November 30, 2010
See the JOBS FIRST Deficit Plan: Report And Recommendations Of The Citizens’ Commission On Jobs, Deficits And America’s Economic Future | OurFuture.org
Read what RJ Eskow wrote about it: Jobs First! Any Other 'Deficit Plan' Sells America Short
A key point: all of the "serious people" deficit plans cut the budget in ways that kill the economic growth that underlies their own deficit reduction projections. They cannot succeed, even while gutting America's jobs, economy and middle class. Not to mention driving the poor into the streets.
November 29, 2010
In a stunning public display of just who our government works for and who it does not work for, unemployment checks for people out of work longer than 26 weeks run out tomorrow night. Congress, meanwhile, is caught up in a debate over extending a special tax break for the few people making more than $250,000 a year.
This is the situation. Here is a chart of the number of people unemployed for 26 weeks or longer: (click to enlarge)
Here is a chart of the economic divide, showing members of Congress receiving employment benefits from Wall Street: (don't click the pig is big enough already)
Yes, the extended unemployment benefits that go people who have been unemployed more than 26 weeks will run out at the end of November – tomorrow night. Congress did not extend this program because Republicans blocked it, saying the cost is too high, since we spent so much money making sure that the banksters continue to receive their bonuses. Instead of acting on extending these unemployment benefits Congress is currently debating extending a special tax break that goes only to wealthy people making more than $250,000 a year.
The Human Cost
The terrible human cost doesn’t even get considered. According to the Ayn Rand terminology that conservatives favor, considering the human cost would be wrong and would enable the parasites (us) to feed off of the producers (the wealthy few).
Unless Congress extends unemployment benefits, an estimated 83,000 people will see their benefits run out in December and another 200,000 in the first four months of 2011, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry.
Kentucky and Indiana: Thousands in Kentucky and Indiana face lapse of unemployment benefits,
Amid an anti-spending atmosphere in Washington, funds to extend unemployment compensation for more than 33,000 Kentuckians and nearly 67,000 Hoosiers are likely to run out next month.
Maryland: Benefits due to end for thousands in Md.
Thousands of Marylanders face being cut off from unemployment benefits next month — just in time for the holiday season — as Congress remains undecided on whether to extend the payments in one of the worst job markets in decades.
An estimated 2 million people nationwide are slated to lose benefits, including 14,000 in Maryland. And more than 30,000 laid-off Maryland residents will exhaust their benefits early next year. The phase-out is happening because a federally funded program that gave residents payments beyond the normal 26 weeks lapses on Tuesday.
Extended federal benefits lapse on Nov. 30, giving Congress only two days to pass an extension. If they fail, hundreds of thousands could lose benefits. Failure to pass an extension would mean nearly 44,000 Iowans will see an immediate reduction in benefits and 8,700 Iowans will be prematurely cut off completely. Every week beginning Dec. 1, another 1,500 Iowans will lose their benefits.
Michigan, with the nation’s second-highest unemployment rate at 12.8 percent, would see 168,520 unemployed workers lose their benefits between December and April 30, according to new figures from the Michigan League for Human Services. But even if an extension is granted, 13,011 will lose their benefits because they will have received the maximum 99 weeks of assistance.
Statewide, 301,404 people will lose jobless benefits in the same window.
PHOENIX -- About 90,000 Arizonans will lose their unemployment benefits soon unless Congress passes an extension, according to the Arizona Department of Economic Security.
Unless Congress extends unemployment benefits by Nov. 30, Alabamians could begin losing unemployment compensation and nearly 58,000 residents could be off the rolls by April.
Mississippi: Editorial: House failing the jobless,
An effort to extend unemployment benefits past Nov. 30 for an estimated 53,000 Tennesseans, 8,000 Arkansans and 6,600 residents of Mississippi fell short of the necessary votes in the House of Representatives last week.
"My last check will be the week ending Nov. 30 unless they come back on Nov. 29 and miraculously vote an extension," said Millen, who lives in Charlotte, N.C.
Will Congress act before tomorrow night and extend unemployment benefits to people who are suffering because of the greed of a few?
Sign the petition: Tell Congress: Don't extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy
Level 3 Communications, an Internet networking company that recently signed a deal to deliver movies to Netflix customers, said Monday that Comcast has effectively set up a tollbooth around its broadband Internet network.
This is what is coming if the FCC or Congress doesn't require "Net Neutrality."
Worse, Comcast, ATT and others can stop letting their internet customers get to websites like DailyKos, Redstate or others that take political positions they don't like, or that might threaten their profits -- like advocating for Net Neutralty. Unless you think that giant corporations won't use their power to do things like that.
I'll be doing my weekly segment on the Fairness Doctrine radio show today at 11:30 PST (and for those on the East Coast who have trouble adding 3 on a clock) 2:30EST.
I will be talking about tomorrow's release of a Citizen's JOBS and Deficit Commission report. (Note the word JOBS in the title, unlike certain other deficit commissions.) This report was discussed in this NY Times story today, Liberal Groups to Propose Routes to Smaller Deficit. The report is available here (pdf).
If you are not in an area where the show is broadcast you can listen live on CyberstationUSA
The call-in number is 617-328-3386
Are they there to govern, of just destroy? As Washington works through its "lame duck" session and prepares for next year's new Congress, there are signs that the government-haters are preparing some serious hating on government itself.
The country needs to get moving. But conservatives, rewarded in the midterms for a strategy of obstruction, are bent on stopping everything and turning back the clock. For two years they followed a strategy of blocking everything and blaming the President for not making people's lives better. The strategy succeeded and now they are determined to carry it through to the next election. They are blocking an extension of unemployment benefits, calling for an end to ongoing infrastructure development like high-speed and commuter rail and alternative energy, and have made it clear that any new efforts to stimulate the economy are out of the question. Many are starting to worry about the terrible effect these positions will have on the economy, and are calling it deliberate sabotage.
Destroy the Country to Save the Country?
In Planning for the Worst, Matt Yglesias wrote that the White house should plan for "a true worst case scenario of deliberate economic sabotage."
Zach Carter writes at CAF, in Ben Bernanke And Conservative Economic Sabotage,
The Republican Party's newfound political assault on Ben Bernanke is a grim reminder of the actual conservative economic agenda for the next two years. The midterm elections taught Republicans a destructive lesson: With Democrats in power, the worse the economy gets, the better Republicans do at the voting booth. Economic sabotage is the essential Republican strategy for winning the White House in 2012. They will block every effort to actually improve the economy they can, and make a big show out of criticizing any economic aid they can't block.
Steve Benen has been writing about this at the Washington Monthly Political Animal blog. In NONE DARE CALL IT SABOTAGE, Benen wondered if Republicans are actively sabotaging the economy to help keep Obama from being reelected,
This general approach has shifted from hoping conditions don't improve to taking steps to ensure conditions don't improve. We've gone from Republicans rooting for failure to Republicans trying to guarantee failure.
[. . .] If a major, powerful political party is making a conscious decision about sabotage, the political world should probably take the time to consider whether this is acceptable, whether it meets the bare minimum standards for patriotism, and whether it's a healthy development in our system of government.
Digby's response to these, Virtuous Sabotage, is that Republicans are "blatantly proclaiming themselves to be virtuous by undermining the national interest in order to win elections." She brings up the media’s complicity in this,
I think it's just another step in the degradation of our societal norms. We are not living in a country anymore in which there is even a consensus about something as immoral as torture, so why should political sabotage be beyond the pale? And the mainstream media, which Benen points out should be charged with bringing some perspective to these issues and calling attention to the fact that the Republican Party is actively working to undermine the national interest, is so deep into their "Church of the Savvy" that they literally laugh at this phenomenon and then proceed to call balls and strikes as if it's a sport to find out who can win with the most cynical strategy.
Obstruction Morphs Into Destruction
Conservatives, watching only FOX, listening only to right-wing radio and reading only far-right blogs have gone beyond just obstruction as a campaign tactic and whipped themselves into an anti-government, anti-tax, anti-Obama frenzy. Obstruction is giving way to demands for destruction. They have raised the rhetoric to such a level that many of their “Tea Party” supporters will only be happy if the government is destroyed and corporate anarchy prevails.
The rhetoric has reached such a level of extremism that it is difficult to describe the things they are saying to people who don’t follow the news. Bloggers, activists and general followers of news will confirm that if you try to tell people what the “baggers” and their elected representatives are saying they think YOU’RE crazy! It does sound extreme when you try to describe the things they are saying.
An immediate casualty of the right’s extremism may be the START treaty. Egged on by Rush Limbaugh, who said on his show that the Russians have never honored a treaty, and conservative echo-organs like the Heritage Foundation, writing last week that claims President Reagan would have supported the treaty are a "myth" from a White House “in campaign mode,” conservative Senators are opposing the treaty. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, ranking Senator on the Foreign Relations Committee is warning that this opposition is dangerous for the country. Many other senior Republicans, including Brent Scowcroft, former Secretaries of State Colin Powell , James Baker, Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, Reagan Chief of Staff Kenneth Duberstein, Reagan Chief of Staff Howard Baker, have joined him urging ratification of the treaty. Former Missouri Senator John Danforth even says Republicans lately "have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption." For his statesmanship the Tea Party is targeting Lugar.
The Dream: No Government At All
For many of the new breed of conservative government itself is the real target. Rush Limbaugh, on his radio show last week, was telling his listeners that we don’t need government at all, that things worked much better in the “wild west” before government showed up and ruined the party. Meanwhile many conservatives are now devotees of Ayn Rand, who denigrates democracy and government as "collectivism" and "statism," and these ideas and the cult-words that describe them echo through the Tea Party. Glenn Beck regularly feeds Randian rhetoric to his audience.
Right now people who pay attention to what conservatives are saying to each other are warning there is every indication that the conservatives are going to force the country to default when the "debt ceiling" comes due for increase early next year. The effect of such a move would extend far beyond “just” a government shutdown, a default by the U.S. threatens the entire world’s economy. But if you read their blogs, listen to their radio shows and talk to their supporters it’s apparent that they have talked themselves into a corner on this and any vote to raise the debt ceiling will be seen as total betrayal. Former Senator Alan Simpson, for one, is ecstatic. "The debt limit, when it comes in April or May, will prove who's a hero, and who's a jerk and who's a charlatan and who's a faker," he said recently.
Paul Krugman, in There Will Be Blood, writes about Simpson’s comments, and warns of the seriousness of the consequences if conservatives get their way on the debt limit,
Think of Mr. Simpson’s blood lust as one more piece of evidence that our nation is in much worse shape, much closer to a political breakdown, than most people realize.
… Now, you might think that the prospect of this kind of standoff, which might deny many Americans essential services, wreak havoc in financial markets and undermine America’s role in the world, would worry all men of good will. But no, Mr. Simpson “can’t wait.” And he’s what passes, these days, for a reasonable Republican.
The fact is that one of our two great political parties has made it clear that it has no interest in making America governable, unless it’s doing the governing. And that party now controls one house of Congress, which means that the country will not, in fact, be governable without that party’s cooperation — cooperation that won’t be forthcoming.
What Is Endgame?
Sara Robinson, in her widely-read post, None Dare Call It Sedition, warned that the right was getting out of control,
This is sedition in slow motion, a gradual corrosive undermining of the government's authority and capacity to run the country. And it's been at the core of their politics going all the way back to Goldwater.
This long assault has gone into overdrive since Obama's inauguration, as the rhetoric has ratcheted up from overheated to perfervid. We've reached the point where you can't go a week without hearing some prominent right wing leader calling for outright sedition -- an immediate and defiant populist uprising against some legitimate form of government authority.
After describing numerous calls to violence, the more-frequent appearance of weapons at right-wing political rallies, the growth or militias, Robinson writes,
For years now, we've dismissed all of this as crazy talk, the rantings of a loony fringe that will never get enough traction to become a material threat to our democracy. But we're well past the point where it's no longer quaint and funny, or an embarrassing breach of democratic etiquette that polite people should just ignore.
So I want to ask if just getting Obama out of office is the endgame -- or is it turning into more than that? When you throw in that many of the Tea Party right are saying they will shut down the government if they get the chance, and will vote against the debt ceiling -- forcing the government to default and causing economic chaos worldwide -- you have to ask if destruction of government and the resulting chaos is the goal? Force the country to be ungovernable, angry and unstable with lots of desperate people running around in a general chaos? Breaking society apart so they be the supermen who step in and reform it in an Ayn Randian image? A new conservative order rising out of chaos is a recurring theme in right-wing mythology and sounds too much like the Turner Diaries for me.
Or maybe they just aren't thinking things through to the point where they understand the consequences of their increasingly extremist rhetoric and positions.
What Can We Do?
But what do we do about it? The conservatives live in a bubble, hearing only Limbaugh, seeing only FOX and reading only right-wing blogs. They aren't going to let themselves be reasoned with. Any one trying to work out problems is labeled a RINO and dismembered. The media will only say "both sides do it." The public is bombarded with corporate-funded smear-ads, telling the public that Democrats voted to cut their Medicare, and the candidates elected by those ads then turn around and cut their Medicare, to give those same corporations another windfall.
The only thing that will work is public pressure. To accomplish this we will have to reach the public ourselves and that is going to take some work, and some money. More on this soon.
November 26, 2010
Here is MY deficit-reduction plan. This plan does not reflect the views of anyone but myself -- and maybe half the population. Unlike deficit plans from the "serious people" in DC, this one doesn't annihilate the poor and gut Social Security and the middle class while passing even more of the benefits of our society up to a few at the top.
1) Restore pre-Reagan top tax rates. We didn't have massive deficits until we reduced the top tax rates.
2) Income is income. No more reduced capital gains tax rate. The incentive to invest should be to make a bunch of money from a good investment. The reason there is a low capital gains tax rate is that the wealthy get most of their income from capital gains. And the reason they get most of their income from capital gains is there is a low capital gains rate. The resulting income shifting schemes are a drag on the rest of us. (Also applies to dividends.)
3) Income is income. Inheritance income should be taxed as income, except there should be a "democracy cap" on how much someone can inherit. We decided not to have an aristocracy when we founded this country so we shouldn't have one.
4) Businesses should be taxed or not taxed, but not taxed AND not taxed. They shouldn't be able to use "double Irish" or "Dutch sandwich" or operate out of PO boxes in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands. (Bonus, this also helps reduce incentives to send our jobs and factories out of the country.)
5) If you don't pay your taxes We, the People won't pay to provide you with services. We can start by not allowing you to have a driveway that connects to public streets, or water/sewer hookups or mail. Also we won't enforce any contracts for you, including the one that says you "own" your house(s). And no government-developed Internet for you.
If companies like Google want to "double Irish" and "Dutch Sandwich" us or operate out of PO boxes in tax havens, we shouldn't let them use government services like courts, or the government-developed Internet. See how well they operate without access to roads (that includes for employees to get to go to work.) How about withdrawing the limited liability protection that investors in corporations receive? And of course no protection for "intellectual property" or trademarks. Oh, yeah, no access to anyone who went to a school that used tax dollars. And no government services means no sea-lane protection for your products shipping from Chinese factories, by the way.
6) Speaking of sea-lane protection, why do we have a military budget comparable to when we faced nuclear annihilation by the Soviet empire? Bases in Germany and Japan? And why can I go to this website, pick a DC-area zip code, say 22314, and learn that "Dollar Amount of Defense Contracts Awarded to Contractors in this Zip Code from 2000 to 2009: $7,086,397,848." Seriously, scroll down the page and look at some of the contracts and amounts awarded. I suspect there's some serious deficit reduction to be found in the military budget. A comprehensive and very public audit of where all that money has been going since, say, 1981 might take a chunk out of the debt problem all by itself
7) I could start listing all the corporate subsidies, tax breaks, monopoly grants, schemes, contracts, etc. that we pay for, but I think you get the idea. How about calling bribery by its name: bribery, and doing something about it?
8) To the extent that implementing this plan does not clear up the deficit and start paying off the debt, how about a yearly national property tax on all individual holdings above, say, $5 million, with the tax rate progressively increasing as total wealth increases, and keep doing this each year until the debt is paid off. Perhaps start at 1% on $5 million, 2.5% at $10 million, 5% at $50 million, etc. (Hedge fund managers and investment bankers start at 50% and go up, just for the heck of it. We can call this the "get the money from where the money went tax.")
So there is MY deficit-reduction plan. Or, instead, we could do what the "serious people" deficit-reduction plans do: cut services for We, the People, cut Social Security, cut health care, cut education, cut infrastructure, cut the things that make life better for people, and give all the money to a few at the top. Take your pick.
November 23, 2010
Does it even matter what the public wants anymore?
I guess that's a rhetorical question these days because more and more obviously the answer is no. It matters what the plutocrats want, and they know how to get what they want. Public opinion is "engineered" or at least "managed." When it can't be managed it is ignored and the effort shifts to our elected officials, who are led to believe the public wants what the plutocrats want using elite opinion leaders, astroturf, front groups or flat out cash.
According to polls (and most of these by overwhelming margins):
Things the public doesn’t want:
Another poll shows support for ending Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. McClatchy:"...51 percent want to extend the tax cuts only for households making less than $250,000 a year, and 45 percent want to extend the tax cuts for all ... Those who want to extend all of the tax cuts, including for the wealthy, include Republicans, tea party supporters, conservatives, Southerners and Westerners, Independents were closely divided, with 49 percent for extending only the 'middle class' tax cuts, and 48 percent for extending all of them."
P.S. Campaign for America's Future and CREDO Action have a petition, Tell Congress: Don't extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Click the link, and add your voice.
A whopping 82% of respondents in the poll oppose Social Security cuts for the purpose of deficit reduction, while only 15% support cuts. What's particularly telling is the striking uniformity of opinion across the political spectrum: 83% of Democrats, 82% of Republicans, 78% of independents and 74% of Tea Party supporters.
P.S. Campaign for America's Future has a petition, Tell President Obama to Reject Social Security Cuts. Click the link and add your voice.
In a September poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, 53 percent of Americans said so-called free trade agreements have injured the country. Only 17 percent said those trade schemes benefited the United States. Disgust with these deals spans party lines, including Tea Partiers, 61 percent of whom said they’re bad for America.
Things the public wants:
In a poll released Monday, 73 percent of voters say it's too early to cut back benefits for those who are struggling to find work as unemployment rate hovers at 9.6 percent....
Eighty-nine percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement that "America is falling behind" in the global economy and that "we need a clear strategy to make things in America, make our economy competitive, and revive America's middle class."
Significant majorities in the poll also supported new investments in infrastructure through a national infrastructure bank, and a five-year strategy for reviving manufacturing in America
So there are things the public clearly wants and doesn't want. These things are significantly at odds with the things the plutocrats want. If we are still a democracy we will get the things the public wants. If we have completed the transformation to a plutocracy we will get the things the plutocrats want. That's the definition of the terms.
November 22, 2010
Today's Washington Post has punch two of a one-two punch. Punch one was the Simpson/Bowles "plan" to cut Social Security, cut middle-class tax breaks and programs (and dramatically cut taxes on the rich.) Punch two is pushing this plan hard with headlines claiming this solution is actually popular, while shutting out voices who explain why we shouldn't do this. This is full-on Shock Doctrine, wait for an emergency like the terrible recession so people are in shock and want solutions, and then change everything so fast they can’t respond while telling them how this is good for them.
This is how they do it, folks, demonstrated by this story in today's Washington Post: Consensus is forming on what steps to take in cutting the deficit,
After an election dominated by vague demands for less debt and smaller government, the sacrifices necessary to achieve those goals are coming into sharp focus. ... Smaller Social Security checks and higher Medicare premiums. [. . .] the plan unveiled this month by co-chairmen Erskine B. Bowles ... and Alan K. Simpson ... has been respectfully received with a few exceptions by both parties. Its major elements are also winning support from a striking line-up of commentators. [. . .] The strange bedfellows are a "testament to the moderate nature" of the ideas under discussion.Consensus? Sharp focus? Here's your "sharp focus": The public hates this!
That headline is the manufactured reality. The real reality is that the public just hates this, and has voted against and will vote against politicians who push it.
Last month you saw campaign ad after ad hitting Democrats who "cut $500 billion from Medicare," and Democrats lost the senior vote and the midterms. The public hates this.
A recent Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research report showed that an overwhelming 69% of voters agreed that "politicians should keep their hands off Social Security and Medicare" when they address the deficit. The public hates this.
Only 6% of the public says the government's priority should be deficits now. The public hates this.
An AARP poll finds that 90% of people aged 18 to 29 say Social Security is important. The public hates this.
An NBC/WSJ poll finds that 57% are against cutting Social Security no matter how bad the deficit is. The public hates this.
A USA Today poll finds that the public by 66/31 says don't cut benefits to fix the deficit. The public hates this.
I can continue citing poll after poll; there are no polls that show the public is in any way behind this.
It's Clear: The public hates this and will vote out any politician who does this. If you think the public didn’t like the bailouts and the politicians who voted for them, this "Deficit Commission" plan to cut Social Security is the other shoe dropping. Bailouts helped Wall Street and not Main Street and people certainly didn't like that. But this is paying for bailing out Wall Street by hitting Main Street in the gut. And the public understands this.
But here is today's reality: the public hates this, and the corporate media tells you how much you love it. This is how it's done. You have heard the stories of FDR and LBJ saying "make me do it," meaning create the public pressure that forces politicians to do act. This is a story of manufacturing consent where the elites, the Peterson Foundation, the President and the corporate right are setting up an appearance of making them do it. (We have a jobs emergency, but we get deficit commissions instead of jobs commissions?)
The public hates it but the elites are pushing ahead with their campaign anyway. If you remember the "run up" to the Iraq War, opposing voices were simply shut out of the discussion. All the "serious people" were explaining why we had no choice but to invade Iraq. And all the headlines were about the terrible threat that Iraq posed to our very existence. Seriously, it wasn't just stories about how Iraq was going to drop a nuke on us any second now. Do you remember the smallpox scare?, where you couldn't listen to the radio, read a newspaper or watch TV without hearing about all the terrible ways Iraq was going to attack us?
The Simpson/Bowles plan is part of a pre-arranged agenda to gut the middle class and further enrich the wealthy. The media machine is working to convince DC politicians that the public wants this done. They scare people with headlines about the terrifying things that will happen because of deficits. The only viewpoints you hear are the cutters and gutters. Those presenting the ideas the public favors - like the plan offered by Deficit Commission member Rep. Jan Schakowsky that cuts the deficit but actually strengthens Social Security -- are not heard. And keep telling people how popular and necessary this is.
Result? If you are a politician in DC, you really have no way to know how the pubic feels because all you see are headlines like today's Washington Post, telling you a consensus is forming.
This is why YOU have to respond and let YOUR members of Congress and Senators know that you are NOT going to go along with this.
There are things YOU can do! November 30 is a national call-in day to save Social Security.
Do this: Click here and sign this petition: Tell President Obama to Reject Social Security Cuts "We must send an urgent message to President Obama – to tell him to reject the proposal to slash Social Security benefits coming from the co-chairs of his deficit commission. If President Obama tries to cut Social Security, it would spell political disaster in 2012."
The Co-Chairs of the National Fiscal Commission have proposed carving up Social Security like a Thanksgiving turkey. They want to increase the retirement age to 69 – making us work longer, deeply cut benefits for middle-class workers and reduce annual Cost of Living Adjustments. We need your help to stop them!
Join thousands of Americans in a National Call Congress Day on Tuesday, November 30—CAN WE COUNT ON YOU?
We need your voice to be heard!
Please, please click these links and add your voice.
November 19, 2010
Looks like Big Daddy Wall Street gave Little Boy Boehner a good talking to about messing with their money faucet.
Washington is inundated with deficit commissions. The country has piled up a huge debt because we cut taxes for the wealthy and borrowed to make up the difference. But everyone says we can't fix the problem by raising taxes on the rich in a recession because taxes "take money out of the economy." Is there a factual basis for this idea, or is it just one more corporate/conservative-generated piece of "conventional wisdom" bamboozlement?
A brief budget history since the 80's: We cut taxes, increased military spending and cut investment in our infrastructure, and the result was huge budget deficits and slower economic growth. Then in the 90's we raised taxes on the rich and increased investment in the country and we had big budget surpluses and the economy was growing at a good clip. Then in the 00's we again cut taxes on the rich and raised military spending and cut back on investing in the country, and went back to huge deficits ("incredibly positive news'') and feeble economic growth culminating in the financial crash.
So now, to address the Reagan/Bush deficits the DC elites -- the "serious people" -- are proposing ... wait for it ... not raising taxes on the rich, not cutting military spending and not investing in the country. Instead they want to cut back more on the safety net and on services for the middle class. There really is a brain disease loose in DC.
The justification for DC's refusal to fix a problem caused by tax cuts on the rich by restoring taxes on the rich is that you can't raise taxes on the rich during a recession. The oft-repeated idea that taxes "take money out of the economy" has become so ingrained that there is no discussion at all, it is just accepted as a given. It is "conventional wisdom." It certainly is a convenient conventional wisdom for the wealthy, but it is a fact?
Let's look at some counter-arguments.
1) Tax cuts for the rich means borrowing. This is the root of the "taxes take money out of the economy" argument because the resulting borrowing pumps into the economy, which is stimulative. If you stop the borrowing the resulting stimulus is withdrawn. Of course, tax cuts are the least-effective stimulus, especially when it is top tax rates we are talking about, but still... Unfortunately we have been borrowing a lot for a long time to pay for tax cuts at the top, so massive debt has accumulated and the interest paid (guess who it is paid to) on the borrowing is significant and anti-stimulative. (Don't interest payments "take money out of the economy?")
Apparently none of the gaggle of deficit commissions have seen this chart:
2) Taxes bring in revenue to pay for improvements in infrastructure that cause the economy to grow. Investing in modern transit systems, smart grid, energy efficiency, fast internet and other improvements leads to a huge payoff. Infrastructure improvement and maintenance is the “seed corn” of economic growth. We have been eating that seed corn since Reagan’s tax cuts. Some might argue that we can just borrow to invest in infrastructure -- but we don't. One result of the Reagan tax cuts was a cutback in infrastructure investment, which is dissed as "government spending." (For some reason the same borrowing to spend on tax cuts is not dissed.) After 30 years of Reaganomics our infrastructure has fallen behind and we are not competitive in the world economy.
Taxes also bring in revenue for improving our schools, colleges and universities. Not only does this help our economic competitiveness, education improves each of our lives and our level of happiness. (And more education helps people who end up on deficit commissions to understand that tax cuts for the rich cause deficits which can be fixed by putting top tax rates back where they were before the deficits that they caused.)
This was supposed to be the deal: We invest in infrastructure and public structures that create the conditions for enterprise to form and prosper. We prepare the ground for business to thrive. When enterprise prospers we share the bounty, with good wages and benefits for the people who work in the businesses and taxes that provide for the general welfare and for reinvestment in the infrastructure and public structures that keep the system going. The social contract, a beneficial cycle:
The tax cuts broke that contract and diverted the money intended for society's use to an already-wealthy few at the top. Since Reagan the system is working like this:
Since the Reagan Revolution with its tax cuts for the rich, its anti-government policies, and its deregulation of the big corporations our democracy is increasingly defunded (and that was the plan), infrastructure is crumbling, our schools are falling behind, factories and supply chains are being dismantled, those still at work are working longer hours for fewer benefits and falling wages, our pensions are gone, wealth and income are increasing concentrating at the very top, our country is declining.
3) Taxes on the rich redistribute money back into the economy. This gives more people more money to spend, which helps a consumer-driven economy to grow.
We have seen our country's wealth and income concentrate into fewer and fewer hands since the Reagan tax cuts:
The chart shows the share of the richest 10 percent of the American population in total income – an indicator that closely tracks many other measures of economic inequality – over the past 90 years, as estimated by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez.
Today, the richest 1 percent account for 24 percent of the nation's income. ... from 1980 to 2005, more than 80 percent of total increase in Americans' income went to the top 1 percent.
Currently a few people receive most of the income and own most of everything. A very high top tax rate reduces this concentration of wealth.
4) Historically, high tax rates are associated with increased economic growth. It is others to say whether this correlation is causation, but cutting taxes has certainly not been associated with increasing growth.
Along with that chart, look at this chart of growth since the 80s tax cuts: (12-quarter rolling average nominal GDP growth.)
Conclusion: Raising taxes on the rich will not slow the economy. In fact, every indication is that tax cuts on the rich might hurt the economy. So the real question is, why aren't these "deficit commissions" proposing that we fix a deficit problem that was caused by tax cuts for the rich by raising taxes on the rich back to where they were before the problem? It is clearly time to stop the "riverboat gamble" and restore pre-Reagan top tax rates.
P.S. Alan Grayson has suggestions for ways the rich can use their $83,347 average tax cut:
Update - After posting I came across this from David Leonhart in today's NYTimes, Were the Bush Tax Cuts Good for Growth?
Those tax cuts passed in 2001 amid big promises about what they would do for the economy. What followed? The decade with the slowest average annual growth since World War II. Amazingly, that statement is true even if you forget about the Great Recession and simply look at 2001-7.Exactly. Leonhart says the right's case is a strong one, "When people are allowed to keep more of each dollar they earn, they are likely to work longer and harder." Actually, you would think people who were taking home a bit less would work longer and harder to make up the difference, wouldn't you? The Ayn Randian idea that people stop working if they have to pay taxes might apply to the very, very, very (very) rich, but the rest of us have to pay the bills. And so does our democracy. Anyway, you can solve the conflict by looking at what actually happens, which he did, and what happens is that tax cuts and a slow economy go together every time.
I'm sorry but what this "White Board" video does for me is point out what they should have done with the banks, but didn't. GM investors, management and workers got "shared sacrifice" and now the company is on the road to recovery. Bankers got bailouts and bonuses and the banks are still insolvent and dragging down the economy.
In the fourth edition of White House White Board, Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, discusses the President’s tough decisions on the American auto industry in light of the General Motors IPO.
November 17, 2010
"Free trade" by any other name ... is still just a scam to pit workers against each other and evade the protections of democracy.
We, the People fought to build this democracy with its laws and institutions and protections. This fight brought us a middle class with weekends off, good wages, worker protections and some degree of protection of our environment. "Free trade" deals let companies move factories across a border to escape those protections and pit exploited workers with few rights and no means of improving their condition against us and the protections we fought for. This scam enriches a few while putting the rest of us in a race to the bottom.
Americans have come to realize just how much this scam is hurting us. Pollsters have found that the public hates what "free trade" treaties like NAFTA and letting China into the World Trade Organization have done to our economy and our jobs. So business and administration bigwigs are "re-branding" the hated words "free trade" into "rules-based trade." So expect to be hearing less and less about "free trade" and more and more about "rules-based trade." Don't be fooled.
Free Trade R.I.P.
"Corporate leaders bury "free trade" label," The Wall Street Journal: "They declared support for free trade—rebranded 'rules-based trade' after pollsters Peter Hart and Bill McInturff warned that the phrase 'free trade' had become toxic with voters."
As I said, don't be fooled. If trade agreements do not protect the rights that We, the People fought for, and allow companies to evade the protections brought by democracy -- good jobs, good wages, safe and fair working conditions, the right to organize workers, environmental protections and other "costly" things -- then our government has no businesses agreeing to them. We can negotiate treaties that open up trade without shooting ourselves in the foot, and giving up our good jobs and wages, in order to enrich an already-wealthy few.
Here is what has been going on. In a classic "playing the ref" move, the Chamber of Commerce has been pitching the idea that the Obama administration is "anti-business" because they don't give the big, monopolist, multi-national corporations everything they want. "Playing the ref" is a sports term, the idea being that if you complain enough about the calls a referee makes the referee will feel the need to give your team a few breaks in order to appear to be making fair calls.
So the Chamber, by complaining that Obama is "anti-business," is really trying to get Obama to be even more pro-business. (The same strategy is at work when you hear complaints about the "liberal media." After so may years of this accusation by right-wingers, newsroom editors are terrified of appearing to be left-leaning, resulting in so many right-leaning news stories.)
The WSJ story, Obama's Overture to Business Gets Wary Reception From CEOs, shows how well the Chamber is doing at getting the desired results from playing the administration like a fiddle,
A parade of administration officials—including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, National Economic Council head Larry Summers, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee—sought to reassure about 100 corporate leaders gathered at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Washington that they were eager for business leaders' ideas to revive the economy.
The administration officials continued, in various ways, the overture to business leaders that President Barack Obama launched himself after the bruising midterm election, in which Democrats criticized U.S. multinationals for failing to hire more Americans. They said business tax rates should be lowered. They declared support for free trade—rebranded "rules-based trade" after pollsters Peter Hart and Bill McInturff warned that the phrase "free trade" had become toxic with voters.
The CEOs, in a vote, said the government's top priority should be to foster global trade and create a more business-friendly environment. But CEOs also said uncertainty about government policy on taxes and regulation remained a barrier to unlocking $2 trillion in capital sitting in the treasuries of U.S. non-financial businesses.
The best part of the story is that even though the administration is going all out to be more and more and more and more and more "business-friendly," the CEO crowd wasn't satisfied at all, and wanted more (and more and more and more).
Let's see if this sounds familiar. A conservative-aligned group complains that the Obama administration isn't being fair to them, is asking for too much, is being too partisan, whatever. The Obama administration responds by giving them more of what they want. The conservative-aligned group complains that it isn't enough. The Obama administration gives more, saying, "No, you're wrong about me!" The complaints continue, even increase, and eventually the conservatives all blame Obama for the resulting failures of policy.
Hey, they're going to call you names. Get used to it. It's what they do.
A CBS poll shows that only 6% of the public is concerned about budget deficits or taxes. The rest of us are more concerned about jobs and the economy, with very good reason. The Washington elite are insulated from the pain the rest of us and are focused on the deficit instead of jobs and the economy. This post looks at the consequences of that divide.
In yesterday's post, The Six Percenters, Richard (RJ) Eskow’s lays out the extent of the divide between the DC elites and the rest of the country.
Only 6% of Americans think Congress should concentrate on reducing the deficit or changing the tax code, according to the latest CBS News poll. Nearly ten times as many people, 56%, want it to focus on creating jobs and fixing the economy. Guess which set of policies is the center of attention in Washington right now?
Pick up any newspaper or turn on any news channel and you'll hear a lot of talk about the deficit. But creating jobs and spurring economic growth? Nobody's even discussing it.
Only 6% of the public is concerned about the deficit. The only thing Washington elites are concerned about is the deficit. The rest of us live on the other side of the planet from the people in DC who make the policies. Maybe the other side of the solar system.
You can see how this divide affects policy. There is a “deficit commission” but no jobs commission. There are millions of people needing jobs and millions of jobs that need doing, but Washington won't "spend," even on badly-needed infrastructure investment. People over 50 (laid off because they were paid more or their health care was expensive) can’t find jobs but the DC elite discuss raising the retirement age to 70. The deficit commission proposes cutting back the already-meager “safety net” while cutting tax rates for the really rich even more.
And while all of this goes on the rest of the people in the country are worried about jobs, foreclosures, bills, jobs, wages, jobs, and jobs – the things that matter to regular people. And they are feeling the consequences of the DC/rest-of-us divide.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 14.8 million people are just plain-old unemployed. (Of those 6.2 million people have been out of work six months or more.) Another 2.6 million persons were "marginally attached," meaning unemployed and wanting a job but had not looked in the previous 4 weeks. And another 9.2 million are employed part time but want full-time work.
That is 26.6 million people, 17% of the workforce. Just a stunning number.
On November 30 unemployment benefit extensions expire, unless Congress acts. That means that all state unemployment programs will revert back to no more than 26 weeks of benefits for anyone, no matter their circumstances or the unemployment rate in the state. A Hart Research Associates poll released Nov.15 found that by a majority of 60% to 37%, registered voters support Congress continuing unemployment benefits for workers who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits but still cannot find a job. 63% of independents but only 38% of Republicans support extending benefits. Only 24% of registered voters say that deficits are a reason to cut back unemployment benefits. (Chart source.)
A record 102,134 homes were seized by banks in September, according to RealtyTrac Inc.
Foreclosure filings, including default and auction notices, rose 3 percent from the prior month to 347,420. One out of every 371 households received a notice.
Fewer homes were seized in October, but only because banks had to stop foreclosures because the records fraud scandal came to light.
One in four home mortgage holders is “underwater,” meaning they owe more than the home is worth.
The Greenlining Institute warns that unless immediate action is taken to stem the tide of foreclosures 10-13 million more foreclosures can be expected over the next four years.
According to 2009 figures gathered by the National Coalition for the Homeless, many gathered pre-recession, 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness in a year and on any given night, over 7-800,000 people are homeless. 1.6 million people use transitional housing or emergency shelters.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture 17 million American families had trouble putting enough food on the table at some point last year. Of those 5.6 million had trouble throughout the year.
This has more than tripled since 2008.
The nation's official poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008 — the second statistically significant annual increase in the poverty rate since 2004. There were 43.6 million people in poverty in 2009, up from 39.8 million in 2008 — the third consecutive annual increase.
... As defined by the Office of Management and Budget and updated for inflation using the Consumer Price Index, the weighted average poverty threshold for a family of four in 2009 was $21,954.
According to the CDC, 59.1 million Americans were with no health insurance in the 1st quarter of 2010, up 3 million from 2008. 30.4 million of those were without health care for an entire year.
These numbers are from before the Congress cut off COBRA subsidies for the unemployed.
The recession seems to be socking Americans in the heart as well as the wallet: Marriages have hit an all-time low while pleas for food stamps have reached a record high and the gap between rich and poor has grown to its widest ever.
… In America, marriages fell to a record low in 2009, with just 52 percent of adults 18 and over saying they were joined in wedlock, compared to 57 percent in 2000.
The top-earning 20 percent of Americans — those making more than $100,000 each year — received 49.4 percent of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4 percent made by the bottom 20 percent of earners, those who fell below the poverty line, according to the new figures.
… At the top, the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans, who earn more than $180,000, added slightly to their annual incomes last year, the data show. Families at the $50,000 median level slipped lower.
On each side the divide is so wide you don’t know how things are on the other side.
The Bristol Palin story is like that of a modern day Cinderella as she debuts before millions of viewers on prime time television. Her mother, former Governor Sarah Palin and her advisors are completely brilliant. Thank you very much Frank and Company. This is a media doctor's wet dream. Using Bristol as Cinderella, they have successfully reached into the hearts and minds of everyday folks across the country. Think about it. Is there a better way to seep into the mainstream than reality television? This move is one of the most brilliant tactics of twentieth century political messaging. Sarah Palin becomes the archetype of everyone's mom, and paradoxically her daughter is the modern day rags to riches and success story. Here was a chubby, single mom lifted out of the obscurity of her receptionist job in a strip mall in godforsaken Alaska. It does not get better!
Consider that after the debacle of former Republican leader Tom Delay on the same show, these spin masters were smart. They knew it probably would not have worked out to use Sarah herself. But who could resist her kid? She's likeable, and works very hard for herself and her adorable child. Bristol is the single mom personified. They even show the footage of the storefront from which she was plucked. Oh my, this is every girl's cherished dream sans the out-of-wedlock pregnancy. And momma Palin can just stand back, and watch it unfold. Who could accuse her of manipulation? She was just the proud momma. What better image could there be? Not much and it is working. No wonder her daughter has been voted back each and every week by viewer support - not the judges until one of the final evenings when she showed real talent.
There is something going on here, and we didn't even see it coming. Oh woe is me; I think we have been duped yet again. Somehow, the American public perceives that the Democrats are unfeeling, out of touch with Middle America, and arrogant. How did this happen? We are Middle America! Yet somehow, Sister Palin has her thumb on the pulse. We need to look carefully at the subliminal messaging that is going on, and wonder how and why we could have missed it. Call it what you may, but Sarah Palin and her movement - the Tea Party and their advisors are running circles around us. We are losing the game of public opinion. So it is not proposed that we put the Vice President's son, Beau Biden on Survivor; but rather that we look hard and long at the messaging and how it is being delivered. Further, we need to embrace what it will take for us to reach back out and connect. This is the teachable moment. May we reach out and own it.
Note, this article appeared earlier in the Huffington Post, "Bristol Goes Dancing and Has a Tea Party."
November 13, 2010
Is Obama the "weakest" President? I think this hits the nail: Obama Without Tears by William Greider.
November 12, 2010
This post by Sara Robinson is an important read. Please take the time: Starving the Beast: Ten Things You Can Do To Take America Back | OurFuture.org
Get your life back from the corporations. Ten things you can do.
Businesses do not create jobs. In fact, the way our economy is structured the incentive is for businesses to get rid of as many jobs as they can.
Demand Creates Jobs
A job is created when demand for goods or services is greater than the existing ability to provide them. When there is a demand, people will see the need and fill it. Either someone will start filling the demand alone, or form a new business to fill it or an existing provider of the good or service will add employees as needed. (Actually a job can be created by a business, a government, a non-profit organization or just a person doing the job, depending on the nature of the good or service that is required.)
So a demand creates a job. A person who sees that houses on a block need their lawns mowed might go door to door and say they will mow the lawn for $10. When houses start saying "Yes, I need my lawn mowed" a job has been created!
Demand also creates businesses. The person who is filling demand by mowing lawns for people might after a while have a regular circuit of houses that want their lawns mowed every week, and will buy a truck and a new mower and hire someone to help. A business is born!
Businesses Want To Kill Jobs, Not Create Them
Many people wrongly think that businesses create jobs. They see that a job is usually at a business, so they think that therefore the business "created" the job. This thinking leads to wrongheaded ideas like the current one that giving tax cuts to businesses will create jobs, because the businesses will have more money. But an efficiently-run business will already have the right number of employees. When a business sees that more people are coming in the door (demand) than there are employees to serve them, they hire people to serve the customers. When a business sees that not enough people are coming in the door and employees are sitting around reading the newspaper, they lay people off. Businesses want customers, not tax cuts.
Businesses have more incentives to eliminate jobs than to create them. Businesses in our economy exist to create profits, not jobs. This means the incentive is for a business to create as few jobs as possible at the lowest possible cost. They also constantly strive to reduce the number of people they employ by bringing in machines, outsourcing or finding other ways to reduce the payroll. This is called "cutting costs" which leads to higher profits. The same incentive also pushes the business to pay as little as possible when they do hire. (It also pushes businesses to cut worker safety protections, cut product quality, cut customer service, "externalize" costs by polluting, etc.)
This obviously works against the interests of the larger society, which wants lots of good jobs with good pay. And businesses, while working to cut jobs and pay less, need other businesses to hire lots of people and pay well, because that is what creates the demand that makes all the businesses work.
Government To The Rescue
This is where government comes in. Government is We, the People, working for that larger societal interest. In our current system -- when it works -- we use government to come up with ways to balance the effects of the profit motive -- which pushes for fewer jobs at lower pay -- with our larger need for more jobs at higher pay for us, and for the good of all the businesses. We, through our government, create and regulate the "playing field" on which businesses operate. We set minimum wages, limits on working hours, worker safety rules and other rules designed to keep that balance between profit incentive and demand, and that playing field level. (We also provide the infrastructure of roads, schools, courts, etc. that is what makes our businesses competetive with businesses in other countries. The individual interest in paying less taxes for this has to be balanced with the larger interest that we all pay more for this, but that is another post, titled, "Tax Cuts Are Theft.")
Obviously businesses in our system must be kept from having any ability whatsoever to influence government decision-making in any way, or the system breaks down. When businesses are able to influence government, they will influence government in ways that provide themselves - and only themselves - with more profits, meaning lower costs, meaning fewer jobs at worse pay and not protecting workers, the environment or other businesses. And, they will fight to keep their ability to influence government, using the resulting wealth gains to increase their power over the government which increases their wealth which increases their power over the government which increases their wealth which increases their power over the government which increases their wealth which increases their power over the government which increases their wealth which increases their power over the government ...
Unfortunately this is the system as it is today.
November 10, 2010
So the heads of the "Deficit Commission" have a plan to cut Social Security and cut taxes on the rich by a huge amount? Cut taxes on the rich from 35% (soon to be 39%) down to 23%, while cutting Social Security because we can't afford it? WTF?
Update - And the middle class gives up the home mortgage deduction so the rich can get their taxes reduced?
So much for making nice Mr. President, the gloves are off as the Republican leadership comes out swinging. These folks don’t want to work with you, or your minions or any of us. Just tune into FOX News at any random moment, and the disdain is visceral. And to be blunt, what’s to keep them from starting impeachment proceedings as a tactic to erode your precious time and focus? Not much, if you listen closely to the Senate Republican leadership, the soon to be Speaker of the House, and all the other hooligans over the last few days, and even on the Sunday morning talk shows. Senator Mitch McConnell’s words sure don’t sound like a lullaby to me. Do not be fooled, it may be more than making sure that Obama is a one-term President. These are fighting words: “The only way to do all these things is to put someone in the White House who won't veto...”
And if that’s not bad enough, there’s dissent and discontent (as usual) among our fellow Democrats. The so-called Blue Dog Democrats are acting out by attempting to distance themselves from the prevailing incumbent-rage by attacking now Speaker Pelosi. Have they no shame? This is self-serving hypocrisy at its worst. Not now kids. Go back to your corner and sing “Kumbaya” to keep from shooting off your big mouths at this fragile time. Enough of your ranks have been lost in this recent election. Stop with the posturing, and the “Anti-Pelosi Caucus.” These types of shenanigans only fuel the fires, and distract us from our goals. Please realize that we are under an unprecedented assault from the rabid Republican leadership. They will attempt to sink the Obama ship at any cost.
Democrats (Blue Dogs, Moderates, and Progressives) hunker down. Put a stop to the malarkey from the newly anointed Republicans. This “lame duck” session is vital. We have barely two months to protect Social Security for the elders, unwind Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and fund many, many programs. Consider that the Congress may be deadlocked for two years with very little emerging from gridlock, and Pelosi's steam rolling machine has taken heavy artillery hits. If you feel compelled to beat up on someone or something, go after the bad guys. And pray that all attempts to bring impeachment proceedings against Obama are quashed. This would be a travesty filled with hate and racism from which this country might never recover. Don't let them take our President away.
Note: A version of this article was published earlier today in the Huffington Post.
I have been writing about the Tea Party, and asking what they will do if/when the DC Republicans betray them. CAF has set up a page for the Tea Party Getting Played series. This is the latest in the series.
The Tea Party candidates vowed they would be different, would stick to basic principles and not waver, and not back down.
It is safe to say that Kentucky Senator-elect Rand Paul is one of the leaders of the Tea Party movement. Here is what was on his campaign website, and I want tp put the whole thing here so there is no mistaking what voters were led to believe:
Rand Paul has made a ban on wasteful earmark spending in Washington D.C. one of the key points of his campaign. He has supported Sen. Jim DeMint’s vocal support for an earmark ban and he supports news that House Democrats are even coming around on the idea of a partial ban.
“The Tea Party movement is an effort to get government under control,” Rand said. “I’m running to represent Kentuckians and to dismantle the culture of professional politicians in Washington. Leadership isn’t photo-ops with oversized fake cardboard checks. That kind of thinking is bankrupting our nation. Senator DeMint understands that and has taken action to stop it.”
Rand’s emphasis on reform has ruffled a lot of establishment feathers, but it is clear that the more regular citizens are getting the message every day as his campaign continues to grow.
That's a pretty solid, unequivocal statement, isn't it? That was what Tea Party supports and voters were told. Unequivocal.
Now he is elected. And how is this for equivocating? Rand Paul Suggests He'll Fight For Earmarks He Earlier Promised To Ban:
Less than a week after his election, Kentucky's Senator-elect Rand Paul already appears to be making a rapid departure away from one of his campaign promises: an earmark ban that stood as a conservative cornerstone, a position Paul touted to indicate he was serious about tackling the reckless spending practices of Washington.
Here's what Paul told the Wall Street Journal over the weekend:In a bigger shift from his campaign pledge to end earmarks, he tells me that they are a bad "symbol" of easy spending but that he will fight for Kentucky's share of earmarks and federal pork, as long as it's doled out transparently at the committee level and not parachuted in in the dead of night. "I will advocate for Kentucky's interests," he says.
So, here's the record. While campaigning the new Senator from Kentucky took the Tea Party position against earmarks. But one week after the election he says he will fight for Kentucky's share of earmarks and federal pork. From Tea Party hero to DC Insider in a week! What are the Tea Party supports going to do about it?
And that is the question I have been asking: What will Tea Party members do when their politicians betray them? For decades the game on the conservative side was to campaign against abortion, gays and other "culture war" issues, or appeal to raw fear, but then once in office to ignore those issues and always, always reward the big corporations -- and, oh, yeah, more tax cuts for the rich. Now it looks like the same thing is happening to the Tea Party supporters as well. So what are they going to do about it?
And on the "liberal" side we've seen campaign after campaign promising to do things for the middle class and for labor and for the elderly and for the poor but then once in office reward the big corporations instead. This is a serious question for democracy: what are we going to do about it?
Take a look at the growing list of posts here in the Tea Party Getting Played series.
November 9, 2010
It seems to me that the last year or so in America's political culture has represented the triumph of untruth. And the untruth was propagated by a deliberate, simple and systemic campaign to kill Obama's presidency in its crib.
President Obama lowered taxes. Why doesn't the country know that? Rick Perlstein on how Rush Limbaugh helped mislead a nation—and why the Democrats let him get away with it.
November 8, 2010
November 7, 2010
I have been writing about the Tea Party, and asking what they will do if/when the DC Republicans betray them. CAF has set up a page for the Tea Party Getting Played series. Read the latest in the series: Tea Party Betrayed: Earmarks.
So, how's that new Tea Party Congress working out for Tea Party supporters who expected that the lobbyists were going to be cleared out, the "too-big-to-fail" Wall Street banks brought under control and laws enforced?
The election was Tuesday, and on Thursday the expected new Chair of the House financial services committee warned regulators to lay of Wall Street, particularly Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, and not enforce the "Volker Rule" in the new Wall Street reform law. That's right, told them not to enforce the law.
Spencer Bachus, a potential Republican chairman of the House financial services committee, has fired the first salvo in a battle with regulators – warning them against harming US banks by curbing their trading activity.
. . . Mr Bachus says that a ban on proprietary trading – known as the Volcker rule – ... in the new Dodd-Frank financial reform law will “impose substantial costs on the American economy and market participants” with “doubtful” benefits.
. . . The proprietary trading ban, named after Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman who proposed it, was opposed by most Republicans when it was passed by Congress in June. It also restricts banks’ investments in hedge funds and private equity firms.
Last week, in Tea Party Members VS Tea Party Wall Street Funders, I pointed out that Tea Party supporters expect their politicians to do something about Wall Street bailouts, lawbreaking and "too-big-to-fail" domination of the economy, but Tea Party candidates were receiving a great deal of funding from that very same Wall Street. This set up a potential conflict between Tea Party supporters and Tea Party politicians.
Now that the election is over, we're all just waiting for what we think is coming, and asking: What will Tea Party members do when their politicians betray them?
November 6, 2010
Here is what is very impportant to understand about the "swing" vote: No voters “switched.” That is the wrong lesson. There are not voters who “swing” there is a segment that swings, depending on who turns out.
The lesson to learn: You have to deliver for YOUR part of that swing segment or they don’t show up and vote for you. That is what makes the segment "swing."
Any Democrat politician who thinks ANY conservative will vote for ANY Democrat, no matter how far right they move, is a fool. All that does is cause your voters in that swing segment to turn away from you.
The polling supports this conclusion. Greg Sargent, in Progressives and centrists battle over meaning of indy vote,
Independents are not a monolith, and what really happened is that indys who backed Obama in 2008 stayed home, because they were unsatisfied with Obama's half-baked reform agenda, while McCain-supporting indys turned out in big numbers.
. . . The key finding: PPP asked independents who did vote in 2010 who they had supported in 2008. The results: Fifty one percent of independents who voted this time supported McCain last time, versus only 42 percent who backed Obama last time. In 2008, Obama won indies by eight percent.
That means the complexion of indies who turned out this time is far different from last time around, argues Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. His case: Dem-leaning indys stayed home this time while GOP-leaning ones came out -- proof, he insists, that the Dems' primary problem is they failed to inspire indys who are inclined to support them.
"The dumbest thing Democrats could do right now is listen to those like Third Way who urge Democrats to repeat their mistake by caving to Republicans and corporations instead of fighting boldly for popular progressive reforms and reminding Americans why they were inspired in 2008," Green says.
November 5, 2010
Today's jobs report showed that the economy added 151,000 jobs in October, the biggest rise since May. The 159,000 increase in private sector employment was the second-largest monthly rise of the "recovery." The official unemployment rate stayed at 9.6 percent. NY Times: U.S. Added Jobs Last Month for First Time Since May,
On many levels, the October report was much stronger than expected. Forecasters had been expecting a gain of only 60,000 jobs. The report also revised the numbers for August and September, showing 110,000 fewer jobs losses than previously estimated. Hourly wages were slightly higher, too.
... A broader measure of unemployment, which includes people who are working part-time because they cannot find full-time jobs and people who have given up looking for work, ticked down slightly to 17 percent from 17.1 percent in September.
This might seem like good news -- until you think about it. We are so used to really bad news that new that just sort of OK sounds great. Dean Baker, writing at the Center for Economic and Policy Research,
At this rate it would take more than 15 years to make up the job shortfall from the downturn, but at least the economy is moving in the right direction.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve this week announced "quantitative easing," through which they will pump another $600 billion into the economy by purchasing US treasury bills, also known as "printing money." I guess the idea is to top off and overflow the coffers of the already-wealthy, thereby forcing up the price of stocks and other assets held by the already-wealthy, while keeping interest rates low on the savings of working and retired people. At the same time conservatives in Congress are demanding further extensions of tax cuts for the rich, which did so well stimulating jobs up to now. The thinking seems to be that at some point the really, really wealthy will have so astonishingly much extra cash on hand that they will hire a few more servants, which will then stimulate purchasing of necessities by said servants, which will then drive the economy.
It's time to call out this nonsense for what it is.
We Need A Bold Plan
It is time for the President to announce a BOLD PLAN for a job-creation agenda. (Actually, it was time for him to do this a year or two ago...) Here are three badly-needed 5-year plans:
* A 5-year plan to revive American manufacturing. This is how our country and our people can make a living again.
* A 5-year plan to bring America's infrastructure into the 21st century, making our economy competitive again.
* A 5-year plan to make our homes, buildings and electric grid energy efficient to lower our energy costs and reduce our imports of oil.
These are things that we have to do anyway. We have a lot of unemployed people, and any one of these three plans will put a huge dent in unemployment. Any one of these three revives our economy. Any one of these three restores American competitiveness. ALL THREE restore us as the economy leader in the world.
And, the politics will be good because it is what is needed and good for the country and everyone knows it.
There is no "swing" vote. DIFFERENT independents showed up this time .The Plum Line - Progressives and centrists battle over meaning of indy vote
... what really happened is that indys who backed Obama in 2008 stayed home, because they were unsatisfied with Obama's half-baked reform agenda, while McCain-supporting indys turned out in big numbers.
. . . "The dumbest thing Democrats could do right now is listen to those like Third Way who urge Democrats to repeat their mistake by caving to Republicans and corporations instead of fighting boldly for popular progressive reforms and reminding Americans why they were inspired in 2008," Green says.
November 4, 2010
The "Tea Party" will face many tests when the new Congress convenes next year. Everyone is asking, how long will it take before the Tea Party officeholders are co-opted by the big money insiders? "Free Trade" is one of those tests.
Tea Party members absolutely despise "free trade" agreements that have forced companies to close factories and ship jobs out of the country. They want to see "Made In America" in stores again. But the D.C. insiders, backed by big money from the big, monopolist, multinational corporations, insist on even more of these agreements. Which way will the Tea Party officeholders go?
Next up: the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement. The D.C. insiders want this one bad. Tea Party supporters do not want any more of these job-sucking one-sided agreements. Who will win? Negotiated by Bush, this is another one-sided agreement, letting Korea export like crazy to the U.S., but not addressing non-tariff barriers that Korea places on bringing U.S.-made goods into their country. (Korea places regulatory and tax barriers to limit imports along with tariff barriers that the trade agreement addresses. So in effect we would be removing our tariff barriers on Korean imports, while they keep their other barriers to our exports.)
The Ford Motor Company placed an ad in Washington news outlets today, opposing the Korea agreement:
Ford's concern is autos, but there are many other concerns as well. Take a look at what American beef producers say about this agreement.
This is one more one-sided trade agreement designed to let Wall Street-dominated firms outsource manufacturing and jobs, so they can further squeeze American workers and make short-term profits and bonuses from selling off American capacities and technologies. They are selling off our country's and our people's ability to make a living, to put a few quick bucks in their own pockets.
Trade is good. Honest, free and fair trade brings prosperity to everyone involved. Unfortunately, the kind of one-sided, exploitative trade deals that have been negotiated in the past might have made a few elites very rich in the short term but are impoverishing everyone else. The trick is negotiating better "We, the People" outcomes rather than the "shut up and take it or we'll move your job out of the country" outcomes that have allowed the wealthy elite to set working people here against working people there.
Let's take a look a the military budget, but using conservative framing usually aimed at Social Security. Let's see how the military budget -- currently over a trillion dollars a year if you include related programs -- compares to Social Security using this approach.
The way we understand these things matters right now because the President's "deficit" commission is supposed to issue its report on December 1. Every honest person knows that the deficit is the result of tax cuts for the rich, and huge increases in military spending. Meanwhile Social Security cannot borrow, so it cannot contribute to the deficit. But in order to avoid getting the money from where the money went -- taxing the wealthy and cutting down on the firehose of cash flowing from the Pentagon to certain vested interests -- Social Security is in line to take the fall. No matter that so many people so desperately depend on the meager amounts the program provides. Concerns like that do not seem to matter in this country anymore.
Keep in mind as you read this that Social Security has trillions of dollars saved up in a trust fund, faces no shortfall whatsoever for at least the next 25 years, and even then will have enough coming in to meet most of its obligations. This future shortfall can be fixed with a small increase in the "cap" on income that is used to calculate the amount people pay in. (That's right, you stop paying in as you make more income, so the rich pay in much, much less of their income that the rest of us.)
So here we go, a look at the military budget through Social Security eyes:
The military budget faces "imminent crisis" as revenue from the program does not meet the military outlays.
Actually, unlike Social Security the military budget has never generated revenue to pay for itself. We just pay it out of our taxes.
The military budget trust fund is "just IOUs."
Well, unlike Social Security there is no military budget trust fund. We just pay for the military budget from our taxes. (Note that income from capital gains and dividends is taxed at a very low rate; the wealthiest do not pay for the military budget at the same rate as the rest of us.)
The gap between future spending on military and revenue from the program is enormous.
This is an understatement. Even with no increase in the budget for military and related programs in just the next ten years we will pay out at least $10 trillion more on military programs than the program brings in.
The return we receive from the military program is not as great as if we just put the money into private savings accounts.
True. We receive no return from the military budget. In fact, American businesses are at a competitive disadvantage in the world because they have to shoulder their share of the military budget, while businesses in other countries do not.
The military budget is a "ponzi scheme."
A "ponzi scheme" is a system where the returns are paid from the principal or from new investors. The military budget does not pay returns at all so it is not a "ponzi scheme." (Unlike a "ponzi scheme" Social Security has run a surplus, bringing in more than it paid out, which has been invested in the trust fund.)
The military budget is unsustainable.
The military budget and related programs currently cost over a trillion dollars a year, more than is spent by all other countries on earth combined, and the country is borrowing enormous amounts to pay for that. Is this sustainable?
We should be allowed to opt-out of the military budget.
Interesting idea. Tell me more.
November 3, 2010
Today begins the days of John Boehner, aka the Orange Man. Listen, you can hear his horse approaching. Oh my, it's like a new Marlboro commercial. Guess he and Obama can grab a smoke together outside the Oval Office. Yikes! That's a real Hallmark moment.
Early this morning, Progressive blogger, Dave Johnson extolled the virtues of the Progressive bloggers that "were right," and he and they were correct. "It was about the jobs, jobs, and jobs." But let's be blunt -- there are no jobs; there is no money being loaned; employment is rampant; the banks are paying a whopping 1% interest on savings; and now there is NO hope and the inmates have taken the keys!
Yeah, we know that a loss was anticipated in an incumbent year, but not one that lost hope. Sadly, the American people either stayed home, or voted for the lunatics that were responsible for the situation. Obama and all those Democratic spin masters blew it big time. They allowed the Tea Party -- fueled by Frank Luntz's rhetoric-- to harness this rage and win the day. How the heck did that happen? Now, the every person in this country has just had a profound temper tantrum, and the collateral damage is huge.
Please note that a version of this article was published earlier today in the Huffington Post.
November 2, 2010
The bloggers were right, it was about the jobs, jobs, jobs. For the first half of the year all the progressive bloggers were saying that the November election is going to turn out very, very badly for Democrats if they don't focus on jobs. We said please, please drop this "austerity" nonsense, the only way to cut the deficit is to grow the economy. We were going kind of nuts about it, saying if you don't spend money on jobs the voters will punish you.
But the administration and many in Congress were busy on an "austerity" fad. The "centrists" and the big-media pundits and the rest of the "serious people' were saying we needed to do something about the deficits because "the markets" wanted them to.
So here we are. The bloggers were right (I include Paul Krugman among us), and the voters are punishing the politicians who listened to the same old DC elite pundits and campaign consultants and party insiders who demanded "austerity" cutbacks for We, the People.
For example, May 11, I wrote in It's The JOBS, Stupid! Why DC Elites Don't See This:
People care about jobs. They still care about jobs. And politicians who don't care about jobs will lose their jobs, because that is what motivates voters.
I concluded the May 26 post, Teacher Layoffs Loom Nationwide, DC Restaurants Humming, Jobs & Justice
President Obama has talked about a bold, large scale vision for a new direction for the country. But Congress and the President are getting trapped in austerity budget thinking that won’t allow them to go in the direction of stimulus and helping regular people. If there is to be no money because of an austerity budget then American competitiveness, the economy and the mood of the public can only get worse. Do the DC elites actually believe the public is going to reward this with votes?
The real deficit is jobs. That is one more of those things that everyone can see in front of their faces, but we're told it isn't what it is.
. . . The excuse is that "the markets" will “lose confidence” in us. Apparently we aren't working the salt mines hard enough. "The markets" -- that's the crowd who got in trouble and insisted that the world would end unless we immediately handed over to them all the rest of the money in the world -- will "lose confidence" in our ability to work the mines hard enough, and will cut us off, unless we cut our pensions, sell off (to them) our resources, and promise never to be lazy and make demands for better wages, pensions, workplace safety, and do it now.
August's Where Are The Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs? began:
The economy is stuck. We need jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. Not tax cuts.
Why is it that often the progressives come to a consensus on an issue, while the DC elite, the campaign consultants, the big-media pundits and the "centrist" politicians come to their own different conclusion, and then later it turns out that the progressives were right not just on the policy but on the politics, and the DC-centrist-consultant-pundit class were wrong. This happens time after time after time on the things that matter.
Well, I have to say it: We told you so.
November 1, 2010
How come I haven't seen this chart even once in an election ad?
As an election strategy conservatives blocked or watered down everything they could that might help the economy, hoping voters would blame the President's party for job losses. Tomorrow we will learn if this strategy succeeded. But Wednesday can we start doing things to help the economy and the country again? Please?
Candidates on both sides are running ads asking for fixes to trade with China. Chinese manufacturers are starting to fight, claiming that (now jobless) Americans will have to pay more for goods if they have to adjust their currency toward market rates. But Chinese manufacturers are doing just fine, according to recent surveys, because their government is doing everything it can to stimulate their economy, their manufacturing and their jobs.
Where's our government?
Today’s Progressive Breakfast hilites two stories:
Chinese manufacturers, complaining that their government has adjusted currency too much, tell Americans Christmas will be more expensive. W. Post: "'If the renminbi keeps appreciating, our prices have no more room to drop,' said Cai Qin Liang, 38, who has been in the business making Christmas ornaments and handicrafts for more than a decade. 'We can just stop making these Christmas accessories, but foreigners still celebrate the Christmas holiday and need these things.' It is small manufacturers such as these that the Chinese government says it is worried about as it resists calls for a larger and more rapid appreciation of the currency."
Yet Chinese manufacturing doing just fine, buoyed by stimulus. AP: "Chinese manufacturing accelerated in October with spending on infrastructure projects spurring a jump in new equipment orders even as export demand remained subdued, surveys showed Monday."
What kinds of things is the Chinese government doing to help its manufacturers? Earlier this year I wrote, in Lessons From China's Stimulus
China's stimulus brought them through the economic crisis, even as they lost some exports because of the slowdown. They made the leap into alternative energy technology, spent $100 billion just for high-speed rail, and showed the world how fiscal stimulus works. Their growth rate is currently 13%. Ours is currently ... nowhere near 13%.
. . . So their stimulus totaled about 14% of their GDP. Our own stimulus was $862 billion in a $14 trillion economy, or about 6%. The differences between the priorities of the two plans are clear when seen on charts.
. . . China focused on investment in public infrastructure, which leads to future economic growth. We are mired in conservative ideology so we focused on tax cuts, which do little more than increase our debt.
. . . Quick lessons:
- China spent serious money, quickly. It worked.
- China focused on infrastructure. It worked.
- China has a national economic/man manufacturing strategy and invests in R&D and developing strategically important industries. We don't.
- Don't cut taxes, it only causes massive yearly deficits and accumulated debt.
Frank Sobatka describes one of the main reasons for the problem: