July 30, 2011
When you sell the farm, the farm's gone.
Is it already too late for America? I’m starting to think that the anti-tax, anti-government conservative movement that started in the mid-70s, elected Reagan and led to the terrible Bush Presidency may have effectively destroyed the country, leaving it bankrupt, corrupt,ungovernable, ruled by a wealthy elite -- and we're only now just starting to realize it. To cover tax cuts we stopped maintaining the infrastructure and started borrowing. To satisfy their hatred of government we increasingly stripped away rule of law, regulation, and belief in one-person-one-vote. We are seeing the consequences of all of that coming back to roost now.
Reagan left us with massive debt and ever-increasing interest payments. Bush left us with $1.3 trillion deficits and a destroyed economy that would force further increases in the borrowing for years - to be blamed on Obama. The "free marketers" gave away our manufacturing base that will take decades and massive capital investment to recover. Obama can try, but it may just be too late to do anything about the borrowing. We need massive investment in jobs and infrastructure, and a national economic/industrial plan. But, with their own Reagan/Bush debt as ammunition, conservative ideologues continue to block every effort at investment to get out of the mess we are in.
And with the country on the very edge of defaulting on the Reagan/Bush debt, Senate Republicans are FILIBUSTERING the very debt-ceiling deal they were for just a few weeks ago...
There is much more at that old post, go read.
July 29, 2011
You have probably been hearing about "the debt crisis." I can't open a newspaper or turn on the radio or TV without hearing about "the debt crisis." Well stop calling it that, because that isn't what is going on. There is no debt crisis; the only crisis going on is the threat of several members of the House to vote against raising the debt ceiling if they don't get what their way, thereby sending our country into default. They are trying to get around the rules of democracy and force deep cuts in the things We, the People do for each other while keeping taxes really low for the wealthy.
There is a fight going on in Washington over whether we should have a democracy that works for all of us, or a plutocracy that runs things for the benefit of the already-wealthy. Unable to change public opinion, the conservative Republicans are trying to force changes in who our government is for and who gets to have a say in how things are decided. These ideological conservatives say government "takes money out of the economy" by spending on education, infrastructure, health care, etc. for you and me and our small businesses and startups, and they want that money to instead go to the billionaires and large, multinational corporations that fund their campaigns. As you know, they already voted to eliminate Medicare, and voted for cuts in Social Security, education, infrastructure spending, and all the other things We, the People have decided to do for each other, so we know they are serious about this. They say if they can't have a country that is run their way then we can't have a country at all.
The "mainstream media" has decided to name this fight a "debt crisis." This leads people to think that somehow the country is in crisis over debt, when the crisis is over a few people forcing default if they don't get their cuts. There is no debt crisis. There is a lot of debt, the result of tax cuts, increases in military spending, wars and giveaways to large corporations that have occurred under the Bushes and Reagan. But the way to solve a problem that resulted from tax cuts and military spending increases is to put taxes back where they were before Reagan, and cut the military back at least to where it was when we were fighting the Soviet Union, even though the Soviet Union is long gone.
Giving In To Hostage-Takers Is A Mistake
Last year these conservatives took the unemployed hostage, refusing to keep unemployment benefits going unless we extended the bush tax cuts for the wealthy. The hostage-taking succeeded.
So, having succeeded at taking hostages, the conservatives then took another, even bigger hostage. They demanded big spending cuts, outside of the normal budget process and decision-making mechanisms of our democracy, or they would "shut down the government." The hostage-taking succeeded.
So, having succeeded at taking hostages, the conservatives have taken another, even bigger hostage. This one is the big kahuna of hostages. If they refuse to raise the debt limit the country could go into default, destroying our economy and the economy of much of the world.
The official policy of the US government on hostage-taking is as follows:
“Based upon past experience, the U.S. Government concluded that making concessions that benefit hostage takers in exchange for the release of hostages increased the danger that others will be taken hostage. U.S. Government policy is, therefore, to deny hostage takers the benefits of ransom, prisoner releases, policy changes, or other acts of concession.”
It says that past experience has shown that giving in to hostage-takers "increased the danger that others will be taken." We gave in to hostage-takers, and the result was that more and bigger hostages have been taken. During these "negotiations" every single time Democrats have agreed to their demands it has resulted in their asking for even more.
It was a mistake to give in then, and it would be a mistake to let them get anything from taking hostages this time. If they get rewarded again next time is guaranteed to be even worse.
July 28, 2011
New, Major Poll Shows Again That Voters Want JOBS Not Deficit Reduction -- Will DC Listen To The Public?
In the middle of the DC frenzy over a contrived "debt crisis" a new, major poll shows what other polls have shown: voters want Washington to act on jobs (and jobs fix deficits), especially in manufacturing, but don't think that our elected officials are paying attention. By more than two-to-one, voters want Washington to focus on job creation rather than deficit reduction.
The study which included eight focus groups nationwide, along with a random national survey of 1,202 likely voters, finds that across the partisan spectrum, Democratic and Republican voters ranked job creation and rebuilding the nation’s manufacturing base at the top of their list of priorities. In fact, when asked to select the most important task for Congress and the President, “creating new manufacturing jobs,” which ranked just below creating jobs more generally, saw a bigger gain from 2010 (up 9%) than any other option, including deficit reduction, lower government spending, immigration reform, or addressing healthcare. Indeed, by a more than two-to-one margin (67% to 29%), voters prefer that Washington focus on job creation rather than deficit reduction.
Here are some of the key findings from this poll:
- When given an “either/or” choice, just 29% want Washington to focus on deficit reduction while 67% want job creation.
- “Creating manufacturing jobs in the U.S.” and “strengthening manufacturing in this country” are the top voter priorities for the President.
- Only 50% of voters believe that the President is working to create manufacturing jobs – an 11% drop from 2010.
- Congress fares even worse – 41% say Democrats in Congress are working to create jobs, and 32% see the GOP working to create jobs.
- 90% have a favorable view of American manufacturing companies – up 22 points from 2010.
- 97% have a favorable view of U.S.-made goods – up 5 points from 2010.
- 94% of voters say creating manufacturing jobs is either “one of the most important” things government can do or “very important.”
- 90% support Buy American policies “to ensure that taxpayer funded government projects use only U.S.-made goods and supplies wherever possible.”
- 95% favor keeping “America’s trade laws strong and strictly enforced to provide a level playing field for our workers and businesses.”
July 27, 2011
"This Video Is For Rich People Only"
July 25, 2011
Marketing works - especially when it has a very big budget, is repeated endlessly and goes unanswered. 46% of voters think the media has a liberal bias.
A full 68 percent of voters consider the news media biased, the poll found. Most, 46 percent, believe the media generally favor Democrats, while 22 percent said they believe Republicans are favored,,,
Step back from the day-to-day, hour-to-hour details of the debt-ceiling negotiations for a minute and look at the bigger picture. Look what we're in the middle of. Our legislators are being stampeded by a manufactured "crisis" into profoundly changing the nature of our country and who our economy is "for," on extremely short notice, against the clear wishes of the majority of the public. They are doing so without following the long-established process for due consideration of important issues; they are not holding hearings, not giving time for public input, not going through committees... The act of negotiating with these hostage-takers at all is itself a violation of our established, democratic system. The question to ask is not, "What painful cuts should we agree to to save our country," but rather, "Why are we engaged in this anti-democracy exercise at all?"
A Functioning Democracy?
In a functioning democracy an informed public considers and debates its options and then comes to a decision on how best to proceed. In a representative republic our representatives are called "representatives" because they represent us, and vote to implement our wishes.
The founding idea of our country is that We, the People are in charge, and our country exists to promote the common good -- "welfare" -- of all of us. Elected officials take an oath of office to protect and defend our Constitution, which begins with those words, "We, the People." Over time we have built up a system of institutions, processes, procedures, traditions and mechanisms to implement this founding idea. The oath they take is to protect and defend this system.
Oath Of Office: Protect and Defend Our System
Today all of this seems all to have fallen away from us. A fanatical but extremely well-funded minority is using a manufactured "crisis" to hold the country's economy hostage. As ransom -- if we don't want the country to go into default, destroying our economy -- they demand that we force fast and dramatic changes to the nature of our country and our social safety net. These changes will take effect before the public can react and gather the forces of opposition. They will be "locked in," creating "facts on the ground" that we have to deal with, and which are extremenly difficult to undo, no matter what We, the People want or need.
Rather than honor their oath of office to protect and defend our We-the-People system from all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to listen to "We, the People," and to promote the common good of all of us, our leaders have instead entered into negotiations with the hostage-takers. The act of entering into these negotiations is by itself an agreement to work outside of our established system, and the result of these negotiations will be to change the equation of who our system is for.
Is there really a "debt crisis" necessitating such a dramatic and immediate response? Just 10 years ago the "crisis" we faced was that we were paying off the debt too fast and it was claimed this would lead to socialism as government surpluses were invested in private assets. So taxes for the wealthy were cut. At the same time, enabled by another "crisis," the military budget was dramatically increased -- in ways that enriched "private contractors."
The result of these changes was an immediate return from budget surpluses to the dramatic budget deficits initiated by President Reagan. Then-President Bush called these deficits "Incredibly positive news" precisely because they would bring on a debt crisis that would enable today's stampede to change our system of government. The debt "crisis" was intentional.
Cause Of Deficits and Debt
The increase of deficits beyond $1 trillion occurred in President Bush's last budget year -- the consequence of the financial collapse and the resulting drop in tax revenue combined with increases in social safety-net program payments. But the underlying cause of the deficits was the Bush tax cuts and wars. Today, in How the Deficit Got This Big, the NY Times offers charts and figures that show that:
...under Mr. Bush, tax cuts and war spending were the biggest policy drivers of the swing from projected surpluses to deficits from 2002 to 2009. Budget estimates that didn’t foresee the recessions in 2001 and in 2008 and 2009 also contributed to deficits. Mr. Obama’s policies, taken out to 2017, add to deficits, but not by nearly as much.
As for the causes of the longer-term debt picture The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has put together this chart, explaining:
Longer term most of our country's future debt problem is from tax cuts, increases in military spending, and the effects of the economic downturn. Most of the rest is because of our private healthcare delivery system. These "debt-ceiling" negotiations are not addressing these causes of the problem at all. Instead they are about using whipped-up panic over those intentionally-created problems to move the common wealth into private hands.
Not The First Time
This tactic of whipping up panic over a "debt crisis" has been used before to stampede legislative bodies into making radical changes on short notice, moving common wealth into private hands. In the post Debt Crisis? Really? I hilighted a 1993 example from Canada that was very similar to today's. From the source's account,
By the time Canadians learned that the “deficit crisis” had been grossly manipulated by the corporate-funded think tanks, it hardly mattered – the budget cuts had already been made and locked in. As a direct result, social programs for the country’s unemployed were radically eroded and have never recovered, despite many subsequent surplus budgets.
There is example after of example of the use of manufactured "crises" to panic and stampede legislatures into privatizing public wealth, just as we are experiencing today.
What is happening here is not supposed to be the process of decision-making used in a representative democracy. Instead what we are experiencing is designed specifically to engineer circumstances that persuade us to bypass established processes and safeguards. These safeguards are in place to protect us from making the very sort of panic-driven decisions that we are about to make. And they are designed to "lock in" the changes, so we can't reverse the damage when we are able to catch our breath.
How can our leaders not recognize and resist what is being done here? Have our own leaders drifted so far from America's traditional love of democracy that they accept this and fall into playing the game?
It seems that our own leaders have fallen into an elitist mindset, which enables them to go along. Persuaded by decades of corporate-funded propaganda, many now believe that the public doesn't know what is good for them, that the things democracy entitles them to -- "entitlements" -- will bankrupt the country, that taxing the wealthy and corporations -- the "job creators" -- will harm the economy. They do not seem to see how much of our wealth is now flowing to a very few at the top of the pyramid. The fact that taxes on the wealthiest have been cut from a top rate of 90% all the way to a rate of only 15% for hedge-fund managers making billions -- far lower than many of the rest of us pay -- is ignored. And the fact that we did not have budget deficits when the wealthy paid higher taxes is also ignored. In fact, today just 400 people now have more wealth than half of our population, and the trend is accelerating. But many of our leaders believe that the things We, the People do for each other are a problem, and we must be protected from ourselves.
One example of the slow drift away from love of democracy is the recent "Deficit Commission." This was a commission of elites -- there were no teachers or unemployed or plumbers or disabled or poor people in that room -- that was assigned to come up with ways to lower our budget deficits. They did not come up with any recommendations, but the leaders of the commissions came up with a plan of their own -- to cut taxes on the wealthy while cutting the things that We, the People do for each other.
Again and again our elites try to create bodies like this that act as an external force they have to submit to, allowing them to escape accountability to voters.
These commissions come up with plans that benefit the wealthy few but violate what the vast majority of Americans want. They are designed to come up with recommendations that benefit the wealthy few, and are presented to Congress with "up-or-down-vote" procedures that leave legislators and voters with no recourse – on purpose. Pre-ordained conclusions with non-democratic force-through procedures.
Another example of this kind of anti-democratic, elitist drift was a proposal floated over the weekend to establish a "Super-Congress" -- a Politburo of elites, that sits above the Congress and is not accountable to the public. The idea is to save the people from themselves by creating a special 12-member panel of lawmakers who come up with proposals that the Congress must vote on, with no changes and an "up-or-down vote" to implement, thus bypassing the established, democratic system and keeping individual members from being held accountable for the results. The idea is to "tie the hands" of Congress, keep them from meddling, and get things done quickly before the public can rally opposition.
That this idea was even floated shows the extend of separation that exists between our elected officials and We, the People.
Public Will Revolt
Regular Americans are not currently following this, and are turned out because it is just one more Chicken Little coming out of DC. But the public will revolt when the final decisions are put in front of them. The public overwhelmingly supports Social Security and Medicare, and overwhelmingly want taxes increased on the wealthy.
So when the results are presented to them there will be trouble. And that is also part of the plan.
In the 2010 election Republicans campaigned on a theme that "Democrats cut $500 billion from Medicare" and won the election. In 2012 the public will be presented with hundreds of millions of dollars spent on campaign ads, crying out that "Democrats cut your Social Security and Medicare, while keeping taxes low for the rich."
Think I’m kidding? They have already started.
July 23, 2011
If you give already-rich people even more money they will "create jobs." They will do this because rich people are the "job creators." Therefore they will.
When the really-rich have ENOUGH money it will overflow, and will start to trickle down to the rest of us.
And we are close. Since Reagan's time as President we have been giving them more and more money. We have given them so much money that only 400 American now have more than half of the American population has combined.
So it is any day now. If we really want it to happen faster we will give them so much money that it overflows sooner.
It is all just so fucking obvious.
I am really, really sorry I ever looked up "Hickey Freeman"on Google once, because now I can't go to almost ANY websites without having to look at Hickey Freeman ads. It's like they are chasing me around. I've been branded on the web as "The Hickey Freeman Guy" I guess.
It's terrible. I watch a YouTube video and up on the screen pops "Hickey Freeman Sale" or something like that.
Technology gone mad.
July 21, 2011
The conservatives are following up on their decades-old plan to use tax cuts to create terrible deficits, and then use the resulting "debt crisis" to cut government. But cutting government doesn't mean the costs go away, it means that we each have to bear those costs ourselves, on our own, without the help of the rest of us. This is really about cutting democracy so the very rich can be even very-richer.
A Huge Tax Increase On Regular People
A government budget cut is like a huge tax increase on regular people because it increases what each of us pays for the things government does -- or forces us to go without. This is because cuts in government spending don’t actually cut the cost of things, they just shift those costs onto each of us on our own.
For example, if you cut the the government's Medicare or Medicaid budget our health problems don’t disappear, but each of us has to find ways to pay the cost of medical care or a nursing home on our own. If you cut what government spends for maintaining infrastructure, the roads/bridges/dams/schools/etc. deteriorate and we all pay for that through a less competitive economy, car-repair costs, and sometimes with our lives. And when each of us has to pay more for these things, it really does take money out of the economy. We're spending on those things, instead of more usefully contributing to the economy.
Cuts Just Shift And Increase The Costs
So spending cuts really just shift the spending and cost of the things we have to do – and often increase those costs. This is because doing things on our own instead of collectively through our government is the smallest possible economy-of-scale. The best example of this shift-and-increase effect is the Republican plan to phase out Medicare. As I wrote above, our health problems won’t disappear just because government cuts out Medicare. But the costs of treating – or not treating – those health problems is now on us, individually, instead of aggregated through the mechanism of democracy. And that is money that would otherwise be spent elsewhere in the economy.
In Cost of Medicare Equivalent Insurance Skyrockets under Ryan Plan the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) explains what happens to the cost of health care if Medicare is eliminated. Summary: it shifts the costs to us, except each of us ends up paying seven times as much as the same care costs under Medicare. This is because Medicare covers millions, and that economy-of-scale means the government can negotiate bulk discounts, etc. that we cannot get on our own. From the CEPR explanation:
[The Republican] plan to revamp Medicare has been described as shifting costs from the government to beneficiaries. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), however, shows that the [Republican] proposal will increase health care costs for seniors by more than seven dollars for every dollar it saves the government, a point missing from much of the debate over the plan.
... In addition to comparing the costs of Medicare to the government under the current system and under the [Republican] plan, the authors also show the effects of raising the age of Medicare eligibility. The paper also demonstrates that while [the Republicanplan ] shifts $4.9 trillion in health care costs from the government to Medicare beneficiaries, this number is dwarfed by a $34 trillion increase in overall costs to beneficiaries that is projected ...
The Mechanism Of Democracy
In other words, the Repubican plan to phase out Medicare would cost the economy seven times as much as it cuts government. In this case the mechanism of democracy works seven times better than doing the same thing on our own. The economy of scale introduced by democracy -- We, the People gathering together to watch out for and take care of each other -- saves the economy sevenfold on costs. And that is money that would be spent by each of us but now goes just to cover the healthcare costs. This is one more reason why democracies are more prosperous for regular people than other forms of government that leave people on their own against the wealthy and powerful and drive all of the income and wealth to a few at the top.
Budget Cuts Deals Hurt Us And The Economy
When you hear that the "debt-ceiling" deal being negotiated in Washington is going to cut $4 trillion from the government's budget it doesn’t mean that $4 trillion is is going to be saved and put into the economy, it means the opposite, and worse. It means that $4 trillion in costs will be shifted from the mechanism of democracy and onto our backs, each of us, on our own. And that means that the total costs of accomplishing the same things will go up. And that means each of us will have less to spend in the economy. Think about what that will do to jobs.
- As government health care is cut each of us will take on those costs on our own, and will be paying up to seven times what the same care would have cost.
- As infrastructure maintenance and modernization is cut, our economy will become less competitive, unemployment will increase and our wages and spending power will fall.
- As spending on education is cut, our costs of educating ourselves and our kids will increase. College costs will soar.
- As environmental regulation and enforcement is cut the costs of the resulting health problems and cleanups will increase.
- As enforcement of labor laws is cut, our wages and protections will fall.
- As etc. is cut, the costs of etc. are shifted to each of us, on our own, and the total costs of accomplishing etc. actually increase.
This Is About Democracy
In the bigger picture budget cuts are about shifting away from the mechanism of democracy -- where We, the People aggregate and cover these costs in a more effective way -- and instead moving costs to each of us on-our-own. And because of the effect of reduced economies-of-scale we then each face a much greater cost-per-person than if we did these things through the mechanism of democracy. This hurts our economy.
Don't be fooled: this is really about shifting from democracy to a system where we are on our own, up against the wealthy and powerful. This is about shifting from a system where we can all be prosperous to a system where a few have all the wealth and power.
July 20, 2011
A show like Roseanne couldn't get on TV these days, could it?
Our deficit and debt came from cutting taxes on the rich and big corporations, increasing military spending and sweetheart deals with big pharma and health insurance companies. Elite “solutions” always involve cutting back what We, the People do for each other while keeping taxes low for the rich and big corporations. The latest “Gang of 6” solution is being pushed hard, manipulating a sense of inevitability, but is just more of the same. Don't be fooled, there is significant opposition. Grassroots organizations oppose it, progressives in Congress oppose it and The American Majority opposes it. But you won’t hear that from our elite media.
The Latest Back-Room Deal From Well-To-Do Elites
If you are following the day-by-day accounts of the back-room debt-ceiling “crisis” negotiations, the latest “deal” to emerge out of closed-room, secret negotiations between well-to-do elites is much like all the other deals that come out of closed rooms of well-to-do DC insider types: keep taxes low on the rich and corporations and cut back the things We, the People do for each other and for the non-Wall Street parts of our economy.
These insiders serve the interests of the biggest corporations and the extremely well off, not the interests of regular people, entrepreneurs and small businesses that democracy protects and empowers. Their closed rooms never include low-wage working people, unemployed people, teachers, mechanics, roofers, carpenters, veterinarians, lab technicians, trash collectors, nurses or law-enforcement officers in them.
If all you hear from is America’s elite media you would think the problem is solved and everyone is happy. You would think this is inevitable, and you must go along or be blamed for obstructing. The “gang of 6” deal is supposedly “bipartisan.” They say it is receiving a “warm reception” in Congress. For example, the Washington Post, New debt plan gains support in Senate, describes the “warm response” the proposal received in the Senate,
In the Senate, the plan received a warm response, both during the invitation-only morning session and during separate luncheon briefings for Democrats and Republicans. Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.),the No. 3 Senate Republican, offered strong support. And Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a leader in the GOP on budget issues, backed the plan as well, after dropping out of the Gang of Six in mid-May.
“There was palpable relief from folks in that room this morning. Like they were saying, ‘Here’s something we can actually be for,’ ” said Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), a Gang of Six member who has relentlessly pressed his colleagues to reach consensus.
And the NY Times is on the bandwagon: Bipartisan Plan for Budget Deal Buoys President,
Financial markets rallied on the news. And with time running out before the deadline of Aug. 2 to raise the government’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, Mr. Obama’s quick embrace of the plan left House Republicans at greater risk of being politically isolated on the issue if they continue to rule out any compromise that includes higher tax revenues.
Higher tax revenues? Actually the deal lowers tax rates for the wealthy and big companies. It raises revenues by removing things like the mortgage interest deduction for the rest of us.
Not So Fast
But if you look at polls you start to see that the American Majority has come to some very different conclusions about how to fix America's deficit problems. The pubic says solve this problem the same way most economists say we should solve it. The public wants cuts in military spending, and increases in spending on infrastructure and other job-creation, economy-growing investment. The public wants taxes increased on the rich and big corporations. The public does not want Social Security benefits cut. The public wants health care reformed in the ways that the rest of the world has discovered saves money while providing better care.
Not So Fast, says the CPC
The Congressional Progressive Caucus says, "Not so fast!" Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) co-chair Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today released the following statement on the Senate “Gang of Six” budget proposal:
House "Gang of 70-Plus" to Senate "Gang of Six": We Outnumber Your Plan to Slash Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security
“This terrible plan could cut Medicare and Medicaid to unsustainably low levels and put seniors’ well-being at risk. Anyone who wants to pass it through Congress should remember that more than 70 House Democrats have already pledged their opposition, and more are signing on every day. The letter we sent to Leader Pelosi July 8 vowing to oppose any cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid as part of these budget negotiations has become a growing wave of House resolve to protect these programs. We’re keeping it open for more signatures, and our Gang of 70-plus has the ‘Gang of Six’ completely outnumbered. Newly minted Rep. Janice Hahn signed on as one of her first official acts as a Congresswoman – that’s how quickly it’s picking up momentum.
Republicans have already said they won’t vote for any package, period, because of their opposition to a functional economy. House Democrats hold the key to whatever plan can pass Congress. That’s why the Senate ‘Gang of Six’ proposal is dead on arrival. Instead of toying with ways to slash vital programs in just such a way as to make different budget numbers align on paper, Congress and the White House should follow the path of our People’s Budget: creating jobs, protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, ending corporate subsidies and millionaire tax giveaways, and ensuring our economy works for everyone rather than a greedy few.”
Not So Fast, Says Senator Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders has issued the following statement on a deficit-reduction proposal by a group of senators called the Gang of Six:
“While all of the details from the so-called Gang of Six proposals are not yet clear, what is apparent is that the plan would result in devastating cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and many other programs that are of vital importance to working families in this country. Meanwhile, tax rates would be lowered for the wealthiest people and the largest, most profitable corporations.
“This is an approach that should be rejected by the American people. At a time when the rich are becoming richer and corporate profits are soaring, at least half of any deficit-reduction package must come from upper income people and profitable corporations. We must also take a hard look at military spending, which has tripled since 1997.”
Not So Fast, Says MoveOn
Here s a statement from Justin Ruben, Executive Director of MoveOn.org on the Gang of 6 proposal:
“While details are sketchy, the "Gang of 6" proposal appears to ask seniors, the middle class and the poor to bear the burden of deficit reduction, with cuts to Social Security benefits, billions in stealth cuts to be named later, and no real effort to make corporations and millionaires pay their fair share. MoveOn's 5 million members are counting on Leader Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Reid, and other Democrats to stand by their promise to reject any benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare. We cannot allow a minority of Tea Party led Republicans in the House to hold our nation’s economy hostage in order to protect tax breaks for the rich and corporations, while forcing cuts to programs families depend on. The President and Democrats in Congress must stand up for everyday Americans and not give into politicians more interested in protecting their corporate backers than ensuring our economy recovers.”
Not So Fast, Says Citizens For Tax Justice
Citizens For Tax Justice issued a statement, "Gang of Six" Plan Would Reduce Revenue and Encourage Corporate Tax Dodging,
Because our tax system allows U.S. corporations to indefinitely “defer” U.S. taxes on their offshore profits, it already encourages corporations to move jobs overseas and to disguise their U.S. profits as “foreign” profits by shifting them to tax havens.
There would be even more incentives for corporations to do both these bad things under the “territorial” tax system promoted by corporate lobbyists and included in the Gang of Six plan.
Not So Fast, says Strengthen Social Security Campaign
Nancy Altman, Co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, released a statement (read the full statement here) in response to the release of the Gang of Six’s “Bipartisan Plan to Reduce Our Nation’s Deficits.”
“The Gang of Six proposes immediate and significant cuts to Social Security benefits, and a process for addressing the program’s funding shortfall projected to appear 25 years from now. The process would virtually guarantee devastating cuts. This plan breaks faith with the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose benefit cuts.
“The Gang of Six framework contains very few specifics but one is glaring – the immediate cuts that would affect all 55 million Social Security beneficiaries by changing the way the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is calculated. Their plan would substitute the less accurate and less-generous chained consumer price index (CPI) for the current CPI in calculating the COLA. This breaks a promise made by many politicians to not cut the benefits of anyone over age 55.
Not So Fast, Says American Majority
- NBC News/Wall Street Journal, July,58% want tax increases on the wealthy as part of a deficit solution vs 36%.
- Pew Research Poll, June 15-19, 60% say Keep Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are vs 32% say change them to reduce deficits.
- McClatchy/Marist, 64% support raising taxes on income above $250,000.
- And finally, this Gallup Poll just out today: Concerns About Economy, Jobs Outweigh Worries About Deficit,
Americans name the economy and unemployment/jobs as the most important problems facing the nation, as they have all year, despite the dominant focus in Washington on the federal debt ceiling. The deficit comes in third as the top problem.
Politicians In Peril
Politicians who are fooled by this manipulated sense of inevitability, and who ignore deficit solutions the public wants, are asking for trouble. If they support these back-room deals made by elites the public won't support them.
In addition Democrats who support any deal that cuts Social Security and/or Medicare undermine their ability to campaign as the defenders of the people, of Medicare, of Social Security over the interests of the wealthy and giant corporations.
July 18, 2011
In the UK the News-Of-The-World/News Corp/Murdoch scandal seems to be reawakening democracy. A big, powerful corporation has been found to be engaged in criminal activity, manipulating news, paying off police and politicians, and generally getting its way. The people, press and politicians are rising up, holding the company and its executives legally accountable and are taking back control of their system. Could this happen in the US?
This is my last full day in the UK. The top story in the media for the two weeks I have been here has been the News-Of-The-World "phone-hacking" story that I explained in some detail last week. This newspaper was engaged in criminal activity, was caught a few years ago, but used American-style damage-control techniques to manipulate the government, police and public opinion into accepting that the criminality was limited to the sacrificial lamb they threw to them. So the damage to Murdoch's News Corp. was limited at the time, and News Corp appeared to have impunity. But, unlike how things are now done in the US, investigative reporters (particularly at the Guardian) continued to dig into the story and continued to reveal to the public that News Corp. was engaging in criminal activity until the story could no longer be ignored by the powerful.
The latest big news is that the head of Scotland Yard has resigned, in part because earlier investigations into Murdoch-corporation activities "didn't get to the bottom of this." The press is full of questions about how this criminal company was able to operate for in this manner so long, and who in the government looked the other way. This is now as big a story as the original and ongoing criminal activities of Murdoch's companies.
Another story is the way executives left Murdoch's companies and entered government into positions where they could protect the interests of Murdoch's company, including influencing the phone-hacking investigations. And finally, the story here is about politicians who are "cozy" with Murdoch's media empire, who were propelled into government by the power of that empire.
Not yet part of the story: the manipulation of government policy to serve the interests of the owners of the criminal company. In fact, just as the media was beginning to touch on this aspect of the story the company took extraordinary steps to build a firewall and attempt to contain the scandal. Top executives in the UK and in England were removed from their posts, an "apology" was printed in all the papers here, and Murdoch himself made public apologies and News Corp started a major counterattack. So far News Corp's second-largest shareholder, Saudi Prince Al Waleed bin Talal has been kept in the background. Prince Al Waleed was interviewed by the BBC Thursday on his yacht in Cannes. Immediately the firewall began to be constructed.
(These are questions, not accusation. While being part-owner of the conservative News Corp., Al Waleed also speaks out for democratic reform and women's rights in Saudi Arabia.)
But questions about News Corp. pushing policies that benefit its owners have yet to be pursued. Does News Corp. push climate-change denial to benefit the interests of oil-producing Saudi Arabit? Did News Corp push the invasion of Iraq to benefit Saudi Arabia?
What About In The US?
Does all of this sound familiar to any of you reading this in America?
And so the parallels to American standard-operating-procedure stand out. Criminal corporations manipulating government, police and public opinion. A revolving door through which corporate executives pass into government and protect the interests of their companies. A conservative media empire manipulating news and propelling politicians to benefit their financial interests. Politicians cozy with corporate executives who never seem to be held accountable.
As Richard Eskow wrote the other day, Want to Solve All your Problems, Rupert Murdoch? Become A Banker.,
But there's an easy way for Mr. Murdoch to protect himself from these inquiries and save his company at the same time: Turn the News Corporation into a Wall Street bank. There won't be any prosecutions, and the government will even sweeten the deal with billions of dollars in easy money. And if Murdoch follows the trail blazed by bankers like Jamie Dimon at JPMorgan Chase, soon they'll be begging him to acquire more companies.
... By contrast, despite its long list of proven crimes nobody at [JPMorgan Chase CEO] Dimon's bank has been arrested. Apparently arrests, like the financial consequences of one's actions, are for borrowers only. And Dimon only appears before our elected representative for cozy private get-togethers, not public enquiries.
Seriously, there was just enough democracy left in the institutions of the UK to enable a media giant like News Corp to be held accountable. Just how accountable is yet to be seen, but with the press in full investigative mode, parliamentary investigations, resignations and arrests at the tops of big, powerful corporations that are way-to-cozy with politicians we are seeing a reaction to this story that is simply not imaginable in our own country today.
Here is one test that will tell us if accountability is still possible here. What follow-up will we see from the Justice Department in response to the revelation that members of the Financial Crisis panel illegally leaked inside information, including plans to investigate foreign banks, to lobbyists? See Financial Crisis Panel Commissioners Leaked Confidential Information To Lobbyists, Report Alleges,
Republican commissioners on the panel created by Congress to probe the roots of the financial crisis leaked documents to partisan allies and shared confidential information with influence peddlers, according to a Wednesday report by Democrats on a Congressional oversight committee.
Another area for investigation is the revolving door through which lobbyists or top people of the criminal corporation became government officials and government officials become executives or lobbyists. Are they using their influence in government to protect the interests of the companines that paid or will pay them? That sure looks like bribery, whatever other words one might use.
Another area of investigations is companies that fund or otherwise infleunce public opinion and politics and campaigns or reward politicians or fund their campaigns. That is bribery, because companies have to act in the financial interest of shareholders and rewarding a politician in the interest of shareholders is bribery by definition.
Please, add some more tests in the comments. What stories have you seen revealing illegal activity and collusion between elected representatives, government officials and big corporations with no one held accountable? Obviously there is Wall Street, mortgage fraud and securities manipulations. There are all the crimes from the Bush era that went uninvestigated. (Who ended up with all that money that went missing in Iraq?) But there are so many instances of crimes reported but not investigated and certainly not prosecuted. There are so many clear cases of big corporations using media to manipulate public opinion. And there are so many cases of our election laws violated with impunity.
Are we going to be able to take back democracy and accountability here? Or not? Will our own Department of Justice start to hold law-violators accountable? Or not.
July 14, 2011
The secret, corporate-written agenda of the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council has been leaked. Take a look at ALEC Exposed. This is HUGE -- spend some time there looking around.
Here is more info:
In April 2011, some of the biggest corporations in the U.S. met behind closed doors in Cincinnati about their wish lists for changing state laws. This exchange was part of a series of corporate meetings nurtured and fueled by the Koch Industries family fortune and other corporate funding.
... There, as the Center for Media and Democracy has learned, these corporate-politician committees secretly voted on bills to rewrite numerous state laws. According to the documents we have posted to ALEC Exposed, corporations vote as equals with elected politicians on these bills. These task forces target legal rules that reach into almost every area of American life: worker and consumer rights, education, the rights of Americans injured or killed by corporations, taxes, health care, immigration, and the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink.
The Center obtained copies of more than 800 model bills approved by companies through ALEC meetings, after one of the thousands of people with access shared them, and a whistleblower provided a copy to the Center. Those bills, which the Center has analyzed and marked-up, are now available at ALEC Exposed.
From a press release:
“An examination of the broad sweep of bills exposes a very radical agenda. Why is Wal-Mart involved with an organization that wants to turn Medicare and Medicaid into voucher plans? Why is Kraft working with a group that wants to privatize the public school system? Why is Coca Cola going along with efforts to take away voting rights from college students? Why are Bayer and Pfizer and all the big insurance firms in bed with big tobacco? We hope people will start asking these firms, which are all on ALEC’s corporate board, to quit undermining our democracy through ALEC,” said Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy.
July 9, 2011
In England people "know" many of the same false things that people here "know." Except in England the false things work against English working people instead of against American working people.
I am in England this week and next and am enjoying some pub conversations while here. (Several pubs, actually. Heh.) Here are some of the things that at least some British working people "know." I think you will find them to be familiar:
- The reason so many people are unemployed is because the government spends too much money.
- Public employees get lavish pensions, which is part of why working people are falling behind.
- The government spends a lot of its money helping countries in Africa and other places.
- People are living much longer than they used to, so the retirement age should be raised.
- The government gives a lot of money to people who come here from other countries and then get handouts that the rest of us (British) pay for.
- Also, there are too many lawsuits.
Does this sound familiar? It looks like the same false propaganda is being served up here in the UK -- but with a UK twist. For example, the retirement system here isn't "going broke," it just isn't affordable. (How come no one says our military is "going broke" or unaffordable?) People are coming here from Eastern Europe, not Mexico. The differences stand out for the similarities of the rest of it. Things that work to create anti-government tension and panic get reformatted and used elsewhere. Hey, if it works, why reinvent the wheel?
I did not hear that the problems come from companies not paying taxes, from bailing out the big banks, from the cost of wars, etc. I haven't probed or argued, just asked what people think to see what is on people's minds.
I have to emphasize this is just from some conversations and not with all that many people at all. I'm only writing because of the similarities of the justifications for cutting back on things working people get from their government. Again, this is just a few people. It's like the old newspaper-pundit cab-driver test of conventional wisdom. But I heard echoes of the same stuff that is being dished out in the US.
Things We Know
Everyone reading this has read or is familiar with the premise of The Shock Doctrine (I hope) and maybe Winner-Take-All-Politics and The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy and some of the other key books. Anyway, we all see clearly what is going on behind these things that people "know." We understand how it works, what the public is hearing and why, who they are hearing this from, and how people are being set against each other and distracted from what is really happening. Working people are being tricked into giving up their share of the common wealth, etc. We get it.
What To Do
But what do we do about it? I think our task, as always, is to get more info out to the public. As more people understand how shock-doctrine attacks work they are more able to resist them. But how do we get more info out to the public? And how do we do that without it sounding like WE are the nutcases? I mean, if you try to tell regular people the crazy things the right is planning for them you sound like an extremist for even saying such things. People are really tuned out these days and don't see what is happening.
I think sites like OurFuture.org, AlterNet, Daily Kos, FDL, Crooks and Liars, etc. have developed a progressive information ecosystem where things are being explained a dozen ways, and understood, and reinforced, over and over, and a lot of people spend time there they are getting it. So how do we drive more people to those sites? How do we loop more people into the information ecosystem we have going on?
ONE thing I think we can do is ask our labor friends to start bringing their membership in to this loop. I think we have gotten the blogosphere tuned into labor issues, and it's time for the labor community to start joining back with us now. Join the conversation, help us understand your viewpoint, while we all help; each other understand what is happening to us.
Maybe we can make the blogs and site more accessible to new people who show up to check it out, and explain more about how the comments work, about how to write a diary, etc... Maybe we all need "what this site is about" videos... I think this is a good next step.
What do you think? I think we have to start reaching more and more of the public. We owe it to them. How can we accomplish this?
July 3, 2011
I'll be out of the country for 2 weeks, in England. I might put up a few posts. I might post up a few pubs, too.