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February 28, 2011

Typical Conservative Tricksters

Why are so many conservative "arguments" really just tricks, trying to fool people?

See American Thinker: Bush or Obama: The Quiz

4. Bush was criticized for excessive federal spending and running up huge deficits. Bush's deficit in 2008 was the largest in history. In fact, President Obama said,
It's a little hard for me to take criticism from folks about this recovery package after they've presided over a doubling of the national debt ... What I won't do is return to the failed theories of the last eight years that got us into this fix in the first place.
Whose deficit was more than triple the size of the other's: Bush's in 2008 or Obama's in 2009?
The correct answer? The 2009 budget, with its 1.4 trillion deficit, was also Bush's. The 2009 budget year began in September 2009, before the election. The "stimulus" had barely started b ythe end of that fiscal year. This according to the Cato Institute.

This is what so many "conservatives" are made of. At least Cato Institute showed integrity.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:12 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Crappy Jobs Caused By Plutocracy And Austerity

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

There are good jobs and there are crappy jobs. There are burger-flipping jobs and there are skilled trades and professions. There are jobs that pay well and have benefits and jobs that don’t.

There is even the job you had, now paying less, with no benefits.

Much of the post-recession job growth is at low end. Many "better" jobs not at the low end pay less and offer fewer benefits than they used to. So the middle class continues to fall. The "economic divide" -- the gap between the top few percent and the rest of us -- continues to accelerate, pushed by the recent continuation of tax cuts for the wealthy, stock bubble-pumping from the Fed, and ongoing attacks on labor. And now, in particular by "austerity" budgets in the states and the pullback of stimulus and other programs from the federal government.

If you are desperate you’ll take any job, and the "austerity" idea -- cutting taxes for the rich and using the resulting deficits to force cuts in unemployment, services, things government does for We, the People -- forces people to be desperate enough to do just that. At the same time, it is cutting the number of jobs and the possibility that the economy will ever create more.

Why Crappy Jobs? Plutocracy and Austerity

Why isn't the economy rebounding and producing lots of good jobs? The answer has two parts: plutocracy and austerity. Plutocracy forces the money and power to the top, and that power forces austerity measures on us to remove even more money and power from the rest.

Plutocracy: Fundamental changes brought in by the Reagan Revolution have come home to roost, shifting almost all of our economy's income growth to a few at the top, while pitting working people around the world against each other. The forced decline of labor unions has left people on their own against giant corporations.

This video shows what it is like to negotiate on your own, up against companies with billions in resources:

Austerity: The second part of the crappy-jobs, slow-growth equation is austerity. Tax cuts for the wealthy have resulted in huge budget deficits, defunding government's power to protect regular people. The plutocracy uses these deficits as an excuse to force budget cuts, "spending down" our infrastructure by deferring maintenance and modernization, cutting back on education, cutting back on basic scientific research and cutting back in many other areas thereby reducing our economic competitiveness. But they're doing fine today, so they don't care about how this hurts the rest of us tomorrow.

Austerity cuts back economic growth. This week a Goldman Sachs report says that the proposed budget cuts passed by the House shave a couple percent off of economic growth. Goldman Sachs Says GOP Budget Plan Will Hurt Economy

A Goldman Sachs economist has warned that the $60 billion package of spending cuts proposed by the Republicans to counter President Obama's proposal could slow economic growth.

The cutbacks will also hurt employment. Center for American Progress this week, in Cuts In House GOP’s Continuing Resolution Could Drive The Unemployment Rate Up One Full Point,

Earlier this month, the Economic Policy Institute released a report finding that the $100 billion in discretionary spending cuts that the House GOP passed last weekend would result in the loss of nearly one million jobs. “Cuts of this magnitude will undermine gross domestic product performance at a time when the economy is seeing anemic post-recession growth,” wrote EPI’s Rebecca Theiss.

Another report this week shows how state and local cuts are also shaving growth. And who can be surprised by that? When you lay off thousands of teachers and other government workers, this causes a ripple effect to grocery, clothing and other stores. It causes even more foreclosures. AP: State spending cuts slow US economic growth in Q4,

The government's new estimate for the October-December quarter illustrates how growing state budget crises could hold back the economic recovery.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that economic growth increased at an annual rate of 2.8 percent in the final quarter of last year. That was down from the initial estimate of 3.2 percent.

. . . State and local governments, wrestling with budget shortfalls, cut spending at a 2.4 percent pace. That was much deeper than the 0.9 percent annualized cut first estimated and was the most since the start of 2010.

The Effect On People

This "austerity" craze -- cutting taxes for the rich to force cuts in the things government does for We, the People -- is threatening to destroy even the small amount of job creation we are getting. And what is the human effect?

A report from the Coalition on Human Needs titled, A Better Budget for All: Saving Our Economy and Helping Those in Need shows that millions of Americans would suffer from the proposed budget cuts:

At a time when 14 million people are out of work, the House approach to the federal budget fails those who are struggling most, according to a new report by the Coalition on Human Needs for the SAVE for All campaign.

The report draws a sharp contrast between the president’s budget for next fiscal year and the House plan for the remainder of this year, although it also notes serious concerns with elements of the president’s budget. It shows how the proposed budget cuts would both harm individuals and damage the country’s fragile economic recovery. The House plan includes the largest cuts, on an annualized basis, in domestic appropriations funding in history.

An Expanding Economy Fixes This

Cutbacks shrink the economy. And expanding economy provides good jobs with good pay and benefits and fixes budget deficits. We want an expanding economy for We, the People, not tax cuts for the rich and cutbacks on the things government does for We, the People. Tax cuts and austerity provide an opportunity for a few to cash out and take off, but does not provide for the rest of us.

March 10 Summit on Jobs and America's Future

On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

Free. $15 with lunch. Register here.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

A Joke To Send To Right-Wing Relatives

A unionized public employee, a member of the Tea Party and a Big Corp CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table there is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the tea partier and says, "Look out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 25, 2011

Story of Citizens United Coming March 1

The Story of Citizens United v. FEC -- Coming March 1!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:21 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Ideology Over All

What strikes me about this interview, "Koch Execs Respond To Prank Call: We Will Not 'Back Off' | TPMMuckraker, is that an executive of a company would see his opposition as "the left" and the right as "we."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:46 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 24, 2011

We Didn’t Have Any Of These Problems When The Top Tax Rate Was 90%

Deficits
Huge national debt
Massive debt-interest payments
Extreme concentration of wealth
Unfunded public-employee pension liabilities
Corporate business models operating for the quick buck instead of for the long term

The list goes on and on. Add to it in the comments.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:40 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

Plutocracy Charts

Go see: It's the Inequality, Stupid | Mother Jones

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:34 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 23, 2011

Griftopia

I am reading Griftopia by Matt Taibbi. This is a book you have to read to understand what happened in 2008. But you'll be angry and youwill wonder why no one is being prosecuted.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:10 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

What Is The Real Agenda Of The Budget-Cutters?

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

What is the real agenda of the budget-cutters? Are they really trying to bring the country back from the edge of financial ruin? Or did they bring about the appearance of a borrowing crisis to create a public panic that enables them to impose "solutions" that change the very nature of our country -- while doing little about the borrowing?

In the news this week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker "ginned up" a budget crisis, then introduced legislation that removes collective bargaining rights from public employees, and over time effectively destroys their unions. Similar measures have been introduced by Republican governors or legislatures in several other states.

This legislative attack on public employees follows more than a year of "preparing the ground" with a coordinated campaign from conservative organizations to convince the public that public employees are overpaid and that their pensions are "bankrupting" state governments -- not the effects of the recession.

In the news soon, the coming strategic "shutdown" of the federal government by Republicans. After decades of forcing through tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, again and again -- most recently just a few weeks ago -- Republicans and corporate conservatives are engaged in a national campaign promoting the belief that there is a "deficit crisis." Their solutions involve gutting the things government does for We, the People like consumer, health, safety, labor and financial, retirement and income protections, while keeping things the government does for corporations and the wealthy "off the table."

We see variations of the same formula over and over. Here is how it works:

1) Cut taxes for the rich and corporations (corporate stock is mostly owned by the top 1%); big deficits result.
2) Claim a deficit emergency and use their domination of corporate-owned media to whip the public into a panic, creating the appearance of demand for corporate-approved "solutions." Manipulate the appearance of consensus.
3) With taxes and military “off the table” push through cuts in the things government does for We, the People.

Repeat as often as needed to create a plutocracy.

Today's "debt crisis" is the culmination of the long-term "starve the beast" strategy from an organized corporate-conservative movement. By cutting taxes for the wealthy they have starved the government, created massive debt (guess where the interest payments go) gutted the infrastructure, and put our country on the road to third-world status. This conservative movement has an agenda, and is not interested in working out "bipartisan" compromised.

In an example in the news this week, a hoax call, purported to be from David Koch, one of the billionaire-industrialists helping fund the conservative movement and major funder of efforts to make it appear that Wisconsin is having a budget crisis. In the hoax call, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker clearly understands that he and Koch are in engaged a joint effort, describing a Democratic Senator who could work with him as "not one of us."

Koch: Now you’re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?

Walker: Ah, I—there’s one guy that’s actually voted with me on a bunch of things I called on Saturday for about 45 minutes, mainly to tell him that while I appreciate his friendship and he’s worked with us on other things, to tell him I wasn’t going to budge.

Koch: Goddamn right!

Walker: …his name is Tim Cullen—

Koch: All right, I’ll have to give that man a call.

Walker: Well, actually, in his case I wouldn’t call him and I’ll tell you why: he’s pretty reasonable but he’s not one of us…

Elsewhere in the call Walker and faux-Koch talk about whether "planting troublemakers" would "work" or not.

In another example of the self-awareness of this strategy: On public radio's Marketplace, February 22 Vincent Vernuccio of the Koch/conservative movement/corporate front-group Competitive Enterprise Institute discusses how the real agenda of the state actions is to destroy unions and their ability to fight corporate power politically, not to solve budget problems. (Note, he was not identified on the show as funded by conservative/corporate interests and Koch.)

VINCENT VERNUCCIO: Union bosses want to inflate these budgets so they can get more members, so they can get more dues. And in turn, they take that dues money they have and give it to politicians who are going to give them more favors in the future.

Several states are considering bills that would allow workers to opt-out of a union. Again, Vincent Vernuccio.

VERNUCCIO: The main focus of this isn't just the budget cuts. It's actually giving workers the right to say no to the union if they so choose.

Professor Bruno also sees broader implications for the debate. Since union money helps support the Democratic party, he argues changes in collective bargaining could shake up the political landscape far beyond the Midwest.

These are just two small examples, in the news on the same day, showing the difference between the public pronouncements of concern for the country and a private agenda to fool the country. It is one thing when responsible leaders disagree on the best way to solve the country's real problems. It is quite another thing when organized wealth pursues a strategy to scare the country into handing over our remaining wealth and power.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:58 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 22, 2011

Dirty Hippies

Dirty Hippies

I'll explain later...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:50 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

State Labor Attacks -- Not Just Wisconsin

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

The attack on public-employee unions in Wisconsin is in the news because of the large Egypt-style turnout of supporters at the state capital (70,000 on Saturday!), and the dramatic theater effect of Democratic Senators leaving the state to delay a vote on the measure, and give the public time to rally.

Today the rallies are spreading to other states where public employees are under attack.


Wisconsin

After "ginning up" a budget deficit with tax cuts and breaks for corporations, Governor Scott Walker introduced a "Budget Repair" bill that strips public employees of collective bargaining rights. The bill, however, exempts firefighters and police, whose unions supported Walker's candidacy.

Over the weekend 70,000 people flooded the capital in Madison to protest the governor's plan to eliminate collective bargaining rights. The State's Democratic Senators remain out of the state, continuing to delay a vote on the bill.

Power Plant No-Bid Sale: On another front it came to light that the "Budget Repair" bill also contains a provision allowing the sale of the state's power plants on a no-bid basis. The most likely beneficiary would be Koch Industries, which already has pipelines and coal operations in Wisconsin. Control of power plants gives them an in-state, top-to-bottom vertical chain. Koch was a major supporters of Governor Walker's candidacy as well as being the group that is promoting the budget hysteria, busing the Tea Party supprters to the state capital for counter protests. The Koch Brothers are also a primary funder of ALEC, the organization that wrote the budget bill the outlaws collective bargaining and enables the sale of the state power plants on a no-bid basis to ... Koch Industries.

This appearance of a quid-pro-quo raises the question whether this is a deal to repay Repubican backers, quietly giving huge wealth public assets to the Koch Brothers.

See also: Top 5: Why Wisconsin Matters To You

Ohio

In Ohio Gov. John Kasich introduced a bill to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights. Unlike Wisconsin this bill strips right from all public employees.

NY Times: Thousands Gather to Protest Bill in Ohio

Protestors packed into Ohio’s State Capitol building and several thousand more gathered outside on Tuesday, as its legislature planned new hearings on a bill that would effectively end collective bargaining for state workers and dramatically reduce its power for local workers, like police officers and firefighters.

Indiana

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels introduced anti-union "Right To Work" legislation to strip public and private unions from being able to collect dues from members. Other bills remove collective bargaining rights from teachers, as well as implementing a voucher program in opposition to public schools.

Indiana Democrats flee state to protest anti-union bill

Indiana Democrats are reportedly joining their Wisconsin counterparts in staging an exodus from their state to protest a new union-busting Republican measure.

Only two of Indiana's 40 House Democrats showed up for a session Tuesday morning, precluding Republicans from attaining the votes needed to proceed on motions. The rest are fleeing to Illinois to stage a walkout...

Only 58 lawmakers were present, falling short of the 67 required for a quorum.

Michigan

In Michigan the Republican legislature introduced anti-union measures allowing cities and schools to terminate labor union contracts, eliminate required binding arbitration for police and fire departments and repealing "prevailing wage" laws.

Tennessee

In Tennessee Republicans in the legislature are finalizing a bill to remove collective bargaining rights from teachers. A march is planned for Saturday in the state capital.

Iowa

In Iowa Governor Terry Branstad says the state's labor laws are too friendly to unions and is asking for,

“veto power” over state worker pay and benefit agreements, giving the governor and legislators authority to reject negotiated union contracts which legislators or the governor find unacceptable.

Branstad also wants health care benefits for state workers to be set by the governor and legislators and no longer be part of contract negotiations.

Florida

In Florida the legislature is considering a bill, SB 830, that prevents union dues from being deducted from paychecks, and prohibiting dues from being used for political activity without written consent. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, however, sides with labor on this one,

"My belief is as long as people know what they're doing, collective bargaining is fine," Scott said in an interview with Tallahassee's WFLA FM radio station.

Join With Labor

The AFL-CIO has an action page up:

Stop Attacks on Working Families

Corporate CEOs spent more than $1 billion to elect politicians and now they want pay back. Recently elected politicians in many states are already saying “thank you” by pushing dangerous legislation that attacks workers.

Please add your name to our petition urging state legislators to stop attacks on workers—we’ll deliver your signature to your state legislators.

March 10 Summit on Jobs and America's Future

On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

Free. $15 with lunch. Register here.


Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

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

February 19, 2011

Fairness Doctrine

I was listening to an NPR show about the civil rights movement in Mississippi, and how the FCC forced a radio station to put Medgar Evers on the air for 15 minutes to respond to a White Citizen's Council smear. That is what the Fairness Doctrine was about and the civil rights movement is an example of the difference it made.

The Republicans got rid of the Fairness Doctrine under Reagan. And now you will never hear someone from a union talking about the benefits of being a union member. Ever.

And now they are getting rid of NPR, so you won't even be able to hear that it used to be different.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:41 PM | Comments (9) | Link Cosmos

Feb 26 Nat. Day Of Action

Go see US Uncut at http://www.usuncut.org Spread the word.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:11 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Simple and Obvious

1) Cut taxes for the rich; deficits result.
2) Claim deficit emergency.
3) Cut the things government does for We, the People.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 18, 2011

Blaming Social Security For Deficits Is Like Blaming Iraq For 9/11 (And Unions In WI)

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

Isn't it funny how the corporate conservatives always offer the same solutions to every problem? Even when the solution doesn't really have much to do with the problem? Iraq didn't attack us, and Social Security doesn't have anything to do with deficits. But the "solution" to 9/11 was to attack Iraq, and the proposed "solution" to deficits is to "fix" Social Security. And the "solution" to state budget crises is to get rid of public employee unions. Why?

Got a crisis? A tax cut will fix it. Getting rid of unions will fix it. Privatizing Social Security will fix it. And gutting government solves everything. Doesn't even matter what the problem is!

"Nothing is more important in the face of war than cutting taxes" - Tom DeLay, 2003

Iraq And 9/11

Remember when everyone was in panic about Iraq? IA bunch of Saudis working with an organization based in Afghanistan attacked us on 9/11. The solution immediately offered by the corporate right was to invade Iraq, increase military spending and ... cut taxes!

We were told that Saddam was getting ready to attack us with anthrax, smallpox, more terrorists and even nukes. Etc. On and on. How many different stories did we hear in the "runup" to the war of "shock and awe" that has cost so many lives and more than a trillion dollars? Let's teach "those people" a lesson. It will be "a cakewalk" and will "pay for itself."

The thing is, invading Iraq was a pre-packaged solution waiting for an excuse. When the excuse came, they ran with it. It's what they do. We should learn from this.

They have a number of pre-packaged solutions" on the shelf and when a crisis pops up -- or when they can create one -- the "solutions" pop out of the box, ready to go.

Always A Crisis

Isn't it funny how these "crises" keep coming up? People whipped into a panic, over and over (and over and over.)

Right now people are whipped into a panic about the deficit crisis. The "solution?" Gut the things government does for regular people, including Social Security (which by law cannot borrow, so can't cause deficits._ They are even going to force a government shutdown -- another crisis. Meanwhile the huge military budget is "off the table." All this right after they just passed more tax cuts for the rich.

Social Security is in "crisis?" People are in a panic. Everyone "knows" we have to "fix" it. We are told this over and over and over and over. (The "crisis" is that in 2037 it will have a shortfall, and might have to cut benefits. The solution to the crisis of a cut in benefits is to cut benefits.)

State budgets are in crisis? People are in a panic. Solution? Blame unions and worker pensions (and cut taxes.) That's what's happening in Wisconsin. And Ohio. And Indiana. And Missouri. And New Hampshire. And Michigan. And Minnesota. And other states, many not even limiting the attack to public-employee unions.

Corporate/Conservative Pre-Packaged "Solutions"

How often do you see the same solutions offered up for any given problem? Tax cuts for the rich, gut government, get rid of unions, privatize Social Security, etc. (And more tax cuts for the rich.) When something shocking happens the right always has ready-to-go, pre-packaged solution waiting in the wings that they offer to fix the problem.

Take Wisconsin for example. They ginned up the appearance of a budget crisis, got everyone worked up, and wham-o, introduce a bill to kill public-employee unions, gutting worker pay and pensions and their ability to do anything about it.

But in fact, like so many of their "solutions" this was something they already wanted to do, and were just waiting for the opportunity to push it through, or creating the crisis to bring about the opportunity to push it through.

These pre-packaged "free-market" "solutions" are not what the public wants, but are always forced through before anyone can react. They don't solve problems, just make the rich richer at the expense of the rest of us.

The Solutions Never Work -- For US

When the public is worried, stirred up, hopefully to the point of panic you put in your pre-arranged "solution" and start getting them stirred up about the next problem you will "solve." And those conservative solutions never seem to work out.

The deficits get worse, wages don't go up, retirement gets harder... This is because the real purpose of these "solutions" -- cut taxes, cut what government does for regular people, get rid of unions, privatize social security and for good measure cut taxes more -- are not to solve the problem they were offered up to fix. They have another purpose: make deficits worse, make wages stagnate, make retirement harder...

It always, always, always comes down to a simple formula: more (and more) to the rich at the expense of everyone else.

PEOPLE WANT JOBS

People want jobs.

Cutting Social Security doesn't create jobs.

Getting rid of unions doesn't create jobs.

Gutting the things government does for We, the People won't create jobs.

Cutting taxes certainly doesn't create jobs.

Where are the corporate/conservative job-creation solutions? There aren't any.

March 10 Summit on Jobs and America's Future

On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

Free. $15 with lunch. Register here.


Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:47 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

WI Dems Show Right Way To Filibuster

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


In Wisconsin the Governor and Republican majority are trying to strip state employees of the right to collective bargaining. The are literally trying to "ram through" in a very short time, out of nowhere, a bill that removes employee rights.

The Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate had one recourse: just leave. There are not enough members of the Wisconsin Senate to hold a vote if none of the Democrats are there, so in a dramatic move they left the state. And it is making news.

This short post by Thers at Atrios' Eschaton blog sums it up:

Hey, remember how for the past couple of years the Republicans routinely and shamelessly and without precedent used a parliamentary gimmick to enforce a non-Constitutional supermajority in the United States Senate?

Keep in mind those shenanigans whenever you're told that the Wisconsin State Senate Democrats are opposed to "democracy."

Exactly right. This is how it should be done. The Democrats in the Wisconsin legislature are engaged in a delaying action to give the public a chance to express their opinions on how this should proceed. This is what a filibuster is supposed to do. It is not supposed to be an easy, silent "parliamentary procedure" that lets a minority just block everything, as Washington Republicans have been doing. It is supposed to be rare, dramatic, a show, something to rouse public interest, giving the public a chance to weigh in.

In the post Filibuster: Make Them Talk

Making them talk would be good for democracy, because the public will be able to see that a dramatic event is taking place. Just as in the movie, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, the public will have a chance to rise in support of the effort, or let Senators know they oppose it.

Making them talk all night gives the public an opportunity to rally, one way or the other. It also, frankly, puts on a show, which will engage the public, restoring interest in government. This is good and we should do it.

Unlike so many in Washington, Wisconsin Democrats are showing they have a spine. They are showing that they understand democracy and how public opinion can be moved. They are showing us all how to stand up for ourselves!

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:45 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Republicans Cut Jobs, Keep Oil Company Tax Breaks, Don't Cut Military!

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

As you read this, remember what Republicans did just a few weeks ago to force huge tax cuts for the wealthy, adding as much as $900 to budget deficits. Also, keep in mind that we spend more on military than every other country combined.

People Want Job Creation Not Cuts

Finally, keep in mind that polls show the public wants job creation, and does not want cuts in the things government does for We, the People. On the Campaign for America's Future website front page under "THE PULSE" you can see the results of a poll, showing significant majorities reject cuts in various programs. (Other polls show broad public support for increasing taxes on the wealthy.)

What the public wants, the public doesn't get. This isn't about what the public wants. It certainly isn't about jobs. And, right after increasing the deficits with huge tax cuts for the wealthy, this is not about cutting deficits, either. It certainly isn't about governing or the public interest. This is about one thing only: gutting the hated government.

They Campaigned Against Cuts

In the midterm elections campaign ad after campaign ad asked voters to reject Democrats because they had cut Medicare! They campaigned against Democrats for "cutting $500 billion from Medicare" and not increasing Social Security cost-of-living. As a result, for the first time the senior vote went to Republicans.

Job-Killing Cuts -- "So Be It"

Instead, now in office, Republicans are cutting jobs programs, cutting government jobs, cutting aid to states to keep jobs, and cutting government infrastructure programs that create jobs.

No Cuts In Military?

TPM: Boehner's Spending Cuts Would Kill 1 Million Jobs,

According to federal budget expert Scott Lilly at the Center for American Progress, Boehner's proposed spending cuts could kill almost 1 million jobs.

WSJ: GOP Presses Biggest-Ever Budget Cut,

In early action on the bill, which would cut domestic programs by $61 billion this year, Republicans showed little appetite for making cuts in the Pentagon. The House rejected four amendments to cut defense programs, including one small cut to get rid of some Pentagon advisory commissions.

. . . The Republican bill would cut spending in domestic non-entitlement programs such as high-speed high-speed rail construction, water projects and job training far more deeply and quickly than President Barack Obama and most Democrats favor. The White House issued a veto threat immediately after the bill came to the House floor.

Shutdown?

NY Times: House G.O.P. Pushes $61 Billion in Cutbacks

The current stopgap measure financing the government expires March 4. If the House and Senate are unable to come to an agreement before then or if the financing is not extended temporarily, federal agencies could be shut down. ...

Even as Democrats attacked proposed cuts to programs that help economically struggling Americans and to initiatives involving education, the environment, housing and employment, Republicans lined up to make deeper reductions. The first amendment offered was a proposal to eliminate more than $18 million from the Pentagon budget. ...

But the proposal was defeated on a vote of 223 to 207 and other initial efforts to make deeper reductions failed as well.

Running Through A Hospital With A Machete

Instead of considering how to govern, they are just gutting. No consideration is being given to the value of programs, or the long-term cost of cuts, it is just a frenzy of cutting for the sake of cutting.

LA Times: Criticism mounts as GOP presses ahead with budget cuts,

. . . Criticism mounted at the start of a House debate as Democrats took aim at GOP plans to maintain tax breaks for oil companies and the wealthy while cutting medical research, community policing and funding for "Sesame Street"...

. . . Still, GOP leaders said the rollback was necessary, even at the expense of thousands of jobs funded by government programs on the chopping block.

"If some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it," said House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). "We're broke."

. . . The liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute has estimated as many as 800,000 jobs could be lost under the Republican proposal.

. . . The GOP reluctance to cut Pentagon spending became apparent as voting began, when an amendment to cut $18 million in Defense Department operations and maintenance was rejected. [emphasis added]

We Need A Movement For Jobs

We have a jobs emergency. People need jobs. The public is demanding that our government address jobs. But this is not what is happening in Washington. We, the People have got to get heavily involved now and apply the necessary pressure to force Washington to act for jobs.

March 10 Summit on Jobs and America's Future

On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

Free. $15 with lunch. Register here.


Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:43 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 16, 2011

It's A Really Bad Time to Be Middle Class

It’s a really bad time to even be middle class in this country, and forget about being poor. The only way to be protected is to be very wealthy: then you are guaranteed that your house is safe, your medical care is covered, and your children will have a future. It’s that bad, and not one bit of this is subtle.

There is a class war underway in this country. The rich, or those that represent their interests, and corporations want control. Dave Johnson, blogger for the Campaign for America’s Future, nailed it when he wrote that: “This budget fight is about a stark choice: jobs and growth for We, the People, or going down the road of plutocracy -- rule by the super-rich and big corporations -- with little or nothing left over for the rest of us.”

This is the power grab of our generation playing out in Obama’s budget. It reflects true entitlement for the super wealthy. The government revitalization of the “too big to fail” banks was only the tipping point. Of course, the bankers deserved their bonuses. Remember that you heard it here. The battleground is not about the so-called entitlement programs espoused by the Democrats. Social Security, and other such programs are not the culprits; they are the scapegoat for the real agenda.

Obama is being forced to rip open the social fabric of this country to reduce the Bush generated debts. In the President’s proposed budget, most social programs will be ravaged left and right (no pun intended). Yes admittedly, this budget is a massive jobs creation machine. But watch out – don’t get sick folks or have an on-the-job accident because there will little if any safety net. Certainly, we all know about health care reform, yet if Speaker Boehner and his boys have their way -- that too will be reduced to a hill of beans and severely compromised. The fight for survival of the middle class and the poor has been ratcheted up a notch. Strap in folks, this is class warfare.

Note, this will also appear in the Huffington Post.

Posted by Michelle at 12:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 14, 2011

Nine Pictures Of The Extreme Income/Wealth Gap

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

Many people don’t understand our country’s problem of concentration of income and wealth because they don’t see it. People just don't understand how much wealth there is at the top now. The wealth at the top is so extreme that it is beyond most people’s ability to comprehend.

If people understood just how concentrated wealth has become in our country and the effect is has on our politics, our democracy and our people, they would demand our politicians do something about it.

How Much Is A Billion?

Some Wall Street types (and others) make over a billion dollars a year – each year. How much is a billion dollars? How can you visualize an amount of money so high? Here is one way to think about it: The median income in the US is around $29,000, meaning half of us make less and half make more. If you make $29,000 a year, and don’t spend a single penny of it, it will take you 34,482 years to save a billion dollars. . . . (Please come back and read the rest of this after you have recovered.)


What Do People Do With SO Much?

What do people do with all that money? Good question. After you own a stable of politicians who will cut your taxes, there are still a few more things you can buy. Let’s see what $1 billion will buy.


Cars

This is a Maybach. Most people don’t even know there is something called a Maybach. The one in the picture, the Landaulet model, costs $1 million. (Rush Limbaugh, who has 5 homes in Palm Beach, drives a cheaper Maybach 57 S -- but makes up for it by owning 6 of them.)

Your $1 billion will only buy you a thousand Maybach Landaulets.

Here are pics of just some of Ralph Lauren’s collection of cars. This is not a museum, this is one person’s private collection. You don't get to go look at them.


Luxury Hotels

This is the Mardan Palace Hotel in Turkey, Burj Al Arab in Dubai.

Here is a photo gallery of some other expensive hotels, where people pay $20-30,000 per night. Yes, there are people who pay that much. Remember to send me a postcard!

A billion dollars will buy you a $20,000 room every night for 137 years.


Yachts

Le Grand Bleu - $90 million.

Some people spend as much as $200 million or more on yachts.

You can buy ten $100 million yachts with a billion dollars.


Private Jets

Of course, there are private jets. There are approx. 15,000 private jets registered in the US according to NBAA. (Note: See the IPS High-Flyers study.)

This is a Gulfstream G550. You can pick one up for around $40 million, depending. Maybe $60 million top-of-the-line.

Your billion will buy you 25 of these.


Private Islands

If the rabble are getting you down you can always escape to a private island.

This one is going for only $24.5 million – castle included. You can only buy 40 of these with your billion.


Mansions

This modest home (it actually is, for the neighborhood it is in) is offered right now at only about $8 million. I ride my bike past it on my regular exercise route, while I think about how the top tax rate used to be high enough to have good courts, schools & roads and counter the Soviet Union and we didn't even have deficits.

I ride there but that neighborhood is not like my neighborhood at all. While there is one family in that house, I live closer to the nearby soup kitchen that serves hundreds of families. One family in a huge estate and hundreds at a soup kitchen roughly matches the ratio of wealth concentration described below.

Here are a few nearby homes up for sale.

You can buy 125 houses like this one with your billion.


Luxury Items

Here is an article about ten watches that are more expensive than a Ferrari.

The one in this picture costs more than $5 million. You can buy 200 of these with your billion.


Medieval Castles

Just for fun, this is Derneburg Castle. Do you remember the big oil-price runup a few years ago that too the price of a gallon at the pump up towards $5? One speculator who helped make that happen got a huge bonus paid with government bailout money. He owns this castle. He has filled it with rare art. You can’t go in and see any of the rare art.

Click here to see the layout in an aerial view. That’s as close as you're going to get, peasant.


Let's Go Shopping

So you say to yourself, "I want me some of that. I’d like to place the following order, please."


  • One Maybach Landaulet for $1 million to drive around in. (Actually to be driven around in.)

  • One $100 million yacht for when I want to get seasick.

  • One Gulfstream G550 private jet for $40 million.

  • One private island for $24.5 million (castle included) for when I want to escape the masses.

  • One $8 million estate for when I have to go ashore and mingle with the masses (but not too close.)

  • One $5 million watch so I can have one.
  • Total: $178.5 million.

My change after paying with a billion-dollar bill is a meager $821.5 million left over. I might be hard up for cash after my spending spree, but I can still stay in a $20,000 room every night for 112 and 1/2 years.

So, as you see, $1 billion is more than enough to really live it up. People today are amassing multiples of billions, paying very little in taxes and using it in ways that harm the rest of us.


How Extreme Is The Concentration?

Now you have a way to visualize just how much money is concentrated at the very top. And the concentration is increasing. The top 1% took in 23.5% of all of the country’s income in 2007. In 1979 they only took in 8.9%.

It is concentrating at the expense of the rest of us. Between 1979 and 2008, the top 5% of American families saw their real incomes increase 73%, according to Census data. Over the same period, the lowest-income fifth (20% of us) saw a decrease in real income of 4.1%. The rest were just stagnant or saw very little increase. This is why people are borrowing more and more, falling further and further behind. (From the Working Group on Extreme Inequality)


Income VS Wealth

There are a few people who make hundreds of millions of income in a single year. Some people make more than $1 billion in a year But that is in a single year. If you make vast sums every year, after a while it starts to add up. (And then there is the story of inherited wealth, passed down and growing for generation after generation...)

Top 1% owns more than 90% of us combined. "In 2007, the latest year for which figures are available from the Federal Reserve Board, the richest 1% of U.S. households owned 33.8% of the nation’s private wealth. That’s more than the combined wealth of the bottom 90 percent." (Also from the Working Group on Extreme Inequality)

400 people have as much wealth as half of our population. The combined net worth of the Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans in 2007: $1.5 trillion. The combined net worth of the poorest 50% of American households: $1.6 trillion.

wealth1

Corporate wealth is also personal wealth. When you hear about corporations doing well, think about this chart:

wealth2

The top 1% also own 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The top 10% own 90.3%.


Worse Than Egypt

In fact our country's concentration of wealth is worse than Egypt. Richard Eskow writes,

Imagine: A government run by and for the rich and powerful. Leaders who lecture others about "sacrifice" and deficits while cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy. A system so corrupt that rich executives can break the law without fear of being punished. Increasing poverty and hardship even as the stock market rises. And now, a nation caught between a broken political system and a populist movement that could be hijacked by religious extremists at any moment.

Here's the reality: Income inequality is actually greater in the United States than it is in Egypt. Politicians here have close financial ties to big corporations, both personally and through their campaigns. Corporate lawbreakers often do go unpunished. Poverty and unemployment statistics for US minorities are surprisingly similar to Egypt's.


The Harmful Effect on The Rest Of Us

This concentration is having a harmful effect on the rest of us, and even on the wealthy. When income becomes so concentrated people who would otherwise think they are well off look up the ladder, see vastly more wealth accumulating, and think they are not doing all that well after all. This leads to dissatisfaction and risk-taking, in an effort to get even more. And this risk-taking is what leads to financial collapse.

Aside from the resultant risk of financial collapse, the effect of so much in the hands of so few is also bad psychologically. People need to feel they earned that they have earned what they have, and develop theories about why they have so much when others do not. Bizzare and cruel explanations like Ayn Rand's psychopathic theories about "producers" and "parasites" take hold. Regular people become little more than commodities, blamed for their misery ("personal responsibility") as they become ever poorer.

Teddy Roosevelt, speaking to the educators about "False Standards Resulting From Swollen Fortunes," warned that while teachers believe their ideals to be worth sacrifice and so do non-renumerative work for the good of others, seeing great wealth makes people think that obtaining wealth is itself a lofty ideal,

The chief harm done by men of swollen fortune to the community is not the harm that the demagogue is apt to depict as springing from their actions, but the effect that their success sets up a false standard, and serves as a bad example to the rest of us. If we do not ourselves attach an exaggerated importance to the rich man who is distinguished only by his riches, this rich man would have a most insignificant influence over us.

Societies that are more equal do better. In the book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett make the case that great inequality harms us physically as well as spiritually, and the these harmful effects show up across society. The book examines social relations, mental health, drug use, physical health, life expectancy, violence, social mobility and other effects and show how inequality worsens each.


Influence Buying

There is a problem of the effect on our democracy from the influence that extreme, concentrated wealth buys. In the book Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson make the case that the anti-democracy changes we have seen in America since the late 1970s that led to intense concentration of wealth and income are the intentional result of an organized campaign by the wealthy and businesses to use their wealth to, well, buy even more wealth.

The secretive Koch Brothers are said to have a net worth of $21.5 billion each and are particularly influential. They financed the Tea Party movement and along with big corporations and other billionaires they financed the massive assault of TV ads in the midterm elections that helped change the makeup of the Congress. And now Congress is paying them back,

Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group — Americans for Prosperity — to oppose the Obama administration's proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. Of the six GOP freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group's separate advertising and grassroots activity during the 2010 campaign.

... Republicans on the committee have launched an agenda of the sort long backed by the Koch brothers. A top early goal: restricting the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Kochs' core energy businesses.


We Must Address This

We owe it to ourselves to come to grips with this problem. We owe it to democracy to begin taxing high incomes and inheritance again. We owe it to future generations to use a temporary wealth tax to pay off the debt.

Resources

The Working Group on Extreme Inequality explains why inequality matters in many more ways, and is well worth clicking through to study. They also have a page of resources for study with links to other organizations. Also, spend some time at Too Much, A commentary on excess and inequality because it is "Dedicated to the notion that our world would be considerably more caring, prosperous, and democratic if we narrowed the vast gap that divides our wealthy from everyone else." The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a Poverty and Income area of research with good resources. The Center for Economic and Policy Research has a research section on Inequality and Poverty.


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Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:32 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

China Trade Gap Breaks Record, Destroys Jobs

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


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Did you see the Chrysler Super Bowl ad? Advertisers understand that Americans are hungry to be able to buy American-made goods again. And economists understand that the only way to truly recover from the economic doldrums is to expand our manufacturing base.

Compare that with today's news: US trade deficit widened by 33% in 2010, and especially: Record 2010 trade deficit with China,

The 2010 annual trade figures for the U.S. were released today. They show a $497 billion trade deficit in goods and services, including a new record $273 billion goods deficit with China.

Instead of getting the message and seeing the warning it's back to the same old same old as fast as we can.

Scott Paul, of Alliance for American Manufacturing, has this to say about that:

"A record trade deficit with China does not put us on a path to win the future. It will be hard to get our unemployment rate down if our trade deficit keeps going up. And while I am all in favor of doubling exports, it is a meaningless benchmark unless we also bring down our trade deficit. Instead, our global trade deficit is growing at an alarming and unsustainable rate.

"China now accounts for 75% of our overall non-petroleum goods deficit, yet I have seen little attention paid to it from this Administration, and even less from the new majority in the House of Representatives.

Washington talks about this but doesn't seem to be able to actually do anything about it. Last week: Treasury gives China a pass on currency manipulation.

The AFL-CIO blog says it plainly and clearly: Stopping Currency Manipulation Would Create U.S. Jobs,

Economists from across the spectrum agree that currency manipulation distorts trade and exacerbates our unsustainable trade deficits. Putting an end to currency manipulation is an issue that unites business and labor, farmers and ranchers and Republicans and Democrats. Action by our government to put an end to this destructive illegal activity is long overdue.

Once again, some in the Congress will try to do something about this: US lawmakers try again for China yuan bill,

A bipartisan group of 101 U.S. lawmakers in the House of Representatives launched a new bid on Thursday to pass legislation aimed at pressuring China to let its yuan currency rise in value.

The same proposals cleared the House last year but died in the Senate. If approved this time, they would clear the way for the Commerce Department to treat currencies deemed to be undervalued as an illegal subsidy under U.S. trade law.

That would allow companies, on a case-by-case basis, to seek higher countervailing duties against imports from China that compete with U.S. production.

U.S. congressional anger at China over what lawmakers see as deliberate undervaluation of the yuan, also called the renminbi, was fanned anew last Friday by a Treasury Department decision not to declare China a currency manipulator.

Here is the Chrysler ad:

"This is the Motor City and this is what we do." "A know-how that runs generations deep in every last one of us."

OK I am from the Detroit area, and even worked at Ford for a while. My grandfather worked in the first GM offices in Flint. This ad made me tear up. Seriously. And I know that people all over Michigan feel that way. It's a stupid, manipulative commercial, but it taps into something that is very deep. People are saying, "finally corporate America (the America that counts) is talking about us instead of them."

Here is Toyota, trying to say the same thing:

People are hungry for a change. Washington needs to hear that.

March 10 Summit on Jobs and America's Future

On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

Free. $15 with lunch. Register here.


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Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:18 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Same Old, Same Old Destructive Economy

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

Will DC wake up and smell the real economy?

In DC and Wall Street the economy is just fine. In fact it couldn't be better. Corporate profits and the stock market, after all, are way up -- the Fed has worked it's bubble-pumping magic yet again! And if you are in that top few percent that has significant holdings of stocks this, of course, is all you need to know. But for the rest of us, not so much. But who cares about the rest of us?

The financial collapse should have been a warning -- a message to change course. Instead we're back on the same destructive course. Bubbles, scams, corporate predation with huge bonuses incentivising even more scams, environmental destruction, all the income gains going to a top few, politicians purchased, and massive trade deficits (esp with China) all cooked up in a soup with, of course, tax cuts for the rich with budget cuts for the rest and more and more of the rest of us invisibly dropping off the bottom end.

The financial collapse was a warning and it has gone unheeded. Very little has changed and likely has gotten worse because Wall Street knows the government will bail them out. Marketplace, in a story about Fannie and Freddie, summed it up:

If you shift that fully to the private sector, you'll kind of get the worst of all possible worlds, I imagine. In that you won't have the support for the housing market, you won't have as much lending to the lower-income people. In the meantime, though, you'll still have the excessive gambling on Wall Street with smart investment bankers knowing fully well that if institutions get too big to fail, and the losses come, the taxpayer will be there to bail them out.

So there will be a next time. And next time it will be much worse than this time.

Recovery? Really?

They say the economy is recovering -- so why are interests rates at zero? Not only that but the Fed is busy with "quantitative easing" which is sort of a way to lower interest rates below zero.

Why is the trade deficit back up to the stratosphere? That means things are even worse, not better.

How many foreclosures and "underwater" mortgages are being ignored in order to pretend the economy is recovering? How many bank balance sheets are playing "pretend and extend?"

How many people are un- and underemployed? How many people are dropping out of the labor force because they just give up, every month? How many people are losing unemployment benefits because they have been unemployed 99 or more weeks?

That is not "recovery" it is denial.

Why Don't We Learn?

Do we learn anything? Are we past the point of being able to address our problems? Kim Cranston of TransparentDemocracy wonders if we as a species are capable of solving problems on the scale we have created,

H.G. Wells said "History is a race between education and catastrophe." Current events suggest that education may be losing that race. ...

Dee Hock, the Founder and CEO Emeritus of Visa Inc, recognized some time ago that most of the "problems" we think we have "are symptom not disease. At bottom, we have an institutional problem, and until we properly diagnose and deal with it, all societal problems will get progressively worse."

Continuing to expect our institutions to resolve the "problems" that their "solutions" are in fact compounding may fit Albert Einstein's definition of insanity: "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." As Einstein observed: "The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them." It is time for us to consciously evolve our institutions to a higher level from which they can solve the problems they are now creating - the survival of our civilizations, and perhaps our species, depends on it.

March 10 Summit on Jobs and America's Future

On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

Free. $15 with lunch. Register here.


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Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:11 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 10, 2011

Republicans Are CUTTING Jobs Programs!

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

The country has been waiting for the promised action on jobs and unemployment since the new Congress came in. Nothing yet. We've had the show-vote on health care, we've had abortion, we've had silly conservative fluff bill after sily conservative fluff bill, but nothing at all on the important issue: JOBS!

Instead we get quite the opposite: they are cutting programs that create jobs, and programs that help people who are out of work. 3.9 million people ran out of unemployment benefits last year. (Remember when they refused to keep unemployment benefits going, unless they got tax cuts for the rich? It's just more Tax Cuts For The Rich, Painful Cuts For The Rest.)

Now they are cutting assistant for workers displaced by the bad trade deals that encourage outsourcing. GOP Reveals Plan for Deep Cuts to EPA, Job Training and More,

Republicans unveiled a budget plan today for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year that would give billions less than President Obama would have liked to programs like the Environmental Protection Agency, federal job training, high speed rail development and more.

High-speed rail projects don't create jobs? And when complete they don't boost the economy forever after, creating even more jobs? Huh?

Lost Your Job To Outsourcing? Too Bad!

One particular job area is the bipartisan program for workers who lose their jobs due to outsourcing from trade deals like NAFTA. Not only are they pushing more NAFTA-style trade deals, they are getting rid of the only programs in place to help the workers who lose their jobs. This is bubbling up from the "make-them-work" element of the right, that sees citizens as nothing more than "the help."

The AFL-CIO blog explains:

The House leadership continues to show its “blatant lack of concern for American workers who have lost their jobs because of unfair trade deals,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said today. In the latest bold move against working people, House leaders abruptly refused to schedule a vote yesterday on extending expiring Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) programs.

TAA programs, which enjoyed bipartisan support in the past, provide aid and training to workers who lose their jobs or see their hours or wages reduced due to unfair trade deals and increased imports.

What You Can Do

The AFL-CIO has launched a campaign telling the Congress that We, the People demand they continue these programs:

On Tuesday, House Republicans—under the leadership of House Speaker John Boehner—abruptly refused to schedule a vote to renew help for victims of outsourcing.

The expiring program—called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA)—provides financial help and training for workers who lose their jobs or see their hours or wages reduced due to outsourcing, offshoring or increased imports.

Sign our petition to House Speaker John Boehner. Demand that House Republicans help workers who have been displaced by unfair trade deals like NAFTA. (We’ll also copy your representative).

March 10 Summit on Jobs and America's Future

On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

Free. $15 with lunch. Register here.


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Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 9, 2011

Discover The Network Out To Crush Our Public Workers

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

It is difficult to read, watch or listen to the news without hearing that public employees are paid too much and get “lucrative” pensions and this is “bankrupting” your state, county or city. Public officials are "in bed" with "union bosses" and state and local government; taxpayer dollars are wasted to pay for people who don’t do much work but live the good life. "Reports" and "studies" confirm this.

People hear the same story over and over and over and over, seemingly coming from everywhere: public employees have it good, with extravagant pay and "lavish" or "plush" pensions, while taxpayers are taking it in the shorts. Public-employee pensions are "bankrupting" the state/county/city. "Unfunded liabilities" are "out of control" and it is time to do something about it before it is too late.

This is part of a broad, nationwide attack on public employees and their unions, and through them, on government and democracy itself.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the nature of this constant attack in a post, Conservatives Claim Unions Caused NY Snow Jam.

After the record-breaking snowstorm in New York in late-December, the media ran with a story claiming that the reason the snow was not cleared was because of a slowdown by unions. My post showed the progression of the story from one conservative outlet to another, until it reached the mass media. I wrote,

The right's propaganda machine begins with a simple narrative, repeats it endlessly, and then ties current events to the narrative to drive the point home. The corporate/conservative right are currently working a narrative that public employees and their unions are the reason for state and local budget problems. This is repeated endlessly, and every current event that hits the news is then used to support the claim. This is how an untruth becomes "conventional wisdom."

. . . The story claims the unions did this to protest budget cuts. Of course the obvious cause of the snow mess was that budget cuts caused the problem because there were not enough people employed to clear the snow.

"Noise Machine"

The way the right's "noise machine" works is that a story gets started somewhere and is amplified by the right-wing media machine that includes FOX, Limbaugh and scores more talk-radio hosts, blogs, newspapers and magazines. And in this case, of course the story is being spread by ... FOX, Limbaugh and scores more talk-radio hosts, blogs, newspapers and magazines. The idea is to create enough "noise" that the mainstream press picks up the story.

It Was A Hoax

In fact, the recent “union snow slowdown” turned out to be a hoax. But it fit an ongoing narrative, so it was used to help drive the anti-public-employee-union point. And it was repeated endlessly, everywhere. Laura Flanders, writing at The Nation, Setting the Story Straight on Snow 'Slowdown',

The freshman councilman, who has Tea Party support, now says that workers “were subtly informed there was no need to rush” while clearing snow, rather than explicitly told to slow it down.

A Distraction From The Real Problems

These state pension reform campaigns across the country come at a time when so many states are in a terrible budget squeeze and are looking for solutions. This storyline diverts public attention from the real culprits. Of course, the obvious solution is to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share, and to cut back on tax breaks, subsidies and “incentive programs” for corporations. The campaign attempts to distract voters from the obvious and lead them to different conclusions, including:

1) Don’t raise state taxes, cut public employee pensions instead.
2) Public employee unions are strangling us and keeping the budget high.

The story also diverts the public from asking where all that pension money went. Right when people should be blaming the financial industry and the financial crisis they caused for state pension shortfalls, up come these studies and PR tactics blaming public employee pensions and unions.

The fact that this is happening in several states, from organizations linked in many ways, with similar language, similar tactics, quoting the same “studies”, from organizations with similar boards, etc. suggests this is a coordinated strategy, designed to have the appearance of popular uprising.

In One State

This is a brief look at one small part of a state "pension reform" campaign that is occurring in California.

Here is the smallest of examples of the daily barrage of the anti-public-employee campaign: two letters to editor on one day in a recent San Jose Mercury News

Pension overhaul must be part of any tax deal

Labor groups such as Service Employees International Union and the California Labor Federation are threatening lawmakers who refuse to support a ballot initiative to raise or extend certain taxes with a negative ad campaign. They further warn that if new and higher taxes are not approved, K-12 education programs will face further cuts. I find it interesting how they move the focus of the debate from the real problem, public sector pension programs. These pension programs, not our present tax structure, are robbing our children of educational funds. All Californians, whether Democrat, Republican or independent, would be foolish to vote for any increase or new tax until public sector pensions are replaced with contributory 401(k) plans for new employees.

Big pensions help California? Really?

[A person's] claim that "California public retirees put back $2 into the economy for every $1 they receive in pensions" should come as welcome news to taxpayers fuming over the state's hundreds of billions of dollars of unfunded pension liabilities (Letters, Feb. 3). Beyond showing immense gratitude for this bountiful effect on our economy, taxpayers need to go further, and mandate that all public retirees be given a minimum pension of, say, $1 million annually. All this extra money sloshing around our economy will solve our woes in short order, and will have the added benefit of eliminating the need for public employees to "pension spike" their final year of employment.

Most newspapers around the country likely have similar letters on almost any given day.

A bigger example of the campaign, closer to its source, came in a January 18, 2011 LA times op-ed, Pension reform or else, that talks of “retirement scandals” in which a fire chief gets a $200,000 pension, and tuition increases that will go to cover “pension debt.” It also scares readers about huge pension obligations, attempting to make people think that public employees enjoy lucrative pensions while the rest of us receive very little.

A tip-off that helps us understand the agenda underlying this op-ed comes when the author declares: “Although the public employee union bosses will fight to retain them, financially unsustainable pension benefits must end.” Whenever you hear someone refer to "union bosses" you know something is going on under the surface. From the op-ed,

Taxpayers are often shocked to learn that they are paying 100% of the cost of pension and retiree healthcare benefits for many public employees. When employees must contribute their own money toward their retirement, they generally opt for benefits they can afford, and if workers are given the opportunity to opt out of retiree healthcare benefits, many will continue to work until they are covered by Medicare. Delaying retirement just five years would, on average, cut pension costs in half.
The author is identified as “Marcia Fritz ... a certified public accountant and president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing pension reform in the state.” While Fritz’s organization is named “California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility” (CFFR) their website is actually named California Pension Reform.

CFFR’s Board of Directors, includes Jack Dean, Vice President.

Following Threads

Jack Dean's name is on this page as a link. If you click the link it takes you to the website of an organization named Pension Tsunami, "a project of the California Public Policy Center." From the website,

The oncoming wave of pension debt is even bigger than it seems. The purpose of this website is to provide an overview of the multiple pension crises that are about to drown America's taxpayers. Our primary focus is on California, but we also track other states, corporate pensions, social security and international trends. PensionTsunami.com is a project of the California Public Policy Center.

Who Is CPPC?

So just what is this California Public Policy Center? From their website:

The mission of the California Public Policy Center is to promote the gathering of reliable and accurate information about the impact unions have on the local, state, and national level, to inform the public about such impact, and to carry on other charitable and educational activities associated with this goal, as allowed by law.

Ah, it's about unions, not pensions. Aside from Pension Tsunami, CPPC also administers: UNIONWATCH

UnionWatch was established in 2010 as a project of the California Public Policy Center to conduct research and provide information resources to voters, members of the press, educators and policymakers on the impact of unions on government budgets, government accountability, the economy and the democratic process. While UnionWatch endeavors to report and analyze national and international impacts of unions, the emphasis is on the impact of public sector unions, especially in California.

Interestingly, the site declares that "UnionWatch is a Nonpartisan Effort." We'll see.

The CPPC Board of Directors includes Mark W. Bucher, Esq., who also founded the Education Alliance,

a group dedicated to assisting school board candidates who are independent of education unions, as well as authoring, qualifying, and chairing the 1998 Proposition 226, which would have required unions to receive permission to use their members’ dues for political purposes.

Bucher also oversaw the qualification of the 2000 Proposition 38, a school choice initiative, and currently serves as the treasurer of the Orange County Republican Party and the Orange County Lincoln Club.

A bit of time on The Google also finds that Bucher is on the Board of Family Action Pac which launched an anti-union ballot initiative: Here is the summary, which provides a pretty good description of what this initiative will accomplish, if passed:

Makes Illegal the Use of Public Employee Wage Deductions for Political Activities.

Amends the California Constitution to make it illegal to deduct from wages or earnings of a public employee any amount that will be used for political activities as defined. Prohibits any membership organization that receives public employee wage deductions from using those funds for any political activities ...

Also on the Board is Robert W. Loewen, President of the Republican Lincoln Club of Orange County author/editor of "The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader".

Anti-union, vouchers, Republican Party and neo-confederates. And just three guys. Where does pension reform fit in this mix? Pension Tsunami and UnionWatch -- according to the website this is all the California Public Policy Center does. Not a lot of "public policy" going on at this "public policy center." Interesting.

Exploring further, one group of links at the Pension Tsunami website is a list of "think tanks" they want readers to visit:

PensionTsumani: THINK TANKS

Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions

Calvert Institute

Cato Institute

Claremont Institute

Commonwealth Foundation (PA)

Empire Center for New York State Policy

Heartland Institute

Illinois Policy Institute

Independent Institute

Ludwig von Mises Institute

Manhattan Institute

National Center for Policy Analysis

Pacific Research Institute

Pensions Institute [UK]

Pew Charitable Trusts

Reason Foundation

RetirementReform.org

Rio Grande Foundation

Rockefeller Fiscal Studies

Sierra Environmental Studies Foundation

The Free Enterprise Nation

Yankee Institute

Exploring The Links

It is worth exploring some of these related “Public Policy Institutes.” Let's pull some threads and see what we find.

The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, in Kentucky, describes itself as a “free-market think tank.”

The Bluegrass Institute runs Freedom Kentucky which has a section on Public Pensions where you can find into "related to pension reform, Pension Reform Legislation, the teachers retirement system, and much more..."



The Calvert Institute (for Public Policy) is in Maryland, describing itself as a, “public policy research institution committed to generating new ideas based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government and personal responsibility.”

Just a few things from their website:


  • G. Liebmann, "Pensions Dig Us Deeper into Debt", Baltimore Examiner, 2008-09-28

  • Editorial, Pair of Think Tanks Issue Warning on Pensions, Baltimore Sun, 2008-10-30

  • J. Malarkey, Market Worsens Public Pension Crunch, Baltimore Examiner, 2008-10-31

  • Hit and Run Politics: Baltimore City and Maryland State Pensions: A Short History, George W. Liebmann 2010-09-30


The Cato Institute, "dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace," warns regularly about The Increasing Burden of Government Employees on Taxpayers and Public Sector Unions and the Rising Costs of Employee Compensation.



The Claremont Institute says public employees are Neither Civil Nor Servants,

Will a deep recession, mounting fiscal crises, and new revelations of gross abuse finally lead citizens to say "Enough!" to unionized public employees who have amassed power and benefits at the expense of the common good?



The Commonwealth Foundation, in Pennsylvania. Their website says they work to, "demonstrate the societal benefits of individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government so that key decision makers in Pennsylvania embrace them."

The Commonwealth Foundation discusses Union Pension Bailout & Generational Theft and warns that "Pennsylvania's largest public pension plans ... are severely underfunded."

Commonwealth Foundation Directors:

Board Chair Michael W. Gleba.
Treasurer of The Carthage Foundation (Scaife)
Executive Vice President of The Sarah Scaife Foundation
Board Member, Allegheny Institute for Public Policy

Mr. Matthew J. Brouillette (President & CEO):
On an advisory committee for the New York City-based Atlantic Legal Foundation.

T. William Boxx is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Phillip M. McKenna Foundation.

Frederick W. Anton III, Pma Capital Corp

Glen Meakem | Conservative Talk Show Host

Staff:
Charles F. Mitchell is Vice President and COO of the Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives. ... Previously, he was a program officer at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and an intern at the Heritage Foundation. Charles is a graduate of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation's Associate Program, the Mackinac Center's Leadership Conference, and the Claremont Institute's Publius Fellows Program.



The Empire Center for New York State Policy is a project of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. The Empire Center warns that "New York’s Exploding Pension Costs" are "threatening to divert scarce resources from other essential public services in the midst of a fiscal crisis."

Empire's parent, the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research is “shaping American political culture and developing ideas that foster economic choice and individual responsibility.” If you visit Manhattan Institute you will learn How Public Unions Took Taxpayers Hostage, that Public Workers Feel No Pain In Recession, N.Y. Public Workers Thrived Amid Misery, Obama Puts Public Sector Employees Ahead of Private Sector, A Cautionary Tale About California's Budget-Busting Public-Sector Unions and much, much more!

Chairman of the Board Paul E. Singer, founder and CEO of hedge fund Elliott Management Corporation.

Vice Chairman Michael J. Fedak. On National Council of The American Enterprise Institute (which asks Public-Pension Deficits: How Big? Can They Ever Be Paid?)

Roger Hertog, chairman of the board of Alliance Captial Management Corporation (valued at about $100 billion)

Charles H. Brunie, also a Trustee of the Hudson Institute, an “organization dedicated to innovative research and analysis that promotes global security, prosperity, and freedom.” (Note: The Hudson Institute warns about Union Pensions at Risk as well as Decrying the Union Pension Bailout Bill.)

Charles H. Brunie started Oppenheimer Capital in 1969

The rest of the board is largely hedge fund, capital management, securities, etc...



The Heartland Institute, "free-market solutions to social and economic problems," offers a handy guide to The State Public Pension Crisis: A 50-State Report Card.



The Illinois Policy Institute is “dedicated to supporting free market principles and liberty-based public policy initiatives for a better Illinois.“ The IPI warns us that "Illinois faces a staggering $83 billion in unfunded public pension liabilities" and their blog wants to know "Will You Bail Out Pensions?"

Board:

Bill Becker co-founded The Maine Heritage Policy Center, an “organization whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise; limited, constitutional government; individual freedom; and traditional American values–all for the purpose of providing public policy solutions that benefit the people of Maine.” (Note: the Maine Heritage Policy Center warns us about "The Cost of Doing Nothing: Maine’s Pension Payments are Crowding Out Other Spending."

Steve Brown of Code Hennessy & Simmons (“CHS”), a Chicago-based private equity firm.


Terry T. Campo served as National Chairman of the Young Republicans from 1989 to 1991.

John Tillman, CEO serves on the boards of the Sam Adams Alliance and Sam Adams Foundation. Prior to his time with Sam Adams, he served as president and director of Americans for Limited Government. (ALG Urges Congress to Reject $100 Billion Handout to Public Employee Unions.)

Dick Weiss is a Core Equity senior portfolio manager at Wells Capital Management.



The Free Enterprise Nation too a Pension road trip: From Montana to Prichard, Alabama



The Yankee Institute is a “free market think tank” in Connecticut with a financial-services-industry-heavy board that warns that the $100K Pensions Club Includes 299 State Retirees. (FYI it is largely university chancellors, deans, professors, med school instructors.)

“Government workers receive compensation and benefit packages that are much more generous than those available to private sector workers,” said Fergus Cullen, Executive Director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy.



The Pacific Research Institute has a mission to “champion freedom, opportunity, and personal responsibility for all individuals by advancing free-market policy solutions.”

The Director of PRI's Journalism Center wrote a book called, "Plunder: How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation."



The Reason Foundation writes about Public Employees vs. the Public Will and warns Public Employee Unions Are Sinking California.



RetirementReform.org Clicks through to National Center for Pollicy Analysis page on Common Sense Retirement Policy which advocates "reform" for Social Security. But never fear, NCPA elsewhere warns about "Unfunded Liabilities of State and Local Government Employee Retirement Benefit Plans" and says PUBLIC EMPLOYEE PENSIONS ARE A TICKING TIME BOMB

NCPA's Board includes a number of people from the financial industry, private equity, holding companies, etc.



The Rio Grande Foundation "is a research institute dedicated to increasing liberty and prosperity for all of New Mexico's citizens. We do this by informing New Mexicans of the importance of individual freedom, limited government, and economic opportunity." They warn, New Mexico's Government Pension Problem: 3rd Worst in the Nation.

Cookie-Cutter Think Tanks

This is all from pulling the threads just a little bit that come from just one op-ed on pension reform. I didn’t go into the funding of these organizations or look at what else they are doing, other associations, etc. These are just a few of the network of conservative "institutes," etc. around the country. Just a very few. (Here is a list of 185 organizations purporting to be conservative state think tanks, a list of 40 conservative national organizations with state networks and a list of 306 organizations purporting to be conservative national think tanks and 65 conservative "family policy" organizations. There are other lists with other criteria.)

As you follow these threads you discover layer upon layer of corporate/conservative front groups, masking their activities and funders with more layers of front groups. They all have similar mission statements, have similar people on their Boards with similar backgrounds, cover the same issues the same way, and even use remarkably similar language. They seem to be not just connected but interconnected. The sheer number of these similar "think tanks" make it appear that there must be a machine somewhere that stamps these things from a template. That machine is named “Scaife/Coors/Koch…” (Please read also and spend some time here.)

These corporate/conservative organizations are very good at manipulating the media and public opinion -- it is their purpose. Their "experts" are well paid and always available to talk to reporters, appear on TV and radio shows and write articles and opinion pieces for newspapers, blogs and for their network of similar organizations. Their "reports' and "studies" reach the conclusions that fit the strategy, and are crafted to sound just right. And there are so many of them! The result is development of "conventional wisdom" about what is going on in our society. This is why that conventional wisdom more and more reflects the corporate/conservative line. And right now the corporate conservative line is that we should think that public employees and their unions are responsible for state and local budget shortfalls.

Part II looks at some of the "studies" and "reports" and pulls more threads.


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Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 7, 2011

Cute

This is cute:

Paddington,

But why is it cute? What is it about dogs? Esp sleeping dogs?

P.S. his name is Paddington.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:34 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery

Old pirates, yes, they rob I;
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.
But my hand was made strong
By the 'and of the Almighty.
We forward in this generation
Triumphantly.
Won't you help to sing
This songs of freedom
'Cause all I ever have:
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
'Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look? Ooh!
Some say it's just a part of it:
We've got to fullfil the book.

Won't you help to sing
This songs of freedom-
'Cause all I ever have:
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs.
---
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our mind.
Wo! Have no fear for atomic energy,
'Cause none of them-a can-a stop-a the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Yes, some say it's just a part of it:
We've got to fullfil the book.
Won't you have to sing
This songs of freedom? -
'Cause all I ever had:
Redemption songs -
All I ever had:
Redemption songs:
These songs of freedom,
Songs of freedom.

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

Obama To Chamber: Be Patriotic And Move Jobs Back To America

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

President Obama today appealed to the patriotism of the members of the Chamber of Commerce to begin investing in America again, to begin bringing factories and jobs back and to begin sharing the gains of our economy with the American people.

Saying that we cannot go back to the economy and culture we saw before the recession, the President reminded business leaders that the pre-recession period was a time when growth and gains and productivity did not translate into rising incomes for working people. He asked business leaders to take responsibility for thinking about how we make sure everyone has a stake in trade, increasing exports and rising productivity, "So ordinary folks see their standard of living and income rise as well."

We can’t go back to the kind of economy and culture that we saw in the years leading up to the recession, where growth and gains in productivity just didn’t translate into rising incomes and opportunity for the middle class. That’s not something necessarily we can legislate, but it’s something that all of us have to take responsibility for thinking about. How do we make sure that everybody’s got a stake in trade, everybody’s got a stake in increasing exports, everybody’s got a stake in rising productivity? Because ordinary folks end up seeing their standards of living rise as well. That’s always been the American promise. That’s what JFK meant when he said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Too many boats have been left behind, stuck in the mud.

Speaking of a "virtuous circle" the President asked companies to invest in hiring American workers,

...[make] ... investments made now that will pay off as the economy rebounds. And as you hire, you know that more Americans working will mean more sales for your companies. It will mean more demand for your products and services. It will mean higher profits for your companies. We can create a virtuous circle.
.

The President said that as a government we will help lay the foundation for businesses to grow, innovate and succeed. We will update the infrastructure, transportation, education system and remove barriers to business growth. But he said he wanted to be clear that even as we remake the foundations, businesses have a responsibility to America.

We invest in the infrastructure, so innovation should lead to companies and jobs here, and manufactinrg here. Doing otherwise breaks the social compact and makes people feel the game is fixed and they are not benefiting.

We also have a responsibility as a nation to provide our people with -- and our businesses -- with the fastest, most reliable way to move goods and information. The costs to business from outdated and inadequate infrastructure is enormous. And that’s what we have right now -- outdated, inadequate infrastructure. And any of you that have been traveling to other countries, you know it, you see it, and it affects your bottom lines. That’s why I want to put more people to work rebuilding crumbling roads, rebuilding our bridges. That’s why I’ve proposed connecting 80 percent of the country with high-speed -- to high-speed rail, and making it possible for companies to put high-speed Internet coverage in the reach of virtually all Americans.

The idea is supposed to be that we gain from the investment we make in laying down those foundations for businesses: Intel pioneers the microchip and puts thousands to work here. Henry Ford put people to work here. And then those folks buy here, and the economy works for everyone. A virtuous circle.

The President said that America can compete. Caterpillar is building a new plant in Texas. In Tennessee Whirlpool opening its first US plant in more than a decade. Companies are bringing jobs back to our shores. Now is the time to invest in America


Appeal To Patriotism

The President appealed to the patriotism of the Chamber. "I know you love this country and want America to succeed just as badly as I do, we are all Americans. It is that sense of patriotism that has carried us through harder times than this."

The President pointed to past partnerships between big business and government. At the end of 1930s, FDR formed a new partnership with business to build the "Arsenal of Democracy." Roosevelt reached out to businesses, and business leaders answered the call to serve their country.

After years of working at cross purposes, the result was one of the most productive collaborations between the public and private sectors in American history. Some, like the head of GM, hadn’t previously known the President, and if anything had seen him as an adversary. But he gathered his family and he explained that he was going to head up what would become the War Production Board. And he said to his family, “This country has been good to me, and I want to pay it back.” I want to pay it back.

He said we have faced tumultuous moments of change and we know what to do: Rise to this occasion, come together, adapt.

Perhaps this will be a turning point, and the huge multinationals and financial giants that make up the Chamber's primary backers will begin to support America and Americans again.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:48 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

The Chamber Of Commerce Is Anti-Business

President Obama is speaking today to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The press is reporting this as an effort to be "pro-business," to "patch up" relations with business, to "reach out" to business, to "court" business and to begin a "thaw" or "truce"with "business leaders."

If the President really wants to be pro-business he should stay away from this partisan lobbying group. The Chamber of Commerce pushes policies that hurt most businesses and most Americans. The president should side with the 99% of American businesses that are not giant multi-nationals or Wall Street con artists.

Chamber Is Anti-Business

The Chamber of Commerce is not "pro-business" it is anti-business. The Chamber represents Wall Street and the giant multinationals that have used their vast sums of money to corrupt our politics to pass legislation that favors these giants over other businesses. They have pushed policies that block small and medium businesses from competing with these giants.

The Chamber pushes policies that hurt businesses,


  • that want a chance to compete on a level playing field with adequate oversight and accountability, by promoting policies that give advantages, tax breaks and other favors to the huge, multinational corporations that the Chamber really represents;
  • that want to develop clean and green energy sources like solar and wind, by promoting policies that maintain the dominance of the oil and coal industries and even promoting claims that climate change is a hoax;
  • that want to offer or receive new, less-predatory financial services, as well as businesses that need credit from reliable and honest financial partners, by opposing financial regulation and the Consumer Financial Protection Agency;
  • that want to manufacture in the US and/or sell to Americans with jobs that pay good wages, by promoting "free trade" policies that ship factories and job overseas and by opposing a worker's right to join a union.

A Partisan Lobbying Group

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a Republican-affiliated lobbying group, not an organization representing the breadth of large and small American businesses. It only calls itself a "business" group to provide a mask for its partisan activities, but it is a hard-core partisan, political organization. For example, Fox News recently donated $1million to the Chamber's efforts to elect Republicans, and only Republicans,

The News Corporation, whose holdings include The Wall Street Journal and the Fox News Channel, has donated $1 million to the United States Chamber of Commerce, the business advocacy group that is among the heaviest anti-Democratic advertisers in this year’s elections.

The Chamber took in $86 million from the insurance industry to oppose his health care reform and is now pushing repeal.

Not Small, Not Local

Politico recently reported that local Chambers of Commerce are being alienated by the US Chamber's tactics and policies. In Angry member groups shun Chamber reported,

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is under fire from some local chambers over its hard-hitting $75 million ad campaign to elect a Republican House, with dozens of groups distancing themselves from the effort and a handful even quitting the national group in protest.

. . . The U.S. Chamber prides itself on a take-no-prisoners approach to power in Washington. Community-based chambers generally operate in a manner that encourages bipartisanship and consensus while shunning the edgy partisanship that became the hallmark of the national office’s 2010 political strategy.

The Chamber doesn't even represent that many businesses. According to the Chamber's website tries to make it appear as if the organization represents a large number of businesses "of all sizes":

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations. More than 96% of U.S. Chamber members are small businesses with 100 employees or fewer.

Actually the Chamber has about 300,000 members. This is a clue indicating how this organization operates. They mask. They misrepresent their membership to mask their partisan, anti-American-business agenda.

Not Even American Businesses?

There are even questions about whether the Chamber represents American businesses or businesses from other countries. During the election the Chamber was reported to be accepting money from non-American companies and using that money to run campaign ads against candidates who wanted the US government to better represent American companies in the world marketplace.

The Chamber’s spending has dwarfed every other issue group and most political party candidate committee spending. A ThinkProgress investigation has found that the Chamber funds its political attack campaign out of its general account, which solicits foreign funding.

The President should remember that the Chamber is not a friend of most American businesses, not a friend of working people and certainly not a friend of him or his party. It is not going to be our frond or his friend, no matter how much he reaches out to them. He would do better to support American businesses that believe in America and the American people.

March 10 Summit on Jobs and America's Future

On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

Free. $15 with lunch. Register here.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:47 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 5, 2011

The Reagan Ruins

The Reagan Ruins, a collection of articles.

The celebration of Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday doesn't come until early March, but the devotions have been going on for years. For conservatives, Reagan is the lodestar, the genial demigod to whom all must avow fealty.

But take a good look at the conservative mantra that Reagan championed: less spending, low taxes, deregulation, free trade, strong military, family values. On all of these, the Gipper and conservatives got it wrong.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:59 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 4, 2011

Whiter Shade

Look at this gem I discovered:

This is Gary Brooker's "other band" which I recorded at Club Riga in Southend-On-Sea, UK, on Dec. 11, 2010. In the band are: Gary Brooker, voice, piano and organ; Andy Fairweather Lowe, voice and guitar; Paul Beavis, drums Dave Bronze, bass and voice; Frank Mead, saxes, harmonicas, flute, percussion and vocal. That's CHRIS COPPING who performed with PROCOL HARUM and THE PARAMOUNTS on organ. This of course was a huge hit for PROCOL HARUM

And then I cam e across this:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:47 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Open Left Is Closing

Open Left:: Open Left is closing

No money.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:14 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

February 3, 2011

Jobs, Income Crisis As Govt Captured By Interests

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

Earlier in Jobs Crisis In Real World ... Just Not In DC I wrote about the gap between DC/Wall Street thinking about the jobs crisis and reality in the rest of the country. Summary: Our government is not addressing out problems because it is captured by interests:

Out here in the real world the real problem is not "structural," it is that there just are not enough jobs, they don't pay enough, "free trade" deals have lowered wages and undermined our manufacturing base, there is not enough demand in the economy and the government is not doing its job of picking up the slack and after 30 years of tax-cutting the infrastructure is crumbling and not supporting competitiveness for our businesses.

There are millions of unemployed and millions of infrastructure jobs that need doing. There is a new green energy and manufacturing revolution going on in the world and we do not have an economic/industrial policy to capture our share. There is problem after problem that is not being addressed by a government captured by interests.

Harold Meyerson writes today, in What's holding back the U.S. economy? that income has stagnated for everyone, while a few at the top are raking in tremendous amounts, because we have "lost power to our corporate and financial elites."

From 1947 through 1973, according to the Economic Policy Institute's State of Working America report, released this week, the incomes of the poorest 20 percent of Americans rose 117 percent, while the middle 20 percent saw a rise of 104 percent and the wealthiest 20 percent a rise of 89 percent. From 1973 through 2000, however, the income of the bottom fifth increased by a scant 9 percent, the middle fifth by 23 percent and the richest fifth by 62 percent. Since 2000, the concentration of income gains at the very top has grown only more pronounced. The share of income going to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, which was less than 10 percent in the early '70s, reached 23.5 percent in 2007 - the highest level on record save for 1928. (Note: Both years preceded epic crashes.)

Lagging innovation may explain many things, but it doesn't explain the rise of the rich over everybody else. For that, we need to look at changing power relationships, something that most mainstream economists resolutely ignore. Surely, the shrinking of unions - from 35 percent of the private-sector workforce in the 1950s to less than 7 percent today - has decreased American workers' ability to win good wages. Surely, the offshoring of manufacturing has diminished both the number of good jobs and our ability to exploit our innovations productively. Surely, the deregulation of finance has diverted more and more resources to a relatively small circle of bankers and speculators. And that tiny cadre has chiefly enriched itself at the expense of the rest of the nation.

Meyerson is saying that the changes in our economy that are causing the middle-class-destroying joblessness and wage stagnation are not due to lack of innovation, a great stagnation from a "lack of low-hanging fruit," or any of the other excuses we are hearing. (Other countries and their economies are growing.) He says it is because the economic benefits of growth are now going to a very few.

The difference between America pre- and post-1973 is that in the years preceding, the benefits from economic growth were widely shared, while in the years following, they increasingly went only to the top.

These things are happening because we have lost the checks and balances that functioning democracy brings to our economic and political system, which are supposed to moderate the savage effects of unbridled, top-down capitalism. As a result both systems are captured by the very wealthy interest who are running things to further concentrate their wealth and power.

As I began the earlier post: Who is our economy for? Who is our government for? For 30 years we have been undergoing a transition from "We, the People" democratic government to a plutocracy run by and for the wealthy.

Jobs, income, infrastructure, dignity, security and mostly the benefits of democracy, all falling away from us at a faster and faster rate. This is The Reagan Ruins, hitting us upside the head like a hammer. This is "trickle down" not trickling down at all.

March 10 Summit on Jobs and America's Future

On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

Free. $15 with lunch. Register here.


Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:25 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Jobs Crisis In Real World ... Just Not In DC

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

Who is our economy for? Who is our government for? For 30 years we have been undergoing a transition from "We, the People" democratic government to a plutocracy run by and for the wealthy. One indicator of this transition is the way the DC Elite respond to unemployment. 9-10% unemployment used to be a national emergency. Now it's a yawn.

What The Washington Paper Says

The Washington Post has a front-page story, Why does Fresno have thousands of job openings - and high unemployment? that says the problem is really "structural," a skills gap, and there is little we can do. This is significant because so many people who make policy read the Washington Post while sitting in their nice, expensive restaurants. Stories like this risk that they will think that there really are plenty of jobs out there, but the serfs just aren’t up to taking them, or are too spoiled, but in any event there is no problem that needs solving, and call the lobbyist because this month’s check is late.

Meanwhile, anyone in the real world outside of Washington or Wall Street, reading about “thousands” of job openings going unfilled immediately knows something is fishy. In fact, if this story ran on the front page outside of DC or Wall Street we might even need to worry about Egypt-style riots. Anyone on the same side of the continent as Fresno knows that there are not “thousands’ of unfilled job openings. There might be thousands of foreclosures, or thousands of people in food lines, or thousands of people whose unemployment has run out but there are not thousands of unfilled job openings.

What The Local Paper Says

The Fresno Bee has a different story to tell, EDITORIAL: President should come see impact of joblessness in Valley:

The economy may be improving, but it would be difficult to persuade the thousands of out-of-work Valley residents that things are looking up.

The six Valley communities cited in a U.S. Labor Department report have unemployment rates that run from 16.4% in Hanford-Corcoran to 18.6% in Merced. The other Valley cities on the list are Fresno (16.9%), Visalia-Porterville (16.8%), Modesto (17.2%) and Stockton (17.5%).

. . . The nation's economic recovery will not be complete until Americans go back to work. At every level of government, the goal should be to implement policies that improve consumer confidence and encourage businesses to hire workers.

The Fresno Want Ads

The Fresno Bee help-wanted ads tell the story.

There are 963 “Sales” jobs listed, but the first 519 of those are at the same "company," called “Work At Home Jobs, Inc.” and are mostly the same "job," if you can call it that. The next 136 are a different "company" and the "jobs" are calling people from home to sell them wireless cell service – on commission. The next 52 are the same deal but a different "company," selling internet from home, on commission. The next 46, same story. Etc.

The next category after Sales is “Business development”, with 691 jobs, 466 are “work at home” and many of the rest are the same jobs at the same companies as the “sales” jobs. The next two categories are "General Business" and "Other" and, again, list the same "jobs" at the same "companies." The next category is "Business Opportunity." I challenge you to guess what "companies" and "jobs" are listed. (Hint: it's the same ones again.)

Supply And Demand

Among the few specifics in the story is the example of "Jain Irrigation, which cannot find all the workers it wants for $15-an-hour jobs running expensive machinery that spins out precision irrigation tubing at 600 feet a minute, 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

$15-an-hour is just above the poverty level for a family of four, at about 130%.

Dean Baker, writing in, The Problem of Structrual Unemployment: Really Incompetent Managers, makes the point that a company complaining they can’t find skilled workers at $15 an hour needs to think about raising their offer. Baker writes,

It presents comments from one employer who complains that he can't find workers for jobs that pay $15 an hour. This is not a very good wage. It would be difficult for someone to support themselves and their children on a job paying $15 an hour ($30,000 a year). If the company president understand economics, then he would raise wages enough so that the jobs were attractive to workers who have the necessary skills.

If they can't get workers, they should know that they need to bump up the wage offered until they can. That is about as basic as it gets in the supply/demand equation.

Can't Sell The House And Move

Part of this problem is the housing market. If Fresno really doesn’t have the skilled workers businesses need, Silicon Valley and Las Vegas certainly do, and have very high unemployment rates, but the people there can’t sell their houses and move! And even if they could sell they are "underwater," will come out of the sale owing a ton of money that they can't make up by taking a $15-per-hour job!

Externalizing Training Costs

Companies expect workers to already be trained, “externalizing” one more cost onto local communities, while shopping for the lowest tax areas to locate.

California has a budget crisis and is cutting back on funding for the community colleges and other programs where people are trained for jobs. One reason for the budget crisis is businesses demanding ever-lower taxes, or playing communities and states against each other for tax incentives to relocate, using property tax avoidance schemes and so many other ways to get out of paying something back to the public for the public investment that enabled them to prosper.

The Real Problem

Out here in the real world the real problem is not "structural," it is that there just are not enough jobs, they don't pay enough, "free trade" deals have lowered wages and undermined our manufacturing base, there is not enough demand in the economy and the government is not doing its job of picking up the slack and after 30 years of tax-cutting the infrastructure is crumbling and not supporting competitiveness for our businesses.

There are millions of unemployed and millions of infrastructure jobs that need doing. There is a new green energy and manufacturing revolution going on in the world and we do not have an economic/industrial policy to capture our share. There is problem after problem that is not being addressed by a government captured by interests.

DC Avoids Dealing With The Problem

It seems that the DC Elite will do anything to avoid just seeing what is in front of their faces.

Clearly we have lost jobs from trade deals, Wall Street financialization and domination, lack of investment in infrastructure and education, etc. But the DC Elite come up with a thousand reasons not to fix these because the interests that benefit from those deals have influence over them. Our budget deficit is obviously from tax cuts and military spending – but you will never, ever, ever, ever hear that. Instead we hear job-killing "austerity" solutions that avoid asking the wealthy few to pitch in.

On one issue after another, the DC Elite provide cover for the wealthy elite interests who now control DC. The transition from We, the People democracy to a plutocracy of, by and for the wealthy few is nearly complete.

The real problem is not a breakdown of the structure of the job market and is not a mismatch between the jobs and the skills, it is a lack of jobs because of lack of demand, and a mismatch between who our government and economy are supposed to work for, and the interests that have brought this about.

March 10 Summit on Jobs and America's Future

On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

It's free, $15 if you want lunch. Beat that.


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

February 1, 2011

Democracy vs Plutocracy: Public Transportation

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

Here is a letter in a recent "Mr. Roadshow" column in the San Jose Mercury News. The letter illustrates the problems in plutocratic/libertarian thinking vs democracy. (Note: Caltrain is the commuter-rail line serving towns between San Francisco and San Jose.)

Your recent article on Caltrain's $30 million deficit is once again showing your socialist leanings. Saying Larry Ellison of Oracle or Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google or Steve Jobs of Apple should rescue Caltrain is one of your famous inane ideas. If Caltrain cannot operate without taxpayer funding, it should go out of business. Just how much taxpayer money is used to fund the likes of Southwest Airlines, Greyhound Bus or any taxi services? As a taxpayer, I have never received a billing statement from any of these companies for not using their business! If you want the rich to pay for Caltrain, I suggest you tax rich athletes, actors, entertainers, the major news network anchors and, of course, rich politicians such as Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry, to name a few. Private business is the heart of America! Not government! Maybe you should quit the Mercury News and go to work for Gov. Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown and become director of Caltrans.

Let's look at the assumptions in this letter:

  • If XXXX cannot operate without taxpayer funding, it should go out of business. (Insert Caltrain, Public Radio, schools, libraries, health clinic for the poor, etc., as needed.)
  • Private business is the heart of America! Not government!
  • No taxpayer money goes to help airlines, bus companies, etc. operate.
  • Never mind the idea of public infrastructure, courts, etc. that provide the underpinnings of all business. An airline can't operate without an airport, air traffic control, weather forecasting, etc. A bus or taxi company cannot operate without roads, police, and the rest of the system. No business would exist without courts and the financial system...

    I want to explore a deeper question. What are we, as citizens in a democracy, entitled to? Yes, that word, "entitled." There are things we are entitled to because we are human beings and citizens. We are supposedly still a one-person-one-vote system and not a one-dollar-one-vote system, and we are supposedly entitled to equal opportunity, equal access and an equal voice.

    But for-profit systems only respect those with lots of money. In a democracy is it right to require people to have a lot of money have access to transportation? To health care? To information?

    What are your thoughts?


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:36 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    The Big Storm

    Massive storm begins trek across Midwest

    "Milk, bread, toilet paper, beer," said Todd Vasel of the St. Louis-based grocery chain Dierbergs, who said pre-storm crowds were more than double the norm.

    The basics.

    Worst-ever storms, floods, temperature changes -- everywhere. But no, there is no climate change going on.

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