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April 30, 2011

There Are Millionaires ASKING To Pay Higher Taxes

Susie Madrak explains, in Oh, Orrin? Why Won't You Listen To Millionaires Who Want To Pay Higher Taxes? | Crooks and Liars,

So the Patriotic Millionaires, a group that includes several dozen people in the highest tax bracket, first tried unsuccessfully to convince elected officials to let the Bush tax cuts expire. No dice. ...

Then, right before Obama was to announce his budget proposal, they took a different approach. Via Justin Elliott in Salon:

"For the fiscal health of our nation and the well-being of our fellow citizens, we ask that you increase taxes on incomes over $1,000,000," the group writes in a new letter to Obama, Harry Reid, and John Boehner. "We make this request as loyal citizens who now or in the past earned incomes of $1,000,000 per year or more."

Last year, Obama signed a bill to extend the Bush tax cuts after originally proposing that the two highest tax rates return to 36% and 39.6%, up from the Bush tax cut levels of 33% and 35%.

One of the signatories of the new letter, film and television producer Linda Gottlieb, explained her participation to me this morning: "For me to be sitting and hoarding my money is insane," said Gottlieb, whose producer credits include "Dirty Dancing" and who now teaches at NYU's Tisch school. "We all give to charity, but that's not the same as creating a more equitable society."


Anyway, go read the story of these millionaires trying to get Republicans to see them, and Republicans mocking them. And read how the millionaires explain that it is part of democracy to pay your taxes.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:40 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 29, 2011

The Corporate Takeover Explained

I'd like to bring this to everyone's attention: New Economic Perspectives: My Class, right or wrong: the Powell Memorandum’s 40th Anniversary By William K. Black

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:27 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

A Medicare Phase-Out By Any Other Name Still Stinks

The Republicans voted to phase out Medicare and use the money for even more tax cuts for the rich. The public found out and turned out. So now they are coming up with new ways to mask the same thing. They call them "triggers," "across-the-board cuts" and "spending caps" but these are all really just about cutting Medicare and Social Security and education and giving more and more tax cuts to the rich. Please don't be fooled. And please get active and let them know you do not like what they are up to.

The "Ryan Plan" To Phase Out Medicare

A Republican named Paul Ryan came up with a plan to phase out Medicare and use the money to give even more tax cuts to the rich. Hence the name “Ryan Plan.” The plan replaces Medicare with a “premium support” voucher that covers some of the cost of insurance, (as if an ill 80-year-old can get insurance at all. The trick was to start the phase-out in 10 years, hoping people won't notice.

While this phase-out of Medicare cuts “government spending” it just shifts that cost to you and me, and actually dramatically increases the overall costs. The Center for Economic and Policy Research calculates that it adds $7 in individual costs (you and me) for every $1 it cuts in “government spending.” But the mask that it cuts "government spending" gives them cover for even more tax cuts at the top.

Town Hall Anger

Last week every Republican in the House (save for a few) voted to say, “Yes, let’s do this.” Then they went home and met with constituents at town hall meetings, and were surprised to learn that regular people are smarter than they thought they were. They thought they could just slip this past people, under the cover of deficit hysteria. Instead people shows up at town hall meetings demanding answers. And they were not happy about what the Republicans were doing.

So now, returning from exposure to the unwashed masses they are saturating the airwaves with corporate-funded propaganda, ads with soothing voices telling us how good for us the Republican plan to get rid of Medicare will be. And they are working on new plans to do the same thing, but to make it less obvious what they are up to. "Triggers. "Caps." "Across-the-board cuts (that leave out military and cut taxes at the top.)" Etc.

The Polls

Poll after poll after poll after poll shows that the public understands where the deficits came from -- tax cuts for the rich, huge increases in military spending and the costs of the recession -- and wants their government to fix these causes of the deficit. But the people are not in control of the government, the powerful few who own the giant corporations are, so the government keeps coming back again and again with schemes to cut the things government does for We, the People and use the savings to cut taxes on the wealthy and the corporations.

Demand The Details

Do not accept any plan that does not detail specifically what they are doing to fix the problems. Any plan that does not clearly raise taxes on the rich, cut the military spending and provide jobs and a solid economic foundation for the future by investing in infrastructure and alternative energy is not addressing the problems. (The People's Budget is a plan that does these things.)

These are the things that the public is demanding. This is why the powerful forces in control of the government keep coming up with shadowy detail-free schemes like "triggers" and "spending caps." They are trying to mask tax cuts for the rich and cuts in the things We, the People do for each other like Medicare, Social Security and education.

Get Angry

We are bombarded with scheme after scheme to take away what is ours, so that a wealthy few can have even more. They have plan after plan. Here is comedian Lee Camp explaining that "Evil People Have Plans":

Don't just take it, foil their plans. React. Get angry.

And then:

Get Active

Get out there and get your voice heard. Call your member of Congress and both senators. Show up at town hall meetings and demonstrations and protests. Sign up to be on mailing lists of organizations like Campaign for America's Future, MoveOn, Srengthen Social Security and Don't Make Us Work Till We Die!, Credo Action, Coalition on Human Needs, US Uncut, On May 12, Campaign for Community Change, Working America and others who are working to fight back. Join Up.

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

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:07 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 28, 2011

Royal Wedding Of Austerity And Trade Deficits Is Killing Our Economy

Sometimes you can just see glimmers of something through the DC brain fog, other times it becomes so clear that you can't ignore it. The current DC brain-fog motto is, "if it doesn't work, do it more." Today's GDP-growth report shows that austerity isn't working, so the geniuses in DC want to do it more. And they say, "government just gets in the way of business" so we send our businesses out on their own to compete with governments, and the resulting trade deficits eat our jobs.

Cutbacks Cut Growth

How long ago was it that DC was all about cutting taxes for the rich even more? And how many minutes after that was DC all about cutting budgets - "austerity" - because of the resulting budget deficits? So instead of the jobs that will fix the deficits the government gives us cutbacks -- cutbacks in taxes on the rich, cutbacks in construction projects, cutbacks in teachers and police and other government functions, cutbacks in the things We, the People do for each other.

We watch as England, Greece, Ireland and other countries try cutbacks - austerity - to get out of slow growth and their growth gets slower as a result. The US tries it, too, and our growth gets slower, too.

The first quarter growth figures are out: 1.8% for the first three months of the year,

Total output grew at an annual pace of 1.8 percent from January through March, the Commerce Department said Thursday, after having expanded at an annual rate of 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010.

But the DC fog machine blames the weather, not austerity.

Higher commodity prices and winter blizzards that shuttered businesses and delayed construction were among the main causes of the slowdown.

Our growth slows because of austerity. So they blame the weather and insist on more austerity. Because austerity "gets government out of the way" of the wealthy few and their accumulation of the rest.

Trade Deficit

As the economy recovered a bit and people started to buy a few more things , the things came from elsewhere, and the money and jobs just left the economy. Without government policies to deal with it, our trade deficit will continue to get even worse, costing us even more jobs and growth and draining even more money out of the country.

Germany runs a trade surplus, so German unemployment is at its lowest level in 19 years. Headline: German Unemployment Declines to 19-Year Low as Export Boom Drives Demand,

German companies are hiring as they increase production to meet booming export orders, fueling domestic demand. ... German factory orders and industrial production rose more than economists predicted in February. ... More than a third of Germany’s medium-sized companies plan to take on staff in the second quarter ...

Germany also pays workers more than we do, gives them lots and lots of vacation time, health care, pensions, rights on the job -- all the things that our leaders say hurt our businesses.

Our leadership is making every effort to return to the old economy that caused the crisis. This is because those who benefited from that economy are still in control of the system, still using their great wealth to get what they want, damn the consequences for the rest of us. (Hint, the first link is to a post titled, Nine Pictures Of The Extreme Income/Wealth Gap, and the second is a post titled, Corporate Propaganda Response To Town Hall Medicare Anger.)

Contractionary Policies Cause Contraction

Conservatives say so many silly things that are proven wrong by the simplest fact-checking -- cutting taxes increases revenue, taxes take money out of the economy, tax cuts grow the economy -- and the silly thing they say that is hitting us now: cutting back causes expansion.

Huh?

Here is what really happens in the real world. Following are a few charts showing the effect of the "stimulus" and what has happened since the stimulus ran out.

First, manufacturing. See the plunge through 2008? That's the collapse. See the sharp change to an upward direction through 209? That's the stimulus. See the leveling off since? That's the end of the stimulus.

ISMFedApril2011

Now look at the following chart of job growth. See the downward slope, when we were losing more and more jobs every month? That's the collapse. See the upward slope, when we were losing fewer jobs every month, up to where we were actually gaining a bit? That's the stimulus. See the leveling off, standing still through 2010, going into 2011. That's the end of the stimulus.

chart_jobs2

You can see in front of your face what works and what doesn't. We should be doing what works, not what doesn't. Why did I even have to write that sentence?

Solutions

As I wrote the other day, we have to invest in rebuilding our infrastructure if we want to continue to be competitive in the world, so right there are millions of jobs that need doing. And the payoff from doing that pays for doing that.

We need to retrofit our economy to be energy efficient, so right there are millions of jobs that need doing. And the payoff from doing that pays for doing that.

We need more teachers, more police, more firefighters, more judges, more scientists, more social workers, more park rangers, more noise abatement and met and safety and environmental and other kinds of inspectors and so many other things that We, the People do for each other -- so right there are millions of jobs that need doing. And the payoff from doing that pays for doing that.

So right there are millions of jobs that need doing. And the payoff from doing that pays for doing that.

But wait, there's more:

National Manufacturing Strategy

The idea of a manufacturing strategy or industrial policy is hardly a radical concept. Alexander Hamilton constructed America’s first industrial policy in 1791. Setbacks during the War of 1812 due to a lack of domestic capacity to build naval vessels and military equipment cemented the determination of the federal government to grow manufacturing, a policy that continued until the end of World War II.

To solve the trade deficit and create millions of good-paying jobs (like in Germany) we need a national manufacturing strategy -- a government-sanctioned plan to ensure that U.S. manufacturers remain competitive in the global marketplace. Click this link for a few examples of countries that have national manufacturing strategies.

Following is the Alliance for American Manufacturing's plan:

Expand American Production, Hiring, and Capital Expenditures
  • Establish a manufacturing investment facility to leverage private capital for domestic manufacturing
  • Expand and make permanent clean energy manufacturing tax credits and industrial energy efficiency grants to allow America to lead on green job creation
  • Link federal loan guarantees for new energy infrastructure projects, including nuclear, wind, solar, other renewable energy sources, as well as the smart grid, with expanding domestic supply chains
  • Adopt immediate, up-front expensing rules for plant and equipment to spur capital expenditures
  • Enforce our trade-legal Buy America and other domestic procurement requirements to prevent leakage of tax dollars overseas
  • Invest in America’s Infrastructure
  • Create a National Infrastructure Bank to finance high-value, long-term infrastructure projects, such as roads, bridges, high-speed rail, and other needs
  • Enact a robust, multi-year surface transportation infrastructure program of at least $500 billion financed exclusively by fuel taxes
  • Enhance Our Workforce
  • Refocus on technical and vocational education, providing a seamless program that bridges high school and post-secondary education to produce the next generation of highly skilled manufacturing workers
  • Reward companies that are investing in effective skills and training programs for their workers
  • Make Trade Work for America
  • Keep America’s trade laws strong and strictly enforced to provide a level playing field for our workers and businesses
  • Penalize and deter mercantilist nations such as China that manipulate their exchange rates and implement non-tariff barriers to gain an unfair trade advantage
  • As the Administration works to double exports, expand the goal to include balancing our trade account so that gains in exports are not overwhelmed by increased imports
  • Rebuild America’s Innovation Base
  • Make permanent the research and development tax credit and enhance it to incentivize commercialization and production in America
  • Focus federal investments in new technology and workforce training on promoting regional clusters of innovation, learning and production
  • And finally,

    It Never Hurts To Quote The Boss

    Press release

    WASHINGTON’S FIXATION WITH AUSTERITY IS HURTING THE ECONOMY Campaign for America’s Future Urges Lawmakers to Put Job Creation First

    Washington, DC – Campaign for America’s Future’s co-director Robert Borosage commented on today’s economic indicators. Borosage said:

    “The first quarter growth figures -- 1.8% for the first three months of the year -- are an ominous reminder of the reality that Washington has forgotten.

    “This economy is in trouble. For most Americans, the recession has not ended. Growth is painfully slow. Unemployment remains high. Home values are dropping; gas prices are rising; wages are not keeping up.

    “Despite this -- and despite the warnings of economists -- Washington, driven by the new House Republican majority, has turned prematurely to austerity. Contractionary policies cause contraction. They will impede any recovery, and slow an economy that is barely moving.

    “Washington offers no answer because it is fixated on the wrong question. The question is how do we get the economy going and put people back to work -- not simply how do we balance our books? Every deficit reduction plan -- from the President's to the House Republican's to the Congressional Budget Office projections -- assumes faster growth than we saw in the first quarter.

    “The most powerful deficit reduction measure is to put people to work, turning them into consumers and taxpayers. If growth and unemployment stay at this level, deficits will rise, not fall. The White House and the Congress should turn to measures to put people to work, to stave off debilitating layoffs of teachers and police at the state and local level, instead of ignoring the reality that Americans are struggling with every day.”


    Sobotka, from The Wire:


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

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

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

    April 27, 2011

    Corporate Propaganda Response To Town Hall Medicare Anger

    The Republican plan for Medicare "cuts government spending" by shifting the cost of old-age health care directly to the middle class and poor. (I’ll explain below.) Here’s the thing: someone is going to get that $34 trillion. (I’ll explain below.) And that someone (the Supreme Court thinks corporations are "someone") is fighting hard for it. They'll say whatever it takes. It is up to you and me to get the word out about this. (I'll explain below.)

    Say Whatever It Takes

    Here is an example of what I mean by "say whatever it takes." Click through and listen to this commercial. Cheerful, uplifting music. Positive voice tones. Flat-out lies.

    - TRANSCRIPT -

    ANNOUNCER:

    Something unusual happened last week…in Washington, DC of all places.

    Elected officials actually did what they said they would.

    The House passed a budget that protects and preserves Medicare for years to come.

    And our Congressman, Allen West, voted to protect Medicare and keep it secure for future retirees.

    Our national debt is $14 trillion…America is literally spending money we don’t have and future generations won’t be able to afford.

    With 10,000 Baby Boomers reaching retirement age every day, important programs like Medicare are being crushed – and could collapse if we don’t act to strengthen and improve them.

    No changes for seniors on Medicare now or those who will soon go on it.

    Control costs by targeting waste, fraud and abuse – so current and future seniors receive the quality care they have earned.

    Call Allen West at (954) 202-6211. Thank him for voting to protect Medicare and tell him to continue keeping his promise to seniors.

    Paid for by the 60 Plus Association.

    What's This About?

    Last week all of the Republicans in the House except a few voted to approve a plan to phase out Medicare and replace it with “premium support” – vouchers – for private insurance, that only cover part of the cost of the private insurance. (As if any company would insure a 75-year-old with health problems. And as if an 80-year-old with cognitive disabilities can pick and choose which insurance scam policy is best.)

    Yes, that's right, it phases out Medicare and replaces it with private insurance, as in, "What do you mean you won't cover that procedure, test, drug, operation? My doctor says I need it!" Right, that private insurance.

    Medicare Costs Shifted To Middle Class

    This plan shifts costs away from the government and on to We, the People. But it ends up adding trillions in total costs because private insurance costs so much more, and because of co-pays, and because of so many other reasons that are the cause of our country paying so much more per capita than other for health care. It actually makes the cost problem much worse. But it cuts “government spending” by shifting those costs to us individually.

    Economist Dean Baker writes that the Republican Medicare phase-out costs us more than $30 trillion (over 75 years) above what we would pay without this phase-out,

    [The Republican plan] to replace the current Medicare system with a system of vouchers or premium supports has been widely described as shifting costs from the government to beneficiaries. However, the size of this shift is actually small relative to the projected increase in costs that would result from having Medicare provided by private insurers instead of the government-run Medicare system.

    The Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) projections imply that the Ryan plan would add more than $30 trillion to the cost of providing Medicare equivalent policies over the program’s 75-year planning period. This increase in costs – from waste associated with using a less efficient health care delivery system – has not received the attention that it deserves in the public debate.

    And economist Mark Thoma writes that the phase-out leaves many seniors without the means to get health care at all,

    The [Republican] plan would reduce Medicare payments far below what is currently available, and this would leave many without the means to obtain the care they need. But even if the vouchers were adequate, I would still not be in favor of a voucher system for health insurance.

    The public will have to shell out trillions of dollars more because of the phase-out shifts seniors to private insurance. It saves the government money by shifting the cost to you and me, but adds $34 trillion more in total costs this way. So high-end taxpayers and corporations will pay lower taxes, the rest of us make it up.

    Town Hall Anger

    People are starting to hear about what the Republicans did and have been turning out at local "town hall" meetings where members of Congress talk to constituents. And, not surprisingly, they are angry.

    Here is Republican Congressman Ryan being boo'ed by constituents:

    Who Gets That Money?

    They always say, when you are trying to figure out who is behind some scheme or scam, to "follow the money." Sure, in this case wealthy and corporate interests are pushing for even more huge tax cuts by "cutting government spending" with this scheme to phase out Medicare. But wait, there's more. The scheme goes beyond that because when you privatize government functions someone gets the money. That is the point of privatization -- to shift public wealth to private profit. They always claim privatization cuts costs, but in reality it actually costs more with what was formerly something We, the People held in common now going to a few for their own gain. So this costs us more because government doesn't pay CEOs huge salaries, and doesn't give million-dollar bonuses to the rest of the executives. Government doesn't pay out a profit. And government's job is to work in the interest of the public. Not so with private companies. Not so at all.

    Privatizing means taking something away from us, so a few can benefit from it instead. And that is what is happening to Medicare under the Republican plan.

    Enter The Corporate Front Group

    In response to the town hall anger, a corporate front-group named 60 Plus is blanketing the radiowaves in Republican districts with these soothing ads thanking them for “preserving and protecting” Medicare. This is part of a campaign they named Seniors Thank Congress for Protecting Medicare.

    60 Plus is one of the groups that spent millions and millions of dollars running campaign ads for Republicans last year, telling people Democrats "cut $500 billion from Medicare."

    Thanks to the wisdom of our elected officials and Supreme Court, we don't get to find out just who is behind 60 Plus. Is it corporations? Billionaires? Foreign Governments? SourceWatch has some clues.

    Muddy The Waters

    This ad is part of a strategy to "muddy the waters,"

    The GOP official added that the party “can fight the Medicare issue to a tie” by “muddying the waters” and painting Democrats as choosing status-quo options that would have Medicare “die a slow death.”

    Go back and read the transcript of the 60 Plus ad again, see how closely it follows this strategy.

    Regular people have jobs, drive to work (and listen to the radio where these ads are playing), work hard, come home, maybe take care of kids... They are busy. They are not experts on the issues. If they tune into the news they are told that "both sides" are "squabbling" and maybe that there is a plan to "reform" Medicare. So as much as Republicans can "muddy the waters" and keep the reporting on a "both sides" and horse race focus, this plan can succeed.

    This organization is not put together by people who care if you and me get Medicare. This is put together as a front for the corporations that will get the money from privatizing Medicare, and the wealthy few who get the money from tax cuts. They count on regular people being busy and not well-informed.

    The GOP official added that the party “can fight the Medicare issue to a tie” by “muddying the waters” and painting Democrats as choosing status-quo options that would have Medicare “die a slow death.”

    It's up to you and me to get the word out about this.

    We Can Fight This

    So, will we be able to get the word out, or will the corporate money allow this and other front groups to saturate the airwaves?

    I think we can fight this. We have the facts on our side, and the numbers, but not the money. They always have the advantage when it comes to money. So it is up to us to turn out the facts and the numbers.

    Will YOU help? Will YOU get involved?

    Will YOU tell people, talk to friends, neighbors and relatives? Will YOU show up at town hall meetings and demand answers? Will you call your member of Congress and your Senators? Will YOU join with "Don't Make Us Work Till We Die?" for their actions tomorrow, and join up with US Uncut or On May 12?

    If you do, we can win.


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

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:16 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    Nicole Sandler Arrested At Town Hall, Needs Legal Fee Help

    Update: Nicole is out and blogging, with Her video, at: About That Town Hall Meeting, Mr. West…

    It figures, my blog is the last place you’ll read about my arrest and subsequent incarceration after attending Allen West’s so-called Town Hall Meeting last night.

    Since I spent last night in jail and, thanks to the sickeningly awful people at the Broward County Jail was subjected to three hours in solitary confinement in a 7×10 room, and then maced. Nice, huh?

    Anyway, I’ll have more on how it all unfolded on the show tomorrow, and then in a lengthier written piece after I get some rest, food and a shower.

    But I do want to clear something up. The video that’s floating around portraying me as a heckler doesn’t show the Medicare question that Mr. West was asked, the way he answered it, and my FOLLOW-UP question.

    The other day I was on the Randi Rhodes show for an hour with guest host Nicole Sandler, talking about people showing up at Republican Town Hall meetings to try to pin them down about what they are doing to phase out Medicare.

    Well, Nicole went to her meeting and they arrested her for trespassing for trying to ask a question. So she needs some help with legal fees.

    Go here to help: Support Radio or Not | Nicole Sandler - Radio Or Not

    It starts at about 3:25 in this video, but watch this guy Allen, he is a serious wingnut!

    Update: This Dirty Hippies post: Radio Host Nicole Sandler Arrested at FL Townhall

    Also Crooks and Liars: Nicole Sandler Arrested At Allen West's Town Hall,

    Funny. I don't recall the 2009 town hall meetings as having the heavy police presence at every single one, or people being arrested for asking questions. And I certainly don't view Nicole Sandler as someone who is threatening in the least, but evidently those policemen did.

    Nicole Sandler lives in Allen West's district. She is entitled to receive answers to her questions even if he doesn't like her politics. She is entitled to attend town hall meetings and ask those questions. She's even entitled to record those meetings.

    Having her arrested for insisting on answers to her questions is just another indication of the totalitarian state people like Allen West, wingnut loony man, think of when they think of "liberty."

    Go recommend this diary at Daily Kos so it gets in front of people: Nicole Sandler ARRESTED at Alan West Townhall Last Night!

    Here at Brad Blog: Radio Host Nicole Sandler Arrested at Bizarre Rep. Allen West Town Hall in FL Last Night [VIDEO].

    Political Carnival: Radio host Nicole Sandler Arrested at Rep. Allen West’s Town Hall Meeting; “I was maced!”

    I asked, “How is privatizing Medicare SAVING Medicare? How is making something less efficient, more expensive save it?” I wanted to ask “Give me the name of an insurance company that would cover a 75 -year-old” with several ailments?” Audience members yelled, “Get her out!”

    Florida Progressive Coalition Blog: Nicole Sandler Arrested for Exercising Her Free Speech Rights at Allen West Town Hall

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:09 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 26, 2011

    What About The People's Budget?

    Dean Baker, writing about The People's Budget: Deficit Fever: Loon Tune Time Among the Elite,

    Twenty five million people are unemployed, underemployed or out of the workforce altogether, but that's not on anyone's agenda. Millions of homeowners are underwater in their mortgage and facing the loss of their homes, that's also not on anyone's agenda. Tens of millions of baby boomers are at the edge of retirement and have just lost their life savings. This also is not on anyone's agenda.

    Deficit cutting fever is the current craze in the nation's capital. But even here there is little tie to reality. House budget committee chairman Paul Ryan put out a budget that proposes that in 2050 we will be spending less on defense, domestic discretionary and various non-medical entitlements together than we spend on defense today. And most of the punditry praise its seriousness. Meanwhile, the Progressive Caucus, the largest single bloc in Congress, proposes a way to get to a balanced budget by 2021, and it is virtually ignored.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:50 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Does Government Know Who The Boss Is?

    In Washington state workers are allowed to organize and form unions so they can win good wages and benefits. In "right-to-work" states like South Carolina, though, the government sides with big companies against their workers. (They used to have even harsher anti-worker laws there but the North stopped rounding up the escapees…)

    Boeing workers in Washington go on strike, so Boeing sets up an assembly line in anti-union South Carolina and tells the Washington workers to take what they offer and like it. This is a standard move from companies these days, telling workers, “Take the cuts or we’ll close the plant and move your jobs somewhere where workers can’t do anything about it.”

    Illegal, But So What?

    You probably didn’t know this but retaliating against workers like that is against the law. It is even illegal to threaten workers in order to avoid a strike. It is illegal to fire or intimidate employees for organizing.

    But companies go ahead and do these things anyway, and other illegal things, because no one does anything about it. And it has been so long since anyone did anything about it – just like with banking fraud or age discrimination – that it is now standard operating procedure. No one even remembers that it is illegal. No one cares.

    Like age discrimination. Look at the faces of the employees behind President Obama when he visited Facebook and tell me if Facebook is the least bit worried about age discrimination enforcement.


    Or this picture of the President visiting Google:

    viers_mill_PS-0253

    Workers' Rights A Thing Of The Past

    With labor-law enforcement -- or even a sense that workers should have rights -- seemingly a thing of the past, these anti-worker sentiments are spreading. Recently, for example Arizona and South Dakota passed anti-worker laws, forbidding the formation of a union after a majority workers sign cards asking for one. Wisconsin and other states have passed laws restricting the labor rights of public-employees and restricting the ability to collect union-membership dues.

    But THIS Time!

    But THIS time something unusual happened. The government has actually threatened to enforce the law! The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Boeing and is suing Arizona and South Dakota for violating labor laws!

    Boardrooms across the land are rising up in indignation. How dare the government threaten giant corporations that they might enforce the law? Don’t they know who's the boss? The Wall Street Journal explains, "Boeing management did what it judged to be best for its shareholders and customers and looked elsewhere. ... As Boeing chief Jim McNerney noted on a conference call at the time, the company couldn't have "strikes happening every three to four years." and calls Boeing's threats against unions a "reasonable business decision."

    Conservative columnists and bloggers are earning their pay, writing indignant column after column about "union bosses," some even praising Ayn Rand. Conservative astroturfers (also) and politicians are not far behind them.

    How dare We, the People (government) tell a business that it has to respect its workers and our laws!!!

    Who Is Boss?

    Do We, the People have the ability to enforce our laws? Do we have the power to tax corporations and the wealthy?

    Do we have the power to protect the protections of democracy?

    Democracy provides workers with safety protections and fair wages. We fought so hard to build and maintain this democratic society so that We, the People could share the benefits. We passed laws allowing union organizing, as a balance to the immense power of corporations and wealth. We passed laws prohibiting companies from telling workers, "Work for what we give you or don't eat."

    And for a time this built our prosperity. But we let the protections slip, and allowed companies to cross borders to escape the protections democracy offers -- to non-democratic countries like China where workers have few rights, where pay is low, environmental protections practically non-existent. Companies locating manufacturing in places like have huge cost advantages over companies located in democracies that respect and protect the rights of citizens.

    The Threat Against Us

    Won't companies just move out of the state/country if we try to enforce labor laws or tax them? Won't China just stop selling to us if we apply a tariff to protect democracy, or try to enforce trade laws? Won't the rich just pack up and move or stop working if we don't just give them everything they want? Won't they move even more factories out of the city/state/country if We, the People try to demand our rights?

    We Still Have The Power

    Here's the thing. We, the People still have some power left in our hands. For one thing we still have a huge market. We still have the power to make demands on those who would like to sell into that market. And we can still choose to enforce tax laws, and wage laws, and tariffs, and labor laws, and trade laws to protect and strengthen what remains of our democracy.

    But we can only do this if we decide to stand up for ourselves and do something about what is happening. We have to put our foot down, and demand that our politicians listen to We, the People and do what we say. It is time to get organized, to talk to neighbors and relatives, to show up at town hall meetings and protests. We can demand that news media begin to cover more than just the corporate/conservative viewpoint. We can go out and register others to vote, and get them to the polls, and demand that votes be counted accurately. We can take back our democracy and put We, the People back in charge.

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

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:44 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 25, 2011

    The Deficit IS Jobs But There Is A Deficit OF Jobs

    There is a deficit of jobs AND the deficit is jobs. The public is so much smarter than the geniuses in DC. Washington talks about the deficit but the public knows that the deficit is jobs.

    That huge deficit jump to over a trillion that happened in Bush's last budget (2009) changed the national discussion from jobs and stimulus to worries over spending. But the deficit jump was caused by the financial crisis and recession and jobs and turning that around means addressing the recession and jobs.

    See for yourself. Go to the White House Taxpayer Receipt page. Look at Health Care at 24.3% of the budget and Job & Family Security at 21.9%. There is almost half the budget right there. Not all of that is from the recession but a lot of it is. (Military is 26.3% but if you add Veterans it is 30.4%.)

    Yes, Bush's tax cuts and huge increases in military spending turned Clinton's surpluses into big deficits. But no one seemed to care about that at the time. It's the deficits in the trillions that are scaring people. The trillion-dollar-deficits is because there aren't enough jobs. So we aren't bringing in tax revenue and we're paying out huge amounts for unemployment, healthcare assistance, food stamps, etc. Cuts only make all of that worse because cuts cut the economy and jobs. If you want to fix the huge deficits you have to create more jobs, and better-paying jobs.

    Meanwhile the geniuses in DC are talking about CUTTING the things that create jobs, which just makes the problems worse. And worse. And they don't touch military spending. Their approach is not really even about cutting the deficit it is about preserving tax cuts for the wealthy and keeping the wasteful, corrupt military contracts flowing. The just use deficit fear as cover to steer people away from real solutions.

    The Real Solutions

    Look at this chart of jobs. The downward slope is when we were losing more and more jobs every month. The upward slope is when we were losing fewer jobs every, up to where we were actually gaining a bit. The sideways slope is the standing still we saw for 2010, going into 2011. See if you can guess when on this chart the stimulus started, and when it stopped?

    chart_jobs2

    The only solution to the huge jump in deficits is to restore the jobs. That starts to restore the tax base and stops the emergency spending on the unemployed. Just cutting them out of the economy doesn't fix the problem, it shifts the problem.

    And the only way to restore the jobs is for the government to step in and DO SOMETHING. We have millions of unemployed and underemployed and those are people. That's the third word in the phrase, "We, the People."

    We have to invest in rebuilding our infrastructure if we want to continue to be competitive in the world, so right there are millions of jobs that need doing. And the payoff from doing that pays for doing that.

    We need to retrofit our economy to be energy efficient, so right there are millions of jobs that need doing. And the payoff from doing that pays for doing that.

    We need more teachers, more police, more firefighters, more judges, more scientists, more social workers, more park rangers, more noise abatement and met and safety and environmental and other kinds of inspectors and so many other things that We, the People do for each other -- so right there are millions of jobs that need doing. And the payoff from doing that pays for doing that.

    The People understand this, that's why all the polls show that these are the things the people want done. And The People's Budget starts to address these problems, helps put people back to work, and that is why it balances the budget by 2021.


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

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:57 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 22, 2011

    Republicans Hearing Citizen Backlash At Town Halls - Actions You Can Take

    Note - see action updates below.

    Members of Congress are holding local town hall meetings now and into next week, and Republicans are hearing from constituents angry that they voted to privatize Medicare to pay for even more tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

    Think Progress has the story: More Republican Congressmen Face Town Hall Backlash Over Tax Breaks For Wealthy And Medicare Privatization,

    Earlier this week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) held town halls across his district to defend his budget’s plan to end Medicare and extend tax cuts for the wealthy. During a stop in Milton, WI Ryan’s constituents made their feelings apparent, booing down the ... congressman when he defended tax breaks for the rich... Yesterday, Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) received the same hostile reception from his constituents for voting to end Medicare.

    This town hall backlash is now spreading to other districts across the country. As Huffington Post reports, freshmen Reps. Robert Dold (R-IL) and Charlie Bass (R-NH) got an earful from their constituents for voting in favor of the Republican budget this month. During a Buffalo Grove, IL town hall, Dold caught a lot of flack for supporting corporate tax breaks and voting to end Medicare: ...

    Please go read the rest. And click this link to find out if your member of Congress is holding a local town hall meeting this weekend or next week!

    And if you can get video or audio recordings of citizen reaction to the Republican votes please post them to YouTube and let me know!!

    Here is Ryan being boo'ed by constituents:

    Here is Barletta:

    Update -- ACTIONS

    Click this link to find out if your member of Congress is holding a town hall meeting this weekend or next week, and attend! Ask questions and demand answers

    MoveOn has an action page where you can locate your representative's local office, asking you to drop by. Note that this is different from attending a town hall meeting. Here is what MoveOn is saying on the page:

    Drop by and tell your Representative:
    Eliminating Medicare is unacceptable!

    Congressional Republicans just voted to eliminate Medicare for anyone under 55. It's time the Republicans hear from us, loud and clear: voting to end Medicare is completely unacceptable and we will hold you accountable.

    No need to RSVP. Just follow the instructions below and drop by with other MoveOn members at 12 noon on Thursday, or any other time during business hours this week.

    Click through for the rest at the MoveOn page

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

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Video: What’s Really Going On With The Deficit

    The Best Explanation Of What’s Really Going On With The Deficit | MoveOn.Org


    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:49 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    April 21, 2011

    Congressional Town Halls

    The Republicans in the House just voted to privatize Medicare. They voted to cut taxes on the rich. And Social Security is threatened. Here is a list of upcoming Congressional Town Hall meetings. You should show up and let them know how you feel about getting rid of Medicare to pay for tax cuts for the rich:

    Elected Official Date City
    Sen. Ron Wyden (DEM - OR) 4/23/2011 Brookings
    Sen. Ron Wyden (DEM - OR) 4/23/2011 Coos Bay
    Rep. Tom Reed (REP - NY) 4/23/2011 Caton
    Rep. Tom Reed (REP - NY) 4/23/2011 St. Bonaventure
    Rep. Tom Reed (REP - NY) 4/23/2011 Wellsville
    Rep. Diane Black (REP - TN) 4/25/2011 Lebanon
    Sen. Orrin Hatch (REP - UT) 4/25/2011 Roosevelt
    Rep. Bruce Braley (DEM - IA) 4/25/2011 Davenport
    Rep. Tom Marino (REP - PA) 4/25/2011 Williamsport
    Sen. Ron Wyden (DEM - OR) 4/25/2011 Hood River
    Rep. Francisco Canseco (REP - TX) 4/25/2011 Fair Oaks Ranch
    Rep. Mo Brooks (REP - AL) 4/25/2011 Florence
    Rep. Joe Wilson (REP - SC) 4/25/2011 Lexington
    Rep. Tom Cole (REP - OK) 4/26/2011 Norman
    Rep. Diane Black (REP - TN) 4/26/2011 Carthage
    Rep. Dan Boren (DEM - OK) 4/26/2011 Vinita
    Rep. Alan Nunnelee (REP - MS) 4/26/2011 Tupelo
    Rep. Tim Huelskamp (REP - KS) 4/26/2011 Clay Center
    Rep. Tim Huelskamp (REP - KS) 4/26/2011 Minneapolis
    Rep. Steve Pearce (REP - NM) 4/26/2011 Ruidoso
    Sen. Charles Grassley (REP - IA) 4/26/2011 State Center
    Rep. Rick Berg (REP - ND) 4/26/2011 Bismarck
    Rep. Bruce Braley (DEM - IA) 4/26/2011 Cedar Falls
    Sen. Orrin Hatch (REP - UT) 4/26/2011 Vernal
    Rep. Randy Hultgren (REP - IL) 4/26/2011 Sycamore
    Rep. Daniel Webster (REP - FL) 4/26/2011 Orlando
    Rep. Francisco Canseco (REP - TX) 4/26/2011 San Antonio
    Sen. Ron Wyden (DEM - OR) 4/26/2011 The Dalles
    Rep. Kurt Schrader (DEM - OR) 4/26/2011 Milwaukie
    Rep. Lou Barletta (REP - PA) 4/26/2011 East Stroudsburg
    Rep. Dan Boren (DEM - OK) 4/26/2011 Pryor
    Rep. Tom Cole (REP - OK) 4/27/2011 Ada
    Rep. Xavier Becerra (DEM - CA) 4/27/2011 Los Angeles
    Rep. Mick Mulvaney (REP - SC) 4/27/2011 Rock Hill
    Rep. Rick Berg (REP - ND) 4/27/2011 Fargo
    Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (DEM - HI) 4/27/2011 Honolulu
    Sen. Jerry Moran (REP - KS) 4/27/2011 Horton
    Rep. Bruce Braley (DEM - IA) 4/27/2011 Dubuque
    Sen. Jerry Moran (REP - KS) 4/27/2011 Centralia
    Rep. David Wu (DEM - OR) 4/27/2011 Portland
    Sen. Jerry Moran (REP - KS) 4/27/2011 Alma
    Rep. Bruce Braley (DEM - IA) 4/27/2011 Fayette
    Rep. Charles Bass (REP - NH) 4/27/2011 Colebrook
    Rep. Steve Southerland (REP - FL) 4/27/2011 Eastpoint
    Rep. Francisco Canseco (REP - TX) 4/27/2011 Castroville
    Rep. Francisco Canseco (REP - TX) 4/27/2011 San Antonio
    Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (REP - NY) 4/27/2011 Cato
    Sen. Jerry Moran (REP - KS) 4/27/2011 Topeka
    Rep. Tom Cole (REP - OK) 4/28/2011 Duncan
    Rep. Tom Cole (REP - OK) 4/28/2011 Lawton
    Rep. Mick Mulvaney (REP - SC) 4/28/2011 Camden
    Rep. Diane Black (REP - TN) 4/28/2011 Cookeville
    Rep. Alan Nunnelee (REP - MS) 4/28/2011 Columbus
    Rep. Tim Huelskamp (REP - KS) 4/28/2011 Goodland
    Rep. Tim Huelskamp (REP - KS) 4/28/2011 Sharon Springs
    Rep. Tim Huelskamp (REP - KS) 4/28/2011 Colby
    Rep. Steve Pearce (REP - NM) 4/28/2011 Roswell
    Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (DEM - HI) 4/28/2011 Honolulu
    Rep. David Wu (DEM - OR) 4/28/2011 Newberg
    Rep. Joe Wilson (REP - SC) 4/28/2011 Hardeeville
    Rep. Randy Hultgren (REP - IL) 4/28/2011 Geneseo
    Rep. Steve Southerland (REP - FL) 4/28/2011 Blountstown
    Rep. Francisco Canseco (REP - TX) 4/28/2011 San Antonio
    Rep. Frank Guinta (REP - NH) 4/28/2011 Exeter
    Rep. Russ Carnahan (DEM - MO) 4/28/2011 St. Louis
    Rep. Francisco Canseco (REP - TX) 4/29/2011 Hondo
    Rep. Rick Berg (REP - ND) 4/29/2011 Grand Forks
    Rep. David Wu (DEM - OR) 4/29/2011 Hillsboro
    Rep. Tim Huelskamp (REP - KS) 4/29/2011 Cottonwood Falls
    Rep. Tim Huelskamp (REP - KS) 4/29/2011 Marion
    Rep. Tim Huelskamp (REP - KS) 4/29/2011 Emporia
    Rep. Francisco Canseco (REP - TX) 4/30/2011 Uvdale
    Rep. Francisco Canseco (REP - TX) 4/30/2011 Del Rio
    Rep. David Wu (DEM - OR) 4/30/2011 Astoria
    Rep. David Wu (DEM - OR) 4/30/2011 Rainier
    Rep. Dan Lungren (REP - CA) 4/30/2011 Angels Camp

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Don't Make Us Work 'Till We Die!

    There was a time on this country when We, the People were in charge, and our government worked for us. Through our government we did things for each other and for our economy, and when we had economic success we paid back toward more such investment. Things are different today and We, the People are no longer in charge. In fact, We, the People are thought of now as "the help." And lately the Powers That Be have been thinking they aren't getting quite enough work out of us. So they want to make us Work 'Till We Die.

    The country has a budget deficit caused by tax cuts for the rich, huge increases in military spending, wars, covering problems caused by the Great Recession, and interest on the Reagan/Bush debt. To address these deficits the Powers That Be are coming up with plans to raise the retirement age, eliminate Medicare and cut the rest of the things We, the People do for each other -- while, of course, dramatically cutting taxes on the rich.

    In response the Strengthen Social Security campaign is launching Don't Make Us Work 'Til We Die -- a website, actions, video and petition.

    Local Actions April 28!

    Click here to find an event near you.

    Virtual Rally!

    If there is no event near you, you can participate in their Virtual Rally.

    This is great. Print out a sign and take a picture of yourself holding the sign. Email it to: virtualrally@socialsecurity-works.org with your City & State in the subject line, and be part of the Virtual Rally.

    Sign ideas:
    * Don't Make Me Work 'Til I Die
    * Don't Make My Kids to Work 'Til They Die
    * Make Your Own



    What Others Are Saying

    Left In Alabama: Don't Make Us Work 'Til We Die,

    There will be rallies in 18 states -- 52 of them at last count -- on April 27 and 28 where current retirees will demonstrate how hard or even impossible it would be for them to continue working at the jobs they retired from.

    Digby: Don't Make Us Work Until We Die.

    Evidently, this is the new fate for many more of the elderly. Between raising the retirement age, skimping on the benefits, wage stagnation and economic wipe-outs like the Great Recession, young and old alike will be competing for all those low paying jobs. But since three and four generations will all have to live under the same roof, perhaps they can come up with some sort of job share concept so that they can work in shifts and someone will be at home to take care of the children. As long as it doesn't inconvenience the employer, of course.

    Richard Eskow at Ourfuture.org: Work 'Til You Die: The Alternate American Reality - And The Reality

    The retirement age is already scheduled to increase, and raising it even more is nothing less than cruel. That idea's part of the political trend toward "austerity economics," a resurgent anti-government ideology that'sengendered a wave of enthusiastic - no, make that orgiastic prose - from well-fed pundits. Their display of almost snuff-movie-like excitement should have been predictable, but I found it shocking anyway.

    AFL-CIO Now Blog: Tell Lawmakers, ‘Don’t Make Us Work ‘Til We Die’,

    There is a scary scenario in store if the Republican budget, drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, is ever implemented. Take a look at this new video from Strengthen Social Security, Don’t Cut It, that takes us to a new dimension where “politicians are cutting our Social Security and Medicare and forcing us work until we die.”

    The Serlingesque video is part of a new campaign to fight back against the Republican budget and other proposals to raise the retirement age, turn Medicare over to Big Insurance and slash Medicaid for seniors, children and people with disabilities.

    Next week on April 27 and 28 in more than 50 cities in 18 states, activists from the Strengthen Social Security, Don’t Cut It coalition—the AFL-CIO and the Alliance for Retired Americans are part of the coalition—will hold events at congressional district offices to tell their lawmakers hands off Social Security. Click here to find an event near you.

    The Main Street blog

    Everyone who has worked in a physically demanding job knows what increasing the retirement age will mean. It’s one thing to preach the necessity of this from behind a desk in a cushy office. It’s another thing to be a miner, nurse, truck driver, cook, carpenter, janitor, or a waiter at age 67 - if our bodies last that long. For those who are among the still unemployed/underemployed, and over the age of 55, the promise of Social Security in the future is what keeps us going. We can’t let them pull the rug out from under seniors who have worked long and hard, and paid in to the Social Security Trust Fund.

    Dean Baker at CEPR: Why Do Real Men Want to Cut Social Security?

    It really speaks volumes about the nature of politics in Washington that in order to be accepted as a serious participant in the budget debates, it is now necessary to affirm a willingness to cut Social Security. This is bizarre from many different angles.

    RootsWire

    BennyHollywood,

    Blue Hampshire

    Suburban Guerrilla

    Ellen's Illinois Tenth Congressional District Blog: Days of Action to Protect Social Security/Medicare,

    April 27th and 28th will be days of action to protect Social Security and Medicare. The themes are "Don't Make Me Work Until I Die" and "Don't Make My Kids Work Until They Die." Here's the video:

    ... If you're ok with foregoing retirement and health care when you need it most so some CEO of a multinational can walk away with billions (trillions) and take his jobs to India, China and Pakistan, then go ahead and vote for Republicans and do nothing on April 27th and 28th, but if you want US jobs and a US middle class that provides for a dignified retirement, then join Strengthen Social Security for its events, virtually if you cannot make a meeting.

    Crooks and Liars

    Treehugger

    susan the bruce

    Dirigo Blue: SAVE THE DATE: Day of Action for Social Security: Don't Make Us Work 'Til We Die


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

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:24 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    Reporters Duped By Republicans (Again)

    So how often do you see stories about reporters being duped by Republicans? It has become "dog bites man" -- something so common you don't bother anymore to report it...

    "Earth Is oval-shaped." Reporters are duped into writing "he said, she said" stories where they report that sine one side says one thing, the other side says another, the answer must be somewhere in the middle.

    "Both sides do it." Reporters are forced by corporatist editors to put "the other side does it too" into stories about Republican extremism. All Republican leadership says something really extreme but some guy on an obscure blog said Bush was like Hitler so both sides are the same.

    "Controversy." 99% of scientists say global warming is a threat. An oil company-funded hack says it isn't. Reporters write that there is controversy over the issue, that it isn't "settled."

    And today, reporters say the Republican plan doesn't end Medicare because they still name it Medicare even though it is privatized and defunded. See: PolitiFact Insists Republicans Don't Want To End Medicare (VIDEO) | TPMDC

    If Democrats proposed to turn Medicare into a system that only provided free veterinary services to seniors, would Republicans be lying to say Dems wanted to "end Medicare," without including the caveat "as we know it"?

    Of course not. But that's more or less the charge PolitiFact is leveling at Democrats over a new DCCC ad (below) which flatly charges Republicans with proposing to "end Medicare." The House GOP budget, which passed with all but two GOP votes over unanimous Democratic opposition, would over time replace the single-payer, government-run Medicare program with a different system that subsidizes private insurance plans for beneficiaries. Those subsidies would work like vouchers -- they would increase in value year-on-year at a much slower pace than the rate of the rise of health care costs, thus leaving seniors exposed to increasing costs as time goes on.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:05 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    How Fix Deficit

    Sam Smith at Dirty Hippies: A simple country boy’s solution to the budget “crisis”

    Go read his suggestions... then:

    Once we’ve done these things, then let’s see where we are.

    I know, I’m just a simple country boy. And I didn’t major in math by any stretch. But it looks to me like this plan has us up over a trillion dollars in five years (maybe a whole lot sooner, depending on how we parse item #4).

    From where I sit, it just doesn’t seem right to go after the little guy first just so we can make sure that Charlie Sheen, Paris Hilton and the Koch brothers can have a tax cut

    .

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

    April 20, 2011

    Yet Another Poll Shows... Plutocracy Stupid, Democracy Smart

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

    Yet another poll is out, showing that the public wants taxes raised on the rich and on Wall Street and the giant multi-national corporations, and does not want cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. Other polls show the public wants cuts in military spending, and increases in spending on infrastructure and other job-creation, economy-growing investment. And, in fact, if we did these things the deficit problem -- caused by tax cuts for the rich and increases in military spending -- would be fixed. So why do Washington deficit-reduction plans always do the opposite?

    From today's Progressive Breakfast,

    Yet another poll shows strong support for raising taxes on the wealthy, opposition to Medicare and Social Security cuts. W. Post: "The Post-ABC poll finds that 78 percent oppose cutting spending on Medicare as a way to chip away at the debt ... 72 percent support raising taxes [on family income over $250,000] ... "

    Meanwhile, in DC the insider story is that the "Gang of 6" is "closing in" on a "deficit deal." In all likelihood it will (they all do) end up being about cutting taxes for the rich and cutting the things We, the People (government) do for each other and cutting investment in the things that make our economy grow: infrastructure, education, science, job-creation, etc...

    Serious People

    Another popular DC-insider deficit plan is called "Simpson-Bowles." This plan was put together by a right-wing Republican, former Republican Senator Alan "three hundred million tits" Simpson and a Wall Streeter, Erskine Bowles, a member of the Board of Directors of Morgan Stanley. This plan (they all do) cuts taxes for the rich and cuts the things We, the People (government) do for each other. It is put together by "serious" people so it is considered "serious."

    Poll after poll shows one thing, DC plan after DC plan does another. The public isn't considered "serious." Republicans and Wall Streeters are considered to be "serious." In fact, things the public wants and needs are not considered at all in today's DC. Democracy is not "serious."

    Democracy vs Plutocracy

    In January I wrote about this phenomenon in, Sen. Conrad Plutocracy Plan Vs. Democracy Deficit Commission. Back then the deficit plan was (they all do) to cut taxes on the rich while increasing them on everyone else, and cut Social Security, even though Social Security has nothing whatsoever to do with the deficit. I wrote,

    This is what happens when Wall Street and conservative Republicans design a plan: give even more to the already-wealthy few, gut what our government does for We, the People.

    Here is the real deficit commission that you would expect to see if we were a democracy instead of a plutocracy: It would have 100 members:


    • 98 of the 100 members would make less than $250,000 a year.

    • 50 of the members would come from households in which the total income of all wage-earners is less than $50,221.

    • 17% of the commission members would be un- or underemployed, and would be wondering why they are on a deficit commission instead of a jobs commission.

    • 19 people on the commission would receive some form of Social Security benefits, 12 of those as retirees. And on this deficit commission they get to talk when the ones making over $250K propose cutting Social Security.

    • 43 of the commission members would have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement. 27 of those less than $1,000.

    • The commission would include the right proportion of factory and construction workers, and people who work in a kitchen, and waiting tables, and teaching, and nursing, and installing tires, and all the other things that people do except, apparently, those on DC elite commissions. (People who do manual labor get an extra vote each on what the retirement age should be.)

    • Include people who are on active duty in the military – the people who said they don’t need that expensive plane, but couldn’t get body armor.

    • 60 members would not have college degrees.

    • 13 members would be receiving food stamps.

    What The Public Wants Is Smart

    And guess what, when you take a poll, you are measuring what the public wants. A poll shows what would happen if the deficit plans were drawn up by regular people. And POLLS SHOW they want tax increases on the rich and cuts in military. They want jobs programs and infrastructure investment and investment in the things that grow the economy. They want a Medicare-For-All health care plan, and in fact other countries have proven this solves the long-term health care cost problem.

    Plutocracy Stupid, Democracy Smart

    Here's the thing: what the public wants actually would fix the borrowing. And what the plutocrats want would make it worse. The deficit is the result of tax cuts for the rich, increases in military spending, spending on the recession and long-term cost increases in health care. So fixing that means putting taxes back where they were before the deficits, realizing that the Soviet Union is gone, investing to grow the economy, and implementing a Medicare-For-All plan like the rest of the world has.

    And that is what polls show the public wants to so.

    So maybe the public isn't that stupid after all. Maybe democracy can work. The plutocrats plans are stupid, because the plutocrats just greedily give everything to the plutocrats, and sacrifice everyone's future, even the plutocrats'.

    Plutocracy stupid, democracy smart, fire baaaad!:

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:34 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 19, 2011

    I Am Hosting Fairness Doctrine Radio Wednesday

    I will be co-hosting the Fairness Doctrine radio show Wednesday from 1-3 ET Wednesday. Please call at 617 328 3526 in or email questions and comments to lars@cyberstationusa.com.

    Listen Live: The show airs on several AM stations around the country. Wherever you are you can also listen to the show live on the Internets at Cyberstation USA. Click "Live Radio."

    Click here to find the show on Facebook.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:48 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    Why Trump Gets Traction From Trade

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

    Donald Trump is getting traction. He is talking about trade, jobs, China, manufacturing, China, jobs, China and China -- and it is resonating with a public sick of being told to ignore what they can see in front of their faces. "Nobody, other than OPEC, is ripping off the United States like China," he says. And he climbs in the polls.

    Why is blowhard Donald Trump getting such traction from talking about trade problems with China? Self-funded, Trump doesn’t require the support of the multi-national corporate/financial elite to be heard. He is able to use his own money to push his way into the conversation. So unlike politicians captured by the cabal that runs our politics, who have to get past the corporate-journalism gatekeepers to raise money and be heard, he is able to give voice to things that are right in front of our faces.

    Poll After Poll After Poll Shows Public Wants...

    Trump can read polls and poll after poll after poll shows that Americans are concerned about jobs, and are especially concerned about how our economy is sending the good jobs and factories out of the country. They are asking why they can't buy things here that are made here. Whether Trump believes what he is saying or not is irrelevant, he understands what the people are thinking, and is giving voice to those sentiments.

    Polls show the public wants tax increases on the rich, a focus on jobs not deficits, and more investment in infrastructure, education, transportation and alternatives to oil.

    A recent Alliance for American Manufacturing poll found that “We have lost too many manufacturing jobs” is the top concern among independents and working-class voters.

    Other highlights from the poll include:

    • A majority believe the U.S. no longer has the world’s strongest economy—a title they want to regain

    • Voters are anxious about the economy—specifically China debt, spending and loss of manufacturing

    • 86 percent of voters want Washington to focus on manufacturing, and 63 percent feel working people who make things are being forgotten while Wall Street and banks get bailouts

    • Two-thirds of voters believe manufacturing is central to our economic strength, and 57 percent believe manufacturing is more central to our economic strength than high-tech, knowledge or financial service sectors

    • Across all demographics, voters’ economic solutions center on trade enforcement, clean energy, tax credits for U.S. manufacturing and replacing aging infrastructure using American materials, a surprising overlap between Tea Party supporters, independents, non-union households and union households.

    People are sick of their factories being packed up and sent out of the country to places where people and the environment are exploited. They understand this is done to pit them against workers with no right, in order to lower wages, benefits and rights. They want something done about it.

    Trump is giving voice to these sentiments. He is saying what people are thinking. Trump says, "We tell China, that if you don’t stop manipulating your currency, we’re going to put a 25 percent tax on your products that come into the United States."

    But Turn On Your TV And...

    But turn on your TV or open a newspaper and you get pundit after pundit saying we need to cut taxes on the rich even more, and cut the resulting deficit by cutting back on the things We, the People (government) do for each other and for our economy.

    The Elite Are Threatened

    Here is a typical elite-media response to Trump's message: CNN Money: How 'The Donald' could incite a trade war

    Donald Trump's call for a 25% tariff on Chinese goods is winning him a lot of attention as he weighs a presidential run in 2012.

    "They have manipulated their currency so violently towards this country, it is almost impossible for our companies to compete with Chinese companies," Trump told CNNMoney in January, during which he laid out plans for his 25% tariff.

    Trade wars could arise: Imposing a tariff on China would do little more than irritate the world's second largest economy, economists say.

    … China could also respond by closing its increasingly important market to U.S. exporters, which would be a major blow to American jobs and manufacturing. China has become the No. 3 market for U.S. exporters, with sales jumping 31% from the previous year.

    And that doesn't even count the goods being made in China by U.S. companies. General Motors sells more cars in China today than it does in the United States, for example.

    "The sad story is we don't have much leverage," said Lardy. "But a tariff certainly would not advance our interests."

    This response to Trump shows why Trump is resonating. In a piece that appears to be an ad for the Chinese Exporters Assn, CNN worries that responding to China’s manipulations could “irritate” them, which could lead to a trade war, and says there is nothing we can do to get our jobs back so we should just accept anything China does. We have already in a trade war with China for some time and everyone can see that we are losing. But this story takes the pro-China position typical of Wall Street and DC insiders.

    Filling The Vacuum

    The media gatekeepers won’t allow the voice of working people, and working people respond when they finally hear a voice speaking up for them. When the corporate/media elites ignore issues like China and trade you get blowhards like Trump moving up in the polls. The cororate/financial gatekeepers have engineered the information channels to such an extent that blowhards like Trump can gain traction by filling the vacuum and voicing what the polls say the public is thinking.

    Examples

    Here are a few more examples of Trump on China and trade:

    Dire Warning From Donald Trump - China Will Destroy Our Country

    Conservative News Media on YouTube: "The Obama administration isn't equipped to negotiate with and handle the Chinese. ... Donald Trump said the Chinese are ripping us off and the Chinese can't deal with it. ... Donald Trump says the Chinese aren't playing fair. ... We need to trade with everybody but we need to be sure it is fair."

    And, finally, Frank Sobotka:


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:44 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    That Republican Vote To End medicare

    Last week Republicans voted to end Medicare. The press isn't reporting this. It doesn't become without a series of votes to come and the president won't sign it, but is their budget proposal.

    Think Progress says it better than I can: MEDICARE -- Broken Contract

    THE END OF MEDICARE, PERIOD: The GOP budget does not "reform" Medicare. It does not provide seniors with the same coverage Members of Congress receive. And it does not end Medicare "as we know it." The GOP budget ends Medicare, period. The centerpiece of the House Republicans’ plan is a proposal that repeals traditional Medicare and replaces it with a health insurance voucher that loses its value over time. Because the value of the Republicans’ privatized Medicare replacement does not keep up with the cost of health care, their plan will gradually phase out Medicare as its increasingly worthless vouchers will eventually only cover a very tiny fraction of the cost of a health insurance plan. Worse, as President Obama told the nation last week, the GOP budget immediately fritters away much of the savings from eliminating Medicare with hundreds of billions of dollars worth of tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans. The rich get richer, and America's seniors are tossed out into the cold.

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

    April 18, 2011

    Conservative Tax Tricks – Did Tax Cuts Grow The Economy?

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

    It's Tax Day, so let's talk about taxes.

    Conservative ideology says cutting taxes makes the economy grow. This Tax Day let's explore whether this is, in fact, the case. In the last few decades we as a country have conducted textbook scientific experiments with taxes. Under Reagan we dramatically cut taxes at the top, under Clinton we raised them a bit, and then under Bush we cut them again. So now we can look at what happened: Did cutting taxes make the economy grow?

    Science vs Ideology

    Science describes, ideology prescribes. The scientist looks at what actually happens and tries to describe it. The ideologue says, "If only people would do so-and-so then such-and-such would happen." (And a unicorn.)

    Conservative ideology says, "taxes take money out of the economy," and "people won't work if they are taxed," "businesses will hire more people if their taxes are cut," and "government is standing in the way of job-creation." (And a unicorn.)

    Science looks at the effect of tax cuts on growth in the past, and over time. Then policy can realistically be adjusted for the best outcome.

    What Actually Happened

    Since 1980 we have cut taxes a lot, then raised them, then cut them. Did the cuts result in economic growth, and did increases result in recessions?

    Reagan Tax Cuts

    Ronald Reagan applied ideology to our government's finances and cut taxes from the then-top rate of 70% down to 50%, and then, later, to 28%. (George HW Bush raised top tax rates to 31%.) The top corporate tax rate was cut in 1987 from 46% to 40% and the next year to 34%. It turned out that if only (and a unicorn) didn't work out so well when it hit the wall of reality. Now We, the People are suffering the consequences.

    Conservatives say that the economy boomed, and more revenue came in because of the tax cuts. What actually happened was government deficits and the resulting accumulated debt exploded, while our defunded government has since been unable to maintain the infrastructure and public structures (laws, courts, regulations, protections, schools, etc...) that keep our economy competitive and our standard of living high. All you have to do is look at the record. Let's do that here.

    In 1981 -- Carter's last budget year -- the on-budget (not from Social Security) tax receipts were $469 billion which was a 16% increase over the prior year. 1982 tax receipts were $474.3 billion, down to 1.1% over 1981, and the on-budget deficit shot up to $120 billion, a shocking increase of 62% in a single year! 1983 receipts were $453.2 billion, a drop of 4.4%, creating a deficit of $208 BILLION -- an increase of 73%! In just those two years following the tax cuts our debt increased by $328 billion!

    Then Tax Increases

    A panicked Congress passed the 1984 Deficit Reduction Act, the largest tax increase in our history. (Not so much on the wealthy, of course.) Tax receipts climbed to $500.3 billion, a 10.4% increase, and the deficit shrank almost 11% to $185.6 billion. But this was still very high. So in 1985 Congress passed the Gramm-Rudmann-Hollings Anti-Deficit Act, and in 1985 tax receipts were $548 billion, a 9.5% increase. But by then the huge military spending increases and the interest on the debt were kicking in -- "structural" deficits were established -- and the deficit increased to $221 billion, an increase of 19%. (The "Tax Rates And Growth Over Time" charts below show that economic growth declined.)

    When conservatives tell you, "Reagan cut taxes and revenue increased," they don't mention those huge tax increases. Nor do they mention the revenue drop following the tax cuts. The size of the economy increases over time anyway, so there is a natural rate of increase that occurred as well. Saying the Reagan tax cuts increased revenue is like saying you skipped lunch and gained a few pounds, without mentioning the 12-course dinner with three deserts.

    Clinton Raised Taxes, Bush Cut Them

    In 1993 Bill Clinton fought to raise top tax rates on the wealthy from 31% to 39.6%. Conservatives said the tax increases would destroy the economy and kill job growth. There is an eight-year record showing what actually happened after taxes were raised. Then in 2001 George W Bush cut taxes again and unfortunately there is another 8-year record of the consequences.

    A comparison of economic performance under these two-term presidents and their tax policies is as close as we can get to a carefully-structured science experiment. Let's see what happened.

    GDP: Clinton vs Bush

    (Chart from CAP: Three Good Reasons to Let the High-End Bush Tax Cuts Disappear This Year. Note that the chart period does not include the effect of the financial crisis.)

    Jobs: Clinton vs Bush

    Real Median Household Income: Clinton vs Bush

    print_to_web
    (Chart from CAP: Three Good Reasons to Let the High-End Bush Tax Cuts Disappear This Year. Also does not include effect of financial crisis.)

    Deficit: Clinton vs Bush

    ClintonBushSurplusDeficit

    What do these charts tell us?

    * Following the Clinton tax increases the economy did much better than it did after the 'W' Bush tax cuts.
    * Following the Clinton tax increases job growth did much better than it did after the 'W' Bush tax cuts.
    * Following the Clinton tax increases real median household incomes did much better than it did after the 'W' Bush tax cuts.
    * Following the Clinton tax increases the deficit went down and eventually the government started paying off its debt. The deficits exploded after the 'W' Bush tax cuts.

    The results of the tax experiment show that tax cits didn't improve anything but did cause an impressive increase in debt. And the resulting debt interest payment will be a drag on our economy until something (hint) is done to reverse the cause of the deficits. (Hint, hint.)

    Tax Rates And Growth Over Time

    The longer-term picture tells the same story. The record shows that in periods of highest taxes the economy grows the most and in periods of low taxes is grows the least. While this does not prove causation, it certainly contradicts conservative claims that high taxes kill growth and jobs, while low taxes boost growth and jobs.

    Top tax rates:

    Top Tax Rate

    Growth over the same period: (12-quarter rolling average nominal GDP growth.)

    nominal_gdp_growth

    Trend line of growth, with top tax rates:

    Top Tax Rate vs GDP

    Top tax rates and national debt:

    Top Rate vs Debt

    Investing In Our Economy Grows Our Economy.

    From Tax Cuts Leave Nothing Behind -- Infrastructure Investment Leaves Behind Infrastructure,

    If we spend money on tax cuts, the next year we only have debt and pay interest on the debt. ...

    A properly functioning democratic government that is not obstructed by ideology invests and regulates and protects and ensures that all businesses get a chance to succeed or fail on their merits, not on lobbying and tax breaks and crony contracts and by crushing smaller businesses. A properly functioning democratic government is able to tax the most wealthy and powerful to help pay for the necessary investment in infrastructure, public structures, education and the rest of the things that keep the economy going into the future.

    If we spend money on improving the country's infrastructure, we get all the job creation that comes from that work, and the next year you have that infrastructure there to help drive the economy.

    Lowering taxes can provide a short "stimulus" boost while it is consumed, but at the cost of borrowing the money instead of taxing to pay for government, with the resulting long-term drag on the economy from paying the interest on that borrowing. Obviously the same amount of stimulus used for investment in infrastructure, education or direct job creation instead of taxes would have more immediate effect and the resulting payoff usually more than covers the interest. Borrow to invest, not to consume.

    Tax cuts don't grow the economy, they grow the debt.

    Tax CUTS Take Money Out Of The Economy

    From Tax Cuts Are Theft,

    virtual_cycle

    A beneficial cycle: We invest in infrastructure and public structures that create the conditions for enterprise to form and prosper. We prepare the ground for business to thrive. When enterprise prospers we share the bounty, with good wages and benefits for the people who work in the businesses and taxes that provide for the general welfare and for reinvestment in the infrastructure and public structures that keep the system going.

    virtual_cycle_diverted

    Since the Reagan Revolution with its tax cuts for the rich, its anti-government policies, and its deregulation of the big corporations our democracy is increasingly defunded (and that was the plan), infrastructure is crumbling, our schools are falling behind, factories and supply chains are being dismantled, those still at work are working longer hours for fewer benefits and falling wages, our pensions are gone, wealth and income are increasingly concentrating at the very top, our country is declining.

    Societal Effects

    Beyond the terrible budgetary consequences of tax cuts for the rich we also saw societal consequences. The social contract was broken, the wealthy were no longer asked to pay back society for the opportunity we had provided. Since it no longer took time to build a fortune there was a shift in business models from building long-term, sustainable, customer-supportive businesses to fast-buck, customer-exploiting, job-killing outsourcing, everything-to-the-top schemes. The incentive to reinvest in healthy communities disappeared.

    And there is the incredible concentration of income, wealth and power among a top few, and its effect on democracy, the rise of plutocracy, and the destruction of the middle class asthese effects cause job opportunities to fade (click for funny video)...

    Again, from Tax Cuts Are Theft,

    . . . We must recognize and understand these tax cuts for what they are. They are a broken contract. These tax cuts for the wealthy are theft. And we must recognize the Reagan Revolution for what it has cost us. Our democracy has been corrupted and our political system has been captured. A wealthy few are taking all of the benefits of our efforts for themselves. The lack of investment in infrastructure, courts, schools and other public structures is making our country less competitive in the world. The Reagan Revolution is stealing our future.

    It Didn't Work So Do More?

    Today ideology still dominates and conservatives are calling for even more tax cuts. In spite of the record, the ideologues still say, "A recession is the wrong time to raise taxes" because "taxes take money out of the economy." Just last week House Republicans passed a budget that cuts rates for the wealthy, which were 90% for decades and then 70% before tax-cut fever brought us the huge deficit, to 25%. And also cuts corporate taxes - 90% of corporate stock is owned by the top 10% - to 25%. They say more tax cuts will "promote growth and job creation." But all we have to do is look at the record to know what will happen if this takes effect.

    And A Unicorn plus a candy mountain:

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:00 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Conservative Tax Tricks – Are We "Broke?"

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

    Conservatives have been saying lately, "We're broke," and need to cut back on the things we (government) do to protect and empower each other. They have a unique definition of the word "we" when applied this way to Americans. For them "we" doesn't mean "We, the People," it means something different.

    In the last few decades conservatives cut taxes on the rich. And then they cut taxes on the rich. And then they cut taxes on the rich. And then they did it even more. Finally, after cutting, cutting and cutting taxes on the rich they complain that there isn't any money to run our government!

    Speaker of the House John Boehner, Jan. 26: "Well, if you really want to talk about what the 'Sputnik moment' is," he replied, "it's the fact that we're broke. And American people know we're broke." Again on Feb. 10: "We're broke. Let's be honest with ourselves."

    Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker says Wisconsin is "broke," too. (Therefore they have to get rid of unions???)

    Conservatives even extend their nonsense to claim California is "broke" because it taxes the rich!

    Are We Broke?

    If the definition of "we" is "we" then we certainly aren't "broke." In fact just 400 of us have more money than half of the rest of us -- 155 million people. Just 400 people have that much! That's a whole lot of "not broke" right there.

    Last year the top 25 hedge fund managers -- just 25 people -- had income of $22 billion. Those 25 people had more income than all the people in 440,000 average American families combined. (Median household incomeaccording to the Census Bureau in 2008 was $52,029.) That's a whole lot of "not broke" right there, too.

    And these are just two examples of how extreme the income inequality in our country has gotten. A few at the top have so much at the expense of the rest of us.

    Where Did The Money Go?

    Those 25 hedge fund managers have been granted a special tax rate of only 15%. Those 400 wealthy people who own more than half of the rest of us get much of their income from "capital gains," dividends and other special low-tax gimmicks. The top few percent of Americans have been getting tax breaks since Reagan, and the result is that the rest of us have to make up the difference. We're not "broke," we're paying for the gains at the top.

    Joshua Holland, Tax Day Question: Who's Paying What?,

    The federal income tax bill for a person making $15,000 is 51 percent higher today than it was 30 years ago -- a big jump.

    ... If you make $100,000, you'd be paying 33 percent less today than in 1981.

    Someone making a really good living that brought in $250,000 would pay 47 percent less – that person's federal income tax bill dropped from $126,953 in 1981 to $67,398 today.

    It hasn't just been income-tax cuts, either. The businesses owned by the top few percent have also been getting the breaks. Joshua Holland again, in How Big Business Gets a Free Ride by Lobbying to Raise Your Taxes, explains,

    Well, consider this: in the 1940s, corporations paid 43 percent of all the federal income taxes collected in this country. In the 1950s, they picked up the tab for 39 percent. But by the time the 1990s rolled around, corporations were paying just 18.9 percent of federal income taxes, and they forked over the same figure in the first decade of this century. We – working people – paid the difference.

    So what we are seeing it that the income at the top is rising:

    While the taxes at the top are falling:

    And the taxes paid by the corporations is also falling:

    How Did It Happen?

    Since the early 80s our economy has been restructuring itself in ways that send almost all of the gains to a few at the top. "Free trade" pitted our workers against exploited workers in a race to the bottom. Deregulation removed consumer and other protections, allowing corporations to become predatory and monopolistic. Meanwhile the tax system has been restructured to send the tax collections downward. One of the biggest tax shifts was increasing the Social Security payroll tax on those at the bottom and middle – money that was supposed to be set aside for their retirement -- and using that money to fund tax cuts for those above. And now they claim all that money people were putting away is gone so we need to cut their retirement by moving the retirement age out. In addition the corporations are paying a lower share of the taxes as well.

    America Is Not Broke

    Simple answer to a simple question: America is not broke, we are richer than ever. But the "We" that make up We, the People are not sharing in the gains, while the "we" that make up the wealthy few are not sharing ... anything. The tax cuts have stolen from us our ability to maintain our infrastructure, education our people, maintain our competitiveness in the world and take care of each other.

    As Michael Moore said in Wisconsin,

    "America is not broke, not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It's just that it's not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich."

    Here's Cenk on this:

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

    "A Strong Smell Of Pee"

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:47 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Run America Like a Business?

    Yglesias サ How To Run America Like a Business: Get Rid Of All The Old People

    If you’re trying to look at America from a balance-sheet perspective the problem is very clear. It’s not “entitlements” and it’s not “Social Security” and it’s not “Medicare” and it’s not “health care costs” it’s the existence of old people. Old people, generally speaking, don’t produce anything of economic value. They sit around, retired, consuming goods and services and produce nothing but the occasional turn at babysitting. The optimal economic growth policy isn’t to slash Social Security or Medicare benefits, it’s to euthanize 70 year-olds and harvest their organs for auction.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:43 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 16, 2011

    Will Any Conservative Sites Link To This? Fat Chance!

    Will any conservative sites link to this at the White House website? Fat chance. Conservatives depend on people remaining ignorant of where tax dollars are actually spent.

    Your 2010 Federal Taxpayer Receipt | The White House offers a breakdown of where your tax money is spent. At the site you can drill down into each of these to see more details.

    National Defense 26.3% (Note that Veterans funding is broken out separately. I combine them in the chart.)
    Health Care 24.3%
    Job and Family Security 21.9%
    Education and Job Training 4.8%
    Veterans Benefits 4.1%
    Natural Resources, Energy and Environment 2.1%
    International Affairs 1.7%
    Science, Space, and Technology Programs 1.2%
    Immigration, Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice 2.0%
    Agriculture 0.8%
    Community, Area, and Regional Development 0.5%
    Response to Natural Disasters 0.4%
    Additional Government Programs 2.4%
    Net Interest 7.4% (Note that they use net, which subtracts interest received, instead if how much we pay out on the Reagan/Bush debt, which is approx twice as much.)

    Social Security is separate and self-funded.

    I made a pie chart: (click for larger)

    Where%20taxes%20go.jpg

    To fix the budget deficit:

    1) Fix the hole in revenue by putting top tax rates back to where they were before Reagan.
    2) Cut military spending. We spend more than all other countries combined.
    3) Fix the health care cost problem. We spend much more per person than other countries. You know why.
    4) Much of that big "Job and Family Security" slice goes away if you create jobs.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:47 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos

    Warning Labels For Newspapers

    Journalism Warning Labels ォ Tom Scott

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:42 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 15, 2011

    Republicans Vote For Plan To Privatize Medicare

    House passes huge GOP budget cuts, opposing Obama,

    n a prelude to a summer showdown with President Barack Obama, Republicans controlling the House pushed to passage on Friday a bold but politically dangerous budget blueprint to slash social safety net programs like food stamps and Medicaid and fundamentally restructure Medicare health care for the elderly. The nonbinding plan lays out a fiscal vision cutting $6.2 trillion from yearly federal deficits over the coming decade and calls for transforming Medicare from a program in which the government directly pays medical bills into a voucher-like system that subsidizes purchases of private insurance plans.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:28 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 14, 2011

    The Deficit America Has Forgotten -- And Is Eviscerating The Middle Class

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

    We can service each other till the cows come home but if we don't start making more things here and selling them there more and more jobs will be lost, more and more communities devastated and our standard of living will continue to drop. Everyone is focused on the budget deficit. But here's the thing: the trade deficit is the jobs deficit and the jobs deficit is the budget deficit.

    The Trade Deficit

    Before "The Reagan Revolution" America made things and sold them to the rest of the world. Since Reagan America borrows money to buy things made somewhere else. And since Reagan we've seen the whole game play out: wages stagnate, savings plunge, debt soars, growth slows all while wealth concentrates at the very top.

    And it just goes on. The trade deficit last month was above forecasts, and a big jump from last year:

    The U.S. trade deficit with China widened to $18.8 billion in compared with $16.5 billion in the same month last year. The government also revised the deficit in January to $47 billion from $46.3 billion.

    The February monthly trade deficit fell, but only because the decline in exports was less than the decline in imports.

    The Big Change

    In the early 80's conservative trade policies designed to pit American workers against low-paid, exploited workers in non-democratic countries transformed the United States from the largest creditor nation to the largest debtor nation in just a few years, and it has only gotten worse since then:

    Democracy vs Thugocracy

    America is supposed to be a democracy of We, the People. Democracies set up protections for their people that protect wages, rights, safety, dignity and the environment. Conservative "free trade" agreement 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. This has created a "race to the bottom" for our wages and benefits. Of course our workers cannot compete against workers who are not able to fight for better pay and benefits. This is the reason we fought to build and preserve our democracy.

    China

    Instead of fixing our trade problems, we have gone back to the same old same old. Especially vis-a-vis China.

    Alliance for American Manufacturing Statement on Latest Monthly Trade Figures

    The monthly U.S. international trade deficit in goods and services was $45.8 billion in February. The goods trade deficit with China was $18.8 billion.

    --Year over year, the 2011 trade deficit is running far higher than 2010. January-February 2010 clocked in at $74.3 billion, while the first two months of 2011 have already reached $92.7 billion.

    --Year over year, the goods trade deficit with China is also running ahead of 2010. January-February 2010 totaled $34.8 billion, while the first two months of 2011 have already reached $42.1 billion.

    --Of particular note is that China ($18.8 billion) now accounts for 70% of our overall monthly non-oil goods deficit ($27.0 billion).

    Said Scott Paul, Executive Director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM):
    “Washington has focused a lot on budget deficits this year, but scant attention has been paid to the trade deficit. That must change. The trade deficit serves as a drag on GDP growth and requires financing, just like any other debt. While only 9.5% of our national debt is financed by China, that nation is responsible for fully 70% of our trade deficit in non-oil goods.”

    China, China, China

    Over and over our trade relationship with China demonstrates so many things we are doing wrong in the world competition. Among so many other problems:

    - We let them manipulate their currency rate which means their goods have a cost advantage of as much as 40% going out the gate, before other factors come into account.

    - Their government subsidizes and promotes key industries. We don't have an industrial policy.

    - Their workers are not free to organize and push for better wages, benefits and working conditions. (Ours aren't either, but are more able than theirs.)

    - They restrict and otherwise discourage imports

    - They follow "Buy China" policies, we do not have "Buy America" policies

    - Etc., etc., etc.

    The Trade Deficit Is The Jobs Deficit

    Our trade deficit is our jobs deficit. When you close the factory we can't make a living. When you move the jobs over there the jobs aren't here. And the people who could have those jobs are collecting unemployment instead of paying taxes and buying cars, houses, food, clothes, saving etc.

    American Prospect, The Plight of American Manufacturing,

    Since 2001, the country has lost 42,400 factories, including 36 percent of factories that employ more than 1,000 workers (which declined from 1,479 to 947), and 38 percent of factories that employ between 500 and 999 employees (from 3,198 to 1,972). An additional 90,000 manufacturing companies are now at risk of going out of business.

    Giant Sucking Sound

    So we closed our factories (trade deficit) and shipped the jobs to other countries (jobs deficit) where they pay less and don't protect the environment. Again, from The Plight of American Manufacturing,

    Long before the banking collapse of 2008, such important U.S. industries as machine tools, consumer electronics, auto parts, appliances, furniture, telecommunications equipment, and many others that had once dominated the global marketplace suffered their own economic collapse. Manufacturing employment dropped to 11.7 million in October 2009, a loss of 5.5 million or 32 percent of all manufacturing jobs since October 2000. The last time fewer than 12 million people worked in the manufacturing sector was in 1941. In October 2009, more people were officially unemployed (15.7 million) than were working in manufacturing.

    Millions and millions of good-paying jobs. Gone.

    The Jobs Deficit IS The Budget Deficit

    People with jobs pay taxes. People with jobs don't collect unemployment benefits. A huge component of our budget deficit is the result of unemployment, much of it caused by the trade deficit.

    Of course there is the core component of the budget deficit that was caused by tax cuts for the wealthy, the huge increase in the military budget and the interest on the borrow for these. But the big increase since the financial crisis is due to the recession and restoring our manufacturing base addresses much of this. People with good manufacturing jobs pay mortgages and buy houses and cars and shop at stores and make the economy work. And when thrry buy things made in America the money stays in America.

    What We Can Do

    This is from a year ago -- yes, a year, with nothing done: It Is Time To Put Our Foot Down: Ten Steps We Can Take To Stop Closing Factories And Eliminating Jobs,

    Here are just some steps that We, the People can take to start turning this around:

    - A border tariff on imports to remove the price advantage of goods produced by exploited, underpaid workers.

    - A border tariff to remove the price advantage of goods produced in ways that harm the environment.

    - A border tariff on goods from countries that are not democracies, to remove any pricing advantage gained from not allowing people to vote and set rules that benefit themselves.

    - A border tariff on goods from countries that restrict workers from organizing to improve their wages and working conditions, to remove any pricing advantage gained from not allowing workers to bargain. (America currently doesn't meet this standard.)

    - Remove tax benefits and instead impose tax penalties and fines on companies that close factories here. Don't let it be profitable to do this!

    - Increase taxes on the big monopolistic companies to remove the advantages that help them destroy America's smaller, regional and local businesses -- the very job creators we need.

    - Increase income taxes on high incomes to reduce the incentive to pursue short-term windfalls instead of long-term interests. Make it take a long time to accumulate a fortune. Making a fortune is great but it should be a reward for helping our economy and society, not destroying them.

    - Break up the "too big to fail" Wall Street firms that wrecked the economy. And get the money back -- all of it.

    - Explore the use of Eminent Domain to keep factories in communities and workers in the factories.

    - Formulate and follow a national economic/industrial strategy to build a new green manufacturing economy

    Those are just a few things we can do.

    And, to close, Frank Sobotka:


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Republicans At 100 Days

    The Republicans had now controlled the House of Representatives for 100 days. John Boehner has been Speaker of the House for 100 days.

    They campaigned on jobs. How are they doing on jobs?

    crickets

    Lobbyists are doing really well. Especially oil lobbyists.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:53 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 13, 2011

    Republican Budget SO Loony Even The Nuts Think It's Nuts!

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

    The Republican budget is SO loony it's even scaring the right-wing nuts! How often does THAT happen?

    The Republicans are voting on their budget plan this week. The plan eliminates Medicare and guts Medicaid, guts the rest of the government (except the things their oil company and military-contractor sponsors make money from), while dramatically cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations. Reporters are asking Republicans to comment publicly on the plan and the responses are not what you'd expect. When reporters use "tread cautiously" to describe ANYthing Republicans do, you know something's up.

    LA Times: Boehner treads cautiously on Ryan plan,

    House Speaker John Boehner offered qualified support for Rep. Paul Ryan's sweeping budget blueprint, which would convert Medicare into largely a private insurance system and transform Medicaid into a state-run block grant program. ... Boehner said he believed the Ryan plan will reduce the debt and will preserve Medicare – but stopped short of singing its praises.

    Washington Post: Republican presidential candidates tread carefully GOP budget plan,

    Mindful of the political risks, most Republican presidential hopefuls treaded gingerly after House Republicans unveiled a budget plan that would slash federal spending by about $5 trillion over 10 years while revamping health programs for the elderly and poor.

    "Revamping" is reporter-speak for eliminating, privatizing, abolishing, doing away with.

    Several, including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, praised the budget's sponsor, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, but stopped short of fully endorsing the blueprint and didn't indicate whether they backed the massive changes in Medicare and Medicaid.

    "Massive changes" is more reporter-speak for wiping out, killing, destroying, sending to Heaven.

    LA Times: House GOP faces risky vote on Medicare, Medicaid,

    Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Palm Springs) commended Ryan "for his willingness to begin a long-overdue and critically important debate." But she "continues to review this legislation," including its effect on Medicare,...

    Even members of the freshman class, who ran on cutting deficits and upending political convention in Washington, are treading carefully. Rep. Lou Barletta, a Republican whose Pennsylvania district was held by a Democrat for nearly 30 years before his victory in November, declined to comment on how he would vote.

    Rep. Sean Duffy, a Republican freshman from a working-class, erstwhile Democratic district in northwestern Wisconsin, also has praised Ryan but has not yet signed on publicly to the plan.

    Politico: Some in GOP squirm over Paul Ryan budget,

    Rep. Tim Murphy ... is still undecided. Susan Mosychuk, Murphy’s chief of staff, said it’s a “high-profile vote” that they are “still taking a look at.”

    Rep. Gus Bilirakis ... is “still looking it over and trying to decide.” ...

    Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) ... said he’s undecided.

    Rep. Steve Southerland ... is in the same place as Bilirakis.

    So is Ohio freshman Rep. Jim Renacci. “He’s still reviewing it,” ...

    Even The Base

    In Plurality of Republicans want Medicare left alone, Ezra Klein cites a Gallup poll showing that even Republican voters don't like the Republican budget.

    The most popular position in the GOP’s coalition isn’t that Medicare needs a complete overhaul, as Ryan thinks. It isn’t that it needs major changes, or even that it needs minor changes. It’s that we shouldn’t try and control costs at all. That’s not true for the Democrats’ coalition, where both “minor changes” and “major changes” beat “no cost control,” and it’s not true for the independent coalition, where “minor changes” at least tie cost control.

    And in more bad news for the GOP, elsewhere in the poll, raising taxes on the rich turns out to be very popular, while a plurality further cuts in programs.

    Even Bachmann!

    Saving the best for last, from the above-cited House GOP faces risky vote on Medicare, Medicaid,

    Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who is considering a presidential bid, said the plan "merits our full attention," but didn't go further.

    Whoa, even Rep. Michelle Bachmann thinks it's nuts! When Michelle Bachman thinks something is nuts, you are waaaayyyy past nuts and into full-on, screaming, idiotic, crazy, frothing, hallucinating, straight-jacket-wrapped, padded-cell, chasing-with-a-net budget lunacy.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:53 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    IOKIYAR

    FAA: Sen. Inhofe 'nearly killed' airport workers by intentionally landing on closed runway | Video Cafe

    Impunity.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:00 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 12, 2011

    Something So Simple No One Sees It

    If they cared about the deficit they would cut military spending.

    It isn't about the deficit.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:54 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    Did Koch Industries Write The Budget Deal?

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

    Did Koch Industries write the budget deal? Or is it just a coincidence that so many of the the things Republicans demanded -- and got -- just happen to line up with the financial interests of the billionaires who fund the Tea Party and much of the “conservative movement?” Cutting money for the EPA, alternative energy efficiency, high-speed rail, efforts to fight climate change -- even prohibiting NOAA from creating a Climate Service ... it reads like an oil tycoon's wish list.

    Before you read this, remember that they just finishing pushing through another huge tax cut for the rich. Always remember that tax cut deal any time you hear about "deficits" -- which were caused by tax cuts for the rich and increases in military spending. And before reading about the cuts below you should know that this buget “cut” deal increased the military budget by another $5 billion. From Talking Points Memo,

    One of the hardest hit institutions is the Environmental Protection Agency, whose power Republicans have sought to curtail in recent years through a variety of legislative means. The agency will receive $1.6 billion less in funding than current levels, a 16 percent drop, including a $49 million reduction in climate change programs ...

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also saw a $142 million reduction in funding and is prohibited from creating a Climate Service.

    In addition … programs aimed at boosting energy efficiency for power plants and transportation also were major targets. Energy efficiency and renewable energy were cut by $438 million while fossil energy R&D was reduced by $226 ... Funding for high speed rail, all $2.9 billion of it, was zeroed out entirely. …

    Get it? What we just went through was "You stop that energy efficiency and climate change stuff, or we will shut down the whole government." The EPA is cut 16%. And just who benefits from these cuts, which do serious damage to the country? I'll let you guess (hint -- read the title of this post.)

    I wonder what this budget will do to real estate prices in coastal areas - the areas that are threatened by rising seas?

    WHOSE Priorities?

    And what about our country’s priorities? Actually, really just the priorities of the parties in the budget talks ... just as with the "deficit commission" there weren't any low-income people, teachers, construction workers, unemployed, police officers, etc. in that room. I mean, cutting AIDS prevention, childrens' health programs, science research, education, flu prevention, safe drinking water, police?

    Did I mention the tax cuts for the wealthy and another $5 billion increase in military?

    … just over $1 billion in cuts to programs preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, $600 million cuts to community health care centers, and $78 million to research on health care costs. Funding for health co-ops created under the Democrats' health care law was zeroed out.

    … National Science Foundation saw a $43 million cut in its research funding from its current levels but a major $444 million cut from the President's initial request. …

    Defense was not cut from current levels, instead increasing by $5 billion. FEMA first responder funding was cut by $786 million. Contributions to the U.N. and international organizations were cut by $377 million.


    In addition, from AP,

  • $468 million from several education programs ...
  • $276 million from pandemic flu prevention programs, as requested by Obama.
  • $1 billion from Environmental Protection Agency clean and safe drinking water projects.
  • $1 billion from an account for prevention of AIDS, tuberculosis and other diseases.
  • $600 million from community health centers.
  • $578 million from the Army Corps of Engineers.
  • $504 million from food aid to poor mothers and their infants.
  • $414 million from grants to state and local police departments.
  • $3.5 billion in unused Children's Health Insurance Program funds.
  • $500 million from eliminating summer school Pell Grants for college students from low-income families.

  • How about these for killing JOBS and the economy?

    Did I mention the tax cuts for the wealthy and another $5 billion increase in military?

  • $946 million from construction and repair of federal buildings.
  • $350 million from Labor Department programs, including grants for community service jobs for senior citizens.
  • $2.5 billion in leftover highway money unavailable under current budget caps.
  • Did I mention the tax cuts for the wealthy and another $5 billion increase in military? In case I didn't mention it, they just passed another huge tax cuts for the rich, and this budget "cut" includes another $5 billion in spending on military.

    Update: See the full list here.


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:00 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    Whoa - Why Are eBooks MORE Expensive???

    So I got a Kindle because books cost so much less. At least the used to. I'm starting to find that books are costing MORE on the Kindle than paperbacks!

    For example, Amazon.com: Three Stations: An Arkady Renko Novel (9780743276740): Martin Cruz Smith: Books is $9.91 in paperback and $12.99 on the Kindle!

    So maybe you should think twice about switching to eBooks?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:22 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    April 11, 2011

    Another Forest

    The Forest a Progressive Political Blog

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:02 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 10, 2011

    $58 To Fill An Accord

    I just paid $58 to fill up my 2000 Honda Accord.

    Times are getting tougher...

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 9, 2011

    If Top Tax Rate Was Returned To 90%

    John Paulson would "only" take home $490 million last year. A single year.

    See Top hedge fund managers raked in $22 billion last year - Apr. 1, 2011

    The 25 highest-paid hedge fund managers took home a combined $22.07 billion in 2010, according to a industry magazine's survey released Friday.

    And, believe it or not, that's actually down nearly 13% from the prior year, when they earned $25.33 billion, AR Magazine said.

    AR said pack leader was John Paulson, who earned a record $4.9 billion. That means he was making around $155 per second last year.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:02 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Please Read

    Richard (RJ) Eskow: Why Progressives Keep On Losing and the Right Keeps Winning

    Despite the naysayers, the nation elected a President who presented himself as an unambiguous progressive and gave him both houses of Congress too. So it can be done. So what keeps going wrong, over and over?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:27 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 8, 2011

    No One Wants A Shutdown ... Except Republicans

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

    Since the election the entire Republican structure, from the bottom to the top, has been rejoicing that they are in a position to shut down the government again. Their radio and TV and blogs and articles and speeches have been talking demanding a shutdown, strategizing it, planning it, and just itching to do it. They live for it. This time, we’ll do it right, they say. This time, we'll get away with it, they say. They have also been talking about how they can blame the other side. Don't let them.

    When former Republican Senator Alan Simpson said he "can't wait" for the “bloodbath” that would come when Republicans got the chance to shut down the government, it confirmed what many of us had been seeing on the right: they are itching for and demanding a government shutdown. They just couldn’t wait, and were even saying so in public!

    From January’s post, "Gut Or Shut" -- Is America Ready?,

    Republicans are saying they are going to either gut the government or shut it down.They mean it. It's gut or shut, and they are not going to allow a third choice. This is not just posturing and they are not likely to engage in bipartisan bargaining. Their rhetoric has painted them into a corner with their base. We should take them at their word and prepare.

    ... One after another Republicans -- the very people responsible for the massive debt -- have been outlining their "conditions" for a vote to prevent default and allow the country's economy to survive. They maintain they are not going to pass a budget that does not gut the government, and if the Senate and President do not go along with this they will just let the government default. They say they "can't wait" for a "bloodbath." Senator Jim DeMint, for example, said today,

    "We need to have a showdown at this point that we are not going to increase our debt ceiling anymore," he said. "We are going to cut things necessary to stay within the current levels, which is over $14 trillion. This needs to be a big showdown."

    This "gut or shut" threat is so far beyond anything the country has experienced thatthe country really has no idea what is about to happen in the next few months. But this is just the next step in a 30-year plan and we should understand it that way.

    In fact, over a year ago President Obama warned Republicans that their inflated rhetoric would make it difficult for them to compromise, forcing them to shut down the government again. From TPM, the President,

    "[I]f the way these issues are being presented by the Republicans is that this is some wild-eyed plot to impose huge government in every aspect of our lives, what happens is you guys then don't have a lot of room to negotiate with me."
    So Here We Are

    So here we are. They have been promising for months to do this – whether they do it tonite or later with the debt ceiling vote. Don’t be surprised, and don’t let them even try to shift the blame. They demanded it and they are rejoicing in it.

    Here are just a few examples of Republican demands to shut or gut the government. Just a few. (Conservative media first, scroll down for Republican elected officials.)

    Conservative Media Demanding Shutdown

    Limbaugh Brushes Off Concerns About A Government Shutdown: The Government Has Shut Down "Several Times" Due To Snow

    Fox News' Whip Count: Napolitano Pushes GOP Congressmen To Support A Government Shutdown,

    Cavuto Tells Americans Worried About Shutdown To "Shut Up"

    Cavuto Promotes "Fiscal Upside" To A Government Shutdown

    Fox's Cameron: Dems Must Accept GOP Strings On Short-Term Spending Bill Or "Deny Funds To The Troops"

    Dick Morris Invents "Targeted Shutdown" Solution To Budget Battle

    Hannity Advice For GOP: Don't Compromise To Avoid A Shutdown

    Dick Morris: GOP Will Exhibit "Cowardice" If They Compromise To Avoid Shutdown

    Town Hall, "Shut It Down!":

    CNN report, Tea Party: Bring on a government shutdown,

    ...Tea Party supporters, including some members of Congress they helped elect, welcome a possible government shutdown as soon as midnight Friday. Bringing to a halt what they consider to be a bloated and misguided federal government would be a tangible success for their citizen activism that claims allegiance to no single party.

    Stossel: People Affected By Government Shutdown "Shouldn't Be Getting Those Handouts Anyway"

    Stossel Dreams Of Government Under Lock And Key

    Wash. Times' Kuhner Advocates For Government Shutdown,

    "[I]f the budget crisis leads to a government shutdown, so be it. It will be Mr. Obama's fault. He is the one who is bleeding the country white. A shutdown will unmask the destruction he is wreaking upon America."

    Michael Steele: ‘There’s Nothing Wrong With A Government Shutdown’,

    STEELE: Well I think there’s — I personally, I think there’s nothing wrong with a government shutdown. I’ve been an advocate for it for six, seven months now. For the simple reason that it is the shocker. It is the reality check that the spenders need to have, that those who are trying to chart a different course need to have.

    Conservative Media Push For Government Shutdown While Claiming Any Shutdown Would Be Dems' Fault

    Right-Wing Media Agitate For Government Shutdown...

    Kudlow In Wash. Examiner: A Government Shutdown "Doesn't Sound That Bad To Me." In a March 8 op-ed in The Washington Examiner, columnist Lawrence Kudlow wrote that a government shutdown "doesn't sound that bad to me.":

    Hannity: "Shut The Government Down" "Until We Cut A Trillion Dollars From The Budget." From the March 8 edition of Fox News' Hannity: ...

    Varney And Crowley Insist American People Would Love A Government Shut Down. From the February 17 edition of Fox Business Networks' Varney & Co.: ...

    Limbaugh: "All I Wanted Was A Government Shutdown" For Christmas. From the December 17 edition of Rush Limbaugh's radio show:

    LIMBAUGH: Ah, darn it. Does this mean there's not gonna be a government shutdown? That's the only thing I really wanted for Christmas. I got everything else. My Christmas is giving stuff. All I wanted was a government shutdown. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 12/17/10]

    Carlson: "The Public Needs To Be Let In On A Little Secret: We Can Survive" A Government Shutdown. On the March 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson noted some services that would be affected by a government shutdown and stated: "They've done a study to show that the public needs to be let in on a little secret: We can survive when the government shuts down for a short period of time." She continued: "And that, I think, would raise a lot of questions about whether or not there's bloating in the federal government." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/2/11]

    Doocy: Shutdown Could Make Americans Realize "They Don't Really Need That Gigantic Mechanism." Later on the March 2 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy said to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) that "some Democrats worry that if there was a shutdown that barely affected the everyday lives of a lot of people, that would reinforce your argument on the conservative side that a lot of government is wasteful, and they don't really need that gigantic a mechanism." [Fox News,Fox & Friends, 3/2/11]

    Washington Times: Government Shutdown "Wouldn't Be A Bad Thing." In a February 25 editorial,The Washington Times stated that "a shutdown of the non-essential functions of the federal government ... wouldn't be a bad thing." The Times further wrote that "[s]pending our way out of a recession has been a failure, and the public is ready for change - even if that means living for a few weeks without government functions that, by definition, we can live without." [The Washington Times, 2/25/11]

    Fox's MacCallum and Bolling Agree That A Government Shutdown Wouldn't Be "The End Of The World." On the December 16, 2010, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum suggested it wouldn't be "the end of the world" if "the government stops operating for a little while."

    Gingrich Defends Government Shutdown In Advising GOP To Absolutely Stop Passage Of Spending Bill. Fox News contributor and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich defended a government shutdown on the December 16, 2010, edition of Fox News' Happening Now:

    O'Reilly On Possible Government Shutdown: "Good. These Pinheads Need Some Time Off." On the December 16, 2010, edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly stated: ...

    Erickson: "I'm Almost Giddy Thinking About A Government Shutdown Next Year. I Cannot Wait!" Via Twitter

    See a long list at: Right-Wing Media Dismiss Potential Effects Of A Government Shutdown

    Republican Elected Officials

    Steve King Demands ‘Blood Oath’ From Boehner To Shut Down The Government

    NY Times, Conservatives Balk at Stopgap Spending Measure

    Frustrated with the pace of budget negotiations, Congressional conservatives are lining up against a new stopgap spending measure in a challenge to Republican leaders who back the legislation needed to avert a government shutdown.

    Bachmann: Vote Against CR is "Our Mice or Men Moment"

    Representative Todd Rokita:

    “I feel I have no choice given what I ran on, given what I got 70 percent of the vote on, I have to shut down the government.”

    Representative David Schweikert,

    “A shutdown is not out of the question.”

    GOP Rep.-Elect Nunnelee Vows To Shut Down The Government If Health Care Reform Is Not Repealed

    Rep.-Elect Steve Womack Joins Shutdown Caucus

    Rep. Mike Pence:

    Rep. Joe Walsh:

    Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), who has argued that a government shutdown might actually be good for the country, did not back down from that claim today when he spoke to CBS News' Nancy Cordes on Washington Unplugged today.

    Rep. Gohmert On Government Shutdown: ‘Yes We Can’

    NY Times, As Budget Talks Continue, Hard-Liners Get Support From Tea Party

    At a two hour-plus Tea Party rally outside the Capitol, some members, raising their fists to the chants of “Cut it or shut it,” suggested they would stand firm.

    “It’s time to pick a fight,” said Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, one of his party’s more combative supporters of smaller government.

    … The immediate question, though, remained whether Mr. Boehner could bring House Republicans along on a deal for a $33 billion cut. “If that’s the number, it ain’t good enough,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah.

    … Several lawmakers spoke at the rally, including Representative Michele Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota, with raucous cheers following her every word, and the Republican Senators Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

    Politico, Eric Cantor draws line at new stopgap bills

    It’s not just freshmen or rank-and-file Republicans who are balking at approving another stop-gap measure, which will come up for a vote on Tuesday.

    On Monday, Republican Study Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said he won’t vote for the measure because it doesn’t stop funding for Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics that also provide abortions. The resolution for the rest of the year, which the House passed last month but which hasn’t garnered enough support in the Senate, cuts $317 million in family planning funding.

    In the Senate, Republicans Marco Rubio and Mike Lee said Monday they won’t support the three-week stopgap.
    Last week, freshmen Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) also said he won’t support the bill and implied that a government shutdown might actually be good for the budget debate.

    Sen. Mitch McConnell,

    MR. GREGORY: Is the prospect of a government shutdown over any potential fight over spending, is that an option in your mind? Is it a viable alternative? SEN. McCONNELL: We, we have two opportunities coming up. We have the continuing resolution on March 4th, and then the president has asked us to raise the debt ceiling. So we have two opportunities here to do something important for this country on the issue of spending and debt. We ought not to lose that opportunity. The president ought to work with us on both those occasions to address this important issue.

    MR. GREGORY: Is a government shutdown a viable alternative in your mind?

    SEN. McCONNELL: As I said, we have two opportunities, opportunities...

    Ron Paul Catches Shutdown Fever: ‘I Don’t Think It Would Hurt One Bit’

    Rep. Lynn Westmoreland eyes government shutdown (September),

    A prominent Republican congressman raised the specter Friday of a government shutdown if the GOP wins control of the House.

    Speaking to hundreds of activists gathered at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington for the Faith and Freedom Conference, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) urged the audience to stand with House Republicans when they go toe-to-toe with President Barack Obama.

    Rep. Lynn Westmoreland: Stand With Republicans When We Shut Down the Government, (September),

    "The government shut down," said Westmoreland -- and the crowd started cheering. "That's what I wanted to hear! A good clap for that!"

    Caught On Tape: Republicans Touting Support For Government Shutdown

    Sen. Mike Lee, Politico, Mike Lee: Shutdown may be 'necessary'

    The interviewer followed up, asking, “Even if it leads to government default or a shutdown?”

    “It’s an inconvenience. It would be frustrating to many, many people, and it’s not a great thing,” Lee responded. “And yet at the same time, it’s not something that we can rule out.”

    “It may be absolutely necessary,” he said.

    Sen. Sessions: Top Senate Budget Republican not ruling out government shutdown

    The Alabama Republican says he wants no less than a 10 percent across the board spending cut in exchange for his vote to raise the debt limit.

    Republicans Gave Standing Ovation To Shutdown

    Washington Post, Monday,

    "House Republicans huddled late Monday and, according to a GOP aide, gave the speaker an ovation when he informed them that he was advising the House Administration Committee to begin preparing for a possible shutdown"

    It's pretty clear who wants the government shut down.


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:19 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 7, 2011

    They Created The Deficits. It Isn't ABOUT Deficits.

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

    "Watch what we do, not what we say" -- famous quote from a Nixon official, explaining that they make up the stuff they say to distract and divert people from understanding what they are doing.

    They say they are trying to cut deficits. They are doing something else entirely. Remember, they created the deficits, on purpose, so they could use them now to get what they want. Remember, Bush said his deficits were "incredibly positive news." Remember, Reagan said it was about "cutting the government's allowance." They created the deficits, on purpose.

    Now, with their "strategic deficits" ruining us, corporate conservatives have whipped the public into a deficit-fear hysteria. They are using that hysteria to push through dramatic changes to our country that have nothing whatsoever to do with deficits, and even in many cases make the deficits worse. It isn't about deficits.

    In Wisconsin they claimed they were outlawing public-employee unions as a deficit-fighting measure -- after the unions had given in on every demand to cut pay and benefits. The plan was to defund the unions, not to cut deficits. They only said it was about deficits, as cover. It wasn't about deficits. They used the deficits as a smokescreen to get what they really want.

    In Washington they are using a supposed deficit fight to defund the EPA and Planned Parenthood and public broadcasting and so many other things that We, the People (government) do for each other. They are proposing to abolish Medicare! They want to privatize or at least cripple Social Security. They are gutting Medicaid, Food Stamps and regulatory enforcement. They say it is to cut the deficit. It isn't about deficits. They created the deficits to get them to this point.

    And as we go through these fights over "deficits" do not ever forget that they just finished passing even more huge tax cuts for the rich. It isn't about deficits.

    They say it is about deficits, they do something else entirely. They always say it is about whatever the public is stirred up about, and then push for their agenda. Always. It's what they do.

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

    If the public was all worried about green cheese on the moon they would be saying that the way to fight green cheese on the moon is to defund unions, abolish Medicare, get rid of regulations, cut taxes on the rich, etc. Don't be distracted, don't be diverted. It isn't about deficits. They created the deficits


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:25 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

    Budget Battle: Who Is Our Country FOR?

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

    Who is our country for? Is this a country for We, the People, where all of us are banded together to protect and empower each other, together? Or is this a country where a powerful few reap all the benefits, and the rest of us are little more than "the help?" That is what the coming budget/deficit/debt/shutdown battles are about.

    In the past several decades our country and economy has been thrown out of balance in ways that hurt most of us but greatly benefit a powerful few. Communities are being bankrupted, forced to lay off police, firefighters, teachers, nurses and other essential people who work to protect and help us. More and more working people are hurting, falling ever further behind, losing or barely clinging to their jobs and homes and businesses and health. At the same time big-company CEOs who cheat, bankrupt their company, ship jobs overseas and fire white collar workers by the thousands are not held accountable -- instead they are rewarded with big bonuses.

    And in the larger picture the country is falling behind, the economy is losing its competitive edge, the infrastructure that supports our businesses is crumbling and our public structures like the court system and schools are deteriorating. And in the face of this decline our public confidence, trust, civility and other measures of civic health are falling.

    The measure of any serious budget deficit reduction program should be to look at these imbalances and address them. That is the role of We, the People government. But instead, the new Republican budget accelerates the imbalances -- on purpose. It cuts or eliminates the programs that assist people, helping us maintain or rise to a middle-class existence.

    Decades of Stealth Attack

    Most of us probably thought this country was a "We, the People" democracy where we are all in this together, looking out for each other. But for decades corporate conservatives have been engaged in a stealth attack on the middle class, taking all of the gains of our joint investment in a prosperous economy just for themselves.

    The effects of the stealth attack on the middle class have been creeping up on us, and are now widely felt. Incomes have been stagnant for some time, as costs rise. Predatory industries increasingly prey on the public and small business. At the same time a powerful and wealthy few have benefited from these changes so much that today, just 400 people have more wealth than half of our population of 300 million people combined!

    One measure of the price of maintaining a middle-class existence is the "toil index." The index of toil measures the work hours it takes for a family to live in an average home where children have access to an average school. In the past few decades the work hours required to maintain a middle-class existence has gone up 62.4%.

    So in 1950 the "toil index" was 42.5 hours. That dropped to 41.5 by 1970. But then it started to rise -- a lot. By 2000 it was 67.4 hours, an increase of 62.4%! Yet this was at a time when the country as a whole got ever wealthier. And since 2000 it has obviously gotten much worse.

    Now The Attack Is In The Open

    Now the attack on the middle class is out in the open. The new Republican budget plan takes away any pretense of our government working for We, the People, and transforms it completely to a government of, by and for the top 1%. Programs to maintain the middle class are cut or eliminated. Help for the jobless is cut back. Government workers are eliminated. Medicare is privatized. Social Security is phased out.

    But in this budget taxes for the wealthy few and big corporations are cut, big oil companies continue to raid the treasury, the arms industry prospers and other multinational giants continue to receive subsidies and advantages over smaller, less-powerful competitors.

    This budget is clear in its purpose: to create a one-dollar-one-vote plutocracy for the wealthy few, while gutting our one-person-one-vote democratic system.

    How We Got Here

    Let's look at the effect of the recent decades of this stealth attack on our We, the People government and economy.

    Top tax rates for the rich have been dropping and dropping, resulting in big budget deficits that add up to big debt:

    Top Tax Rate

    The Republican budget doesn't fix this at all. It makes it worse. It cuts tax cuts for the rich even more, and guts the things We, the People do for each other.

    The next chart shows how corporate taxes have declined, the one after that shows who owns those corporations:

    Corp_Taxes_Share_GDP
    wealth2

    So at the same time as income taxes for the wealthiest dropped the tax share from the corporations -- mostly owned by the wealthiest few -- also declined dramatically. On top of that cuts in taxes on capital gains and dividends pushed even more of the gains to the top. The Republican budget plan makes this worse.

    As top tax rates have been dropping working people's payroll taxes have been rising. This is the money we set aside in the Social Security Trust Fund for our retirement. (Chart from Urban Institute)

    The Republican budget not only doesn't address this, it raids this money we have set aside for retirement by cutting our retirement benefits!

    Because of cuts in taxes for the rich and the corporations they own, inequality has been increasing dramatically. The Economic Policy Institute shows that, "The share of income going to the majority of households has dropped considerably since the 1970s.. Share of household income held by bottom 99.5%, 1913-2008:"

    Family-Income_Share-of-household-income_bottom-99_3

    The share of income that 99.5% of us get has fallen from 93.7% to 83.1%. The top half percent get all the rest. The Republican budget plan doesn't fix this at all. It makes it worse.

    Here is a chart of the increasing concentration of income at the top:

    The Republican budget plan doesn't fix this at all. It makes it worse.

    How It Happened

    The "Reagan Revolution" cut taxes, deregulated business, opened our borders to let in goods from "thugocracies" that exploit workers, dramatically increased military spending and cut back on the things we (government) do for each other. It cut back on investment in our people, our infrastructure, education, public structures like our courts, our labor protections, our consumer protections, and attacked the independence of the ways we receive objective information. Things have gotten steadily worse in the years since.

    Last year's post Reagan Revolution Home To Roost -- In Charts shows the impact on us of these changes over time, concluding,

    Sometimes it can be so obvious where a problem comes from, but very hard to change it. The anti-government, pro-corporate-rule Reagan Revolution screwed a lot of things up for regular people and for the country. Some of this disaster we saw happening at the time and some of it has taken 30 years to become clear. But for all the damage done these "conservative" policies greatly enriched a few entrenched interests, who use their wealth and power to keep things the way they are. And the rest of us, hit so hard by the changes, don't have the resources to fight the wealth and power.

    Look at the influence of these entrenched interests on our current deficits, for example. Obviously conservative policies of tax cuts and military spending increases caused the massive deficits. But entrenched interests use their wealth and power to keep us from making needed changes. The facts are here, plain as the noses on our faces. The ability to fight it eludes us. Will we step up and do something to reverse the disaster caused by the Reagan Revolution or not?

    The Republican budget plan doesn't fix this at all. It makes it worse. Much, much worse.

    More Charts

    In the meantime, lobbying to influence our government against the things that help We, the People has gone through the roof.

    lobbying_spending_totals_98-09
    (Chart source Sunlight Foundation.)

    The Republican budget doesn't fix this at all.

    They lobby because it pays off. It pays off because the lobbying buys them special favors, breaks, subsidies and policies that favor them over their competitors and the rest of us. This happens because we let them get away with it. Of course when powerful interests can use money to bend the rules they will bend the rules in their own favor -- and will start by bending the rules in ways that let them bend the rules even more.

    Of course this is what they have been doing. Here is what is happening in the case of some specific industries:

    Lobbying for "defense' has increased:

    Defense_Lobbying

    And the result show how this has paid off: (note, chart includes defense-related spending.)

    Military_spending_chart

    We spend more on military than all other countries combined. The Republican budget doesn't fix this at all.

    Imbalances

    So these are just some of the imbalances that government should be addressing. But it isn't. The Republican budget doesn't fix this at all. It just makes all of these problems and imbalances worse. And this is because of that ability of the wealthy and powerful to pay to get the rules bent in their favor. We need to instead change the system to hold politicians and CEO’s accountable, making sure the rich are not abusing the system.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:23 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    The Middle Class

    TheMiddleClass.org -- a project to hold lawmakers accountable for how their votes will have an impact on the middle class.

    About TheMiddleClass.org

    TheMiddleClass.org provides information and analysis on bills in Congress that have a significant impact (positive or negative) on America's middle class, as well as on the aspirations of low-income Americans who want to work their way into the middle class. It also enables voters to evaluate members of Congress based on their votes on these bills.

    It's THE Middle Class dot org, not Middle Class dot org.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:06 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    April 6, 2011

    Republican Shutdown Shuts Down The Economy -- So Do The Cuts They Demand

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

    Here we are only four months into Republican control of the House of Representatives and the government is shutting down! When you give power to people who hate the government, what do you think they're going to do? Since the election the Republicans have been itching to gut or shut the government. It has been a drumbeat that they either get everything they want or shut it down. And getting everything they want guts the government.

    Either way our economy takes a big, big hit.

    A Continuing Resolution Continues

    What is happening in Washington is that the government has been operating under a "Continuing Budget Resolution" that expends the last budget until a new budget can be passed.

    We have a normal budget process, but Republicans refuse to follow it. Normally a "Continuing Resolution" continues the current budget until a new budget passes through the budget process. That's why it is called a Continuing Resolution.

    But this time Republicans are holding us all hostage to their demands, saying, "We'll shut down the government if you don't agree to big, big changes" that are made outside of the normal budget process. They want dramatic cuts in the things We, the People (government) do for each other, such as investment in infrastructure, unemployment benefits, research, disease control, transportation programs, etc. They are even cutting the Social Security Administration - the people who get you on the list when you are 65 and send out the checks! They are demanding that no compromises be made, they want the government gutted or shutted.

    No Compromise -- Begging To Shut It Down

    Conservatives say they will accept no compromises in their demands, they want the government gutted or shutted and they want that right now. NPR recently took a look at the conservative frenzy to shut down the government,

    On Monday morning members of the conservative Tea Party Nation group received an email with the rather unambiguous subject line: "Let the Government Shut Down!"

    ... In a county full of seniors and retirees, the conservative wing of the GOP is the ascendant force of local politics. And its members are in no mood for compromise -- at least for now.

    Here is conservative Town Hall's take on it: "Shut It Down!"

    CNN report, Tea Party: Bring on a government shutdown,

    ...Tea Party supporters, including some members of Congress they helped elect, welcome a possible government shutdown as soon as midnight Friday. Bringing to a halt what they consider to be a bloated and misguided federal government would be a tangible success for their citizen activism that claims allegiance to no single party.

    Their strategy: force a shutdown, and then blame the people who are trying to keep it open.

    So what happens to our economy if they get a shutdown, and if they get their way and gut the things We, the People -- our government -- does for us?

    If They Shut Down

    If they shut down the government in the middle of a very fragile recovery, our economy will take a huge hit.

    AP: Obama administration: Shutdown would hurt economy,

    The Obama administration is warning that a government shutdown will have broad economic impact, halting the processing of tax returns, reducing access to small business loans and limiting access to government-guaranteed mortgages during peak home buying season.

    800,000 government workers would be laid off, affecting the economies of areas where they are employed,

    ... somewhere in the vicinity of 800,000 workers will be affected. Congress and the judiciary branch will also be subject to a shutdown.

    The Federal Housing Administration, which guarantees about 30 percent of home mortgages, would stop guaranteeing loans. The issuance of government backed loans to small businesses would be suspended. And processing of tax refunds would halt for those who filed paper forms.

    Some even estimate a shutdown could trigger a second-dip recession. In Prolonged Government Shutdown Could Wither Confidence And Even Trigger Recession, a HuffPo report warns,

    An extended federal government shutdown could devastate the U.S. economy by dealing a blow to Americans' confidence, experts said Tuesday.

    Already, Americans face a host of economic woes. The unemployment rate remains high. Home prices are still falling, aggravating a widespread foreclosure crisis. Oil prices are rising, pushing transportation costs steadily higher and tearing precious resources from the economy.

    In this context, a prolonged federal shutdown would drain Americans' confidence in their government, hobbling spending, borrowing and investment -- and pushing the economy toward recession, said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics.

    Here are just a few examples of areas where the economy would be affected:

    Government Contractors- businesses that rely on government contracts for survival would see their cash flow dry up after even a week of shutdown as payment processing ceases.

    Tourism - many areas around national parks depend on tourism dollars for their livlihood. This would dry up immediately.

    Food Safety - as government inspections of meat and other food products cease, deliveries to supermarkets would stop.

    The Rest Of What Government Does -- courts, ports, infrastructure, investment, housing guarantees, regulation enforcement and the rest of what government does helps keep our our economy operating.

    If They Get What They Want

    If they get what they want and gut the government, our economy will take a huge hit.

    Last month, in Budget Cut Job Losses Will Undo 2010 Job Growth, I referred to Goldman Sachs, Moodys and other estimates of the job losses that budget cuts would bring, and pointed out this would undo the job growth we saw last year,

    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.

    Remember How We Got Here

    The budget deficit is the result of tax cuts for the rich and increases in military spending. We just extended the tax cuts for the rich, and there are no proposals to cut military spending in the pre-shutdown negotiations. The discussions are only about how much to hurt regular people, while protecting the wealthy and Wall Street.

    Now the Republican budget proposals give more tax cuts to the rich and continue to extreme, massive, astonishing, incredible, huge, stratospheric level of military spending -- more than all other countries combined.

    We should be discussing tax increases on the wealthy, cuts in the bloated military budget, a "Medicare-For-All" health care plan that takes care of people and removes the burden from businesses and investment in jobs, infrastructure, education and R&D to grow our economy.

    The ideology of a few billionaires who have the ability to convince people government shouldn't stop them from fleecing us has spread so far that people have lost sight of basic sense. Many people have become convinced that government is in our way, just because these billionaires have been running a propaganda campaign trying to get it out of their way. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we are about to find out the hard way.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:40 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    If You Are Or Want To Be In The Middle Class...

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

    For most people the "American Dream" is to be in the middle class, or to raise yourself up to be in the middle class. And people used to expect that things would get better over time for all of us. But today more people are going the other way. Many people are finding it harder just to get by and stay even, and expect that things will get even worse for their kids. This is because more and more and more of the income is going to few and fewer and fewer people. This is called income inequality and it affects almost all of us in a bad way. Budget cuts just make this worse.

    The Engine That Drives Our Economy

    You have probably heard that the middle class is the engine that drives our economy. We have a consumer economy, so when more regular, middle-class people have more money to spend it is better. The money circulates to the businesses and manufacturers that provide the jobs that keep things going. So the country needs a strong middle class or things start to fall apart.

    Middle Class Dying Off

    But the middle class is slowly dying off because wages no longer keep up with the cost of living. Every one of us can see that the cost of a middle-class existence is getting to high for so many of us to keep up. And you can just look around you to see that things have been falling apart.

    In the New York Times this weekend, Robert H. Frank writes about this. In Gauging the Pain of the Middle Class, Frank talks about measuring the work hours it takes for a family to live in an average home where children have access to an average school. He calls this the "Toil Index,"

    It measures the number of hours that median earners must toil each month to be able to rent a house in a school district of at least average quality.

    How long must the median earner work to achieve that goal? During the immediate postwar decades, when income distribution was relatively stable, the toil burden for meeting the rent of that median-price home actually declined slightly, from 42.5 hours a month in 1950 to 41.5 in 1970, according to my calculations.

    But once inequality began rising sharply, the toil burden began rising in tandem. The median new single-family house in the United States grew from 1,570 square feet in 1970 to more than 2,300 square feet by 2007, an increase that can’t be explained by the paltry growth in median earnings during those years. What changed was the context that governed housing choices.

    By 2000, the median worker had to work 67.4 hours a month to put his or her family into the median home. The toil index thus fell by 2.4 percent from 1950 to 1970, but rose by 62.4 percent from 1970 to 2000. Yet all the while, steadily rising per capita G.D.P. painted a substantially rosier picture.

    So in 1950 the "toil index" was 42.5 hours. That dropped to 41.5 by 1970. But then it started to rise -- a lot. By 2000 it was 67.4 hours, an increase of 62.4%! Yet this was at a time when the country as a whole got ever wealthier. And since 2000 it has obviously gotten much worse.

    How can this be?

    The Money All Goes To A Few At The Top

    While the country as a whole grew richer the amount of work required just to stay even in the middle class went up 62.4%! Why? Because the richest one percent now enjoy almost all of the benefits of our economy. It's great if the rich get richer, but not when it is at the expense of the rest of us!

    Why is this happening? Look at these two charts. The first shows how corporate taxes have declined, the second shows who owns those corporations.

    Corp_Taxes_Share_GDP
    wealth2

    So the tax burden of the corporations -- owned by the wealthiest few -- declined dramatically On top of that the income taxes of the top few have also dramatically declined, both from cuts to top tax rates and from cuts in taxes on capital gains and dividends.

    Look at this chart of concentration of income at the top:

    In the same time period as the middle class was forced to work longer and longer just to maintain a middle-class existence, the share of income going to a few at the top grew and grew.

    Budget Cuts Just Make This Worse

    As it became harder and harder for people to reach or maintain a middle-class existence government took up some of the burden. Medicare provided health care for seniors. Social Security kept them out of extreme poverty. Other programs helped in various other ways.

    But all of the tax cuts meant government had less revenue to pay for this help to the middle class and those aspiring to join the middle class. For a time the loss of revenue to the government was made up for by borrowing. We all know what happened after the election of Ronald Reagan, made worse by George W Bush. Deficit upon deficit added up to a huge national debt.

    Now, with the revenue to government cut so far, combined with the effects on the economy of this destruction of the middle class, the borrowing has reached a very high level. The currently proposed solutions to the borrowing -- caused by tax cuts and military spending -- is to cut back on the very programs that have helped people reach or maintain a middle-class existence.

    With the middle class working as the engine that drives our economy, and the middle class falling further and further behind in their ability to stay in the middle class, what do you think will happen to all of us as the programs that help people reach or maintain a middle-class existence are cut back?

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:39 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Shutdown: Will The Media Report What Happened?

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

    How often have you looked up from a "news report" in disgust at the way our modern news media tries to be cover for conservative lunacy and extremism? There is a template that stamps out the false equivalences: "Both sides do it." They find something extreme written by a commenter on an obscure "liberal" website and equate it with something wild that several Republican Senators might say. Then they say "Both sides do it." Or they report extensively-researched facts and give some absolute nutcase theory by a "scientist" paid by an industry equal weight. Bloggers call that "Controversy over shape of earth" reporting.

    Here is what is going on with the battle over a "continuing budget resolution." The Republicans are trying to transform the nature of our country without debate, and doing it outside of our normal processes and procedures. And they are threatening to shut down the government if they don't get everything they want.

    We have a budget process but they are not following it. And like the tax cut deal they are holding hostages. Since the election Republicans have been working toward shutting down the government. There just isn't any question. They are itching to do it. And they are going to do it. It's what they do.

    But will the press report the facts? Or will they confuse the public? Will they let the public know that the Republicans are forcing a shutdown or will they say "both sides did it?"

    We are supposed to be a country of laws, rules, processes, transparency and accountability. There are reasons we set up a budget process with hearings, expert testimony, public input and open, clear votes. And there are reasons we set up a legislative process and procedures. The Republicans are trying to circumvent that and force dramatic changes in the nature of our very system. The Democrats and President should insist that the Congress "pass a clean bill" and follow the normal budget process.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 5, 2011

    One 'We Are One' Event In Redwood City, CA

    I attended a We Are One event in Redwood City, California, at "Courthouse Square." The early-evening event was well-attended with maybe 250 people and a number of speakers.

    Most local media ignored the event. The San Francisco Chronicle had a story, We Are One rallies protest anti-labor moves, that mentioned Redwood City at the very end.

    While not covering this event, Redwood City's Patch.com did cover 5 anti-abortion protesters picketing a Planned Parenthood office, in Pacificans Picket Planned Parenthood in Redwood City.

    Here are some photos from the Redwood City event:

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:13 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Social Justice: AT&T Plows Over Tenants’ Rights to save their iPhone Business in Silicon Valley

    Silicon Valley’s crown jewel, Palo Alto just got mowed down last evening by AT&T. To be specific AT&T effectively tied the hands of many of the City policymakers, and then plowed through the City Council and over 35 residents leaving their bodies scattered on the sidewalks in their wake. Using the big stick approach, they bullied and threatened action in the Federal court system if their addendum to their existing site permit was not approved; and the Council caved to the mighty sword sacrificing many of their downtown rental residents. Most troubling is that with these actions of passing this addendum for the mounting of two AT&T antennas on this residential building, this City Council may have set a precedent to severely limit tenants’ rights going forward in this particular city and longer term in the state. Commercial building owners may now have enlarged rights that grant them the ability to railroad their tenants with whatever side businesses they choose. If this decision by Palo Alto holds, California may be able to rewrite the Civil Codes that govern the rights granted to landlords by allowiing them to enter the premises far beyond the scope of maintenance and/or emergency. You see the only way to get to this balcony is by gaining access through the bedrooms of the residents.

    Effectively this City Council has opened a hornet’s nest that may continue to sting them as this decision raises questions of social justice for over 40% of the City’s residents, of which over 70% are management or other professionals in the tech industry. We all know that we live in a society that is fraught with corporate collusion, fraud and bad behavior. Yet it is troubling to see this kind of reprehensible behavior in our own backyard without tacit consideration for the privacy, health and/or safety of the rental residents. Palo Alto is a city that is full of bright entrepreneurs willing to risk it all to create technologies that can change the world. Sadly, none of them signed up to give away their rights. Who would have thought that liberal Palo Alto, the place of big dreams, would sink to this level! Most importantly, what is to prevent other such activities that suggest some degree of collusion between the private and public sectors? Not much with this precedent setting action, huh? Will Palo Alto become a city that only protects their landed gentry? With this decision, they are certainly well on their way to solely protecting property owners over the serfs that rent.

    Taking this further, can building owners throughout the City now run either brothels or daycare centers while residents are working during the day or evening? After all given this recently enacted City precedent – building owners now have the right to discount the objections of their tenants to cut whatever side deal that want. This means that building owners can engage in mixed use and side deals regardless of the vocal protests of their tenants. As outrageous as this may seem, this is the box that has been pried open with last evening’s decision and it may prove to a gift that keeps on giving. The young, the bright and the able may now choose to take their start-ups elsewhere and be treated far better in the short and longer term. Maybe there were bigger reasons that Facebook, the symbol of all that is good in Palo Alto, has chosen to jump ship and move to a neighboring city.

    Note: This post will appear in other blogs.

    Posted by Michelle at 1:50 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    April 4, 2011

    National Day Of Protest

    Today, We Are One.

    Join us in solidarity with working people in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and dozens of other states where well-funded, right-wing corporate politicians are trying to take away the rights Dr. King gave his life for: the freedom to bargain, to vote, to afford a college education and justice for all workers, immigrant and native-born. It’s a day to show movement. Teach-ins. Vigils. Faith events. A day to be creative, but clear: We are one.

    There are more than 1000 rallies nationwide. Find your local action.

    Tell the media to cover this: Click here,

    The media has given massive coverage to the rightwing Tea Party movement, but no coverage to the progressive response - an explosion of nationwide rallies in support of unions and workers in Wisconsin and nationwide, which we like to call the "Job Party."

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:09 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 3, 2011

    Bipartisanship?

    Get this: Now the Republicans say if ANY Democrats vote for a budget, something is wrong with it and they won't let it pass.

    Boehner wants to pass spending cuts with GOP alone. SO their strategy is to convince Senate Dems to support things that only House Republicans support, otherwise nothing can pass.

    It motivates him to battle for the votes of conservative Republicans who are demanding deeper spending cuts, and greater changes to social issues such as abortion access, than the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Barack Obama say they can accept.

    If Boehner can argue convincingly that it's the only route to House passage, Democrats conceivably could yield on some points they might otherwise win.

    And the precedent is a refusal to allow bipartisanship:

    Hastert had a "majority of the majority" rule. It meant he would bring no major bill to the House floor unless most Republicans supported it.

    It didn't matter if every House Democrat backed the bill, which would allow it to pass with a minority of Republicans. In essence, Democrats' votes were irrelevant to Hastert. Boehner is taking a similar approach, at least publicly.

    And, of course Senate Democrats (the House of Lords) go along. We move ever to the right, Democrats in the habit of conceding everything.

    Bipartisanship?

    "Not very interested," Boehner told reporters last week when asked about forming a coalition with Democrats to pass the legislation to keep the government operating.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:05 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    April 1, 2011

    Social Security "Cannot Exist" Says Rep. Cantor, House Majority Leader

    From Campaign for America's Future:

    Help Fight Cantor's Quest to Eliminate Social Security

    Last week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said out loud what he really thinks: He believes Social Security "cannot exist." At all. For anyone.

    This week NPR played Cantor’s remarks to the conservative Hoover Institution: He declared: "So we've got to protect today's seniors. But for the rest of us? For - you know, listen. We're going to have to come to grips with the fact that these programs cannot exist if we want America to be what we want America to be."

    These guys say things like this at right-wing think tanks, expecting that the folks back home won’t hear them. We want to make sure every person in Rep. Cantor's congressional district hears those words straight from his mouth.

    The Campaign for America's Future isn't letting Rep. Cantor get away with it. We have a TV ad that will let his constituents know about his extreme opposition to Social Security. But we need your help to get it on the air. The more you can donate, the more we can get his constituents to see the ad and the more we can spread the truth, and put him on the hot seat.

    Click here to help us keep this ad on the air »

    Here is what CAF sent out in an email:

    Help us expose Rep. Eric Cantor's plan to make sure Social Security "cannot exist." Contribute $10, $25 or $50 to our ad campaign.

    This week NPR played Cantor’s remarks to the conservative Hoover Institution: He declared: "So we've got to protect today's seniors. But for the rest of us? For - you know, listen. We're going to have to come to grips with the fact that these programs cannot exist if we want America to be what we want America to be."

    These guys say things like this at right-wing think tanks, expecting that the folks back home won’t hear them. We want to make sure every person in Rep. Cantor's congressional district hears those words straight from his mouth.

    Check out our hard-hitting ad. Then help us get it on the air.

    Help us expose Rep. Eric Cantor's plan to make sure Social Security "cannot exist." Contribute $10, $25 or $50 to our ad campaign.

    A significant ad buy in Rep. Cantor's central Virginia district would only require 100 supporters to donate $50 each.

    But the more you can donate, the more we can get his constituents to see the ad and the more we can spread the truth, and put him on the hot seat.

    Help us expose Rep. Eric Cantor's plan to make sure Social Security "cannot exist." Contribute $10, $25 or $50 to our ad campaign.

    All year, the Campaign for America's Future has been leading the fight to protect Social Security. And our polling shows that big majorities across the country want to strengthen Social Security – including in Cantor’s district.

    We helped stop the President from embracing disastrous Social Security cuts in his State of the Union address. Now, let's make sure the Republicans know what they’re in for if they try to abolish one of American's most successful, and most popular programs.

    Thank you for all of your support.

    Sincerely,

    Roger Hickey, Co-director
    Campaign for America's Future

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:21 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos