washington Post, talks about the Social Security Trust Fund as "funny money." The Trust Fund is all T-Bills. I would worry that the Chinese, Japanese and other major T-Bill holders are very, very nervous about talk like this. The Social Security T-Bills are the same T-Bills as theirs.
And this just in: Opposing view on retirement income: Let's upend Social Security, in today's USA Today by Dick Armey, who was one of the corporate-funded astroturf organizers of the Tea Party "movement." Let's take a closer look at some of Armey's arguments. He writes,
The nation's largest entitlement program is officially in the red.
No it is not. Not if you count the huge trust fund and the interest it receives from that. It is not "in the red" officially or even when you just make things up.
In less than 20 years, just two workers will be forced to pay the benefits of every one retiree.
This is not how Social Security works, and has nothing to do with anything. It's one of those made-up arguments that is designed to bamboozle people.
President Obama's deficit commission is considering an increase in both the retirement age and payroll taxes to "fix" the compulsory Social Security system.
True. But why? Social. Security. Does. Not. Contribute. To. The. Deficit.
Americans should ask, if Social Security is such a great program, why is it mandatory?
Because otherwise too many people wouldn't put anything away and would have to live on welfare, which the rest of us pay, instead of a good program that people pay into themselves.
Workers should have the choice about whether they want to remain in the current system or invest in a personal saving retirement account, which would allow them to have complete control over their retirements funds and pass the remaining balance to family members.
Because then you would have to know in advance how long you will live, which no one can do, in order to know how much to pay yourself each month from your savings. And, the money from people who die is used to give more to the people who live. Anyway, everyone already has the option to save outside of the Social Security program.
Anyway, it goes on like that, with trick after smooth trick being used to try to bamboozle people. Slick Wall Street salespeople like Dick Armey, Pete Peterson, and the rest are after our savings, and are using every trick in the book to fool us.
Here is the root of the attacks on Social Security: Social Security is the primary symbol of government of, by and, mostly, for the people. This is because it is a government program that works, works well, is solid, and has helped a lot of people! People who don't like government really, really don't like Social Security -- because it works.
Two quick thoughts.
The right is saying, "We smashed the unions so now everyone is worse off except public employees -- now it's their turn."
Second, when they compute government "pay" do they add in the low pay received by all the non-union employees of contractors? They've been privatizing one after another government function to contractors, leaving only higher-level employees who administer all the contractor companies. If they aren't including the low-paid trash collectors and airport security employees in the calculations then of course it makes it look like government employees are paid more.
In case you missed Rachel Maddow last night, she had a segment on American cities and counties actually undoing their infrastructure because they are out of money. She listed city after city across the country that is shutting off its streetlights, turning paved roads into gravel, shutting down bus systems, shutting down schools, firing police, and other steps to save money.
To me, the most striking comment was, "Somewhere in China it is entirely possible that a businessperson sat down for a ride on a 200mph state-of-the-art levitating bullet train, and cracked open the Wall Street Journal, and read about how in American we've decided we can't afford paved roads anymore."
Is that how we want the rest of the world to think of us? Do we really want to become a broken-down, corrupt, uncompetitive 3rd-world country? Well, that is where we are going. We can see the infrastructure crumbling around us.
Meanwhile, as the country falls further and further behind the rest of the world the government is unable to function. In Washington the conservative Senate minority continues to use the filibuster -- over 110 times since President Obama took office -- to block every effort to do anything about our problems. They block helping states keep teachers. They block helping the unemployed. They block job-creation efforts. They block everything government does for We, the People.
And at the same time as they resist spending to help the country, publicly pleading that the deficit and debt are too high, the conservatives also resist doing the things that will fix the problem: raise tax rates on the wealthy, and cut the huge, massive, bloated, more than $1 trillion per year military and military-related budget.
They think a worsening economy with no solutions will demoralize enough voters that they can turn out their "base' and win in November. Destroy the economy and the country to get votes. Great. You'll make marvelous leaders -- oh wait, been there, that's how we got into this mess.
Yes, we know how we got here. Everyone this knows that the deficits and debt come from tax cuts for the wealthy, and huge increases in military spending. AConservatives know. They said their plan was to cut taxes and thereby "starve the beast" as a way to cut government. Their reason to cut government is to make way for the only available alternative: so that the large corporations and the wealthy can rule instead. Cutting government means cutting the controls and protections that We, the People have been able to build up over the years, ensuring that we get a slice of the pie. This has been going on for thousands, even ten thousand years, as the broad masses of regular people work to assert their rights over whatever wealthy and powerful group has seized the reigns of power and is trying to grab everything for themselves as fast as they can.
Look where this cynical strategy is taking the whole country! We are not only not maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure, we are falling into 3rd-world status. This can't even help the wealthy and the big corporations they control. The conservatives still have to live here even if this scheme does bring them control. They will still have to live with fewer police, fewer teachers, fewer streetlights, unpaved roads, crumbling factories, and an ever-less-competitive economy.
Will it be worth it?
August 9, 2010
Have you read The Shock Doctrine? It is a very important book for understanding how the conservatives operate to shift everything to the wealthy few. It explains what is happening in England now: British Towns and Institutions Reel From First Austerity Cuts
Update: see Tax Cuts Are Theft: An Amplification by Sara Robinson.
Conservatives like to say that taxes are theft. In fact it is tax cuts that are theft because they break a long-standing contract.
The American Social Contract: We, the People built our democracy and the empowerment and protections it bestows. We built the infrastructure, schools and all of the public structures, laws, courts, monetary system, etc. that enable enterprise to prosper. That prosperity is the bounty of our democracy and by contract it is supposed to be shared and reinvested. That is the contract. Our system enables some people to become wealthy but all of us are supposed to benefit from this system. Why else would We, the People have set up this system, if not for the benefit of We, the People?
The American Social Contract is supposed to work like this:
A beneficial cycle: We invest in infrastructure and public structures that create the conditions for enterprise to form and prosper. We prepare the ground for business to thrive. When enterprise prospers we share the bounty, with good wages and benefits for the people who work in the businesses and taxes that provide for the general welfare and for reinvestment in the infrastructure and public structures that keep the system going.
We fought hard to develop this system and it worked for us. We, the People fought and built our government to empower and protect us providing social services for the general welfare. We, through our government built up infrastructure and public structures like courts, laws, schools, roads, bridges. That investment creates the conditions that enable commerce to prosper – the bounty of democracy. In return we ask those who benefit most from the enterprise we enabled to share the return on our investment with all of us – through good wages, benefits and taxes.
But the “Reagan Revolution” broke the contract. Since Reagan the system is working like this:
Since the Reagan Revolution with its tax cuts for the rich, its anti-government policies, and its deregulation of the big corporations our democracy is increasingly defunded (and that was the plan), infrastructure is crumbling, our schools are falling behind, factories and supply chains are being dismantled, those still at work are working longer hours for fewer benefits and falling wages, our pensions are gone, wealth and income are increasing concentrating at the very top, our country is declining.
This is the Reagan Revolution home to roost: the social contract is broken. Instead of providing good wages and benefits and paying taxes to provide for the general welfare and reinvestment in infrastructure and public structures, the bounty of our democracy is being diverted to a wealthy few.
We, the People built this country’s prosperity and this built wealth. We reinvested that wealth, building the world’s most competitive economy. Now a few people are gaming the system and breaking the formula, taking for themselves vast riches, leaving the rest of us to clean up the mess.
We must recognize and understand these tax cuts for what they are. They are a broken contract. These tax cuts for the wealthy are theft. And we must recognize the Reagan Revolution for what it has cost us. Our democracy has been corrupted and our political system has been captured. A wealthy few are taking all of the benefits of our efforts for themselves. The lack of investment in infrastructure, courts, schools and other public structures is making our country less competitive in the world. The Reagan Revolution is stealing our future.
Other posts in the Reagan Revolution Home To Roost series:
Reagan Revolution Home To Roost -- In Charts
Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Drowning In Debt
Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Is Crumbling
Finance, Mine, Oil & Debt Disasters: THIS Is Deregulation
August 6, 2010
I just heard David Leonhardt from the New York Times say that we should be optimistic about jobs because things seemed so bad in the 90's and "little did we know we had this technology boom around the corner."
Sheesh. I guess the really bad job situation proves that something great is just about to happen, and therefore we should all be happy that the job numbers are so bad. This is the prevailing attitude of the well-to-do elites of NY and DC.
The guy makes, what, six figures? He lives in NY. He just has NO IDEA what it's like around the country.
The latest obstruction: Senate Rejects Fed Nominee
This is bullshit. "The Senate" didn't "reject" the Fed nominee, ONE Senator placed a "hold" on the nomination. Pure obstruction. There have been over 100 filibusters since President Obama took office!
The public just isn't getting it that the things they want and need are being blocked by a few obstructionists. The public does not like filibusters or obstruction, but do not KNOW that filibuster and obstruction are occurring. And they aren't going to know unless it is driven home to them, repeated, pounded and dramatized.
Dramatized! That is what the public understands! ROLL OUT THE COTS! The public understands cots! They need to see COTS!
This is another opportunity for theater. Cots! Set up a giant "Filibuster Counter" that shows how many filibusters there have been so far! Roll out the cots! Just bring out a bunch of cots, set them up in the Senate where photographers can get pictures! Set up an "Obstruction Livecam" that shows Senators sitting on the cots, sleeping overnight. It doesn't have to have anything to do with actual Senate proceedings, it just has to dramatize that everything is being obstructed.
Roll out the cots!
The economy is stuck. We need jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. Not tax cuts.
The government released the July Employment Situation Summary and it isn't great.
First, in context, before the stimulus we were losing around 800,000 jobs a month. The problem is that the stimulus is fading and structural changes were not made in how the economy operates. So there is no special reason to point to that makes people think that this stagnation won't continue or even get worse again.
Unemployment remains unchanged at 9.5 percent, with 14.6 million people out of work. In July, we lost 202,000 jobs in the government sector as the census winds down, and we gained 71,000 jobs in the private sector. African American unemployment grew fractionally worse to 15.6 percent, and teenagers to 26.1 percent.
The "scariest" jobs chart sums it up with a picture, from Calculated Risk: (click for full-size)
Eric Lotke has one that involves work that needs to be done and people out of work,
We know what we need to do. Put people to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. Fix our potholed roads, our overcrowded schools and our bursting water mains. Create new infrastructure like wind turbines and solar cells. Lay the tracks for high speed rail, the 21st century parallel to the interstate highways of the 20th century and the transcontinental railroads of the 19th. And make the parts in America! Put us to work building our economy of the future, like our grandparents did for us.
Yes, it will cost money. But don’t worry, money is out there. Those top-end Bush tax cuts are worth $43 billion annually. Restoring the estate tax for multi-millionaires brings in $50 billion. A financial transaction tax brings in $177 billion annually, and stabilizes our financial system to boot. Draw down our troops and rein in Pentagon procurements gives us another $100 billion every year for productive endeavors. That’s without even trying bold new sources of revenue. More progressive taxation at the top end. Confronting corporate power and redirecting subsidies that go to agriculture, oil and pharmaceutical giants. Ferreting out the rest of those tax subsidies for moving production offshore. We can do this.
What, you say? Give people government jobs fixing up infrastructure? Yes, because infrastructure is government's job. As Atrios says today,
I'm not going to deny the importance of private sector job growth, but there's no reason to see private sector jobs as somehow superior to public sector jobs. More than that, plenty of private sector jobs really are "government jobs," from contractors in the military-intelligence industrial complex to private highway construction workers. Plenty of jobs and companies wouldn't exist without government spending, however they're technically classified.
It's The JOBS, Stupid! Why DC Elites Don't See This? Come on, people, the jobs answer is right in front of you. There is work that needs doing, and there are people out of work. There are Ten Million Jobs Needed - Ten Million Jobs That Need Doing!
Tax the wealthy and Wall Street to pay to fix up our infrastructure. Tax Cuts Leave Nothing Behind -- Infrastructure Investment Leaves Behind Infrastructure. Not only that, Tax Cuts Caused The Deficits, Therefore...
Connect the dots.
August 5, 2010
The Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees today released their report on the Status of the Social Security and Medicare Programs. Here is what it says:
Social Security Just Fine Until At Least 2037
The summary of the report says, "The financial outlook for Social Security is little changed from last year. The short term outlook is worsened by a deeper recession than was projected last year, but the overall 75-year outlook is nevertheless somewhat improved..." and is otherwise fine until at least 2037 with no changes.
It is just fine forever, in fact, if we do something simple like raise the "cap" on earnings that are taxed to pay for the program. (That's right, when you make more than a certain income level you stop paying the tax!) Compare that to the military budget. We spend more than $1 trillion on military and related programs each year - more than every other country combined - and unlike Social Security that is completely "unfunded," and adds to the deficit.
Medicare Outlook Improved Substantially
The report also says, "The outlook for Medicare has improved substantially because of program changes made in the [Health Care Reform Bill]"
Those Are The Facts
Those are the simple facts: everything is fine. Everything will be fine. There are some things that should be changed to make them even more OK than they are. They are good programs that demonstrate that government works.
So What's The Problem?
The Social Security program collects money via the "payroll tax." Much, much more money -- trillions -- has been collected than needed to be paid out to cover the coming retirement of the "baby boomers," and the extra -- the "trust fund" -- was invested in US Treasury Bonds.
Under Reagan and then both Bushes that money was borrowed from the trust fund and used to give huge tax cuts to the wealthy. (Clinton was paying it back but Bush II cut taxes again for the wealthy.) Now those boomers are beginning to retire, and the trust fund money that was borrowed and given out to the rich is needed back to cover their retirement. The obvious solution is to get the money from where the money went. But those who it went to are trying to stop the obvious from happening. They say we should cut benefits, make us retire at 70, anything to keep them from paying back what is owed to the retirees.
Oh, and there is another conservative complaint about Social Security. Social Security is very successful and popular, and is a constant, living proof that government of the people, by the people and for the people works and works really well. Among a certain crowd, that just can't be allowed to stand.
So now, let the anti-tax, anti-government conservative bamboozlement begin.
Let The Bamboozlement Begin
The anti-government conservatives are using several approaches to undermine public confidence in the program (and therefore government). MoveOn.org has a "Top 5 Social Security Myths" page up that is worth looking at.
Myth: Social Security is going broke.
Myth: We have to raise the retirement age because people are living longer.
Myth: Benefit cuts are the only way to fix Social Security.
Myth: The Social Security Trust Fund has been raided and is full of IOUs.
Myth: Social Security adds to the deficit.
Please go to the website to learn the truth about these myths. And please answer with those facts when you hear people spreading these myths.
Let's see how the conservatives are doing at spreading myths today, and how the mainstream media covers it:
Heritage Foundation: Once Again, the Social Security Trust Fund Has No Money in It
Washington Times: Social Security in the red for first time ever (Note - that's only if you don't count the interest that the trust fund earns. Just more bamboozlement.)
That's just a quick sampling. Compare what these headlines lead you to believe to the facts above. When was the last time you saw a headline that reads, "Massive military budget causes huge federal deficit"? Right. Bamboozlement, plain and simple. Expect to see a lot more like these. Don't fall for it.
Social Security Is Not Broken
Social Security is not broken. If we fight the myths and the anti-government lies it will be there for all of us.
Here is a statement by Nancy Altman, co-chairman of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, a coalition of 60+ organizations, representing over 30 million Americans:
“Every year, the trustees’ reports become an excuse for fear mongering by those who should know better. This year, the news is especially good for Medicare, thanks to the enactment of health care reform. The news for Social Security is even better, revealing once again that Social Security’s promised benefits are fully affordable without benefit cuts and without increasing the retirement age. Poll after poll reports that’s what the American people want. Unfortunately, we know there are some in Washington, including a few members of the Administration’s fiscal commission, who will use this report to try to advance their agenda of cuts to Social Security benefits, including rising the retirement age. Politicians should stop scaring the American people. Social Security is strong and should be strengthened, not cut. The reality is the biggest threat to Social Security is the politicians in Washington who continue to play politics with this issue.”
Send a message to the politicians: No increase in the retirement age. No privatization. No Social Security cuts. Go to ourfuture.org/nosocialsecuritycuts.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|I Give Up - 9/11 Responders Bill|
August 4, 2010
"As long as I'm president, I'm going to keep fighting night and day to make sure that we win those jobs, that those are jobs that are created right here in the United States of America -- (applause) -- and that your members are put to work.
So the message I want to deliver to our competitors and to those in Washington who've tried to block our progress at every step of the way is that we are going to rebuild this economy stronger than before. And at the heart of it are going to be three powerful words: Made in America. (Applause.) Made in America."
A Washington Post story today, New Democratic strategy for creating jobs focuses on a boost in manufacturing, explains,
President Obama and congressional Democrats -- out of options for another quick shot of stimulus spending to revive the sluggish economy -- are shifting toward a longer-term strategy that promises to tackle persistently high unemployment by engineering a renaissance in American manufacturing.
That approach, heralded by Obama last week in Detroit and sketched out in a memo to House Democrats as they headed home for the August break, is still evolving and so far focuses primarily on raising taxes on multinational corporations that Democrats accuse of shipping jobs overseas.
The strategy also repackages policies long pursued by the White House -- such as investing in clean energy, roads, bridges and broadband service -- with more than two dozen legislative proposals aimed at developing a plan for promoting domestic manufacturing.
CAF's Eric Lotke has further details of the Congressional initiative in his post today, Made In America: The Good And Bad News For A Jobs Recovery.
When asked about prospective economic solutions, pro-manufacturing policies won overwhelming support across demographics including non-union households, independents, union households and Tea Party supporters. ...
Other highlights from the poll include:
• 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
The AFL-CIO blog has more on the President's address in the post, Obama Says ‘Made in America’ at Heart of US Recovery, (yes, I flat-out stole the title of this post from them)
Speaking on his 49th birthday at the Washington (D.C) Convention Center, the president told the council that this fall’s election is a choice betweenpolices that encourage job creation here in America or encourage jobs to go elsewhere…The choice is whether we want to go forward or we want to go backwards to the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place.
He spoke about the need to invest in clean technology, like solar panels, wind turbines, nuclear plants, clean coal and new car batteries.Instead of giving tax breaks to corporations that want to ship jobs overseas, we want to give tax breaks to companies that are investing right here in the United States of America.
Note - the President also said, "And we are going to keep on fighting to pass the Employee Free Choice Act."
August 3, 2010
If more than 60 organizations representing more than 30 million people gave a press conference in a forest and no media covers it ... will these 30-plus million people still vote against politicians who vote to cut Social Security benefits? You can bet your seat in Congress they will!
Last week leaders of more than 60 national organizations that represent more than 30 million Americans held a press conference to announce a campaign to protect Social Security. Also this weekend the Tea Party held a national rally in Philadelphia and approximately 300 people showed up. (A local Apple Store opening drew more people.)
So which do you hear more about in the media, the Tea Party, or the 30-million-strong campaign to protect Social Security? Do I need to answer that?
At Columbia Journalism Review, Trudy Lieberman writes in, Who Will Tell the People?,
. . . when it comes to Social Security, the MSM, where most Americans still get their news, have been MIA. You could almost say that Social Security has become the MSM’s third rail. For the most part, nobody wants to touch it. [. . .] It has been this way all year, ever since Obama established his deficit commission in January, thus raising the stakes for Social Security. The MSM’s treatment of the program is all the more puzzling since any changes the commission brings forth will be far more important to most Americans than health reform ever was or will be. A vigorous public discussion has yet to take place, and the commentary so far has been framed mostly by one side of the issue—the deficit hawks, privatizers, and Peter G. Peterson acolytes who believe Social Security (and other entitlements) are causing the deficits.
Politicians, do not be fooled by one-sided coverage of the Social Security issue. 60+ organizations representing 30+ million members will carry more weight on election day than corporate-funded astroturf "Tea Party" organizations that can't get more than 300 people to a national rally.
Citizens, demand that your representatives take the pledge to protect Social Security. Click here: Hands off Social Security: No increase in the retirement age, no privatization, no Social Security cuts. Sign the petition to your member of Congress.
Campaign for America's Future is tracking which representatives are and are not signing the pledge. Click here to watch the list grow.
We need a Democracy Tariff, imposed at the border on goods that are brought in from countries where the people have not been able to build a strong democracy that protects their workers, wages and environment.
Yesterday in Exporting Jobs Is Not “Trade.” It Evades Democracy's Protections I wrote that ... well ... exporting jobs is not "trade." Packing up a factory here to send the jobs there, and then bringing the same goods that factory was making back here to sell is done for one and only one reason. It is done to get around the wage, safety and environmental protections that We, the People fought to build.
We formed this country and we fought to build protections that brought us a reasonably good life, and a middle class, and some security - social security - so we don't always have to be struggling and living on the edge of a cliff, surviving only at the whim of a wealthy few with all the power. We fought a revolution against government by a wealthy and powerful few, and we fought again and again to keep and protect government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Our wage, safety and environmental protections are the result of our democracy. We, the People fought and built a government to empower and protect us, to provide good wages and provide some security and that involves rules that limit what the owners of companies can do -- regulations. We build up a system of public structures like courts, laws, schools, roads, bridges -- spending -- that enable commerce to prosper. And we ask those who benefit from that commerce we enabled to share the return on our investment with us -- taxes and wages.
Democracy, government, regulations, spending, taxes. The stronger each of these are, the better We, the People do. The weaker they are, the worse off we are.
Lately wealthy corporate owners -- who benefit from the commerce that our democracy, government, regulations, spending and taxes enabled -- have found another way to get around these protections that We, the People built for ourselves. They move manufacturing and jobs to countries where the people have not been able to build strong democracies to protect their interests, and then bring the goods made by the exploited workers there back here to sell. They call that "trade" when really it is just a way to get around the borders that we are able to protect. As I wrote yesterday,
These workers make the same products that had been made here, sell them in the same stores here, but make them outside of the boundaries of our democratically-won protections. And to make things worse, the companies then demand wage and benefit cuts from the workers who are still here, claiming that "globalization" means they now have to compete with workers with no rights, so they must accept less.
There is a solution to this problem. These protections that we built brought us prosperity. And that means we have a strong market. Everyone in the world wants to be able to sell to us, and we can use that power to set the rules for access to our markets.
A Democracy Tariff
We should not let exploitation of workers and the environment be a competitive advantage that is used against the democratic protections we have built for ourselves. We can and should set a "Democracy Tariff" on goods that come from countries that do not protect their workers and/or environment. This tariff should be enough to offset the competitive advantage that comes from exploiting workers and the environment. If those countries do not change we can use the revenue from the tariff to build our infrastructure and strengthen our competitive position. If those countries do change, all the better, because as democracy strengthens there, the people will prosper and can trade fairly with us to buy things we make here. Everyone is better off when trade is free and fair.
There are degrees of democracy and there can be degrees of Democracy Tariff. For example, some countries might protect workers but not the environment. The tariff on goods from those countries should be enough to offset the advantage gained from exploiting the environment but not as high as for countries that exploit both workers and the environment. Other countries might have some degree of protections but not allow unionization. The tariff should be enough to offset whatever degree of exploitation is at work.
If a Democracy Tariff is called "protectionism" so be it. We have learned the hard way that democracy is fragile and must be protected.
We must not allow exploitation of workers and the environment to be a "comparative advantage" used against our democracy -- government of the people, by the people and for the people -- and the protections and prosperity it has brought us.
August 2, 2010
We, the People have fought hard to build and strengthen our democracy. We built up laws and institutions and protections. It has been a particularly hard fight to build a middle class with weekends off, good wages, worker protections and some degree of protection of our environment. Step by step we fought and built, fought and built, and a prosperous democracy with a strong middle class developed.
But this has been changing. Beginning under President Reagan our government has allowed companies to bypass the strong rules that we fought to implement. Companies have been allowed - even encouraged - to pack up and move factories to low-wage, low-protection, non-democracy countries where the workers have no choice but to do what they are told if they want to feed their families and stay out of jail. These workers make the same products that had been made here, sell them in the same stores here, but make them outside of the boundaries of our democratically-won protections. And to make things worse, the companies then demand wage and benefit cuts from the workers who are still here, claiming that "globalization" means they now have to compete with workers with no rights, so they must accept less.
This is not "trade." This is evasion of our democratically-won protections. Moving a factory across a border to evade the protections that good governments bring to their people is not “trading with other countries” it is evasion of the rules that We, the People placed on the once-level playing field of business.
The results of these anti-democratic policies have been profoundly destructive. What is called free trade has helped bring about an intense concentration of wealth, because poor people without even the benefit of our minimum wage laws are used to threaten or just replace union workers who had fought just to get a piece of the pie.
The globalization argument says that all of this destruction of rights and protections is inevitable. The people are there, they are desperate, they will accept less, so there is nothing we can do about it. Economists even argue that economic theory says this is the correct way to do business. They say that different countries have different "comparative advantages" -- some unique ability to produce something better that other countries. Central and South America are better at producing bananas and our Midwest is better at producing grain, so these items should be traded.
It is correct that they grow bananas and we grow grain, but it is not correct to say that countries with democracy, where workers can demand wage, safety and environmental protections as well as protection of the public's common resources should be pitted against desperate and exploited people, living under repressive governments that they do not have control over. We must now allow lack of democracy and lack of worker or environmental protections to be an advantage, used against us!
We can and must stop this. We have fought this fight before and we can fight it again. We need a democracy tariff at our border that protects us and protects the democracy and its protections that we have fought so hard to build. I will write more about this in my next post.
Actually, the title kind of says it all, no?
If we spend money on tax cuts, the next year we only have debt and pay interest on the debt. For a clear example, just look at the damage the Bush tax cuts have done to the country. They left behind worse than nothing -- we had years of slow growth, and the cuts caused a massive deficit and debt that plagues us now. And, because we didn't have the money to use to maintain the infrastructure we are that much further behind on that task now.
If we spend money on improving the country's infrastructure, we get all the job creation that comes from that work, and the next year you have that infrastructure there to help drive the economy. For a clear example, how did all that government spending on the Interstate Highway System work out for the economy? For a clear example, look at China's investment in high-speed rail. They can now move people and goods so much more efficiently and faster between their cities, and they developed an industry that is now selling its expertise to the rest of the world.
Our country has a huge, huge infrastructure deficit. After the Reagan tax cuts started draining the government's ability to be a government we slowed down or stopped maintenance of the country's roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, transit systems, schools, dams & levees and everything else that didn't blow someone up. Our rail system is not last-century, it is century-before-last! The American Society of Civil Engineers calculates that we are $2.2 trillion behind where we need to be. As a result we have fallen behind the rest of the world in competitiveness, efficiency, and of course job creation.
Connect the dots: We have about 10% unemployment and we have a huge, huge backlog of work that needs doing. And after that work gets done the economy will run much more smoothly and will be much more competitive.
To me it's a no-brainer. Everyone benefits when we invest in jobs and infrastructure. We can see all around us that tax cuts leave nothing behind, and in fact make our problems worse.
You can still attend Netroots Nation 2010! Go to Netroots Nation Sessions | Netroots Nation.