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March 31, 2012

AARP: Social Security Should Not Be Part Of Deficit Discussion

Social Security does not contribute to the deficit in any way. The government has borrowed money from the program, not the other way around. Complaints about the need to come up with money to pay for people retiring are because Republicans used Social Security money to give tax cuts to the rich, and now that the money is supposed to be paid back so it can fund people's retirements -- which means getting the money from where the money went -- they are trying to make people think the greedy old people shouldn't be paid.

AARP: Social Security Should Not Be Part Of Deficit Discussion.

Here are facts: Social Security has a huge trust fund, and is self-funded. (Compare that to the huge military budget!) It is not in any kind of "trouble." The propaganda that it is "going broke" is part of a strategic plan hatched by corporate conservatives to prepare the public for accepting the dismantling of the program, nothing more. I have written about this many times. Here is one post that lays this out.

AARP had to be pressured by progressives to stand up for Social Security. From the story,

Three progressive organizations -- Social Security Works, Credo Action and the blog FireDogLake.com -- launched campaigns aimed at pressuring AARP to stand up for Social Security after HuffPost reported that the elderly lobby was planning to host a high-level "salon-style conversation" with deficit hawks and advocates of cutting Social Security. Tens of thousands -- including thousands of AARP members -- signed petitions urging AARP not to support benefit cuts.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:38 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

One Hedge Fund Manager Got $3.9 Billion Last Year

ONE guy was "paid" $3.9 billion last year - and pays only 15% in taxes. And you wonder why we can't have good roads, schools, etc...

Top earning hedge fund managers of 2011 - Mar. 30, 2012

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Senators Filibustered For $23,582,500

This week the Senate filibustered the effort to stop giving huge, huge tax breaks and subsidies to oil companies. Why did they filibuster? FOR MONEY.

See Senators Who Voted To Protect Oil Tax Breaks Received $23,582,500 From Big Oil | ThinkProgress

What more needs to be said? This is filed under corruption & corporate rule.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:55 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Very Important Read On Climate Change!

Record Heat Wave Grips US. But Is It Climate Change? | Mother Jones

PLEASE go read or at least skim the whole thing. There really is nothing more important in the long run.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 30, 2012

GM Stops Supporting Climate Denial

This is a big deal. General Motors Decides Climate Change Is Real, Pulls Support From Heartland Institute. So that's one down, hundreds to go.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:25 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Apple/Foxconn Promises -- We'll See

The "independent" audit of working conditions at Apple's Chinese manufacturing supply chain is out, and it is not good. Workers are being exploited in ways that violate human rights standards and laws, and letting them get away with this is costing us our own jobs. Apple's suppliers promise to improve conditions, make workplaces safer, stop forcing such long hours and lift wages. Foxconn even says they'll start obeying Chinese law -- but not until next year! If this really does happen can China keep its competitive advantage?

"Free Trade"

By opening up so-called "free trade" we made democracy a competitive disadvantage. We just let in goods made in places where people have no say, and as a result there is no environmental protection, little worker protection, terrible working conditions, very low wages and terrible exploitation of people. So of course that undercuts goods made where people have a say, and therefore demand better. We made We, the People having a say (democracy) into a competitive disadvantage! Because we make this mistake we lost millions of jobs, tens of thousands of factories, and entire industries. We devastated out not just towns and cities, but entire regions. (See Free Trade Or Democracy, Can't Have Both.)

Free People Won't Tolerate That

A recent groundbreaking New York Times story by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher, How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work, exposed how workers are treated by Apple's suppliers. Summary: Steve Jobs told President Obama, "Those jobs aren't coming back," because factories in China have people living in crowded dorm rooms where they can be rousted in the middle of the night and made to work 12-14 hour shifts, 7 days a week, standing the whole time, for very little pay, using toxic chemicals, and all kinds of other violations of human rights. Corporations can't get "performance" and "efficiency" and "productivity" -- profits -- like that out of free people who have a say, so they move their operations over there and lay off workers and close factories over here. (Important note: it's not just Apple, Apple is the biggest so the company name is really shorthand for the real culprits: namely, all of them.)

The FLA Report

This NY Times story had quite an impact. Apple was worried that people's knowledge of their exploitation of workers in China might affect profits. So Apple responded by hiring the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a "labor monitoring group" that has no actual organized labor organization participation, to conduct an audit of working conditions at Apple's Chinese suppliers. The report found numerous violations of labor standards and even Chinese law. For example, the report found "numerous instances where Foxconn defied industry codes of conduct by having employees work more than 60 hours a week, and sometimes more than 11 days in a row." In addition, the report "also found that 43 percent of workers had experienced or witnessed accidents, and almost two-thirds said their compensation “does not meet their basic needs.”

TPM: Apple Supplier Foxconn Violated Workers Rights, Audit Finds,

The 60-plus hour work week found at the factories is above both China’s official legal maximum, 49 hours, and the maximum standard allowable by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), the organization that Apple paid to conduct what it said would be an independent audit.

... The FLA inspection also revealed that “more than 43 percent of the workers report that they have experienced or witnessed an accident,” and “a considerable number of workers felt generally insecure regarding their health and safety,” especially pertaining to aluminum dust, which caused an explosion at a factory in the city of Chengdu in 2011 that killed four workers and injured 77, as the New York Times reported.

Apple's Own Published Standards Violated Chinese Law!

Chinese law limits weekly work time to 49 hours but "industry code" and Apple's standards limits weekly hours to 60. That Apple's (and other companies) own published standards violate even Chinese law demonstrates they were aware they were ignoring the law and using what they could get out of the workers. It demonstrates that these companies are knowingly engaged in illegal exploitation of workers, for profit. It also demonstrates that the Chinese government has been ignoring its own laws.

HuffPo: Foxconn Apple Factories Violated Chinese Labor Laws, According To Fair Labor Association

The Washington-based Fair Labor Association says Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the Taiwanese company that runs the factories, is committing to reducing weekly work time to the legal Chinese maximum of 49 hours.

That limit is routinely ignored in factories throughout China. Auret van Heerden, the CEO of the FLA, said Hon Hai is the first company to commit to following the legal standard.

Apple's and FLA's own guidelines call for work weeks of 60 hours or less.

Promises

In a PR attempt to soften the impact of the FLA report, Apple's suppliers made promises to improve.

NY Times, Electronic Giant Vowing Reforms in China Plants,

Responding to a critical investigation of its factories, the manufacturing giant Foxconn has pledged to sharply curtail working hours and significantly increase wages inside Chinese plants making electronic products for Apple and others. The move could improve working conditions across China.

And, get this, they promise to start obeying the law -- by July of next year,

Foxconn’s promises include a commitment that by July of next year, no worker will labor for more than 49 hours per week — the limit set by Chinese law.

WaPo: Pledge by Apple’s iPhone manufacturer in China could set off new round of wage hikes,

Foxconn, owned by Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., promised to limit hours while keeping total pay the same, effectively paying more per hour. Foxconn is one of China’s biggest employers, with 1.2 million workers who also assemble products for Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

From the HuffPo story,

"The report will include new promises by Apple that stand to be just as empty as the ones made over the past 5 years," said SumOfUS.org, a coalition of trade unions and consumer groups, ahead of the release of the report.

And from the TPM story,

“For months now, SumOfUs.org members have been calling on Apple to clean up the working conditions in its supply chain in time to produce the next iPhone be the first ethical iPhone,” the spokesperson told TPM, “That hasn’t changed at all. Our campaign is going to continue until real workers see real improvements — and so far Apple has been all talk and no action.”

We'll See

This is one of those "believe it when we see it" situations. Phrases like "lip service" come to mind. We'll see. Apple's supplier promises to start obeying the lay -- by July of next year! Wow.

But here is a question: where is our government on this? American companies are breaking laws overseas, exploiting workers and violating human rights standards. They are hoarding the resulting cash offshore to avoid paying their taxes, when we have a national deficit. These actions by these companies are wiping out our jobs and communities. Where is our government on this?

Click here to see the Fair Labor Association report.

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 5:10 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Nat Priorities

The National Priorities Project looks like they are doing great stuff. Go check them out.

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

March 29, 2012

Open Letter From Europe Against American Labor Intimidation Practices

“EMPLOYEES OF U.S. SUBSIDIARIES OF GERMAN COMPANIES, ESPECIALLY T-MOBILE USA, SHOULD BE ABLE TO EXERCISE THEIR UNRESTRICTED RIGHT TO OPT FOR ORGANIZED REPRESENTATION IN THE COMPANY WITHOUT FEAR.”

In an ad in the NY Times yesterday, 11 leading German legal scholars and politicians called on Deutsche Telekom and other German companies to stop using American-style union-hating tactics at their American subsidiaries. In particular they asked these companies to “end all collaboration with U.S. consultants who advise employers how to fight employee representation.”

Remarkable

What is remarkable about this letter is the difference between European and American attitudes toward working people and labor rights. In Europe it's just a given that working people have dignity and respect. To Europeans it is shocking to see a company try to fight against its own workers! In the US working people face an atmosphere of constant intimidation, always pushing for lower wages, cuts in benefits, longer working hours, and subservience.

The letter speaks for itself, please read it: (click for original)

To T-MOBILE USA and Other U.S. Subsidiaries of German Companies

AN OPEN LETTER ON WORKERS’ RIGHTS

Globalization and the current crisis present particular challenges for the economy. Germany’s social market policy faces these challenges with its commitment to stakeholder values including employees and its responsibility towards the community. The respect for the interests of different players has already proven to be beneficial in previous periods of change. Essential elements of this approach are respectful cooperation and a balance of the differing interests of employees and employers. Since employees are in a structurally weaker position compared to employers, the freedom of association and freedom of opinion as human rights are especially vital.

The signatories urge that the employees of U.S. subsidiaries of German companies, especially T-Mobile USA, should be able to exercise their unrestricted right to opt for organized representation in the company without fear. They must not be influenced, pressured, or intimidated by employers if they exercise their basic right for freedom of association. The human right of freedom of speech notably entails this right as well.

Even in the Federal Republic of Germany there are shortsighted employers and lawyers who believe they can get away with a lack of integrity and respect toward unions and work councils and who think they can forgo cooperation. Practical experiences and scientific studies show, however, that employer conduct based on this model will ultimately be harmful to the company.

We encourage T-Mobile USA and the other U.S. subsidiaries of German companies to take these experiences to heart and to abandon all efforts at union avoidance. Likewise, we ask them to end all collaboration with U.S. consultants who advise employers how to fight employee representation.

Däubler-Gmelin, Prof. Dr. Herta, former Federal Minister of Justice, attorney, Berlin

Baum, Gerhart R., former Minister of the Interior, attorney, Düsseldorf

Müntefering, Franz, former Federal Minister for Labor and Social Affairs, German MP, Berlin

Schmoldt, Hubertus, former Chairman of the Labor Union IG Mining, Chemical and Energy

Hensche, Detlef, former Chairman of the Labor Union IG Media, attorney, Berlin

Merzhäuser, Michael, attorney, Berlin

Dieterich, Prof. Dr. Thomas, former President of the Federal Labor Court and former Judge of the Federal Constitutional Court, Kassel

Blüm, Dr. Norbert, former Federal Minister for Labor and Social Affairs, Bonn

Struck, Dr. Peter, former Federal Minister of Defense, President of Friedrich – Ebert – Foundation, Berlin

Däubler, Prof. Dr. jur. Wolfgang, university professor (labor law, business law, international law), Bremen

Schwegler, Dr. Lorenz, former Chairman of the Union for Trade, Banking and Insurance Carriers, attorney, Düsseldorf

Learn more at www.WeWorkBetterTogether.org

Did you see that last line? Learn more at www.WeWorkBetterTogether.org

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 9:02 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 28, 2012

Every Progressive Should Know About The “Budget For All”

Every progressive should know about the Congressional Progressive Caucus's "Budget for All." In fact, every American should know about this budget. But the corporate news media sure isn't going to tell people. So you should help get the word out. Read and Share the One-Page Handout. Email this post to friends, relatives, and especially to your right-wing brother-in-law.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has put together a "Budget for All" that "puts Americans back to work, charts a path to responsible deficit reduction, enhances our economic competitiveness, rebuilds the middle class and invests in our future." This budget "makes no cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits, and asks those who have benefited most from our economy to pay a sensible share."

Our Budget Puts Americans Back to Work

Our budget attacks America’s persistently high unemployment levels with more than $2.9 trillion in additional job-creating investments. This plan utilizes every tool at the government’s disposal to get our economy moving again, including:
• Direct hire programs that create a School Improvement Corps, a Park Improvement Corps, and a Student Jobs Corps, among others.
• Targeted tax incentives that spur clean energy, manufacturing, and cutting-edge technological investments in the private sector.
• Widespread domestic investments including an infrastructure bank, a $556 billion surface transportation bill, and approximately $2.1 trillion in widespread domestic investment.

Our Budget Exhibits Fiscal Discipline
• The Budget for All achieves $6.8 trillion in deficit reduction, hits the same debt to GDP ratio as the Republican budget, and has lower deficits in the last five years, but does so in a responsible way that does not devastate what Americans want preserved.
• We achieve these notable benchmarks by focusing on the true drivers of our deficit – unsustainable tax policies, the wars overseas, and policies that helped cause the recent recession – rather than putting the middle class’s social safety net on the chopping block.

Our Budget Creates a Fairer America
• Ends tax cuts for the top 2% of Americans on schedule at year’s end
• Extends tax relief for middle class households and the vast majority of Americans
• Creates new tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires
• Eliminates the tax code’s preferential treatment of capital gains and dividends
• Abolishes corporate welfare for oil, gas, and coal companies
• Eliminates loopholes that allow businesses to dodge their true tax liability
• Calls for the adoption of the “Buffett Rule”
• Creates a publicly funded federal election system that gets corporate money out of politics for good

Our Budget Brings Our Troops Home
• Responsibly and expeditiously ends our military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving America more secure at home and abroad
• Modernizes our military to address 21st century threats and stop contributing to our deficit problems

Protects American Families
• Provides a Making Work Pay tax credit for families struggling with high gas and food cost 2013-2015
• Extends Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child and Dependent Care Credit
• Invests in programs to stave off further foreclosures to keep families in their homes
• Invests in our children’s education by increasing Education, Training, and Social Services

Let people know that there is a budget alternative that respects We, the People.

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 7:05 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 27, 2012

Virtually Speaking Radio Show Tonite 9ET/6PT

Tonite at 6PT/9ET

Dave Johnson (Campaign for America's Future) maps the forest with investigative journalist and staff writer for In These Times, Mike Elk. They’ll talk about reporting on Labor. Plus the latest Z Files segment from @Stuart_Zechman. Follow@dcjohnson @MikeElk http://bit.ly/GU2Soc

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

The FOX Effect

The WSJ, part-owned by a Saudi oil price, tells me:

CO2 is not a pollutant. Life on earth flourished for hundreds of millions of years at much higher CO2 levels than we see today. Increasing CO2 levels will be a net benefit because cultivated plants grow better and are more resistant to drought at higher CO2 levels, and because warming and other supposedly harmful effects of CO2 have been greatly exaggerated. Nations with affordable energy from fossil fuels are more prosperous and healthy than those without.

What do real scientists say? Reuters: Global Warming Close to Becoming Irreversible,

The world is close to reaching tipping points that will make it irreversibly hotter, making this decade critical in efforts to contain global warming, scientists warned on Monday.

Scientific estimates differ but the world's temperature looks set to rise by six degrees Celsius by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to rise uncontrollably.

As emissions grow, scientists say the world is close to reaching thresholds beyond which the effects on the global climate will be irreversible, such as the melting of polar ice sheets and loss of rainforests.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:35 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Republican Budget For Billionaires

The new Republican budget (called the "Ryan Budget" by DC insiders) reflects current electoral reality: billionaires and corporations now finance candidates, and we get government of, by and for billionaires and corporations. The rest of us no longer matter, except as "the help" and, at least to the extent we haven't been entirely fleeced, a flock to harvest. This budget starts with $10 trillion in tax cuts -- mostly for the rich. After adding $10 trillion to the deficits Republicans then claim that severe cuts are necessary to "fight deficits." Right. Details below.

Keep in mind where we are starting from: The way our economy and tax system is already structured, the top 1% received 93% of income gains from recovery. As Mitt Romney's tax returns demonstrated, those at the very top -- whose income comes as checks generated by the money they already have -- already pay much lower tax rates than those of us who work for a living.

Shock Doctrine

"Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes. -- Republican Majority Leader Tom Delay, 2003"

After passing tax cut after tax cut, and military spending increase after military spending increase, and starting war after war, Republican borrowing has added up. So now Republicans terrify the public, telling them that budget deficits will lead to the destruction of the country -- and soon. After a decade of screaming "9/11," "9/11," noun verb "9/11," they now scream "deficit, deficit, deficit." Then with the public suitably stirred up and terrified they offer "solutions" they say are necessary to cut the scary deficit (that they caused, for this purpose).

Behind a blizzard of fog and mirrors, the new Republican budget completes the ongoing shift of our government and our economy away from "we are in this together" democracy to a "you are on your own" system that is entirely for the benefit of a few at the top.

Cuts Taxes For The 1%

The smoke and mirrors: they claim this budget is necessary to reduce deficits, but it doesn't even pretend to. Instead it starts by cutting taxes on the rich and their corporations by another $4.6 trillion while making permanent the Bush tax cuts, costing another $5.6 trillion. It gives a $187,000 tax cut To every millionaire!

Cuts Jobs

Ethan Pollack at the Economic Policy Institute describes how Ryan’s budget cuts would cost jobs -- 4.1 million of them:

Paul Ryan’s latest budget doesn’t just fail to address job creation, itaggressively slows job growth. Against a current policy baseline, the budget cuts discretionary programs by about $120 billion over the next two years and mandatory programs by $284 billion, sucking demand out of the economy when it most needs it and leading to job loss. Using astandard macroeconomic model that is consistent with that used byprivate- and public-sector forecasters, the shock to aggregate demand from near-term spending cuts would result in roughly 1.3 million jobs lost in 2013 and 2.8 million jobs lost in 2014, or 4.1 million jobs through 2014.*

Cuts Everything Government Does For Regular People

This budget starts with $10 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy! After handing billionaires and their corporations trillions, increasing deficits by an additional $10 trillion, the Republican budget then cuts the things government does for the rest of us: Medicare, Medicaid, food assistance and public investments (mostly infrastructure and education), and pretends it is necessary because of deficits. (It increases funding for military contractors.)

What is cut? The following is from an analysis by the Office of Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer:

A Choice of Two Futures: A Look at How the Republican Budget Ends Medicare, Destroys Jobs, Benefits the Wealthy

Ending the Medicare guarantee and raising health care costs for seniors:


  • Ends the guarantee of health security and shifts higher costs onto seniors and the disabled over time.

  • Increases seniors’ health care costs just like last year’s budget – which drove up costs by over $6,000 per year, according to CBO.

  • Reopens the prescription drug donut hole, increasing seniors’ drug costs by up to $44 billion through 2020, including $2.2 billion in 2012 alone, according to HHS.

  • Increases seniors’ out-of-pocket costs for preventative care and annual checkups by over $110 million in 2012 alone, according to HHS.

  • 54-year-olds would have to save more money just to cover health care costs – an analysis of last year’s budget showed they would have to save an additional $182,000, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans at the expense of working families:

  • Provides millionaires an average tax cut of $150,000.

  • Reduces revenue by $4.6 trillion on top of the $5.4 trillion cost of permanently extending all of the Bush tax cuts and other expiring provisions, according to the Tax Policy Center.

  • May force working families to pay higher effective tax rates to cover some of the cost of this $4.6 trillion tax cut for the wealthy by eliminating deductions.

Turning Medicaid into a block grant that jeopardizes access to affordable health and nursing home care for seniors and the disabled:

  • Cuts a total of $1.7 trillion from Medicaid over the next decade, and according to CBO, is on track to cut the program by 75% by 2050. According to the Urban Institute, block granting the Medicaid program could result in between 14 million and 27 million people losing coverage. An additional 17 million people, who gained Medicaid and CHIP coverage through health care reform according to the CBO, would also lose that coverage as a result of repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Making it harder for Americans to receive Social Security benefits:

  • Increases backlogs that delay people from getting benefits that they are due and could leave up to 90,000 people with disabilities waiting for a decision in 2013 and leave 300,000 more people with disabilities waiting for a decision each year over the next decade.

Weakening our ability to out-educate competitors and build a competitive workforce:

  • Reduces Pell Grants by more than $1,000 for 9.6 million students in 2014 and could eliminate Pell Grants for over one million students over the next decade.

  • Kicks 60,000 low-income children out of the Head Start program in 2013 and 200,000 low-income children out of the program each year over the next decade.

  • Cuts Title I funding, which could result in nearly 11,000 teachers and aides losing their jobs in 2013 and nearly 38,000 teachers and aides losing their jobs each year over the next decade.

  • Cuts funding for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which could result in 7,800 special education teachers, aides, and other staff serving children with disabilities losing their jobs in 2013, and 27,000 teachers, aides, and staff losing their jobs each year over the next decade.

  • Reduces work-study funding, meaning almost 37,000 students could lose access to college work-study opportunities in 2013, and more than 166,000 students could be affected each year over the next decade.

Slashing assistance to low-income families:


  • Cuts the WIC program (Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children), kicking 700,000 pregnant or postpartum women, infants, and children off the WIC program and leaving another 100,000 without access to critical foods necessary for healthy child development in 2013. Each year over the next decade, the cuts would kick 1.8 million women, infants, and children off the WIC program and leave another 100,000 without access to critical foods.

  • Converts SNAP into a block grant beginning in 2016, which could jeopardize access to food assistance for millions of Americans.

  • Cuts HUD’s rental assistance programs, resulting in over 116,000 fewer low-income families housed through the Housing Choice Voucher program in 2013 and 400,000 fewer low-income families housed through the program each year over the next decade.

  • Risks permanent loss of affordable units that serve 1.1 million Americans.

Repealing patient protections and putting insurance companies – not American families – in control of health care:

  • Allows insurers to once again be allowed to discriminate against up to 17 million children with pre-existing conditions.

  • Subjects 105 million Americans once more to arbitrary lifetime caps on their health insurance.

  • Increases 54 million Americans’ out-of-pocket costs for preventative care.

  • Puts up to 15 million Americans who are sick or injured at risk of being dropped from their private insurance because of a simple mistake on an application.

  • Eliminates tax credits for up to four million small businesses, which are already providing more affordable care to two million workers. [Figures provided by HHS and the Treasury Department]

Weakening national security:

  • Cuts COPS hiring grants, which could result in 75 fewer local police hires and 6,200 fewer bullet proof vests for state and local law enforcement personnel in 2013, and 285 fewer local police hires and 23,000 fewer vests each year over the next decade.

  • Cuts Department of Justice (DOJ) funding, resulting in 1,311 fewer federal agents to combat violent crime, pursue financial crimes, secure the border, and ensure national security in 2013, and 4,587 fewer agents each year over the next decade.

  • Cuts DOJ funding resulting in 948 fewer prison guards to maintain safe and secure federal prisons in 2013, and 3,319 fewer prison guards each year over the next decade.

  • Reduces Department of Homeland Security funding for preparedness efforts of state and local governments, which could mean 100 firefighters and 80 emergency managers not being hired or laid off in 2013, and 400 firefighters and 300 emergency managers not being hired or laid off each year over the next decade.

Undermining American competitiveness by cutting investments in science, medical research, space and technology:

  • Cuts funding for biomedical research by NIH, meaning 500 fewer grants NIH could award in a cutting-edge field in 2013 and 1,600 fewer grants each year for the next decade, limiting research that could lead to new cures for diseases.

  • Cuts funding for NSF, which could result in NSF making up to 1,100 fewer competitive research and education grants supporting over 13,000 researchers, students, and teachers in 2013 and 4,000 fewer grants supporting almost 48,000 researchers, students, and teachers each year over the next decade.

  • Cuts NASA funding and puts jobs at risk by forcing the agency to terminate major programs and potentially close major facilities.

Threatening our clean energy future:

  • Cuts investments in the Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and its applied research program, known as ARPA-E, that was established specifically to conduct energy research that industry by itself cannot support but where success would provide dramatic benefits for the nation.

  • Eliminates jobs by setting back efforts to put a million electric vehicles on the road, retrofit residential homes, and make commercial buildings more efficient.

  • Fails to boost all energy sources by eliminating tax support for renewable energy generation and the domestic jobs created by those energy projects.

  • Unless otherwise noted, all figures from OMB.


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 1:47 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Health Care

I'm curious what could lead anyone to think the Supreme Court isn't going to strike down the health care law, probably with the usual 5-4?

Seriously, we know Thomas will vote to strike it down, because his wife is being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by its opponents. That one is a given, and has nothing to do with the Constitution, law or ethics.

We know Roberts, Scalia and Alito will vote to strike it down because they come out of the conservative movement, and the conservative movement sees killing it as a strategic step against Obama. That one is also a given, and also has nothing to do with the Constitution, law or ethics.

So on the right side of the court it comes down to Kennedy, appointed by Ronald Reagan. He will vote to strike it down.

But don't bet that the "liberal" minority will vote to keep this law. Many non-right-wingers might be boxed into reflexively hoping the court upholds this law, but don't forget what this law does. This law orders all of us to purchase insurance from the giant insurance near-monopolies. It was the "corporate/centrist" solution to keeping us from getting Medicare-For-All, and preserving private corporate health insurance. We shouldn't be hoping the "liberals" vote to confirm that is OK.

Private health care has been proven to not work without the government ordering us to buy it. So if the Court strikes down the law, the only alternative left is Medicare-For-All. Hope for that.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:00 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

THE Most Important Subject

Global Warming Close to Becoming Irreversible: Scientific American

The world is close to reaching tipping points that will make it irreversibly hotter, making this decade critical in efforts to contain global warming, scientists warned on Monday.

Scientific estimates differ but the world's temperature looks set to rise by six degrees Celsius by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to rise uncontrollably.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:32 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 26, 2012

The Origins Of The Right's Smear Machine

This is a must-read to understand the history. Starting with Nixon, again and again Dems let Republicans off the hook, again and again they respond by doing even more and worse. Background: Dems had evidence that Nixon's presidential campaign sabotaged peace talks that could have ended the Vietnam war in 68, to help Nixon in the election. Dems kept this secret "for the good of the country." Nixon then kept the war going four more years so he could announce its "end" just before the 72 election. ("Peace is at hand.")

How the Right’s Smear Machine Started | Consortiumnews,

... the decision by President Lyndon Johnson and his top aides to withhold from the public their evidence of Nixon’s sabotage of the Vietnam peace talks in fall 1968 proved to be the opposite of their stated intention: to hide the dirty secret for “the good of the country.”

As Johnson’s national security adviser Walt W. Rostow observed in 1973 as the Watergate scandal was unfolding, Nixon may have dared undertake that domestic spying program because he had gotten away with his 1968 skullduggery unscathed.With the evidence of Nixon’s “treason” kept under wraps, Republicans could fancy themselves the real victims in the Watergate scandal and thus could justify doing whatever was necessary to protect some future GOP president from similar treatment.
With the evidence of Nixon’s “treason” kept under wraps, Republicans could fancy themselves the real victims in the Watergate scandal and thus could justify doing whatever was necessary to protect some future GOP president from similar treatment.

Reagan let off the hook for Iran Contra and for sabatoging Carter's hostage talks. Bush let off the hook for torture and illegal war and various acts of corruption. ... and so on.

Some examples include evidence of another October Surprise dirty trick in 1980 (with Reagan’s campaign frustrating President Jimmy Carter’s efforts to free 52 American hostages in Iran), the Iran-Contra sequel (as President Reagan traded more arms to Iran for more U.S. hostages in 1985-86), the Iraq-gate scandal of secretly arming Saddam Hussein (which put President George H.W. Bush on the spot after the Persian Gulf War in 1991), or the Plame-gate affair (which involved George W. Bush’s administration leaking the identity of a covert CIA officer to get back at her husband for exposing a lie behind the Iraq War in 2003).

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:25 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 25, 2012

Restore The Fairness Doctrine

The Outsourced Party - NYTimes.com,

In 1949, drawing on a long history of court decisions; on public hearings; and on legislation mandating “equal time” for political candidates, the F.C.C. ruled that holders of radio and television broadcast licenses must “devote a reasonable percentage of their broadcast time to the presentation of news and programs devoted to the consideration and discussion of public issues of interest in the community,” and that this must include “different attitudes and viewpoints concerning these vital and often controversial issues.”

The Supreme Court repeatedly upheld the F.C.C.’s power to make such a rule — but never gave it the power of law. In 1986, a pair of Ronald Reagan’s judicial appointees on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia, ruled that the Fairness Doctrine was not “a binding statutory obligation.”

Armed with this verdict, Fowler, who insisted on viewing television, in particular, as not a finite and supremely influential broadcast medium but “just another appliance — it’s a toaster with pictures,” persuaded his fellow commissioners to abolish the Fairness Doctrine. Furious Democrats in Congress passed legislation to codify the doctrine into law in 1987 and 1991, but these attempts were vetoed by Reagan and George Bush, respectively; Democrats have gone on trying to make the Fairness Doctrine law to this day, but have always been stymied by adamant Republican opposition.

Also under Clinton Republicans filibustered.

After that Dems turned into the party they are now, and didn't even try.

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

Boxed In On Health Insurance

I'm not hoping the Supreme Court rules it's OK to order us to buy from big corporations.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:39 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Abusing Customers For Profit

Airlines are making flying more uncomfortable on purpose, while charging a fee for comfort. Leg room, being able to choose a seat, etc.

Airlines are just a particularly visible example of this, but it is pervasive.

Why is this allowed? Who is our economy supposed to be FOR? Aren't We, the People supposed to be making the rules? Where is our government?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:16 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

The Anti-Government Game

My local paper runs op-eds railing against public employee pensions maybe once a week.

The idea is that since most working people's pensions have already been taken away, why should public employees still have them?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:01 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 24, 2012

Budget Cuts?

Why the Pentagon’s New Fighter Jet Will Now Cost More Than $1 Trillion - ProPublica,

It has cost the government $400 billion to date, and is estimated to run more than $1 trillion to develop, buy and support nearly 2,500 aircraft through 2050.

Who is getting all this money?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:10 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 23, 2012

Tuesday Virtually Speaking

Tuesday, Mar 27 | 9 pm eastern | 6 pm pacific |Virtually Speaking Tuesdays |

Dave Johnson maps the forest with investigative journalist Mike Elk, who writes extensively about Labor, frequently for In These Times, AlterNet, and the American Prospect. They’ll talk about reporting on Labor. Plus the latest Z Files segment from Stuart Zechman. Follow@dcjohnson @MikeElk

Listen on Blog Talk Radio list or any time after.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:52 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 22, 2012

The Republican Budget, Explained

The new Republican budget plan:

Smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke. Tax cuts for the 1%, cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. Smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke.

Fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog. Tax cuts for the 1%, cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. Fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog, fog.

Words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words. Tax cuts for the 1%, cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. Words, words, words, words,words, words, words,words, words, words,words, words, words,words, words, words, words, words, words,words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words, words.

Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, Tax cuts for the 1%, cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense.

Propaganda, propaganda, propaganda, propaganda, propaganda, propaganda, propaganda, propaganda, propaganda, propaganda, propaganda. Tax cuts for the 1%, cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. Propaganda, propaganda, propaganda, propaganda, propaganda, propaganda, propaganda, propaganda, propaganda.

Obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation. Tax cuts for the 1%, cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. Obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation.

Mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors. Tax cuts for the 1%, cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. Mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors, mirrors.

Stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff. Tax cuts for the 1%, cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. Stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff.

Smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears. Tax cuts for the 1%, cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. Smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears, smears.

Division, division, division, division, division, division, division, division, division, division, division, division, division, division, division, division, division, division. Tax cuts for the 1%, cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. Division, division, division, division, division, division, division, division.

Distraction, distraction, distraction, distraction, distraction, distraction, distraction, distraction, distraction, distraction, distraction, distraction, distraction, distraction. Tax cuts for the 1%, cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. Distraction, distraction, distraction, distraction, distraction, distraction, distraction, distraction, distraction.

Bamboozlement, bamboozlement, bamboozlement, bamboozlement, bamboozlement, bamboozlement, bamboozlement, bamboozlement, bamboozlement. Tax cuts for the 1%, cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. Bamboozlement, bamboozlement, bamboozlement, bamboozlement, bamboozlement, bamboozlement, bamboozlement, bamboozlement, bamboozlement.

Diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion. Tax cuts for the 1%, cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. Diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion.

Shiny Object, shiny object, shiny object, shiny object, shiny object, shiny object, shiny object, shiny object, shiny object, shiny object, shiny object, shiny object. Tax cuts for the 1%, cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. Shiny object, shiny object, shiny object, shiny object, shiny object, shiny object

And when it is all cleared away:

Tax cuts for the 1%, cuts in the things We, the People do for each other.

Update: England, too!

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 9:34 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 21, 2012

March 22 Verizon Day Of Action!

Tomorrow!


On March 22, workers from the Communication Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers will be joined by thousands of supporters to rally around the country to stand up to corporate greed, and in support of good jobs for the 99%. The rally will also support the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act that I have been writing about. This is a chance to stand up against Verizon's fight to destroy unions and middle class America.

Click here to sign up to help out, and for more information.

Go to this site and scroll down a bit for event locations.

From the site:

MARCH 22: VERIZON DAY OF ACTION

Verizon has made tens of billions in profits and its top executives walked away with $283 million in the last four years. But when it comes to the 45,000 workers who made Verizon's success possible, suddenly the company cries broke.

Verizon has sent thousands of American jobs overseas and wants to outsource even more jobs, gut pensions, charge current and retired employees thousands of dollars more for health benefits, and cut disability benefits for workers injured during their jobs.

On March 22, CWA and IBEW workers and thousands of others will be rallying around the country to support good jobs and the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act. Join us.

About The Call-Center Bill

The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act is a bipartisan bill to help fight the offshoring of call-center jobs and protect consumers. This proposed legislation would let the public know which companies are engaging in sending jobs out of the country, let customers ask to use an American call center instead, and ban federal grants or guaranteed loans to American companies that move call center jobs out of the US.

Today many call-center jobs are being moved out of the country, mostly to India and the Philippines. This costs American jobs, and can be very frustrating to consumers who have to speak to people who they cannot understand because of language problems or cultural differences. The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act gives consumers the right to ask where the person they are speaking with is based, and ask for an American-based representative instead. Among the things this bill would accomplish:


  • Require the Department of Labor to publicly list firms that move call center jobs overseas.
  • Make these firms ineligible for any direct or indirect federal loans or loan guarantees for five years.
  • Require 120 day advance notification of a proposed move off-shore.
  • Require call center employees to tell U.S. consumers where they are located, if asked.
  • Require that call centers transfer calls to a U.S. call center if asked.

Previously:

March 7: It's Time To Pass The Call-Center Bill

Dec 13: Call-Center Bill Would Let Customers Ask To Talk To Americans

Dec 16: Who Protects Info You Give To Offshored Call Centers?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 20, 2012

Beyond Depressing

To understand the state of the country read this: Fox News Commenters React to Trayvon Martin: 'Good Shot Zimmy'

Sickening.

What a shame—a tragedy, really— because the dead lil’ gangsta could’ve used “‘A-FIRM-TIV AK-SHUN” to go to kollige an play footballz and make lotsa cash munny!”

Sickening, racist shit. Click through, read them.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:22 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Elections And Gas Prices

Two years ago I made a cynical election prediction:

Gasoline prices are about to start climbing, and will continue to climb through the summer, and well into the fall. No one will be able to pin down exactly why.

Take a look at this from Leo Gerard, Refinery Murder Mystery.

Leo is noticing a pattern of refinery closings in time to drive gas prices WAY up for the election...

Huh, go figure.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:53 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

March 19, 2012

There Is Consensus On How To Fix Economy

“There was clearly something wrong with the U.S. economy long before the crash.”

Consensus

Consensus. Again and again, people who examine what went wrong with our economy leading up to the great recession come to the same conclusions! Study after study, book after book, statement after statement, op-ed after op-ed, organization after organization, expert after expert, all weighing in, all coming to the same conclusions. One after another voices speak up (click through for just a sampling), voicing their understanding of what happened to the economy, what caused the crash and what we have to do to fix things. One after another they voice the same conclusions: our economy was damaged by,


  • tax cuts for the rich combined with huge military budget increases (and wars) that led to budget deficits and increased inequality;

  • trade deals that damaged vital industries and led to trade deficits, layoffs and wage cuts;

  • deregulation of rules that protected working people, unions, vital economic sectors and the commons of public wealth;

  • and cuts in crucial areas of investment in our people and our economic future, including education & job training, infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, transportation and R&D into new technologies.


All of these betrayals of the social contract were enabled by the influence of big money on our political system, including huge sums spent on an infrastructure of corporate/conservative organizations designed to propagandize the public into accepting these changes - or at least keeping the victims from rebelling.

This Time, The AFL-CIO

This time the AFL-CIO offers their analysis, Fixing What Is Wrong With Our Economy. Here are a few excerpts - but if you have been paying attention you have heard all of this again and again from all directions:

The crash was the end-result of policy changes brought in with the "Reagan Revolution:"

The crash of 2008 and the Great Recession were inevitable consequences of three decades of economic policies designed by and for Wall Street and the wealthiest Americans. At the heart of the problem was the hollowing out of American manufacturing, the growing dysfunction of our financial sector and a rapid increase in economic inequality, all of which crippled the growth engine of the U.S. economy.

Trade deals and policy choices that sent jobs, factories and industries out of the country:

[. . .] The deindustrialization of America and the substitution of speculation for productive investment were not accidents, they were not inevitable, and they were not the outcome of natural forces. They were the predictable results of mistaken policy choices made by politicians of both parties for more than a generation. These policy choices had victims with first and last names: millions of displaced workers, shuttered factories and hollowed-out communities across the country hobbled by shrinking tax bases that no longer could support vital public services.

In The Way

The corporate/conservative propaganda apparatus (and its candidates for office) continue to demand even more tax cuts for the wealthy and cuts in the things our government does for We, the People:

[. . .] The Republican candidates pretend that tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy are the answer to wage stagnation and the economic crisis, but the Bush years taught us that these obscenely wasteful tax cuts only make the problem worse. They are the equivalent of eating our seed corn, because they starve the kind of public investment in education, infrastructure and innovation that is indispensable for long-term economic growth.

The Fix

Again and again experts tell us how to fix the problems we face in our economy and society: restore democracy's (the 99%'s) controls over corporations (the 1%) and especially re-regulate the financial sector, reverse the taxation policies that led to budget deficits and extreme inequality, fix the trade deals and other policies that led to trade deficits and allow the wealthy to pit working people against each other, and invest heavily in our country and people again. That's a start, anyway -- get the influence of big money and big money's propaganda machine out of our politics and maybe after a while We, the People can start addressing the rest of our problems again.

The AFL-CIO's conclusions, from a summary of the analysis:

The statement outlines several significant steps that need to be taken to build an economy that can compete with world economic powers like Germany and China and that works for all, including:
  • Significant investment over the next decade in education and apprenticeship programs for young people, infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, transportation, skills training and new technologies;
  • A fair share from Wall Street and the wealthiest Americans, who have benefited most from the economic policies of the past 30 years—pass a financial speculation tax, let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire and tax capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income;
  • Tackling the problems of wage stagnation and economic inequality by reforming labor laws so that all workers who want to form a union and bargain collectively have a fair opportunity to do so, making full employment the highest priority of our economic policy, increasing and indexing the minimum wage, shrinking the trade deficit and eliminating incentives for offshoring;
  • Reviving U.S. manufacturing by bringing the trade deficit under control, enhancing Buy America safeguards, aggressively enforcing trade laws and ending incentives for offshoring;
  • Once again regulating Wall Street, eliminating tax advantages for leveraged buyouts and finding other ways to favor strategic investment over short-term speculation;
  • And working toward a global New Deal that establishes minimum standards for the global economy, prevents a race to the bottom, creates vibrant consumer markets in the global South and creates new markets for advanced U.S. manufacturing.

The American people aren’t stupid. Majorities are also coming to the same conclusions. The American Majority in poll after poll show agreement with these conclusions.

We have to reverse the corporate/conservative, anti-government, pro-1% policies that started about 35 years ago. All the charts show the changes, when the changes happened, and how those changes have worn away at our economy and our people -- click through and see for yourself the story that the numbers tell: tax cuts, deregulation and outsourcing our jobs, factories and industries has not helped our economy or our people. Since then all the gains from the efforts of all of us have gone to fewer and fewer of us. Since then our infrastructure has fallen into disrepair. Since then our trade deficit has gotten worse and worse. Since then regular people -- the 99% -- have been falling further and further behind, democracy has eroded to the breaking point, with plutocracy -- rule of, by and for the 1% -- taking its place.

Our wealth is being extracted for the benefit of a few. We, the People must reassert control, or face further decline.


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 7:25 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 18, 2012

Saw On Twitter

What do U call someone who pays for 2 Wars by giving tax cuts then complain about Deficits? #Republicans. Er. D. (@esd2000)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 17, 2012

Janelle Monae - Cold War

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:58 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Yikes!

The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo on the Gong Show. 1976.

Buddy Hackett gave them a 6. Bill Bixby game them a 10.

Here they are with a 1985 live version of 'Who Do You Want To Be':

And 'No One Lives Forever' at their Farewell concert: (Watch this one, awesome)

Entire Farewell Concert is here.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:54 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

NBC News On Health -- Shameful

Watch this shameful NBC Nightly News segment describing studies on the effect of sugary drinks and red meat on heart health. The segment includes statements by soda and meat lobbyists countering what the medical studies have concluded! Shameful!

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

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:41 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 16, 2012

The So-Called "JOBS Act:" Crowdfunding Good, Deregulation Bad

The Senate is considering the House-passed, typically-misnamed "JOBS Act." This act dramatically cuts regulations and disclosure requirements for companies that want to sell stock. As written it opens the door to the usual scammers, fleecers and fraudsters that feast on deregulation. But I think with some core limits and protections this concept -- not this bill, but this concept -- could transform our economy in some very good ways.

The So-Called JOBS Act

The word "jobs" in the name of the bill does not mean the kind of jobs that millions of people are currently desperate for, it means "Jumpstart Our Business Startups." The bill makes it easier for companies to "go public" -- sell stock to the public for the first time. It lets these businesses sidestep certain additional auditing procedures for up to five years. It opens up "crowdfunding" -- letting companies raise up to $2 million from investors online, while cutting out much of the usual disclosure process that companies now have to go through.

Gatekeepers - Good And Bad

If you are going to start a business you have to raise capital. This can be money you save up or borrow, but a serious business requires a serious investment. Please don't start a business without a careful process of thinking through the first two years of operation and having way more than enough money available to get you through that period! This means that no matter what the business is, you are probably going to need at least a few hundred thousand dollars. Most people don't have that available, which means you are going to have to go out and raise it.

Currently it is very difficult for small businesses to raise capital. The usual path is to go find a wealthy "angel" investor or a group of wealthy investors like a venture capitalist firm. If you have a bigger business and are ready to "go public" you typically have to partner with a Wall Street-style firm to guide you through the process. Selling stock is heavily regulated -- for very, very, very good reasons -- and the regulations make it very, very expensive to go public.

On the one hand, having to raise money usually means your plans will be tested and challenged, which is a good thing. It is a terrible mistake to start a business without going through the planning process and thinking through what you are getting into. A failing business takes a terrible toll on the wealth and health of the participants. On the other hand, because of the way things are currently structured businesses are largely dependent on the already-wealthy to raise capital, and the already-wealthy can demand a lot in return, because the current regulatory structure means they can. And all of this means that the not-already-wealthy do not have the opportunity to participate in these early-stage investments. The way things are today, it takes a whole lot of money to make money. It doesn't have to be this difficult.

Crowdfunding

"Crowdfunding" is a term used to describe the way the Internet has enabled the raising of large amounts of money quickly from lots and lots of small donors - the crowd. Regular people all across the country can hear from candidates, non-profits, etc., and decide to donate. When lots of people get involved very large amounts can be raised.

Howard Dean's Presidential campaign publicized the concept. The Internet enabled Dean to quickly raise millions of dollars in small amounts from lots and lots of people. During President Obama's campaign he famously raised $1 million in one minute through Internet crowdfunding.

Applying crowdfunding to the process of raising capital for small companies could transform our economy by democratizing the process. It can move the gatekeepers for the already-wealthy out of the way, and open up early-stage investment opportunities to participation by regular people. A small company could raise a million dollars in increments of $100 or even $10, and lots of people can share in the gains if the business is successful.

Online investment pools could examine and rate business plans for small, local businesses, and raise the money they need. Or a tech startup can raise enough "seed money" to get going, and be in a position to negotiate much better deals with venture firms when the time comes to raise much more. The small-amount investors could then be in a position to do quite well as the company grows.

And regular people -- people who don't already have tens of millions in the bank -- can participate in the process and share in the gains -- and, it must always be noted, the losses. But this can only succeed if regular people are protected from the fleecers and fraudsters and scammers.

Opportunities For Fleecing And Fraud

There is a reason for the burdensome regulations that protect investors. Those regulations were proven necessary because fraudsters would set up scam investments and whip up excitement, causing unsophisticated people to lose their life savings. This has happened again and again. Even with the current regulations how many people lost out during the "Tech Bubble" when a company needed only to add "dot com" to its name and its stock would soar?

SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro warns,“Too often, investors are the target of fraudulent schemes disguised as investment opportunities."

As written, the JOBS Act only removes protections against fraud, without adding any protections for regular people. The AFL-CIO has issued this statement, The Jobs Act—A Cynical and Dangerous Return to the Politics of Financial Deregulation,

Workers’ retirement savings will be in greater risk of fraud and speculation if securities market deregulation once again is railroaded through Congress. Once again our economy will be at risk from the folly of policymakers promoting financial bubbles and ignoring the needs of the real economy. The AFL-CIO calls on Congress to set aside the politics of the 1%, the old game of special favors for Wall Street, and turn to the business of real job creation. The labor movement strongly opposes the JOBS Act and any other effort to weaken the Dodd-Frank Act.

We support the efforts of Senate Democrats such as Jack Reed, Carl Levin, and Mary Landrieu to amend the “JOBS Act” to lessen the harm it does to investors, pension funds, and the U.S. economy.

Jesse Eisinger, writing at ProPublica in Congress’s Genius Jobs Plan—for Fraudsters, Shills, and Wall St. Analysts, makes the case

John Coffee, a Columbia Law professor, has hailed the bill as "the boiler room legalization act." And rightly so. Boiler room operations were one of the unsung job creators of the 1990s, producing some of America's greatest penny stocks and boom times for yacht makers and coke dealers.

... Taking advantage of the revolutionary possibilities of the Internet, the bill loosens decades-old investor protections so that companies can directly advertise to those who would like to be separated from their money. It does that by giving broad exemptions for start-ups that want to "crowdfund" by raising small amounts of money over the Internet. I.P.O. pitches next to "Lose Your Belly!" ads. Sounds like a great idea!

Nigeria shouldn't be the only country to benefit from the web. Right here in America, the elderly are increasingly attractive to a variety of entrepreneurial spirits. If JOBS becomes the law, such innovators could flourish.

Other provisions in the JOBS Act allow companies to solicit investors, with advertising, etc. This is a mistake.

Fixing The Bill

Crowdfunding is enabled by new technologies, and should be explored for democratizing and expanding investment opportunities. If done right this is an opportunity to enable companies to bypass the gatekeepers-of-wealth, and regular people to participate in a democratic investment economy. But it has to be done right, with adequate protections in place from the start.

The legislation has to limit what people can lose and ensure sufficient transparency, to make sure an investment is real and viable and is not a scam designed to take off with the cash.

There is a Reed-Landrieu-Levin amendment that addresses many of the concerns in the bill. According to the Consumer Federation of America, among other protections it,

...limits the companies that would qualify as “emerging companies” to those with less than $250 million in gross revenue and by eliminating the House bill’s exemptions from accounting rules, say-on-pay and golden parachute vote requirements, and executive compensation disclosures. And it provides somewhat greater protection than the House bill against a resurgence in the kind of abusive securities analyst practices that fueled the tech stock bubble and bust.

... It includes stronger pro-investor provisions from the Senate Reg A bill, including requirements for audited financial statements, SEC authority to require up-front disclosure and periodic reporting, and a negligence-based litigation remedy. Importantly, it improves on that bill by limiting companies to raising $50 million through Regulation A offerings over three years, rather than once every 12 months, thus significantly reducing the risk that this provision will be used to evade public reporting requirements for larger companies.

... takes important steps to minimize the potential for harm, in particular by requiring that crowd-funding be conducted through an appropriately regulated Internet portal and requiring offerings of all sizes to provide financial information to investors subject to regulatory requirements appropriate to the size of the offering.

Also, Senators Scott Brown (R-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), have introduced the bipartisan CROWDFUND Act (S. 2190). The CROWDFUND Act will:


  • Allow entrepreneurs to raise up to $1 million per year through an SEC-registered crowdfunding portal.

  • Free people to invest a percentage of their income. For investors with an income of less than $100,000, investments will be capped at the greater of $2,000 or 5% of income. For investors within an income of more than $100,000, investments will be capped at 10% up to $100,000.

  • Require crowdfunding portals to provide investor protection, including investor education materials on the risks associated with small issuers and illiquidity.


This looks to be right on the money to me. Limit how much can be raised. Limit how much people can invest (lose). Require the online portals to provide information and transparency.

It is important that the House JOBS Act not pass as written. It is a scam-enabling bill that does what you would expect a Republican-written law to do. Namely, it would let the 1%ers fleece the 99% of whatever might remain in our bank accounts.

But internet-enabled crowdfunding of small and local businesses democratizes investment, and could transform our economy. Let's open up the regulations to let this begin, on a very small scale at least for now, and with good protections that keep people from being conned out of their money.

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 10:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Obama Video

Here is the Obama video, The Road We’ve Traveled, if you haven't seen it yet:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:12 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Tell Congress: Stop Taking Bribes

"Many lawmakers, when they approach retirement, begin negotiating with lobbying firms to receive multimillion dollar salaries after they leave office. In some cases, a Senator or Representative will slip language into a bill or write an earmark that benefits a special interest, and when they leave Congress, a big paycheck is waiting for them from the very same company."

Click through, sign the letter: Republic Report Sends Letter To 34 Retiring Members of Congress: Stop Backdoor Bribery, Disclose Negotiations With K Street - Republic Report

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:52 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Always Propaganda

Giant headline at Drudge Report: COST OF LIVING SOARS

Go to the article, "The so-called core measure, which excludes more volatile food and energy costs, climbed 0.1 percent, less than projected."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:45 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

March 14, 2012

Workers Of The World – Pay Attention

There’s something happening here. What it is is becoming clear. There’s a company blocking a union over there, and that’s telling you you’ve got to beware.

Breaking unions strikes deep. Back to your country it will creep. It starts when they pay low wages and exploit workers here. Pretty soon you’re fighting them there.


Last month, in Will American Anti-Labor Policies Infect Europe?, I warned German workers to pay attention to the way their Deutsch Telkom is behaving toward workers at their subsidiary company T-Mobile here in the US.

We entered into "free trade" agreements that enabled our businesses to take advantage of exploited labor in countries like China, and the plutocrats used that as a wedge against us here to drive down our wages, get rid of our benefits and break our unions. Now your own business leaders are taking advantage of eroded labor rights here, and if you let them get away with this they will want to bring these working conditions back to you.

... In countries like Germany workers are still paid fairly well and have benefits and rights. Here our pay, benefits and labor rights have eroded terribly. This is the result of American companies using exploited labor in countries like China as a wedge to force concessions at home. Can the same chain of events attack wages, benefits and unions in Europe?

... Here is an example. Germany’s Deutsche Telkom is trying to turn their wholly-owned subsidiary US company T-Mobile into a low-wage, low-benefit, union-free dumping ground. Is this an effort to ultimately bring these tactics back home to break Germany’s unions?

... So here is the question for European working people to ask. Will Europe let the US be their China? American companies learned to use China as a weapon against workers here. Will European companies bring American anti-labor practices home as a weapon to break down European worker rights and living standards?

Will European companies learn to use American anti-labor practices against European workers? Or will European workers stop this in time?

Since then a delegation of German workers came to the US to see for themselves. The results were not encouraging. German Delegation Ends T-Mobile Tour Stunned by U.S. Anti-Unionism,

After the meeting, Conny, a Deutsche Telekom retail employee, reflected:
It makes me really angry that employees are intimidated and harassed when they want to join a union. Companies like T-Mobile seem to use every possible tactic to prevent unionization. I think our colleagues are quite brave and have a lot of courage as they fight for their rights despite their own personal risks. They are all employed on an at-will basis, which means that they can be fired from one day to another. So they really worry about their future.
... For the German workers who came on the trip, their experiences have helped personalize the struggles of T-Mobile workers who live and work an ocean away. Their conviction to stand together with T-Mobile workers in this country is stronger and more deeply felt.

Before they headed back to D.C., Werner Schönau, Dieter Badel and Helmut Angerer summed up the week they spent with various T-Mobile employees:

We want to say that we are deeply impressed by the stories people told us on our trip and by the concrete experience we had. In particular, the personal reports from employees of T-Mobile US about their working conditions and the avoidance tactics of the union had us moved deeply. We really hope that this delegation is at least a small contribution for improving the working conditions and workers rights [for T-Mobile workers] …We definitely won’t give up in the future. We will use every opportunity to talk with our German co-workers about the experience we had during this week. We will encourage them to ask questions, also tough questions, to our management about what’s going on at T-Mobile in the USA.

To get involved with the global campaign to form a union for T-Mobile USA workers, visit: http://www.weworkbettertogether.org/ and http://www.weexpectbetter.org/

Here We Go Again - This Time Australian Company

An Australian company operating in the US fired a truck driver for making an emergency stop to use a bathroom (pretty bad) but the real reason was she was supporting union organization (really bad.) This company has a union in Australia, but is doing things like this here. Australian Trucking Corporation Condemned After Firing a Female Driver for Making Emergency Pit Stop at a McDonald's,

An $8.8 billion Australian transportation corporation has escalated its attack on its Latino-American workers by firing a mother of three for stopping to use a McDonald's restroom during her delivery route. The cruel termination of Xiomara Perez, a 46-year-old port truck driver who has already been outspoken about the filthy, unsanitary outhouses that lack running water at her worksite, occurred amidst a rise of pro-union solidarity actions by Perez and her co-workers.

… "It's not safe to 'hold it' when you have to relieve yourself. Toll's management has been looking for any little excuse to fire those of us that speak out in support of us forming a union with the Teamsters. They have obviously been spying on us and the worst thing they could pin on me as retaliation is a quick stop to use the restroom at a McDonalds."

… Friday's discriminatory firing ironically occurred on International Women's Day -- and during the week its local U.S. executives received a visit from three Toll drivers from Sydney and a union official for the Transport Workers of Australia. The union's rank-and-file and leadership are outraged that the company treats their U.S. counterparts as second-class citizens when the company allows its 12,000 Down Under drivers to negotiate strong contracts with middle class pay, benefits, and safety improvements.

… The Los Angeles Toll drivers have sought representation by the Teamsters union. Toll has delayed their legal right to vote on a union by exploiting weak labor laws.

More information about the organizing effort at Toll Group is available here: http://grimtruthattollgroup.com/

So this is a warning to working people in countries that respect the rights of working people. Pay attention to what your companies are doing in the US. You really don’t want them learning to operate the way a lot of US companies operate -- or your own wages, benefits and even your jobs could be on the line – like ours are here.


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

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:19 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 13, 2012

False Equivalence Award

Political Animal - False Equivalence Watch, Richard Cohen Version,

And it is here, in a feat of remarkable imagination, that Cohen deploys what I believe to be (and professionals in the field, please correct me if I’m wrong) a never-before-seen version of the genre, one that might be called the If-Not-Now-Then-Later False Equivalence:
So far, the Palin effect has been limited to the GOP. Surely, though, there lurks in the Democratic Party potential candidates who have seen Palin and taken note. Experience, knowledge, accomplishment—these no longer may matter. They will come roaring out of the left proclaiming a hatred of all things Washington, including compromise. The movie had it right. Sarah Palin changed the game.

Well played, sir.


Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:02 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

What They Said Then

Here is what they were saying on FOX about gas prices, when Bush was President:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:12 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 12, 2012

You Want To Bring The Old Economy Back? Really?

There are small signs that real recovery might finally be kicking in. (Republicans have been able to obstruct it for only so long.) But we have not rewired the economic paradigm to work for the 99%, so any recovery will only bring back the imbalances that caused the problems in the first place. This means recovery may not have the electoral effects Democrats hope for, because any growth means the beneficiaries of the old economy are the beneficiaries of this recovery.

Green Shoots Taking Root?

The economy is not collapsing - today. There is at least some growth in most sectors, and this certainly beats continuing decline. The layoffs have slowed to a less gut-wrenching level and there is even hiring occurring. The overhanging inventory of unsold houses has pulled back from record levels. Car companies are doing well and you can't turn on the TV without seeing car commercials everywhere. Yes there are signs that "green shoots" might be taking root this time - maybe.

But at the same time, to what end?

Here We Go Again

Right on the tail of any green shoots we see signs of the old ways returning, the old imbalances resurfacing. People are running up credit cards again. Trade deficits with China are rising to extreme levels again. Banks and other giants are finding ways to soak scam fees out of customers again. Unrestrained financial-casino speculators are helping drive the price of gasoline to highest-ever levels. And here we go again: the top 1% captured 93% of the income gains in the first year of recovery.

This all shows an economy wired for the 1% will only benefit the 1% as it recovers. The gains are not trickling down.

THIS is what you call recovery?

Won't Help Election

Democrats and the President are hoping, hoping, hoping that signs of recovery will continue, and people will look more favorably at the President and his party. But any recovery that just goes back to the old economy will not help, because it will not help regular people. An economy wired for the 1% only helps the 1% during any recovery. Today's poll demonstrates this: Washington Post: Gas prices sink Obama's ratings on economy, bring parity to race for White House,

Disapproval of President Obama’s handling of the economy is heading higher — alongside gasoline prices — as a record number of Americans now give the president “strongly” negative reviews on the 2012 presidential campaign’s most important issue, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

"Recovery" only helps the President and Democrats if the recovery actually helps the 99%. Mere words won't do it.

Mere Words Won't Do It -- We Need An Actual Agenda For The 99%

Mere words won't do it. We need an agenda bigger than what we are doing now, otherwise we just "recover" an economy that didn’t work for working people or for the planet. We need actual change that people actually feel. This means a serious, meaningful attack on inequality and its effects. This means changing the wiring of the economy so We, the People again are in control.

Democrats have to be perceived as actually fighting for the interests of the 99%. The way to be perceived as doing this is to actually do it. This means bringing in people to the Treasury Department and economic advisors who don't actually work for the interests of Wall Street and the big banks and the 1%. This means actually fighting to raise taxes on the 1% back up to actually meaningful pre-Reagan levels. This means actually doing something about the trade agreements that pit the 99% against exploited workers who have no say, while creating massive trade deficits that drain our economy. This means actually providing good schools and college education that everyone can afford. This means an actual national industrial policy that helps us actually compete in the world's economy. This means actually fighting climate change. This means actually empowering workers to form unions so they can actually confront concentrated wealth and power with some actual leverage. This means actually hiring millions of people to actually modernize our infrastructure and retrofit our buildings to be energy efficient. This means an actual Medicare-for-All health care plan instead of just reinforcing the 1%er insurance giants. This means actually doing those things that need to be done.

Mere words won't do it. Actually rewriting the economic paradigm is what is actually required here.

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

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Arctic Ice And Oil Company Money

Most of us see news stories like this:

Ice extent in Barents Sea less than half of average

Also further to the East in the Arctic ice conditions are very unusual this year. The Kara Sea to the East of Novaya Zemlya was completely ice-free in February, as BarentsObserver reported.

A recent NASA-study shows that the oldest and thickest Arctic sea ice is disappearing at a faster rate than the younger and thinner ice at the edges of the Arctic Ocean’s floating ice cap. The shows that multi-year ice has diminished with each passing winter over the last three decades with a rate of -15.1 percent per decade.

Melting Arctic link to cold, snowy UK winters,

The progressive shrinking of Arctic sea ice is bringing colder, snowier winters to the UK and other areas of Europe, North America and China, a study shows.

February Arctic sea ice extent below average‎

Ice_graph.png

Arctic sea ice retreat raises new fishing challenge


But if you are a right-winger, you see news stories like this:

Daily Mail: Most polar ice ever recorded, which links to this story: Greenland And Alaska Have More Ice Than 1979 and has a pair of satellite images that make it look like there was no ice in 1979 and the entire northern hemisphere is covered with ice now.

P.S. If you carefully examine the two photos, you see that the socond really shows that there is much less ice in 2012 than in 1979. They changed the color used to show land mass to white so you get a clearer pic of ice coverage, because of the shrinkage of the ice caps.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:49 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

The Psychopathic Right

Wanna guess how the right is reacting to the news of the atrocity committed by a soldier in Afghanistan, even killing children? Do you even need to ask?

Go read Little Green Footballs - Fox News Commenters React to Afghan Killings: 'A Dead Muslim Is a Good Muslim',

I’ve looked at about a dozen right wing sites this morning to see how they’d react to the news from Afghanistan, and the comments at every single one of them were full of people celebrating the killings, praising the soldier who allegedly committed them, and denying there was any crime, while at the same time frantically trying to blame the crime on President Obama.

Seriously, click through and read what they're saying. These are the people who might be in charge after the election.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:56 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 9, 2012

Cuts and Consequences - How Budget Cuts Hurt The Economy

Is smaller government really better for the economy? Conservatives chant that taxes and government "take money out of the economy" and we need to "cut and grow," meaning if government spending is cut way back the economy will grow as a result. Europe's conservatives are also forcing cuts in the things their governments do for regular people, claiming "austerity" will bring "confidence" that grows their economies. How is this experiment working out? What are we learning about the effect on the larger economy when government is cut?

What Does Government Do?

Almost everything the government does is because it needs to be done. We need roads, bridges, schools & colleges, dams, courts, police & fire departments, water management, etc. (We can discuss the need for military spending another time.)

These are all needed and contribute to the functioning of the economy. So if government is cut back and doesn’t do something that is needed, then how does it get done? Or does it just not get done? Either way, the real question we should be asking is what is the effect on the larger economy when our government cuts back on or stops doing needed things? If you save the “government” a bit of money but cost the economy a lot of money, are you saving money? Or are cuts in government really just shifting and even increasing the costs in the larger economy of doing these things?

Who Is Our Government For?

In the United States, our Constitution says that government is supposed to be of, by and for We, the People. The country was established after the colonists rebelled against the aristocracy of England -- a few people who had all of the wealth and power and would not let the colonists have a say in how things were run and who would benefit. So they fought the Revolutionary War and established a country where "We, the People" all have an equal say, and to "promote the general welfare." In other words, a country that aspires to be of, by and for the good of all of us.

So cutting back on government means cutting back on We, the People doing things for the good of all of us. It means cutting back on the things we have a say over. It means relinquishing the wealth and power that we hold in common to ... well, just where does our common wealth and power go if our government is cut back?

Medicare, For Example

Republicans say we need to cut back on what the government spends on Medicare. But if you cut Medicare the health problems of elderly people and the larger problem of fast-rising health care costs in the larger economy don’t disappear. In fact, both problems just get worse.

The "Ryan Budget" that Congressional Republicans voted to approve actually converts Medicare into a program that gives seniors a voucher that pays for part of a private medical insurance policy that seniors have to shop for. The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Cost of Medicare Equivalent Insurance Skyrockets under Ryan Plan, took a look at that plan and explains what happens to the cost of health care. Summary: it shifts the costs to us, except each of us ends up paying as much as seven times as much as the same care costs under Medicare. 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 Republican plan] 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 ...

Repeat, the Republican plan to cut Medicare would cost the larger economy seven times as much as it cuts government spending.

Social Security, For Example

Conservatives have been trying to cut or gut Social Security for decades. While this might mean government has to pay out less of what is owed to seniors, such cuts would have a negative effect on the larger economy.

Social Security allows working people to retire with at least a minimal income. If this is cut many could not retire for many more years (if ever), which would increase the unemployment rate because their jobs would not open up. The same is true as the retirement age is increased - fewer job openings. If it is cut, the spending (on cat food) at local grocery stores and other necessities is reduced by the same amount. And the effect on children of retirees is increased, if they contribute to make up the difference.

This is why cutting Social Security or raising the retirement age only shifts costs onto the larger economy, dragging it down (and cruelly hurting our elderly).

Cutting Disease Control, For Example

One of the clearest examples of the way government helps us all, rich and poor, is the government's Center for Disease Control (CDC). One of the jobs of the CDC is to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. If an epidemic is spreading and killing people it doesn't matter if those people are rich or poor. And if a serious outbreak spreads this can damage the economy as people are too sick to, or decide not to show up for work. So of course cutting back the budget of the CDC could cause damage to the economy in any given year and is certain to cause damage eventually. (The CDC budget was cut back 11% last year.)

Budget Cuts Hurt The Economy

The above are only a few examples.

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 or the need for those things, they just shift those costs onto the larger economy. But because these shifts attack the economy-of-scale, transparency, integrity and public-good management that government provides, they almost always increase the costs and harms to the larger economy.


  • As government health care is cut (or not provided in the first place) each of us must take on those costs on our own, and as demonstrated, pay up to seven times what the same care would/could have cost.
  • As infrastructure maintenance and modernization is cut, our economy becomes less competitive, unemployment increases and our wages and spending power fall.
  • As spending on education is cut, our costs of educating ourselves and our kids increase. College costs soar. And the overall education level of our people will decrease, making our country less competitive in the world.
  • As environmental regulation and enforcement is cut the costs of the resulting health problems and cleanups increase and our quality-of-life will decrease.
  • As enforcement of labor laws is cut, our wages and protections fall.
  • As etc. is cut, the costs of etc. are shifted to the larger economy, and the total costs of accomplishing etc. actually increase.

As budgets are cut, the costs are increased and shifted to the larger economy.

Austerity In Europe

Several countries in Europe are severely cutting budgets. The result is that the economies in those countries are slowing. Reuters: Euro zone's slump in late 2011 points to recession.

A collapse in household spending, exports and manufacturing sucked the life out of the euro zone's economy in the final months of 2011, the EU said on Tuesday, showing the scope of the downturn that looks set to become a fully fledged recession.

... The European Commission forecasts a recession of the same magnitude this year. That would be the euro zone's second contraction in just three years as the bloc's debt crisis drags on a region that generates around 16 percent of the world's economic output.

[. . .] The battle between austerity and growth was already evident in the fourth quarter. Euro zone government expenditure fell 0.2 percent, while industry contracted 2 percent and imports were down 1.2 percent, making for some of the worst readings since the world was dragged into the 2008/2009 financial crisis.

The austerity experiment is making the case: cutting government budgets just shifts costs and hurts the larger economy.

Who Benefits From Cuts?

Governments dance with the ones that brung 'em. Whoever controls government is naturally going to direct government to benefit them – and only them. We-the-People democracies do things for We, the People; plutocracies do things for plutocrats. So when, as now, plutocrats are running government, you will get a government that only does things that benefit plutocrats. And when We, the People were running government, we did things that benefit We, the People -- all of us.

The plutocrats now demanding government budget cuts obviously understand that this will result in slowing economies, but don't care -- they are already fabulously wealthy. What they want is reduced taxes and increased power. They say that cuts will bring growth, in order to persuade people to accept cuts. Blocking governments from providing things that don't directly benefit them and only them is a means to that end. And cutting government cuts government's ability to reign them in.

What We, the People Want

When We, the People are running government we insist that government increases overall prosperity. We demand laws and regulations that bring us good wages, benefits and safe working conditions. We demand good public schools & colleges, parks, safety and opportunities for our smaller businesses to fairly compete. We insist on a clean environment, consumer protections, regulations on business behavior, rules against monopolies and (after learning the hard way) rules that keep banks from taking risks that threaten the economy. And we want controls and limits on the use of wealth and power by the 1%ers.

Plutocrats -- the 1%ers -- of course see all of these protections of regular people as hindering their power and ability to make as much for themselves as they can grab. Plutocrats just don’t see how public parks benefit them. They just don’t see why they should have to pay for public schools. What good do public schools do them, today? Plutocrats don’t see why it should be anyone else's problem if old people don’t have health care -- health care for seniors certainly isn't their problem.

They explain that things for anyone other than themselves and their interests just “wastes money.” Things for regular people are not their problem. And when plutocrats run government, it isn't their problem.

The fact is a public park “costs money.” Schools and infrastructure are just more “government spending.” Things like that just "redistribute income" because taxes on the income of plutocrats is used to build that park or school that anyone can use. The basic message of the plutocrat is, "Why should I pay for anything that benefits you?"

You and I might argue that this kind of austerity, cutting schools, Medicare, infrastructure, etc. slows the larger economy, hurting the plutocrats, too. But that doesn’t hurt the ones who are already rich, which is the definition of plutocrat. It puts more in their pockets, today, by lowering their taxes. They want out of taxes and they don't want government (We, the People) interfering with their power.

What We, The People Need

Democracies where We, the People make decisions demand things that are good for regular people and their small businesses: pensions, health care, modernized infrastructure, good schools & colleges, child care, regulations on the behavior of giant corporations... This is why strong democracies have proven to be more prosperous for regular people and for longer 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. This is why so many regular working people in our country were so much more prosperous in the decades before the plutocratic 1%-favoring policies of Reagan steered us toward plutocracy.

Understand what is going on here. Demands for budget cuts and austerity are really about shifting from democracy to a system where regular people -- the 99% -- are on their own, up against the wealthy and powerful. This is about shifting from a system where regular people can be prosperous together, to a system where a few -- the 1% -- have all the wealth and power.

We, the People need democracy restored. We need to be in charge again, before the economy can improve.

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

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:51 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 8, 2012

These People Are Just Nuts

The latest right-wing frenzy is over a film of Barack Obama as a student giving a speech in favor of racial diversity in universities, and then hugging Derrick Bell, who was the first black law professor at Harvard. At the time Obama has been elected President of Harvard Law Review - the first black person in that position.

That's it. They are saying that advocating racial diversity is "Marxist" and that being the first black law professor proves the guy is a "radical." They say that letting a black guy be a law professor is "demonizing whites." They say that Obama advocating racial diversity reveals "another corner of the president’s murky past," and proves that "Obama is not so secretly a radical."

That's it. He was the first black law professor at Harvard, therefore he is a "Marxist" and a "radical." Because Harvard is such a "radical" institution, I guess. Even though it didn't hire any black law professors before the 90s.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:40 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Call Senators! "Buy America" Amendment Today!

There is a "Highway Bill" amendment in front of the Senate today that closes loopholes in "Buy America" preferences when government spends money on infrastructure. This is the Brown-Merkley Amendment #1819. Call your senators now!

The Brown-Merkley Amendment #1819 fixes the following:


  • Transparency: Requires agencies to provide notification on a public website and a 15 day comment period before proposed waivers of Buy America preferences are granted – similar to current practice by FHWA.
  • Reporting: Requires an annual report on the use of Buy America waivers for transportation projects, including justification for each waiver and the monetary value for each waiver.
  • Closes the “Segmentation” Loophole: Ensures that public works projects receiving federal aid cannot be “segmented” to evade Buy America preferences by clarifying that Buy America applies to contracts carried out within the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) assessment – same language in amendment to H.R. 7 by Rep. Cravaack (R-MN) passed in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
  • Works with Trade Agreements: Requires that Buy America preferences be carried out in a manner consistent with our international trade agreements.

About Buy America

Buy America provisions support American companies and workers by giving a preference to domestically produced iron, steel, and other manufactured goods in infrastructure projects that receive federal aid. They have commonsense exceptions that permit waivers to allow procurement of foreign product when there is insufficient domestic capacity, if the cost of the domestic product is unreasonable, or when the administering agency deems the waiver to be in the public interest.

Call now!


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

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 7, 2012

It's Time To Pass The Call-Center Bill

There is a bipartisan bill in the Congress that regulates call centers, names companies that move jobs out of the country, gives customers the right to talk to Americans if they are having trouble understanding the support representative, protects private information that you give to the representative and bans federal grants or guaranteed loans to American companies that move call center jobs out of the US. A group of big companies and their lobbying organizations has come out against the bill and the list shows you why you call your Representative and let them know you are for it, and for bills like it that protect consumers and jobs.

The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act

The bipartisan U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, H.R. 3596, has 75 sponsors in the House. It can pass, so help give it a push. It gives consumers the right to ask where the person they are speaking with is based, and ask for an American-based representative instead. Among the things this bill would accomplish:


  • Require the Department of Labor to publicly list firms that move call center jobs overseas.
  • Make these firms ineligible for any direct or indirect federal loans or loan guarantees for five years.
  • Require 120 day advance notification of a proposed move off-shore.
  • Require call center employees to tell U.S. consumers where they are located, if asked.
  • Require that call centers transfer calls to a U.S. call center if asked.

I've written about the bill:

December: Call-Center Bill Would Let Customers Ask To Talk To Americans and Who Protects Info You Give To Offshored Call Centers?

January: India And Philippines Declare War On Call Center Bill.

List Of Who's Against It Shows Why You Should Be For It

A number of companies and their lobbying organizations put out a letter opposing H.R. 3596, saying that giving the public info on companies that are outsourcing would create a "blacklist" and would "increase costs" (wages of the 99%). The list shows why you want to support the bill:


  • Cargill, Incorporated
  • The Coalition of Service Industries
  • Consumer Electronics Association
  • Covergys Corporation
  • HR Policy Association
  • Kiewit Corporation
  • LORD Corporation
  • National Association of Manufacturers
  • National Retail Federation
  • Retail Industry Leaders Association
  • Security Industry Association
  • TechAmerica
  • Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA)
  • Texas Association of Business
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Universal Weather and Aviation

Who is in charge here, big corporations and their lobbyists or We, the People? Call your Representative and ask them to co-sponsor and vote for this bill.

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

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:39 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Taxes Were Cut, So Where's The Growth?

Conservatives and plutocrats claim that cutting taxes makes the economy grow. But after 'W' cut taxes, the economy didn't grow. And after Clinton raised taxes on the rich the economy grew a lot. Maybe - just maybe - having a government that is funded and functioning helps the economy grow more than handing over a bunch of cash to the rich does. Go figure.

It's not just me who has noticed... Bruce Bartlett is a conservative who served under President Reagan and the first President Bush. But he's a bit fed up with the nonsense that the plutocrats keep spouting about tax cuts. today, in Fanning the Flames of Class Warfare, Bartlett writes,

I’m still waiting for the growth Republicans promised under George W. Bush after they cut the top federal income tax rate to 35 percent from 39.6 percent, the top rate on qualified dividends to 15 percent from 35 percent and the top rate on capital gains to 15 percent from 20 percent. All of these actions significantly lowered taxes for the rich without raising economic growth at all. Why will more tax cuts for these same people do any good now?

Yesterday I pointed out that the recession recovery under Reagan was the result of government spending and hiring. From The Big Reagan Recovery Was Government Spending And Hiring,

Conservatives like to talk about how well the economy did under Reagan, and how poorly it is doing now. Then they say that government "takes money out of the economy." But the difference in economic growth was that under Reagan the government was spending and hiring, and now it isn't.

Let me conclude with the same words as yesterday:

A government that is run only for 1%er plutocrats will only do things that benefit plutocrats. As the governments of the world are increasingly "captured" by the plutocrats they will increasingly cut back on doing things for regular people. It doesn't matter if this hurts or even kills their economies in the future, 1%ers don't care. Plutocrats want it now, for themselves, and take it now, for themselves, the rest be damned.

And let me add, they'll say what they need to say to get that.

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 7:37 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 6, 2012

The Big Reagan Recovery Was Government Spending And Hiring

Conservatives like to talk about how well the economy did under Reagan, and how poorly it is doing now. Then they say that government "takes money out of the economy." But the difference in economic growth was that under Reagan the government was spending and hiring, and now it isn't.

Paul Krugman lays it out, in States of Depression,

... compare government employment and spending during the Obama-era economic expansion, which began in June 2009, with their tracks during the Reagan-era expansion, which began in November 1982.

Start with government employment (which is mainly at the state and local level, with about half the jobs in education). By this stage in the Reagan recovery, government employment had risen by 3.1 percent; this time around, it’s down by 2.7 percent.

Next, look at government purchases of goods and services (as distinct from transfers to individuals, like unemployment benefits). Adjusted for inflation, by this stage of the Reagan recovery, such purchases had risen by 11.6 percent; this time, they’re down by 2.6 percent.

And the gap persists even when you do include transfers, some of which have stayed high precisely because unemployment is still so high. Adjusted for inflation, Reagan-era spending rose 10.2 percent in the first 10 quarters of recovery, Obama-era spending only 2.6 percent.

Austerity Killing Growth

Meanwhile conservative demands for government spending cuts - "austerity" - are causing exactly the opposite of what they claim. They claim that spending cuts will cause economies to grow, while all the economies that are cutting spending are shrinking faster and faster. NY Times: Spain Adjusts Deficit-Reduction Target at European Summit,

Spain announced Friday that a deepening recession meant it would have to abandon its deficit-reduction targets for this year...

Spain’s predicament is a reminder of how, in several countries, the austerity measures that evolved from the debt crisis have eroded confidence and reduced growth, making it harder to escape a downward spiral.

Same in Greece, and elsewhere. Cuts = downward spiral.

Government Of By and For Plutocrats

Here is what is going on: Politicians dance with the ones that brung 'em. A government that is of, by and for We, the People will do things that benefit We, the People. A big part of that equation is investing in the future: good schools, infrastructure, even parks. From Free Trade Or Democracy, Can't Have Both,

When people have a say we insist on good wages, benefits, safe working conditions, and a clean environment. We even go so far as to say we want good public schools, parks and opportunities for our smaller businesses. When We, the People have a say we get so uppity and ask for the most outrageous things!

A government that is run only for 1%er plutocrats will only do things that benefit plutocrats. As the governments of the world are increasingly "captured" by the plutocrats they will increasingly cut back on doing things for regular people. It doesn't matter if this hurts or even kills their economies in the future, 1%ers don't care. Plutocrats want it now, for themselves, and take it now, for themselves, the rest be damned.

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

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Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:10 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 1, 2012

Free Trade Or Democracy, Can't Have Both

Recent stories about the conditions of Apple's contractors in China have opened many people's eyes about where our jobs, factories, industries and economy have been going, and why. The stories exposed that workers live 6-to-12-to-a-room in dormitories, get rousted at midnight to work surprise 12-hour shifts, get paid very little, use toxic chemicals, suffer extreme pollution of the environment, etc. Is this "trade?" Or is it something else?

Is This "Trade?"

"Trade" means to exchange, to buy and sell, you buy from me and I buy from you. I have something you want and you have something I want, and we exchange. We both end up better off than where we started.

Is it "trade" to close a factory here and move it to a country where people don't have a say? It is "trade" to just move all of the machines from a factory here to a factory there, send the same parts and raw materials over there, and then bring bring back whatever it was the factory used to make and sell it in the same places here? Is that really "trade?" Or would another word be more appropriate?

When People Have A Say

When people have a say we insist on good wages, benefits, safe working conditions, and a clean environment. We even go so far as to say we want good public schools, parks and opportunities for our smaller businesses. When We, the People have a say we get so uppity and ask for the most outrageous things!

Efficiency vs. Humanity

Yes, countries where people do not have a say are more "efficient" and "business friendly." Countries where people do not have a say can make things at a much lower cost than workers where people have rights. But when we let exploitation of human beings be a competitive advantage it undermines our own democracy. It means that democracy is a competitive disadvantage in world markets.

We Can't "Compete" With This, We Have To Fight It

Let's get right to the core of this. Suppose the South actually did rise again, and they reimposed all-out slavery. Would it be "trade" to close factories here and move them south, so the companies would have lower costs?

When we allow companies to just import stuff that is made by exploited workers in countries where people do not have a say, we are granting not-having-a-say an advantage over having a say. We make democracy a competitive disadvantage.

This Is About Preserving Democracy, Not About "Trade"

How often do you come across arguments that "globalization" and "free trade" mean that America's workers have to accept that the days of good-paying jobs and US-based manufacturing are over? We hear that countries like China are more "competitive." We hear that "trade" means that because it's cheaper to make things over there we all benefit from lower-cost goods that we import.

How often do you hear that we need to cut wages and benefits, work longer hours, get rid of overtime and sick pay? They say we should shed unions, get rid of environmental and safety regulations, gut government services, and especially, especially, especially we should cut taxes.

What they are saying is that we need to shed our democracy, to be more competitive.

P.S. Tell Congress and the White House to Stop China's Illegal and Unfair Trade Practices


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 2:03 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos