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September 30, 2010

The Blink in the California Governor's Race

Meg blinked for the first time in an almost flawless campaign. Until this week, it appeared that the GOP had successfully rolled out their new product -- a conservative, ambitious businesswoman with a big check book. Her branding was effective and her television advertising brilliant. Political consultant Mike Murphy earned his money. Team Meg was launched, and they were relentless. Nothing really hampered or stuck to them until "the blink" -- involving her domestic help in her Atherton hacienda (no pun intended).

To be blunt, Jerry Brown sure caught a big break this week. The race was in a dead heat with Brown moving slightly ahead, and many independents still on the sidelines. To be frank, Brown had virtually run an invisible campaign until right after Labor Day. Many Democrats thought he could afford the luxury of sitting on his laurels (maybe) because of his legacy. But the reality was that Meg could not and she had to spend early and often to create her brand. Many of feared that she a runaway train in hand-to-hand combat with the invisible man. Talk about a scary election for Democrats. It is one that will become a case study in politics and branding for years to come.

Well the wheel spun and the dice were thrown. Lady luck came down on Jerry this week. It's kind of like watching Apple's latest iPhone launch and their goof. The question is will Team Meg will have the staying power to sustain a frontal attack. Their campaign is now playing defense, and under fire that the candidate never saw coming. The domestic help issue is a big no-no. It has taken down many political candidates and appointments over the years. She probably did not understand the severity because if she had it would have been cleaned up. Let's face it, Meg is a political virgin but her advisors are not. It remains to be seen how this potentially fatal crisis is handled by Team Meg. How will this react, and how will the Brown campaign handle itself? Dancing a jig on an open casket won't cut it for them. Will Team Brown leverage the avalanche of earned media? Will they play well with social media? Or will they sit on the sidelines? It remains to be seen as this California soap opera continues to unfold.


This article posted to the Huffington Post earlier today.

Posted by Michelle at 7:05 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 29, 2010

Women Confront Deficit Commission Over Social Security

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

Last month Former Senator and Deficit Commission co-chair Alan Simpson said this about Social Security, and by extension about government itself,

"We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits!"

Nice. We work and pay into Social Security all our lives, we pay our taxes, but when it comes time to retire our leaders say we're nothing more than freeloaders sucking off the tits of the "milk cow."

The Deficit Commission is meeting today and the National Organization for Women showed up and delivered 1,500 nipples to Simpson's commission. They called it "1500 Tits for an Ass."

From NOW's press release,

"The Fiscal Commission should be led by someone who will actually try to address the federal budget deficit, instead of using it as an excuse to undermine Social Security by cutting benefits or raising the retirement age," O'Neill continues. "Alan Simpson is not that person."

Especially Women!

Social Security is especially important to women because women still are paid less than men and can't save as much for retirement, tend more than men to be in jobs without any pension (only 13 percent of women aged 65 or older currently receive a pension) and women are more likely to be on their own: single, widowed or divorced by retirement age. In fact 42 percent of women over age 62 relied on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income, compared to 28 percent of men. Any cuts in the program would hit women particularly hard.

Here is video from the delivery:


Social Security is involved in this because, even though the program is fully funded and by law is not allowed to borrow, which means it cannot contribute to the deficit, the program will one day need to draw on its huge trust fund, and the government will have to find ways to come up with the money owed.

This is all outrageous enough, but now word is leaking out that Republicans on the commission have refused to even discuss addressing the revenue shortfall with more revenue, and in fact are pressing for the commission to recommend even more tax cuts.

According to one source familiar with the deliberations, Republicans were even opposed to eliminating loopholes, exemptions, credits and other so-called "tax expenditures" unless the associated revenue increase could be used to lower capital gains and corporate income rates.

"Republicans have not even said that we should get any revenue from taxes," the source said. "Even tax expenditures. They appear to want to use the savings on tax expenditures to cut corporate taxes. So shared sacrifices -- except for large corporations who make out even better."

Simpson Not All That Is Unbalanced

The commissions members were biased toward the right going into this with many members having made previous statements showing they want to cut or privatize Social Security. In addition billionaire Pete Peterson, who is funding a campaign to privatize Social Security, is supplying staff to the commission.

Preempt The Commission!

So the results of a stacked commission are starting to show up. Congress needs to act to preempt the commission from cutting Social Security. Congress: Act Now To Preempt The Catfood Commission

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:07 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Beyond Peace in the Middle East at CGI

The Clinton Global Initiative this year was a place where politics converged with philanthropy. Since inception, this venue has been the change agent for philanthropic work throughout the world. The commitments made have been massive and have provided millions worldwide with clean drinking water, mosquito nets, eye glasses, vaccines, and education-- among many others. This Foundation can be credited for ushering in new social philanthropic models involving private industry, the wealthy and government working together with non-profit organizations.

Remarkably, the topics at CGI this year spanned Empowering Girls and Women (see the prior post) to market-based solutions, clean tech, jobs, manufacturing and world peace. What an extraordinary venue it was where the participants could experience a panel with the Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, and the President of Israel discussing rebuilding the region after peace. Where else and with whom else other than former President Bill Clinton - could one see and hear such a constellation of world thinkers cutting across the issues of our time. Many of us bloggers, writers and journalist bustle through the high security and put up with the fanfare --just to be inspired and sustained for the coming year.

It was a rare gift from the universe to be able to hear the Middle East session up close. It is curious that there was not enormous media coverage of this landmark discussion because all the bad stuff gets air time. Even CNN's Fareed Zakaria this Sunday morning did not mention it. Rather he focused on the fabricated photograph of the President of Egypt from the White House for the Arab press. It is perplexing because here sat the leaders of those enmeshed in the real peace talks. In this small room, they and former President Clinton were talking gracefully with one another about rebuilding the region. Only the former President could command such authority and respect. Remember, it was Bill Clinton that attempted peace between Israel Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat so long ago. It was that fateful handshake on the White House lawn that in many ways led to the assignation of Rabin. And it is now Madame Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that is officiating the peace talks today. Perhaps this is a forbearing for things to come later this year. If they can talk peaceably in front of Bill Clinton, maybe there is hope for a just and final resolution. Few of us get to see our dreams come to fruition, but it appears that the Clintons both have long reach, big memories and staying power. All this woman can say is - may it be.


Posted by Michelle at 9:44 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Remember BeOS? Look At Haiku

Programmers, take a look at The Haiku Project. If you remember the BeOS computer operating system you'll love what they are doing.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:34 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

September 28, 2010

Republicans Filibustered Bill To Ease Job Outsourcing

Republicans today filibustered a bill to fight the outsourcing of our jobs!

Bill to End Tax Provision on U.S. Jobs Is Blocked

They clearly feel they have impunity.

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

The List Of Wall-Street-Bought Politicians

Big story: Go see which politicians are most in the pocket of Wall Street: Crony Capitalism: Wall Street's Favorite Politicians | OurFuture.org

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:52 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Rebuilding America. Is Bill Clinton Up for the Fight?

The US and the economy were for the first time a big focus at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting last week in New York City. Hallelujah! The former President hinted at an effort to get the unemployed back to work and retrained for the new and emerging jobs. Of course, Tom Friedman from the New York Times showed up with a lofty panel of experts, and there were sessions on new market-based solutions, worldwide manufacturing and clean tech. Admittedly, there was a discussion on "Robust Job Creation in the United States." The former President did address the issues of small business, manufacturing and clean energy. There was a panel where players such as Wal-Mart, Timberlake and others discussed the in overhauling their operations to reduce carbon emissions and create jobs. And there was the tireless work of Laurene Powell Jobs together with her co-founder Carlos Watson at College Track that has been working for over a decade to change the lives of under privileged youth by keeping them in school and preparing them for college.

So why not have Bill Clinton turn his full attention to rebuilding America? Obama's not doing it so what the heck? Call it whatever you want to, but just do it. Bring together all of the Laurene Powell Jobs with those like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Mark put his money where it mattered - the City of Newark, New Jersey's inner city public schools, a place close to my heart. Consider the results, if the Clinton Global Initiative took a year or two to turn their full force to rebuild this country, not some third world country. We need the likes of Clinton to mobilize, incentivize and give us comfort as the Tea Party rains empty sound and fury rhetoric down on our heads. Who better? To heck with those who do not believe it is politically expedient!.

Bill Clinton gets it because if the US is broken, it will derail all of his global initiatives and we would not want that. If we can't get it done in Congress (and we cannot), then we must forge new public/private partnerships. The former President hinted at an effort, like the WPA (Works Progress Administration), in which people went back to work to rebuild the infrastructure of this country. In fact, the WPA was the largest agency of the New Deal employing and feeding millions. Who knows why the White House isn't using an Executive Order to start such a public works program instead of fighting about extending unemployment benefits.

I like my fellow blogger Yotta Point believe that there is work to be done on the domestic front that could leverage the infrastructure of a CGI-like effort. It will take a village to start the hard work of rebuilding this country, and it must be done brick by brick. Indeed we are falling behind the world in terms of education, math and science, and qualified job applicants for the next generation of jobs. The call to action is to make this happen. Instead of being one of the many threads at the annual convening of CGI - this could become the sole focus, or at least an independent focus, to repair America for the next few years. We might make it happen if Clinton and his mighty Foundation marshal their forces to rebuild this country's economy, and heal the social fabric. Instead of rage rallies and tea, the best and brightest could come together for public discourse, and problem solving in CGI-like forums. CNN and the other broadcasters cannot do, and there are few other outlets capable of something of this magnitude.

Mr. Clinton, we need your global initiative to become local. After all, we've got Madame Secretary watching over the world from the State Department for the next few years. The people of this country are in big trouble. Help us think globally and act locally.

Note: originally posted on the Huffington Post, "Clinton's Global Initiative Gets Local."


Posted by Michelle at 9:07 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 27, 2010

Consensus Grows: Confront China On Trade

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.

In the day-to-day news about trade problems with China the bigger picture can get lost. America is giving up its competitive position in industries of the present and future and it is costing us. Even the people you would think would defend "free trade" are coming to understand that America is losing its vital ability to invent, keep and create industries and jobs and to keep a modern economy humming.

Robert J Samuelson has a significant op-ed today in the Washington Post, The makings of a trade war with China in which he says we need to confront China's illegal trade manipulations. You should read the whole thing but here are excerpts,

... Confronting China's export subsidies risks a similar tit-for-tat cycle at a time when the global economic recovery is weak. This is a risk, unfortunately, we need to take.

... The trouble is that China has never genuinely accepted the basic rules governing the world economy. China follows those rules when they suit its interests and rejects, modifies or ignores them when they don't.

... China's worst abuse involves its undervalued currency and its promotion of export-led economic growth.

Samuelson concludes,

The collision is between two concepts of the world order. As the old order's main architect and guardian, the United States faces a dreadful choice: resist Chinese ambitions and risk a trade war in which everyone loses; or do nothing and let China remake the trading system. The first would be dangerous; the second, potentially disastrous.

It's not just Samuelson concluding that we need to confront China's cheating on trade. Many others have been weighing in that we are losing too much and have to take steps. For example, in July Andy Grove, Intel's influential former CEO published a very important opinion piece on a similar topic, How to Make an American Job Before It's Too Late. Grove wrote that we are not just losing jobs to China, we are losing the "chain of experience" that enables new companies and industries to form and to create new jobs and argues for a national economic strategy to preserve our manufacturing and technology base. (These are excerpts but Grove's entire piece is an absolute must-read.)

You could say, as many do, that shipping jobs overseas is no big deal because the high-value work -- and much of the profits -- remain in the U.S. That may well be so. But what kind of a society are we going to have if it consists of highly paid people doing high-value-added work -- and masses of unemployed?

...evidence stares at us from the performance of several Asian countries in the past few decades. These countries seem to understand that job creation must be the No. 1 objective of state economic policy. The government plays a strategic role in setting the priorities and arraying the forces and organization necessary to achieve this goal.

Grove also says that we need to fix this and fix the unemployment problem for other reasons as well,

Unemployment is corrosive. If what I’m suggesting sounds protectionist, so be it.

One after another our business leaders and economists are realizing that the "free trade" ideology has not worked out very well for us. We were told by the "experts" that moving our factories out of the country was a good idea, that new jobs would replace those lost. They didn't. We were told that we don't need or want a national strategy to be competitive in the world because an invisible hand would guide us. It didn't. We were told that trade "partners" would reciprocate by buying from us equally. They didn't. We were told that we would invent new industries to replace ones we lost. We did, but the new industries moved or are moving out of the country, too.

Now that we are in the midst of the resulting crisis even the "experts" are realizing that trade needs to be a two-way street for it to work, and it hasn't been. "Free trade" was supposed to be a panacea, bringing us a prosperous future. The reality was different. A few corporate leaders (the ones who promoted these ideas) have gotten really, really rich at the expense of the rest of us (and that includes other corporations and corporate leaders). Now that the beneficiaries of the "free trade' bamboozlement are off to their private islands in their private jets or private yachts the rest of us are looking around at the devastation of our economy and standard of living, wondering what to do and finally becoming aware that rigid ideologies and their enforcers have kept us from looking for practical solutions that actually work for all of us as a country and community.

So finally from the depth of the resulting crisis a rational national discussion may be beginning, one in which people on the "free trade' side are not able to just shut down different opinions by shouting "protectionist" or other slogans. As this discussion gets underway here are three principles to help guide us:

1) Let's drop ideological preconceptions and look at what has worked in history and what is working for other countries today. Science is supposed to DEscribe, but economics has too often been about "if only people would do such-and-such, so-and-so would result." That is PREscribing and is not science.

2) We have to talk about how we handle mercantilist nations like China who are not playing by the trade rules and what we, together as a nation, can do about it. Let's also talk about and multinational reactions to the mercantilists. We can join with countries interested in lifting each other with fair trade, interested in trade models that help us mutually lift each other, and together take on those who want it all for themselves.

3) Ultimately we can't all export our way out of this mess. And ultimately we can't return to unsustainable old economic models that have failed us over and over. We can't continue with a few taking as much as they can get at the expense of the rest of us. As machines and technology solve more of our problems and do more of our work our overpopulated, undereducated world has to come to grips with equitable models for who gets what for what and how to take care of our planet and each other. That is the only thing that will work in the long run.

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

New TV Shows

My wife and I watched some of the new TV shows. We had set up the TiVo to record them, so we were able to catch them at our leisure. Is there another writer's strike going on, or is it just bad writing?

Blue Blood. Right away the police are torturing someone, drowning him in a toilet after smashing his face on the porcelain several times. I guess it's supposed to be OK because he then tells them where a kidnapped child is located. (On TV torture is always a positive because very very bad people are tortured and they always give up important information that immediately saves innocent lives in the nick of time.) This show is off our list and we will not give it a second chance, no matter what, after being made to watch the violent torture scene. I think in the future viewers should be warned if the people involved in making this show are involved with any others. Too bad because we love Tom Selleck in the Jesse Stone series.

Lone Star. Terrible, offensive, insulting, we watched about ten minutes and told the TiVo never to record another one. Who thought this would be interesting? It's not like Dexter which has some depth and is well-written.

Detroit 1-8-7. Formula, but we were able to watch it to the end without getting sick. So maybe we'll give it a chance.

Chase. Copy of In Plain Sight? We won't know because we couldn't stand watching it for long enough to find out what it is about. Formula. People running, chasing bad guys, running, chasing, running chasing. Turned it off really fast. Not interested.

Outsourced. Not as well done as the movie (rent it, it's a great, great movie), but we did watch till the end, enjoyed the characters. It is a very bad time for this show, because of the anger it has to bring up in people who have lost jobs, but they do portray the Indian people as interesting, likable and actual individual human beings. Maybe the show will survive.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:37 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

September 25, 2010

Health Care Poll - People Wanted MORE

Someone finally, finally, finally polled people on health care and asked the right questions. People are unhappy but mostly because they wanted the government to do MORE!

AP Poll: Repeal? Many wish health law went further

A new AP poll finds that Americans who think the law should have done more outnumber those who think the government should stay out of health care by 2-to-1.

"I was disappointed that it didn't provide universal coverage," said Bronwyn Bleakley, 35, a biology professor from Easton, Mass.

. . . The poll found that about four in 10 adults think the new law did not go far enough to change the health care system, regardless of whether they support the law, oppose it or remain neutral. On the other side, about one in five say they oppose the law because they think the federal government should not be involved in health care at all.

Go read it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:10 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 24, 2010

If You Don't Use Credit Cards

you don't have payments to make.

If you don't borrow you don't have to make any payments.

What would your life be like without any payments? Would you be saving the money instead? Think about that, all that money going into your own bank account, and not to Wall Street fucks.

And think about the whole scam, that has so many people giving their money to Wall Street fucks.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:02 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

How Tax Brackets Work -- $250,001 Will Pay Five Cents More Tax

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

This discussion of whether to get rid of the Bush tax cuts for the rich has been a learning experience. I have been listening on the radio and reading the comments at blogs. The main thing I am concluding is that people just do not understand how tax brackets work.

When people talk about raising taxes on people "who make more than" a certain income they really mean that they are going to raise it ONLY on the income that comes in after a certain income is received, not on the person't entire income.

Here is what I mean. Suppose they say they are going to raise taxes on incomes above $250K. People seem to think that this means if you earn $250K plus a dollar, that you owe an additional tax on the entire $250K. This is not correct. I actually hear stories about people who give away money, and do other things to avoid going "into a higher bracket" because they think they have to pay additional taxes on their entire earnings.

Here is how it really works. What happens is that the first $250K is taxed just like it has been, but anything that is made over $250K -- and only the amount over $250K -- is then taxed at the higher rate. The tax on the amount below $250K is not changed.

Example: Suppose the tax increase is 5% on income over $250K. This means that a person who reports income of $250K plus one dollar will be taxed an additional 5 cents. FIVE CENTS!

Yes, that's right, if it is 5% they are talking about then it means a 5 cent tax increase on people who make $250,001.

Let me repeat that. If you make $250,001, and they raise taxes 5% on people who make over $250K, then you will have to pay 5 cents more. Five cents. F.I.V.E. C.E.N.T.S. That is what people are so upset about. 5 cents.

If it is 5% a person making $260K might pay an additional $500. That's right, the proposed tax increase is approx. $42 a month on people making $260K, about $21,600 a month. Forty-four dollars out of twenty-one thousand. THIS is what all the right-wingers are screaming about. THIS is what all the Ayn Rand cultists are threatening to stop working over. THAT is how tax brackets work.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:41 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

House Committee Approves China Currency Bill

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.

The House Ways and Means Committee just approved a bill that pushes China to raise the value of its currency. It looks like the bill will go to a vote on the House floor next week. This is a very big deal because it is a "second front" pushing China to bring its currency to market rates. President Obama met with Chinese Premier Wen yesterday and most of their 2-hour meeting was taken up discussing this issue, and today he gets backing from the House. This tells China that we are serious, that it is more than just the administration talking, and they have to start doing the right thing.

China has been manipulating its currency to keep it low, which means goods made in China cost less in world markets. This, combined with other trade manipulations, has created a huge imbalance in world markets. It moves industries, jobs, expertise, money and power to China, and has created a huge "bubble" of imbalance that threatens the world's economy. Currently the interests in China and elsewhere, including here, that benefit from the imbalance have the upper hand. But this vote demonstrates that the rest of us, here, in China and around the world, that would benefit from a rebalancing are rallying and challenging the current policies.

Bloomberg: China Currency Measure Heads for House Vote After Panel Approval

The measure would let companies petition for higher duties on imports from China to compensate for the effect of a weak currency. President Barack Obama “does not take a position on this specific legislation,” Jeff Bader, his director of Asian affairs, said yesterday.

“China’s exchange-rate policy has a major impact on American businesses, and American jobs, which is what this is all about,” Levin said before the vote.

The U.S. trade deficit with China widened to $145 billion in the first seven months of this year, from $123 billion for the same period in 2009. The expanding deficit, the unemployment rate lingering at almost 10 percent and polls showing Democrats’ seats at risk heading into the elections have added support for the bill, which has been discussed since 2005.

China had agreed to start rebalancing its currency, but the currency has moved only 1 percent since the agreement - nothing near the 40% some claim it needs to move. Meanwhile our trade deficit with China has increased. China's Wen claims that China is still a poor country and needs this protection to help it build the industries that will help its people rise out of poverty,

China might now be the second largest economy in the world, but Premier Wen insisted at the UN General Assembly that the "real China" was still in the "primary stage of socialism" and remains a developing country.

Pointing out that 150 million Chinese people still live in poverty, Wen said many regions in central and western China were still very poor and this is the "real China".

"Taken as a whole, China is still in the primary stage of socialism and remains a developing country... These are our basic national conditions. This is the real China," he said.

The way to bring China, now the second largest manufacturer in the world, out of poverty is to trade fairly and work with its trade partners, not to manipulate the rules and create a huge imbalance that threatens the economy of the entire world.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:40 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 23, 2010

The "Pledge Document" - The Photos Tell The Fantasy Story

Holy Toledo! I downloaded the Pledge To America document. Before reading I skimmed through it and noticed the photos. You try it. Download it and look at the photos. It is clear just who is and who is not "American" in their eyes.

After looking at the pictures, read the thing. Like the pictures, it's about some kind of white fantasy America. The rich won't have to pay taxes, "other" spending will be cut -- but not anything that might affect you or any programs you like (since nothing is specified) no matter who you are, people won't need government assistance and certainly won't get it, companies won't need to be regulated, women won't need an abortion even to save their life, the environment won't need to be protected or cleaned up. Oh, and no one will need to sue corporations - because you won't be able to anymore. And if people do need those things, well too bad.

The deficit they created with tax cuts will be cured by ... tax cuts? The TARP bank bailout they left us with will be cured by ... tax cuts? The jobs that never appeared after their tax cuts will be created by ... tax cuts? The health care bill will be replaced by ... tax cuts? Terrorists will be fought with ... tax cuts?

RJ Eskow names it: GOP's "Pledge" To Rob The Middle Class: No Jobs, No Health Care, No Security,

Once you strip away the rhetoric, the answer is simple: Off the top, their plan is a trillion-dollar giveaway to the rich - at everybody else's expense. Their "pledge" would slash needed spending, kill jobs and end any hope of growing the economy. It declares open season on the public's health and safety with a deregulation agenda that would unleash BP, Goldman Sachs, and every other corporation whose risky behavior endangers us. It would lead to even more financial crashes and environmental disasters. Firefighters, cops,and teachers would be laid off in droves. The deficit would soar. We'd face a permanently stagnating economy. The middle class would wither away.

That's the future they're offering. It's Bush on steroids, fattened up and ready to feast on ... you. If you like today's economy, you'll love the one these guys are cooking up.

RJ goes into detail. Go read.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:23 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos

China Currency Bill Moves -- Why Some Corporate Interests Oppose

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.

As President Obama meets with Chinese Premier Wen, the House Ways and Means Committee announces it will vote tomorrow on a bill to take action if China does not bring its currency to market rates. This sends a loud and clear signal to China that action is coming, one way or another, and they are going to have to make adjustments. This has every appearance of a smart, coordinated strategy between the administration and the leadership of the Congress.

WaPo: Bill combating China currency to advance,

House leaders are moving forward with legislation to combat China's currency policies, adding to pressure from the Obama administration and giving lawmakers an election-year chance to vote on a sensitive trade matter.

The House Ways and Means Committee plans to vote Friday on a bill that would expand the Commerce Department's power to impose duties on Chinese imports in response to that country's currency being undervalued on world markets.

But there is opposition from inside our own country.

Some business groups oppose the bill, arguing that it could backfire if it raises trade tensions with China and prompts the Chinese government to use the many tools at its disposal to interfere with American companies. China is a major destination for U.S. exports - about $70 billion a year - although the United States runs a trade deficit of about $200 billion a year with that country. Duties on Chinese imports might also raise prices for U.S. consumers.

There are competing interests at work. Robert Reich wrote about this a week ago in The Two Categories of American Corporation — And Their Politics and Harold Meyerson picks up the theme today in The real un-Americans.

Reich points out that some giant companies sell to Americans, and therefore want us strong and prosperous, and want policies that stimulate our economy, provide jobs with good pay and generally boost the middle class. Others, not so much.

The first group includes national telecoms like Verizon and AT&T that need a prosperous America because most of their sales are here. Same with finance companies like Bank of America and Travelers Insurance whose business strategy has been built around U.S. consumers. Ditto certain giant chains like Home Depot. Naturally, all these companies were especially hard hit by the Great Depression and its devastating impact on American consumers.

The second group includes companies like Coca Cola, Exxon-Mobil, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and McDonalds, that get substantial revenues from their overseas operations. Increasingly this means China, India, and Brazil. Ford and GM are still largely dependent on US sales but becoming less so. ...

What does this mean for Main Street? Reich says,

Large American corporations are going global as fast as they can. That’s good for their shareholders. But in a Washington ever more susceptible to their money and influence, that’s not necessarily good for most Americans.

Meyerson picks up on this today,

Consider the debate in Congress about whether to impose tariffs on Chinese imports if China continues to depress the value of its currency. ... Unions and some domestic manufacturers support the bill. But a large number of American businesses, in a campaign coordinated by the U.S.-China Business Council, oppose it.

... The question here is whether the 220 corporations that belong to the council ... are already so deeply invested in China as manufacturers, marketers or retailers that buy goods there to sell them here that their interests are more closely aligned with China's than with America's. [emphasis added]

It is important to understand that some of the country's most powerful entrenched, wealthy interests no longer depend on the success of America's economy and the prosperity of our people. They have a lot of power and money, and use it to influence our country's politics to increase their own wealth and power. But their interests are not our interests. They want low taxes and don't care whether we have good jobs, good schools, modern infrastructure and an economy that works for We, the People. They just don't care about that. And they are willing to say and spend what it takes to set us against each other, poison our politics, and anything else they need to do to get us to act in their interests not ours. "Globalization" and "free trade' policies work for them, because they enable them to evade the protections that our democracy gives us. But allowing them to just move factories and jobs out of the country and then bring the goods back here with no penalty does not work for the rest of us.

Keep this in mind when you hear the different arguments over taxes, infrastructure, education and government in general.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:15 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 22, 2010

What's A Filibuster?

Six paragraphs before they use the 'F' word. Move to End ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Stalls in Senate - NYTimes.com

The Senate "voted against." It "stalls." The Senate is "paralyzed by the partisan fury" and is "a result of a dispute between Democrats and Republicans." "Senate Republicans voted unanimously to block debate on the bill."

And then, finally, six paragraphs down,

The vote was 56 to 43, with Democrats falling short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and bring the bill to the floor.

No wonder the public blames Democrats for not getting anything done.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:46 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Need Public Option

The big insurance companies aren't leaving much choice: we need the public option. Congress can pass this right after the election, using reconciliation.

Health insurance: Big medical insurers to stop selling new child-only policies

Major health insurance companies in California and other states have decided to stop selling policies for children rather than comply with a new federal healthcare law that bars them from rejecting youngsters with preexisting medical conditions.

Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna Inc. and others will halt new child-only policies in California, Illinois, Florida, Connecticut and elsewhere as early as Thursday when provisions of the nation's new healthcare law take effect, including a requirement that insurers cover children under age 19 regardless of their health histories.

Idiot corporatists in the Congress thought the insurance companies were their friends.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:55 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

What If The President...?

offered a job idea each day, and then explained how the Republicans are blocking everything?

Maybe the public would start to understand what's going on.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:37 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Progressive Breakfast

Progressive Breakfast?

It's a great way to get the morning briefing. You can also sign up to have it sent to your email inbox.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 20, 2010

Recession Over?

So the recession ended a year ago June? Gosh, I wonder what happens when they raise interest rates above zero.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:56 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

In Case You Worried That Bush Admin Was Spying On YOU

They were.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:56 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

Third World America: Reagan Revolution Drags Us Down

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

The recession ended in June, 2009? What? Seriously? No one told the millions of unemployed. And last week we got more bad news: 44 million of us living in poverty, and that was last year, before unemployment and COBRA subsidies started running out for the unemployed,

... four million additional Americans found themselves in poverty in 2009, with the total reaching 44 million, or one in seven residents. Millions more were surviving only because of expanded unemployment insurance and other assistance.

We are living in the Reagan Revolution every day. Conservative policies are making us poor and poorer,

Who counts and who doesn't count? We hear so much about the "middle class" but rarely about the plight of the poor. And of course we hear again and again that the wealthy are "successful" and the "job-creators" who shouldn't be "punished" by being asked to give something back to the country that enabled their wealth. Conservative "market" thinking and Ayn Randian "the poor are losers" dehumanizing ideology has become pervasive and dominant as we transition from one-person-one-vote democracy to one-dollar-one-vote plutocracy. In this plutocratic environment the national discussion of tax cuts for the wealthy saturates the corporate media, while the 44 million of us in poverty now are barely mentioned and count for little.

Arianna Huffington's new book, Third World America, documents what is happening to us. RJ Eskow explains,

Third World America is direct and clear in its message: Decades of aggressive corporate lobbying, driven by bankers and other large corporations, have led to a series of policy decisions that are eroding the American standard of living. The details are all there: The financial industry's gone from 2.5% of our GDP in 1947 to 8.3% right before the meltdown. Financial profits went from a maximum of 16% between 1973 and 1985 to 41% right before the crisis hit. And rather than being chastened by their failure, or disciplined by taxpayers in return for being bailed out, bankers have embraced their old ways with enthusiasm. Meanwhile the American households that rescued them lost $13 trillion in wealth between mid-2007 and March 2009.

Last week more than 300 economists issued a dire warning that the current conservative "austerity" approach to the economy is dangerous. Focus on jobs now they say,

More than 300 economists, policy experts and civic leaders have signed a statement warning political leaders of “a grave danger” that the still-fragile economic recovery will be undercut by austerity economics of the kind being pushed by conservative politicians and by the White House deficit commission. Read the statement and more at dontkilljobs.org.

Meanwhile, all over the blogs this weekend was the story of the whiny rich, complaining that they "only" make a few hundred thousand a year. Why are they whining?

The reason is that the income inequality has become so extreme that even the really rich see people above them who make VASTLY more than they do, so they feel like they aren't making hardly anything at all. They don't look down, they look up, and they see people making millions, hundreds of millions, even billions in a single year.

One more nasty outcome of the Reagan Revolution: even the really rich feel poor compared to the really, really rich who are the primary beneficiaries from conservative policies.

What can you do? There is a One Nation Working Together rally in DC on October 2. PLEASE click this link and find out what you can do to help, even if yo can't make it to DC. There are local events across the country.

And remember, the election is coming up. We need to remind people that it was conservative policies that got us into this mess. It was conservatives who bailed out the banks. It was conservatives who ran up the massive debt. It was conservatives who killed the jobs.

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

Stop Eating Salmon?

The FDA is considering allowing stores to sell genetically modified salmon as food. Fine, if you want that, but what if you don't? No more salmon for you.

FDA rules won't require salmon labels,

The FDA says it cannot require a label on the genetically modified food once it determines that the altered fish is not "materially" different from other salmon - something agency scientists have said is true.

Perhaps more surprising, conventional food makers say the FDA has made it difficult for them to boast that their products do not contain genetically modified ingredients.

OK, got that? Not only are they allowing companies to not label this as genetically modified, they are blocking other companies from saying theirs is not modified. So there will be no way to tell, and your only solution is to stop eating salmon altogether.

Remember the health care battle? Predatory corporations were harming people and causing a huge societal problem. After the lobbyists go through with the bill we were all ordered to buy the product of those predatory corporations.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:22 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 19, 2010

Why The Whining Rich Whine

Yesterday, in the post The Rich Do Whine I linked to a post about a post where a really rich guy is whining about how he isn't rich at all, and yet Obama is going to bring his taxes up to pre-Bush levels. (This means, by the way, people making $251,000 income might see their taxes go up as much as $39, a little over $3 per month -- that is what a 3.9% increase on income above $250K means.)

Brad DeLong makes a very good point about why the rich are whining. The reason is that the income inequality has become so extreme that even the really rich see people above them who make VASTLY more than they do, so they feel like they aren't making hardly anything at all. They don't look down, they look up, and they see people making millions, hundreds of millions, even billions in a single year. In Which Mr. Deling Responds to Someone Who Might Be Professor Todd Henderson - Grasping Reality with Both Hands,

Cast yourself back to 1980. In 1980 a household at the bottom of the 1% rich households in America had an income equivalent in today's dollars $190,000 a year. ... You don't look downward much. Instead, you look upward. Of the 100 above you, 90 in 1980 had incomes less than three times their incomes. And they would have known of 1 person of that 100 who was seven times as rich as they were.

Now fast forward to today. Today a household at the bottom of the 1% rich households in America has an income of nearly $400,000 a year [...] . Henderson looks up. Of the 100 people richer than he is, fully ten have more than four times his income. And he knows of one person with 20 times his income. He knows who the really rich are, and they have ten times his income: They have not $450,000 a year. They have $4.5 million a year. And, to him, they are in a different world.

And so he is sad. He and his wife deserve to be successful. And he knows people who are successful. But he is not one of them--widening income inequality over the past generation has excluded him from the rich who truly have money.

One more nasty outcome of the Reagan Revolution: even the really rich feel poor compared to the really, really rich who are the primary beneficiaries from conservative policies.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 18, 2010

The Rich Do Whine

Just go read The whining of the rich ォ The Reality-Based Community

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 17, 2010

Quote Of The Week

Democrat or Republican ? | The Big Picture

I am not a Democrat, because I have no idea what their economic policies are; And I am not a Republican, because I know precisely what their economic policies are.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:52 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Public Option

What Jane Said.

They mock "the base" and expect them to go out and vote for them?

Of course, when they lose in about 6 weeks, for them it means they graduate to high-paying jobs as lobbyists. Maybe that's their plan.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:49 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Listening To Conservatives Is Making Us Poor And Poorer

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

Who counts and who doesn't count? We hear so much about the "middle class" but rarely about the plight of the poor. And of course we hear again and again that the wealthy are "successful" and the "job-creators" who shouldn't be "punished" by being asked to give something back to the country that enabled their wealth. Conservative "market" thinking and Ayn Randian "the poor are losers" dehumanizing ideology* has become pervasive and dominant as we transition from one-person-one-vote democracy to one-dollar-one-vote plutocracy. In this plutocratic environment the national discussion of tax cuts for the wealthy saturates the corporate media, while the 44 million of us in poverty now are barely mentioned and count for little.

Yesterday the Census Bureau reported (NYT) that another four million people fell below the poverty line just last year, with trends showing it will probably grow. 44 million Americans -- one in seven of us -- are now trying to make it on $10,830; $22,050 for a family of four.

“We’re seeing more younger people coming in that not only don’t have any food, but nowhere to stay,” said Marla Goodwin, director of Jeremiah’s Food Pantry in East St. Louis, Ill. The pantry was open one day a month when it opened in 2008 but expanded this year to five days a month.

This chart (from the Census report) shows the trends.

On top of this, the level of "severe poverty" has hit an all-time record level. At Angry Bear, All Time Record Level of Severe Poverty,

Coverage focused on the headline poverty rate which is horrible enough. Much worse, 6.3% of people in the USA suffered severe poverty, that is lived in households with income less than half the poverty line. This is the highest severe poverty rate on record. That means that over 19 million people in the USA live in households with income less than half the poverty line (severe poverty implies income significantly less than $ 11,000 yr for a family of four) [emphasis added]

The Lifesaver Net Is Under Attack: Unemployment Benefits, Food Stamps, Welfare, Social Security

Even as poverty rises (because of conservative policies) the conservatives are attacking and weakening the safety net that keeps this disaster from getting even worse. They denigrate the idea of our government assisting citizens -- taking care of and watching out for each other -- as "spending" and "handouts." They say that unemployment and poverty assistance "undermine the work ethic." They say that helping the poor is "reaching into other people's pockets." Click through to read an example of what the Koch/Scaife/Walton (WalMart)/Tobacco/Oil/Corpation-funded Heartland Institute on "handouts". Or click through to read a sample of what the Koch/ Scaife/Tobacco/Corpation-funded Freedomworks (one of the astroturf organizations behind the Tea Party) on "handouts." Here is the Koch-founded/tobacco/oil/corporate-funded Cato Institute saying, about helping the people of New Orleans after Katrina, that government helping people is"coercion" (taxes are theft) and "it is important to remember that you can't be compassionate with other people's money."

This is dehumanizing and degrading and listening to it at all dehumanizes and degrades all of us. And the result is right in front of our faces: poverty grows, poverty becomes more extreme, wealth concentrates at the top, society becomes more cruel, the country falls further and further backwards. We have lived through a decade of conservative policies, and from the NYTimes story on the increasing poverty rate,

“This is the first time in memory that an entire decade has produced essentially no economic growth for the typical American household,” Mr. Katz said.

The Money Is Going To The Top

The Census report notes that the highest "quintile" or fifth of income-earners received 50.3 percent of all income last year, the bottom fifth receive only 3.4%..

In 2009, the share of aggregate income received by the bottom quintile was 3.4 percent; the second quintile, 8.6 percent; the third, 14.6 percent; the fourth, 23.2 percent; and the highest quintile, 50.3 percent.

Unemployment Benefits Running Out

Conservatives in the Congress are blocking emergency extensions of unemployment benefits, jobs programs and other critical parts of the safety net that helps people in emergencies such as the conservative-caused financial collapse. So another indicator of human suffering is about to get even worse. Unemployment for the "99ers" is running out, many of them older, with no jobs in sight.

Only unemployment benefits are keeping another 3.3 million from the same fate. (Chart from Center for Budget and Policy Priorities)

Health Insurance, Too

According to the Census Bureau report, the number of United States residents without health insurance climbed to 51 million in 2009, from 46 million in 2008. Additionally in 2010 millions of unemployed workers who were covered by the stimulus' COBRA subsidies are losing their coverage. There is no relief in site for years.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Expiring

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund from the "stimulus" expires at the end of this month. Steve Benen at Washington Monthly writes that the TANF program, "subsidizes jobs with private companies, nonprofits, and government agencies and has single handedly put more than 240,000 unemployed people back to work."

So of course it needs to be renewed. But conservatives are blocking this. Benen writes,

The irony is, when those Americans lose their jobs, Republicans will say it was the failure of the stimulus. Their pathetic rhetoric will have it backwards -- the stimulus created those jobs, and the GOP's filibuster of an effective jobs program will throw these men and women out of work. In a sane political world, this would be a pretty big scandal...

Food Stamps Cut

Last month we saw this tragedy happen, Food Stamps Slashed to Pay for Teacher Jobs Bill. Conservatives forced cuts to food stamps before they would allow a bill providing $26 billion to help states cover Medicaid expenses and teacher salaries to pass.

Social Security

It has been covered here extensively that the President's "Deficit Commission" is talking about cuts to Social Security, which by law cannot borrow so it cannot contribute to the deficit, instead of looking at the tax cuts for the rich and military spending increases which caused the deficits. At the very time older Americans have had their retirement savings wiped out and many cannot find jobs and are taking early retirement, the commission is talking about reducing instead of increasing this vital program!

JOBS JOBS JOBS JOBS

This is really all about jobs and wages. The best antidote to poverty is more employment and better wages. But conservatives continue to block all efforts to provide jobs and lift wages. Isaiah Pool wrote here yesterday, in Latest Senate Jobs Bill Tests The Limits Of Right-Wing Obstruction,

Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus has introduced a bill today that is a frankly unadventurous mix of jobs initiatives and tax incentives, with a healthy dose of loophole-closings to make sure that it can be presented as revenue-neutral.

. . . Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued his "hell no, you can't" edict ... telling reporters that he'd lead a filibuster to make sure billionaires and millionaires paid not one dime more in earned income tax.

Such is the political environment in which Baucus drops his latest effort to move the jobs debate forward.

So every indicator of a society in terrible trouble -- unemployment, poverty, severe poverty, balance of trade, concentration of wealth, foreclosures, health insurance coverage, you name it -- is going in the wrong direction. And conservatives are proudly doing what they can to make it even worse! Why do we even listen to them at all?

* (For more on the roots of Ayn Rand and dehumanizing ideology click and scroll to the asterisk.)

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:41 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 16, 2010

Moving Boxes

When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him.

He has a million reasons for being anywhere.

Just ask him. If you listen, he'll tell you how he got there. How he forgot where he was going.

And then he woke up.

If you listen he'll tell you about the time he thought he was an angel and dreamt of being perfect, and then he'll smile with wisdom, content that he realized the world isn't perfect.

We're flawed because we want so much more; we're ruined, because we get these things, and wish for what we had.

- Mad Men. I found an interesting post about it here.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Welcome Home, Tire Jobs

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.

Today the US Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk filed two complaints with the World Trade Organization (WTO). The first alleges that China is keeping American credit and debit card companies out of their electronic payment market. The second is a "dumping" (selling under cost) complaint on steel products.

"We are concerned that China is breaking its trade commitments to the United States and other WTO partners," Kirk said in announcing the two cases.

This is a big deal, because it tells China that we are willing to fight back. But Sen. Charles Grassley said this was not enough,

"The administration should go one step further and bring a case against China's unfair currency manipulation at the WTO. Everyone knows China is manipulating its currency to gain an unfair advantage in international trade," Grassley said.

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a post, President Obama Enforces Trade Law In China Tire Case!, celebrating President Obama's decision to enforce the ITC's recommendation to impose tariffs on Chinese tire imports.

What was the result of that decision to actually enforce trade laws? Did the world end? Did it start a "trade war" with China? No, the result was that jobs started to return.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing is running this full page ad in a few newspapers today:


(Click for large pdf)

AAM explains: (click through for links)

Why did we do it? To make sure lawmakers understand just what is at stake today.

First, Treasury Secretary will be appearing at not one but two hearings today to examine China’s currency policies. We suspect he’ll get grilled by lawmakers for not doing more.

Second, the International Trade Commission is examining today a trade case filed by several domestic paper companies and the United Steelworkers on coated paper from China and Indonesia. Here’s the witness list. We want to remind folks that trade enforcement works.

Finally, some in Congress want the Obama Administration to remove tariffs imposed last year some imported Chinese tires that were causing market disruptions in the U.S. The Alliance for American Manufacturing has already set the record straight on this issue. It’s important to counter these false claims.

The BIG issue, of course, is China's currency manipulation. Congress is holding hearings on this and Treasury Secretary Geithner testified this morning that the administration is reluctant to formally declare that China is doing what it is doing. A WSJ report puts it this way:

While the Treasury secretary feels the yuan is "significantly undervalued," a formal designation would "not be a particularly effective tool" for achieving U.S. goals.

Congress needs to act because the administration won't. Pushing this is in China's best interests as well. Entrenched and powerful interests on both sides of this dispute are keeping their governments from acting in the broader interest. This is causing a huge bubble of imbalance to expend, threatening the world's economy. Passing a bill mandating tariffs to force China to bring its currency to market levels is the way around the standoff for both countries.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:12 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

300 Economists Warn Against Austerity

More than 300 economists released a statement today, warning that deficit reduction now is a threat to the economy, and won't really reduce the deficit. "Putting deficit reduction ahead of job creation spells grave danger."

Don't Kill Growth And Jobs In The Name Of Deficit Reduction

More than 300 economists, policy experts and civic leaders have signed a statement warning political leaders of “a grave danger” that the still-fragile economic recovery will be undercut by austerity economics of the kind being pushed by conservative politicians and by the White House deficit commission.

Read the statement and more at dontkilljobs.org.

You can see who the signers are at dontkilljobs.org

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:12 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 15, 2010

China Currency Battle Heating Up

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.

Since China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) our country's balance of trade has gotten worse and worse and we have lost jobs and jobs (and money and money). Between 2001 and 2008 we lost 2.4 million jobs just to China. Normally a situation like this balances out because China's currency would rise, making goods made here competitive and helping China's workers be able to buy things we make. So we would benefit from the gains they make. That's why trade can be a win-win when parties play fair.

But China isn't playing fair. They manipulate their currency, "pegging" it to the dollar, so goods made there continue to have a lower price in world markets. Some say that they have a 40% pricing advantage just from the currency manipulation. And after that you can take into account the many other ways that China is cheating on trade. So we have a huge problem and a huge imbalance, both growing to extremes.

Japan got tired of waiting for China to stop cheating. Financial Times: Japan intervenes to weaken yen,

Tokyo intervened in the currency markets for the first time in more than six years to weaken the yen, sending it nearly Y3 lower against the dollar to mitigate the threat its strength posed to Japan’s export-reliant economy.

Note that this means we now have both China and Japan weakening their currencies against ours, giving both pricing advantages against our goods, which will add to the pressures on us.

Congress is looking into China's currency manipulation with hearings beginning today, and may act soon. The Hill: Punishing China becomes issue for Democrats in midterm election,

Ryan’s bill would allow the Commerce Department to consider currency manipulation in calculating countervailing and antidumping duties on any imports from countries manipulating their currencies to lower the cost of their exports. ... Many rank-and-file Democrats are frustrated with China, which promised in June to allow its currency to follow market trends. Since that announcement, China’s currency has increased by less than 1 percent.

Action by Congress would be politically popular. Harold Meyerson writes in the Wash. Post about this today, in Time to stand up to China on trade

There's little dispute that the Chinese government controls such strategic industries as alternative energy and that it subsidizes that industry massively, in clear violation of WTO rules. Politically, the American public plainly supports policies that boost American industry and curtail offshoring. A Heartland Monitor poll, sponsored by Allstate Insurance and the National Journal, released last week, asked Americans to choose one of three options for how America should deal with the global economy. Thirty-six percent backed a program that instituted tariffs on imports and penalized companies for offshoring jobs. Thirty-two percent supported governmental programs to help strategic domestic industries. Just 23 percent backed a laissez-faire free-trade policy.

Business groups representing the huge multinationals are fighting on China's side on this. Reuters, US groups urge Congress not pass China currency bill,

Thirty-six U.S. farm and business groups urged Congress on Tuesday not to pass legislation threatening China with duties on some of its goods if Beijing does not revalue its currency.

Meyerson again,

Consider what this says about contemporary American capitalism. American big business is now so inextricably invested in China that it won't defend or promote American-based manufacturing. Those tasks have fallen to our largest manufacturing union. By any dispassionate measure, it's our labor movement, not our leading businesses, that deserves the term "American."

If China would play by the rules, this would balance itself and turn into a win-win. If the administration would insist that China plays by the rules, backed up with a strong tariff if they don't, China would likely start coming around. And if nothing else works, a strong tariff on Chinese goods is needed. It is time for Congress to act.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:59 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 14, 2010

Social Security Proposal: Make Them Work -- Longer

Update - please see RJ Eskow's post, As The Aging Stoop To Their Labors, Prosperous Pundits Lecture Them About Sacrifice

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

DC is talking about cutting Social Security for working people at the very same time it is talking about extending tax breaks for the wealthiest people in history. This is a result of our county's shift away from democracy and toward plutocracy. This post is about the astonishing change in attitude toward regular people that is the result of this shift.

There is a DC "Deficit Commission" that is supposed to be cutting budget deficits (that result from tax cuts for the wealthy and increases in military spending) but is instead talking about cutting Social Security. Get this: Social Security is a fully-funded program that uses no tax money. By law it cannot borrow so it cannot contribute to the deficit! At the same time, the huge military budget (we spend more than all other countries combined) is completely unfunded and faces a huge shortfall every year -- but cutting that is off the table.

The real problem: Social Security built up a huge trust fund that was spent on tax cuts for the rich, and that money is coming due. DC thinking is to cut Social Security instead of paying back what was borrowed. One proposal under consideration is to raise the retirement age, recently increased to 67, to 70! This at the very time that every social indicator is saying that we should be increasing Social Security and lowering the retirement age. Increasing because people's savings have been slammed by the financial collapse so they need Social Security as their fall-back position, and lowering because so many people over 50 can't find work.

What About The People Affected?

Almost no one has been talking about how this will effect the people whose benefits will be cut. This is because there has been a change in attitudes in America. We are becoming a not kinder, not gentler nation. The crippled compassion component of conservative ideas about citizenship continues to cut into what's left of our consciences.

Kudos to the NY Times for sending a reporter out from a comfortable desk in their air-conditioned offices to look at what cutting Social Security means to actual people who actually work. Retiring Later Is Hard Road for Laborers,

A new analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that one in three workers over age 58 does a physically demanding job ... — including hammering nails, bending under sinks, lifting baggage — that can be radically different at age 69 than at age 62. Still others work under difficult conditions, like exposure to heat or cold, exposure to contaminants or weather, cramped workplaces or standing for long stretches.

A Washington Post story the next day looks at the flood of desperate people trying to get on Social Security disability because their unemployment benefits are exhausted and they can't find work. Jobless are straining Social Security's disability benefits program,

Social Security officials say they are confident that their vetting process screens out most people who might try to get benefits without being qualified. But, they acknowledge, when jobs are scarce, more workers who might otherwise struggle through with their ailments try to secure disability benefits.

McClatchy looked at desperate older people who can't get jobs and are "taking early retirement" even though it means dramatically reduced monthly checks. Social Security surplus hit by joblessness, early retirement,

Led by aging baby boomers and older workers frustrated by the tough job market, record numbers of eligible Americans started receiving Social Security retirement benefits in 2009. . . . Annual jobless rates for men and women age 55 and older were higher in 2009 than at any time since the government started collecting the data in 1948, Johnson said. That forced many to claim retirement benefits at 62, their first year of eligibility, instead of waiting to collect at the full retirement age of 66.

The findings: People really need the help that Social Security offers.

Cut Social Security? Really? We spent trillions bailing out the wealthy Wall Street elite, we gave huge tax cuts to the wealthiest people in history, we spend hundreds of billions on unaccountable "defense" contractors with shadowy addresses concentrated around DC, and we are seriously considering cutting Social Security?

The New American Attitude

But this is the new America. We're helping the rich and taking our frustrations out on the unfortunate and weak: "the help." I wrote about this attitude change in Simpson Social Security Comments Highlight Battle Of Democracy Vs. 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.

An effect of moving to plutocracy is that the rest of us need to "know our place." I mean, just who do we think we are? We have been acting like we own this place, like We, the People are in charge here! We think we are entitled to ... entitlements. Things have changed and we need to get with the new program. Our job now is to shut up and be thankful for anything we receive the the behest of the country's new owners.

This is the new attitude: Make Them Work - Citizens As "The Help"

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!

This is the new attitude: If You Feed Them They Breed -- And Other Dehumanizing Conservative Idiocy We Should Ignore

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.

This battle over Social Security, at the very same time as DC fights over extending tax cuts to the wealthiest people in history, points out how it will be as our democracy slides away. If we sit back and accept these changes, we lose. To fight this we need to come back to an understanding of what it means to be a citizen in a country where We, the People are supposed to be in charge. A government of We, the People should be about taking care of each other, protecting and empowering each other and respecting each other. WE are supposed to be the boss of you here. And we are supposed to be in charge.

Please add your name to the "Hands Off Social Security" petition. The Deficit Commission should get on to figuring out how to reduce the deficit (clue: it was caused by tax cuts for the rich and military spending increases) and keep their hands off Social Security!


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Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:15 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

New Dem Campaign Slogan: "We Don't Want Democrat Votes"

It appears that Democrats have an innovative, new approach to campaigning: asking Democrats to stay away from the polls! How else can you explain ideas like giving tax cuts to the rich, just before an election?

Van Hollen: One-Year Tax Cut For The Rich Might Fly With Democrats

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:52 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 13, 2010

Take This Test

How Democrats, Republicans compare

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

The Comments Are Just As Scary

This article about new antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" is scary but the comments are, too: New drug-resistant superbugs found in 3 states - Yahoo! News

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:13 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 12, 2010

The Results Of The Experiment

Let's see, Howard Dean heading up DNC. 50-state strategy. Progressive policy focus. ... Result: massive gains in the House and Senate and taking back the Presidency.

Then, get rid of 50-state strategy, go back to "move to the right to chase votes" 1990's thinking, bring back the professional campaign consultant class, etc.

Result? G.O.P. Has 2-in-3 Chance of Taking House, Model Forecasts and (from DK post) "A massive enthusiasm gap, and the largest generic Congressional ballot difference in the history of the Gallup Poll."

Conclusion? The DC Elite will conclude this means they have to move even further to the right, and shed the progressive base.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:54 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Dem Politicians Please Read

The only thing "moving to the right" accomplishes is to keep the people who were going to vote for you from bothering to go to the polls. It doesn't win you a single vote from the right - they were never going to vote for you.

Every Dem Politician please read at least this paragraph from Daily Kos: Rock bottom, at long last?

What was unanticipated--at least by some--was the conspiracy-minded zealous insanity of the conservative base, as well as the utter unwillingness of Republican politicians to compromise in any way for the good of the country. The Democratic response--outside of an utter sense of disbelief at just how radical the right had become--was to try to protect its most vulnerable members against accusations of being too far left by avoiding a push for transformational policies that would have provided a tangible sense of accomplishment and motivation for the Democratic base. If the goal was indeed to convince the conservative-leaning voters in swing districts that the Democrats were not in fact socialist Muslim Marxist fascist Stalinist homosexual terrorist sympathizers, it didn't work. The conservative base was just as motivated, while the Democratic base felt that they had absolutely nothing to vote for. The end result? A massive enthusiasm gap, and the largest generic Congressional ballot difference in the history of the Gallup Poll.

Moving to the right doesn't stop them from calling you a "socialist." It doesn't win you a single vote. All it does is keep the people who were going to vote for you from bothering to go to the polls.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:53 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

September 11, 2010

9/11 Tribute

9/11 Tribute from Budweiser | The Big Picture

Here is the famous commercial Budweiser produced after 9/11. They aired it only once, at the Superbowl in 2002. Anheuser Busch stated they wanted to acknowledge the event, but not to benefit financially from it. Note that in the commercial, the World Trade Center is gone.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:30 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

My Enthusiasm Gap Is Down

I watched President Obama's press conference yesterday and I am happy to say that my enthusiasm is up and my enthusiasm gap is down.

* My level of confidence is up.

* My level of certainty is up.

* My faith in government is up. As is my faith in government to address our problems.

* My approval of the President's handling of his job is up.

* My approval of the President's handling of the economy is up.

* My approval of the President's handling of international relations is up.

* My interest in public affairs is up.

* My expectation that the economy will improve is up.

* My belief that things will be better for the next generation than they are for this generation is up.

I have to ask, where has this guy been? The election is less than two months away and in his absence from the fight people have started to panic! He finally, finally, finally, finally, finally is stepping up, speaking up for his policies, and looking like he is going to fight to get things done, and this is going to help build support for those policies and get them enacted.

More like this, please. A LOT more.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:13 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 10, 2010

Republicans...

Probably going to be a serious candidate for President soon...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:10 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 9, 2010

To Fix The Economy Raise Wages

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.

To fix the economy we have to fix wages. Increased wages will restore demand. The changes that will increase wages will help restore democracy.

The social contract used to be that citizens in our democracy share the benefits of our economy through increased wages that come from increases in productivity. This broke down and working people's incomes have been stagnant since the Reagan Revolution. (Yes, I'm telling the same story again. It needs to be told, over and over so people can understand what is happening to us. We are feeling the effects of the Reagan Revolution coming home to roost.)

Reagan and the conservatives weakened the government and broke the unions. Government and organized labor were the forces in our society that had stood up for the interests of regular people against the "moneyed interests" and weakening them fundamentally changed the fairness equation of our economy. After the Reagan Revolution working people's share of the benefits from increased productivity turned down:

All of the benefits of improvements in our economy now flow to a few at the top. This results in intense concentration of wealth:

With more and more of the income and wealth going to a top few, We, the People are thought of less and less as citizens and more and more as "the help." But who is our economy for, anyway? Our economy can operate for the benefit of We, the People, or it can operate for the benefit of a wealthy few at the expense of the rest of us. This is the ongoing battle. And history has shown over and over that when economies operate for the few, they don't work.

This is not just about sharing the economy, it is about sharing the decision-making power. In our form of government We, the People are supposed to make the decisions. When Reagan said, "Government is the problem" he was really saying that decision-making by We, the People is a bad thing. When conservatives complain about "big government" they are complaining about We, the People having a big share in decision-making. When they call for "less government" they are calling for less of a share of the decisions-making by us. This means the wealthy and powerful have more of a share -- of everything.

With the income, wealth and benefits of the economy increasingly flowing to a top few, working families tried to compensate for the loss in various ways. Women entered the workforce. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich explains, "By the late 1990s, more than 60 percent of mothers with young children worked outside the home (in 1966, only 24 percent did)." (Please read his whole post if you have time.)

Then, still not getting by on stagnant wages with rising prices, people worked more hours or added second jobs. Then they started using up their savings.

Finally they resorted to adding debt.

This all finally broke down, demand slowed, and the economy has slowed to a crawl. The 90s financialization and "dot com" bubbles obscured the way things were headed, and then the housing bubble of the 2000s continued the illusion. But debt just kept rising people kept working longer and harder to get by, while the richest few kept getting richer. Finally it all crashed and current attempts to prop it up by helping the wealthy and big businesses are not succeeding. Bailing out big banks and their executives and shareholders and not holding anyone accountable, while letting predatory corporations continue their economy-draining practices has not only kept the worst parts of the "share of the wealth" problem in place, it has undermined people's faith in government and demcoracy. Changes need to be made.

Most people pay for things with income from jobs. If we want demand to rise, then we need to raise incomes. But things are still going in the wrong direction. As CAF's Robert Borosage writes today,

"Over the last decade, we lost one in three manufacturing jobs. Inequality reached Gilded Age extremes. CEOs and bankers pocketed million dollar bonuses while cooking the books and gambling on exotic securities, inflating the housing bubble until it burst. Health insurance companies kept a strangle hold on a health care system that costs twice as much as those in other industrial countries, leaves millions uninsured and provides worse health care."

Who Gets What For What?

This bad economy situation is going to drag on until we make real changes in the structure of who gets what for what in this country. Every incentive in the economy is to try to reduce wages, cut benefits and eliminate jobs. Think about that. People get bonuses and raises and owners get richer if they eliminate YOUR job or at least cut back your pay and benefits. For example, by replacing a worker with a machine, the owner of the machine gets more money, the worker gets nothing. But in the larger economy each time this happens it means there are fewer people in a position to buy whatever goods or services the same companies that eliminated the jobs are in business to provide. And it means that a few wealthy people become more wealthy and powerful.

This is where government comes in. Government is supposed to be the force that speaks for and protects the interests of the people, empowers people through education and rules, set conditions to keep wages high, lay down the infrastructure in which businesses thrive, and coordinates the international competition for industries and jobs. But the Reagan Revolution broke that. We need to restore it.

There are so many things that government could be doing to get the economy working again for working people, small and medium businesses and big corporations that want to make an honest living. Boost the minimum wage, modernize the infrastructure, provide health care, provide free education through graduate level, increase Social Security, help unions organize, impose a democracy tariff so imports don't get around the protections provided by our democracy, and return to taxing the rich who reap the dividends and payout of all the past investment that We, the People made to make business thrive.

And there are larger structural changes we can make. Just brainstorming but what if workers replaced by machines directly got some of the income generated by the machine. Workers laid off this way several times might then have enough income to get by without working! Or what if we cut the workweek from 40 hours to, say, 35 before overtime kicks in. Maybe that would increase hiring, while giving regular people more leisure time. (And keep cutting the workweek as machines and computers do more of the work.)

And, of course, to have wages at all people have to have jobs. One would think this would go without saying but these days it seems there is a need to point out that people are hurting for jobs, because the DC elite seem to have moved on from that. We badly need government programs to directly hire people to do things that help the people of the country. We would have all of this if the Reagan Revolution hadn't weakened government of, by and for We, the People.

Other posts in the Reagan Revolution Home To Roost series:

Tax Cuts Are Theft
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

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Social Security: Policy By Fairy Tale

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

Lots of kids believe in Santa Claus. This is because people repeat the fable to kids over and over, telling them that Santa Claus will deliver presents to them if they're good. And then there's the Boogeyman, the "amorphous embodiment of terror." In some regions stories of the Boogeyman are repeated and repeated, and to keep the Boogeyman away little children do what they are told.

A popular Boogeyman is "Social Security is going broke." This fable originated from a 1983 Cato Institute Journal document, "Achieving a Leninist Strategy" by Stuart Butler of Cato and Peter Germanis of the Heritage Foundation. The document laid out a long-term strategic plan to dismantle Social Security. Part of the idea was to manufacture public beliefs like those we hear repeated (and repeated and repeated) today, "Social Security is going broke" and "Social Security is a Ponzi scheme."

Meanwhile a popular Santa Claus myth tells the pubic that energy independence can be achieved at low cost if only we would open up more land (and sea) to oil drilling.

Enter Rick Berg, candidate for Congress in North Dakota. Berg is proposing to scare away the Boogeyman by bringing in Santa Claus to fight the good fight. News story, Berg proposes Social Security fix,

Drilling for oil underneath western North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park and other federal lands nationwide could be a way to ensure Social Security funding for the long haul, Republican U.S. House challenger Rick Berg said.

During a meeting with The Forum’s editorial board Wednesday, Berg discussed his ideas for how to make the Social Security system viable for future generations. He said one option is drilling for oil and other mineral resources on federal government land.

Oh yeah, there is one more thing that is repeated over and over. The other day I wrote, "The way a lobbyist argues for or against anything today is to say it will create or cost jobs." And right on queue, here's Berg:

Berg told the editorial board his proposal was just one way the government could add more money into the Social Security system.

“It needs to be solvent, and I’m supporting putting more money in that — mineral money in there — and getting people working again,” he said.


Yes, that's the ticket. Santa Claus fights the Boogeyman, and delivers jobs. All we have to do is open up national parks to oil drilling.

Social Security isn't broke, doesn't need fixing, and the last thing we need is more drilling. We need a Renewable Energy Standard and we need to set a price on carbon to trigger the new green technology revolution, get us off of oil and coal and create millions of jobs.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:49 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

September 8, 2010

Incredibly Obvious Things In Front Of Our Faces

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.

Conservative economic policies just don't work and it's incredibly obvious right in front of our faces. Knowing that obvious things are right in front of our faces and knowing that conservatives really, really don't want us to see those things, it's instructive (and sometimes entertaining except for the tragic consequences) to watch how conservatives try to distract us.

For example, look at this chart:

July Jobs Report

The stimulus worked but was not enough. It is obvious. It is right in front of our faces.

So what do they do to distract us? LOOK OVER THERE!!! A MOSQUE!!! BURN A KORAN!!!

Next up, tax cuts. President Clinton raised taxes on the rich and conservatives claimed it would destroy the economy. But after the tax increases the economy was great, millions of jobs were created and the huge Reagan/Bush I budget deficits (caused by tax cuts and military spending increases) turned into surpluses. Here are some charts that show deficits and jobs following Clinton's tax increases. First compare job growth after Clinton's tax increases and Bush's tax cuts:

clinton-bush-job-growth

It's obvious. Right in front of our faces. Tax increases did not slow the economy or cost jobs, and tax cuts did not create jobs. This next chart shows how the budget went from deficit to surplus after Clinton's tax increases and then, after 'W's tax cuts, to massive, huge, incredible deficits:

ClintonBushSurplusDeficit

It's obvious, right in front of our faces. So how do they distract from that? Well, they just lie!

Conservatives explain the huge 2009 $1.4 trillion Bush budget deficit by just saying it's Obama's. Have you heard that "Obama tripled the deficit"? Look at "Obama's Deficit in Pictures" from Heritage Foundation, claiming Obama has "quadrupled the deficit with his stimulus package".

The problem is that these distractions and deceptions can lead the public to support really bad policies. If conservatives -- after nearly destroying the world's economy the last time they had power -- are able to convince people that we should cut taxes again, or stop efforts to restore demand to the economy, then they could make things get even worse than they did last time.

Don't be distracted. Keep seeing the obvious.

SQUIRREL!!


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Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:05 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

September 6, 2010

Do Tax Cuts Create Jobs?

In California the right, funded by oil companies, has an initiative on the ballot to stop implementation of our CO2 law "until unemployment reaches 5.5 percent." The point is to make people think that the CO2 law causes unemployment.

The idea that a payroll tax cut (i.e., Social Security tax) will help create jobs is the same thing -- cutting taxes to boost employment makes people think taxes cause unemployment. The net result is that we can't get infrastructure, schools, courts, etc. funded.

Tax cuts might provide some stimulus because they force more borrowing, but really, how many employers are going to hire people because payroll taxes are a bit less? What are they going to hire them to do, read the paper? Compared with how many employers would be doing anything they can to bring on employees if customers were pouring through the door?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:44 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 5, 2010

Oct 2 March On Washington For Jobs And Change

Please click through: One Nation Working Together

DEMAND ALL THE CHANGES WE VOTED FOR

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:02 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

September 4, 2010

Zombie Lies Never Die

Andrew Breitbart: The man behind the Sherrod affair - latimes.com,

Last fall, Breitbart made his first big splash. He posted an undercover video in which a pair of conservative activists posing as a prostitute and her boyfriend asked employees of the community group ACORN for help with a brothel that would house underage Salvadorans. ACORN was embarrassed when some of its workers seemed too helpful; Congress responded by defunding the organization.

1) They were not dressed as a prostitute and pimp. The guy wore a dress shirt and khaki pants, and said he was hoping to run for Congress.

2) The videos were doctored to make it look like the ACORN employees did something wrong, when they did not. Several independent investigations have reached this conclusion.

Several ACORN offices threw them right out the door.

3) ACORN employees who were represented in the videos as assisting a prostitution ring actually called the police on Brietbart's employees. One is even suing because of the false representation.

But none of this matters because Congress defunded ACORN in response to the Brietbart / FOX News / Drudge Report smear.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:22 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

American Jobs Tragedy

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.

The stimulus worked but was not enough. Here is the result:

JobLossesAlignedAug2010

This is known as "the scariest jobs chart," from Calculated Risk.

Robert Reich: The Great Jobs Depression Worsens, and the Choice Ahead Grows Starker

The number of Americans willing and able to work but who cannot find a job hasn't stopped growing since the start of 2008. All told, about 22 million Americans are now jobless. Add in those who are working part-time who'd rather be working full time, and we're up to 25 million.

And because most families depend on two paychecks, the practical impact is almost double.

The DC and business elite don't feel it. They explain the problem by blaming the people they put out of work, saying the unemployed are just lazy, and unemployment checks keep them from looking for work. They're doing just fine and taking good care of each other.

Frank Sobatka describes one of the main reasons for the problem:


Frank's right. Our choice is to manufacture or borrow (until we can't.) Other countries are being smart on trade. Why aren't we? We really, really need an industrial policy to guide us back to growth. We can build a new economy from old roots. I mean, what were we thinking? We turned our companies into buy-sell commodities with our country and people as "costs." So we ended up caught in a machine that grinds us up. This has led to and attitude that citizens are an infestation, if you feed them they breed, like "the help" -- you have to make them work, certainly no longer as the people in charge.

We thought moving a factory was "trade," when it is really about evading democracy's protections of We, the People. We didn't see that Wall Street was at war with the real economy and We, the People, paying out $140 billion for bonuses but zero for America's future. We thought getting back to "normal" was an option. But really, It's The Economic Paradigm, Stupid!

Here's another part of the problem: Tax cuts are theft. Our investment in infrastructure created 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.

What Can We Do?

Here are parts of the solution: We need a democracy tariff at the border to stop greedy employers from stepping around the wage, safety and environmental protections that We, the People fought to build. We need to tax the wealthy and Wall Street to pay to fix up the infrastructure and public structures that enabled their wealth. Tax Cuts Leave Nothing Behind -- Infrastructure Investment Leaves Behind Infrastructure. Not only that, Tax Cuts Caused The Deficits, Therefore...

Where Are The Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs? It's The JOBS, Stupid! Why DC Elites Don't See This?

P.S. if you have time, please click the links.


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Down With Tyranny

You don't read DownWithTyranny! often enough. I know I don't.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:10 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 3, 2010

Labor Day: Labor Got It Right -- Who Could Have Known?

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.

"Who could have known?" That's the cry from the big-corporate and DC elite as the economy and the environment and so many imporant things crash around us. (Around us, not them, they're doing just fine and taking good care of each other.)

Who could have known that 25%-per-year house price increases was a bubble?
Who could have known that a housing bubble could burst?
Who could have known that deregulating the financial industry could lead to a financial meltdown?
Who could have known that concentration of wealth could cause consumer demand to dry up?
Who could have known that huge tax cuts for the rich combined with huge military spending increases could cause massive budget deficits?
Who could have known that the Social Security trust fund needed a "lockbox" so it wouldn't be given away as tax cuts?
Who could have known a deregulated deep-water well could cause a massive, destructive, uncontrolled underwater gusher?
Who could have known that continuing to put carbon into the air would cause problems for the climate?
Who could have known that moving our factories out of the country would lead to high unemployment and structural trade deficits?
Who could have known that invading Iraq was wrong and a deadly, disastrous, costly, long-term mistake?
Who could have known that a too-small stimulus that focused on tax cuts wouldn't turn the economy completely around and then conservatives would claim that the stimulus "killed the recovery?"

(List continues into infinity...)

Add organized labor to the list of those who got it right, time after time.

Organized labor was right about the 40-hour workweek.
They were right about the middle class.
They were right about the weekend.
They were right about paid vacations.
They were right about paid holidays.
They were right about paid sick leave.
They were right about providing good, secure retirement plans for everyone.
They were right about providing unemployment benefits to tide people over.
They were right about providing maternity leave, child care and family leave for families.
They were right that trade agreements like NAFTA and letting China into the WTO would lead to massive trade deficits and job losses.
They were right about workplace and consumer safety.
They were right about keeping manufacturing in America.
They were right about fighting discrimination in the workplace.
They were right about raising the minimum wage and the effect that low-wage policies would have on the economy.
They were right about the effect of excessive CEO pay on the economy.
They were right about the devastating effect of the Bush tax cuts.
They were right about the need to maintain and modernize our country's infrastructure.
They were right about going green.
They were right ab out the dangers of Wall Street's financialization of the economy.
They were right about providing good health care to everyone.
They were right about strengthening, not cutting Social Security.
They were right about democratizing corporate governance.
They were right about fighting privatization.
They were right about fighting deregulation.
They were right about providing good education opportunities to everyone.
They were and are right that we need a national jobs agenda
Labor was right about people joining together instead of being on our own.

(List continues into infinity...) They were right and they continue to be right.

And unions have been fighting for these things for all of us, not just for their members.

Please add to these lists in the comments! What other things could nobody have known, and what other things did labor get right?

Enjoy Labor Day. In fact, for those of you that still have jobs after the decades of conservative policies, enjoy having weekends off, the 40-hour week, paid vacations, sick pay, health care, etc. And if you have a job but don't have those things ... JOIN A UNION!

P.S. Here's an example of being right:


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

September 2, 2010

JOBS: Romer, Leaving WH, Says More Stimulus Needed. Right Says Stimulus Killed Recovery

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.

Before I start this post, let's look at the actual situation. The economy is terrible, people are really hurting, they have been holding out and are starting to drop off the map. There are signs that with the stimulus fading things are starting to turn back down. But compared to what?

The overall jobs picture:

July Jobs Report

The manufacturing jobs picture:

July Jobs Report - Manufacturing Jobs

Finally, the huge deficits. The context of this next chart is that Bush's last budget year left us with a $1.4 trillion deficit! The projected budgets from this President will cut this in half in the next few years.

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S PROPOSED BUDGET SLASHES DEFICIT IN HALF IN JUST FIVE YEARS

You can see for yourself from the pictures. (chart source) Under conservative policies everything was spiraling downwards. The stimulus clearly worked and stopped the death sprial, but was not enough. According to the Congressional Budget Office,

The massive U.S. stimulus package put millions of people to work and boosted national output by hundreds of billions of dollars in the second quarter, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday. . . . CBO said President Barack Obama's stimulus boosted real GDP in the quarter by between 1.7 percent and 4.5 percent, adding at least $200 billion in economic activity.

It raised employment by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million jobs during the second quarter of this year, CBO estimated.

The stimulus worked but was not enough. Economists Agree: Stimulus Created Nearly 3 Million Jobs,

Eighteen months later, the consensus among economists is that the stimulus worked in staving off a rerun of the 1930s. [. . .] It's no surprise that the administration would proclaim its own policies a success. But its verdict is backed by economists at Goldman Sachs, IHS Global Insight, JPMorgan Chase and Macroeconomic Advisers, who say the stimulus boosted gross domestic product by 2.1% to 2.7%.

The stimulus worked but was not enough.

What Now?

In the context of this picture of the economy, President Obama's economic advisor Christine Romer is stepping down. In her departing speech she said that the economy needs more stimulus to get us to the point where private business is again driving the economy. Romer Calls for More Stimulus,

U.S. Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Christina Romer, in her final speech before stepping down, called on the country to stomach new stimulus measures to lift the lackluster economy, even in the face of growing fears about the nation’s deficit.

“Concern about the deficit cannot be an excuse for leaving unemployed workers to suffer,”

The clear conclusion from all available evidence: The stimulus worked, but it was not enough. In addition, in an effort "to attract Republican votes" that never came, 1/3 of the stimulus was wasted on tax cuts that leave nothing behind but debt. Much of the package was emergency relief for the unemployed, the states, and other emergency safety net programs but won't contribute to job-creation and reviving business. Only a fraction went to infrastructure, which is the soil in which business thrives and the country maintains its worldwide competitiveness,

The American Society of Civil Engineers puts the bill’s infrastructure spending at $71.8 billion, or less than one-tenth of the package.

The stimulus worked but was not enough. Economists are calling for more stimulus and extending unemployment benefits.

What The Right Says

Meanwhile conservatives are placing their bets on benefiting from a worsening economy, and so are blocking things that might help. Conservatives correctly believe that the worse the economy is doing, the better the chances that they will pick up more House and Senate seats in the coming elections. So it is in their interests to make sure that is what happens. Capitalizing on the shock the nation felt when it heard about the size of the deficit the previous administration left behind, conservatives are trying to block attempts to add stimulus.

And with the original not-enough stimulus fading, the right is trying to drive a narrative that "government spending kills jobs." This follows decades of "tax and spend" rhetoric that claims that "taxes take money out of the economy," "government spending slows the economy" and similar nonsense. The original "starve the beast" plan to kill government and democracy by denying them the funds they need is on the verge of succeeding.

To drive this strategy they claim that it is the stimulus itself which has kept the economy from recovering. Newt Gingrich, in Fire the Job Killers,

The big government stimulus bill, the tax increases of the health bill, the plan to let the 2003 tax cuts expire, and the massive growth of government under the Obama Administration are all actions directly attributable to this administration which have killed jobs.

Gingrich even claims that helping the unemployed, not the recession, is the cause of the unemployment!

A few weeks ago in this newsletter, I cited a study by Robert Barro which estimated that without the extension of unemployment benefits to 99 weeks, the unemployment rate would be 6.8% instead of 9.5%.

Republican House leader John Boehner recently gave a speech on his economic plan in which he said that the economy is "stalled by ‘stimulus’ spending" and "each dollar the government collects is taken directly out of the private sector." (An NDN study found that following the Boehner economic plan will add $4.188 trillion to the debt.)

Some other voices on the right:

Murdoch's NY Post: Romer admits stimulus failed

Dr. Christina Romer is leaving the Obama administration, and in her final speech she admits that the stimulus did not work to revivie the economy as she had hoped and as President Obama promised.

Malkin's Hot Ait: Romer: We had no clue … and still don’t

Instead of cutting taxes (especially capital gains taxes) and reducing regulation to entice new investment, Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats chose to chase a government takeover of health care, a massive tax on energy production that would penalize expansion and growth, and expanding the jurisdiction on Wall Street of the same agencies that had watched the collapse come and did nothing about it.

Except, of course, 1/3 of the stimulus was tax cuts. (Further proving that tax cuts leave nothing behind but more debt.)

These are just a few samples from the drumbeat.

America faces a choice. The stimulus worked but was not enough. So we can proceed with "reality-based" solutions that have helped, and demand more stimulus, or we can go back to conservative policies that killed the economy.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:54 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 1, 2010

How Companies Turn People Against Unions

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.

If you had a company and could make people work for free, keeping all the proceeds just for yourself, you might do that. If you could. What’s stopping you? There are plenty of unemployed people in the country and in the world – more every day thanks to population growth, and computers and machines doing more of the work that needs to be done. So if someone complains, you can just replace them with someone who doesn’t complain. You have the power. So what’s stopping you?

As a working person, how do you negotiate for fair pay, benefits and rights where you work? People in a job can be on their own against a lot of power, taking whatever the employer is willing to trade for their work. Or they can join with the rest of the employees at the workplace and negotiate as a group. Banding together to fight for a fair share is called organizing into a union.

People who own companies think that the company is their “private property” and they can do what they want with it, regardless of the effect on the people who work there or the surrouding community. Their goal is to make as much money as possible and to do that you lower costs as much as possible. Those costs include the cost of disposing of harmful waste products, the quality and safety of the products produced, and the pay and benefits you provide workers. In this equation unions are a problem. They have the power to make you pay more and provide safety and benefits, so they are in the way of keeping as much as you can just for yourself.

Obviously the greater society -- the people who make the rules that companies are supposed to follow -- has very different interests from the people who own companies. Society wants to avoid being exposed to harmful waste products, and wants the people in the society to be paid well and have good benefits. Society wants healthy communities. Society wants good and safe products that don't use up our resources. The people in the society are generally going to want rules that lead to better results for the greater number of people. Unless they can be convinced otherwise.

So the owners of companies try to convince us that unions are bad. They form and fund "business groups" like the Chamber of Commerce, to fight to keep unions from having the right and power to organize their workers. We hear it repeated over and over in our corporate-dominated society, a drumbeat that labor unions are sinister, shady, harmful, corrupt, violent, “raise prices,” ”cost jobs,” and generally hurt the economy and country. We hear they force workers to pay dues (never mind that unionized workers pay the dues from higher pay and benefits.) We hear that "union bosses" tell workers what to do and "union thugs"make them do it. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. The owners of companies have a lot of money to spend on convincing the public to let them have free reign, and they know from selling products how to sell things to the public. Repetition, repetition and repetition. Marketing works.

This Labor Day weekend we can expect to hear even more of this. Business groups plan Labor Day blitz against Senate Dems, candidates,

Local chapters of groups like the National Federation of Independent Business, state Associated Builders and Contractors and other commerce and retail groups will hold events on Monday targeting the incumbents and candidates, particularly on their stance on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA, or "card-check").

But you shouldn't expect to see, hear or read on any corporate-owned TV station, radio station or newspaper about the benefits to people from joining a union. Think back and see if you can remember the last time you heard it explained to the public in one of these outlets how members of unions are better off?

How widespread is the anti-labor effort? Here’s a quick, admittedly unscientific check. On Google today there are 54,800 websites that refer to “union thugs,” 154,000 websites that refer to “union bosses” and 200,000 that refer to “big labor.” Please click through and look not only at the ridiculous things being written, but also at who is writing them.

The first page of Google “results for “union bosses” lists anti-union pages from Big Government, The Center for Union Facts , The Washington Times, Human Events, Redstate, Townhall, The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the book “Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics” by Fox News analyst Linda Chavez and Danial Gray of the National Right to Work Committee.

The Center for Union Facts, The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee are anti-union sites funded by corporations and right-wing foundations. According to a report in SourceWatch, The National Right to Work Committee and National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation even share facilities and employees. Big Government, Human Events, Townhall, Redstate, Fox News and the Washington Times are conservative movement outlets that are part of the coordinated Right Wing Noise Machine, or echo chamber, in which a number of outlets appear to be different entities but work as part of a single movement with a shared goal. (P.S. Big Government is the site where the doctored ACORN videos and doctored video of Shirley Sherrod were promoted.)

Admittedly unscientific, but interesting nonetheless. There's a lot of anti-union money floating around out there.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:09 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos