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May 31, 2012

Watch Reporter Manhandled For Trying To Ask Question Of Powerful CEO At Public Event

Mike Elk, of In These Times, attempted to ask Honeywell CEO David Cote a question, at a Capitol Hill event. Watch what happens.

More from Republic Report: Video: On Capitol Hill, Reporter Attacked For Daring To Ask A Question To A Powerful CEO,


Republic Report attended a conference for “entrepreneurs” and small businesses today on Capitol Hill hosted by Congressman Tim Scott (R-SC). Although it was advertised as a lively discussion about economic policy, we witnessed the only staffers violently grabbing the mic from the only reporter who asked a critical question during the forum.
Mike Elk, a journalist for In These Times magazine, was called on during the question and answer portion of a morning panel to ask David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell, about his efforts to bust labor unions at a Honeywell-owned uranium plant. Elk asked Cote, who earlier in the event boasted about his company’s profit margins, about his labor practices and the recent news that a poorly trained worker used to replaced Honeywell’s organized workforce had allowed a release of radioactive gas. But before he could finish his question, a man in a suit working for the event repeatedly grabbed the microphone away from Elk.

Please read the rest at Republic Report. This is what happens when the wealthy plutocrats come to believe they are in charge, and are not answerable to We, the People or our press.

Note - Mike Elk has written for Campaign for America's Future.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Democracy Improves Lives In China - And Here, Too

Democracy properly applied brings widespread prosperity because when people have a say what they say is give everyone good wages, benefits and a share of the pie. They say reinvest some of the profits in infrastructure and education to keep the good times rolling. Last but not least they demand equal enforcement of the rule of law. Undercut those things and what you get is ... well, you get what we see happening all around us today...

Democracy Improves Lives

Here is a surprise that isn't a surprise in the WSJ today: Democracy Improves Lives of People in China,

A little bit of democracy has gone a long way to improving people’s lives in China.

Such is the conclusion arrived at by four economists who recently published the results of an investigation into the economic effects of China’s village elections.

Studying elections from 1982 through 2005, the quartet found villages that elected their leaders spent 27% more, on average, on “public goods” such as schools, tree plantings and irrigation canals than villages that didn’t hold elections. Elected officials also helped vastly reduce the gap between rich and poor.

Why the gains? Largely because elected leaders pay attention to their constituents as a way to assure their re-election. “The increase in leader incentives is an important driver” of change, write Monica Martinez-Bravo of Johns Hopkins University, Gerard Padro i Miquel of the London School of Economics, Nancy Qian of Yale University and Yang Yao of Peking University, in a National Bureau of Economic Research paper. [emphasis added, in order to add emphasis]

Prosperity Is Fruit Of Democracy

This is not a surprise. When people have a say, they say they want better. And when We, the People are were in charge, we got it. Because Americans had a say we built up a country with good schools, good infrastructure, good courts, and we made rules that said workers had to be safe, get a minimum wage, overtime, weekends… we protected the environment, we set up Social Security. We took care of each other. This made us prosperous. A share of the prosperity for the 99% was the fruit of democracy.

Unions Enforce Democracy

Before unions came along to enforce the idea of democracy we didn't get the share of the prosperity that democracy promised, after unions we did. Before unions we had 12 (or more)-hour workdays, seven days a week. Before unions we had low pay. Before unions we had no benefits. Before unions we certainly didn't get vacations. Before unions we could be fired for no reason. Before unions a wealthy few were able use their wealth to pay off influence legislators and keep the rules bent in their favor. Unions organized and forced changes that brought a larger share of the pie to We, the People.

Unions enforce the concept of democracy. Yes, We, the People were supposed to be in charge. Yes, the economy was supposed to be for our benefit. Why else would We, the People allow corporations to exist in the first place? It was unions that gave people the power to enforce that idea. People organized together and demanded that We, the People get a share of the pie, and the results grew the pie. Unions are why we have had a middle class.

Our Prosperity Made Us A Big Market

That prosperity meant that we had a very big market that the rest of the world wanted to sell to. This market power gave us leverage. We protected that market by refusing to let in goods made by exploited workers without applying a tariff. This tariff kept the price of imported goods from undercutting the prices of goods made here by people who have a say, and said they were going to get a share of the pie. The tariffs helped pay for good schools and good infrastructure that gave our companies a competitive advantage in the world, even where people were paid less.

"Free" Trade Undermines Democracy

But for decades the democracy experiment has run the other way. Our "free" trade agreements have undercut our democracy. We allowed goods made by exploited workers to come in and undercut the good wages that we were receiving because we had a say. The exploited workers elsewhere were used as a hammer over our heads: "Accept lower wages and cuts in benefits or we will move your job out of the country." From Democracy V. Plutocracy, Unions Vs. Servitude,

Workers in countries like China where people have no say have low wages, terrible working conditions, long hours, and are told to shut up and take it or they won[t have any job at all. They are given no choice. Increasingly workers here have their wages, hours, benefits, dignity cut and are told to shut up and take it or their jobs will be moved to China. Because we are pitted against exploited workers in countries where people have no say, we have no choice.

And the result was that our share of the pie got smaller and smaller. The concentrated wealth has been used to undermine our democracy, and we are in a downward spiral -- a "race to the bottom."

Decades Of "Free" Trade Has Made Us Poor

Corporate conservatives like Speaker Boehner like to say "We're broke":

House Speaker John Boehner isn’t going to step in to stop proposed cuts for a low-income heating program.

Asked specifically about why now is time to be cutting LIHEAP and other key programs to help poorer Americans, the Ohio Republican said, "Everything is on the table. We're broke. Let's be honest with ourselves."

If, as they claim, "we're broke," then how did we get that way? By undercutting our democracy with "free trade" agreements, that led to terrible trade deficits. The Trade Deficit Keeps Draining Money From Our Economy,

Another month and another terrible trade deficit report. Why is it that DC elites who profess to care so much about deficits say so little about our worst deficit? The trade deficit drains money from our economy, lowers our wages and forces us into an ever-lower standard of living.

...Here is the formula since Reagan:

1) We open our borders to imported goods made in places where people don’t have a say, so they don’t have good wages or environmental protections. We send our factories over there and import "cheap goods" into the country.

2) This sends dollars over there, and they don’t buy back from us (that would be actual trade), so they accumulate the dollars as they drain our economy.

3) Then we borrow those dollars back to fund the tax cuts for the rich. Our rich get richer, the rest of us get poorer, while they gain more and more power over us. The tax cuts force us to cut back and cut back on schools and infrastructure and other things that make us competitive

4) Meanwhile the imports from over there are used to break the unions and drive wages and benefits down over here.

5) Bob's your uncle, here we are where we are today.

The economic result of decades of these trade agreements demonstrates that when we let in products made where people don't have a say it undercuts our own economy. We opened the borders and let the big companies move the jobs, factories and industries over the border of our democracy, to places where workers don't have a say, so they are exploited. And the result was the big corporations were able to come back and cut our pay, and get rid of our pensions, and tell us, "take it, shut up, or we will move your job, too." We allowed the 1%ers to make the benefits of democracy into a competitive disadvantage! From Free Trade Or Democracy, Can't Have Both,

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.

The 1%ers Say Jobs Solution Is Be "Business-Friendly"

With our wages and benefits cut out from under us and our working hours lengthened the corporate conservatives demand more, saying we need to be more "business-friendly" to compete with countries like China. They oppose the minimum wage. They oppose pensions. The oppose health care benefits. They oppose unions. They say we have to cut taxes on the rich and corporations or they will leave, taking their jobs elsewhere. "Business friendly" means giving the 1%ers everything they want.

In fact, China Is Very "Business-Friendly". So was the South, before the Civil War.

But it remains a fact, where democracy flourishes prosperity follows. Where democracy is weak, so is the economy for regular people. And when regular people are not doing well there isn't much of a "market." Democracy is the only economics that works.

Join me at the June 18-20 “Take Back the American Dream” conference.

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 12:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 29, 2012

Why Do We Have Corporations?

This spring the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street movement arrived at corporate shareholder meetings, with the 99% Power coalition demanding decent corporate governance that serves the interests of We, the People rather than just a few people. There are results inside and outside of the big corporations. Most visibly, last week Amazon dropped ALEC and earlier, Citigroup shareholders said stop the executive gravy train. Even bigger: the public is learning that We, the People actually can make a difference when we stand up and demand change.

Leo Gerard, Workers Of The World Unite — With Shareholders

At Citigroup, shareholders had their say on CEO pay -- and they yelled, "No damn way!" Concerted action by shareholders, workers and public interest groups compelled corporate change in several other cases this spring as well.

At least three CEOs resigned. Executives truncated one shareholder meeting to 12 minutes. And across America and Europe, CEOs lamented the end of automatic approval for excessive executive compensation.

A wave of corporate change is rising because the rabble and the stockholders share an interest: decent corporate governance. To shareholders, decent means more long-term corporate vision providing reasonable returns and fewer risky, quick-profit schemes benefiting only executives. To workers, the unemployed, community and environmental groups, decent means operating corporations in the best interest of the nation, including treating workers with dignity and refraining from polluting. Together, the rabble and the shareholders wield power.

99% Power Coalition

The 99% Power coalition includes citizens groups, workers, retirees, job seekers, families fighting foreclosure, students burdened by debt, immigrants and environmentalists.

Organizations invloved include The New Bottom Line, The Unity Alliance, Jobs with Justice, Rainforest Action Network, 350.org, Alliance for a Just Society, National People’s Action, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Pushback Network, Right to the City, Public Campaign Action Fund, MoveOn.org, Service Employees International Union, Public Citizen, Enlace, UNITEHERE, Common Cause, Rebuild the Dream, Restaurant Opportunities Centers, Health Global Access Project, United Steelworkers, International Labor Rights Forum, Food Chain Workers’ Alliance and The Other 98%.

These are organizations of We, the People.

ExxonMobil Meeting Wednesday

This Wednesday's ExxonMobil shareholder meeting is a big one because ExxonMobil is a really, really bad one. Leo Gerard again,

Steelworkers and Occupy Dallas activists worked with the 99% Power coalition to organize the protest outside the ExxonMobil meeting. USW-represented refinery and clerical workers will protest ExxonMobil's greedy and dangerous corporate behavior. This corporation, which last year gave its CEO a 20 percent pay increase, has refused for two years to approve much smaller raises for its all-female clerical staff at Baytown.

In addition, ExxonMobil, among the most profitable corporations in the world, is denying safety measures to workers the Baton Rouge refinery -- measures that it has agreed to implement at four other facilities. This refusal comes just two years after an explosion at a Tesoro refinery killed seven workers and seven years after a massive blast at BP's Texas City refinery killed 15 and injured 170.



Why Do We Have Corporations?

A very dangerous question: why do we have corporations? Where did they come from? Do they serve us?

We, the People are the reason corporations exist at all. They are legal structures enabled by our legislatures and enforced by our courts to serve our purposes. We, the People decided to allow this form of legal structure to serve us by aggregating the needed resources to accomplish large-scale projects that serve us. They are supposed to provide us with benefits in the form of goods and services and good jobs and taxes.

Why else would we have allowed these things to exist if not to serve and benefit us?

Let's reflect and think about that for a while. Let's remember that We, the People are supposed to be in charge here and we do things like enable corporations to serve us. Why else would we have allowed corporations to exist in the first place? We, the People are the only reason these things exist. We, the People enabled them. We, the people did it to serve us. We, the people did it for our benefit.

Corporations are just legal structures, created by us and under our control as all legal structures are supposed to be. They are supposed to accomplish projects that we want done, for our benefit. They are supposed to provide good-paying jobs, pensions, and other benefits to the people who work in them. They are supposed to be for the good of society -- all of us, not just a few of us, and certainly not at the expense of so many of us. They are supposed to provide us with taxes that (literally) pave the way for our continued prosperity.

Why else would we have allowed these things to exist if not to serve and benefit us?

And if these things we created are not serving We, the People -- all of us not just a few of us at the expense of the rest of us -- then isn't it time for We, the People to change things and bring them back under our control?

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 10:09 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 28, 2012

HOW Many Houses?

I forgot, HOW many houses did Sen. McCain have, when he ran for President?

McCain Defends Romney And Bain Capital As Part Of Free Enterprise System,

“The only place in the world that I can recall where companies never failed was the old Soviet Union,” McCain said. “And yes, the free enterprise system can be cruel,” he said.

Never failed? What percent of Bain's deals made money for them? (Did ANY lose money?)

Another "risk-taker": Mayor Bloomberg shells out $25million for TWO new houses (that'll be homes number 10 and 11, then),

The property in North Salem, New York, is adjacent to a 20-acre residence that Mr Bloomberg purchased in 2001 for his equestrienne daughter, Georgina, according to the New York Times. The estate includes a barn, a free-standing three-car garage, an additional cottage and a horse-riding rink, according to the newspaper.

Three months later, Mr Bloomberg bought a 35-acre Hamptons estate for $20million.

The mayor now owns properties in Manhattan, Bermuda, London, Southampton, New York, Vail, Colorado, and Wellington, Florida.


Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:33 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 26, 2012

Capitalism Failed

Sara at AlterNet: Capitalism Has Failed: 5 Bold Ways to Build a New World

The problem, in a nutshell, is this: The old economic model has utterly failed us. It has destroyed our communities, our democracy, our economic security, and the planet we live on. The old industrial-age systems -- state communism, fascism, free-market capitalism -- have all let us down hard, and growing numbers of us understand that going back there isn't an option.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:16 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Sara Robinson On Virtually Speaking

This week I had a conversation with Sara Robinson on Virtually Speaking. It went very well, and I invite you to listen to the recording.

We talked about the early days of the blogosphere, how the bloggers were right while all the corporate-mainstream pundits were wrong, the threat from and meaning of fascism, how close we came under Bush, how that is changing, what happens if Romney wins, what future studies is and how it relates to the progressive movement, Sara's project at AlterNet and many other subjects.

Listen to internet radio with Jay Ackroyd on Blog Talk Radio

Dave Johnson Sara Robinson Virtually Speaking 05/22 by Jay Ackroyd | Blog Talk Radio

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:27 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 24, 2012

At Shareholder Meeting Amazon Drops ALEC, Dodges Tax Questions

At today's Amazon shareholder meeting in Seattle the company announced that it is dropping support for ALEC, while fudging questions about its taxes and voting down proposals to report its efforts to address climate change and to disclose its political spending.

The Meeting

Amazon's annual shareholder meeting took place in Seattle this morning. It was a brief, pro-forma event that took place in a small auditorium in an art museum and lasted only about 45 minutes. The general meeting was run by two corporate communications staffers, with CEO Jeff Bezos appearing (in jeans) for a brief presentation. There was a brief "mic check" disruption at the close of the meeting and a crowd outside protesting the company's practices.

These shareholder meetings are often displays of corporate arrogance and near-defiance of government requirements to hold public meetings. Amazon's meeting today was notable, with the company announcing the results of shareholder balloting even as the ballots were being collected from attendees. The real voting had already taken place; the shareholders who count -- the 1% owns 50.9% of all stocks, bonds and mutual funds, the next 9% own another 39.4% -- had already spoken.

Dropping ALEC

At one point in the meeting attendees at the meeting were able to ask questions, and a question about Amazon's funding of the shadowy right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was answered with the announcement that Amazon is dropping their support of the organization "for this year." The company's corporate-speak wording was approximately thus: "We regularly evaluate our memberships in different organizations and we have determined that we will not renew our support of ALEC for this year." At the end of the meeting a shareholder said he was disappointed that the company "bowed to political pressure" and dropped their support of this wonderful organization that did so much good. But he was happy that Amazon has provided such good returns.

Tax Dodging

Amazon dodged a question about dodging its taxes. During the presentation, Amazon CEO Bezos said that in the last two years the company has paid $1.3 billion in taxes, including withholding and property taxes. Withholding means money collected from employees that includes Social Security and personal income taxes. Called on this later, a company spokesman hedged and obfuscated, without providing information on just how much the company pays in actual corporate taxes.

Shareholder Proposals

There were two shareholder proposals presented at the meeting, with Amazon's board recommending that shareholders vote against both.

The first was a proposal that Amazon assess the impact of climate change on the company -- specifically risks related to greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, and logistics -- and announce the corporation’s plans to publicly disclose this assessment. The board recommended that shareholders vote against this proposal. It was announced during the collection of ballots that this proposal was rejected by the shareholders.

The second was a proposal that Amazon disclose its political spending. This proposal asked Amazon to join with best practices of corporate governance and recognize the need to participate in their community in positive ways. The Board recommended that shareholders vote against this proposal. It was announced during the collection of ballots that this proposal was rejected by the shareholders.

Working Conditions

Another criticism of Amazon has been its working conditions, particularly in it warehouses. Amazon said at the meeting that they are installing air conditioners in older warehouses, and newer ones have air conditioning. A spokesperson also said that the company matches the "metrics compared to industry benchmarks." Attendees who still have souls were left speechless.

Disruption At End

As the meeting drew to a close there was a "mic check" with several attendees joining in, linking arms, and being led out of the meeting by police. There were no arrests.

Crowd Outside

As the meeting took place there was a large crowd -- maybe 200 people -- outside the building, holding signs and repeating chants led by people with megaphones.

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 2:33 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 23, 2012

Build Me Up Buttercup, Republicans Are NUTS!

I have "Build Me Up Buttercup" stuck in my head and I think I figured it out.

President Obama is coming to Redwood City today (and I am fleeing, heading to Seattle to cover tomorrow's Amazon shareholder meeting.) Look at the marquee at the downtown Fox Theater:

005.JPG

ABBA THE CONCERT

PRESIDENT OBAMA

AIR SUPPLY

So I was thinking, is he going to perform "Waterloo"? And so I got Waterloo stuck in my head:


But then I realized, this is the same song as Build Me Up Buttercup!


And that put Build Me Up Buttercup in my head. I can't get it out.

And THAT made me realize that something is going on -- I think the right wingers are blasting the vicinity with secret frequencies, that are affecting people's THOUGHTS!


But I have the solution:


Here Is The Problem

That was fun. The problem is that I'm having fun, but this crazy and paranoid is the starting point of the current Republican party!

Crazy: WSJ: Obama's Place of Birth a Ballot Issue in Arizona,

The issue of President Barack Obama's place of birth, which had largely faded from national view, is flaring up in Arizona after its secretary of state last week said Mr. Obama might not be on the November ballot there if Hawaii doesn't verify it has his birth certificate.

Paranoid: Paul Krugman, Paranoia Strikes Deeper,

Finally, there’s the paranoia, the belief that liberals in general, and Obama administration officials in particular, are trying to make driving unaffordable as part of a nefarious plot against the American way of life. And, no, I’m not exaggerating. This is what you hear even from thoroughly mainstream conservatives.

... In fact, the conspiracy theories are proliferating so fast it’s hard to keep up. Thus, large numbers of Republicans — and we’re talking about important political figures, not random supporters — firmly believe that global warming is a gigantic hoax perpetrated by a global conspiracy involving thousands of scientists, not one of whom has broken the code of omertà. Meanwhile, others are attributing the recent improvement in economic news to a dastardly plot to withhold stimulus funds, releasing them just before the 2012 election. And let’s not even get into health reform.

Crazy: Here is a Republican Presidential Debate where the candidates say Obama is a "socialist"

Crazy: Robert Borosage: 9 Crazy Things Mitt Romney Believes

Paranoid and crazy: Study finds Republican base paranoid, delusional

Leave a comment and add your own examples of paranoid and crazy.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:52 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

May 22, 2012

Web Ads And The Facebook IPO

I am SO SICK of web ads that follow me around, putting up ads for things I recently looked up on Google, on every web page I visit, It is creepy.

Now it's worse. The web ads are for things like Aston Martin cars and other high-end crap.

You see, I live a few miles from Facebook, and I guess the web targeters know that.

And yes, I am seeing things around like the new Aston Martin at the car wash, and then a Maserati with the sticker still in the window, lots of things like that around. And the 2br 2ba down the street is up for $795,000. The 2br house across the street that sold 3 months ago for 400-something is now "flipped' and offered at 600-something. Gonna have to move when the lease runs out I guess.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:49 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 18, 2012

Lee Camp Video: "Is The Path To Happiness Being Kept A Secret?"

"Somewhere around 40 million people suffer from depression or anxiety each year in the US. Is there a way out of this? Is there a happier way of life?"

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:26 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Will Conservatives Support American Companies ... Or Chinese?

Which is better for an economy: millions of future jobs and trillions of future dollars, or a few people making a quick buck today by selling out their country? For decades America's 1%-backed conservatives have chosen the latter course, and we can see the results all around us. Now the Obama administration has imposed stiff tariffs on Chinese solar panels because China was "dumping" -- selling below cost -- to drive American manufacturers out of business. Will conservatives support their country and our companies or will they continue to side with our country's competitors?

US Imposes Stiff Tariffs

The Commerce Department yesterday concluded that Chinese solar panel companies are “dumping” product – selling below the cost of production – into the US market, and imposed stiff tariffs. NY Times, U.S. Slaps High Tariffs on Chinese Solar Panels,

The United States on Thursday announced the imposition of antidumping tariffs of more than 31 percent on solar panels from China.

... The antidumping decision is among the biggest in American history, covering one of the largest and fastest-growing categories of imports from China, the world’s largest exporter.

Industry Of The Future

Again and again technology revolutions come along and disrupt economies. Countries that jump on new technologies are the countries that win the industries and jobs and revenue. This is how the United States became the world power that it is was. Railroads, steel, automobiles, airplanes, electronics, semiconductors, computers, the Internet, pharmaceuticals, biotech and software are a few examples. And in every case our government helped these new industries get off the ground. When these industries took root the payoff was enormous.

Green energy is one such technology of the future. Producing solar panels, wind turbines, etc. will bring millions and millions of jobs and trillions of dollars, and several countries are competing to win a share of this new industry.

China is fighting hard for those jobs and dollars. They are being smart and they are also pushing past the limits of the rules. From the NY Times story,

Alan Price, a partner who heads the international trade practice at Wiley Rein, the law firm representing the United States companies in both the solar and wind cases, said that China posed a particular threat to America’s developing green energy sector.

“China’s method is straightforward: it sets forth industry-specific Five-Year Plans and then uses all forms of national and local subsidies and other governmental support to quickly transfer jobs, supply chains, intellectual property and wealth, to the permanent detriment of U.S. and global manufacturers,” he said. “China’s ability to ramp up and overwhelm an industry is unique and particularly devastating with new and emerging technologies, where global competitors may be less established and can be knocked out more easily and quickly.”

To compete for a share of this new industry we need to be proactive. We need national efforts to develop the industrial commons, or ecosystem, that will foster green-tech industries. We also need government policies that promote a market for these products until they take hold, just as our defense industry did for aircraft and other new technologies. And we need to enforce the rules for international economic competition, which is what has happened with the tariff decision.

Decision Not Political

The NY Times story points out that this was not a political decision by the Obama administration,

The American decision was made by civil servants in a quasi-judicial process that is heavily insulated by law from political interference and does not represent a deliberate attempt by the Obama administration to confront China on trade policy. But that distinction has been largely lost in China, where the solar panel issue has been one of many causes embraced online by the country’s vociferous ultranationalists, who put heavy pressure on Chinese officials to respond forcefully to perceived snubs to China.

The rules say that if a country is dumping, then we must impost tariffs. The Commerce Department investigated and concluded that China has been dumping so they had no choice. If we do not enforce trade rules, they are meaningless and countries that cheat gain an advantage, driving out the honest players. That is how cheating, accountability and enforcement work. (Hint: this also applies to banking fraud laws.)

In the case of solar-panel tariffs, we were losing companies and jobs and facing losing the possibility of losing the entire industry to China. From Tariffs On Chinese Solar Might Help Prevent The Next Solyndra,

You have probably heard about a solar-energy company named Solyndra, but probably what you have heard is a bunch of negative, conspiratorial, anti-alternative-energy, anti-Obama stuff from the corporate/conservative spin machine. The real story is that our government is trying to help us capture some of the new green energy industry that will create the jobs of the future. But China is, too. And China doubled down, and then quadrupled down on government support. They even directly subsidize their companies so their products cost less. This helped put Solyndra out of business. But the Obama administration is doing something about it.

China cheats, and we don't usually do anything about it. They let companies pollute, don't do much about worker safety, pay low wages, and make people work long hours. So-called "free trade" lets companies cost us more than 50,000 factories in the Bush years, and millions of jobs. And it empowers companies here to tell their workers to shut up and behave and accept wage and benefit cuts, or they'll send their jobs to China, too. We continue to just let China take jobs, factories and industries because powerful interests, like Wall Street, make tons of money off of it.

So the decision is made, our country is engaging in the economic war that has been underway against us. Will our country's conservative take our country's side?

Solyndra, Chevy Volt And The Anti-Green Propaganda Campaign

Oil-backed conservatives have been waging a campaign to discredit green energy, trying to stop government efforts to move us away from dependence on oil and coal. (Please click the links.)

They have used the failure of solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra -- partly due to Chinese dumping -- to paint green tech in general as a bad investment. They have even tried to turn the public against the Chevy Volt, claiming that it "ran out of juice in the Lincoln Tunnel" when it actually just kicked over to the gas-engine charger, and that the car is "flammable" because on test battery got too hot -- as compared to cars that run on gasoline! (Gasoline car-fire data at the link.)

These anti-dumping tariffs change the dynamics of this oil-backed anti-green campaign. Now when conservatives slam Solyndra or the Chevy Volt and otherwise join in this anti-green-energy campaign they are taking China’s side against American companies at a time when the country is engaged in economic conflict. This presents a tough choice to the conservative movement, do they continue to accept oil and coal company funding and side against their country and support China, or will they return to their pro-American roots and side with their country in a time of conflict.

Installers Hit Hard?

Low prices from trade-cheaters are always attractive. But if we want a slice of the jobs, factories, industries and economy of the future we have to fight back when our competitors cheat.

The solar-installer industry is worried they will be hit hard by this because prices for solar panels could increase sharply. BusinessWeek: U.S. Solar Tariffs on Chinese Cells May Boost Prices,

The tariffs “will increase solar electricity prices in the U.S. precisely at the moment solar power is becoming competitive with fossil fuel generated electricity,” Shah said in a statement. “This new artificial tax will undermine the success of the U.S. solar industry.”

[. . .] The U.S. decision to impose import duties on Chinese solar panels will raise their price to $1.11 per watt, according to calculations by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a London-based researcher owned by Bloomberg LP. That price is 17 percent higher than the current spot price of non-Chinese panels.

Forbes: Solar Installers Caught In Cross Fire Of Escalating China Trade War,

On Thursday, the U.S. Commerce Department issued a preliminary decision levying steep tariffs against Chinese solar manufacturers, finding they illegally dumped cheap photovoltaic cells on the American market. But the companies that install those solar panels on residential and commercial rooftops – and which have benefited from a 75% plunge in photovoltaic prices in recent years – are split over the impact of the tariffs on their burgeoning business.

The government could remedy the impact on domestic customers and installers several ways, including:

- by using the new tariffs to fund tax credits and other incentives that help homeowners and businesses make the move to solar power,

- by imposing a large "carbon tax" that is refunded on a per-capita basis. This would mean high users of carbon-based fuels would pay in, the revenue is divided up evenly to everyone over 21 and paid out with a monthly check, and people could use this money to both cover their own added energy expenses and to purchase solar and other alternative energy products to lower their carbon-energy footprint,

- and by setting a national renewable energy standard, requiring power producers to use a certain percentage of solar, wind and other alternatives, creating more of a market for green tech.

Oil And Coal And "Buggy-Whip" Technologies

Of course the oil and coal companies will continue to fight this shift from their "buggy-whip" technology, and will use their tremendous influence over our government to try to hold off the inevitable. But the tide is shifting. The fact that China is fighting so hard and putting so much investment into this sector shows its value to the world economy in the future. The fact that our government is responding shows that we have a chance to win a share of the jobs and revenue that green tech promises to bring.

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 2:47 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Shorter David Brooks

Shorter David Brooks:

Billionaires, defense contractors and oil and tobacco companies paid to elect Reagan and then Bush. They cut taxes and massively increased military spending. Therefore people can't be trusted with democracy and we have to cut the things government does for We, the People.

Except he left out the part about Reagan and Bush and where this huge budget deficit came from.

And he's sneaky. He says governments made promises they can't afford to fulfill so we have to cut back. He doesn't mention that the reason we can't afford to fulfill them is low taxes for the rich, government favors to billionaires and giant companies, and the huge military budget.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:11 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 17, 2012

More Indicators A Nasty, Say-Anything Republican Campaign Is Coming - And See Updates

There is a news report that yet another right-wing billionaire is going to spend even more millions to run even more poisonous, divisive, racist, degrading, insulting, lying, character-assassination ads designed to turn people against government and democracy. And an added bonus (for Republicans) will be turning people away from even voting. They're going to do this because it works -- for them and the billionaires who back them.

NY Times: G.O.P. ‘Super PAC’ Weighs Hard-Line Attack on Obama,

A group of high-profile Republican strategists is working with a conservative billionaire on a proposal to mount one of the most provocative campaigns of the “super PAC” era and attack President Obama in ways that Republicans have so far shied away from.

... The $10 million plan ... includes preparations for how to respond to the charges of race-baiting it envisions if it highlights Mr. Obama’s former ties to Mr. Wright...

The group suggested hiring as a spokesman an “extremely literate conservative African-American” who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.”

Obama is black, black, black, black, black. And in case you miss it, here is Republican Strategist Lee Atwater explaining the Republican strategy:

You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger"—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

It Works

Just lying -- making stuff up and blasting it out there -- works. In 2010 Republicans spent millions and millions on ads saying “Democrats cut half a trillion from Medicare" and captured the senior vote for the first time, throwing the House over to them. It worked, they spent millions broadcasting lies, they took the House -- and then voted to turn Medicare into a voucher program.

From the post, "Half A Trillion In Cuts To Medicare"

In the 2010 election campaign Republican groups ran millions and millions of dollars of ads promising not to cut Medicare, and to increase Social Security. They campaigned against Democrats for "cutting $500 billion from Medicare" and not increasing Social Security cost-of-living. As a result, for the first time the senior vote went to Republicans.

Here are just a few of the ads that saturated the airwaves, saying that Democrats should be thrown out for cutting Medicare:


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

politifact-photos-ron_johnson_flier_combined_660

The Obstruct-And-Lie Strategy

Republicans have a huge “noise machine” and they know how to use it. And they really, really don’t care if they are telling the truth or not, they say what they need to say to win.

After years of blocking President Obama's efforts to try to create more jobs, Repubicans are campaigning saying Obama didn’t create more jobs.

After running up huge deficits -- Clinton left behind a surplus, Bush left behind a $1.4 trillion deficit -- Republicans are campaigning that Obama has run up huge deficits.

This summer when student loan rates double because Republicans blocked efforts to keep them from doubling, Republicans will blast out that Obama doubled student loan rates.

Negative Ads Suppress Turnout

The point of running negative ads is not to get people to show up and vote for someone. Negative ads are about turning people off from voting. Negative ads tell people they should not have hope, that anyone they think could be a leader is actually a scoundrel, etc. The point of the millions and millions of dollars that will be spent by Republicans on negative ads this year is to try to keep the kind of surge election that brought so many people out to vote in the 2008 election from happening this time.

The Media Enablers

Republican media outlets like FOX News, the Wall Street Journal and Rush Limbaugh will go ahead and repeat the party line (when they aren't out front creating it). They reach a lot of people, and the rest of the Republican "noise machine"' is very skilled at echoing the lies until they become "truthy." But the rest of the media does not serve as a counterweight, bringing people the facts. As a result almost everyone -- consumers of the right's propaganda and people who think they aren't -- is left misinformed in ways that serve Republicans and their billionaire backers and hurt everyone else.

Greg Sargent wrote the other day in, How Mitt Romney gets away with his lying,

If you scan through all the media attention Romney’s speech received, you are hard-pressed to find any news accounts that tell readers the following rather relevant points:

1) Nonpartisan experts believe Romney’s plans would increase the deficit far more than Obama’s would.

2) George W. Bush’s policies arguably are more responsible for increasing the deficit than Obama's are.

[. . .] The two bullet points above could not be more central to the debate over the debt that Romney’s big speech set in motion yesterday. Yet the vast majority of news consumers who now know that Romney has accused Obama of lighting a “prairie fire of debt” that threatens to engulf our children and our future haven’t been told about either of them.

Sargent writes about how the "mainstream media" for one reason or another won't call out the Republican machine for spreading lies. Again, the result is that almost everyone -- consumers of the right's propaganda and people who think they aren't -- is left misinformed in ways that serve Republicans and their billionaire backers and hurt everyone else.

Update: How Citizens United Is Leading To More Racism In TV Campaign Ads

Update 2: Huge headline at The Drudge Report reads: 'BORN IN KENYA'

Update 3: Rep. Mike Coffman: Obama in his heart 'not an American'

Update 4: Ben Stein speaking on FOX: Ben Stein: Obama's not very smart

Update 5: Romney accuses Obama of character assassination: "Character assassination has become the nature of his campaign," Romney said.

These updates are all from just today, and this is only May.

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 1:22 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 16, 2012

I'm Co-Hosting Fairness Radio Today 10-12am PT

Edward Canard, former Bain Capital partner, multimillionaire 1%er and major donor to Romney campaign will be on at 2:15 pm ET to argue for more inequality in American. Dave Johnson is substitute co-hosting, so give him a call at 424-675-6806 and talk to Canard.

Do you have something to say to a man who gave Mitt Romney $1 million? Listen at www.cyberstationusa.com (click LISTEN LIVE) or WWW.blogtalkradio (search for Fairness Radio).

Linda Killian, writer for Politics Daily, The Atlantic, US News and World Report, Newsweek and the Daily beast is on at 1:15 pm ET talking about her new book The Swing Vote. call in questions, comments at the same number and help Dave fend off the conservative co-host, Chuck Morse

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:37 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Fighting Wells Fargo Can Be Too Much For Some

This is a tragic story. I wrote it up for AlterNet: Wells Fargo Has Blood on Its Hands: Desperate Man Commits Suicide After Shocking Foreclosure Mistreatment | | AlterNet

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:39 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 15, 2012

Another Innocent Person Executed In Texas

Go read: Wrong man was executed in Texas, probe says,

He was the spitting image of the killer, had the same first name and was near the scene of the crime at the fateful hour: Carlos DeLuna paid the ultimate price and was executed in place of someone else in Texas in 1989, a report out Tuesday found.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:44 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

The Funkytown Debate

Who will be mayor of Funkytown?

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

May 14, 2012

Why We Have A Deficit

Deficit theater is coming to DC tomorrow, with a well-funded "fiscal summit." The plot summary is that we have Deficit Trouble - Right Here In River City! so to fix it we need to cut Social Security and Medicare and the things democracy does for We, the People -- while cutting taxes on the rich and their corporations to make us more "business-friendly." (This musical is sometimes billed as "Simpson-Bowles" but it's the same old song.)

All of this deficit hysteria today - when just over ten years ago we had such a large a budget surplus that we were projected to pay off our entire debt in ... ten years! That's right, Ten Years Ago We Were Paying Off The Nation's Debt. But Then We Elected Obama.,

Just ten years ago this country was running huge surpluses and paying off its debt. But then we elected Obama and all hell broke loose. Oh, wait...

Between the time ten years ago when we had big surpluses and were paying off the debt and now when we are told the "Obama spending and deficit" mean we have to cut back on the things We, the People do for each other, something happened. Something changed. The things that happened, the things that changed, are being ignored in the current DC discussion about what we need to do to fix things.

Something happened. We had a surplus, and it was replaced by massive deficits. The last Bush budget year had a deficit of $1.4 trillion!

Why We Have A Deficit

What happened under Bush? We cut taxes on the rich and doubled military spending. (And started wars.) And don't forget collapsing the economy, forcing people onto unemployment and food stamps. That is why we have a deficit. We have a deficit because of tax cuts for the rich, huge military budget increases and the consequences of deregulating corporations.

Here are some questions for tomorrow's deficit theater:

How We Fix The Deficit

How do we fix this? Doesn't it make sense to look at what caused the deficits and fix that? There actually are budget plans that get rid of the deficit without cutting back on the things democracy does for We, the People. Here is a post about one of those budget plans: The People's Budget Balances The Budget -- Why Isn't It Part Of These "Deficit" Talks? Here is a post about another budget plan that fixes the deficit without cutting the thing democracy does for us Every Progressive Should Know About The “Budget For All”

So we know why we have a deficit, and we have realistic budget plans that undo the damage, maintain the things that democracy does for We, the People and invest in growing our economy. So why aren't these plans part of the big DC deficit discussion? Maybe progressive plans that cut the deficit are not part of the DC deficit discussion because cutting the deficit isn't really the point. This Deficit Story Can't Be Repeated Often Enough!,

So we went from big surplus to huge, huge deficits. Bush said it was "incredibly positive news" when we went back into deficit spending. He said it was good news because it continued the plan to use debt to force the government to cut back. He said that. It was the plan. (Don't take my word for it, click the links.)

The Reagan people said it too, back when they started the massive deficit spending. It was the plan: force the country into massive debt, "starve the beast," and use that to force the government out of business, or at least to be "small enough to drown in a bathtub." They forced the tax cuts and Reagan said this was "cutting the government's allowance." The point was to use revenue cutbacks to force government to shrink, to get out of the way of the 1%.

A Golden Oldie

From Dear Deficit Commission, It's Not Hard: (Click through to see bigger charts)

Dear Deficit Commission,

It's not hard to figure out why we have a huge deficit. It's so easy I don't have to use words. Here are some pictures:

Clinton_Bush_Deficit

Bill Clinton raised taxes on the rich. Bush cut them.

Now, about that huge national debt...

TopRates_vs_Debt_Chart

The second chart kind of explains itself. The third chart can help you find a place to get some money:

Defense-Budget

(Note: There is no more Soviet Union.)

In case that isn't clear enough, try this:

Defense Spending and Debt chart

Let me know if you still have any questions.

We had a budget surplus. We were paying off the debt. Then something changed. If you want to fix the deficits, change it back.

Don't fall for it. Deficits were the plan. Run up the borrowing, then come back with a scare campaign that stampedes people into accepting cuts in the things democracy does for We, the People. It was the plan.

If You Happen To Be In DC Tomorrow: May 15: Stand Against Austerity:

May 15, 2012 at 1 p.m. (Program starts 1:30 p.m.)
In Front Of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation Fiscal Summit
1301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Here's one of those charts again, larger:

TopRates_vs_Debt_Chart

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 12:00 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 13, 2012

Speaking Fees And Big-Time Career Journalism

Meet The Press moderator David Gregory is the "Keynote Address" speaker at the upcoming National Federation of Independent Business "Small Business Summit" conference. This is a conservative advocacy group that solidly aligns with Republicans.

Here is a speakers bureau page promoting Gregory for speaking engagements for "$40,001 & up" per appearance.

I have not verified if he is getting paid, but he is doing the "speaking" circuit. A very brief look around finds him at the 2007 American Resort Development Association. The 2006 United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) symposium, at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando. At the 2010 Milken Institute Shaping the Future conference. 2010 Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. The Risk Management Association 2011 annual conference.

A few years ago I looked into Chris Matthews' speaking engagements with Republican-aligned lobbying groups. Matthews was doing this regularly, and there was an NBC policy against accepting speaking fees.

NBC's President said Matthews' fees were going to a charity. So assuming this is true and he really was donating the money to a charity, that is still receiving a thing of value. He was speaking before Republican-aligned groups again and again, and spouting Republican positions on the air.

Back to Gregory. Is it still NBC's policy to prohibit speaking engagements for pay?

There is a certain tedium involved with speaking at trade association meetings, so one does it for a reason. I assume the reason he does this is not that he really, really loves speaking to trade associations. Why would someone do it continually, if not for compensation - which I would say includes being given money to donate to favored charities? And if someone is getting compensation of "$40,001 & up" for an hour's work, shouldn't we assume this just might affect what they are willing to say or not say on the air?

Updates on Gregory speaking engagements:

2011 Palm Beach Civic Association

2007 American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) and the Sales Association of the Paper Industry

2011 Nantucket Atheneum Geschke Lecture Series

2011 Food Safety Summit

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:26 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 11, 2012

Have You Actually Watched Carter's "Malaise" Speech?

Here it is, well worth watching! STILL profound, important, prescient. And startling in the context of what we know today about the corporate right's assault on democracy.

The first part is about the mistrust of government and each other that had started taking hold, the rest is about energy, conservation, and the effect on our economy.

As you watch it, keep in mind that the right's "noise machine" (partly funded by oil companies) had already been operating behind the scenes for several years, already spending tens of millions a year on the effort. Back then nothing like that had been encountered from inside the country (at least since the lead-up to the civil war) - the smear machine, the propaganda, the mass repetition of carefully crafted anti-government and in-it-for-yourself messaging, etc. - so people were just blindsided by it. But it was clear something was happening, and Carter called it a a "fundamental threat to American democracy".

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:15 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Jason Alexander Joins the 99%

Millionaire Jason Alexander attends a 99% rally to try and find out how to become a part of the 99%ers movement.

Jason Alexander Joins the 99% from Jason Alexander

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 10, 2012

Why Mitt Romney Hates Unions

Is this guy a Presidential candidate from a major party, or a fringe nut? He sounds like Rush Limbaugh. HuffPo: Mitt Romney: Obama 'Takes Marching Orders From Union Bosses',

Speaking to a crowd at a campaign stop in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney took a swipe at both President Barack Obama and organized labor, saying the president "takes his marching orders" from unions that cost American jobs.

"Liberalism once taught that unions would ensure lasting prosperity for workers," Romney said at Lansing Community College. "Instead, they too often contributed to disappearing companies, disappearing industries and disappearing jobs. But like many politicians of the past, President Obama takes his marching orders from union bosses, rails against right-to-work states, fights to win union elections by eliminating the vote by secret ballot, and even denies an American company the right to build a factory in the American state of its choice."


When People Have A Say

People who follow Romney's line of reasoning think that we need to be more "business friendly" with low wages, low benefits, low environmental protections and low taxes on the rich so we can compete with countries like China. Here's the thing, in countries like China the people don't have a say. When people have a say they say that they want higher wages, benefits, good schools, environmental protections and the rest of the prosperity that democracy brings to all the people, instead of huge amounts accumulating in the hands of just a few people.

Unions Drove Wages And Benefits Up

Romney's argument that unions "contributed to disappearing companies, disappearing industries and disappearing jobs" is based on the idea that unions drove wages and benefits up. He believes that good wages and benefits -- namely US -- are a "cost" instead of the reason that We, the People decided to develop the body of laws that allow corporations to exist, to use our infrastructure and educated people and laws and courts and police and all the other "public structures" as a foundation for doing business. We, the People did that so that we -- all of us -- could benefit. All of us, not just a few of us.

In that respect Romney is correct, unions and democracy brought us higher pay, benefits, "the weekend," vacations, 40-hour workweeks and things like that. Before unions came along to enforce the idea of democracy we didn't, after unions we did. Before unions we had 12-hours a day workdays, seven days a week. Before unions we had low pay. Before unions we had no benefits. Before unions we didn't get vacations. Before unions we could be fired for no reason. Unions are why we have had a middle class.

Unions enforce the concept of democracy. Yes, We, the People were supposed to be in charge. Yes, the economy was supposed to be for our benefit. Why else would We, the People allow corporations to exist in the first place? But it was unions that gave people the power to enforce that idea.

Laying People Off, Cutting Wages, Pocketing That Money For Himself

Romney made his fortune buying up companies (not, by the way, using his own money, but using the companies' own assets as collateral for the loans to buy them with). Then Romney fired many of the workers, making the rest do the extra work. He cut wages and benefits for the rest and then pocketed that money for himself. This is the guy who says that good wages and benefits is what puts companies out of business. In other words, Romney is saying that the problem with our economy is that we have a middle class. Romney wants America to be more "business-friendly."

Romney hates unions. They get in the way of doing business they way business was done "When Mitt Romney Came To Town:


According to the Christian Science Monitor, this is the story of what happened to the workers in one company when the Romney/Bain machine "came to town":

The new owner, American Pad & Paper, owned in turn by [Mitt Romney's] Bain Capital, told all 258 union workers they were fired, in a cost-cutting move. Security guards hustled them out of the building. They would be able to reapply for their jobs, at lesser wages and benefits, but not all would be rehired.

Outsourcing jobs to places where people don't have a say so they can't demand good wages, firing people and making them reapply for their jobs but at half the pay, gutting people's benefits, stripping companies, treating employees like throwaway Kleenex, closing factories, stealing pensions, borrowing and pocketing... Locust capitalism. Chop shops. That's Mitt Romney's view of how to make money. Unions are in the way.

What Is Business-Friendly?

Some quick thoughts about what "business-friendly" really means: (add your own thoughts in the comments)

Business-friendly =

Low wages
Longer hours
No health benefits
No pensions
No vacations
No sick pay
Low taxes on the wealthy and their corporations
"Smaller government," -- which means less "We, the People" in charge of things:

So what are your thoughts on this argument that we need to be more "business-friendly?" What does the phrase even mean? And what happens to the idea that We, the People have an economy for our own benefit?

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 2:39 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 9, 2012

Priorities

U.S. deaths from terrorism: 2,996 on 9/11. Since 2001: 33

U.S. tobacco deaths: 449,000. (Cigarette smoking costs more than $193 billion. Secondhand smoke costs more than $10 billion.)

U.S. fatal injuries from firearms: 31,347 (2009)

U.S. traffic deaths: 32,310 (way down, was 43,510 in 2005)

Just sayin'

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

This Deficit Story Can't Be Repeated Often Enough!

Atrios says it: Eschaton: Planning For 10 Years From Now

The last time the an administration did the supposedly responsible thing, the fiscal "hawks" suddenly decided that the worst possible thing was no longer a deficit, but a surplus, and that therefore it was necessary to have massive tax cuts for rich people.

And they will, of course, do it again.

Any time any DC elite complains about "the deficit" remind them that when Clinton left office we had a huge surplus, so big that at the rate it was being paid down the entire US debt was going to be paid off in 10 years. Bush demanded that we give back the people's money and Greenspan warned of the danger of paying off the debt. Etc. Etc. Etc. Then Bush doubled military spending -- and started two wars on top of that!

So we went from big surplus to huge, huge deficits. Bush said it was "incredibly positive news" when we went back into deficit spending. He said it was good news because it continued the plan to use debt to force the government to cut back. He said that. It was the plan. (Don't take my word for it, click the links.)

The Reagan people said it too, back when they started the massive deficit spending. It was the plan: force the country into massive debt, "starve the beast," and use that to force the government out of business, or at least to be "small enough to drown in a bathtub." They forced the tax cuts and Reagan said this was "cutting the government's allowance." The point was to use revenue cutbacks to force government to shrink, to get out of the way of the 1%.

Now that government is very much out of the way of the 1% we are seeing how things work out when the 1% dominate everything.

They called it "strategic deficits." They said it was the plan to force the country into debt, and then they would demand that we cut the things that government does for the 99%, in order to further enrich the 1%. They would scare everyone by saying that the debt will destroy us so we have to cut back. That was the plan. They said that was the plan. And now that the plan is being executed, we should understand that it was the plan and not fall for it!

They said it was the plan. So as the plan unfolds, don't be so surprised.


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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This Is What Corporate Rule Means

In Texas, for example, if you don't agree to lease your land to an oil company on their terms, they can just condemn the land and force you. Old Texas Tale Retold - Farmer vs. TransCanada,

So she and her brother spent hours bent over the kitchen table going over the lease agreement, creating a version they could live with. She presented their version to TransCanada.

“I fully expected them to counter,” she said. “There were about five or six things we wanted, and we would have been happy to take one or two.”

Then, she said, TransCanada “went full radio silence.” The Crawfords never heard back from them — until October, when they got a letter saying their land had been condemned and a lease awarded to TransCanada.

You don't even get to go to the legal proceeding:

The Crawfords’ condemnation hearing happened in front of a district judge. They were not invited to that hearing — landowners in Texas do not get to go to the actual condemnation hearing.

FYI It's a CANADIAN oil company building this pipeline, from Canada to the Gulf Coast, so they can sell oil to China.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:42 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 8, 2012

Trade Alert! Another Job-Killing Trade Agreement Heading Our Way

The trade agreements we have entered into over the last few decades have greatly enriched the already-wealthy 1% but not worked for the benefit of most of us. They have created massive trade deficits that drain our economy. They have cost millions of manufacturing, textile and other jobs. They have empowered huge, multi-national corporations to break unions and force pay and benefit cuts. Now the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is coming up, and once again things don't look so good for most of us. Maybe "look" is the wrong word to use, since We, the People are not even allowed to know what "our" government is proposing!

The TPP Trade Agreement

The Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement is a major trade deal for Pacific Rim countries -- Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. Japan, Mexico and Canada have said they plan to sign on later. Other Pacific Rim countries including Indonesia, Russia, the Philippines and possibly China are also expected to join. So this is a big deal.

So far there have been eleven rounds of negotiations. Reports say that the United States has introduced proposals for the rest of the agreement. The 12th round of negotiations for the TPP start today in Dallas.

Another NAFTA-style Trade Agreement?

The NAFTA-style trade agreements we are familiar with have been used as weapons by the already-wealthy and their huge corporations to break unions and force working people to accept pay and benefit cuts, resulting in the "hollowing out" of our middle class. They have turned democracy -- with its good wages & benefits and environmental protections -- into a competitive disadvantage in world markets.

These agreements are sold as "opening up trade" into new markets. This supposedly helps us by increasing exports, which supposedly should open up lots of jobs in the exporting industries. But now we see how these agreements have really been used. While increasing some exports like agricultural products and raw materials they have increased imports more, costing us jobs, factories and entire industries. The resulting trade deficits have literally drained our economy. The resulting movement of good-paying jobs has hollowed out our middle class.

These trade agreements have empowered companies to break unions. Companies cut pay and benefits, telling workers their jobs can be offshored. This forces other companies to do the same whether they want to or not.

The Citizens Trade Campaign, in What Corporations Want with the Trans-Pacific FTA, worries about TPP, saying,

If it continues on its current course, the Trans-Pacific FTA will serve two primary purposes: 1. Making it easier for corporations to shift jobs throughout the world to wherever labor is the most exploited and regulations are the weakest; and 2. Putting checks on democracy at home and abroad by constraining governments’ ability to regulate in the public interest.

... Here, specifically, are examples of what corporations want with the Trans-Pacific FTA:

* Cheaper Labor Costs. ... (click through to read)
* New Tools for Dismantling Environmental Laws. ...
* Longer Drug Patents. ...
* Further Financial Deregulation. ...
* Caps on Food Safety Protections. ...
* Concentration of Global Food Supplies. ...
* Greater Access to Government Contracts. ...
* Lower Taxes. ...

Why The Big Secret?

We, the People are not allowed to know what our own government is proposing in these trade negotiations! But corporate lobbyists are working with the negotiators and are able to review drafts of the agreement.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, -- formerly Mayor of Dallas, candidate for US Senate, lobbyist for Energy Future Holdings Corporation, which was created by KKR, TPG Capital and Goldman Sachs in a $45 billion 2007 leveraged buyout -- has refused to release any of its negotiating proposals for public scrutiny. At the same time approx. 600 corporate lobbyists have been given "cleared advisor" status.

Why are our own country's proposals kept secret from We, the People? They are not a secret to the other governments involved in these negotiations, nor to the corporate lobbyists who have "cleared advisor" status.

TPP Concerns

Several chapters of the proposed agreement have leaked, raising questions about who this agreement will benefit. The Citizens Trade Campaign, "a broad and diverse national coalition of environmental, labor, consumer, family farm, religious, and other civil society groups" has a list of questions about the TPP:

Buy America Banned?

"Buy America" procurement preferences for federal procurement contracts are one of the few tools we have left to make sure that We, the People benefit when our own tax dollars are spent. Currently and since the 1930s, American-produced goods have received preferential "buy America" treatment in federal procurement contracts.

It has been leaked that the TPP agreement grants the TPP countries the same privilege. In other words, Buy American in federal procurement will give these countries -- Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam -- the same preferences as American-made goods. The idea is that these countries will then have to give American producers equal access to their own government contracts. Of particular concern is that Chinese-based firms in these countries will be able to bid against American companies for these government contracts.

This would force American producers to compete with countries that do not have minimum wage laws or environmental protections, undermining our own such protections.

A group of 68 House Democrats and one Republican sent a letter to President Obama last week, urging him to reconsider any potential ban on Buy America preferences.

Actions You Can Take

Occupy Wall Street: Occupy TPP: Dallas, TX – May 8-19,

via Texas Fair Trade Coalition:

International trade ministers and corporate lobbyists will be descending on Texas from May 8 to 18 for a critical trade summit aimed at rushing the secretive new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement toward completion. The Texas Fair Trade Coalition and our allies are planning to welcome them — and we need you to join us.

Occupy Dallas: Take Action for Fair Trade!

Public Citizen petition: Derail the Trans-Pacific Partnership - No backroom deals for the 1%

Friends of the Earth: Demand transparency in the Trans-Pacific free trade agreement!

Citizens Trade Campaign: REPORTERS’ MEMO: Former Mayor Brings Controversial Trans-Pacific Trade Negotiations to Dallas, USTR Ron Kirk Urged to Publicly Release What His Office Has Proposed in Americans’ Names

Leo Hindery, Jr.Chairman, U.S. Economy/Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation: Free Trade Run Amok: The 'TPP', (this is a must-read!)

I believe that TPP could very likely dwarf the negative impacts from all prior FTAs combined, including the still notorious multilateral NAFTA (which went into effect in 1994) and the multilateral CAFTA (signed in 2003).

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch: A Stealth Attack on Democratic Governance

Tim Robertson, California Fair Trade Coalition: Why Is the TPP Such a Big Secret?

Michael Brune, The Sierra Club: What Are They Trying to Hide?

Public Citizen's Tradewatch

Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

Eyes On Trade, Public Citizen's Blog on Globalization and Trade.

Public Knowledge: TPP Info


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 11:53 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Obama Agrees To Get Kicked In The Balls By Republicans

In exchange for nothing. Here is the news report:


In Bipartisan Spirit, Obama Makes Deal To Get Kicked In Balls

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:49 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 6, 2012

Facebook Valued At Up To $96B For IPO

Facebook valuing itself at up to $96 billion in IPO,

Facebook Inc., the world’s most popular social-networking site, is valuing itself at as much as $96 billion in its initial public offering, the largest on record for an Internet company.

One question -- how soon will I be able to buy "puts?"

I think I know a bubble when I see one.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:14 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 3, 2012

99% Spring Disrupts Verizon Shareholder Meeting Six Times

You'd be hard-pressed to find a better example of corporate greed than Verizon, a company making billions and tripling its CEO's pay while demanding givebacks from its workers. Today the 99% Spring movement let Verizon know that 99% of us are trying to bring big corporations back under democracy's control. Today’s Verizon shareholder meeting in Huntsville, Alabama was disrupted six separate times by members of the 99% Power coalition, part of the 99% Spring movement.

The Verizon shareholder meeting comes as the company is in negotiations with the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). The highly-profitable company -- the 16th largest corporation in America -- is asking its workers for givebacks amounting to as much as $20,000 each, while tripling the compensation of CEO Lowell McAdam from $7.2 million to $23.1 million. The company made $22.5 billion in profits over the past four years while paying its top five executives $283 million over that period. Because of this the company has earned the nickname “Verigreedy."

After today's meeting was opened by McAdam, and as he was introducing Verizon's Board of Directors, a group of people stood up with one shouting "Mic Check" three times. Then the leader continued, with the rest of the group repeating, "Verizon wants to ... slash worker benefits ... 20,000 dollars ... per worker ... per year! ... We say ... SHAME on you! ... Meanwhile ... Verizon CEO ... Lowell McAdam ... got a ... 220% raise ... up to 23 million dollars ... Shame Shame Shame on you ..." The last line was repeated as the group was led out of the meeting by security, with many in the audience applauding them. There were no arrests.

After several minutes another group disrupted the meeting, and was led out by security as many in attendance applauded and chanted with them. Then the same sequence again, and again, for a total of 6 times.

The Rally

At a rain-soaked rally before the shareholder meeting Al Henley, President of the Alabama AFL-CIO demanded that Verizon be a better corporate citizen. “Verizon is on the run from their own workers, and thought that by taking the meeting to Alabama, a “right-to-work” state, but they misjudged our sense of solidarity here in the South.”

Here are some photos from the rally:


Also at the rally, Ron Collins, CWA Chief of Staff, said, “Enough of the attacks on idle-class jobs while paying executives obscene salaraies and dodging taxes.”

Scott Douglas, Executive Director of the Greater Birmingham Ministries, said, “We may be down South, but we are not offshore. Today we say with new meaning the Alabama state motto, we dare defend our rights. … Now more than ever, it is important for people of conscience to join together to recognize our common struggle against injustice and to fight back united.”

Sarita Gupta of Jobs with Justice said, “Verizon’s CEO makes $23 million per year. That’s over 600 times more than an average frontline worker makes. This is fundamentally an issue of fairness.”

Patrick Welsh, a Verizon retiree, talked about the promises made that if you work hard, follow the rules and pay your taxes then you’ll have a good retirement, and Verizon has broken that promise.

Also speaking were Jasmine Salas of the Student Labor Action Project and Jennifer Travis, a worker fired by Verizon.

People arrived at the rally in 12 buses and several vans from Florida, New Orleans, Mississippi, Birmingham, Knoxville, Atlanta, Nashville, Columbia, Chattanooga, and other cities throughout the region. They represented several groups, including CWA, Jobs with Justice, Occupy Huntsville, Occupy Birmingham and the Student Labor Action Project. Students from Orlando and Tallahassee took a 14 hour bus trip and slept in the local Plumbers Union hall.

There were also rallies supporting Verizon workers in 15 cities including Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Boston, Portland, Miami and Orlando.

Donation In Lieu Of Taxes?

In a PR move before the meeting Verizon yesterday donated $100K to the Alabama Governor's office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and the United Way of Alabama, for disaster relief to help recovery from tornados that occurred just over a year ago. (This brings their total disaster-assistance giving to $400K) Gov. Robert Bentley said these funds are important because “government dollars aren't available.” The Governor could have added, "Because Verizon doesn’t pay taxes.”

Signs, Moving Billboard, Totally Unrelated Cow

Burma Shave-style signs with poems, all ending with, "Verizon is Verigreedy" appeared around town overnight on roadsides and elsewhere, placed by "a team of elves." Large signs condemning Verizon's greed were placed in strategic locations around the meeting site. Also, a large moving billboard vehicle, reading, "Verizon Is Verigreedy" was circling the location of the shareholder meeting.

In other, unrelated news, a cow got loose in the middle of the night, keeping police occupied, which had nothing to do with the rest of this. Meanwhile, Huntsville's fried catfish and hush puppies are worth the trip, even though you can't really tell the air from the rain because of the humidity, and it's only the beginning of May.


Pushback

Verizon is outsourcing U.S. jobs, cutting worker pensions and gutting them for new hires, charging current and retired employees thousands of dollars more for health benefits, and cutting disability coverage. This is how the middle class in the US is being hollowed out. Pushback began last year with Occupy, and has now been expanded by the 99% Spring movement. People are finally fighting back.

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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May 2, 2012

99% Spring Movement To Protest Corporate Greed At Verizon Shareholder Meeting In Huntsville Thursday

The Take Back the American Dream conference -- the summit for the 99% -- is taking place June 18-20 in Washington, DC. Click here to register.

Big companies like Verizon use threats of layoffs to force their workers to take pay and benefit cuts, and use the money to pay huge amounts to their executives. This is why the middle class is being "hollowed out." So the 99% Spring movement will be protesting outside of Verizon's shareholder meeting in Huntsville, Alabama on Thursday. I'll be there, joining the Communications Workers of America, Jobs with Justice and other groups.

Verizon (member of ALEC) is a tremendously wealthy company. CEO Lowell McAdam's gets a $23.1 million compensation package - triple the $7.2 million he received the year before.

Verizon, between 2008-2010:


But the company is trying to take away pay and benefits from its workers -- demanding givebacks of $20,000 per worker per year in contract negotiations. In June, 2011 contract negotiations began for 45,000 workers represented by Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical
Workers (IBEW). According to CWA, Verizon made excessive, retrogressive demands that would cost each union represented employee $20,000 a year, slashing healthcare benefits; increasing the costs for active employees and retirees; eliminating pensions for new employees and freezing pensions for current employees.

So the workers are trying to fight back. This is why the 99% Spring movement is coming to Huntsville Thursday - like it came to the GE shareholder meeting last week.

Again and again companies are coming to their workers and saying they have to take pay cuts and benefit cuts or lose their jobs. These companies threaten to move jobs to other countries or just lay people off and make the remaining workers do their jobs, and then when they have forced the workers to give in the executives get huge raises. Note that Mitt Romney didn't patent this method. This was how he got rich, but he's not the only one who has been doing it.

Let's see if we can make our voices heard!

Click here to read the 99 Spring/Challenging Corporate Power action tool kit about VeriGreedy.

PHere are some of the posts I have written about Verizon and its workers:


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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May 1, 2012

Now Obama Is A Communist Because Campaign Used The Word 'Forward'

Not kidding, read it for yourself: New Obama slogan has long ties to Marxism, socialism,

The Obama campaign apparently didn't look backwards into history when selecting its new campaign slogan, "Forward" — a word with a long and rich association with European Marxism.

... Vladimir Lenin founded the publication "Vpered" (the Russian word for "forward") in 1905. Soviet propaganda film-maker Dziga Vertov made a documentary whose title is sometimes translated as "Forward, Soviet" (though also and more literally as "Stride, Soviet").

No, this isn't just some isolated nut, it's the "national news editor" writing in Washington's top conservative newspaper. See the right's echo chamber picking it up here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and hundreds of other sites. Hundreds! And that's just today. (Please - spare yourself from reading the comments at these sites, they start where this nut "communist" stuff leaves off and will make your head explode and you'll start looking at real estate prices in any other country.)

Morning update (added the morning after this post was written): This morning the Drudge Report has this as an item, so now it will really take off... radio, FOX... Drudge also links to: Obama’s New Campaign Slogan “Forward!” Is a Hitler Youth Marching Tun . Sigh.

Next, go look at the 9.8 million Google hits that come up if you search on Obama and Marxist, or the 29 million hits if you search on Obama and Socialist.

This follows Republican Congressman Alan West's recent claim that 80 Democratic members of Congress are members of the Communist Party.

This kind of extremism is not uncommon these days in the Republican party. Just a few examples - and don't dismiss this, Palin was their Vice Presidential nominee, Perry is a Governor and was a candidate for President, Newt Gingrich is currently a candidate for President, and Romney is going to be the Republican Presidential nominee:


Over the weekend, in False Equivalence Award To Thomas E. Mann And Norman J. Ornstein, I wondered how they could claim that the Democrats "have their own extreme wing." I speculated,

Maybe they don't know how extreme it really has gotten out there past DC. Maybe they don't listen to Limbaugh or Hannity, or watch Fox News or read Republican blogs. Those outlets are now the hub of the Republican Party, and today's politics cannot be explained without including them in the mix.

Seriously, if you are not monitoring the Republican outlets, you have no idea just how extreme they have become.

Republicans control the House of Representatives now. If you don't vote, these people will be in charge of the Senate and the White House again.

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 4:33 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Republican Noise Machine Accuses President Of Politicizing 9-11

The full Republican media "noise" machine is rising up in a full-scale "hissy fit" because the President pointed out that Osama bin Laden was killed a year ago, under his watch. They are pretending to be absolutely outraged, accusing the President of politicizing the killing of bin Laden.

Yes, that would be the very same Republicans known for this:


Here is the 9-11 video shown at the Republican National Convention (oh, no, no politicizing here, look away, look away):


Yes, these Republicans: (Watch the whole video, and remember.)


Yes, those Republicans.

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 4:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

We Can So Easily Create Jobs, Cut The Deficit And Revitalize Our Economy!

The path to creating millions of jobs is so easy and obvious. Hire people to modernize the infrastructure and to retrofit buildings to be energy efficient. Millions would be paying income taxes instead of receiving unemployment or food stamps. The companies that supply the materials and steel would also be hiring and paying taxes, and the companies that supply them ... and the companies that supply them. And when we are finished, the payoff to the economy from a modern infrastructure and energy efficiency will be enormous. Anyone who tells you we can't or shouldn't do this is up to no good.

Millions Of Jobs Need Doing, Millions Unemployed

We have millions of people unemployed at the same time as we have millions of jobs that need to be done. Connect the dots! It is so easy!

Dot: No net job gains since 2000. 8 million jobs lost in the recession. Never mind jobs for the 86,000 new people entering the labor force every month...

Dot: According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)

“congested highways, overflowing sewers, and corroding bridges” were creating a “looming crisis that jeopardizes our nation’s prosperity and our quality of life.”

Dot: From a recent NY Times story on our country's water systems,

Today, a significant water line bursts on average every two minutes somewhere in the country, according to a New York Times analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data.

. . . State and federal studies indicate that thousands of water and sewer systems may be too old to function properly.

[. . .] “There’s a lot of evidence that people are getting sick,” he added. “But because everything is out of sight, no one really understands how bad things have become.”

Connect the dots.

Ten million jobs needed. Ten million jobs that need doing.

Connect the dots. We need a National Rebuild America Project! It would employ millions, it would get people and businesses back in the economy, paying taxes, buying things, and not receiving the badly-needed help of unemployment, food stamps, etc.

Jobs Fix Deficits

Jobs fix deficits. How hard is that to understand? We have a deficit of jobs. People who are not working are not paying income taxes, and are instead likely receiving unemployment, food stamps or other assistance. In any event they are certainly not contributing to the economy by making things or buying things. Jobs fix deficits.

The Payoff

There wold be an enormous economic payoff from investing in a National Rebuild America Project. I mean an economic payoff beyond getting people back to work, paying taxes, buying things and beyond getting people off of government assistance.

Imagine an economy with a fully modernized infrastructure providing the nourishing soil for new and existing businesses. Imagine our economy with energy efficiency freeing up resources to apply to other areas. Imagine our economy with everyone working. Imagine our economy with companies able to compete in world markets with the very latest and most efficient foundation undergirding their efforts.

Deficit Emergency?

They say we can't invest in modernizing our infrastructure or in energy efficiency because this would be "government spending." They say we can't afford to do this kind of work. They say we instead need to cut back and pay off the deficit instead. As if laying off teachers helps the economy!

Where did all of this "deficit emergency" nonsense come from? We had a huge budget surplus when Bush took office. The debt was projected to be paid off entirely in ten years. So Bush gets elected, Greenspan says we're paying off the debt "too fast" and they gave the rich a huge tax cut, and doubled military spending! It's not hard to see where the deficit came from. (No, seriously, click through and see the charts, it's not hard.)

So we shifted to a huge deficit instead and Bush said this was "incredibly positive news" because it will force the country into a debt crisis that they can propagandize to force cuts in things government does for We, the People.

Hey people, figure it out, we do not have a debt emergency, we have a manufactured crisis that is being used to scare people into giving up the benefits of democracy.

Has To Be Done Anyway

This is work that has to be done anyway! Once again, our infrastructure is falling apart, our companies are not competitive, our energy inefficiency is costing us dearly. This work has been put off for a long time. Every day we wait, it just becomes a more expensive problem. Funny how this is the way conservatives describe the debt, when in reality is the problem with delaying investment in modernization.

So why not do it now, when people really need the work? We have been deferring the maintenance of our infrastructure since the big Reagan tax cuts for the rich. The roads, bridges, dams, airports, rail, energy grid and the rest are in bad shape. This is slowing our economy. This is hurting people and costing money and time. This is costing our businesses in their international competitiveness.

Your Homework Assignment

OK, here is your homework: Big Ideas To Get America Working: Rebuild Our Infrastructure.

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 11:15 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos