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March 31, 2011

Did American Workers "Get What They Deserved?"

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

What did people expect would happen when they voted for Reagan, Bush and other conservatives, or supported their policies? In the Holland (Michigan) Sentinel community columnist Ray Buursma writes, American workers got what they deserved. Some of the things he says might resonate with many of us,

Remember the Reagan standard? Are you better off today than you were a decade ago? Two decades? Three? Unless you make more than $380,000 a year, the answer is no. In fact, your standard of living over the last quarter century has actually decreased while millionaires have added 30 percent to their net wealth. Why? Two reasons.

First, hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs went overseas while the politicians you elected did nothing to stop them. Yet you continue to elect leaders who offer nothing but tax cuts, as if that would stem the flow of disappearing jobs.

Did you demand your leaders address America’s trade imbalance or continuous outsourcing of jobs? Did you demand your leaders require foreign countries to buy a dollar’s worth of American goods for every dollar of goods they sell here?

No and no. You didn’t bother.

Buursma writes that instead of resenting people who make more because they are in a union, people should join a union and fight for your job, wages and benefits. He continues,

Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m not a union worker, so this doesn’t affect me.”

Stop being stupid. Union benefits provide a standard other companies have to match, or at least come close to. When those benefits are cut, yours are, too. Or do you think you operate in your own little employment vacuum?

Agree or disagree, please click through and read his entire piece.

Whose Fault?

There is no question that things are not going the way they should be going. We see decline all around us -- all pointing back to the changes made after the election of Ronald Reagan. Tax cuts led to massive debt. Deregulation led to mine, oil and financial disasters that cost us more than deregulation ever saved. The infrastructure is crumbling. It seems like we are entering third-world status.

So is it the fault of American workers that their wages and benefits have declined as jobs are shipped overseas?

I don't blame working people. After all, they're working! So they're busy, and stressed, and focused on work. They can't be expected to keep up with the little details and facts and nuances -- especially when they are attacked daily with a barrage of well-funded and professionally crafted corporate/conservative propaganda!

This assault on information and truth has been going on for decades. Under Reagan there was a dramatic shift toward "market" -- one-dollar-one-vote -- sources of information and away from objective, citizen-oriented democratic -- one-person-one-vote -- sources. This market-sourced information necessarily reflects a conservative/corporate view because it is driven by money and profit instead of humanity and humanity's needs.

Information for Democracy!

How do we counter the corporate/conservative assault on truth? One answer to the problem of getting accurate, objective information is to use (and support) alternative sources that are not offered by the conservative/corporate machine. Here is a list of a few links to alternative news sources. Please send these to relatives, friends, and even post them to conservative forums.

PLEASE suggest more progressive information and news sources in the comments! And forward this to others.

Added suggestions, not necessarily just news:
AFL-CIO Now Blog
Manufacture This
Scholars & Rogues
Crooks And Liars
Firedoglake
Black Agenda Report
Washington Monthly
Eschaton
AMERICAblog
The Raw Story
Agonist
Today's Workplace
Republic of T
Democrats.com
Hullabaloo
Jack and Jill Politics
Liberal Oasis

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:47 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 30, 2011

Negotiation 101 For Dems: The Right Policies Are The Right Politics

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

Bloggers always wonder why Democrats couldn’t get anything done even when they had a solid majority in the House and 60 votes in the Senate, while Republicans get everything they want even when they are in the minority. Take the current budget negotiations, for example.

A few weeks ago the Congress passed and the President signed yet another round of massive tax cuts for the wealthy, thereby greatly increasing the deficits. Now these same geniuses are engaged in cuts-only budget negotiations with military spending largely off the table.

What about the country and our people? Every poll shows that the public wants the same thing that economists say we need: increases in spending on the things that grow our economy, cuts in military and tax increases on the rich and big corporations (2/3 of which pay no taxes at all) -- the very items that are "off the table" in the budget negotiations!

The country needs and the people demand spending increases on the things government does for We, the People, tax increases on the wealthy and a massive downsizing of the huge, vast, stratospheric, unbelievable, shocking, nonsensical, terrifying, extreme, astonishing, gut-wrenching military budget, the biggest drag on our economy today. We spend more on military than every other country combined and our businesses and people and economy have to scrape to pay for that while our competitors do not.

How bad are our negotiators, when the public is solidly behind the right thing to do, and they are negotiating with a starting position that is the opposite of good policy and public demand?

The Right Starting Position

The first rule of negotiating is to pick the right starting position, understanding that you will have to give some things up to reach agreement. At the very least Democrats should start with the best policies for the public, and negotiate from there. The problem is, they don't.

In the stimulus battle the President's economists (and progressive bloggers) were calling for much more stimulus than the President began negotiations with. They said the economy needed at least $1.2 trillion, but the President's starting position was much lower. And to top it off, the President then just threw in that much of the stimulus package would be tax cuts, which leave behind nothing but debt! He said he did it to attract Repubican votes. How many did he get? The policy result of this negotiating strategy was too little stimulus that led to a political rout.

In the health care reform effort the starting position was that Medicare-For-All -- the right policy for the country and the economy, and the position the public supported -- was so far "off the table" that people advocating for it at committee hearings were ejected and arrested! And that was done by the Democrats, with the Democrats in control of the House and with 60 votes in the Senate! The end result of this effort to do something about the damage caused to our people and our economy by the predatory insurance giants was a law ordering us to purchase insurance from ... the predatory insurance giants.

In the current budget battle the starting position should be the right policy position: we need to spend more to create jobs and take care of our people, and to boost the economy to grow our way out of the deficits. But instead our Democratic negotiators start with a budget freeze -- offered up unilaterally -- and Republicans begin by demanding $30 billion in cuts. Then the Tea Party (also known as "the Koch brothers") demanded an increase in cuts to $60 billion, and now we are headed to a "deal" cutting the budget by $30 billion which is the Republican starting position! The Democratic negotiators conceded entirely, winning nothing. The policy result will be a disaster for our people and our economy.

Make A Hero Out Of Boehner?

Worse yet, in the political press this kind of deal makes John Boehner the hero of the process! He wins a deal with $30 billion in cuts, passed by corporate/Blue Dog Democrats plus some Republicans, but no Tea Party votes. Boehner becomes the hero of the "center" and the Washington elite will celebrate. But the public and the economy loses.

DC's Conservative Information Environment

Democrats seem to think the public wants corporate/conservative policies enacted, when polls show they do not. How could this be possible? Polls show that the public wants tax increases on the wealthy and cuts in military spending, not cuts in entitlements and the other things We the People (government) does for us and our economy. And these are the right policies. Why is there such a gap between what we want and need, and what our leaders think we want?

Policymakers are up against a massive corporate/conservative lobbying machine designed to influence legislation. If you live and work in DC you experience a different "information environment" than the rest of us. The main channels of information there are very much influenced by the corporate/conservative machine, making it difficult to find a non-conservative perspective. To break through this you first have to understand this. Then you have to make an effort to get information that does not pass through these gatekeepers. But if you are doing almost anything in Congress you are busy, so it gets harder and harder to make the effort (if you even know you need to) to get past the corporate/conservative worldview that is being handed to you.

There is no massively-funded objective information machine countering the corporate/conservative information machine, and protecting our democracy. (And they are working to defund even PBS.)

DC is the policy target so DC is the information target. The ads on DC TV cable news are targeted at the DC political crowd. Right-wing dominates radio, almost no alternate perspective can be found. Getting on the Metro you are handed an Examiner so you can read about how the country wants corporate/conservative solutions to problems. You pull up the Politico smartphone edition as you ride in because it is formatted and timed for that. (You should be reading Progressive Breakfast, so sign up here.) Congressional offices are saturated with corporate/conservative astroturf designed to look like constituents are calling and writing and demanding conservative policies. If you pull up information from Wikipedia it is edited by paid activists. Even some comments at many blogs you might read are left by paid commenters.

Billions upon billions are at stake, and the huge investment made in communicating a conservative position to policymakers and their staff pays off.

Root Of The Budget Problem: Wrong Assumption About Cause Of Deficits

The root of today's budget-negotiating problem isn’t as much the deficit as the public’s and the policymaker's misunderstanding of the cause of the deficit. Since President Obama took office there has been an unanswered drumbeat that Obama and “Democrat spending” are the reason we have a deficit. Every right-wing talk show, blog, TV pundit, op-ed, etc. starts from this position - Obama caused the massive deficits. (Did you hear Limbaugh going on about that today? And if you are not monitoring Limbaugh you are not paying attention to what they're telling the public.)

If the assumption going in to budget negotiations is that "Democratic spending" is the problem, then the solution naturally is going to be to cut spending. But what about the harm this mistaken approach will do to people and the economy? When even the starting position doesn't take that into account, what kind of results will we see?

The fact is that President Bush's last budget year had a $1.4 trillion deficit. It was conservative policies and cleaning up after the results of those policies that brought us these massive deficits. Conservatives have tricked people into thinking this was President Obama's fault. President Obama has actually reduced the deficits below Bush levels.

Playing By The Right's Rules

The typical Democratic pragmatic approach is to say we already lost that argument in the public mind, so we have to go with what the public thinks. That is the pollster-dominant way of doing politics. This is the old 1990s approach that didn’t yet recognize that there was a well-funded, strategic corporate/right “echo chamber” and “noise machine” out there that used “Overton Window” tactics to shift everything to the right.

But playing by those rules has now allowed politics to shift so far to the right that even Ronald Reagan would be called a RINO and couldn’t win a Republican primary today. The result is that the politics and the policy needs diverge.

The Democrats need to start negotiations with the right policies for the people and the economy. This is the right politics, too, because it happens to also be what the public wants.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:14 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Eat A Progressive Breakfast

Seriously, get it here.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:55 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

IMPORTANT: Call Now To Save Social Security

Today is a national call-in day to let Senators know that there is support for keeping Social Security out of the budget debate.

Here are some facts. Social Security cannot borrow, so it does not contribute to the deficit. In fact, working people have been paying a large share of their earnings into Social Security to save for their retirement, and because of this the program has been running a huge surplus. The government has been borrowing FROM Social Security to fund tax cuts for the rich. This borrowed money was used to purchase Treasury Notes, just like China does when we borrow from them, and those notes earn interest, just like China's, which also helps fund the program. So all of this money people have been putting aside for their retirement adds up to a huge trust fund, which doesn't get used up until approx 2037 -- if the economy doesn't get better; later if it does. Even then it only runs a bit short.

So the only threat to Social Security is that if nothing is done there might be some cuts in benefits in 2037. The solution is not to cut benefits to avoid cuts in benefits. That doesn't make sense. The solution is to "raise the cap." Today only incomes below about $100K pay into Social Security. Raising that $100K "cap" fixes the problem. Better yet, remove the cap on incomes above $250,000.

The following is from the Strengthen Social Security coalition, of which Campaign for America's Future is part:

We need you to call your Senators and demand that they vote for the Sanders/Reid Social Security Protection Amendment.

Senator Sanders and Majority Leader Reid are leading the fight in the Senate to protect Social Security from drastic cuts.

Their amendment simply says:

Social Security benefits for current and future beneficiaries should not be cut and Social Security should not be privatized as part of any legislation to reduce the Federal deficit.

Call your Senators RIGHT NOW at 1-866-251-4044. You’ll be given a choice of which of your state’s two senators to be connected with. Call BOTH of your senators if you have the time. It only takes a minute each.

Tell the person who answers the phone:

  • I am a voter/constituent living in [your state]. I am calling to tell the Senator:
  • I oppose all cuts to Social Security and
  • I urge them to vote yes on the Sanders/Reid Social Security Protection Amendment.

Please take the time for this very important effort today. This is for all of us who depend on Social Security.

Call Today: 1-866-251-4044.

AFTER YOU CALL:

Stay involved, the threat to Social Security continues. Please click to stay involved in the fight.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:42 AM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos

March 29, 2011

Daily Agenda

New progressive site. Go see: Daily Agenda | An Agenda Project Initiative

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:09 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Call Today To Save Social Security

Call Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday!

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid led a press conference and rally to save Social Security yesterday:

Senate Majority Leader Reid, Other Democrats, Join Hundreds to Demand No Cuts to Social Security

Sens. Reid, Harkin, Sanders, Franken and Blumenthal Follow Emotional Speeches by Americans Who Depend on Social Security and Oppose Cuts

... Under the slogans “Back Off Social Security” and “Hands Off Social Security,” more than 350 fired-up retirees and others packed a meeting room on Capitol Hill to hear from the Senators and program beneficiaries, and to demand no benefit cuts, no retirement age increase, and no privatization. The large public event happened as the battle heats up in Washington between those wanting to sacrifice Social Security as part of a deficit-reduction deal and those demanding that it not be cut.

The following is from the Strengthen Social Security coalition, of which Campaign for America's Future is part:

We need you to call your Senators and demand that they vote for the Sanders/Reid Social Security Protection Amendment.

Senator Sanders and Majority Leader Reid are leading the fight in the Senate to protect Social Security from drastic cuts.

Their amendment simply says:

Social Security benefits for current and future beneficiaries should not be cut and Social Security should not be privatized as part of any legislation to reduce the Federal deficit.

Call your Senators RIGHT NOW at 1-866-251-4044. You’ll be given a choice of which of your state’s two senators to be connected with. Call BOTH if you have the time. It only takes a minute each.

Tell the person who answers the phone:

  • I am a voter/constituent living in [your state]. I am calling to tell the Senator:
  • I oppose all cuts to Social Security and
  • I urge them to vote yes on the Sanders/Reid Social Security Protection Amendment.

Please take the time for this very important effort today. This is for all of us who depend on Social Security.

Call Today: 1-866-251-4044.

AFTER YOU CALL:

Stay involved, the threat to Social Security continues. Please click to stay involved in the fight.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:58 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Budget Fight: Why Are Republicans Forcing A Shutdown?

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

Why are Republicans forcing a government shutdown and doing other things aimed at blowing up the economy? The question isn’t “are they,” it is why are they? Their election strategy for 2010 was to obstruct everything and keep the economy from creating jobs, and then blame Democrats. It worked. So now they're doing it even more. But is that the whole plan?

In every instance Republicans are obstructing the very things that can help the economy recover and provide the jobs people need. Everything they do is aimed at making things worse. It is hard to understand their actions except as a systematic attempt to blow up the economy.

  • They are blocking agreement on a budget to keep the government going.
  • They are terrifying the credit markets by threatening to block an increase in the country's debt limit.
  • They are refusing assistance to states, forcing the states to lay off hundreds of thousands of teachers, etc.
  • They are fighting to roll back every regulation that relates to banking and finance.
  • They are killing high-speed rail and solar and wind projects.
  • They are blocking renewable energy standards and other policies that trigger investment and jobs.
  • They are blocking needed stimulus programs that help recovery.
  • They are blocking unemployment benefit extensions.

When confronted they offer ridiculous explanations which are really only cover for the actions, so they can claim to have a reason beyond destruction. But this is only to provide cover and keep the press and public from calling them out for what they are.

Cutting Jobs Creates Jobs?

Speaking of ridiculous explanations, they say they are cutting jobs in order to create jobs. Seriously. Digby today, in Flooding The Market, caught this about the Republican plan,

For example, the [Republican economic report] paper predicts that cutting the number of public employees would send highly skilled workers job hunting in the private sector, which in turn would lead to lower labor costs and increased employment. But “lowering labor costs” is economist-speak for lowering wages — does the GOP want to be in the position of advocating for lower wages for voters who work in the private sector?

Got that? Throw enough people out of work and wages go down, which they say leads to more employment. That's their plan?

One advantage of throwing so many people out of work is that they will work for very little just to eat and feed their families. This is great if you own a business (and don't care about people) -- not so great if you depend on American consumers to purchase what you sell. But that's a problem for later, after you've broken the unions and cut your labor costs. We know this is one part of their strategy because they said so.

A Grander Strategy Than Killing The Economy To Win In 2012?

Are they killing the economy in order to win the next election? Or is this part of an even grander strategy?

So is there a bigger plan at work here? Step back from the day-to-day for a minute, and away from the fog of propaganda and smoke and sand thrown in our eyes to keep us from seeing what is really happening. For decades conservatives have said government is bad, in the way, intrusive holding business back, bureaucratic, inefficient, etc. You have heard the litany, over and over and over.

So What IS Their Plan?

It seems conservatives are always running one strategy or another, always working on a plan. Speaking of grand strategies and plans, watch this from Lee Camp:

They Hate Government

If you read their websites and magazines you know that they hate government and talk about ways to get rid of it. They have said they just want government to go away and have been running strategies to get it small enough that they can drown it in a bathtub. If you are a Republican who doesn't think destroying government is the best approach you are called a RINO and shunned.

They don’t talk about governing, they talk about killing government, and when they get power they don't govern they destroy government. They appoint industry lobbyists to agencies that are supposed to oversee their own industries. They appoint polluters to the agencies that are supposed to protect us from pollution. And they appoint people who have called for getting government out of areas like education, medical care, etc. to head up and dismantle those departments.

They talk about destroying government, not governing. So what makes the DC opinion elite think they want to govern now?

Destroy Government Then Blame Government For The Consequences?

Trickling up from conservative underground lately are more and more arguments that government itself is responsible for the crumbling infrastructure, loss of economic competitiveness. The unspoken answer - so far - is that we need to get rid of government itself to get rid of these problems.

Last Week in Detroit’s Liberal Nightmare, the Heritage Foundation paves the way for what I think we will see coming from conservatives,

Detroit, once known as “the great arsenal of democracy,” has made headlines of late for its notorious fall from grace. ... And while the Motor City suffers unemployment from a decimated automotive industry, it suffers crime, high taxes, poor city services, plummeting home values, and a public education system in shambles with a $327 million budget deficit and a 19 percent dropout rate. Is it any wonder people are leaving in droves?

Just today, in Voting With Their Feet, Thomas Sowell blames government for other areas where the census shows are are losing population,

Both whites and blacks are leaving California, the poster state for the liberal, welfare-state and nanny-state philosophy.

Whites are also fleeing the big northeastern liberal, welfare states like Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as the same kinds of states in the midwest, such as Michigan, Ohio and Illinois.

And unspoken in all of their anti-government arguments is just what will replace government, namely the big, powerful corporations and the wealthy few behind them.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:57 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

The Lesson Of The 2010 Election Was Jobs, Not Cuts

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

What was the lesson of the 2010 election? Since the election conservatives and the DC opinion elite have been claiming that the public voted for budget cuts. But before the election they ran ad after ad saying Dems cut your Medicare and didn't provide jobs. Now every single poll shows that the public wants jobs not cuts.

Politico today has one more typical Washington Elite journalism story. Their story, Govs face budget blowback, begins,

"It was supposed to be one of the clearest messages of the 2010 elections: Voters were finally fed up with government spending."

Politico begins their story with one more example of the gap between the DC Elite and the rest of the country. In the rest of the country we remember that the Republican campaign theme against Democrats was that Democrats were responsible for "Half A Trillion In Cuts To Medicare".

Who can forget that? Ad after ad after ad after ad after ad blasted out from the TV saying Rep. So-and-so "cut $500 billion from Medicare" and many of those ads also blasted the Democrat because there was no cost-of-living adjustment to Social Security last year. That is just a fact, the Republicans campaigned against cuts.

Here are just a few of the ad barrage Republicans ran before the election:



And voters were sent flyers like this: (click for larger)

politifact-photos-ron_johnson_flier_combined_660

Talking Points Memo captured it well today, calling it "Opinion Journalism,"

There's a feature piece in Politico today that perfectly captures the assumptions most national political reporters, especially at certain publications, bring to the core questions of budgetary politics. The gist of the piece is that 'we' all agree that the message of the 2010 election was that the public has decided that government is too big and wants dramatic budget cuts. But now it seems like the governors who are really going whole hog on this -- overwhelming Republicans -- are getting really unpopular. Ergo, the public isn't really ready for the "grown-up conversation" about budgets than it seemed they might be.

The public wanted jobs before the election, voted for jobs, wants jobs, needs jobs, demands jobs. End of story.

On April 4: We Are One

On April 4, millions of people will come together for the "We Are One" series of community and workplace actions.

"On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, where he had gone to stand with sanitation workers demanding their dream: The right to bargain collectively for a voice at work and a better life. The workers were trying to form a union with AFSCME."

Find local events in your area here.

"Join us to make April 4, 2011, and the days surrounding it, a day to stand in solidarity with working people in Wisconsin and dozens of other states where corporate-bought politicians are trying to take away the rights Dr. King gave his life for."

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:55 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 25, 2011

Today's Plutocracy Post: GE Doesn't Pay Taxes -- Taxpayers Pay GE

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

In 1983 NY hotel-chain-owning billionaire Leona Helmsley said, "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes..." As our country migrates from democracy to plutocracy, this more and more appears to be official policy. Again and again we see tax cuts for the wealthy few, tax breaks and subsidies for the big corporations that operate as fronts for those wealthy few, and budget cuts for the things We, the People (government) do to empower and protect each other. Just a few weeks ago we watched as an extension of the Bush tax cuts and a huge cut in the estate tax rate was pushed through. Now we watch as the discussion turns to cuts in Social Security and the rest of the so-called "safety net."

Another indicator of plutocracy (government of, by and for the wealthy) is impunity for those at the top. Leona Helmsley actually went to jail for tax evasion. Even as recently as the early-90s Savings and Loan Crisis our government investigated, prosecuted and jailed more than a thousand bad actors for fraud and other crimes. This time, well, ... not so much. Well ... actually not at all. Times have changed. Don't look back. Deal with it. Suck it up. Let's all get on the same team and keep this ball moving forward down the field at the end of the day. Whatever. Hey, look over there!

Today's Plutocracy Indicator

From the NY Times, G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether

The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.

Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

So not only did GE, the highly-profitable recipient of federal contracts and bailout money, not pay taxes, we paid them $3.2 billion!

Revolving Door Writes The Loopholes

How does GE accomplish this? By taking advantage of the "revolving door" where people move back-and-forth from government agencies to the corporations those agencies are supposed to oversee. From the NY Times story,

Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.’s giant tax department, led by a bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm. Indeed, the company’s slogan “Imagination at Work” fits this department well. The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.

While Congressional staffers they write the loopholes into the laws. Then they go to their reward at corporate headquarters for very high pay. Then they go work in the agencies to make sure the rulings go their way. They then go collect again. It is a lucrative game. They're the winners -- they call themselves "producers." We're the losers -- they call us ... "losers."

Who Really Benefits?

The use of the general term "corporations" to describe the beneficiaries of these policies is really a smokescreen that masks the fact that really a very few people are benefiting. Yesterday's post, Lobbyists Admit Corporate Tax "Holiday" Didn't Work, But Demand It Again, pointed out that it is a very few actual people that we are really talking about here,

Corporate wealth is really just personal wealth, held at arms length from the person to mask what is going on. The wealthiest 1% own 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The wealthiest 10 percent own more than 90 percent. The bulk of us own less than 1 percent. When you hear about "corporate" holdings, think about this chart from the Working Group on Extreme Inequality:

At The Expense Of The Rest Of Us

These benefits accrue to the wealthy few at the expense of the rest of us. What many people don't understand is that it is also at the expense of other companies. Our infrastructure and public structures - roads, education, courts, customers - are the soil in which good companies can grow. When tax dodgers are able to avoid contributing to our communities and country, the overall environment for the rest of our businesses deteriorates and our worldwide competitiveness declines. We see it all around us every day.

Ungrateful Bastards

For all the benefits huge multinational companies like GE get from We, the People -- subsidies, contracts, bailouts, tax breaks and customers, they aren't very rateful and certainly are not about to give anything back. Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture writes,

Yet another reason why you don’t bailout companies whose inability to manage risk allowed themselves to become destroyed: They not only do not deserve to continue with the same management/shareholders/creditors who all created the insolvency in the first place, but they are ungrateful bastards as well.

Even Reagan

Even tax-cutter Ronald Reagan balked when he learned that GE (for which he had been spokesman) didn't pay its taxes. From the NY Times story,

In the mid-1980s, President Ronald Reagan overhauled the tax system after learning that G.E. — a company for which he had once worked as a commercial pitchman — was among dozens of corporations that had used accounting gamesmanship to avoid paying any taxes.

“I didn’t realize things had gotten that far out of line,” Mr. Reagan told the Treasury secretary, Donald T. Regan, according to Mr. Regan’s 1988 memoir. The president supported a change that closed loopholes and required G.E. to pay a far higher effective rate, up to 32.5 percent.


Isaiah Poole, in Rewriting Eric Cantor's Cant On Jobs,

"So let's stop the demagoguery about overtaxed corporations and have a dialogue instead about a tax code that taxes all people fairly. A tax system in which a billionaire like Warren Buffett pays taxes at a lower rate than his secretary is not fair, and an unfair tax code, one that's riddled with loopholes, perverse incentives and ways to game the system, keeps us limping and unproductive."

Terrance Heath has been writing a series on The Truth About Tax & Spend Conservatism,

... the truth about "Tax & Spend Conservatism" is that it isn't about raising or cutting taxes, but about whose taxes are raised and whose taxes are cut. It's about, as Robert Borsage put it, who gets hit with the tab for the great recession.

Resources

Public Campaign fact sheet titled, GE's Corporate Tax Dodging that begins,

General Electric spent $235.2 million in political money since 2000--paid no federal income taxes in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

and points out:

G.E. cut American jobs and exported them overseas.

The New York Times reports “[since] 2002, the company has eliminated a fifth of its work force in the United States while increasing overseas employment.”

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:29 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Racing To The Bottom

35 cents an hour, beaten if you protest. THAT is what Americans are competing with. Democracy allowed us to build protections against this. Our trade policies remove those protections and we see the result of that clearly now. We can use trade to lift others instead of to drag us down. We can say, "You are not going to bring that product into the United States unless the people who make them have rights."

Watch this video:

Workers are again trapped and burned to death behind locked exit gates...

The tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire struck a nerve in the American people, who demanded reforms which remade our industrial landscape and guaranteed the rights of workers. Today these rights have been wiped out in the race to the bottom in the global sweatshop economy, where workers in the developing world toil 14 hours a day, seven days a week for wages just one tenth of what the Triangle workers earned. Workers are again trapped and burned to death behind locked exit gates. One hundred years ago, the outrage over the Triangle fire led to the rallying cry, "Who will protect the working girl?" Where is that cry today?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Lobbyists Admit Corporate Tax "Holiday" Didn't Work, But Demand It Again

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

The usual suspects are trying to sell us on yet another scheme to keep from paying their taxes. This one is called a repatriation tax holiday—a huge cut in the tax rate on money companies are holding outside of the country. We did this before and it didn't work out so well for us, so of course they want to do it again.

Multinational corporations hide profits in offshore shell companies to avoid taxes. Here is how the scheme works:

One shell company manufactures in China or another low-cost country, sells the products to a shell company "based" in a tax-haven like the Cayman Islands at a low price so the manufacturer doesn't show much profit. The tax-haven company immediately sells it to their U.S. company at a very high price, so the tax-haven shell company gets most of the profits.

Then the products are sold here for not much above what was paid, so very little profit is made by the U.S. company. The tax-haven shell company reports all the profits as a result of selling TO but not IN the United States. Low profits here equals low taxes here.

As long as the actual money isn't brought into the U.S., they don't pay U.S. taxes on it. So after years of this scheme a ton of cash is sitting in these tax-haven countries, and the wealthy few want to be able to use it to buy even more jets, houses, Maybachs, etc. And, of course, they don't want to pay their taxes.

So of course, the inevitable "business groups" are trying to get Congress to pass a "repatriation tax holiday" on the profits they are holding outside of the country.

From The Hill, Business groups press Treasury to shift on corporate tax holiday:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the WIN America Campaign, the business coalition ... flatly state that U.S. multinationals have little incentive now to bring what they say is roughly $1 trillion in revenues back home and that allowing them to do so at a reduced rate would help stimulate the American economy.

They Always Say It Creates Jobs

The "business groups" argue that bringing the money back would "stimulate the economy" and create jobs. They say everything that helps the rich get richer creates jobs. But then it doesn’t create jobs. Then they say the next thing will create jobs so we go fo it, and then that doesn’t either. Meanwhile they get richer and richer, and we get poorer and poorer and need even more jobs.

Been There, Done That

Here's the thing, we tried this in 2004. "Business groups" argued that bringing the money back would cause them to invest in the United States—and they got what they wanted. We allowed corporations to bring profits back to the U.S. at a tax rate of 5.25 percent, instead of the top corporate rate of 35 percent.

How did that work out for the economy and jobs? Not so well. Alain Sherter, in Sure, a “Tax Holiday” on Overseas Profits Is a Great Idea — If You Hate America, looked into this and writes,

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that the companies that got the biggest tax breaks following the 2004 rate cut went on to eliminate jobs over the next two years. Instead of hiring, they mostly used the repatriated funds to repurchase stock or pay dividends — and to expand outside the U.S.

But it did provide a huge incentive to do even more offshoring of profits and jobs, because this scheme worked and the money came back in a tax holiday. So of course they are proposing to do it all over again. Bring the profits back untaxed, and then start the cycle again.

Sherter points out this really does benefit a very few at the expense of the rest of us, including other companies,

Repatriation holidays also favor a handful of huge corporations at the expense of other companies, especially businesses without operations around the globe. In 2004, a total of five companies reaped more than one-quarter of the benefits from the tax holiday, while 15 firms got more than 50 percent. To pay for such a cut without raising the deficit, meanwhile, the U.S. would have to increase taxes on other U.S. businesses or make even deeper cuts in already tight federal spending.

Tom Sullivan posted his own review of repatriation on OurFuture.org in 2009:

Washington Post business columnist Allan Sloan reacted to the [American Jobs Creation Act] in 2006, saying, “Companies don't add jobs based on one-time chances to repatriate money from overseas.”

And they didn’t, according to Finance Committee Chairman, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who argued against renewing the tax holiday. “The data shows that the last time we enacted something like this there were virtually no new jobs created in the United States. None.” Baucus continued, “Companies used this money for other purposes.”

North Dakota Democrat, Sen. Byron Dorgan rebranded the proposal: “There’s another phrase for repatriation; it’s called rewarding the outsourcing of jobs.”

The Cost

U.S. PIRG, in Tax Shell Game: The Taxpayer Cost of Offshore Corporate Havens says,

Key Findings

• The cost to taxpayers due to the use of offshore tax havens is as high as $100 billion per year - $1 trillion over 10 years. U.S.-based individuals and corporations who pay taxes on their revenues must shoulder this burden for those who do not.

• Taxpayers must shoulder the burden – U.S. PIRG Education Fund calculated each state’s taxpayer contribution proportional to their yearly federal contribution to make up for the $100 billion lost. [For California taxpayers, that figure was $11,679,735,788; for Texas, $8,653,820,2590; for New York, $8,432,456,612; for Florida, $4,932,770,661.]

• Our allies in other nations are also calling for decisive action to reign in these abusive tax havens. The Group of 20 (G-20), which provides a forum for world financial leaders to promote global economic stability, recently issued a communique providing for sanctions against tax haven countries.

Business Groups - Or People?

Corporate wealth is really just personal wealth, held at arms length from the person to mask what is going on. The wealthiest 1% own 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The wealthiest 10 percent own more than 90 percent. The bulk of us own less than 1 percent. When you hear about "corporate" holdings, think about this chart from the Working Group on Extreme Inequality:

wealth2

So with this tax holiday proposal we're once again talking about benefits that go to the top few percent, at the expense of the rest of us. At the expense of schools, roads, police, firefighters, nurses, roads, rail, health care and all the things We, the People try to do for each other.

These days we seem to always be talking about benefit to the top few percent, at the expense of the rest of us. Funny how that works.

• Cut back on the things We, the People (government) do for each other, so the top few can have even more.
• Cut Social Security -- the money employees have set aside all their lives -- to preserve the tax cuts that went to the top few.
• Get rid of the retirement plans of state government employees so the top few don't have to pay state taxes.
• Get rid of unions so the top few don't have to pay good salaries or provide benefits.
• Cut back on etc. so the top few get more ...
• Cut back on etc. so the top few get more ...
• Cut back on etc. so the top few get more ...
• Cut back on etc. so the top few get more ...

Solutions

Citizens For Tax Justice has a report on this problem, Congress Should End "Deferral" Rather than Adopt a "Territorial" Tax System, and they offer a simple solution: tax it.

Some corporate leaders are pushing Congress to adopt a "territorial" tax system, which would exempt the offshore profits of U.S. corporations. Congress should move in the opposite direction and adopt a "pure worldwide" tax system, which taxes all profits of U.S. corporations the same while providing a credit to avoid double-taxation.

Believe Them

The other day I had a conversation with Bill Parks, who has written here about The Buffett Balanced-Trade Idea. He offered a practical modification of this idea. He proposed that we should just believe companies when they file their accounting reports that list where the sales are, then taxing the percentage of their profits according to that ratio of percentage of sales.

Here is how that would work in the tax -avoidance scheme described above. Remember, they are reporting that the tax-haven country pays a low price and the U.S. pays a high price. The result is high profit sales TO the U.S. but not IN the U.S. So fine, sales to the tax-haven country is a low-percentage of their profits, to the US a high percentage so the US then collects the same dollar ratio of taxes.

Tax-avoidance case: 90% of profits are reported to be made by selling from Cayman Islands shell company TO the U.S.

Tax-collection result: Therefore 90% of taxes on profits have to be paid to the U.S.

Putting American companies to work for us is a better solution than giving them a holiday.

Other resources:

Bloomberg: Tax Holiday for $1 Trillion May Lure Back Profits Without Growth

Center for American Progress: Tax Expenditure of the Week: Offshore Tax Deferral

Chuck Collins, Senior scholar, Institute for Policy Studies, Pay Up, Corporate Tax Dodgers

Phineas Baxandall and Nicole Tichon, PIRG & Tax Justice Network USA, In The Public Interest: A (Non)Taxing Issue

Nicholas Shaxson: Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens

US PIRG: Who Slows the Pace of Tax Reforms?

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:56 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Why Move Jobs From Democracies To Thugocracies?

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

"Free trade" treaties like NAFTA have wiped out entire regions of our country and left entire segments of our population without good-paying jobs -- or in so many cases with no jobs at all. And they have had similar results with our trade "partners." We can see that now. So why are we even talking about doing more of these treaties?

Democracy vs Thugocracy

Democracies set up protections for their people. Democracies protect wages, rights, safety, dignity and the environment. The so-called "free trade" agreements we have been getting into allow companies to get around the borders of our democracy, pitting their employees against the exploited people living under thugocracies with few or no protections at all.

But these treaties have brought vast wealth to a very few, and maybe that was the point all along. Now with the NAFTA and China trade record clear, the DC/corporate elite and Wall Street/Chamber of Commerce multinationals are pushing new trade treaties with South Korea, Columbia, Oman and Panama. Their goal seems to be to make the rich even richer while making things even worse for the rest of us.

NAFTA - "Case Study In Failure"

Ian Fletcher writing at Huffington Post in, More Free Trade Agreements? When NAFTA Failed?,

How have our past trade agreements worked out? Above all, how's the grand-daddy of them all, NAFTA, doing?

Unfortunately, NAFTA is a veritable case study in failure.

How is NAFTA working out for us?

For the four years prior to NAFTA's implementation in 1994, America's annual deficit with Canada averaged a modest $8.1 billion. Twelve years later, it was up to $71 billion.

Our trade with Mexico showed a $1.6 billion surplus in 1993 but by 2010, our deficit had reached $61.6 billion.

Fletcher cites the Economic Policy Institute to detail the dramatic loss of jobs we have suffered. But not just jobs, also wages.

NAFTA has eliminated some 766,000 job opportunities--primarily for non-college-educated workers in manufacturing. Contrary to what the American promoters of NAFTA promised U.S. workers, the agreement did not result in an increased trade surplus with Mexico, but the reverse. As manufacturing jobs disappeared, workers were down-scaled to lower-paying, less-secure services jobs. Within manufacturing, the threat of employers to move production to Mexico proved a powerful weapon for undercutting workers' bargaining power.

And how is NAFTA working out for Mexican workers? It turned low-wage workers into even-lower-wage workers.

In reality, the income gap between the United States and Mexico grew (by over 10 percent) in the first decade of the agreement. This doesn't mean America boomed; we didn't. But Mexico slumped terribly.

In NAFTA's first decade, the Mexican economy averaged 1.8 percent real growth per capita. By contrast, under the protectionist economic policies of 1948-73, Mexico had averaged 3.2 percent growth.

... Mexican workers can often be hired for less than the taxes on American workers; the average maquiladora wage is $1.82/hr. The maquiladora sector is deliberately isolated from the rest of the Mexican economy and contributes little to it. Workers' rights, wages, and benefits are deliberately suppressed. Environmental laws are frequently just ignored.

Mexican agriculture hasn't benefited either: NAFTA turned Mexico from a food exporter to a food importer overnight and over a million farm jobs were wiped out by cheap American food exports, massively subsidized by our various farm programs.

[. . .] Between 1990 and 1999, Mexican manufacturing wages fell 21 percent.

How have our other free-trade agreements worked out? Fletcher again, (please go read his entire post, and take a look at his book, Free Trade Doesn't Work: What Should Replace it and Why, as well)

FTA is not America's only free trade agreement, of course. But our other agreements tell similar tales. We have signed 11 since 2000: with Australia, Bahrain, Chile, Colombia, Jordan, Korea, Oman, Morocco, Singapore, Panama, and Peru. (El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic were lumped together in the Central America Free Trade Agreement or CAFTA.) Every agreement but one has coincided with greater American deficits.

Not such a great record. Let's not do more of this.

A Better Way

Trade doesn't have to be used to pit people against each other. It can be used to lift each other up. We can instead negotiate treaties to demand that the thugocracies offer better wages and protections, or they can't sell to us. Or if they do sell to us as add a tariff that undoes any advantage they get from mistreating their people, and use the money to strengthen our infrastructure and competitiveness in world markets. We can use trade to lift the world for the benefit of all instead of to exploit the world for the benefit of a few.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:53 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Koch And Native-American Reservation Oil Theft

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

Just what is this Koch Industries? Should it be called a "company?" If so we need to re-think the idea of what a company and a business is supposed to be. Even the brother of Koch Industries owners David and Charles Koch called the company an "organized crime" operation.

Koch money is a key driver of the conservative movement. Almost every conservative-movement rock you turn over has Koch money crawling around under it. As the movement becomes more and more of a pay-to-play operation, conservatives of every stripe do more and more to protect and enrich the Koch operation. This has included blocking, disrupting and avoiding official investigations of accusations. It also includes funding front groups to advance the political and financial interests of the company and its owners.

Theft Of Oil From Reservations

Oppose The Future has the story of how Koch Oil was caught stealing oil from an Indian Reservation, reducing or removing the incomes of so many poor residents.

At some point in 1987, Thurmon Parton’s royalty checks for the three oil wells he inherited from his mother suddenly dropped from $3,000 a month to a little over $1,000. He and his sister, Arnita Gonzalez, members of the Caddo tribe, lived near Gracemont, Oklahoma, a town of a few hundred people on a small grid on the prairie.

Those modest royalties were the only source of income each of them had.

. . . What happened to Mr. Parton, Ms. Gonzales and Ms. Limpy had nothing to do with the wells or how they were producing. Their oil was being stolen. And all of the evidence pointed to the same culprit: Koch Oil, a division of Koch Industries.

This is an important story today because it helps us understand the nature of the Koch operation, which has so much influence over our politics and even livelihoods today. It also helps us understand why our government not only appears to be influenced, but often to be outright corrupted. From the story,

In the spring of 1989, a Special Committee on Investigations of the United States Senate’s Select Committee on Indian Affairs was formed to look into concerns that the path to tribal self-rule was impeded by fraud, corruption and mismanagement from all sides.

... Within a span of months, the Special Committee determined that “Koch [Oil] was engaged in systematic theft, stealing millions in Oklahoma alone.” BLM, even with a tip that Koch was behaving improperly, hadn’t done a thing.

Oppose The Future lays out the story and details of the oil theft. There is also story of the years following.

"A Broad Pattern Of Criminal Behavior"

Back in 1996 Business Week looked into the relationship between then-Senator and Presidential Candidate Bob Dole and Koch Industries and an apparent pattern of influence by the company, in BOB DOLE'S OIL-PATCH PALS. Here are some excerpts from their investigation, [emphasis added]

Koch has had a history of run-ins with the Justice Dept. and other federal agencies. In 1989, a special congressional committee looked into charges that Koch had routinely removed more oil from storage tanks on Indian tribal lands ... Dole tried to influence the Senate committee to soft-pedal the probe. Nevertheless, after a yearlong investigation, the committee said in its final report, "Koch Oil, the largest purchaser of Indian oil in the country, is the most dramatic example of an oil company stealing by deliberate mismeasurement and fraudulent reporting." The report triggered a grand jury probe. The inquiry was dropped in March, 1992, which provoked outrage by congressional investigators.

Then in April, 1995, the Justice Dept. filed a $55 million civil suit against Koch for causing more than 300 oil spills over a five-year period. Dole and other Senators, however, sponsored a bill ... that critics charge would help Koch defend itself ... legal sources say the government's ultimate goal is to use evidence in the two actions to establish that Koch has engaged in a broad pattern of criminal behavior.

... From Apr. 19, 1991, through Nov. 2, 1992, David Koch and the Koch Industries political action committee together contributed $7,000 to Nickles' campaign war chest. Around the same time, [Oklahoma Republican Senator Don] Nickles sponsored Timothy D. Leonard, an old friend of Nickles, for the post of U.S. Attorney in Oklahoma City. ... initially, questions were raised in the U.S. attorney's office about whether Leonard should recuse himself because Koch Industries purchased oil from wells in which Leonard and his family had royalty interests ... Then-Deputy Attorney General William P. Barr granted him a waiver to participate in the case ... In March, 1992, after an 18-month investigation, the U.S. Attorney's office terminated the grand jury probe and informed Koch it anticipated no indictments. ... As the grand jury investigation was winding down, Nickles sponsored Leonard for a federal judgeship. He was nominated by President Bush in November, 1991, and confirmed by the Senate the following August.

Business Week lays out the evidence in detail. The timing, with Republican administration/committee/agency/department after administration/committee/agency/department impeding and/or dropping investigations into Koch activities is also clear.

In 2000, CBS' 60 Minutes ran a segment, Blood And Oil And Environmental Negligence looking at the activities of the Koch brothers and their private company Koch Industries,

As we told you when we first reported this story last November, the Koch family of Wichita, Kansas is among the richest in the United States, worth billions of dollars. Their oil company, Koch Industries, is bigger than Intel, Dupont or Prudential Insurance, and they own it lock stock and barrel.

William Koch, brother of company owners David and Charles, called the company an "organized crime" operation:

Koch says that Koch Industries engaged in "(o)rganized crime. And management driven from the top down."

"It was – was my family company. I was out of it," he says. "But that’s what appalled me so much... I did not want my family, my legacy, my father’s legacy to be based upon organized crime."

In March, 2001 the incoming Bush administration repealed the "responsible contractor rule" that barred companies that chronically defraud the government and/or violate federal pollution, wage and other rules from receiving federal contracts.

Then, in 2002 the Bush II administration awarded Koch the contract to supply oil to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. (There were accusations that the government bought oil when prices were high, and sold it when prices were low.) The contract was renewed in 2004. Koch received tens of millions in other government contracts during the Bush years.

The story and timeline of the Koch operation (and its front-groups) go on and on, organizing and funding climate-denial front groups, front-groups run and funded by the Koch Brothers organizing and funding the Tea Party. (Please click the links.)

Think Progress in particular has been following the activities of this "company" and its front groups, and it is certainly worth taking a look. See REPORT: How Koch Industries Makes Billions By Demanding Bailouts And Taxpayer Subsidies (Part 1),

Koch funds both socially conservative groups and socially liberal groups. However, Koch’s financing of front groups and political organizations all have one thing in common: every single Koch group attacks workers’ rights, promotes deregulation, and argues for radical supply side economics.

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

March 20, 2011

Fed Now Paying Bank Dividends

The Fed is now handing cash to wealthy people who own bank stocks. They have authorized banks to pay dividends, while giving banks money at zero percent for them to loan back to the US govt at higher rates. That is free money. If you have money in the bank, you are paying for that by receiving almost no interest.

See If Banks Can Resume Dividends, Can the Fed Resume Normalized Rates? | The Big Picture

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:39 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 18, 2011

Evil People Have Plans

Evil People Have Plans! by comedian Lee Camp

And then this:

Devilz-Speciez - "Paradox" ft. Lee Camp

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:10 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Cutting Government Creates Jobs Like Cutting Taxes Increases Revenue

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

A "report" from Republican staff of the Joint Economic Committee says that the path to job creation is cutting ... the very things that create jobs. This is like saying that cutting taxes increases revenue. We know how that worked out, and the job-consequences of budget cuts are going to be just as disastrous.

Sometimes you can cut through ideology by looking at what actually happens in the real world. Reagan cut taxes: huge deficits resulted. Clinton raised taxes, the deficits went away. Bush cut taxes, we went back to huge deficits. And you can see the same thing when you look at government spending and jobs. England and Greece are trying austerity, and their economies are sinking as a result. In 1937 the United States learned this lesson, succumbing to deficit cutting which choked off the recovery from the depression. On the other hand, the "stimulus" boosted the economy, held off a depression and created millions of jobs -- but not enough jobs to overcome the Bush years. Here is the chart -- note the obvious effect of the stimulus and of the end of the stimulus on the jobs picture:

chart_jobs2

Cut Cut Cut To Grow Grow Grow?

Republicans say that cut cut cut leads to grow grow grow. Their prescription is to cut taxes to "reduce uncertainty" which they say will result in job creation. Never mind that Clinton raised taxes and then the economy boomed. Then Bush cut taxes and then gave us the worst job-creation record in decades, even before the recession started! From The Hill, GOP study backs 'cut and grow' but says new jobs could take time,

House Republican leaders on Tuesday released a study that they said shows their "cut and grow" strategy will boost the economy.


The study argues that reducing uncertainty about future taxes will increase household spending and business investment, spurring growth and hiring.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the report shows "less government spending means more private sector jobs."

Just how will "certainty" about tax cuts create jobs?

The study argues that “non-Keynesian effects” result from government budget cuts. It says households expecting future taxes to pay for government spending will purchase more homes and durable consumer goods once uncertainty about future taxes is erased.

Right, knowing that taxes will be lower, people will go out an "purchase more homes." The people funding the Republicans will just go buy an 8th house with their tax savings. And maybe a Maybach or two. Plutonomy in action!

No Path To Jobs

Laying off teachers and firefighters is not the path to jobs. Cutting government cuts the very things that nurture the soil in which business can thrive. We need a modern infrastructure to compete in world markets, but they are cutting back on infrastructure spending. We need a well-educated population to grow the economy, but they are cutting back on education.

Cutting is clearly not the path to more people having better-paying jobs: Congress takes aim at jobs program,

Becky Thompson of Sioux Falls turns 72 next month, and she is quietly grateful that she has a job working in the computer lab at Experience Works, an agency that helps older workers find employment.

. . . But now she and other older workers are worried that all this - the training, the support, the camaraderie - will disappear in the next round of budget cuts.

That's because more than 60 percent of Experience Works' budget comes from the Senior Community Service Employment Program, the only federally funded job training program for low-income seniors - and one of many programs targeted for reduction in the Republican spending bill that passed the House last month.

Economists, Analysts, Everyone Says Budget Cuts Will Kill Growth

Isaiah Poole summed it up in, More Than 300 Economists Repudiate Right-Wing "So Be It" Economics,

Today the Economic Policy Institute and the Center for American Progress jointly released a statement signed by nearly 320 economists from around the country, including Nobel Prize winners Kenneth Arrow and Eric Maskin, former Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Alan Blinder, and former Chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisers and Director of the National Economic Council Laura Tyson.

That comes a day after Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics released a report that estimated the House budget cuts would result in a loss of 700,000 jobs by 2012. That finding evoked a "so what?" from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor that was remarkably in line with the dismissive "so be it" comment that House Speaker John Boehner made earlier in February in response to concerns that budget cuts would result in job losses.

If people had good jobs that paid well the deficit would be a heck of a lot lower than it is. People would be paying taxes instead of collecting unemployment. Cutting the things that create jobs is certainly not a path to creating jobs. England is learning this, our Congress is not.

No Job Creation Programs At All

Republicans have held the Congress for months but have not introduced a single job-creation program. In GOP Bait And Switch On Jobs, Anne Thompson lays it out,

,

The House Republicans have developed a track record of bait and switch when it comes to their approach to job creation. Last week, House Republican leadership released a PowerPoint by Congressman Paul Ryan that they are using to educate the Republican Caucus on their top policy priorities. Ryan laid out the “Jobs Deficit” as the number one challenge facing America in his very first slide. Yet he failed to focus on jobs until the very last slide, which reads: “Keep taxes low; spur job creation and growth.” Not quite the robust plan we need to put millions of Americans back to work.

Is There At Least A Secret Plan?

Is appears -- and this kook "study" confirms -- there is no real plan for jobs. But is there at least a secret plan in operation?

Secret plan? When they said that cutting taxes increases revenue they knew it wouldn't -- they had a hidden agenda. They knew better than to actually believe that cutting taxes would actually increase revenue to fund the government. They said so. The resulting deficits were the agenda. The plan was to "cut their allowance" and "starve the beast" to create a debt crisis, then demand that government cut back the things it does to protect and empower We, the People.

What is the agenda behind this job-destruction agenda? If there is a secret agenda behind destroying so many American jobs -- and the ability to create new jobs that pay well -- then what is it? They can't be crazy enough to destroy the economy just to increase their 2012 electoral odds, can they? On the other hand, no one has ever finished the sentence, "Republicans aren't crazy enough to ..." without being proven wrong.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:25 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 17, 2011

Shopping For Change

Gearing up, go sign up now: ShoppingforChange.com: Online mall for the progressive community

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

March 15, 2011

So Are These "Reviews" Just Paid Astroturf?

I'm thinking of seeing the movie Battle: Los Angeles. Just for the heck of it I looked at the "Fan Ratings" at Fandango. Here is a sampling:

This is a totally awesome movie that kept me in the edge of my seat the whole time. Great special effects and great sounds. Definitely the kind of movie to see on the big screen. Well worth the money !!!!
This movie is stunning and will have you gasping for breath then deliver a great and pulse pounding ending!! People who say this movie is cliche are just looking for a reason to not like it. Go see this movie then go see it again because I promise you will want to!! Retreat hell!!
This movie was intense from the start and it kept you going through to the end. It is like a more realistic and better-made Starship troopers. Acting was good and believable. Definitely recommend and I will see again and I will own this.
Wow...Now it's been a long time since I said that when it comes to a movie. Or anything really. But I'll say it again. Wow! Battle: Los Angeles looked fantastic from it's electrifying TV spots and Trailers but who knew it would actually live up to the intensity I hoped for. And it does and it's so much than I could have hoped for. The film is simplistic in concept we get invaded this is the story of the marine platoon who discovers a weakness in the deadly E.T. force turning the war back into our favor. ... But when the action starts it doesn't stop and it is intense. ... The movie is great!

You get the picture. Obviously paid. I'm getting so tired of this. I used to look at the "customer reviews" for things at places like Best Buy and other online purchase sites. No more, because they are obviously filled with paid placements from the manufacturers, or in this case from the movie companies.

Just another corporate scam...

P.S. I went to watch a movie trailer there, and had to sit through an ad before the trailer started. But the trailer is an ad itself! They make me watch an ad before I can watch the ad I wanted to see. Sheesh. Who thinks this stuff up?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:14 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

What "Free Trade" Has Cost The World

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

If you take a job away from someone who is paid a reasonable wage because they enjoy the protections and prosperity of democratic government, move it across a border, and give it to someone living under a thugocracy, forced to work for pennies with no protections whatsoever, it should be just plain obvious that the worker on our side of the border and the worker on the other side of the border are not going to be better off. And when you do this on a massive scale it just stands to reason that most people on both sides of the border are going to be worse off.

But propaganda being what it is we were somehow convinced to try a worldwide experiment in taking good jobs from democracies and turning them into bad jobs in thugocracies. Now, of course, the experiment has run its course and we can see the results.

Worker Against Worker

Setting worker against worker enabled a few people to get really, really really wealthy and powerful and use that wealth to become even more wealthy and powerful. Our country is in decline, burdened by massive trade deficits because the ones with vested interests in cheap labor won't let us won't take on the mercantilists, burdened by budget deficits because those vested interests have bought low taxes and government subsidies, our infrastructure crumbles because multinational business leaders refuse to invest here, with no more need of us as workers, and the resulting hollowed-out middle class can't consume anymore. Other countries also suffer from similar stresses.

Out of this situation a new global elite has emerged, contemptuous of democracy and government and any power but the power of their own money. In country after country, these top few won't share the proceeds with their own, either, while they keep the world from approaching solutions.

In January's post, Establishment Realizing: When You Close The Factory We Can’t Make A Living, I wrote about how "the establishment," or as bloggers call it, "The Village" or "Versailles," are starting to realize that our trade policies just might not be working for us. Of course, they come to this realization only after our trade deficits approach the trillion mark, after we have lost millions of manufacturing jobs, after we have closed tens of thousands of factories, after we have lost the tech manufacturing industry, and after we have abandoned hopes of leading in green manufacturing as well...

(We're still waiting for them to realize that tax cuts do not increase revenue, that spending more on military than all other countries combined might contribute to deficits, that our too-big-to-fail financial sector is capable of causing problems, that the climate really is changing, that allowing corporations to pump money into politics means the end of democracy... but hey, a dollar spent by a vested interest on a politician apparently is a dollar very, very well spent.)

In the Washington Post, Steven Pearlstein recently reviewed Dani Rodrik’s “The Globalization Paradox,”

It is dogma among economists and right-thinking members of the political and business elite that globalization is good and more of it is even better. That is why they invariably view anyone who dissents from this orthodoxy as either ignorant of the logic of comparative advantage or selfishly protectionist.

But what if it turns out that globalization is more of a boon to the members of the global elite than it is to the average Jose?

Right, what if?

In “The Globalization Paradox,” Dani Rodrik demonstrates that those questions are more than hypothetical — that they describe the world as it really is rather than as it exists in economic theory or in the imagination of free trade fundamentalists.

. . . The starting point of Rodrik’s argument is that open markets succeed only when embedded within social, legal and political institutions that provide them legitimacy by ensuring that the benefits of capitalism are broadly shared.

And a unicorn. And a rainbow.

The paradox, as Rodrik sees it, is that globalization will work for everyone only if all countries abide by the same set of rules, hammered out and enforced by some form of technocratic global government. The reality is, however, that most countries are unwilling to give up their sovereignty, their distinctive institutions and their freedom to manage their economies in their own best interests. Not China. Not India. Not the members of the European Union, as they are now discovering. Not even the United States.

In the real world, argues Rodrik, there is a fundamental incompatibility between hyper-globalization on the one hand, and democracy and national sovereignty on the other.

Clyde Prestowitz threw a one-two punch at free trade after Senator John McCain claimed that the iPhone and iPad are Made in America. In Why isn't the iPhone made in America? at Foreign Policy magazine, Prestowitz wrote,

John McCain provided some good laughs and made himself look stupid on a recent ABC news interview by telling Diane Sawyer that the iPhone and iPad are great examples of products that are made in America.

They're not. And given the amount of high technology production in his state, McCain should certainly have known better. The fact that he didn't does make you wonder about what, if anything, they know in the U.S. Senate.

Prestowitz goes on to explain that while the iPhone is manufactured in China, parts, software, design and other components are made all around the world, not necessarily for low wages. He concludes,

So if America actually did produce the stuff it says it is good at producing, it wouldn't have a trade deficit with Asia for which China is the proxy at all. It would have a trade surplus and 20-40,000 more jobs than it has.

Prestowitz looks at a smaller picture here of the back-and-forth of trade with the US and China. Design, software and other capital and technology intensive components are not made in China. But the bulk of the jobs are in China. This could work for everyone if people there were paid enough -- and allowed by their government -- to buy things made here. That would be trade and everyone would be better off. But trade isn't really the point of "free trade."

Then, in It's not just the iPhone that America doesn't make, Prestowitz conitinues,

Okay, so yesterday I explained not only that John McCain was wrong to say the iPhone is made in America (as you already knew), but also that most of you were wrong to think it is made in China. I went on to show that the phone is only assembled in China from high-tech parts that are mostly made in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. I further explained that production of these parts is not labor intensive, but capital and technology intensive.

In other words, these parts are just the kinds of products American economists, Silicon Valley venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, and Washington political leaders always say America is the best in the world at making. ... Then I left you with the question of why, if America is so good at making this stuff, it doesn't.

[. . .] it was believed that unilateral free trade (keeping one's markets open, even in the face of protectionism by one's trading partners) was a winning proposition. Thus, there was no need to be concerned about things like subsidization of key foreign industries or loss of capability in these fields, and hence no need for trade measures that might upset delicate geopolitical relationships.

This economic doctrine has been based upon the assumption of Anglo/American economics that economies of scale either don't exist in most traded products and industries or are relatively unimportant. That this assumption is dramatically and demonstrably wrong and not accepted by most of the non-Anglo world has not deterred its application to the making of much American and global trade policy.

In other words, it doesn't work. But we already knew that. We can see it all around us. And it is us who have to live with the results.

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March 14, 2011

'Duh!' Headline Award

Japan's blasts cast doubt on nuclear renaissance - Yahoo! News

D'ya think?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:04 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

You've Got To See This Video From Wisconsin!

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

You just have to watch this video of a farmer named Tony Schultz in Wisconsin talking to the crowd about what is happening at his local schools and to his own community because of the governor's tax-cuts-for-corporations, budget-cuts-for-the-people budget:

I found it at this Daily Kos diary, Wisconsin farmer on fire! Awesome video, by strobusguy, who writes,

This video of farmer Tony Schultz speaking captures the feel of the rally today better than anything I've yet seen. (But be careful with your volume. The screams and cheers will bust your eardrums!) PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE watch this, and pass it on to everyone.

After watching the video please, please read Richard Eskow's post, MadisonWorld: A Future Where Corporations Have Human Rights ... And Humans Don't. Excerpts:

Right now Wisconsin is serving as the prototype for United States 2.0, a newly reconstituted nation where corporations have all rights of personhood without any of the responsibilities - and people have all the duties of personhood without any of the rights.

Welcome to your future. They're preparing it for you right now in America's heartland.

[. . .] Unions are one of the few bulwarks against corporate corruption in politics. They can sit at the table with politicians and use their leverage to counteract the corporations' influence, serving as a voice for that vast majority of Americans who are employees and not wealthy business owners. That's the real reason the corporate oligarchy is targeting the unions. They've been pretty blatant about their real goals in Wisconsin, with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald saying things like this:

"(If) the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you're going to find is President Obama is going to have a much difficult, much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin."

They want the money that drives political power to flow from one source, and one source only: America's corporations. And Madison is the proving ground for destroying any organized opposition to their corporatist agenda.

More people marched just in Madison yesterday than have ever attended a Tea Party rally. And there were people marching in other states, as well.

For two years, tea party activists and their allies in the GOP have claimed that the hard-right movement represents the true beliefs of the American people. But the crowd in Madison and numerous polls tell a different story.

Tuesday please attend a rally to Defend the American Dream.

Click through to get on the list and locate a rally near you. Many are taking place after working hours.

From the website:

Republicans in Congress are holding the middle class hostage—proposing a federal budget that would would cut 700,000 to 1 million jobs from our communities and slash funding to support preschool and college students, pregnant women, unemployed workers, and much more. This isn't a budget, it's a slap in the face to the public workers, services, and institutions making the American Dream possible. We have until the March 18 budget deadline to push Congress in another direction.

So after work on Tuesday, March 15, we're mobilizing Defend the Dream events in all 50 states at our schools, libraries, fire stations, hospitals, and parks to stand up against Republican attacks. If we can mobilize thousands of people again for a national day of action before the March 18 deadline, we'll give progressive fighters in Congress a better chance to stave off cuts and pass a budget that invests in the Dream. We'll show our support for the public workers, services, and institutions making a difference in our lives—but we'll also make sure that Congress knows we'll hold them accountable for their vote.

Host your own Defend the Dream Action or sign up for an event near you.

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March 13, 2011

Back From DC Jobs Summit

I'm back from DC, where I attended The Summit On Jobs & America's Future. The sessions were blogged here, and I'll post video when available.

Here is Campaign for America's Future's Roger Hickey talking about the American jobs crisis on MSNBC on a Dylan Ratigan Segment: In defense of public workers:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:58 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Rallies Tuesday March 15

Tuesday please attend a rally to Defend the Dream Action.

Click through to get on the list and locate a rally near you. Many are taking place after working hours.

From the website:

Republicans in Congress are holding the middle class hostage—proposing a federal budget that would would cut 700,000 to 1 million jobs from our communities and slash funding to support preschool and college students, pregnant women, unemployed workers, and much more. This isn't a budget, it's a slap in the face to the public workers, services, and institutions making the American Dream possible. We have until the March 18 budget deadline to push Congress in another direction.

So after work on Tuesday, March 15, we're mobilizing Defend the Dream events in all 50 states at our schools, libraries, fire stations, hospitals, and parks to stand up against Republican attacks. If we can mobilize thousands of people again for a national day of action before the March 18 deadline, we'll give progressive fighters in Congress a better chance to stave off cuts and pass a budget that invests in the Dream. We'll show our support for the public workers, services, and institutions making a difference in our lives—but we'll also make sure that Congress knows we'll hold them accountable for their vote.

Host your own Defend the Dream Action or sign up for an event near you.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:19 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

On Nuclear Reactors

A year ago I wrote in favor of using nuclear energy to fight global warming. Here is part of what I wrote,

I believe that global warming is the most serious threat humanity faces. So we need to use every possible technology we can to replace energy sources that put greenhouse gases into the air. This includes nuclear energy.

One big problem with nuclear is figuring out what to do with the dangerous radioactive waste. But here's the thing, when we burn coal and oil we're just putting the dangerous waste product into the air and it is destroying the planet. So we can't make the perfect the enemy of the good -- nuclear waste is not destroying the planet and fossil-fuel waste is. We simply have to replace coal and oil as our energy source.

Climate change is an emergency. We need to do everything we can.

[. . .]

Make them safe. This means a highly regulated effort, not a free-for-all for profits. ...

Buy American. If we are building nuclear power plants we should regulate that they create American jobs...

Today someone asked me if I am still in favor of using nuclear energy. Here is what I replied:

Si, those 30-year-old reactors should not have been allowed to operate. The new generation of reactors can't melt down, and I think global warming is much more serious than most people think it is. So the trade-off is in favor of using nuclear as long as we stop using coal.

But I think a reactor has to be built and operated by a strong people-oriented government, with no profit considerations at all. Which we do not have.

So I don't see many governments I would trust right now to do that. Maybe Canada.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:11 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos

March 9, 2011

Karl Rove Group Runs Ads Explaining Benefits Of Unions

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

Karl Rove's corporate front-group Crossroads GPS is spending $750,000 to run ads explaining that unionized workers make 42% more than non-union workers. From the Politico story about the ad buy,

Crossroads GPS is airing the ad on national cable. The buy is $750,000 over one week, with spots running on CNN, CNBC and Fox News.

While this sounds to most people like a pretty darn good reason to join a union, the Cato Institute says that the Rove group is overstating the case. In Right-leaning think tank says Rove group "misrepresented" its data in ad attacking public employee unions, at the Washington Post, Greg Sargent writes,

The author of the Cato Institute study cited in the ad tells me the spot "misrepresents" his study's findings. ... The ad says that unionized government workers get paid 42 percent more than non-unionized workers in general, a charge that seems intended to turn non-unionized workers of all kinds against unionized public employees.

I'm not sure why anyone thinks that telling people that unions help workers get paid more is supposed to turn workers against unions. It seems to me to be a pretty good argument for joining a union, actually.


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Republican Senate Leader Makes Case For More Stimulus

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

At TPM, in Republicans Struggle To Square Spending Cuts With Job Losses, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell explained why we need more stimulus:

"If government spending would stimulate the economy, we'd be in the middle of a boom," he said.

Now, look at this chart of job growth/loss by month:

chart_jobs2

In this chart, the RED lines -- the ones that keep doing DOWN -- show what happened to jobs under the policies of Bush and the Republicans. We lost lots and lots of jobs. The BLUE lines -- the ones that just go up -- show what happened to jobs when the stimulus was in effect. We stopped losing jobs and started gaining jobs. The TAIL -- the leveling off on the right side of the chart -- show what happened as the stimulus ran out. Job creation leveled off.

It looks a lot like the stimulus created a boom, compared to what was going on before the stimulus.

Conclusion: THE STIMULUS WORKED BUT WAS NOT ENOUGH!

TOMORROW: 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 1:50 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 7, 2011

Dirty Hippies

Dirty Hippies

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

What Budget Cuts Mean To Actual PEOPLE

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

To prepare you for the following stories, here is some context. You might remember that just a few weeks ago Washington passed an extension of the huge tax cuts for the rich and as an added bonus cut the tax on inherited income way, way down. This added approx. $400 billion a year to the deficits. In a vote last week the House refused to end tax breaks and government subsidies for oil companies. Many of the largest, most profitable corporations pay no taxes at all. Congress recently extended special tax break incentives for sending jobs out of the country. Congress has given hedge fund managers, some of whom have incomes of a billion dollars, a special low tax rate of only 15%. The richest 400 Americans have as much wealth as 50% of us combined. That is just a few recent items to consider as you read today's post.

60 Minutes: Homeless children: the hard times generation

Scott Pelley reports on the growing number of children who are falling victim to the financial crisis
One of the consequences of the recession that you don't hear a lot about is the record number of children descending into poverty.

The government considers a family of four to be impoverished if they take in less than $22,000 a year. Based on that standard, and government projections of unemployment, it is estimated the poverty rate for kids in this country will soon hit 25 percent. Those children would be the largest American generation to be raised in hard times since the Great Depression.


Reuters: Transplant patients a target of Arizona budget cuts,

A pacemaker and defibrillator fitted to carpenter Douglas Gravagna's failing heart makes even rising from the couch of his Phoenix-valley home a battle. But it is not congestive heart failure that is killing him, he says. It is a decision by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to stop funding for some organ transplants as the state struggles to reduce a yawning budget deficit.

"She's signing death warrants - that's what she's doing. This is death for me," says Gravagna, 44, a heavy-set man who takes 14 medications to stay alive. Gravagna is among 98 people denied state Medicaid funding for potentially life-saving transplants and at the forefront of a harrowing battle over the state's public finances.

Las Vegas Sun: Budget cuts threaten Family Services lifeline

On any given day, 3,000 children in Clark County are living outside their homes because they’ve been removed for their safety. Richardson is one of the frontline soldiers with the difficult and unheralded job of trying to figure out what to do next.

Just as these families are in crisis, county officials worry that state and local budget cuts will erase the gains made by Family Services since 2006, when the county had one of the worst child welfare systems in the country, as a federal official said at the time. Childhaven was overrun with 265 children, and caseloads were more than twice what is recommended by experts.

Under the proposed budget of Gov. Brian Sandoval, caseloads would balloon because the county would have to slash frontline staff by 22 percent.

Pittsburgh: Mental health cuts hit jobless hardest

The cycle works like this: A bad economy leads to job layoffs and government funding cuts. Unemployed people lose their health insurance as well as their income, causing stress, anxiety and depression. The uninsured wind up seeking treatment for these problems from the public mental health system, even as its funding is being cut. Growing demand meets shrinking supply.

The scenario is already well under way. States have slashed $2.2 billion from their public mental health systems from 2009 to 2011, according to a new report, even as nearly 60 percent of them reported increased demand for community-based mental health care and crisis services.

"These services are at the heart of every public mental health system in the country, and a means of keeping people with mental illness out of more expensive psychiatric hospitals, emergency rooms, nursing facilities and jails," said Kevin Martone, president of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, which presented the report Feb. 16 at a U.S. Senate briefing.

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Job training in crossfire of deficit battles,

Mullins hopes her fortunes turn with the help of a federal job-training program that proponents say leads to full-time work for three of every four participants. She is wrapping up five months of computer training. IT is one of the state’s hottest growth industries.

Congress, though, is considering killing the $3.6 billion job training and assistance program. Georgia received $65.2 million in Workforce Investment Act (WIA) money last year, along with $88.3 million in federal stimulus money for job training. The labor department says the schooling helped thousands of Georgians get back to work.

“The people in Washington who are making these decisions have no idea what’s going on,” said Mullins, a fifty-something former special ed teacher in Fayette County. “I really don’t think they care.”

Lansing State Journal: Cutting jobs agency won't help Michigan

A U.S. House plan for balancing the federal budget would cut funding for job placement agency Michigan Works, which has Capital Area Michigan Works offices in Lansing, Charlotte and St. Johns. Michigan's unemployment for December was 11.1 percent. The nation's was 9.4 percent, but dipped to 9 percent in January. Facing such statistics, the notion of slashing funds for an organization that helps people find work is counterproductive.

Director Doug Stites said last week that loss of federal funding would "just pull the linchpin out of the middle and everything would collapse."

Houston library budget cut by 27 percent

For Miriam Alvarez, who does a lot of work on the computer, the neighborhood public library has become her home away from home.

"I don't have internet access. I'm trying to cut down on my expenses," said Alvarez.
Problem is, so is the city of Houston. The city's libraries will bear the brunt of it, slashing its overall operating budget by 27 percent even though library visits are up by 13 percent.

Back to context. We spend more on military than all other countries on earth combined but cuts in military spending are "off the table." Income inequality is at record levels. A few at the top now take in more income than millions upon millions of us. Most of the very same Wall Street executives who caused the financial collapse and received bailouts from US are still in the same jobs and are still receiving million-plus bonuses.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:15 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 4, 2011

Teacher Pay vs Wall Street Pay

Everyone should watch this Daily Show segment on teacher pay vs Wall Street pay

The Daily Show

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

March 3, 2011

Republicans Order Compostable & Recyclable Tableware Removed From House Cafeteria

I am old enough to remember Reagan ordering the solar panels be removed from the White House. Now this: From The "Too Petty For Words" File, Boehner Gets Rid Of Eco-Tableware In Congress Cafeteria | Crooks and Liars

R

eally, there's no depths to which the GOP majority will not sink. In yet another act of thumbing his nose at Democrats, John Boehner has ended the Green Initiative program in the Congress cafeteria, replacing all the eco-tableware with regular petroleum-based plastic ware and styrofoam.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:36 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Budget Cut Job Losses Will Undo 2010 Job Growth

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

While Congress and the administration -- having just passed huge tax cuts for the wealthy -- fight over which of the things government does for We, the People to cut and by how much, the rest of us are looking at how many of our jobs this will cost. Will it be a cool million, "only" 200,000, or 700,000 more of us who will lose our livelihoods?

Goldman Sachs issued a report saying the cuts will shave 2 points off GDP (which translates to at least a million jobs). ABC: Goldman Sachs: House Spending Cuts Will Hurt Economic Growth,

“the drag on GDP growth from federal fiscal policy would increase by 1.5pp to 2pp in Q2 and Q3 compared with current law.”

Moody's Analytics says the cuts will cost 700,000 jobs. Politico: Report: House budget plan could kill 700K jobs

Republicans’ efforts to cut billions of dollars from the federal budget between now and October could cost the country as many as 700,000 jobs by the end of next year, a nonpartisan economic analysis released Monday found.

... Moody’s chief economist, Mark Zandi, projected that the House proposal would cut real GDP growth by 0.5 percent in 2011 and 0.2 percent in 2012. That, in turn, would lead to 400,000 fewer jobs being created than expected by the end of this year and a total of 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of 2012.

The Chairman of the Fed says "only" 200,000 of us will be cast out of the economy. Ben Bernanke: GOP’s plan will cut jobs

Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke said Wednesday that House GOP’s 2011 spending plan would likely cost “a couple hundred thousand jobs,” a number he called “not trivial.”

The Wrong Direction

So will these cuts cost 200,000, 700,000 or a cool million jobs? Either way it is the wrong direction. This chart shows last year's private sector job growth. 1.3 million total -- not even enough to keep up with the new people entering the labor pool. Congress and the administration are discussing whether to knock 200,000, 700,000 or a cool million off of that, instead of how to create new jobs and grow the economy.

chart_jobs2

Note the obvious effect of the stimulus and the end of the stimulus on the jobs picture. And keep in mind that this is with the Fed holding interest rates at or, with various schemes, below zero. You can picture what these cuts and resulting job losses will do. Will they tip us back over the cliff?

Budget Cuts Make Budget Problems Even Worse

Isaiah Poole, writing in Impact Of GOP's Job-Killing Budget Cuts: 700,000 Jobs Lost, points out that this will just make the budget problems worse:

Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics today confirms what several other experts are saying about the slash-and-burn budget antics of House conservatives: The budget cuts being pushed by House Speaker John Boehner and the Tea Party-possessed House of Representatives will not put people back to work, They will put people out of work.

[. . .] The bottom-line message: The conservative proposals to cut programs vital to stimulating the growth of the new economy while maintaining wasteful subsidies of old-energy businesses will send the economy backwards and put people out of work—and in doing so make our budget problems worse.

Future Jobs Outlook Even Worse Than That

P.S. As for future jobs, EPI points out , which come out of the investment we make today, EPI notes: Public investments near 60-year low

Public investment—which includes strategic investments such as education and infrastructure—are near a 60-year low as a share of gross domestic product (GDP). As the Recovery Act recedes, the already low investment share is likely to fall below the historic nadir. Increasing these investments, as President Obama has proposed, is long overdue and will lead to immediate job creation, long-run global competitiveness, and economic growth.

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 3:13 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

How Koch Front Groups Influence Laws

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

Tuesday the House of Representatives voted to continue tax breaks and subsidies for oil companies. Every Republican voted to support the tax breaks and subsidies.

Thursday House Republicans are expected to introduce legislation to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the CO2 put into the air by burning oil and coal.

Why does the oil industry have so much influence over our government?

Think Progress examines the influence just one oil company has over our government in a series:

From the report series, Part 1:

As ThinkProgress has carefully documented over the last three years, Koch groups have spent tens of millions to influence government policy — from financing the Tea Parties, to funding junk academic studies, to undisclosed attack ads against Democrats, to groups promoting climate change denial, to a large network of state-based and national think tanks.

[. . .] Koch funds both socially conservative groups and socially liberal groups. However, Koch’s financing of front groups and political organizations all have one thing in common: every single Koch group attacks workers’ rights, promotes deregulation, and argues for radical supply side economics. Not only do the Koch’s front groups pad Koch Industries’ bottom line, they supply the Koch brother’s talking points.

From the series Part 2:

Koch Industries has cornered the market in monetizing some of the most dirty industrial businesses. Koch imports oil from the Middle East, refines high-carbon Canadian crude, maintains coal-burning plants, owns one of the largest oil pipeline networks in America, runs environmentally hazardous lumber mills, produces toxic chemicals, and manufacturers fertilizer. The University of Masschusetts Amherst has scored Koch as among the top ten worst air polluters for its carcinogenic chemicals.

Much of the entire Koch political machine is geared towards ensuring that Koch Industries never has to compensate the people and ecosystems damaged by Koch Industries pollution. Koch front groups — from Tea Party groups to think tanks — have diligently promoted Koch Industries’ bottom line by denying global warming, fighting regulations on Koch’s cancer-causing chemicals, and snuffing out investigations into Koch’s environmental crimes:

The report shows how a series of Koch-funded organizations -- some even tax-deductible supposed "charities" -- are presented to the public as "independent" and are used in a campaign to persuade the public that climate change is a "hoax" or that different ways that Koch Industries pollutes are actually not harmful and should not be regulated.

Not Just Pollution Laws

While the Think Progress series examines how Koch Industries uses front groups to influence the government's efforts to enforce pollution laws, Politico examines an entirely different way that Koch Industies is using front groups to influence government. In For right, Wisconsin battle was years in making, Politico examines how Koch and others wages a campaign to convince voters that public employees, their pensions and their unions are responsible for state budget deficit, leading up to efforts like the ones in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and other states to get rid of public employee unions.

From the Politico story,

The conservative assault on public sector unions that seemed to explode out of nowhere in Wisconsin and spread across the Midwest was in fact months – if not years – in the making, the result of methodical polling, lobbying, messaging, grassroots organizing and policy crafting by a coterie of well-funded conservative groups.

The Politico story provides an important piece of the puzzle in understanding what has happened to us, our wages, our jobs and our democracy in recent years. But the story is hardly limited to influence over pollution laws or the fight over public-employee unions. Other investigations have looked into other uses of these front groups, astroturf, think tanks and other influencers. For example, looking just at Koch influence see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here,and so many more.

See also Think Progress' related posts:

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 3:11 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Don't Complain About "The" Democrats

Because there are Democrats like this. Here is video of Rep. George Miller talking about workers and the right to organize.

SOME Democrats are bad Democrats, others are GREAT!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

The Decline of the American Media

There must be something in the spring air. The lunatics, the delusional and the kooks seem to be descending upon us from far and wide: Gaddafi, Charlie Sheen, Julian Assange, and Glenn Beck to name a few. They come at us in all shapes, sizes and ethnicity over the media and political airwaves. Just tune into the television, cable, radio, social networks and even in the halls of Congress. As many have lamented this past week, it's almost impossible to decipher the recent ramblings of Moammar Gaddafi from Charlie Sheen because it all sounds the same. Scary stuff huh when folks like Sheen take to primetime and Twitter for a public meltdown, and a profitable windfall that may have sacrificed his children. You know listening to him was like listening to ranting of the crazy uncle who spent a bit too much time alone in the attic drinking lighter fluid, and diddling himself. Yet, the real embarrassment is that the American media's executive producers have not shut down this crass profiteering. We've always known that: Gaddafi was stark raving mad; Sheen was spiraling out of control with drugs and drink to the embarrassment of his father; Assange had fantasies of grandeur; Beck was another foul mouthed profiteer picking at the underbelly of America's prejudices; and the new members of Congress were grandstanding while smiling for the television cameras. Alas, we may have finally reached a dangerous level of toxicity from the blitzkrieg of ratings driven dribble passing as American news coverage.

Posted by Michelle at 1:20 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 2, 2011

Fight Corporate Takeover

EVERYone should go see CITIZEN UNITED v. FEC


Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:53 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 1, 2011

Did You Know

that there were rallies all across the country Saturday? Here is a video: Democrats in Congress Speak Out at Rallies Across the Country

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:22 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Reminder On Budget Cuts

Every time you hear them talk about the need for budget cuts remember they just passed more huge tax cuts for the rich.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:45 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

America Waking Up To Value Of Unions

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

As Abraham Lincoln famously said, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time." When you put enough dots in front of people sooner or later they will connect the dots. And Americans are connecting the dots.

Dots: Trade deals close factories, outsource jobs and pit workers against each other, then wages decline and unemployment is really high, while all the money goes to a few at the top. Then calls to cut the wages and benefits of the rest.

Dots: Unions squashed, then pensions disappear, then calls to get rid of public-employee unions because they have pensions.

Dots: Tax cuts for the rich, then panic over resulting deficits, then calls for cuts in the things government does for We, the People.

People are connecting the dots: Unions mean better wages, benefits and working conditions.

There is a joke circulating that goes like this:

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."

Americans are waking up to the value of unions and government of, by and for We, the People.

The situation in Wisconsin is waking America up to the value of unions. At a time when so many of us are hurting, seeing this naked attempt to strip from Wisconsin's public employees the ability to bargain for a better life is resonating. A CBS/NY Times poll finds that "a majority of Americans say they oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions and are also against cutting the pay or benefits of public workers to reduce state budget deficits."

Further down in the story, "Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent."

On how to fix budget deficits, "those polled preferred tax increases over benefit cuts for state workers by nearly two to one."

Union Information Blackout In Corporate Media

Interestingly, though, from the polling story, "Labor unions are not exactly popular, though: A third of those surveyed viewed them favorably, a quarter viewed them unfavorably, and the rest said they were either undecided or had not heard enough about them."

Wow! More than 1/3 of the public hasn't heard enough about unions to know if they like them or not! This is not surprising: When was the last time you read, saw or heard from a union in the major media, explaining the benefits of joining a union? There has been a virtual blackout of information about unions in the corporate media.

So this Wisconsin story is bringing home to people that there is this thing called "collective bargaining" that can help them in their own jobs!

Strategery FAIL

The plan was to spend a year claiming that public employees and their pensions were responsible for state budget deficits, then go after the unions. The strategy also threw in a dose of resentment: People were reminded that their pensions were stolen in the 80's, but these uppity gubment workers still had pensions, so their pensions should be stolen too! But people are smarter then the plutocrats think, and they connected some more dots:

Dot: People in unions have good wages and benefits including pensions.

Well, that's only one dot, but it doesn't take a lot of neuron connections to realize this means that you should join a union, not be against unions! The resentment argument backfired, and people are waking up to the value of unions.

Unions Vital To Economy

Since the Reagan Revolution crushed unions wages for everyone except a few at the top have been flat. In the 'W' Bush decade even before the financial crash wages were declining and job growth was anemic. And wages have been stagnant since this "recovery" began. This wage stagnation is the result of of the loss of the bargaining power of working people.

Working people's share of the benefits from increased productivity took a sudden turn down when the Reagan Revolution crushed unions:

Wage stagnation resulted: (note boost in Clinton years, undoing some of the Reagan damage.)

wages

Unions are vital to a middle class society. Corporations and the wealthy behind the corporate mask have so much power. The only forces that can counter that power and fight for the rest of us are the unions and democratic government. The Reagan Revolution began the elimination of both, bringing instead plutocracy -- government of, by and for the wealthy. The resulting weakness in the power of working people to bargain for a fair share has left us with an economy that didn’t work when it was "recovering" under Bush, and now can’t get out of the recession. To lift the economy we have to lift wages.

Families are not sharing in the rewards, but they are waking up and connecting the dots. America is waking up to the value of unions.

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 4:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Cenk Rants On Social Security

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Senate Dems Cave

SURPRISE!!!!

Senate Dems agree to GOP bill to cut spending. Here is a video that illustrates Senate Dems in action:


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What Good Are Unions?

If you want to know what unions have done for us, go see: What The Fuck Have Unions Done So Far

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:50 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos