March 1, 2013

The Legacy of Sandy Hook: An Unprecedented Opening for Change

The wholesale slaughter of children sparked an unprecedented opening for change in this country. Killing children broke something fundamental in our culture. On that sad day, it felt as if there was a giant ripping in our society -- yielding a gaping hole in all that was sacred and right. It was like watching the Twin Towers collapse all over again, but now it was our children. Many have asked if we have waited too long for action, the answer is simply no. Babies and guns do not belong in the same sentence. Assault weapons must never again be used to kill children.

It’s that opening – the gaping wound -- that is inspiring our President Obama and Vice President Biden. This unlikely duo appear to be fueled by the fire of what is possible, and are driving a Mack truck through this opening right now -- whether it is to push through the broadest gun safety legislation; or enact comprehensive immigration reform; or to raise the minimum wage; or end violence toward women; or to support gay marriage.

Watching our President Obama the evening of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School – it was clear that he would leap tall buildings to save the children and people of this country. It had become a Holy Crusade and compromise is off the table. Witness the fervor with which this team is working to move their Cabinet nominations forward even for beleaguered Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. Republican shenanigans are not being tolerated even on their home turf, the House of Representatives. These folks can rant and rave for the cameras (and they do), but are falling flat with no run way. The President’s approval ratings are soaring even in the shadow of the latest, manufactured financial machination of the ‘sequester.’ And it is this fundamental lack of empathy and understanding that may be the down fall of the Republican Party as we know it today.

Frankly, the President is done turning himself into a human pretzel and for this we must rejoice. You just can’t compromise with folks that hate you and all that you stand for. It’s a travesty that it took this horrific loss of lives in Sandy Hook to galvanize the American people – but it did. Unbelievably, today one child still “dies every three hours from gun violence in the United States.” Everyone knows that gun safety legislation is not about the Second Amendment, but rather about sustaining a modern civilization.

The winds of change are upon us. Just witness the President’s news conference today on the impasse over what is called sequestration. He’s not backing down.

Posted by Michelle at 10:37 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

January 10, 2013

Disarm The Hostage Bomb -- Stop Governing Based On Threats, Intimidation And Lies

A nation whose constitution begins with the words "We, the People" should not be governed through threats and intimidation and lies. It is time to defuse the hostage-taking bomb. Do not negotiate with hostage-takers -- and that includes shutdown threats. The "fiscal cliff' was the result of the last debt-ceiling hostage-taking and threats and lies, which was enabled by earlier capitulation to hostage-taking and threats and lies, which was enabled by earlier capitulation to hostage-taking and threats and lies, which was enabled by earlier capitulation to hostage-taking and threats and lies...

The Last Few Years Of Hostage-Taking

I took a look back at what I have written about the various hostage-taking threats of just the last few years. Remember the 2010 "tax deal," when the GOP took unemployment benefits hostage to win an extension of the Bush tax cuts (thereby increasing deficits)? Winning that way only fed their appetite for even more hostage-taking...

December, 2010, The Debt-Ceiling Threat To Gut The Things Government Does For Us,

The country’s huge debt was caused by tax cuts for the rich and increases in military spending. But debt-cutting recommendations from the D.C. Elite never suggest restoring taxes on the rich and cutting military spending. Go figure. Instead they suggest cutting the things government does for We, the People. The D.C. Elite is not We, the People. Let’s stop this in its tracks.

January, 2011, Prevent Hostage-Taking Add Debt Ceiling To Tax Deal,

They are going to do this. They are going to take the biggest hostage ever. You can stop this. Democrats in the House are at the maximum leverage point. You can stop this. You can literally save the country by demanding the debt ceiling be increased in exchange for this tax-cut deal and the huge amount of debt it adds.

March, 2011, Budget Fight Why Are Republicans Forcing a Shutdown,

If you read their websites and magazines you know that they hate government and talk about ways to get rid of it. They have said they just want government to go away and have been running strategies to get it small enough that they can drown it in a bathtub. If you are a Republican who doesn’t think destroying government is the best approach you are called a RINO and shunned.
They don’t talk about governing, they talk about killing government, and when they get power they don’t govern they destroy government. They appoint industry lobbyists to agencies that are supposed to oversee their own industries. They appoint polluters to the agencies that are supposed to protect us from pollution. And they appoint people who have called for getting government out of areas like education, medical care, etc. to head up and dismantle those departments.
... And unspoken in all of their anti-government arguments is just what will replace government, namely the big, powerful corporations and the wealthy few behind them.

April, 2011, Republican Shutdown Shuts Down The Economy — So Do The Cuts They Demand

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

Sept, 2011, ANOTHER Hostage-Taking Threat To Shut Down Government,

Just weeks after the “debt-ceiling” hostage-taking, forcing trillions to be cut out of the economy, the hostage-takers are at it again. Now they are threatening a government shutdown, demanding even more cuts in the “continuing resolution” that keeps the government operating. This time they even want to cut the disaster-relief spending that helps people hit by wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
[...] So this will come down to the wire. Again. And the public’s faith in government will be further eroded. And the economy will take yet another hit as our government’s paralysis is even more apparent.

Dec. 2011 Republican Hostage-Taking Threat Again Guess Who Benefits,

Once again, Republicans are holding government hostage, trying to force through unpopular cuts to the things We, the People — “the 99%” — do for each other and our economy, while giving handouts to the 1% who pay for their campaign ads and smears. Once again they are threatening to just shut down the whole government if they don’t get their way This time the hostage is unemployment benefits for 2 million people and the payroll tax cut that is the only stimulus left to keep the economy going. Here’s the thing, they say they want “cuts” but what they are really doing is shifting costs from the 1% on to the rest of us.

Haven't we learned yet?

But it's actually not just these last few years that we have been government by hostage-taking, threats, lies and intimidation.

Actually, It Has Been Decades Of Government Through Hostage-Taking, Threats, Intimidation And Lies

Our country has a sad history of policy-making that resulted from hostage-taking, threats, intimidation and lies. The Vietnam and Iraq wars are two examples of the tragic consequences of allowing these tactics to succeed rather than following a transparent, informed, reasoned, systematic and democratic process. Paul Rosenberg takes us through the decades-long history of GOP hostage-taking in an excellent, must-read post at AlJazeera, GOP terrorism - and Democratic complicity,

The GOP is a hostage-taking organisation. That's not just what I say, it's what the Wall Street Journal says, on its own editorial page. And for decades now, the Wall Street Journal editorial page has been a leading propaganda organ of the Republican Party.

Paul writes about the harm done by this sort of governing,

"Okay," you may say. "But that's only a metaphor. No one's actually going to die." But that's clearly false. People die during recessions. People die when they suffer from long-term unemployment. There are studies clearly showing this (here, here and here, for example).
People die from gun violence that GOP, along with its NRA allies and its ALEC allies have both passively and actively helped spread. (A recent report shows that states passing "stand your ground" laws have higher gun homicide rates, for example.)
People die from lax worker safety regulations and lax enforcement, which the GOP and ALEC also support. People die from fossil fuels - both greenhouse gas and particulate pollution combine to cause millions of deaths a year worldwide.
And people die prematurely from the effects of the GOP's economic policies, too - policies that it's now enforcing as a minority party by threatening even more intense and immediate harm - the possibility of another world-wide recession, which would no doubt cause many more premature deaths, along with all the other sub-lethal suffering it would bring.

The history of GOP governing through hostage-taking, lies, threats and intimidation goes back decades, (click through for links and more):

First, consider Harry Truman. In March 1947, three years before Senator Joe McCarthy burst onto the national stage with his Wheeling speech denouncing Communist infiltration in government, Truman tried to pre-empt such attacks by instituting his own witch-hunting internal security program by presidential executive order.
Both Truman and McCarthy were following in the footsteps of the young master, Richard Nixon. Of course, Truman ended up encouraging McCarthyism, preparing the way for it, rather than pre-empting it - but at least he had the excuse that he didn't have the failed example of Harry Truman to learn from.
As if this first rightward lurch didn't turn out badly enough, Lyndon Johnson then repeated the exercise in even more bloody form. As I've written before ("George McGovern: The road not taken"), we now know from White House tapes that Johnson never actually believed in the Vietnam War. He fought it because he thought he'd be impeached if he didn't fight it. This is the clearest possible admission that he was implementing GOP policies out of fear - out of terror.

Rosenberg takes us through the Carter and Clinton years, the lies that brought us the Iraq war, and so much more. Click through and read his post, GOP terrorism - and Democratic complicity.

How long have we been governed through hostage-taking, threats, intimidation and lies? Vietnam, Iraq and the more recent tax fights should make it clear that governing in reaction to hostage-taking, lies, threats and intimidation doesn't turn out well in the long run. We need to govern through an open, transparent, considered, informed, reasoned, systematic and democratic process.

It is time to put a stop to government-by-lies, threats and hostage-taking. Disarm the hostage-taking bomb. Stop giving in and these terrorists what they want. What they want hurts We, the People, always just to further-enrich some already-wealthy billionaires. It is time to just stop it. Do not negotiate with terrorists.

--


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 2:30 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Why DC Ignores Real Problems And What You Can Do About It

How many real and serious national problems can you list? And how many obvious solutions can you come up with literally off the top of your head? Now an experiment: list how many of them are being worked on by our DC elites or even discussed my our elite media? The answer is none. Why is this? And what can you do about it?

Real And Serious Problems

Start with climate change, clearly the most serious problem facing the world. If you think this is something that won't do serious damage until way off in the future, consider what could happen this year if our country's terrible drought continues, and then other climate-related disasters hit other agricultural regions around the world. Oh, right, mass starvation. Never mind the storms and storm surges, huge wildfires, heat waves, etc. that we are already experiencing.

Jobs. We have an absolute and continuing jobs emergency and people are suffering. And it is the reason we have a big budget deficit. Is there an economic problem that is more serious than jobs? Imagine if we had full employment, and companies had to actually pay well to get the employees they need, and provide training, etc. Imagine how LOW the budget deficit would be. The high budget deficit is a flip side of all the benefits businesses are getting from the low wages, long hours, etc. that come from high unemployment. The budget deficit is literally the government subsidizing WalMart's low wages.

Our huge, huge trade deficit - the actual deficit that is actually draining our economy and killing jobs and factories and industries and our ability to make a living in the future. The budget deficit is money spent on each other, things that make our lives better. The trade deficit is money that just bleeds out, making us all poorer and less able to take care of each other.

Infrastructure - our country's infrastructure is seriously in disrepair. Never mind that we don't have modern things that could be seriously boosting our economy, like high-speed rail and fiber-internet to every business and home -- things are falling apart.

Education, the cost of universities and resulting student-loan debt, the need for more community colleges, etc. They are pretending to talk about this but all the solutions being discussed take money away from our schools and universities and only benefit the Wall Street types...

You can name dozens of other serious, major national problems that are not even on the DC-elite agenda!

OK, they appear to be talking about guns. That's good. But not if they are talking about even more guns.

Many Problems Have Obvious Solutions

We can start attacking the climate problem with a big carbon tax. People will start using alternatives, which will cost less than using carbon-based energy sources. (PS the revenue also helps fix the budget problem.) Refund some of the money collected to those who are hit hardest by the tax, like low-income people who have to drive to work.

Infrastructure and jobs are two of our most serious problems. But obviously if we start fixing the infrastructure problem we are also fixing a lot of the jobs problem. (Especially if we have strict "Buy American" requirements for the materials, steel,etc.) (PS this also helps fix the budget problem because people with jobs are paying taxes, not using the safety net, and the economy becomes more competitive in the long run.)

Etc, with the obvious solutions. I don't have to put them here, they're obvious.

So why do they ignore the real problems and the obvious solutions that help We, the People?

Why Do They Ignore The Real Problems?

So WHY do our DC-elite geniuses ignore our real problems? We all know the answer: the influence of big money. Big money dominates. Big money steers the discussion. Big money buys the politicians. Big money lobbies the rule-makers. Big money uses the "revolving door" to reward the officeholders and staffers and regulators with high-paying jobs after they leave government -- if they play ball while in government.

And big money rigs the game so only the really big money -- those who already have it -- can win.

But the problem extends so far past the direct bribery, especially in the way it dominates the country's information channels. This means the major media (all of it dominated by only 6 companies), and all of the ways that our national discussion gets shaped.

Using the climate problem as an example, we all understand that big money from the fossil-fuel industry is being used to keep us from attacking this problem. But how?

Looking at how the information channels are influenced illustrates how far big money reaches. They don't just bribe politicians, and hire them and staffers later, etc. They also use their big money to influence how we talk and even think about this. Aside from the huge money spent on lobbyists, there are the dozens and dozens of so-called "think tanks" and "institutes" and other organizations that get money from these companies to pay people to go on TV and radio and write articles and op-eds, etc, to influence the nation's discussion of this. They also have their "studies" and "reports" etc. that get in the news. If you want a major-media career you had best not get on the wrong side of these companies. They totally dominate and intimidate and do what it takes to get their way.

(A few - just a few - resources on this: Frontline: Climate of Doubt, Meet The Climate Denial Machine, Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine, Climate Skeptic's Debunked Report Exposes How the Denial Industry Works, How climate change denial lets the fuel industry run politics, in one handy chart)

The information sources of our democracy are controlled by the big money. Another example (of so many) of how the corporate money machine influences what we as a country talk and even what we think about: How often do you see a labor leader on your TV talking about the benefits of unions?

Then there are the other information channels. Did you hear about FreedomWorks paying Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh huge money to promote the Tea Party? Or the other stories about how they get and use their money? (FreedomWorks is one of the organizations that bused in thugs to disrupt Congressional town hall meetings a few years back.) This is just one of the dozens and dozens of well-funded outfits that is getting huge money to influence our national political climate.

How about that huge fight over taxes on billionaires? Do you know about the huge influence of Grover Norquist and his organization? Look at this: Grover Norquist's Budget Is Largely Financed by Just Two Billionaire-Backed Nonprofits.

This flood of corporate and billionaire money goes well beyond just paying politicians. And it is the reason it seems like we are helpless to do anything about the real and serious problems our country faces.

What You Can And MUST Do

We have to counter this money, and that takes money. We have to get money to use to fight back. We can't just all be doing what we can in our spare times, and signing online petitions, or quitting our jobs and living in poverty so we can work on these problems.

There are millions of us and if we all give even a small amount of money to help out, we can get things done!

The most important and effective thing you can do, even before you get active online and then on the streets is to contribute money to progressive organizations, and make it a habit. Seriously, they have corporate funding and all We, the People have is We, the People. There are a lot of us and if everyone who agrees with progressive values started to actually put some money where our values are, we could make up for that corporate money.

If you have to start small, that is fine. 20 million people starting small can make a huge difference.

Try it, click here and give $3 to the organization I work for, Campaign for America's Future.

Click these links and give $3 to Progressive Congress, or Media Matters.

How about giving $3 to help Netroots Nation or Crooks and Liars or Daily Kos, or Blue America or Firedoglake, or AMERICAblog.

You can also give a donation to Center for American Progress here, or to the National Council of La Raza here, or to Demos here, or to the Economic Policy Institute here, to the Center for Community Change here, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights here, to People For the American Way here, and there are so many other organizations that are working in their own way to help. (I'll add them as they read this and write to yell at me for leaving them out.)

Go through the ActBlue directory, and give $3 here and $3 there.

We really need for progressives to understand this need, and the difference between this and election campaign contributions. Think about it, and help spread the word. Help fund it, and help others understand this need. We can beat back the conservative machine by building a machine of our own that is strong enough to do the job. This takes money.

And to keep that machine answerable to US, we have to fund it democratically, with each of us stepping up and contributing what we can. It has to be lots of people giving small and medium amounts, not depending on a few large donors. ANY organization or candidate is going to dance with the ones that brung ‘em, so WE have to bring them to the dance together. Go give $3 or $10 or $100 to any of those organizations now, and keep doing it, and get others to do it.

If you want to help be part of the SOLUTION this is a great way to start. This is the most important thing you can do. AND you should be online and on the streets. But the most important thing is to give some money to help counter the huge flood of corporate money.

PS See also Republicans Again Use Race, And It’s OUR Fault That It Still Works

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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 8:21 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 4, 2013

Don't Feed The Debt Ceiling Trolls

Bloggers have learned some hard lessons about engaging with right-wing nutcases who leave nasty comments: "Don't feed the trolls." Starve them of the attention they seek. Ignore them and move on. This advice also applies to the right-wing nutcases threatening to bring down our economy by refusing to raise the debt-ceiling limit. They won't get any traction on this unless Democrats engage with them. So ignore them, isolate them and scorn them but do not engage with them. Their billionaire & Wall Street funders will stop them and the pubic will see them for what they are, but only if we all just leave them alone. They aren't really going to hold their breath until we all die.

And if they actually did take down the economy (they won't), the country will be better off in the long run because it means the end of the radical right as a force in our politics.

So let them hold their breath until the country turns blue.

Crisis To Crisis, Destruction As A Tactic

Our country is now governed by crisis. We go from crisis to crisis because causing a crisis and making everyone panic works. But it only works if we let it work.

Look at the obstruction and destruction of the last few years. Obstruction has kept us from hiring millions to modernize our infrastructure, making our buildings and homes more energy efficient, helping people with things like the Dream Act and Medicare-for-All, sufficiently stimulating new industries like wind and solar energy production, and SO MUCH more.

And the accelerating, destructive hostage-taking has cost us so much! Giving in to hostage-taking in the first place has only meant more and more of it, with bigger and bigger costs. We gave in when they held back from authorizing unemployment benefits for millions. We gave in when they threatened to shut down the government, including denying elderly people their Social Security checks. The fiscal cliff "crisis" was just more hostage-taking.

Now they are actually threatening again to take the entire economy hostage, if we don't give in and hurt our people even more.

Crisis to crisis. Hostage to hostage. Destruction to destruction. And always obstruction and destruction of the things We, the People to do make our lives better.

Again and again. They hold their breath and threaten to do damage, and we give in and let them hurt us a little so they don't hurt use a lot. And so they do it more.

Crisis to crisis. As long as we engage, it works for them. Each time a bigger hostage, demanding that we hurt ourselves even more before they will take the gun away from the hostage's head.

Now the biggest hostage, the debt ceiling.

What The Debt Limit Is

The process of raising the debt ceiling is basically a mistake in the law. Raising the debt ceiling authorizes Congress to pay the bills that Congress has already committed to paying. But since the Reagan tax cuts and then the 'W' Bush tax cuts the country has not had sufficient revenue to meet the needs of our people without borrowing, so the debt keeps increasing.

What the Republicans are threatening to do is refuse to honor our debts and pay the bills that the United States has already promised to pay. They would default on our bonds - most of which are held by Americans. This would ruin the credit of the country, dramatically increase all future borrowing costs, and forever end America's status as a "safe haven" place to keep money. It would end our status as the "reserve currency." It would be a vote to tell the world that the US dollar is not worth the paper it is printed on.

This would crash our economy and take the world's economy down with it.

That is what they are threatening to do. They are literally threatening to hold their breath until they die because we are afraid we will die, too.

What Is Their Real Power?

The Republican Party is threatening to take us all down with them unless we hurt ourselves even more. But they only have power on this IF we engage. If we don’t engage on this they have no power. If we don't engage they are just a bunch of crazy people threatening to kill themselves if we don't kill ourselves, and that's crazy.

They can’t be serious, so don’t take them seriously. Ignore them. Don't feed the trolls. They have no power this time if we just ignore them.

And ignore the corporate media that feeds on crisis and feeds panic, and the "Fix the Debt" corporate-funded propaganda that tries to convince us to engage.

The debt ceiling is not a crisis unless we help them make it into a crisis. If we ignore them they have to go away.

Not A Crisis Unless We Make It One

This is not a crisis unless we make it a crisis.

Are we really afraid the 2-year-old will actually hold its breath until it dies? Seriously?

And haven't we learned yet what happens later, after we give them what they want when they hold their breath?

Do we really believe the Republicans would take down the whole economy? Really? Do we really believe Wall Street and their billionaire funders will let them do this?

They only have power if we engage with them on this. Their only power is making us afraid.

What To Do This Time

Ignore them. No negotiations, not even any conversations. Don’t fall for it this time. If someone even says the words "debt ceiling" just tell them to go away, you have things that need doing, that deserve attention. Just let them spout their nonsense and don’t respond. Like the crazy guy who stands up at the city council meeting and talks about how UFOs are shooting energy waves into his brain, when he gets done say “Thank you” and just move on to the next item.

Seriously, they threaten to destroy the economy if they don't get what they want? And what they want is things that make our lives harder and less healthy? Really? Then just let them shout it, and let the voters see it, and hold them accountable.

They won't really do that. And if you think they will actually vote to do that -– and the people who fund the Republican Party won’t stop them at the last minute -– then just let them this time. And let them own the reaction. Because if they do that, our country’s minority-party obstruction/destruction/hostage-taking/extortion/intimidation problem will be over.

If debt-ceiling day comes and they are still threatening to do it, just sit back and watch their Wall Street and billionaire funders panic.

Do not engage. Let them hold their breath until the country turns blue.

--

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 11:08 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 3, 2013

So Can We Focus On Jobs NOW?

Congress and the media paid homage to the agenda of the billionaires and Wall Street, with the manufactured "fiscal cliff" PR campaign frenzy that just ended. So now can we get back to the country's priorities? Can we talk about jobs now?

Jobs Fix Deficits

Now that the idiotic "fiscal cliff' is out of the way, maybe we can start to get around to doing something that will actually help We, the People, fix the economy and reduce the borrowing. Namely, invest in modernizing our country's infrastructure and reducing our economy's reliance on burning fossil fuels for energy.

We are $2 trillion behind in keeping our country's infrastructure up to date. Imagine how our economy would be humming if we finally got started on that work that has to be done sooner or later anyway -- modernizing all the roads and bridges, modernizing the electrical grid, bringing fiber internet lines to businesses and homes, building high-speed rail across the country and all of these things using American-made supplies, steel, rail cars ... Et. Cetera. Et. Cetera.

Imagine our economy (and the health of the planet) if we didn't depend on burning oil and coal for our energy. We could retrofit all buildings and homes to be energy-efficient. We could build more (American-produced) wind farms and install (American-produced) solar everywhere. Everything would cost so much less, our trade deficit would be lower, Et. Cetera.

Imagine how many more people would be working if we did those things. They would be paying taxes, patronizing stores, Et. Cetera. They would not be collecting food stamps or unemployment. Et. Cetera.

And imagine how all of that would help our government's budget situation. More people working = less govt assistance, more people paying taxes, more businesses being patronized... Modernized infrastructure = more competitive economy creating more new opportunities. Energy efficiency = lower energy costs, lower trade deficits... This is because jobs fix deficits.

The Plutocrat Agenda Is Cuts

The agenda of the plutocrats is to get government -- We, the People -- out of their way.

The billionaires tell us that the biggest problem we have is too much government. Think about who benefits if we cut government. If we cut government We, the People get less of the things that We, the People do for each other, the billionaires get less of We, the People in their way.

If we cut government we get less regulation of their banks, and they get less regulation of their banks.

If we cut government we get less worker safety rules protecting us on the job, and the get less worker safety rules making them pay for those protections.

Et. Cetera.

The agenda of the billionaires is also to limit competition. Government regulations work to increase competition. The billionaires are on top and they want to stay on top. A thriving, competitive, opportunity-creating economy is not important to them, their economy is thriving -- they are already billionaires.

Et. Cetera. So of course the billionaires want less government. Less We, the People making the decisions means less We, the People in their way.

The Agenda of We, the People Is Jobs

We, the People want good jobs that pay well and provide benefits. We want a modernized, competitive, opportunity-creating economy. We want modern infrastructure that enables our smaller businesses to thrive and grow. We want plentiful good-paying jobs. And when an economy is humming and there are plenty of jobs, more of us can do well.

Do billionaires create jobs or do jobs create billionaires? Why would a billionaire want to "create jobs," anyway? This is about who has the power. If you believe that billionaires create jobs, you want the billionaires in charge and making all the decisions. But if you believe that jobs create billionaires then you want We, the People in charge, doing things that create lots of good-paying jobs and improve the economy for all of us.

Do We, the People still have the power to do the things that benefit our lives and each other? Again, if democracy creates billionaires then you want democracy to be in charge. If billionaires create jobs then you want billionaires to be in charge.

Who do you think should be in charge? We, the People? Or the billionaires?

--

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 7:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 2, 2013

Filibuster Day Of Action Thursday - Call Senators

The filibuster used to be an important tool that gave the minority a voice in the Senate. But the Senate made a mistake and changed the rules, which enabled an obstructionist minority to block ... everything. There have been more than 380 filibusters in just the last few years! It is time to change the rules back to the old "make them talk" system. Thursday, Jan. 3rd, is a day of action demanding that the Senate fix the filibuster and make them talk. So pick up the phone right now and urge your Senator to support Senate Rules Reform. Call 1-866-937-5062 or text FIXTHESENATE to 69866.

Filibuster Has Become Tool Of Obstruction

In recent years Senate Republicans have used the filibuster to block over 380 bills and nominations. There has been a terrible cost to the country as Republicans blocked bill after bill, solution after solution, nomination after nomination.

For too long now, this tactic has been misused and abused. Congress has stopped legislating effectively, with Senators using ridiculous dodge tactics to block real progress. They have used filibusters to block jobs, judges, disaster relief, the Dream Act, health care, and almost everything else. They have even filibustered their own bills!

As the new Congress convenes this month another effort is underway to reform the filibuster. This new proposal in front of the Senate to reform the filibuster returns to the form of filibuster that the public understands, namely talking all night.

Fix The Filibuster

We have a chance to restore the filibuster to its original purpose, but we need your help to do it.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rLAL5ngX40[/youtube]

(Visit http://on.fb.me/RqcQW7 to share this video.)

They should make them talk. This is a pro-democracy move. First, it stops the obstruction. Second, it allows senators with serious and honest problems with a bill to bring this to the attention of the public by holding a real, honest-to-goodness talkathon. Third, this would engage the public and give We, the People a chance to weigh in and agree or disagree with the objection.

Pick up the phone right now and urge your Senator to support Senate Rules Reform. Call 1-866-937-5062 or text FIXTHESENATE to 69866.

A number of organizations are engaged in a battle to restore the old "make them talk" rules

Things You Can Do

Pick up the phone right now and urge your Senator to support Senate Rules Reform. Call 1-866-937-5062 or text FIXTHESENATE to 69866.

Here is a sample tweet to use on Twitter: Silent. Invisible. The shocking truth of the U.S. Senate today and why we fight for Senate rules reform: http://on.fb.me/RqcQW7 #fixtheSenate

Click to Tweet: http://clicktotweet.com/W5m_2

Send an email. Click here for a sample email you can use as a template.

Visit Fix the Senate Now and sign up for updates.

There is a Fix the Senate Now Facebook page. “In the US Senate, back room deals and filibuster rules allow a handful of senators to stop the rest from making any progress. Let’s fix the Senate, now.”

Follow @FixTheSenate on Twitter.


Member Organizations

Here is a list of organizations in the FixtheSenateNow.org coalition:

AAUW
Action for the Common Good
AFL-CIO
AFSCME
Alliance for Justice
Americans for Democratic Action
Association of Flight Attendants - CWA
Brennan Center for Justice
Business and Professional People for the Public Interest
Campaign for America’s Future
Center for Media and Democracy
Center for Science and Public Interest
Clean Water Action
Common Cause
CREDO
CREW
CWA
Daily Kos
Democracy 21
Demos
Fair Action Alliance
Feminist Majority
Friends of the Earth
Gamaliel
Greenpeace
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Jobs with Justice/American Rights at Work
League of Conservation Voters
League of Women Voters
LULAC
NAACP
National Action Network
National Council of Women's Organizations
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund
Natural Resources Defense Council
NEA
NOW
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Population Action International
Progressive Congress
Public Campaign
Public Citizen
SEIU
Sierra Club
Tides
TWU
UAW
UFCW
United Steelworkers
USAction
Voices for Progress
Woman's National Democratic Club
Women's Research & Education Institute

--

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 2:17 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 31, 2012

Deficits Were On Purpose To Cause This "Crisis"

Before 'W' got in and made changes in taxes and military spending we were paying off the debt. Bush said the deficits that resulted from his changes were "extremely positive news." (Yes, that is in quotes, click the link.) Before that Reagan also caused deficits on purpose. He called it "starve the beast" -- as if democracy is a "beast" that needs to be killed. So don't fall for all this deficit hysteria, let's just fix what caused the deficits and move on.

This Deficit Story Can't Be Repeated Often Enough


From May, This Deficit Story Can't Be Repeated Often Enough,
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.


It was the plan. They forced these deficits on us on purpose. Reagan called it "strategic deficits." It was a "shock doctrine" tactic, to get us to panic, and then move in with their "solutions." So we are arguing about how much to cut out of the things We, the People do for our benefit, which the wealthy and their corporations get vastly wealthier and more powerful.

Low taxes on the rich = less money to use to do things that benefit We, the People. Higher military budget = less money to use to do things that benefit We, the People.

The ONLY response to this "fiscal cliff" shock-doctrine nonsense is to repeat over and over that we were paying off the debt, then Bush made changes, so let's undo Bush's changes. If you are so bothered by the deficits, then fix the things that caused the deficits.

And then we can get back to the business of democracy: We, the People doing things for the benefit of We, the People.

See also:

Ten Years Ago We Were Paying Off The Nations Debt But Then We Elected Obama

Deficits: Get the Money From Where the Money Went

“Government Doesn’t Have the Resources to Stop It”

Reagan Revolution Home To Roost America Drowning In Debt

Why We Have A Deficit

What Is The Real Agenda Of The Budget-Cutters

Cutting Government Creates Jobs Like Cutting Taxes Increases Revenue

Jobs Fix Deficits

Did The Rich Cause The Deficit

Jobs First Because Jobs Fix Deficits

The Real Deficit Is Jobs!

Why the Deficit Dominates DC Thinking

See WHY Austerity Can’t Reduce The Deficit

Deficit Trouble – Right Here In River City

How To Fix The Deficit

--

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 6:01 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 29, 2012

No More Lucy Filibuster-Fix Footballs

There is a chance to reform the filibuster in January, with a proposal to "make them talk." Will the Charlie Browns in the Senate let Lucy pull away the football yet again? As George 'W' Bush said, "fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."

In recent years Senate Republicans have used the filibuster to block over 380 bills and nominations. There has been a terrible cost to the country as Republicans blocked bill after bill, solution after solution, nomination after nomination. (They even blocked the Disclose Act which would have let the public know just who is paying them to obstruct.)


Constitutional Option

Two years ago there was an attempt to reform the filibuster, using "the constitutional option" which involves changing the rules at the start of a new Congress, which happens the January after an election. According to The Brennan Center for Justice article, A Short History of the Constitutional Option

The Senate’s authority to change its rules by a majority vote stems directly from the Constitution, which authorizes the chamber to “determine the Rules for its Proceedings.” And unlike other legislative actions, such as expelling members or ratifying treaties, the Constitution does not require a supermajority to approve rules changes.

The 2011 effort to change Senate rules and make it more difficult for an obstructionist minority to block the will of We, th People was stymied by Senate leadership, with an agreement between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell that "Republicans would make an effort to filibuster less."

Of course, Lucy pulled away the football Republicans went back on that agreement and filibustered ... everything.

Make Them Talk

Now another new Congress will convene in January, 2013, and another effort is underway to reform the filibuster. This new proposal in front of the Senate to reform the filibuster returns to the form of filibuster that the public understands, namely talking all night.

But now there is a "bipartisan" proposal to head this off, offering to really, really hold the football still this time, offering an agreement to not filibuster as much. TPM has the story, Dueling Filibuster Proposals Leave Reformers Scrambling,

The McCain-Levin proposal, unveiled Friday after bipartisan negotiations, would make it easier for the majority leader to bypass motions to proceed and guarantee the minority two amendments on legislation regardless of relevancy, Steven S. Smith, an expert on Congress at Washington University in St. Louis, told TPM. It would also remove obstacles on motions to go to conference and approve minor presidential nominations.

Levin told reporters in the Capitol that the plan “will hopefully overcome the gridlock that has so permeated the U.S. Senate.” He added: “It is a bipartisan proposal.”

Will Senate Democrats once again whiff on doing something about Republican obstruction? Will they fall for yet another "agreement" that will be negated a few minutes after Democrats think an agreement with Republicans has fixed the problem? Will Charlie Brown fall for it again?


Fix the Senate Now, a coalition of over 50 national organizations, explains why Democrats should hold to the reform plan that "makes them talk" in, “Thanks, But No Thanks” – Reid & Senate Democrats Should Reject Weak Senate Rules Offering,

A handful of Senators today unveiled a U.S. Senate rules proposal that falls well short of the meaningful change needed to overcome the unprecedented Senate obstruction of recent years. Instead of a serious reform effort, today’s offering is little more than a status quo, business as usual, recipe for continued Senate gridlock.

They should make them talk. This is a pro-democracy move. First, it stops the obstruction. Second, it allows senators with serious and honest problems with a bill to bring this to the attention of the public by holding a real, honest-to-goodness talkathon. Third, this would engage the public and give We, the People a chance to weigh in and agree or disagree with the objection.

What You Can Do

Contact your senators and let them know how you feel about making them talk. This is so important.

and

Visit Fix The Senate Now's website, and sign their petition. Follow them on Twitter and on Facebook.

---

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 2:38 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 19, 2012

Filibuster: Sen. Merkley Says "Make Them Talk"

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley took to the white board to explain the talking filibuster and why we need to reform the Senate.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Snprp-36dMk[/youtube]
Merkley White Board: Its time to Reform the Senate with a Talking Filibuster

Fix The Senate Now. You can sign the petition.

The filibuster used to be an important tool that gave the minority a real voice in the Senate. Not anymore.

For too long now, this tactic has been misused and abused. Congress has stopped legislating effectively, with Senators using ridiculous dodge tactics to block real progress. Right now there is an opportunity to restore the filibuster to its original purpose, but senators like Merkley need your help and backing to do it.

Call 1-866-937-5062 or text FIXTHESENATE to 69866 and tell your senators you support Senate rules reform, including returning to a talking filibuster, and they should, too.

IBEW has an action page that helps you "determine who your Senators are and then you can email or call them to express your support for the talking filibuster. For your convenience the Political-Legislative Affairs Department has already drafted an email regarding this issue for your Senator that you may choose to send as-is or edit as you see necessary."

---

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 8:55 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 14, 2012

The Terrible Cost of Not Fixing the Filibuster Sooner

Senate Democrats were all about getting things done, and that kept them from getting anything done. They didn't take on the filibuster head-on, so now obstruction is the expected norm. There have been more than 380 filibusters and the public (and apparently the media) doesn't know there has been even one. It is time to MAKE THEM TALK if they want to filibuster a bill.

380 Filibusters - The Public Doesn't Know

Under Lyndon Johnson there was one filibuster, and the public knew about it because a Senator had to talk all night. In the last few years there have just a few been more than one and the public doesn't know about it at all. How many filibusters have there been? Harry Reid writes in Politico: "Since Democrats took control of the Senate in 2006, Republicans have mounted 380 filibusters."

If you talk to the public you will find people do not know about this. Most people do not believe there has been even a single filibuster because they haven't seen it happen. To the public a filibuster is a dramatic event, a big deal, involving Senators talking all night until they fall down from exhaustion.

Here's the thing. The public hates obstruction, and would apply the right amount of pressure if they knew about it. That is how democracy is supposed to work. But the public does not know that obstruction is occurring. The silent filibuster tactic has been successful because people don't see it. And that means that democracy isn't working the way it should.

The Senate Made A Mistake

In the 1970s the Senate changed rules that required a filibuster to be a spectacle and a talkathon. Instead they wanted to be able to move on and get things done so the "silent filibuster" was enabled. Nobodye could have predicted that a corporate/conservative minority would later use the new "silent filibuster" tactic more than 380 times to keep anything from getting done. The filibuster is now so abused that the media tells the public that Senate rules require 60 votes to pass any bill.

Senate Democrats have been irresponsible in allowing this to continue, because democracy wants the public to be alerted to obstruction. In their wish to get things done and get along with the other side they have been accomplices in the obstruction strategy. They have resisted making a big deal out of each and every obstruction, resisted using theater tactics like "bringing out the cots," resisted "making waves" by changing the rules, and tried to just keep the Senate moving along and getting along. But the result of accommodating the conservatives is they have enabled a take-no-prisoners minority to just block everything. Since the public is largely unaware of this minority obstruction they are not applying the pressure that a functioning democracy requires.

Basics:

  • People believe a filibuster is senators talking all night.

  • People have not seen any senators talking all night.

  • People do not believe there have been any filibusters.

  • But there have been more than 380 filibusters.

  • Democracy suffers because the public does not understand that these filibusters are occurring.

  • We, the People are not getting from our government what we want and need.

  • Conclusion: Make. Them. Talk.
  • A Simple Fix - Make Them Talk

    Make. Them. Talk.

    There is a simple fix that will stop obstruction -- except when obstruction is appropriate. This simple fix is to change the rules back to what people think the rules already are: make them actually filibuster in the way the public understands. They should make them talk all night if they want to obstruct a bill.

    Here is why making them talk all night is the best solution. While getting rid of the ability to silently and secretly obstruct action it retains the ability of the minority to make their point, and does it in a way that brings that point to the attention of the public. By killing the "silent filibuster" and making Senators engage in the public theater of a dramatic event, where they stand in the Senate chamber and talk and talk, Democrats can actually restore a functioning democracy and engage the public in our democracy.

    But when something is happening that is truly egregious and the minority wants to bring the public's attention to this, they can alert the press and their supporters and get started in a dramatic talk-all-night theater event. They can launch an actual filibuster, just like the movie. It will be big news. The news channels will all make a big deal of this, and people can contact each other and organize a response.

    Making them talk gives the public time to get involved. In fact it invites the public to get involved. Or not. It gives the public the choice, which is why we have those first three words in our Constitution.

    The Cost Of Filibuster Abuse

    The core principle of our government is that We, the People make the decisions. We are supposed to have self-government by majority rule. But in the last few years this has been turned on its head by this silent filibuster obstruction. Nothing gets done, and the public doesn't understand why not. The cost to We, the People has been staggering.

    How many things that the people and our economy want and need have been blocked in the last few years? Well, aside from literally everything, I mean. This abuse of the rules even keep us from learning who or even what country (Disclose Act) is paying for the abuse of the rule.

    Just a few examples: Here are just a few examples -- just a few out of 380+ filibusters -- from Dylan Matthews in the Washington Post, in 17 bills that likely would have passed the Senate if it didn’t have the filibuster,

  • DREAM Act
  • DISCLOSE Act
  • Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)
  • Public option
  • Paycheck Fairness Act
  • Permanent middle-class Bush tax cut extension
  • Rescinding of the upper-income Bush tax cuts
  • Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act
  • Emergency Senior Citizens Relief Act
  • Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act
  • American Jobs Act
  • The Buffett rule
  • Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act of 2011
  • Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act
  • “Shared Sacrifice”
  • Withholding Tax Relief Act of 2011
  • Burmese import restrictions
  • Appointments - [click through to see the whole list]
  • Again, those are just a few of the things that We, the People want and need, that were blocked by Republican filibusters. JOBS. The public option. Stopping tax breaks for outsourcing. Ending the huge tax breaks for the oil companies and the billionaires.

    A big one: Labor: This week's anti-union vote in Michigan shows us that one cost to We, the People was that reforming labor law was blocked. Blocked by filibuster in 2007, Senate Democrats dropped this in 2009 because it could not get past a nother filibuster -- just one of 380.

    June, 2007, GOP Senators Filibuster Employee Free Choice Act,

    A majority of Senators voted in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) today, but the vote was nine votes short of the 60-vote requirement to break a filibuster of the bill by a handful of obstructionist Senators.

    Then in 2009, (again from 17 bills that likely would have passed the Senate if it didn’t have the filibuster above), Democrats were trying to get the Employee Free Choice Act passed,

    But at the time, well over Democratic Senators had indicated their support of the bill, which also got 51 votes and passed the House in 2007, when Democrats had fewer seats, meaning it was especially likely to pass in 2009.

    And of course, never forget climate change. Action has been obstructed and obstructed and obstructed...

    So many solutions to our country's problems have been obstructed by corporate&billionaire-funded minority filibusters!

    Things You Can Do

    Fist, be aware that the filibuster does exist and has been used 380 times, even though you haven't seen anyone talking all night.

    Call the offices of both of your state's senators and tell them you want them to fix the filibuster and make them talk all night if they want to block a bill. You can use this number: 1-877-782-8274.

    Visit Fix the Senate Now and sign up for updates.

    There is a Fix the Senate Now Facebook page. "In the US Senate, back room deals and filibuster rules allow a handful of senators to stop the rest from making any progress. Let's fix the Senate, now."

    Follow @FixTheSenate on Twitter.

    Start your own Fix the Senate online petition; Use an online petition tool like SignOn.org to start your own petition to ask your Senators to reform the Senate rules. You can get ideas for language to use at http://fixthesenatenow.org/page/s/signthepetition/.

    New Mexico Senator Tom Udall has a special Senate Rules: Common Sense Reform website with a lot of resources and recent press coverage, as well as all of Senator Udall's past statements on rules reform.

    Because it is time to Make. Them. Talk.

    ---

    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 8:31 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 5, 2012

    Jobs First Because Jobs Fix Deficits


    What happened to jobs? The pubic wants government to do something about jobs and getting the economy moving, and in DC the only thing is this weird argument about ... anything but jobs and getting the economy moving! "Fiscal cliff?" What about jobs? Fixing the economy will fix the debt, not the other way around.

    Economic Storm Clouds

    The economy is slowing, with signs of trouble on the horizon. Recent economic indicators are not so good. Trade deficits are huge, a bad manufacturing number this week, Europe still stagnant and slipping (because of austerity), China slowing. NY Times says, "Recent economic data "surprisingly weak," and "recovery sputtering." From Republicans Balk at Short-Term Stimulus in Obama Plan,

    “As the debate rages in Washington, data has shown the recovery once again sputtering, with the underlying rate of growth too slow to bring down the unemployment rate by much and some of the economic momentum gained in the fall dissipating in the winter.”

    It's Demand Stupid

    This slowing is not happening because people are "worried about the fiscal cliff." It is because there are not enough jobs, and the wages of the people who do have jobs are stagnant with all the gains in the economy going to a very few at the very top of the economic ladder. Europe is slowing because they attacked deficits instead of hiring people to do jobs. We are slowing because the government stopped stimulus and started cutting.

    The slowdown is because the jobs are not coming back fast enough, wages are stagnant and falling, and the government is not doing anything about it. And that means that there is not enough "demand" in the economy to cause investment and hiring.

    Businesses want customers, not tax cuts -- and certainly not cutbacks. In fact most of what DC is focused on -- austerity -- will make the situation worse, possibly even much worse, as it has done in Europe.

    Small Stimulus In President's Proposal

    To his credit the President's "fiscal cliff" proposal does contain a limited stimulus to help keep the economy moving, at least at its current slow pace. But we really need a massive investment in jobs. The President's offer of $50 billion in stimulus for one year is insufficient, but at least it is something. The Republicans offer less than nothing, they want government efforts cut.

    Jobs Fix Problems: The DC elite, major media and lobbying apparatus is focused like a laser beam on how much to cut, so the wealthy can have even more. But the public isn't stupid, they get that there is a disconnect because they know that jobs fix problems, jobs fix deficits and lots of jobs fixes wage stagnation. Strong employment = wage growth. Strong wages = strong economic growth.

    The People Spoke -- The Election Was Supposed To Have Decided This

    The election made it obvious, the public wants jobs, wants government services like Medicare and Social Security protected and even expanded, and more than anything wants taxes raised on the ultra-wealthy.

    The election made the public’s wishes clear. But Washington continues to simply ignore what the public wants, and is focused like a laser beam on what a few billionaires want.

    It was like there was an intense focus on the election, the public spoke, and then the very next day all attention shifted back away from what the public wanted and onto this austerity agenda that helps the billionaires at the expense of the rest of us.

    A Government Of, By and For We, the People

    I recently watched the PBS series The Dust Bowl. One thing that stood out was how the government actually cared about what was going on with the people, was trying to solve the problems, and how the people got it that the government was on their side.

    Today it is a very different story, with the government isolated and largely under the control of wealthy and powerful interests. The current "fiscal cliff" absorption being only the most recent example.

    The public doesn't get what is going on in DC. They want JOBS first, they want the meager government services they do get preserved and even expanded. And they want a fix to the problem of the last few decades of wage stagnation, corporate domination, outsourcing manufacturing, deferring infrastructure maintenance, unionbusting, age discrimination, and cancelling TV shows everyone likes. (Just seeing if you are still reading.)

    Economy Has Lots Of Jobs That Need Doing

    Jobs solve problems. Right now the country has lots of problems, so the country needs lots of jobs, which solve problems. And by great coincidence right now the country needs lots of things done. The country needs to repair and modernize its infrastructure. The country needs to update its electrical grid. The country needs to make its buildings and homes more energy efficient. All of these are things that improve the economy in the long run. And the remarkable thing is that all of these are things that will have to get done sooner or later.

    So the country could just hire people to do those jobs that need doing -- like FDR did. How hard is it to understand that?

    1) Hire people to modernize the infrastructure and make buildings and homes energy efficient.
    2) All those people are participating in the economy again: paying taxes, buying things, not getting food stamps and unemployment.
    3) The economy is much more efficient because of the work that got done on the infrastructure and energy efficiency.
    4) The newly efficient economy is more than able to pay off the cost of all the work that was done -- that had to be done eventually.

    Republicans Obstructing Everything

    The current Republican view is that government itself hurts the economy, is "in the way," and that taxes and government spending "take money out of the economy." So they continue to block all efforts to revive the economy through jobs programs, investment in infrastructure, even helping the unemployed.

    They say that providing unemployment benefits keeps people from being forced to take the lowest-paying, nastiest, most demeaning job that comes along. But progressives believe in democracy and say that's the point of helping each other -- that we are a country where we are in this together to build mutual prosperity -- unemployment benefits prevent a death spiral of continually falling demand.

    Republicans talk about “pro-growth” policies, always meaning tax cuts for the rich. They say that only rich people "create jobs" so giving more and more money to these "job creators" will eventually trickle down to the rest of us. But all actual evidence shows that this policy does nothing to promote growth, only inequality. In fact the times of highest taxes on the wealthy have been the times of more jobs and more economic growth shared by more of us.

    Business Gets It

    I recently came across this Comstock Partners, Market Commentary: The Deficit Did Not Cause The Recession; The Recession Caused The Deficit,

    Both Wall Street and Washington have lost sight of the major cause of the deep recession and exceedingly slow economic recovery. To hear all the talk, the major concern is about the impending fiscal cliff and the federal budget deficit. Fix the fiscal cliff and make major reductions in the deficit, they say, and all will be ok. We think they've got it wrong.

    Go read why...

    ---

    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 12:14 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    November 13, 2012

    Fiscal Cliff Scare Talk Follows Shock Doctrine Script

    Anyone who has read The Shock Doctrine understands exactly what this "Fiscal Cliff" scare is.

    If you have already read The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein you have probably been rolling your eyes at all this "Fiscal Cliff" scare talk. "Here they go again" you're thinking... If you haven't read the book, you should. You really, really should.

    The Phony "Fiscal Cliff" Scare

    At the end of the year the Bush tax cuts expire. When this happens tax rates will rise modestly to where they were when Clinton was President. Also at the end of the year budget "sequestration" occurs. This means that the various cuts Congress approved to end the debt ceiling "crisis" will begin to phase in. (Remember, the debt-ceiling "crisis" was when Republicans refused to allow the country to honor its debts, holding the economy hostage, unless they got deep budget cuts in the things We the People do for each other.)

    That's it. That's the "crisis." All of the people who had been hysterical about the budget deficit "crisis" are now hysterical that taxes will go up and spending will go down. Go figure. Maybe -- just maybe -- I shouldn't even say it -- these "serious people" weren't ... serious ... when they said they were worried about the deficit. You see, the hysteria now is because tax rates at the top will go up (cutting the deficit), and because a big part of those budget cuts (cutting the deficit) is military spending. Unfortunately the sequestration also cuts important things that help a lot of people and our economy. But these cuts do not take place all at once (a "cliff"), they will be phased in over time, and the Congress can act at any time to halt any of these cuts.

    The "Fiscal Cliff" is not a cliff and the language itself is intended to scare people. The name itself is designed to create panic, evoking disaster imagery of people and the economy falling off a cliff. It is the latest manufactured "crisis" and we are all supposed to be terrified and demand immediate and extreme solutions.

    Again, the very people screaming loudest about deficits are the people who passed tax cut after tax cut, and military spending increase after military spending increase, and started war after war. Then these same "serious people" 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 screamed "deficit, deficit, deficit." Now they scream, "fiscal cliff, fiscal cliff, fiscal cliff."

    Then after the public is suitably stirred up and terrified they offer “solutions” they say are necessary to cut the scary deficit (that they caused, for this purpose).

    And the fixing all has to happen right now, in the "lame duck" Congress, before those new legislators We, the People elected can take office.

    The "Grand Bargain"

    The "serious people" are pushing for a "grand bargain" that they say will "solve" the "deficit problem" "once and for all."

    Of course, nothing in any "grand bargain" can bind the Congress, and any part of this "grand bargain" can and will be undone by Congress at the earliest opportunity.

    The outline of this "bargain" involves "tax reform" and "getting a handle on entitlements." Tax "reform" does not involve raising tax rates on the wealthy, it "reforms" taxes by getting rid of various deductions and lowering tax rates. "Getting a handle on entitlements" means cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps and the rest of the things that We, the People do for each other -- the things we are entitled to as citizens in a democracy.

    (Note -- Social Security by law can not and does not contribute to the deficit -- they just threw it in because it is "in crisis." The Social Security "crisis" is that under certain economic projections its funding might run a bit short many years down the road. Compare this possible future shortfall to the huge, vast, bloated, enormous military budget which, unlike Social Security, has no separate funding mechanism and runs 100% short every year. But that is not a "crisis.")

    So a fix for a budget problem caused by cutting taxes, massively increasing military spending and crashing the economy will be "solved" by ... not fixing those things. Once again the income and wealth of the country will be shifted away from We, the People and upward to the same 1% who have been benefiting from everything in our economy since the election of Ronald Reagan and the disaster-capitalism formula: cut taxes, raise military spending, then use the resulting deficits to scare people into accepting extreme "solutions." Rinse and repeat.

    The Shock Doctrine

    The Shock Doctrine is a book by Naomi Klein that describes a "disaster capitalism" strategy used by wealthy and powerful people to take advantage of crises -- even causing crises -- to herd people into accepting "solutions" to those crises that really just enrich the 1% at the expense of the rest of us.

    In times of crisis (real or perceived) the public is in a state of shock, distracted and ready to grasp at straws to get out of the panic. This is the perfect time for "serious people" to come in and offer pre-planned "solutions." These solutions usually involve privatizing public institutions and wealth, cutting public services, cutting taxes on the rich, seizing property, lowering wages and pensions ... well, just look at Europe's "austerity" and you get the picture.

    This shock-doctrine disaster capitalism model has become standard practice. We see this happening over and over again: crises occur or are manufactured, the media whips people into a panic, and then the "solution" is introduced. The solution involves a "reform" that transfers wealth or institutions into a few private hands.

    The Real Problem And Real Solution

    We have a jobs problem, not a deficit problem. The best way to deal with the deficit is to put Americans back to work. The real job creators are working people with money in their wallets. We can’t cut our way to growth. These are not just slogans, these are solutions to real problems.

    We need to invest in our economy, restoring and modernizing our infrastructure, retrofitting our homes and buildings to be more energy efficient, upgrading our public schools and universities, and fighting to create the manufacturing ecosystems for the new industries of the future,. All of these investments create jobs while they are underway, and pay off by improving our economy for the long term.


    Inoculate yourself by reading The Shock Doctrine. Inoculate your friends by telling them about the book, and how this game works, over and over again.

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

    ---

    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 5:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 8, 2012

    Democracy Pushes Forward

    In the last election the forces of concentrated wealth and corporate power played the same old divide-and-conquer game they have been playing for decades, but this time it didn't work! They tried to divide us by race, religion, sex, sexual preference, class and every other wedge they could find, and it didn't work! The era of dividing the people for profit is over. Democracy pushes forward.

    The Conservative Con Game

    For decades a simple formula has played out. Divide us by religion, race, whatever, divert our attention, get us to vote out of feat and hate or just get us to stay away from the polls, and they can pocket the spoils. The game has been to pump a few hundred million a year into the Karl Rove/Grover Norquist/conservative movement con game and pull out billions in tax breaks, subsidies, wars-for-profit, grants of monopoly and the other fruits of the lobbying/corruption game.

    This time it didn't work.

    The Era Of Division Is Over

    Today TPM's Josh Marshall wrote about the Nixon years, when Pat Buchanan prepared a strategy memo titled "Dividing the Democrats," advising Republicans to "cut the Democratic Party and country in half; my view is that we would have by far the larger half." They've played it out that way in the decades since, usually with great success. Marshall notes, "But now, in this election, you see the Republican party still cutting the country in half but now having the smaller part."

    This time it didn't work, and won't work again. Businesspeople and investors are practical and pragmatic. They don't like to pour money down a rathole. The conservative movement con game has turned into a freakshow, and the money it sucks up has nearly stopped paying off. They still have the House -- largely the result of gerrymandering Congressional districts and not by the preference of the people. So the game is ending.

    Division didn't work. Absorb that -- the implications are vast. The professionals who look at the electorate and figure out how to manipulate us into giving them tax cuts and free reign are certainly absorbing this. The billionaires and corporations are not going to pump more hundreds of millions -- billions, in fact -- into the same old politics of division because they understand that now it is a bad investment. The demographics have passed them by. It didn't work. They don't get the big payoff. They aren't likely to play the game again.

    Dividing us didn't work, and won't work again. This is a center-left nation. The "brown people," gays, poor and working class, single women, union members, combined with people in other demographic groups who "get it" -- We, the People -- are together enough and strong enough to fight back, so it didn't work.

    Fiscal Cliff -- The Next Fight

    Now we face another DC elite manipulation designed to shovel even more favors to the wealthy and their corporations. It is called the "Fiscal Cliff" fight.

    This is what is going on: Very soon the Bush tax cuts expire. And then the "sequestration" budget cuts -- the result of the "debt ceiling" hostage-taking fight -- begin to slowly kick in. Some of these cuts, like cutting the huge, vast, bloated military budget, are good, and others will hurt as they are phased in. But this is not an emergency, they phase in and can be changed.

    In typical "shock doctrine" fashion, the end of the tax cuts and the beginning of the budget cuts are being cast as a "fiscal cliff" that will destroy the economy. A "grand bargain" is proposed to head off the military cuts, cut Social Security and Medicare, and cut tax rates for the wealthy and corporations.

    The negotiations for the Grand Bargain take place soon, after the election and between elites, so that democracy is kept at bay. Democracy is messy and gets in the way of the things the elites want. But this view is just wrong.

    The Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand anti-democracy belief that the public consists of "takers" is just wrong. Our prosperity comes up from the people. We, the People invested in good schools, infrastructure, public structures like our system of laws and courts and universities and libraries and scientific research and we demanded good wages and worker protections and that is what brought us prosperity. Democracy brought us our prosperity.

    The fruits of democracy – Social Security, Medicare and health care, good wages and benefits, worker rights and worker safety and the rest of the things We, the People get out of the bargain – are not the problem.

    Repeat: the fruits of democracy are not the problem.

    And democracy is not the problem. Democracy is what brings the prosperity. A “grand bargain” struck after the election so the bargainers cannot be held accountable is a mistake. It is a corrupt deal and it will hurt our economy.

    Let's stop them. If we stop them again, so soon after we stopped them in the election, they will have to face that this is a bad investment, that the demographics have passed them by, that the public has wised up, that democracy pushes forward.

    Now We Move Forward

    Democracy has pushed forward. It is not an accident that the economy does best in the periods when our democracy is strongest. It is not an accident that the "regular people" economy has stagnated in the decades since Reagan, when the plutocracts corrupted our democracy.

    We are on the road to taking our country back for We, the People. Democracy will push forward.

    Just before election day Politico presented the official DC elite view that minorities, single women, etc. are not "real" Americans that count, writing,

    If President Barack Obama wins, he will be the popular choice of Hispanics, African-Americans, single women and highly educated urban whites. That’s what the polling has consistently shown in the final days of the campaign. It looks more likely than not that he will lose independents, and it’s possible he will get a lower percentage of white voters than George W. Bush got of Hispanic voters in 2000.

    A broad mandate this is not.

    The elites understood where power rested, and it was not with the people. But that was then, and this is now. What a difference a few days makes.

    If minorities, women, gays, working people, elderly, students, clap their hands, does it make a sound in Washington? Does it make a mandate? They think not, we think so. They will find out that it did. Democracy will push forward.

    ---

    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 8:49 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 6, 2012

    Stopping People From Voting? Seriously, Why Do We Put Up With This For One Minute?

    More than 50 years since the Civil Rights Movement and conservatives are still fighting to keep "the wrong kind of people" from voting. A 97-year-old in Georgia -- who has voted in every single election since she was old enough to vote -- is denied her right to vote. Florida is making citizens stand in line 4,5,6 hours to vote. Why are we putting up with this for one minute? Why isn't our government sending the US Army into these states that are trying to stop "the wrong kind of people" from voting?

    This Was Settled!

    This country already settled this: you can't keep people from voting! In the 1950s and 1960s conservatives tried to keep "the wrong kind of people" from voting and going to school. As a country we did something about it. We stopped putting up with it and ordered the army to push the conservatives aside and let people into the schools and voting booths.

    In 1957 a Republican president sent the US Army into Little Rock to escort nine of "the wrong kind of" students into a school:



    President Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard after George Wallace blocked the schoolhouse door to prevent "the wrong kind of people" from entering:


    Once again conservatives are trying to keep "the wrong kind of people" from fully participating in the rights and privileges that we are all entitled to as citizens. (They really hate the idea that as citizens We, the People are "entitled" to certain things. We all are ENTITLED to share in the fruits of democracy -- that is what an "entitlement" is!)

    Georgia Blocking Voters

    Georgia is one of those states that has found a way to keep lots of "the wrong kind of people" from voting. They have imposed "Voter-ID" laws that are designed to keep lots of the elderly, minorities and students from being able to vote.

    For just one example of how this has made it difficult for "the wrong kind of people" to vote, read Peggy’s story: The cruel cynicism of the voter ID crusade

    Which brings us to the story of 97-year-old Peggy Cobb of Sandy Springs ... Peggy has voted in every presidential election since she was eligible, and most if not all others, too. ...

    She has a Fulton County voter registration card and has voted in every election when she’s been here. Her expired Indiana driver’s license used to be enough ID at the polling booth. No more.

    The story describes the obstacles she encountered trying to get the right ID to vote... most people would be forced to give up -- which is exactly the intent because she is "the wrong kind of person."

    Florida Blocking Voters

    Florida is one state making "the wrong kind of people" wait 4,5,6 hours in line to vote. People who work, the elderly and the simply fed up can't or won't do that so they don't, and that is the intent. Florida cut early voting time in half -- because 2008 showed that it made it too easy for "the wrong kind of people to vote" -- for the wrong kind of people. The effect is that minorities, students and elderly people find it difficult or impossible to vote. Amanda Terkel at Huffington Post reports, in Florida Early Voting Fiasco: Voters Wait For Hours At Polls As Rick Scott Refuses To Budge.

    While many Democrats viewed it as a victory when a few offices opened absentee balloting on Sunday, the process is not the same as early voting -- and could result in more individuals not having their votes counted.

    "Absentee ballots have a much higher rejection rate for minorities and young people, if you look at the Aug. 14 primary," said Smith.

    A major reason there are so many problems at the polls is that last year, Florida's GOP-controlled legislature shortened the number of early voting days from 14 to eight, meaning all early voters are trying to cast their ballots in a shorter window. ...

    ... Smith said that he and Dartmouth professor Michael Herron found that in 2008, voters 65 or older were much more likely to cast ballots in the first five days of early voting than members of other age groups, alleviating some of the pressure at the polls in the remaining days. Those extra days, however, are gone this year, leading to a compression that the system has been unable to handle.

    Other States Blocking Voters

    Conservatives in state after state have set up barriers to keep "the wrong kind of people" from voting. Pennsylvania conservatives tried to implement a restrictive voter-ID law to keep "the wrwong kind of people" from voting. Several other states have implemented them. Ohio -- already famous for putting lots of voting machines in conservative areas and few in the areas where "the wrong kind of people" vote -- threw up barrier after barrier to voting including attempts to cut early voting hours.

    Now Ohio will even throw out your provisional ballot if you write down that a drivers license was your ID when it was really some other valid ID!!! And the provisional ballot is set up to trick voters into doing that! Groups file emergency motion over last-minute move that could toss Ohio provisional ballots,

    Husted’s order requires poll workers to not count provisional ballots where voters make any errors in filling out their provisional ballot and affirmation, including the part of the form detailing what forms of identification they are presenting in order to vote. The problem: Ohio law states that filling out the ID portion of the form is the responsibility of poll workers, not voters.

    ... Husted changed the voter affirmation form, moving the portion where the ID information is entered above the signature line, despite the fact that by Ohio statute, it is supposed to be below the voter’s signature, in the section of the form to be filled out by a poll worker.

    This is just blatantly trying to keep citizens from voting because they are "the wrong kind of people." We just should not put up with this for even one minute. Why isn't Husted in jail?

    Where Is Our Government?

    Conservatives who run several states are trying to keep "the wrong kind of people" from voting for "the wrong kind of people." Where is our Federal government? Why are they allowing this? Why are they not sending the Justice Department to force those states to let people vote? Why are they not sending the US Army into those states that are trying to keep people from voting, so American citizens can vote?

    I am getting fed up with accommodating these bigoted conservatives, just because they are backed by billionaires and giant corporations this time around. We are theoretically a country of laws. I mean, unless you're a banker.


    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 2:36 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 1, 2012

    Jobs Are For We, The People. Budget Cuts Are For The Billionaires. Who Will Prevail?

    We have millions unemployed with millions more underemployed or just gave up looking, our infrastructure is literally crumbling, our trade deficit is horrendous, our "safety net" has eroded below minimum acceptable standards, pensions are cut or gone, the climate is getting more and more unpredictable and dangerous, and how many other problems can you name? But the billionaires will tell you that our biggest problem is too much government -- the very entity that exists to fix those problems. Will we get the jobs that We, the People want or the cuts in government that the billionaires are pushing for?

    Deficit Hysteria Is About Cutting Government

    Keep this in mind in the coming months -- the deficit hysteria and the "fiscal cliff," are all about cutting government and the things We, the People do for each other, so that the billionaires can have more. Who benefits if we cut government - Medicare, Social Security, the "safety net" programs, education, health and safety regulation and inspection, environmental controls, bank regulation, etc.? All of these help We, the People but are in the way of the billionaires.

    How do we get to this bizarre point where DC elite, the corporate media, etc are all talking about cutting the safety net and the things we do for each other, when the obvious problem is jobs? Why isn't this vast media machine writing and talking and showing videos about jobs and jobs and jobs?

    Surplus To Deficit -- What Changed?

    Before Reagan the country did not have a big debt problem - and then we did. Reagan implemented changes that create huge yearly deficits that added up to big debt. When Clinton left office we had huge budget surpluses, and we were actually paying off the debt. Bush implemented some changes that immediately turned the surpluses into deficits, and left office with a $1.4 trillion deficit -- in one year.

    So ... something changed under Reagan and then under 'W' Bush. Are the deficit cutters talking about reversing those changes? Are they talking about fixing the things that caused the deficits that added up to this huge debt?

    Sacrifice

    The deficit problem came from tax cuts for the rich, the size of the military budget (Reagan doubled it, 'W' Bush doubled it again), effects of the trade deficit, and the revenue loss and safety-net costs (due to lack of jobs) that fall out from the Wall Street financial crisis.

    Instead of fixing what caused the deficits and debt, the elites say we should all make "sacrifices" to fix the problem. Except, of course, there are no "sacrifices" for the very ones who benefited from those changes Reagan and Bush made. They got huge, huge tax cuts and to pay for the results of those tax cuts We, the People are being pushed to accept "sacrifices." No one is talking about putting the top tax rate back up to pre-Reagan levels -- back when we took care of the infrastructure and funded our schools, etc. They are not talking about hiring millions to modernize our infrastructure and make our buildings energy-efficient.

    Starting about the same time as Reagan cut taxes on the wealthy the wages of people who work for a living began to stagnate and the income and wealth inequality started to accelerate. In other words, almost all the benefits from gains in our economy started to go to a few at the top of the ladder. Some dramatic numbers illustrate this. For example, you may have read that in 2010 93% of the gains from the "recovery" went to the top 1%. Or you may have read recently that the wealth of the Forbes 400 went up by $200 billion last year.

    But now that it is time to "sacrifice" who is supposed to do the sacrificing? We, the People, and programs like Medicare, Social Security, the "safety net," health and safety regulations, environmental protections, etc.

    Another Billionaire Weighs In

    Ross Perot is in the news today whipping up deficit hysteria, with a huge-headline assist from the Drudge Report pointing to this Politico story, Ross Perot: No 2012 endorsement, saying we could "lose our country" or "be taken over."

    “We’re on the edge of the cliff, and we have got to start fixing it now. Otherwise, we’re leaving a disaster to our children’s and our grandchildren’s future,” he said.

    ... Perot talks about his fear of the United States being taken over.

    “If we are that weak, just think of who wants to come here first and take us over, and the last thing I ever want to see is to see this country, our country taken over because we’re so financially weak we can’t do anything and we’re moving in that direct. … We could even lose our country if we don’t get this fixed and straightened out and nobody that’s running really talks about it, about what we have to do and why we have to do it. They would prefer not to have it discussed.

    Krugman On Democracy

    Today Paul Krugman, in The Real Referendum, points out that the public is turning against candidates who are exposed as wanting to cut the things We, the People do for each other,

    Voters are, in effect, being asked to deliver a verdict on the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society, on Social Security, Medicare and, yes, Obamacare, which represents an extension of that legacy. Will they vote for politicians who want to replace Medicare with Vouchercare, who denounce Social Security as “collectivist” (as Paul Ryan once did), who dismiss those who turn to social insurance programs as people unwilling to take responsibility for their lives?

    If the polls are any indication, the result of that referendum will be a clear reassertion of support for the safety net, and a clear rejection of politicians who want to return us to the Gilded Age. But here’s the question: Will that election result be honored?

    What he means is that the public's wishes are clear, but there are indications that after the election the "Grand Bargainers" are going to try again to cut the things We, the People do for each other, so the billionaires can have it even better. This is what the Simpson-Bowles plan is, this is what the "fiscal cliff" hysteria is about.

    Will the election results be honored? Will it be jobs (We, the People) or budget cuts (the billionaires).


    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 3:15 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    September 18, 2012

    The Real Question: WHY Don't People Make Enough To Pay Income Taxes?


    Mitt Romney was caught on video complaining that 47% of us don't make enough to pay taxes, believe they are victims, are dependent on government, etc. The right question is why do so many of us make so little?

    Moving Jobs To Places Where People Don't Have A Say

    You often here that competition due to "globalization" means that we have to accept lower wages and fewer benefits, because people "over there" make so much less. What has caused the pressure, however, is "free trade" agreements that allow companies here to close factories here and open them over there, and then bring the same things they used to make here to sell in the same stores. The only "trade" involved in this transaction is trading who does the work.

    In places where people are able to have a say, they say they want better wages, benefits, good schools, good roads, parks, a clean environment, safety standards, and things like that. In places where people do not have a say, they are told they can't have better wages, benefits, good schools, good roads, parks, a clean environment, safety standards, and things like that.

    When we allow our companies to close factories here, where people have a say and move them there, where people do not have a say, and then bring the same goods back here to sell, we are allowing them to escape the borders of democracy. When they are no longer subject to the We, the People that has a say, they can do what they want, exploit workers, exploit the environment, and reap the profits of not having responsibilities to others. And because it costs less to pay people less and exploit the environment, allowing them to escape these responsibilities makes democracy a competitive disadvantage.

    The Wal-Martization Of Our Economy

    Another reason so many people don't make enough wages to pay taxes is because we let companies like Wal-Mart and Staples pay close to minimum wage. That is part of how they compete with our smaller, local businesses. Low wages, selling cheap stuff made in China by people with lower wages. (And by the way, we don't raise the minimum wage to a livable level! This means that government ends up helping employees of these companies through "safety-net" programs like Medicaid, Food Stamps, and the other "dependency" programs Romney complains about.)

    Also, bigger companies are able to use their size. They can also apply the advantages of access to capital that smaller, local companies and regional chains cannot. They can also take advantage of scale in their purchasing, negotiations, management functions and elsewhere. This is smart business, but then we let them drive down wages, and send the difference to a few at the top, without even taxing those at the top so we can use the money to make up for the circumstances this imposes on those at the bottom.

    In So DID Mitt Romney Really "Create Jobs" At Staples? I looked at whether Staples really invented new jobs or really just shifted jobs from other companies to their company. Unfortunately Staples didn't "create jobs," it grew by putting other companies out of business, thereby shifting people into lower-paying jobs. That is the Wal-Mart model, Bain Capital model, that has taken over our economy.

    Staples grew by putting local stationery stores out of business, local office supply, and other chains like Businessland out of business. All those small business owners who had local stores, making a modest small-business income, now instead are working maybe as managers at a Staples. From the post,

    As Staples grew it overtook competing chains like Businessland and others. In other words, Staples took business from other, existing stores -- often local retailers. Staples did not “create” jobs, it shifted office-supply jobs from local stores, etc., probably to lower-paying jobs. (The former owners of local businesses certainly were worse off from this.) They likely even lowered overall office-supply, stationery, etc. employment in the larger economy.

    Low Wages?

    How do these"Romney job creator" jobs stack up against other jobs? Average Staples salaries for job postings nationwide are 51% lower than average salaries for all job postings. The pay at Staples appears to be around $8-10 an hour. That's $16-20,000 a year, certainly not enough to support a family, or even pay rent in many areas, never mind buying food. (The 2012 poverty guideline for family of four is $23,050.)

    So Mitt Romney complains that the changes in our economy over the last few decades that have made most of us so much poorer are our own fault. But he concludes that government - We, the People - shouldn't try to do something about it! He complains that government - We, the People - are really just in the way of letting it go on and make a few at the top get even richer at the expense of the rest of us.

    In democracies We, the People are supposed to have a say. And WE say we want better wages, bnefits, and a piece of the pie. When democracies function, that is what happens. When the Romneys and the Bain Capitals and the Wal-Marts are able to tell us what the government's policies should be, then things fall apart. 6 Wal-Mart heirs have more wealth now than around 1/3 of all Americans combined. Mitt Romney has an income of approx $440,000 per week.

    And yes, 47% of us don't make enough to pay income taxes.

    The solution is to restore our, We the People's, yes government's control over these circumstances. Government is US making the decisions and bug government is us making more of the decisions. And when We, the People have a say we say we want to restore the virtuous circle of prosperity: we create the fertile ground for businesses to prosper by building roads and bridges and good schools, we help them prosper by providing good courts, regulation to keep the giants from domination and to keep the components of the economy functioning smoothly, and investing in research and universities. And then when the business are doing well we ask for good jobs with good wages and benefits and working conditions, and we collect taxes to pay for the investment that keeps that virtuous circle going.

    Please read also: Tax Cuts Are Theft


    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 5:10 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    September 12, 2012

    Austerity Suicide -- Literally

    You might be hearing about the "Fiscal Cliff." And you might be hearing about a "Grand Bargain." You certainly have heard about "Simpson Bowles." You will be hearing more and more about these strangely-named things because the usual suspects are cranking up the usual propaganda machine again, getting the usual DC elite ready to play out another of the usual take-from-the-people-to-give-to-the-rich games right after the election. This time it's a push for austerity.

    Why Deficits?

    I always start any discussion of deficits and debt by reminding people that the country had a big budget surplus before Bush cut taxes for the rich, and doubled the military budget.

    Deficit history: Reagan dramatically cut taxes on the wealthy and corporations. He doubled the military budget. Huge deficit resulted and the country began accumulating massive debt. They called it "strategic deficits," a plan to "starve the beast" by bankrupting the country and forcing cuts to government, to the things government does for We, the People, and the ways government protects us from exploitation by the wealthy and powerful.

    After 12 years of Reaganomics people were fed up, and elected Clinton. Clinton raised taxes on the rich. Those increases combined with the stock market bubble created a surplus and we were paying off the debt, and then something changed. 'W' Bush again cut taxes for the wealthy and again doubled the military budget and now the deficits are enormous. So here we are.

    But fixing what caused the deficits is not on the table. It never is, because that doesn't fit the plan.

    Fiscal Cliff

    They say the country faces a "Fiscal Cliff" at the end of the year. After the election the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire. And – this is a bit complicated – something called “sequestration” also kicks in. This is a series of budget cuts that happen because of the “debt ceiling” deal, when Republicans held the debt ceiling hostage and threatened to put the country into default, demanding that we immediately take trillions out of the economy. The sequestration deal was a compromise that was intended to force the Congress to agree to a bipartisan solution, which failed.

    The sequestration includes military cuts, which our billionaire-backed DC elite believe would ruin the economy when combined with expiration of the Bush tax cuts -- because in their minds tax cuts do not cause deficits and unlike other government spending military spending creates jobs. So to avoid the "Fiscal Cliff" after the election Congress is supposed to meet to keep the military budget intact, keep taxes on the rich from rising and cut the things our government does for We, the People.

    Why After The Election?

    That pesky democracy thing keeps on getting in the way of Wall Street’s plans for our economy. But after the election comes what's called a "lame duck" session of the Congress. The legislators who have been chosen by the people aren't in office yet, the ones who have been defeated are still there and the ones who were re-elected know that anything they do will be long forgotten by the next election. Democracy and the will of the people will not be a factor. Every poll says the public wants immediate action on jobs and no cuts in the things government does for We, the People.

    If Obama is re-elected the post-election debate will be between the Obama deficit plan, a "Grand Bargain" based on the "Simpson-Bowles" plan vs the Ryan plan -- the budget the House Republicans passed that privatizes Medicare and reduces spending on most things government does for our people. If Romney is elected all bets are off.

    Simpson-Bowles

    Simpson-Bowles is a budget plan put together by a Republican Senator and a Director of the Wall Street bank Morgan Stanley. After the President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform ("Deficit Commission") failed to make recommendations, the two came up with a plan that cuts Social Security, cuts a number of other things government does for our people, cuts a bit from military and cuts tax rates on the rich and corporations, calling it "reform." (The plan also eliminates the home mortgage interest deduction, for example.)

    Important point: At least Simpson-Bowles is not a "cuts cause growth" plan. It is sold as a deficit plan, even though it cuts taxes at the top and for big corporations. It clearly asks that any cuts not take place until the economy has improved because cuts slow growth.

    Grand Bargain

    The "Grand Bargain" is the idea that Democrats and Republicans can reach a compromise involving Republicans "allowing" tax "reform" that eliminates some tax deductions like the home mortgage interest deduction and reducing tax rates on the wealthy and corporations, in "exchange" for cuts in things government does for us, including Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. (These cuts do not eliminate the need, they just shift the cost away from the government onto the larger economy.) (If this sounds like a "bargain" that entirely benefits the wealthy and large corporations, that's just how Washington works these days.) ("Reform" always means cutting out things government does for We, the People and reducing taxes on the wealthy.)

    Austerity

    Austerity is the word used to describe attempts to lower budget deficits by cutting government spending on the things that government does for its citizens.

    The theory is that cutting way back on government will cause the economy to grow because government is "in the way" and helping citizens "takes money out of the economy." Also, when government provides fewer safety-net services unemployed people are forced to take any work they can get, which drives wages down and increases corporate profits. Government cutbacks also mean they can't enforce regulations, which unleashes businesses to pollute, commit fraud, cut safety procedures and other things government polices that restrict corporate profits.

    But austerity literally "takes money out of the economy." Public-employee wages and pensions are cut. Government services and safety net programs are cut. Public assets are sold off for immediate cash (reducing the government's income in later years). So the demand side of the economy is reduced as people are not able to spend.

    The Results Of Austerity

    In practice the theory that removing government makes the economy grow has not worked out. Several European countries have been severely cutting budgets, and the result has been that the economies in the "austerity" countries have suffered. These economies appear to have fallen into a downward cycle where the "reforms" reduce demand, growth stalls, this reduces tax revenue, which means the deficit-cutting is not effective. (And meanwhile the economies are ruined and people are in misery.)

    The austerity cycle happening in Europe works something like this:

    Bankers demand "austerity" which drives up unemployment, cuts demand and slows economic growth. The reduction in economic growth causes tax revenue to shrink and increases use of whatever "safety net" programs remain, thereby increasing budget shortfalls.

    So bankers demand more "austerity" which drives up unemployment, cuts demand and slows economic growth. The reduction in economic growth causes tax revenue to shrink and increases use of whatever "safety net" programs remain, thereby increasing budget shortfalls. .

    So bankers demand more "austerity" which drives up unemployment, cuts demand and slows economic growth. The reduction in economic growth causes tax revenue to shrink and increases use of whatever "safety net" programs remain, thereby increasing budget shortfalls.

    So bankers demand more "austerity" ... well you might be starting to get the picture.

    Recession Resulting From Austerity

    These are the GDP growth rates in European "austerity" countries:

    Spain expects -1.7% from 0.4% 2011
    Greece -10% to 11%
    Portugal -1.2%
    Italy -0.7%
    Ireland -1.1%
    UK -.7%

    Chart from Think Progress, CHART: HOW AUSTERITY IS SQUASHING EUROPE’S ECONOMIC GROWTH.

    Unemployment Resulting From Austerity

    These are the official unemployment rates in European "austerity" countries:

    Spain 24.6%
    Greece 24.4%
    Portugal 15%
    Italy 10.7%
    Ireland 14.9%
    UK 8%

    Austerity NOT Lowering Debt

    Here is a chart of the debt-to-GDP ration as these countries shrink their GDP - and tax revenue - through austerity (click for larger):

    Decline Resulting From Austerity

    CNBC: Europe Facing Mental Health "Catastrophe" as Crisis Worsens,

    Europe is approaching a crisis as the region’s debt crisis and austerity measures increase the rates of depression, suicide and psychological problems – just as governments cut healthcare spending by up to 50 percent, according to campaigners, policy makers and health organizations.

    NY Times: ‘Shocking’ Dip in Britain’s Output Reflects European Stress

    Guardian: Portuguese death rate rise linked to pain of austerity programme,

    Portugal's health service is being forced into sweeping cuts as last May's EU/IMF bailout terms begin to bite

    Catholic Online: European economic crisis takes emotional toll

    Suicides Resulting From Austerity

    Alternet, April: Crisis to Suicide: How Many Have to Die Before We Kill the False Religion of Austerity?

    Telegraph, April: Italian businessman becomes country's 25th 'austerity suicide' of the year

    CNN, April: Austerity drives up suicide rate in debt-ridden Greece

    Digital Post, July: Austerity takes its toll with suicides increasing in Greece

    Tampa Bay Times, August: Suicide rates rise in Europe amid job losses and severe cutbacks

    Digital Post, August: Italian dies after setting himself alight in austerity protest

    Reuters, August: Study links British recession to 1000 suicides,

    A painful economic recession, rising unemployment and biting austerity measures may have already driven more than 1,000 people in Britain to commit suicide, according to a scientific study published on Wednesday.

    CNN, September: Death and taxes in Italy

    Watch the following news reports if you can stomach it:

    What You Can Do

    So the experiment in austerity that is playing out in Europe is coming to the US after the election - when democracy can't intervene.

    But the way to reduce deficits is to grow the economy. When people have jobs they pay taxes and use fewer social services. Jobs programs that come out of fixing our infrastructure and making us less dependent on oil also make our economy more competitive in the future so they pay for themselves.

    Contact your member of Congress and let them know that you do not think this is the time to cut the budget. Let them know that you want to see jobs programs, infrastructure maintenance and improvements, increase the safety net so people are not forced to take any work, cut the age when people can get Medicare and Social Security and increase the benefits so people can retire and open up jobs and renegotiate trade deals that are sucking us dry.

    Tell them jobs fix deficits -- you want to grow us out of deficits, not pretend that cuts will work. Cuts make deficits worse.


    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 10:08 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    September 3, 2012

    Yes Government HAS Made Us Dependent

    Republicans say government has "made us dependent." They are correct. We are dependent on roads and schools and bridges and ports and dams and levees and courts and fire departments and police and teachers and food safety inspections...

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Unions Enforce Democracy

    What is Labor Day? And why is it a national holiday?

    Labor Day is our national holiday to celebrate the contribution that regular working people make to our country and our economy. It is also a holiday that celebrates the way We, the People democracy can deliver prosperity to many, instead of great wealth to just a few -- when it works. Strong unions help make it work.

    Systems That Enforce "More Stuff For A Few"

    History teaches of conflict between systems set up when a few people gain power and use that power to get more stuff for themselves at the expense of the rest, and the broad masses of regular people organizing themselves to overcome those power structures that get set up to enforce these "more stuff for a few" systems.

    Power structures enforcing "more stuff for a few" often come with elaborate justifications to keep people from rising up and taking back power for the people. Royalty is a system where "God said my family should be in charge, so shut up and keep quiet." The Nazis said they should be in charge because they were the übermensch, so shut up and keep quiet. Russia had the nomenklatura, so shut up and keep quiet. Today we have "job creators," who get most of the stuff because they already have most of the stuff, so shut up and keep quiet.

    "We, the People"

    This country was formed when We, the People fought that battle and won. We overthrew a system that funneled the stuff to a few at the top, and enshrined in our Constitution a declaration we want this country to forever be run for the benefit of all of us, not just a few of us.

    We fought to build and maintain this democratic society so that We, the People could share the benefits.

    Prosperity Is The Fruit Of Democracy

    Democracy offers protections. It lets us demand good wages and safety and environmental protections. We, the People got a good share of the economic pie because those are the things people say they want when they have a say. 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 and Medicare and unemployment benefits to help us through hard times. 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

    But it was unions that made this possible. People on their own just do not have the ability to stand up against concentrated wealth and power, no matter how right their cause. Even with our Constitution, a few were still able to use wealth and power to grab more for themselves, keeping regular people from obtaining a fair share of the pie. So people organized themselves into labor unions, and as a united group said you give us a fair share or we stop working. This was effective in industries that depended on the labor to keep production moving.

    Before unions came along to enforce democracy we didn't get the share of the prosperity that democracy promised, after unions came along 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? But 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 the reason we have had a middle class at all.

    The Corporate/Conservative Attack On Labor

    But we let the protections slip, and allowed money to have too much influence over our political system -- so of course those with money used that influence to bend the system their way. Then we allowed companies to cross borders to escape the protections democracy offers -- to non-democratic countries like China where workers have few rights, where pay is low, environmental protections practically non-existent. Companies locating manufacturing in places like have huge cost advantages over companies located in democracies that respect and protect the rights of citizens. This movement of manufacturing away from the borders of democracy weakened our unions, and shifted the balance of power away from We, the People.

    There has been a massive corporate/conservative attack on labor and democracy over the last 3-4 decades. Billions of dollars have gone into a propaganda machine that tells us that labor unions are bad, that "labor bosses" just want things for themselves, that "union thugs" force businesses out of business, etc.

    The successful attack on labor has contributed directly to this economy of massive inequality where workers don’t share in the product of the productivity they generate.

    Lawrence Mishel, at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, writes in Unions, inequality, and faltering middle-class wages,

    Between 1973 and 2011, the median worker’s real hourly compensation (which includes wages and benefits) rose just 10.7 percent. Most of this growth occurred in the late 1990s wage boom, and once the boom subsided by 2002 and 2003, real wages and compen­sation stagnated for most workers—college graduates and high school graduates alike. This has made the last decade a “lost decade” for wage growth.

    ... A major factor driving these trends has been the ongoing erosion of unionization and the declining bargaining power of unions, along with the weakened ability of unions to set norms or labor standards that raise the wages of comparable nonunion workers.

    ... the forthcoming The State of Working America, 12th Edition presents a detailed analysis of the impact of unionization on wages and benefits and on wage inequality. Key findings include:


    • The union wage premium—the percentage-higher wage earned by those covered by a collective bargain­ing contract—is 13.6 percent over­all (17.3 percent for men and 9.1 percent for women).
    • Unionized workers are 28.2 percent more likely to be covered by employer-provided health insurance and 53.9 percent more likely to have employer-provided pensions.
    • From 1973 to 2011, the share of the workforce represented by unions declined from 26.7 percent to 13.1 percent.
    • The decline of unions has affected middle-wage men more than any other group and explains about three-fourths of the expanded wage gap between white- and blue-collar men and over a fifth of the expanded wage gap between high school– and college-edu­cated men from 1978 to 2011.
    • An expanded analysis that includes the direct and norm-setting impact of unions shows that deunionization can explain about a third of the entire growth of wage inequality among men and around a fifth of the growth among women from 1973 to 2007.

    The Social Contract

    Labor Day is about honoring the social contract.

    Hedrick Smith writes in, When Capitalists Cared in the NY Times,

    From 1948 to 1973, the productivity of all nonfarm workers nearly doubled, as did average hourly compensation. But things changed dramatically starting in the late 1970s. Although productivity increased by 80.1 percent from 1973 to 2011, average wages rose only 4.2 percent and hourly compensation (wages plus benefits) rose only 10 percent over that time, according to government data analyzed by the Economic Policy Institute.

    At the same time, corporate profits were booming. In 2006, the year before the Great Recession began, corporate profits garnered the largest share of national income since 1942, while the share going to wages and salaries sank to the lowest level since 1929. In the recession’s aftermath, corporate profits have bounced back while middle-class incomes have stagnated.

    [. . .] In Germany, still a manufacturing and export powerhouse, average hourly pay has risen five times faster since 1985 than in the United States. The secret of Germany’s success, says Klaus Kleinfeld, who ran the German electrical giant Siemens before taking over the American aluminum company Alcoa in 2008, is “the social contract: the willingness of business, labor and political leaders to put aside some of their differences and make agreements in the national interests.”

    Unions enforce democracy. Our system is not perfect, it does not by itself sufficiently protect our We, the People system from the constant efforts of some people to gain power - so they can get all the stuff for themselves at the expense of everyone else. It is a fact of human nature proven by history that this happens. Without unions as an added kicker to help us enforce the promise of our We, the People constitution, those who have wealth and power are able to use that wealth and power to take control and grab all the stuff for themselves. We are seeing this happen again, right before our eyes.

    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 10:53 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 27, 2012

    Republicans Again Use Race, And It's OUR Fault That It Still Works

    Since forever, the Republican message is STILL "Dems take your money and give it to black people." Doesn't change. Doesn't have to. It's OUR fault.

    Since Forever

    I am not young. I remember when Nixon campaigned with his racially divisive "Southern Strategy." Nixon campaigned on "crime" - fear of black people - and on the claim that Dmeocrats take "your" money and give it to black people. It worked.

    It worked for Reagan, too, when he talked about "welfare queens" and "welfare Cadillacs." Here is part of a Reagan campaign stump speech,

    "She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran's benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She's got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000."

    (Please read what Terrance Heath has to say about welfare queens in, Romney And Ryan: The Right Kind Of "Welfare Queens".)

    HW Bush used the infamous Willie Horton ad. Watch it with the sound off.

    Bush II beat back John McCain in the primaries by circulating stories that he had "fathered a black child" and "terrorists." (But correct me if I'm wrong, Bush II didn't appear to use race against Gore, instead preempting potential attacks on his own character and honesty by hammering Gore's "character" and making him out to be a liar - both with the help of the media. His later use of "terrorists" (brown people) is another story entirely...)

    Prediction

    So I'm going to go way out on a limb here. I predict that Republicans will use race and other terribly divisive tactics to distract us from the real situation -- the draining of the wealth of 99% of us and the country for the benefit of an already-wealthy few -- in the 2014, 2016, 2018, 2020 and every campaign after that. They will say that "Democrats take your money and give it to black people." They will campaign against "union thugs" and "union bosses" and say paying fair wages "hurts business" and we need to be more "business friendly." They will say "government takes money out of the economy" and helping each other "makes people dependent." They will say "cutting taxes increases government revenue." They will say a lot of nonsense, and their policies when enacted will always, always benefit an already-wealthy few at the expense of the rest of us, our economy, our country and our planet.

    They will say all kinds of stuff to keep We, the People from seeing what is in front of our faces.

    That is who they are and that is what they do.

    Unless we do something about it.

    Look Where We Are & At What Romney Is Doing

    Look where we are: Deregulation pretty much destroyed the economy. Tax cuts have partially defunded the government's ability to empower and protect We, the People. The 1% and their giant corporations get so much of the benefits of our economy now. The climate is obviously getting worse and worse, already risking crop failures, incredible heat waves and terribly destructive storms. And with all of this going on one party blocks efforts to improve things, so they can campaign saying nothing is getting done. Yet with all that going on, the election so far is all coming down to billionaires spending hundreds of millions to run ads that say Obama is taking your money and giving it to black people.

    Look what Romney is doing! He is running ads that come pretty close to the "welfare queen" messaging, pretty much saying that Democrats take your money and give it to black people. He is running ads about Medicare that pretty much say the same thing. And now he is even going "birther." Thomas Edsall explains today in the NY Times, in Making The Election About Race,

    The Republican ticket is flooding the airwaves with commercials that develop two themes designed to turn the presidential contest into a racially freighted resource competition pitting middle class white voters against the minority poor.

    ... The racial overtones of Romney’s welfare ads are relatively explicit. Romney’s Medicare ads are a bit more subtle. ... Obamacare, described in the Romney ad as a “massive new government program that is not for you,” would provide health coverage to a population of over 30 million that is not currently insured: 16.3 percent of this population is black; 30.7 percent is Hispanic; 5.2 percent is Asian-American; and 46.3 percent (less than half) is made up of non-Hispanic whites.

    ... The Romney campaign is willing to disregard criticism concerning accuracy and veracity in favor of “blowing the dog whistle of racism” – resorting to a campaign appealing to racial symbols, images and issues in its bid to break the frustratingly persistent Obama lead in the polls, which has lasted for the past 10 months.

    Once again, Republicans are saying, "Democrats take your money and give it to black people."

    And just like they do every time it works they take our money and give it to rich people instead.

    It's Our Fault

    Here's the thing. This is our fault. Fool me once, shame on you. We were fooled once, when Nixon did it. Shame on Nixon. But ... We were fooled twice, when Reagan did it. We were fooled again and again, and apparently never caught on that this is what they do.

    And if this is what they do, we should have taken steps after, maybe, the fifth or sixth or seventh or eighth time? This is our fault.

    WHY are Republicans still able to use race in their campaigns to deflect attention from their ongoing campaign to turn the wealth and management of our country over to the 1%? Because we have not organized ourselves to reach out to regular people around the country and help them to understand what is happening to them. Instead we (progressives) have largely focused our on changing things through elections. But we have not done the hard work between elections to set the stage for elections. We have not been very good at reaching out to tens and tens of millions of regular people and helping them to understand and appreciate the benefits to them of a progressive approach to solving our problems.

    I mean, a lot of us do get this and try. This is a big part of what Campaign for America's Future does - or tries to do with the very limited resources it has. But a real national, between-elections, ongoing -- decades-long -- campaign takes real resources, facilities, coordination, supplies, management, researchers, writers, talkers, technologists, and the rest. And that takes real money. The kind of money conservatives have been willing to put into such and effort, and progressives have not.

    Let's Finally Do Something About It

    When are we going to recognize that this is what they do, and do something about it? They use race. They divide us. They make shit up, and spend millions and millions on blasting their made-up shit into people's brains. Then they enrich the 1% at the expense of the rest of us, and use part of that to do it more. This is what they do. And very little is done to counter it. (Some say the problem is, "democracy does not have an advertising budget.")

    What if we had started 4 years ago to get ready for this campaign of lies and division, knowing full well that they are going to use race and lies and the rest against We, the People? What if we had started then to reach and educate millions and millions of working people, bring them together, help them see the bigger picture? What if we had reached out to millions of disaffected white voters and explained directly to them, in language that reaches them, with stories that resonate with them, so they would be ready for it when they are told "Democrats take your money and give it to black people," and why believing it hurts them.

    What if we did this between elections, and kept doing it after elections, and explained and reinforced the concepts of democracy so that people's understanding and appreciation of democracy and what it really means increased year after year after year?

    What if we had started doing this 8 years ago? 12 years ago? After Nixon's election? What if we had started to dedicate a percentage of progressive-aligned funding and organizing toward a centrally organized, well-funded campaign of reaching regular people and explaining the harm conservatives are doing, and the benefits to them of democracy and a We, the People approach to our mutual problems?

    How well would their campaign of racism and lies and division work, if we had done that? How well will it work if we do it.

    What would it have done for the goals of environmentalists if we had put serious money into a coordinated, values-based approach that helped people understand and appreciate the meaning and benefits to them of truly honoring We, the People "we are in this together" democracy over the prevailing corporate/conservative, Randian, "you should be on your own"?

    What would it have done for the goals of labor unions if we had used this approach?

    What would it have done for the goals of consumer attorneys if we had used this approach?

    What would it have done for the goals of Medicare-For-All advocates if we had used this approach?

    And what could it do for all of these if we started today?

    A Fight Back Strategy

    Research & Development, and Action: What we need is a major, coordinated, funded, national project dedicated to researching the ways the 1% manipulates us, and developing strategics for overcoming them. This project also needs a national action arm that takes the research and strategies out to the country and continues this work for as long as it takes.

    Just think about this, think about changing your orientation from election cycle to outside of the election cycle, ongoing, as-long-as-it-takes strategies. And mostly, please help and continue to help fund organizations that work outside of elections to help make these changes, so that progressive candidates and policy initiatives have fertile ground in which to do well!

    Of course, this kind of work is a big part of what Campaign for America's Future does - or tries to do with the very limited resources it has. You can and should help us with this, and you can do that right now by visiting this page. If you can give $3 right now, that helps. Seriously, if everyone reading this just gave $3 (or more) it would help.

    And this is not a selfish appeal so I can get a raise (although it can't hurt). There are a number of other organizations that are seriously working on this kind of approach. You can also give a donation to Center for American Progress here, or to the National Council of La Raza here, or to the Economic Policy Institute here, Media Matters here, to the Center for Community Change here, to Progressive Congress here, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights here, to People For the American Way here, and there are so many other organizations that are working in their own way to help. (I'll add them as they read this and write to yell at me for leaving them out.)

    There is a (somewhat out of date) page on funding progressive infrastructure here and a (somewhat out of date) list of progressive infrastructure organizations here.

    We really need for progressives to understand this need, and the difference between this and election campaign contributions. Think about it, and help spread the word. Help fund it, and help others understand this need. We can beat back the conservative machine by building a machine of our own that is strong enough to do the job. This takes money.

    And to keep that machine answerable to US, we have to fund it democratically, with each of us stepping up and contributing what we can. It has to be lots of people giving small and medium amounts, not depending on a few large donors. ANY organization or candidate is going to dance with the ones that brung 'em, so WE have to bring them to the dance together. Go give $3 or $10 or $100 to any of those organizations now, and keep doing it, and get others to do it.

    Cost-Effective

    A dollar donated to an effort like this now is like a dollar donated again and again to each and every progressive issue campaign and candidate from now on, except that the dollar is amplified. This is because doing the work now makes elections and policy battles so much easier and less expensive.

    Conservatives have developed a "brand" and their candidates and policy initiatives ride that brand like a surfer surfs a wave. They just hop on the wave and attach themselves or their issue. So much of the things we have to spend so much money on are already covered by their infrastructure of like-minded organizations, so for each candidate and policy initiative they have to spend so much less! ALL of their candidates are helped by the central branding effort.

    Progressive-oriented candidates and policy initiatives start almost from scratch, and so it is tremendously expensive to get them elected or passed. We have to raise tremendous sums to do the things that conservatives have ready-to-go. And each of our candidates have to each raise that money, on their own, just to overcome the things conservatives already have in place - for all of them. One dollar spent on a core branding effort could have the same effect for all of our candidates and policy initiatives as the more-than-one-dollar spent for EACH candidate or policy initiative at election time to overcome it.

    So help out, OK?

    P.S. Here is a talk I gave on this subject in 2004, titled "On Our Own?" that talked about how the corporate right works between elections to market their ideology, and suggesting that we should try a similar outside-the-election-cycle approach.

    Here is a talk I gave to an education organization in 2007 titled, "We're All In This Together" that described how the right uses the Overton Window to move public attitudes,

    What can we, as supporters of public education, do about this?

    The supporters of public education must join with their natural allies -- the trial lawyers and the environmentalists and reproductive rights organizations and others and begin to talk to the public with a COMMON message that says WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER because we are a COMMUNITY. Only after people come to understand and appreciate this philosophy of community again, will they begin to understand and appreciate the value of public schools.

    ... The Right pushes an ugly message that we are each on our own, out for ourselves to get what we can, in a dog-eat-dog world. But in truth, we are really ARE all in this together, not only as being on the receiving end of similar attacks, but also because we can work together to help each other. We can work to counter the Right’s message by restoring the public’s understanding and appreciation of COMMUNITY and the value of responsible government.

    How can we do this?

    As I’m sure you know, frame and message development and testing are complex and require skilled professionals. Messaging efforts on behalf of public education will have the greatest effect if linked to broad frames that are developed across sectors, frames that support the value of community and government. And the messaging that supports these values will be most effective if it is delivered by multiple voices, third-party voices that are not strongly identified with public education and other interest groups. It must be coordinated with a long-term strategy.

    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 5:38 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 9, 2012

    Star Trek, Deficits and Why Cutting Government Hurts We, the People!

    Mitt Romney's bullet-point, detail-free, policy-free economic "plan" contains a section on cutting the deficit. What is Romney's approach, and what is the effect on our economy and our lives?

    The Deficit "Crisis"

    Any discussion of the deficit "crisis" should start with this:

    1) January 26, 2000, Clinton to Propose Early Debt Payoff,

    President Clinton said Tuesday that the budget he will send Congress on Feb. 7 will propose paying off the entire $3.6-trillion national debt by 2013--two years earlier than had been expected even a few months ago.

    2) 2001 Alan Greenspan said we needed to pass the Bush tax cuts because we were paying off the debt too quickly.

    3) Bush said it was "incredibly positive news" when the budget turned from surplus to deficit because budget deficits meant there would be pressure to cut entitlements. Bush wanted to continue the "strategic deficits" plan to "starve the beast" that was launched in the Reagan years.

    We were paying off the debt, and then something changed, and now the deficits are enormous. A discussion of the borrowing ought to perhaps, maybe, possibly, understandably, reasonably begin with a look at the causes of the borrowing: tax cuts for the wealthy, huge increases in military spending, and the effects of the financial collapse and jobs emergency. Does Romney's? (Hint: it does the opposite.)

    Romney's Deficit Plan

    Mitt Romney’s Plan For A Stronger Middle Class is a short collection of bullet points, divided into 5 sections. On Cenk's show the other day, he was describing the plan, how it is just a few bullet points with no details, but underneath the bullet points it says "Click here for a bigger copy." So he clicked it and instead of more information, specifics and details it's the same few bullet points, just BIGGER. (By the way if you aren't watching Cenk's show, you're missing out, it is really good. If you have Cable or satellite TV, see if you get Current TV where you live by going here, entering your zip code at the top...)

    Here is the deficit section of Mitt Romney’s Plan For A Stronger Middle Class,

    • Immediately reduce non-security discretionary spending by five percent • Cap federal spending below twenty percent of the economy • Give states responsibility for programs that they can implement more effectively • Consolidate agencies and align compensation of federal workers with their private-sector counterparts

    Reduce "non-security" means don't cut military, homeland security and similar spending. In fact, Romney has proposed to increase military spending.

    Romney does not specify what to cut to reach the 5% figure. But he does elsewhere say he would accomplish this by passing the House budget proposal -- "the Ryan plan" -- which eliminates Medicare and cuts the "safety net."

    Cap federal spending below twenty percent of the economy -- he means federal spending which by the way includes his military spending increases -- is about picking some arbitrary number regardless of the need for government to do certain things.

    By tying spending to GDP this is a plan to cut government exactly when it is needed most -- when GDP falls. If GDP falls dramatically as it did after the financial crisis, "safety net," infrastructure investment and other programs would have to fall dramatically at the very time they are needed to help We, the People and the economy!

    Give states responsibility for programs that they can implement more effectively: means getting programs off of the federal budget and letting states decide if they want to do them. Note that President Obama recently approved changes in "welfare" that opened up flexibility to the states, and the Romney campaign said the President was "gutting" welfare.

    Consolidate agencies and align compensation of federal workers with their private-sector counterparts: means drive down pay and get rid of pensions and other benefits that government workers receive, because Wall Street (and private-equity firms like Romney's) have been able to drive down pay and eliminate pensions and benefit in the private sector,

    Deficit Reduction After He Proposes Cutting Taxes?

    Romney's "Championing Small Business" section of this same plan dramatically cuts taxes on the wealthy. It cuts tax rates another 20% on top of the Bush tax cuts (paid for by raising taxes, fees and costs on 98% of us). It cuts corporate taxes by a third. It eliminates corporate taxes on foreign earnings, encouraging corporations to move profit centers out of the country. It eliminates taxes on income received from having wealthy parents ("death tax"). It eliminates the alternative minimum tax that keeps the rich from using loopholes to avoid all taxes.

    So it is important to note that Romney's promise to reduce deficits follows on the heels of his promise to dramatically increase deficits.

    Shifting, Not Cutting

    When government eliminates a program the need for the program doesn't go away. Either the need is left unaddressed -- a cost to those with the need -- or the cost of addressing that need is shifted from government onto individuals, on their own. This means that the cost to our larger economy is increased, but bearer of that cost is shifted.

    One example of this cost-shifting is what happens if Medicare is cut or eliminated, as Republicans have proposed (and passed in the House.) The need for health care for seniors doesn't go away, but without Medicare the cost is shifted onto the seniors and their families, on their own -- as is the burden of locating and choosing coverage and care. And this means that the cost of that care increases. By shifting Medicare costs from government we are actually increasing medical costs in the larger economy, not eliminating those costs. (One study,"Cost of Medicare Equivalent Insurance Skyrockets under Ryan Plan," says cutting Medicare increases the actual cost sevenfold. This is because the government can negotiate bulk discounts, etc. that we cannot get on our own, and because seniors, on their own without our government handing this will be taken advantage of, especially when they are sick.)

    Cutting government is not just shifting these costs onto each of us, the loss of government's bargaining power means that in the larger economy these costs are magnified, which hurts the economy. They are just shifted from taxpayers onto and at the expense of the larger economy. But why distinguish between taxpayers and the rest of the economy?

    Cutting Government Means Cutting What WE Get From The System

    In our system those who do the best from the economy pay more taxes back. Those taxes are then used to invest in education, science, health, infrastructure, security, courts and the rest of the things that set the stage for the economy to continue and grow. These are the things that are the soil in which businesses thrive, and some of the gains are then put back into that system through taxes. Those becoming wealthy today are doing so out of the soil that We, the People nurtured yesterday.

    Prosperity is what grows out of that soil that nurtures our businesses. It was our mutual contribution as citizens in our democracy that nurtured that soil, and in a democracy we are supposed to see a mutual benefit from that prosperity. WE educated and got educated. WE worked and provided jobs. WE built roads and bridges. WE built the system that creates such great wealth that people can have private jets and many houses. We, the People, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, did ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    Since taxes come out of the benefits of our mutual prosperity -- in other words the wealthy pay more taxes because they get more from the economy -- and government is what We, the People get out of it, then cutting government means that a lesser share of that prosperity goes to We, the People, and an even greater share of that prosperity goes to to top few. In other words, those gaining wealth already get the benefits of society's gains, and then if we cut government they pay less back in taxes for those things that get cut. In other, other words, those things that We, the People do for each other through our government, like Medicare, education, parks, etc., are reduced, so We, the People are getting less back from our system, while those already benefitting from that system by becoming wealthy are paying less back into the system. That is what cutting government means.

    This is the Romney plan for cutting deficits -- We get less so a wealthy few can have even more.

    "These words were written for the Kohms as well!"

    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 1:12 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    August 8, 2012

    What Is The Calculation Behind Romney's Campaign Of Lies?

    The Romney campaign has turned to a strategy of swamping the public with flat-out, blatant lies, one after another, again and again, endlessly and lavishly repeated. They do this because they are making a calculation that it will work! So what is going on? And can democracy survive this assault?

    The Growing List Of Lies

    This week's lie is the "Obama gutted welfare reform" nonsense. See Bill Scher's must-read response, Romney's Welfare Lie: A Betrayal Of Conservatism. The reporting conveys the Romney message, like this: Romney accuses Obama of dismantling welfare reform. The lie is driven home by a massive $$-driven carpet bombing of ads.

    The next-most recent lie was the "Obama is trying to keep military families from voting" lie. This lie, repeated over and over, coordinated with outside groups, reinforces the "Democrats are anti-military" narrative.

    Before that was the "You didn't build that" lie, where the Romney campaign doctored audio to make it sound as though President Obama said something he didn't say. (And got away with it.) This lie, repeated over and over, reinforces the "Democrats are anti-business" narrative.

    This one on welfare reinforces the "Democrats take your money and give it to black people" narrative. "We will end a culture of dependency and restore a culture of good, hard work," said Romney, promising to make them work good and hard.

    Rachel Maddow's blog has been keeping track of the Romney lies, and it is a loooooong list.

    How It Is Done

    Here is how it works. Each lie is developed in the right's machine, using something currently in the news to reinforce an ongoing narrative about "liberals." The lie percolates up through a well-worn process where the germ of the story is planted in smaller outlets, and variations of it are tried out until one seems to resonate. Next, larger right-wing media operations pick up the developed "story" and drive it further. It gets amplified on the radio, FOX News and the right's newspapers. Finally the corporate media takes it out to more and more people, covering themselves with the claim they are just "reporting" on a "story" that is "already out there."

    One way or another the lie is repeated and repeated and repeated (and repeated) in various forms through various channels that reach various target groups, until it becomes a "truth." Once it has become a "truth" the Romney campaign uses this "truth" to claim Democrats and President Obama are harming the country.

    The Solyndra story is a good example. The right developed a lie about "cronyism," claiming that a Democratic donor is "tied to" solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra because a foundation with his name on it was an investor in the company. Because a foundation was the investor there was no possibility for the donor to benefit. But that doesn't matter, they used this "tie" to spread a lie the Obama administration was steering money into someone's pocket, and they repeated it and repeated it and repeated it.

    After months of repetition of this lie, the Romney campaign understood that the lie has become a "truth," and is using that "truth" themselves in campaign ads and Romney's stump speech! Romney talks about "cronyism" in the Obama administration, understanding that much of the public now believes this is established fact.

    The Calculation

    The Romney campaign is limiting media access to the candidate and offering little in the way of substantive policy proposals. They are instead using press releases, advertisements, message-trained surrogates, cooperative media like FOX, Drudge, talk radio, allied newspapers and the right's blogosphere, while coordinating with massively-funded outside groups like Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Foundation and others.

    This is a key thing to get, the Romney campaign believes that they can win this election using lies and propaganda as "truths" to drive their campaign story. They are making the calculation that the right's media machine has become sufficiently powerful for their version of reality to reach enough of the public, and that it is sticking in their minds as "truths!"

    They are also making the calculation -- so far validated by the media response -- that there will be little if any pushback from "mainstream" media. They trust that the media will look the other way, report lies as "one side says X, the other says Y," tell the public "both sides do it," and say this is just par for the course.

    But if there is media resistance, they are calculating that the right's own media power can override any pushback that might come. They might also believe they can turn media resistance to their advantage. Decades have been spent convincing their followers to see potentially objective information sources as "the liberal media," enemy of conservatism, and any pushback for lying could just increase support for their campaign.

    So the Romney campaign, like the recent Bush administration, are conscious that they do not need to work with facts. Instead they believe they can "create truth" through the manipulation of perception. This is hardly new in Repubican circles. The phrase "reality-based community" came out of the previous Republican administration's calculations of what the public will and won't learn about. This famous quote from Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush by Ron Suskind, explains,

    The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

    What Does The Public "Know?"

    If you are reading this you are likely very well-informed. You pay attention to the mainstream news, as well as read various progressive sources. But much of the public is not very well-informed, and faces the problem of not knowing what sources to trust. Subjected to a constant battering of corporate/conservative propaganda and disinformation, they are busy, and not ready or able to do the extensive research needed to make informed decisions.

    Progressives and "liberals" try to solve this problem by trying to help people get informed. Conservatives, however, try to use it to their advantage, spreading self-serving misinformation.

    The well-funded propagandists study and understand the shorthand methods people use to determine what to believe. This is the reason for the ongoing attacks on the credibility of what would normally be seen as trustworthy sources, like PBS, NPR and what the rest of what has been disparaged for decades as "the liberal media." This is also the reason for the establishment of so many corporate-funded conservative "institutes" and other academic and authoritative-sounding organizations that issue "studies" and "reports" that always echo the corporate-conservative positions.

    The "mainstream" corporate media has also undergone a change over recent decades. Many outlets now see themselves as businesses with a product that has to appeal to "the market" to make money. They no longer see their mission to be informing the public so citizens have the information that is needed to function in a democracy, but instead as "maximizing shareholder return," by "driving traffic" and whatever else it takes to sell advertising. And many people working as "journalists" understand that advancing their own careers means not making waves by being perceived as "leftist" or "anti-business."

    The Test

    Steve Benen calls this a "test for the political world," writing,

    How are we to respond to a campaign that deliberately deceives the public without shame? This lie about welfare policy comes on the heels of Romney's lie about voting rights in Ohio, which came on the heels of Romney's lies about the economy; which came on the heels of Romney's lies about health care; which came on the heels of Romney's lies about taxes.

    The Republican nominee for president is working under the assumption that he can make transparently false claims, in writing and in campaign advertising, with impunity. Romney is convinced that there are no consequences for breathtaking dishonesty.

    The test, then, comes down to a simple question: is he right?

    This is a test for the political world, as well as a challenge to the viability of our democratic system. We can expect this to continue and accelerate until election day, driven by hundreds of millions of dollars from billionaires and their huge corporations. The question is, will enough of our misinformed public be tricked by the lies? If this succeeds, what kind of country will we become? What will be left?

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

    July 30, 2012

    Another New York Times Columnist Attack On Social Security And Medicare

    The New York Times contains another elite-columnist attack on our Social Security and Medicare systems today. This time it's in the form of an op-ed by Bill Keller. Recently and regularly, New York Times columnists David Brooks and Tom Friedman have also gone after the things We, the People do for each other.

    First, The Basics Of The Borrowing

    Any discussion of our deficit/debt "crisis" must start with a few quick points about the history of the "crisis":

    1) January 26, 2000, Clinton to Propose Early Debt Payoff,

    President Clinton said Tuesday that the budget he will send Congress on Feb. 7 will propose paying off the entire $3.6-trillion national debt by 2013--two years earlier than had been expected even a few months ago.

    2) 2001 Alan Greenspan said we needed to pass the Bush tax cuts because we were paying off the debt too quickly.

    3) Bush said it was "incredibly positive news" when the budget turned from surplus to deficit because budget deficits meant there would be pressure to cut entitlements. Bush wanted to continue the "strategic deficits" plan to "starve the beast" that was launched in the Reagan years.

    Republicans are following a decades-old shock-doctrine plan:


    • Use tax cuts and military spending increases to create terrible deficits that add up to massive debt,

    • Then use the resulting "debt crisis" to scare people (esp elites like Keller, Brooks and Friedman) into cutting democratic government and our ability to control the billionaires and their corporations.

    But cutting government doesn't mean the costs go away, it means that we each have to bear those costs ourselves, on our own, without the help of the rest of us. This is really about cutting democracy so the very rich can be even very-richer.

    The Attack

    With that out of the way, let us now turn to the latest elite attack on entitlements -- those things We, the People are entitled to: the fruits of the prosperity that democracy brings us.

    In a NY Times op-ed, The Entitled Generation, Bill Keller writes about the "bloat" of projected entitlement spending, blaming "baby boomers" for future budget shortfalls, because they will need to retire without living in absolute poverty, and get health care.

    He writes that because budget cuts have us spending less than we should on infrastructure investment, therefore we should also spend less on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. "In 1962 ... [a]bout 32 cents of every federal dollar, excluding interest payments, was spent on investments, only 14 percent on entitlements. In the mid-70s the lines crossed. Today we spend less than 15 cents on investment and 46 cents on entitlements. "

    Keller writes, "So the question is not whether entitlements have to be brought under control, but how. " (These greedy seniors don't understand that the situation has changed -- we have cut taxes for the very wealthy and increased our military spending to prevent the Soviet Union from invading. Who do they think they are?)

    Finally, ignoring the People's Budget, the Budget For All, the Schakowsky Deficit Reduction Plan and all the other sensible budget plans that have been proposed by progressives, Keller writes, "At least the Republicans have a plan. The Democrats generally recoil from the subject of entitlements."

    Keller praises "bipartisan authors of the Simpson-Bowles report" -- even though there was no "Simpson-Bowles report." The commission couldn't come to agreement and issued no report. As for the "bipartisan" Simpson and Bowles, he is referring to former Republican Senator Alan Simpson, and member of the Board of Directors of Morgan Stanley Erskine Bowles. (Please click the link.) ("Bipartisan" as used by elites like Keller apparently refers to even and odd numbered addresses on Wall Street -- the crowd that gets the money if our Social Security system is dismantled.)

    Social Security

    Our Social Security system is critical to human beings and our economy, just like hospitals, highways, schools and power plants. It is a core institution, used by everyone, and is absolutely vital in most people's lives. It is the foundation of our retirement security. It is our most basic protection for our families if we become disabled or die.

    Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research explains just how crucial our Social Security system is to the lives of so many of us, in Bill Keller Wants to Take Away Your Social Security and Is Either Too Ignorant or Dishonest to Acknowledge that He Is Not a Typical Baby Boomer,

    Does Keller know that the typical near retiree has total wealth of $170,000. This includes everything in their 401(k), all their other financial assets and the equity in their homes. Another way to put this is that the typical near retiree (between the ages of 55-64) could take all their wealth and pay off their mortgage. After that they would be entirely dependent on their Social Security to cover all their living costs.

    In other words, half of near-retirees have less than that so they depend on Social Security even more than that.

    We built and paid for our Social Security system. Each generation has done its part to maintain the system's foundations for over 75 years, and it has only become stronger. If the middle class can’t count on Social Security in their retirement years, what can it count on?

    Social Security is a far safer bet than any other retirement savings available. It is vastly safer than a 401K, which is available only to a few anyway, and can disappear overnight. Corporate raiders can take your pension plan. You can't even count on a pension plan if you are a public employee. House prices can go up or down. But Social Security is always there for us. Even the most sophisticated investors can lose everything, but you can't lose your Social Security. Social Security is the one retirement system that really works.

    Social Security is the most successful government program, and that is why so many elites hate it!

    Medicare And Medicaid

    A government budget cut is really like a huge tax increase on regular people because it increases what each of us pays for the things government does -- or forces us to go without. This is because cuts in government spending don’t actually cut the cost of things, they just shift those costs onto each of us on our own.

    For example, if you cut the the government's Medicare or Medicaid budget our health problems don’t disappear, but each of us has to find ways to pay the cost of medical care or a nursing home on our own, with no help, often at a time when we are stressed by illness.

    In Cost of Medicare Equivalent Insurance Skyrockets under Ryan Plan the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) explains what happens to the cost of health care if Medicare is eliminated. Summary: it shifts the costs to us, except each of us ends up paying seven times as much as the same care costs under Medicare. This is because Medicare covers millions, and that economy-of-scale means the government can negotiate bulk discounts, etc. that we cannot get on our own. From the CEPR explanation:

    [The Republican] plan to revamp Medicare has been described as shifting costs from the government to beneficiaries. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), however, shows that the [Republican] proposal will increase health care costs for seniors by more than seven dollars for every dollar it saves the government, a point missing from much of the debate over the plan.

    ... In addition to comparing the costs of Medicare to the government under the current system and under the [Republican] plan, the authors also show the effects of raising the age of Medicare eligibility. The paper also demonstrates that while [the 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 ...

    Our health problems won’t disappear just because government cuts out Medicare and Medicaid. But the costs of treating – or not treating – those health problems will now fall on us, individually, on our own, instead of aggregated through the mechanism of democracy. And that is money that would otherwise be spent elsewhere in the economy.

    The Money

    So where do we get the money to pay our bills, if not from the things We, the People do for each other? Get the money from where the money went.

    Start by ending the Bush tax cuts! The Bush tax cuts not only cut marginal tax rates for the wealthy, they cut taxes on capital gains and dividends -- money you get just for having money. And it dramatically cut the tax on income inherited from wealthy parents -- more money that one gets just because one already has money! But ending the Bush tax cuts is just a start.

    Reagan dramatically increased the military budget: In 1980, before Reagan, the Defense Department budget was $134 billion, by 1989 it was $303 billion. But that was nothing. In 2000, before 'W' Bush, it was $294 billion. By 2008 it was $616 billion. But that doesn't count military-related items outside of the Defense Department. Depending on how interest debt is applied, total military spending is between $1 and $1.4 trillion. (And, by the way, wars are expensive.) ("Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes." –Tom DeLay)

    Fix health care. Today Mitt Romney praised the way that Israel's socialized health care system keeps costs low. WaPo: Romney praises health care in Israel, where ‘strong government influence’ has driven down costs,

    He praised Israel for spending just 8 percent of its GDP on health care and still remaining a “pretty healthy nation.”

    “Our gap with Israel [on health spending] is 10 points of GDP,” Romney said. “We have to find ways, not just to provide health care to more people, but to find ways to fund and manage our health care costs.”

    ... Israel created a national health care system in 1995, largely funded through payroll and general tax revenue. The government provides all citizens with health insurance: They get to pick from one of four competing, nonprofit plans. Those insurance plans have to accept all customers—including people with pre-existing conditions—and provide residents with a broad set of government-mandated benefits.

    Get the economy moving again. Jeeze, instead of saying because we stopped investing in infrastructure therefore we need to cut other things, how about investing in infrastructure? We have millions of jobs that need to ing and millions of people looking for jobs. And we can finance it for free. The payoff will be enormous, all those people no longer needing unemployment and food stamps, all those people and construction companies paying taxes again, and the resulting economic growth cutting the debt-to-GDP ratio.

    Don't Be Fooled By Elites Hating On Entitlements

    Don't be fooled: this is really about shifting from democracy to a system where we are on our own, up against the wealthy and powerful. This is about shifting from a system where we can all be prosperous to a system where a few have all the wealth and power.

    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 10:55 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 26, 2012

    Urgent, Must-See, Must Spread!

    Please watch this, visit their page, and email this to everyone you know, including your right-wing brother-in-law: The Story of Change / The Story of Stuff Project:

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 14, 2012

    We, the People

    We, the People are supposed to be in charge. Why would we allow an economic system that don't serve We, the People? Why allow businesses that don't pay well, make things that last, provide service and pay back taxes to cover the infrastructure that supports our businesses?

    Why would we allow corporations whose only purpose is "to make money for shareholders"? What kind of We, the People system would ever allow that?

    Who is our economy for?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:23 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    June 1, 2012

    Deficit Scare Is Shock-Doctrine Scam

    The deficit scare is about stampeding people into giving up what they have. It is about handing over democracy to the 1%.

    Krugman, The Austerity Agenda.

    So the austerity drive ... isn’t really about debt and deficits at all; it’s about using deficit panic as an excuse to dismantle social programs.

    ... The big question here is whether the evident failure of austerity to produce an economic recovery will lead to a “Plan B.” Maybe. But my guess is that even if such a plan is announced, it won’t amount to much. For economic recovery was never the point; the drive for austerity was about using the crisis, not solving it. And it still is.

    Have you noticed that people who are screaming up the terror over deficits are the very same people demanding tax cuts for the rich, no cuts in military, cuts in the minimum wage, selling off public assets, etc?

    These people just say stuff, they just lie. They have their own agenda, and it is about tricking people and enriching themselves. Don't listen, never even give them the time of day.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:11 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 31, 2012

    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.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:42 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

    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:


    • Labor rights: Will the Trans-Pacific FTA include labor standards based on International Labor Organization conventions, and if included, how will they be enforced?
    • Investment Provisions: Will the Trans-Pacific FTA include so-called “investor-state” provisions that allow individual corporations to challenge environmental, consumer and other public interest policies as barriers to trade?
    • Public Procurement: Will the Trans-Pacific FTA respect nations’ and communities’ right to set purchasing preferences that keep taxpayer dollars re-circulating in local economies?
    • Access to Medicines: Will the Trans-Pacific FTA allow governments to produce and/or obtain affordable, generic medications for sick people?
    • Agriculture: Will the Trans-Pacific FTA allow countries to ensure that farmers and farm workers are fairly compensated, while also preventing the agricultural dumping that has forced so many family farmers off their land?

    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

    April 24, 2012

    1% Vs 99% Battle Comes To GE Detroit Shareholder Meeting Tomorrow

    I'm in Michigan to cover the GE shareholder meeting tomorrow. I grew up in Michigan and have to say that Mitt Romney was exactly right that the trees here really are the right size. The look of the houses, the layout of the roads, the birds, everything feels right. Of course, my wife grew up in England, and she says that the trees in England are the right size. (She also says the beer there is better -- and she's right.)

    I grew up in Michigan. My family was in Michigan because my grandfather worked in what is now called "Carriage Town" in Flint in the days of Dort and Durant and Nash and the rest of the early auto company industrialists. (No he didn't get stock.) He fought in the first world war, and considered himself an American. Later he was an executive at different companies, living outside of Detroit. In WWII he and a number of other auto company executives went to work in Washington for $1 a year, because they felt it was their patriotic duty. Later, when Eisenhower was President he went to work in the government, and considered it public service.

    My grandfather was a proud Republican, and even spoke at Rotary Club events. He worked under and was a friend of Mitt's dad George, another auto executive. I found a speech online where he said he felt that big corporations should be taxed more to incentivize formation and competition of smaller, innovative companies and said they they create more jobs. I know he agreed that we need a high top tax rate (it was over 90% when he was in the Eisenhower administration), that the revenue should be used to invest in infrastructure because it is the soil in which businesses grow and prosper. He believed in his country and in investing in this country and in the importance of making things in America.

    "Bean-Counters" Take Over, Sacrifice Long-Term

    Later on the auto companies went in a different direction. Bob Lutz, former vice-Chair of GM is a "car guy" and a conservative. In his recent book Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business Lutz wrote about how the MBA and finance types took over management from the "gar guys" and didn't care about design, product quality, customer satisfaction -- only about money, and really only short-term money even if it meant sacrificing the company in the long term.

    The "bean counters" took over more than just the car companies, they took over company after company, industry after industry. And they sacrificed more than just their companies to short-term profits. When they closed factories, as documented in Michael Moore's Roger & Me, the community of Flint, Michigan was devastated when GM closed car factories there. This was back 1989 and presaged the tsunami that was coming. As I wrote about in 2010, the movement of more and more manufacturing out of the country wiped out the midwest and other regions, and the resulting loss of jobs and wages combined with the huge trade deficit helped lead to the financial crisis and current "jobless recovery."

    On My Way To Detroit

    I stayed in Flint last night and am writing this from a coffee ship in downtown Pontiac on the way to Detroit. I mentioned "carriage town" in Flint - the little area which incubated much of our automotive industry and with it the Midwest's manufacturing prosperity. Today the area is neglected. The original buildings at least have historical markers, but the area is relatively deserted, several houses in the area are boarded up, with vacant lots where the city has cleared derelicts. The roads are not in good shape, there are many empty storefronts, roadside businesses, offices and manufacturing facilities. The city has lost and is losing population, and has been taken over by Michigan's anti-democracy "emergency manager" law. ("If you people won't sell off your assets to private interests, cut public employee pay and pensions, cut back on the things democracy does for citizens, etc., and other "reforms" that enrich the 1%, then we'll just take over and make it happen and you don't get a say.)

    Downtown Pontiac is one more of so many examples of the devastation of our country's communities by the short-term-profit, long-term-collapse mentality of America's ruling elites. We drove by closed factories, boarded-up stores and houses, and sit in a little coffee shop - one of the few remaining businesses in the "downtown."

    GE Shareholder Meeting Tomorrow -- 1% vs 99%

    The 1% vs 99% clash comes to Detroit tomorrow. The GE shareholder meeting takes place in that city tomorrow, and while it is going on inside, outside people will be making their voices heard with nonviolent protests. GE brings to light the the battle between short-term-gain-for-a-few vs long-term health of the communities and economy of the rest of us.

    GE has made billions in profits, but paid zero federal income taxes from 2008 to 2010. Over the last ten years, GE’s effective tax rate has been 2.3%. In 2010 alone, the top five GE executives received $75.9 million. Just five people. Over the last three years, GE's executives collected $234 million.

    Since 2008, GE has spent more on DC lobbyists than it paid in taxes. GE spent $84.35 million on lobbyists from 2008-2010.

    The cause of our terrible economic inequality is clear: the 1% have too much power, and use that power to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us -- the 99%. Since 2008, at least thirty big American corporations reported big profits and paid their CEOs excessively while laying off workers and spending more on Washington lobbyists than they paid in taxes. In fact, 100 of the Fortune 500’s most profitable companies received average tax refunds of 2%.

    Tomorrow in Detroit, people are taking it straight to the top of GE.

    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 11:21 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.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:05 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.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:51 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.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:03 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 21, 2012

    We, The People Have To Say, "No You Can't Do That"

    In Will We Choose A Chinese Future, David Sirota asks the core question: "Do we accept an economic competition that asks us to emulate China?" THIS is the choice that the "job creators" are demanding that we make when they say we need to be more "business friendly." THIS is what they are asking us to do to ourselves when they say that less government, less regulation, lower taxes, anti-union "right-to-work" laws, and the rest of the corporate-conservative litany is what will restore the economy and "create jobs."

    We, the People have to say, "No, you can't do that."

    It's Not Low Wages, It's Low Democracy

    The reason so many factories have moved to China is not just price, it is because they do things a democracy cannot allow. Steve Jobs famously said, "Those jobs aren't coming back," because over there they make people live in dormatories at the factory and can roust them at midnight and make them work 12-14 hour days, seven days a week, using toxic chemicals. Richard Eslow lays it out in, Hell Is Cheaper: China, Apple, And The Economics Of Horror,

    Companies like Apple don't outsource to China because the workforce is better-educated or more highly motivated. They don't even outsource just because the labor is cheaper there. They outsource because employers who defraud their workers can make products more cheaply, and those who ignore their safety can produce them more quickly. [...] It's possible that Steve Jobs and other outsourcing executives really think that "those jobs aren't coming back" because they expect it will always be impossible to underbid the Chinese - because they don't believe Chinese workers will ever be protected by law.

    That's the inexorable logic of the unrestrained and unregulated market. If things don't change, there will be no stopping the outflow of employment from the safe and the stable to the cheated, the endangered, and the abused. Bad ethics drives out good ethics.

    Jobs is saying that those jobs and companies and factories are not coming back because over there the workers can be forced to do those things, because they don't have a say. They don't have We, the People democracy like we do, so they can't do anything about it. And our trade agreements allow our companies to close our factories here and force our workers to compete with that.

    We can’t ever be “business-friendly” ENOUGH. We have to do something else. We have to understand that We, the People -- the 99% -- are in a real fight here to keep our democracy, or we will lose what is left of it.

    We, the People have to say, "No, you can't do that." We have to say it to the companies that move jobs to China, where people have no say and are exploited. And we have to say that goods made by people with no say cannot be brought into our country without a strong tariff. We should use the funds brought in by that tariff to subsidize goods made here so they can compete in world markets. Otherwise we are making democracy into a competitive disadvantage. And if countries like China don't like it, they can give their people a say, pay them decent wages, and protect their environment. That would be a race to the top instead of the current race to the bottom.

    The Climate Change Denial Industry

    Oil and coal companies are funding a "denial industry" to keep us from doing what needs to be done to rescue the planet's climate. They make billions upon billions from pumping carbon into the air, and block efforts to cut back their polluting. Modeled after the tobacco denial industry and its "doubt is our product" strategy, they fight efforts to move us to green energy sources. They even direct their propaganda to attack electric cars and high-speed rail.

    We, the People have to say, "No, you can't do that."

    The Too-Big Banks

    It's the same story with the biggest banks. They pushed debt on us. They used their power to gut regulations and then took huge risks that crashed the economy. They demanded taxpayer money to rescue them without even cutting back the huge salaries and bonuses. And then they funded propaganda that blamed us, the poor, the government, public employees, unions -- anyone but themselves. And they used their vast power and wealth to block investigations and accountability, forcing "settlements" that make their shareholders and their employees and their customers pay.

    We, the People have to say, "No, you can't do that."

    Other Examples

    There are many, many other examples of wealthy, powerful interests - "the 1%" - using their wealth and power to make us do things that benefit themselves at the expense of the rest of us. And as this continues life for "the 99%" gets harder and bleaker and we fall further and further behind.

    In all of these example We, the People have to say, "No, you can't do that."

    That's What Government Is

    Government is We, the People banding together to watch out for and take care of each other. Government is We, the People saying to the wealthy and powerful, "No, you can't do that."

    When the1%ers demand "less government" they are using their power and propaganda to force us into a position where we are less able to say to them, "No, you can't do that."

    We, the People have to say, "No, you can't do that." Until we do, they will do that, and that, and 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 12:59 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 15, 2012

    China Is Very "Business-Friendly"

    China is very, very "business-friendly." Corporate conservatives lecture us that we should be more "business-friendly," in order to "compete" with China. They say we need to cut wages and benefits, work longer hours, get rid of overtime and sick pay -- even lunch breaks. They say we should shed unions, get rid of environmental and safety regulations, gut government services, and especially, especially, especially we should cut taxes. But America can never be "business-friendly" enough to compete with China, and here is why.

    Workers In Dormatories, 12 To A Room, Rousted At Midnight

    China is very, very "business friendly." Recent stories about Apple's manufacturing contractors have started to reveal just how "business-friendly" China is. Recently the NY Times' Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher exposed the conditions of workers at Apple's Chinese suppliers, in How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work. They describe how China's massive government subsidies and exploitation of workers mean, as Steve Jobs told President Obama, “Those jobs aren’t coming back.”

    One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. ... New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

    A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

    “The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

    Right. No American plant can roust workers out of nearby dorms at midnight to force them onto a 12-hour shift. And the corporate conservatives criticize America for this, not China, saying we are not "business-friendly" enough to compete. This is because we are a place where We, the People still have at least some say in how things are done. (Don't we?) Later in the story,

    The first truckloads of cut glass arrived at Foxconn City in the dead of night, according to the former Apple executive. That’s when managers woke thousands of workers, who crawled into their uniforms — white and black shirts for men, red for women — and quickly lined up to assemble, by hand, the phones.

    “Business-friendly” = living 12 to a room in dorms, rousted out of bed at midnight for 12-hour shifts, working in a plant paid for by the government, using a neurotoxin cleaner that harms people but enables more production for companies like Apple.

    Forced Labor Is The Real "Business-Friendly"

    Arun Gupta at AlterNet, in iEmpire: Apple's Sordid Business Practices Are Even Worse Than You Think, writes,

    Researchers with the Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) say that legions of vocational and university students, some as young as 16, are forced to take months'-long “internships” in Foxconn’s mainland China factories assembling Apple products. The details of the internship program paint a far more disturbing picture than the Times does of how Foxconn, “the Chinese hell factory,” treats its workers, relying on public humiliation, military discipline, forced labor and physical abuse as management tools to hold down costs and extract maximum profits for Apple.

    ... Foxconn and Apple depend on tax breaks, repression of labor, subsidies and Chinese government aid, including housing, infrastructure, transportation and recruitment, to fatten their corporate treasuries. As the students function as seasonal employees to meet increased demand for new product rollouts, Apple is directly dependent on forced labor.

    ... The use of hundreds of thousands of students is one way in which China’s state regulates labor in the interests of Foxconn and Apple. Other measures include banning independent unions and enforcing a household registration system that denies migrants social services and many political rights once they leave their home region, ensuring they can be easily exploited. In Shenzhen about 85 percent of the 14 million residents are migrants. Migrants work on average 286 hours a month and earn less than 60 percent of what urban workers make. Half of migrants are owed back wages and only one in 10 has health insurance. They are socially marginalized, live in extremely crowded and unsanitary conditions, perform the most dangerous and deadly jobs, and are more vulnerable to crime.

    Please read the entire AlterNet piece, iEmpire: Apple's Sordid Business Practices Are Even Worse Than You Think. These things are not “costs” that we can compete with by lowering our wages, these things are something else.

    Not JUST Low Taxes -- Massive Government Subsidies

    These stories also describe how the Chinese government massively subsidizes these operations, assists their low-wage labor-recruitment schemes, and looks the other way at violations of labor and trade policies. The Chinese government is very "business-friendly." They hand money to businesses so they are much more able to "compete." They are so friendly to business that they even own many businesses.

    Trade Secret Theft

    Another area where China has very "business-friendly" policies is when their own businesses steal from non-Chinese businesses. This NY Times story, U.S. to Share Cautionary Tale of Trade Secret Theft With Chinese Official details just one case of the "unbelievably endemic" problem of Chinese theft of "intellectual property" -- the trade secrets that keep businesses competitive. In this case China's Sinovel sole the software that ran an American company's products, and immediately cancelled their orders for those products because they could now make them in China:

    Last March, China’s Sinovel, the world’s second largest wind turbine manufacturer, abruptly refused shipments of American Superconductor’s wind turbine electrical systems and control software. The blow was devastating; Sinovel provided more than 70 percent of the firm’s revenues.

    ... Last summer, evidence emerged that Sinovel had promised $1.5 million to Dejan Karabasevic, a Serbian employee of American Superconductor in Austria.

    If you steal the ideas, processes, techniques, expertise, plans, designs, software and the other things that give companies a competitive edge, then you don't have to pay them and you can just make the things yourself. When you get in bed with a very "business-friendly" country, you might find that they are more friendly to their own businesses. Because they consider themselves to be a country with a national strategy, not a self-balancing, self-regulating "market."

    Trade Deficit Drains Our Economy

    As a result of our ideological blindness, refusing to understand China's game, we have a massive trade deficit with them. This means hundreds of billions of dollars are drained from our economy, year after year. And to make up for this we borrow from them in order to keep buying from them. But this does not cause their currency to strengthen in the "markets" because China loves this game the way it is going, and intervenes against the markets to keep their currency low. And so it continues, year after year. We believe in "markets" they believe in rigging markets so they come out ahead...

    Markets Can't "Compete" With This

    Corporate conservatives tell us we need to be more "business-friendly" to "compete" with China. But at the same time Steve Jobs was being a realist when he said "the jobs are never coming back" because he understood that the current political climate, controlled by a wealthy few who benefit from China's "business-friendly" policies will not let us fight this. Why should these companies bring jobs back here, when over there they can roust thousands from dorms at midnight and make them use toxic chemicals for 12 hours a day for very low pay to make iPhone screens that he can sell at fantastically high prices? Why should they, unless We, the People tell them they can't do that to people, and that we won't let them profit from it?

    As long as we continue to think that this is about "markets" competing, we will lose. China sees itself as a nation, and they have a national strategy to continue to be so "business-friendly" that our businesses can't compete. Our leaders and corporations may have "moved on" past this quaint nation thing but China has not.

    We, The People Need To Act To Fix This

    As long as we continue to send our companies out there alone against national economic strategies that engage entire national systems utilizing the resources of nations, our companies will lose. But the executives at those companies are currently getting very rich now from these schemes, so what happens in the future is not their problem. Maybe the companies they manage won't be around later, but that is not their problem. Others are concerned, but are forced to play the game because no one can compete with national systems like China's.

    When everyone is in a position where something isn't their problem, or where they can't do anything about it on their own, it means this is a larger problem, and this is where government -- We, the People -- needs to get involved. It is our problem but we have been convinced that we -- government -- shouldn't interfere, or "protect" our industries, because "the markets" don't like "government" -- We, the People -- butting in. This is a very convenient viewpoint for few who are geting very, very wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.

    We Need A Plan

    In U.S. must end China's rulers' free pass at Politico, AAM's Scott Paul writes, Read it, read it, read it!)

    We shouldn’t fear China’s citizens. But we should be worried about the actions of its authoritarian — and, yes, still communist — regime that tightly controls the People’s Republic. And we should be downright terrified by some of our own leaders’ attitudes toward China.

    ... China is not merely the key U.S. supplier of cheap toys, clothing and electronics: Its government is also one of our foreign financiers. China achieved this status by defying the free market and its international obligations toward more open trade and investment.

    [. . .] History didn’t do in the Soviet Union. A sustained and aggressive strategy did. China engaged our business and political elites — and seduced them into believing these policies were no longer necessary.

    ... There has been no strategy, no effort to prevail economically.

    ... No one is suggesting that China is an enemy and we should just update our Cold War strategies. No one can accurately define what China’s intentions are in terms of foreign policy or defense. But on the economic front, the lessons of the past are instructive: We need a plan.

    We need a plan. We need to understand that China is not competing with us in "markets' they are competing with us as a nation. We need a national economic/industrial strategy that understands the urgent need to fight as a country to win the industries of the future.

    It’s not just price, it is things a democracy cannot allow. We can’t ever be “business-friendly” ENOUGH. We have to do something else. We have to understand that We, the People -- the 99% -- are in a real fight here to keep our democracy, or we will lose what is left of it.

    Democracy Is The Best Economics

    When people have a say they demand good wages, benefits, reasonable working conditions, a clean environment, workplace safety and dignity on the job. We need more of that, not less of that. We must demand that goods made in places where people who do not have a say do not have a competitive advantage over goods made in places where people do have a say. And we must demand that those places give their people a say.

    As long as we let democracy be a competitive disadvantage, We, the People will lose.


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

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 9, 2012

    Producers Vs. Moochers, Freeloaders And Losers -- The Cruel Pro-Rich Propaganda Of The Right

    "Producers" and "parasites." Cruel language justifying extreme greed seems to be mainstream now. Even Presidential candidates feel free to disparage 99% of us! In today's right-wing folklore government by We, the People is an evil thing that takes from "producers" and gives to "moochers," "freeloaders," and "losers." Government and taxes "take money out of the economy." Decision-making by We, the People is "collectivism" and "mob rule." And those of us who think the insanely wealthy should pay fair taxes suffer from "envy."

    In today's discourse wealthy elites receiving $20 million a year in “capital gains” while paying almost no taxes are “producers,” while janitors or nursing home workers, working two jobs and not making enough to pay rent and feed themselves, are “moochers” and “freeloaders.” Right.

    This email came in to CAF yesterday, (see also Richard Eskow's take on it, John Galt Is A Crybaby And So Are You)

    I am really curios to know what motivates the mind of a socialist. Why do you think its fair to penalize those of us who produce while rewarding those who do not? If healthcare should be a right then where does it stop? Could one not use the same argument that everyone has a right to free housing? A free car? Perhaps free air travel? Who will pay for all this? What happens when the government has exhausted the money acquired from the producers? I have a feeling producers will stop producing if the government is just going to take it. Again, I ask why should the people who produced be punished to reward free loaders?

    Actually, a right to housing, health care and decent transportation sound like the kind of things that proud citizens in a democracy ought to demand, if you ask me.

    The Ayn Rand Poison

    This email and others like it echo the language of the novels of Ayn Rand, which so many Republican politicians today embrace. The people writing them are disciples of Ayn Rand. They used to be teenagers who resented being told to clean their rooms; now they are grownups who don’t want to be told to pay their taxes. Republicans have enthusiastically embraced the poison of Ayn Rand, its justification of psychopathic greed and selfishness, along with her belief that altruism and democracy are "evil."

    This Ayn-Randian idea that there are two kinds of people, "producers" and "parasites," is reflected across the language of the right today. The wealthy "producers" are "job creators" Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, for example, regularly echoes this core philosophy of "producers" and "parasites," saying,

    I believe raising taxes on the very people that we expect to reinvest in our economy and to hire people is the wrong idea,” he said. “For those people to give that money to the government…means it wont get reinvested in our economy at a time when we’re trying to create jobs.”

    "The very people" who "hire people" shouldn't have to pay taxes because that money is then taken out of the productive economy and just given to the parasites -- "the help" -- meaning you and me...

    Who Is The Real Freeloader?

    With the release of his (but for some reason only the most recent) tax returns we learned that Mitt Romney collects over $20 million a year, while doing nothing, from the many millions he was able to get control of by stripping companies and laying people off or making them take huge pay cuts and loss of benefits. 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.

    According to the cruel language of the right, those workers are "losers." If they need to get unemployment or food stamps they are "parasites" and "freeloaders" who are "asking for handouts." When old, they will need the Social Security and Medicare they paid into all their lives, more "handouts." People like Romney says these "entitlements" -- the things we are entitled to as citizens in a democracy -- are "draining the economy."

    Mitt Romney says government is the culprit, not people like him who show up and strip our jobs, factories, companies, industries and economy. Romney, who pays very little in taxes on the $20-plus million he receives in "capital gains" every year, wrote in a December USA Today op-ed titled, What kind of society does America want? that the very existence of government itself costs the economy jobs, writing, "With the growth of government has come an inevitable contraction of the private sphere." Romney writes that programs like Social Security and Medicare are examples of "government dependency." And, finally, he writes, "Government dependency can only foster passivity and sloth."

    Right. Mitt Romney, producer -- who receives $20-plus million a year for not working -- as contrasted with the "losers" who work two jobs at minimum wage, making so little they need food stamps just to get by. (They used to make more, but Mitt Romney came to town, buying the company they worked for, chopping it up and sending the parts they don't sell to China, laying them off or cutting their wages in half, and taking their health care and pension.)

    The Dependency Index

    The conservative Heritage Foundation has published an "Index of Dependence on Government," saying we have "unsustainable increases in dependent populations." Heritage writes that, "Americans are haunted by the specter of enormously growing mountains of debt that suck the economic and social vitality out of this country."

    Heritage fails to mention that we were paying off the nation's debt before Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy. In fact, at the rate we were paying off the debt when Clinton was President the entire US debt would have been paid off by now. Except for those tax cuts for the wealthy. But according to Heritage, the problem is not wealthy people paying very low taxes, it is humans who have human needs who are a "a potentially ruinous drain on federal finances."

    Please take a look at Heritage's "dependency index." Social Security is "government dependence." Medicare is "government dependence." And on and on. Heritage says nothing about the huge, bloated, corrupt, enormous, massive, ginormous military budget -- that doubled under Bush. Heritage says nothing about the incredible subsidies government provides to oil and coal companies. Heritage says nothing about the cost of all of the tax cuts handed out to the wealthiest since the Reagan era. Nothing at all.

    Heritage says that We, the People doing things for each other "encourages dependence." They talk about people as if they are squirrels. Like building the interstate highway system encourages dependence or having good public schools encourages dependence or a pension after a life of hard work encourages dependence or public health programs that keep epidemics from spreading encourages dependence or giving vaccines to children encourages dependence or, I guess, in the old days helping a neighbor put up a barn encouraged dependence.

    It is the Romneys, getting their $20-million-plus checks for doing nothing -- the "gains" from stripping our economy and sending our jobs to China -- who are dependent. Not the people that the Romneys threw out of work or cut their pay in half. Not the people working two jobs yet not making enough to pay rent and get enough to eat. The real "producers" in our economy are the 99%, the people who work, not the1%er "parasites" who use their wealth and power and connections to game the system and reap vast "gains."


    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 1:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    January 27, 2012

    Democracy V. Plutocracy, Unions V. Servitude

    Servitude: "a condition in which one lacks liberty especially to determine one's course of action or way of life"

    Democracy: "a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections"

    Plutocracy: government by the wealthy

    Labor union: an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members' interests in respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions

    You may have seen the recent flurry of stories about how hi-tech products are made in China. The stories focus on Apple, but it isn't just Apple. These stories of exploited Chinese workers are also the story of how and why we -- 99% of us, anyway -- are all feeling such a squeeze here, because we are suffering the disappearance of our middle class. Our choice is democracy or servitude.

    Working In China

    A collection of excerpts from the Charles Duhigg and David Barboza story, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad and the Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher story, How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work both from the NY Times:

    Rousted from dorms at midnight, told to work:

    Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

    A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

    “Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.”

    Banners on the walls warned the 120,000 employees: “Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.”

    (How close is that to the very definition of servitude?)

    Long shifts, legs swollen from standing:

    Shifts ran 24 hours a day, and the factory was always bright. At any moment, there were thousands of workers standing on assembly lines or sitting in backless chairs, crouching next to large machinery, or jogging between loading bays. Some workers’ legs swelled so much they waddled. “It’s hard to stand all day,” said Zhao Sheng, a plant worker.

    Write confessions if late:

    Mr. Lai was soon spending 12 hours a day, six days a week inside the factory, according to his paychecks. Employees who arrived late were sometimes required to write confession letters and copy quotations. There were “continuous shifts,” when workers were told to work two stretches in a row, according to interviews.

    Injuries from speed-up toxics:

    Investigations by news organizations revealed that over a hundred employees had been injured by n-hexane, a toxic chemical that can cause nerve damage and paralysis.

    Employees said they had been ordered to use n-hexane to clean iPhone screens because it evaporated almost three times as fast as rubbing alcohol. Faster evaporation meant workers could clean more screens each minute.

    American companies forcing Asian suppliers to squeeze workers:

    “You can set all the rules you want, but they’re meaningless if you don’t give suppliers enough profit to treat workers well,” said one former Apple executive with firsthand knowledge of the supplier responsibility group. “If you squeeze margins, you’re forcing them to cut safety.”

    The Results For The 1%

    A series of recent newspaper headlines tells the story of how China's working conditions benefit the 1% here.

    NYT: Apple's Profit Soars‎

    CBS Moneywatch: Apple shares close at record high

    SF Chronicle: Apple CEO's Stock Awards Lift Compensation to $378 Million

    ZDNet: Apple: made in China, untaxed profits kept offshore. We don't even get to tax the profits from moving our jobs to China, to use for schools, roads, police, etc.

    The Results For The 99%

    Headlines like these show how things are going better and better for the 1%. But what happened to our middle-class prosperity? We allowed companies to move jobs and factories across the borders of democracy to places where workers are exploited, calling that "trade." This enabled the breaking of unions and the weakening of our democracy.

    The threat is in the air: "Shut up and take the wage cuts or we will move your job to China." How is that threat used on us? Here is an example: We have heard the stories of Mitt Romney's company Bain Capital, and how it "earned" its millions. According to the Christian Science Monitor, this is the story of what happened when a Bain-owned company "came to town":

    The new owner, American Pad & Paper, owned in turn by 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.

    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.

    The unions are weakened, the government doesn't enforce or weakly enforces labor laws and regulations, age, gender or race discrimination laws, worker safety laws, so workers are placed in a terrible squeeze. Workers who try to organize unions are isolated, moved, smeared, fired, humiliated, whatever it takes.

    This quote by Steve Jobs is from How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work,

    Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

    Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.

    Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.

    Democracy Brought Us Prosperity

    We used to be a democracy, where everyone used to have a say in things. Because we 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.

    China, on the other hand, is not a democracy, and workers in China don't really have a say. So they don't make much money, they don't have good working conditions, the environment isn't protected, etc.

    We Used To Protect Democracy

    We used to protect our democracy. We used to put a tariff on goods coming in if they were made by people who didn’t have the ability to speak up and better their condition. We’d let the goods in but we would use a tariff to strengthen our country, our infrastructure, our schools – our democracy. This brought us prosperity.

    For some reason, we started letting our companies move our factories over there, forcing our workers to compete with workers who have no say. We got tricked, by people who call that "trade," and said it would be good for us. (Like cutting taxes for the wealthy "job creators" is good for us.)

    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 made the wages and working and conditions and environmental protections prosperity that democracy brings into a cost. We turned ourselves into a cost. We made democracy a competitive disadvantage.

    Plutocrats Say Shed Benefits Of Democracy

    Plutocrats say we need to shed the benefits of democracy and become more like China if we want to compete. They say get rid of regulations, employee protections, environmental protections, good wages, benefits like pensions and time off, etc... They say that We, the People (government) "get in the way of doing business." They say the taxes that pay for good infrastructure and schools and police and courts and services like Social Security and care for the disabled and health care for children "take money out of the economy" but they mean these take some of the money that they have been taking from the economy.

    Democracy Is The Best Economics

    Look at the primary target of the corporate/conservatives: unions. That should tell you something. This is a power confrontation. This is the power of the 1% overcoming the power of the 99%.

    Democracy is the power of the 99% to make the decisions, and to build structures that protect us from exploitation by the wealthy and powerful. This confrontation is the story of the origin of our country -- how We, the People confronted the power and corruption of the British aristocracy, overcame that power, and built a country of, by and for the people.

    Democracy and the taxes it enabled us to ask from the wealthiest is what enabled us to build the infrastructure and schools and everything that enabled our prosperity. The regulations of democracy are what enable our smaller businesses to compete with the giants. The shared prosperity -- redistribution of wealth -- is what enabled the middle class to grow, and turned us into the most prosperous country and largest market in the world.

    Unions

    Unions are about building up the power of groups of people, to confront and overcome the advantages of wealth and the power wealth brings to a few. When a union is strong enough to be able to confront the power of big corporations the result is that the 99% get a share of the pie. When unions are strong we all get better wages and better working conditions and a say in how we are treated, whether we are in unions or not. The benefits flow to the rest of the economy.

    It would be nice if our system worked well enough that we didn't need to organize unions on top of the structure of laws and regulations, but it is just the fact of life that the wealthy and powerful and their corporations have throughout our history been able to exert tremendous influence over legislative bodies, again and again. So to fight that working people organize and build these organized unions of people, and leverage that power of the group to demand wages and benefits and weekends and a share of the prosperity. The story of the power confrontation between unions of working people (99%) and the large corporations (1%) is the story of how we built a middle class that brought us the prosperity we enjoyed.

    It is not just a coincidence that the weakening of the unions coincides with the decline of the middle class. It is not just a coincidence that the current rise of the plutocrats brings in a swarm of anti-union legislation. It is not just a coincidence that the times when our democracy is strongest we all do so much better. And now, when our demcoracy has been weakened by the money and power of the 1% and their corporations, the rest of us are so much worse off.

    Not US v. China

    This is not about US workers and markets vs China. Working people in all countries are at risk when their countries trade with countries where workers are exploited. China's huge trade imbalance is threatening the world's economy. The loss of manufacturing to countries that exploit workers is threatening workers in many countries.

    The US market is still large, and the US can still demand that imported goods be made according to better standards for workers. The rest of the world can also demand that China's workers be brought up to international standards. And we can certainly hold companies like Apple accountable, and demand that they only buy from suppliers that treat and pay workers according to international standards, because allowing companies to cheat, exploit workers and commit fraud drives the good companies out of business.

    This is not about taking jobs back from Chinese workers! This is about demanding they be paid fairly and given a say in their workplaces! This is about not exploiting people there or here!

    Trade can be an upward spiral, rather than a lever for exploitation of the 99% by the 1%. If Chinese workers are given a say and paid fairly then they can buy things we make and we can keep buying things they make.

    Unions = Democracy = Middle Class = Shared Prosperity

    Jon Stewart explains:


    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 8:42 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    January 23, 2012

    To Get Our Economy Back Hold Cheaters, Fraudsters And Exploiters Accountable

    The spiral-to-the-bottom and inequality we are suffering is not an inevitable result of globalization, it is what happens when we don't hold cheaters and exploiters accountable and stop them. This is not just about Wall Street, it is the story of what has happened to our wages and benefits, jobs, factories, companies, industries, economy and democracy in the last 30-or-so years.

    Cheaters, Fraudsters and Exploiters

    If cheaters and exploiters are not held accountable and fraudsters are not prosecuted, then the advantages this brings them forces honest players out. We're all waiting to see if there is a deal in the works that lets big banksters off the hook for mortgage fraud and other (uninvestigated) crimes, making their shareholders pay fines for them instead. But that story of the 1%'s fraud and cheating and the consequences to the 99% are not what I am writing about here. This post is about how letting 1%er cheaters, fraudsters and exploiters off the hook has hurt America's manufacturing and trade.

    Apple Can't Make It Here

    Recent news stories about Apple hilight how we allowed our thriving, high-paying manufacturing sector to erode, with the result that our middle class is in decline. Apple used to proudly make their computers in the United States, but now everything is made in Asia. The NY Times' Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher, in How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work describe how China's massive government subsidies and exploitation of workers mean “Those jobs aren’t coming back.”

    The Entire Supply Chain Is Over There

    China has done what it needs to do to bring factories, which bring supply chains, which bring industries. The NYT story describes what it means to have an entire supply chain located where the factories are,

    When an Apple team visited, the Chinese plant’s owners were already constructing a new wing. “This is in case you give us the contract,” the manager said, according to a former Apple executive. The Chinese government had agreed to underwrite costs for numerous industries, and those subsidies had trickled down to the glass-cutting factory. It had a warehouse filled with glass samples available to Apple, free of charge. The owners made engineers available at almost no cost. They had built on-site dormitories so employees would be available 24 hours a day.

    The Chinese plant got the job.

    “The entire supply chain is in China now,” said another former high-ranking Apple executive. “You need a thousand rubber gaskets? That’s the factory next door. You need a million screws? That factory is a block away. You need that screw made a little bit different? It will take three hours.”

    Subsidies are often a violation of trade rules. Even so, as the article says, "The Chinese government had agreed to underwrite costs for numerous industries, and those subsidies had trickled down to the glass-cutting factory." So, of course, "the Chinese plant got the job." Meanwhile, our own country has resisted having an "industrial policy" to keep our industries and foster new ones. This is finally changing, but good efforts like "Buy American" and President Obama's green energy policies are fought tooth-and-nail.

    Exploited Workers

    Another key part of China's advantage is the ability to exploit workers and get away with it -- which lets Apple get away with it, too. And when Apple sees violations, it doesn't stop them.

    One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

    A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

    “The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

    Later in the story,

    The first truckloads of cut glass arrived at Foxconn City in the dead of night, according to the former Apple executive. That’s when managers woke thousands of workers, who crawled into their uniforms — white and black shirts for men, red for women — and quickly lined up to assemble, by hand, the phones.

    ... The company disputed some details of the former Apple executive’s account, and wrote that a midnight shift, such as the one described, was impossible “because we have strict regulations regarding the working hours of our employees based on their designated shifts, and every employee has computerized timecards that would bar them from working at any facility at a time outside of their approved shift.” The company said that all shifts began at either 7 a.m. or 7 p.m., and that employees receive at least 12 hours’ notice of any schedule changes.

    Foxconn employees, in interviews, have challenged those assertions.

    Apple Audits Its Suppliers, Finds Many Violations

    Earlier this month Apple released a report describing the practices of its suppliers. NY Times: Apple Lists Its Suppliers for 1st Time,

    Apple said audits revealed that 93 supplier facilities had records indicating that over half of workers exceeded a 60-hour weekly working limit. Apple said 108 facilities did not pay proper overtime as required by law. In 15 facilities, Apple found foreign contract workers who had paid excessive recruitment fees to labor agencies.

    And though Apple said it mandated changes at those suppliers, and some showed improvements, in aggregate, many types of lapses remained at general levels that have persisted for years.

    William K Black, writing in Apple's Foreign Suppliers Demonstrate Widespread Scamming and Horrific Abuse of Employees at AlterNet, looked at Apple's report. Black writes that the audit of suppliers, "shows that anti-employee control fraud is the norm."

    Black says that two things stand out in the report,

    First, Apple rarely terminates suppliers for defrauding their employees – even when the frauds endanger the lives and health of the workers and the community – and even where Apple knows that the supplier repeatedly lies to Apple about these fraudulent and lethal practices. Second, it appears unlikely in the extreme that Apple makes criminal referrals on its suppliers even when they commit anti-employee control frauds as a routine practice, even when the frauds endanger the worker’s and the public’s health, and even when the supplier repeatedly lies to Apple about the frauds. Apple’s report, therefore, understates substantially the actual incidence of fraud by the 156 suppliers (accounting for 97% of its payments to suppliers).

    As Black wrote, "Apple knows that the supplier repeatedly lies to Apple about these fraudulent and lethal practices" and "...it appears unlikely in the extreme that Apple makes criminal referrals on its suppliers" Apple doesn't stop these violations. They get too much of a competitive advantage out of it.

    This Is Fraud

    When you buy a product you assume that it is on the shelf at the cost you are asked to pay because laws and regulations were followed and standards were met. So you buy the one that has the right quality at the right price. But what if a product has a low cost as the result of cheating, exploitation and violations of environmental, labor and trade laws? What if there is a lie at the root of the transaction you are engaged in?

    China's massive investment in capturing entire industries -- a violation of trade laws -- means that many of the components of the high-tech manufacturing supply chain have migrated out of the US to that country. And China's non-democracy political system means that workers have few, if any rights, and often the rights they have are not enforced. Black says American companies taking advantage of this are engaging in "a form of control fraud (fraud in which the head of a company subverts it for personal gain)."

    Anti-employee control frauds most commonly fall into four broad, but not mutually exclusive, categories – illegal work conditions due to violation of safety rules, violation of child labor laws, failure to pay employees’ wages and benefits, and frauds based on goods and loans provided by the employer to the employee that lock the employee into quasi-slavery.

    Allowing Fraud Drives Legitimate Businesses Out Of Existence

    The key point Black makes is that allowing cheating, fraud and exploitation to continue brings them advantages that drive legitimate businesses out,

    George Akerlof, in his famous article on markets for “lemons” (largely describing anti-customer control fraud), explained the perverse “Gresham’s” dynamic in 1970: "[D]ishonest dealings tend to drive honest dealings out of the market. The cost of dishonesty, therefore, lies not only in the amount by which the purchaser is cheated; the cost also must include the loss incurred from driving legitimate business out of existence.”

    A Criminogenic Environment

    Specifically, what this means to companies that try to compete with companies like Apple,

    Anti-employee control fraud creates real economic profits for the firm and can massively increase the controlling officers’ wealth. Honest firm normally cannot compete with anti-employee control frauds, so bad ethics drives good ethics out of the markets. Companies like Apple and its counterparts create this criminogenic environment by selecting least-cost – criminal – suppliers who offer components at prices that honest firms cannot match. Effectively, they hang out a sign – only the fraudulent need apply to be suppliers

    When we let companies get away with building products in places that violate trade rules, allow environmental degradation, exploit workers, cut corners on safety, use cheap components and ingredients, these companies get cost advantages that force honest companies out of business. This is the story of our economy. This is why our middle class is engaged in a race to the bottom.

    Should Companies Like This Exist In The US?

    Robwert Cruickshank puts two and two together, in a must-read post, Thinking Differently About Apple and 21st Century Society. He writes,

    In the last year or two, it’s become increasingly clear that the way Apple makes its products is deeply flawed. Working conditions at the factory which makes most of their products – Foxconn in Shenzhen, China – are so appalling that workers engaged in a rash of suicides in 2010 to ameliorate their own suffering. Earlier this year workers threatened mass suicide over pay and working conditions. And of course, there’s the fact that Apple makes these products overseas rather than in the United States, where unemployment remains at some of the highest levels we’ve seen since the Great Depression.

    Cruickshank asks if companies with this attitude should be allowed to continue to do business? He writes that Apple has,

    ...a narrow focus on their products and their profits, and disdain wider concerns for the good of society. When an unnamed Apple executive was asked about their role in addressing America’s economic problems, their response was revealing:
    They say Apple’s success has benefited the economy by empowering entrepreneurs and creating jobs at companies like cellular providers and businesses shipping Apple products. And, ultimately, they say curing unemployment is not their job.

    “We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries,” a current Apple executive said. “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.”

    That quote is perhaps the best encapsulation of the pathologies of the modern American corporation. In fact, Apple does have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Everyone who lives in this country has that obligation. And corporations have that obligation too. If they don’t want to help make things better, then they shouldn’t exist.

    Then he gets to the wider point,

    The notion that companies exist only to generate profit or build a specific few set of products is corrosive. Those profits and products serve the rest of society. And as a part of that society, companies and their executives exist to make that society a better place. If they are engaged in a set of practices that make society worse off, then those actions are indefensible and need to be changed.

    For the last 30 years, American businesses have been devoted to a single-minded pursuit of maximizing short-term profits. Unsurprisingly, this has had profound ripple effects throughout the rest of society. The economy became focused on those profits, and so with it followed politics, culture, and our values as a civilization.

    By now it should be clear to everybody that while this works well for the small elite that has hoarded all these profits – the so-called “1%” – it has utterly failed to provide a happy and fulfilled life for everyone else.

    Here I quote Cruickshank quoting Black, who is looking at Apple's report of its suppliers, with "overwork and other forms of employment fraud being rampant."

    As William K. Black explains at Alternet, this is a good example of what may be a widespread tolerance for fraud in the global economy:
    These frauds take place abroad, but they harm employees at home. Mitt Romney explains that Bain had to slash wages and pensions to save firms located in the U.S. who had to meet competition from foreign anti-employee control frauds. The damage from foreign anti-employee control frauds drives the domestic attack on U.S. manufacturing wages. Bad ethics increasingly drive good ethics out of the markets and manufacturing jobs out of the U.S. and into more fraud-friendly nations.

    "These Frauds Take Place Abroad But They Harm Employees At Home"

    Once again, for emphasis, "these frauds take place abroad, but they harm employees at home."

    If we want the downward slide to stop we have to decide to hold the cheaters, exploiters and fraudsters accountable for their actions. At home the efforts by the giant corporations to keep the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from doing their jobs, enforcing the rules and holding them accountable further show how this is affecting us all. Abroad we have to demand enforcement of labor and trade rules so companies like Apple can not gain advantages that put more ethical and honest companies out of business. We certainly should not be letting products made there have cost advantages here and stiff tariffs can fix that. Letting companies get away with this makes democracy a competitive disadvantage.

    We have to get mad and hold the cheaters, fraudsters and exploiters accountable.

    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 2:43 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    January 12, 2012

    MUST Watch: When Mitt Romney Came To Town

    This is the story of what has happened to America since the 80s:

    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.

    MUST WATCH!!

    And keep this in mind if people try to tell you that doing what it take to increase the stock price helps everyone:

    wealth2

    Also see post above, When Mitt Romney Came To Town -- Who Benefits?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:26 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    January 9, 2012

    More Evidence That Appealing To "Center" Is A Losing Strategy

    In a May, 2011 post, Appealing To The "Center" Drives Away Voters I wrote that the traditional Democratic campaign strategy of taking positions perceived to be "between" the left and the right not only doesn't appear to work, it actually might be costing Democrats.

    The traditional idea, driven by Democratic campaign consultants, is that "independent" voters "swing" between parties. SO you can get them to "swing" your way by taking positions that are not those of the base of your own party, but instead creep over towards those of the other party. I wrote in that May post,

    The problem here is the effect the metaphor of a "center" has on our thinking. Thinking about independent voters as being a "block" that is "between" the parties is the problem. It forces the brain into a constraint because of the visual image that it evokes. What I mean is that the actual language of "centrist" changes how we think. The metaphor makes us think they are "between" something called left and right. And as a result it forces certain conclusions.

    I said that Karl Rove figured this out, and used this to get Bush to instead "appeal to the base," which increased Republican turnout, while dispirited Dems, tired of their standard-bearers taking wishy-washy positions that give everything away, decided to just stay home. I wrote that Rove has "nailed it,"

    Karl Rove believed that there were independents who were not registered Republican because the party was not far enough to the right for them, who would only turn out if the party gave them something to vote for. I think Karl Rove's model is more accurate, that the independent voters are a number of groups, and very large numbers of them are MORE to the left or right than the parties, and don't vote unless the parties appeal enough to them.

    Rove decided this means the Republicans need to move ever more to the right, and this will cause those "independent" voters who had changed their affiliation out of disgust with the centrism of their party to now turn out and vote.

    Now there is confirmation of this. On NPR's Talk of the Nation today, Clarence Page talked with host Neal Conan about the role of independent voters, saying that we might be surprised to learn that candidates who try to appeal to "independents" tend to lose, because they turn off the voters who closely follow and care about the issues.

    Click the Play button below to hear this Talk of the Nation segment:

    In fact, candidates that try to "appeal to the center" lose, because this idea of a :center" is a myth. From the transcript:

    You know, there is a professor Alan Aramowitz of Emory University, who has been studying this using voting statistics, and he found that the - well, as he put it, in all three of the presidential elections since 1972 that were decided by a margin of less than five points, that the candidate backed by the independents lost.

    This was - this surprised me. You know, he's citing here Jimmy Carter in '76, Gerald Ford - sorry, Gerald Ford beat - excuse me, Gerald Ford won the independent vote but lost the election. Put it that way, OK.

    Most independents voted for George W. Bush in 2000, but Al Gore got the overall popular vote. As you recall, he got the popular vote but not the state vote.

    CONAN: Yeah, but that's fudging your statistics a little bit. The guy who got the independent vote got the big prize.

    PAGE: Yeah, but still, though, most of the - the one backed by the independent voters, though, did not get the majority of the popular vote. And in 2004, John Kerry, most independents voted for John Kerry, but he lost the overall election.

    What does that mean? What it means is that Karl Rove and others, who have often advocated firing up the base rather than reaching out for independents, they've got a point. In some elections, that works. If you fire up your base, get your vote out, it can be big enough that it will overwhelm the opposition and the independents, because independents also tend to have the least turnout, and they also tend to be the least committed, not just to a party but also to - well, less engaged with the whole campaign.

    They are joined by Daron Shaw, who was a campaign strategist for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.

    SHAW: Well, I think the thing that Clarence pointed out that's worth reiterating is that the distinguishing characteristic of independent voters is they're not that interested, they're not that involved, they're not that engaged with politics. So if you're a political professional and you're dealing with finite resources, and you have to make decisions about where you're going to invest dollars, and where you're going to invest manpower, you know, the idea of reaching out to independents, who may or may not show up, and if they do show up may or may not vote for you, can give you pause.

    So you know, it's interesting that there's been this movement in the last two or three election cycles, and as Clarence correctly pointed out, I think Karl Rove is kind of given credit for this, although I don't know if he's, you know, the architect or godfather of it; a lot of people who have moved in this direction.

    But the idea of sinking your resources into mobilization, which primarily targets, you know, sort of identifiable partisans and appeals to them, that that's become kind of a staple and maybe even the dominant perspective. And I find it kind of interesting that word out of the White House - and you have to read all these things with a dose of caution - but suggests that they're kind of moving in that direction. That's sort of what their thinking is. And I just find that fascinating.

    As I wrote in May:

    The way to grow your voting base is NOT to try to "appeal" to some group that is not left or right, but is "between" something called left and right. To get more voters -- especially the "independent" ones who won't identify with a party -- is to take stands, be more committed to progressive positions, and to articulate them more clearly.

    See also, Clarence Page: What it means to be an 'independent voter' might surprise you.

    This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:19 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    My Local Paper - A Typical Day

    Reading my local morning paper, I see that it is a typical day...

    Front page story about the exponential growth in the crow population since a 1981 measurement, Counting crows: Number of black birds on the rise in Bay Area ('Eden For Crows' in the print edition), can't find an explanation, but doesn't bring up that the climate here is changing. 


    An article about the anniversary of the Gabby Giffords shooting, A year after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, doesn't mention that conservatives put on a gun show to mark the anniversary, doesn't even mention the word 'gun.'
     

    The anniversary was marked not only by the traditional rituals of speechmaking and prayers, but also by organized sessions and designated spots for yoga, meditation, hugging, dancing and steel drum playing. There were campaigns promoting civility and community -- people gathered at a park Saturday to sign a "Tucsonans Commit to Kindness" contract -- that were notable in how they avoided any explicit mention of the events of a year ago.

    An editorial cartoon blasting "Government Motors" for having a "Fire Sale" of Chevy Volts, showing the entire dealership burnt out from a car fire, doesn't mention that there has not been a single car fire in a Volt, except after a special-circumstances crash test, and the cars are being recalled to fix the potential problem. Compare this with the following numbers for cars that run on ... gasoline:

     

    In 2002-2005, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 306,800 vehicle fires per year. These fires caused an average of 520 civilian deaths, 1,640 civilian injuries, and $1.3 billion in direct property damage.

    What's not in the paper? Anything that informs people of the benefits of belonging to a union. Anything that talks about how our government helps us. Anything that goes up against Big Oil and King Coal and informs the public of just how serious the problems of global warming are and the need for immediate solutions, or that informs the public of the need to move away from oil and coal as our energy source.

    To sum it up: anything that informs the public of the harm caused by plutocratic, corporatist-captured government and the benefits of democracy and good government.

    In other words, you find very little in today's corporate-owned media that runs up against the agenda of the 1% and helps the 99%.

    This is a fully-captured newspaper.

    This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:37 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    January 6, 2012

    Questions For 2012

    There are so many unanswered questions and contradictions all around us. But like the families of alcoholics in denial we stay quiet and try not to rock the boat. Here are some questions that need to be asked, and maybe 2012 can be the year we start demanding answers.

    1) Who is our economy for, anyway?
    2) Why did we invade Iraq?
    3) Why haven’t we broken up those too-big banks yet? Instead they just get bigger and more powerful.
    3a) How long will we continue to let the banks "extend and pretend?"
    4) Why do we still let tobacco companies kill more than 400,000 Americans every year?
    4a) Why don't we make tobacco companies pay to clean up all those cigarette butts everywhere?
    5) Wouldn't lowering the Social Security age fix a lot of unemployment and help a lot of people?
    6) Is moving a factory to a low-wage country really "trade?" Seriously?
    7) If our government is supposed to be of, by and for "We, the People," what do conservatives mean by demanding "less government?"
    8) How come we never, ever see someone from a union on the big TV networks talking about the benefits of being in a union or how and why to organize one?
    9) Since we didn't have big deficits before the Reagan tax cuts, and since the Bush tax cuts didn't create any jobs ... ???
    10) Why haven't there been any criminal prosecutions of Wall Street banksters? (OK, some people are starting to ask that one a lot.)

    So Many More

    There are so many more questions like those. I guess that's enough for now. We as a country have to start asking questions again and demanding answers. Hey, that reminds me:

    11) When will our mainstream "journalists" start asking questions and demanding answers again, instead of just saying things like "both sides do it" and "if one side says the earth is flat and the other side says it is round, that means that the earth must be oval-shaped"?

    Wall Street got bailouts, the rich got tax cuts, people got job loss and wage cuts and longer hours, protests got crackdowns and it's getting too obvious to ignore. It's time to stop ignoring things and do something about them.

    Please, ask your questions in the comments, and then take them out in public and ask them and keep asking them until you get answers. It's your right to ask, and your right to demand answers.


    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 7:19 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 24, 2011

    What Next In The Fight Over Who Our Economy Is For?

    Who is our economy for, anyway? In the United States We, the People are supposedly in charge and our country and economy are supposed to be managed for the public good. But that isn't how things have been working out, is it?

    Let's take a quick look at America over the last few decades.

    We used to have a social contract. We invested in top-notch infrastructure (like the interstate highway system) and education (the best universities and research), and then tax the resulting gains at very high rates, to recirculate those gains for the benefit of all of us.

    Broken Social Contract

    Then the contract was broken. Starting in the 1970s a cabal of wealthy businessmen and conservative ideologues organized and funded an attack on We, the People government, manipulating public opinion and our political system, gutting the regulations and trade rules that protected us and our way of life, privatizing -- selling off things We, the People own -- and killing the tax-and-invest cycle so they could keep the gains from all of that prior investment for themselves.

    Blanket Of Propaganda

    To provide cover for the operation these agents of the 1% spread a thick blanket of propaganda, using every technique in the modern marketing book. They divided us by race, religion, gender, sexual preference, even pitting people who like quiche and lattes against those who like beer and sausage. To cripple potential opposition they infiltrated and fractured key institutions, and turned the public against the news media. They developed a professional career-path system that rewards those who play along with the corruption and destruction and punishes those who do not. To cripple dissent they used ridicule, shame and intimidation.

    Destructive Choices Come Home To Roost

    Since then things have steadily fallen apart. The infrastructure is crumbling. Unemployment is extreme. The country has very high debt. The trade deficit is extreme. Half of us are poor or nearly poor. Inequality is at the highest levels.

    Bailouts For The 1%, Sell-Outs For The 99%

    When things hit the fan it became clear that our country is no longer run for the good of We, the People. When it came down to it, a few got special treatment, the rest of us got ... uh, less-than-special-treatment. (And weren't even kissed.)

    When the financial crisis occurred Congress was told they literally had only hours to come up with hundreds of billions to bail out the too-big-to-fail banks, and they did - with almost no conditions. We know now that the Federal Reserve also stepped up, providing trillions to the big banks, even hundreds of millions to bankers' spouses! State and local governments, institutions and smaller businesses? The unemployed and millions facing foreclosure? Not so much.

    Plutocracy Not Democracy

    They provided assistance for the giant financial institutions of the 1%. Instead of providing assistance to the 99& -- We, the People -- our government instead cut the things We, the People do for each other. It was made clear that this country is now a plutocracy, not a democracy.

    System Of Control Breaking Down

    It is clear where we are. But it is also clear that the system of control is breaking down. The elections of 2006 and 2008 shook the foundations. Democracy tried to reassert control. The behind-the-scenes system of lobbyists writing legislation that passes under cover of "studies" from corporate-front think tanks, telling us this is for our own good, propelled by a flurry of corporate-funded op-eds, stopped working. After the bailouts for banks / sell out for the rest of us, people started figuring things out. In response the 5-4 Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision, flooding the system with corporate money.

    Instead of stealth takeover masked by propaganda we now see blatant grabs of wealth and raw power poorly disguised. Now the control is in our faces every day. Even constant filibusters of acts that might help We, the People were no longer enough to keep a lid on. So now it is shutdowns, hostage-taking, refusal to follow laws, refusal to prosecute, threats to take down the government and/or the economy. Now more visible methods of suppression are in use -- batons, tasers and pepper spray.

    Waking Up

    Everyone has been frustrated, discouraged, betrayed, scared and angry but without a focus for action. Then came the Occupy movement, people actually showing up and showing how! It resonated. People responded, and the conversation of the country was pulled out of the propaganda fog, at least for a while.

    Stephen Lerner, interviewed by Sarah Jaffe for AlterNet, discusses where we go from here, saying, "[I]t's an exciting feeling to see something a lot of people spent a lifetime hoping for --this kind of dramatic increase in activity that targets financial capital, those who really control the country." On Occupy Wall Street, Lerner says,

    Everybody knows they're getting zapped by banks, and what's so good about Occupy is that it's put that front and center. The fact that they were in Wall Street, I think everybody forgets. It was not Occupy a park somewhere, it was the fact that it was in the middle of the financial district. And I think on an intuitive level, people all over the political spectrum understand that those guys are at the center of how the economy is organized in a way that doesn't work for most people.

    On Wall Street's position in our economy,

    I don't think people are mad at somebody who invented a product or founded a company. It's that people see that Wall Street is not productive. Their wealth and their riches, they do not come through any normal means -- they come through cheating and gambling and ripping us off, which I think troubles us in a different kind of way.

    On today,

    I don't think anybody should view a sort of holiday or winter lull in activity as a sign of anything. As people have said, movements ebb and flow, and whenever we look back, spring is the time that things take off again. It's really important that people not say “Oh, everything was front page news and now it's not.” People instead should be stepping back, saying, “In three months we did more than anybody imagined we could do, now it's time to step back and figure out the next stage.”

    What Next?

    Now comes the long slog of organizing people into focused action to take back our country from the 1%. Van Jones has been laying the groundwork, joining with MoveOn.org and other organizations to organize the Rebuild the Dream movement, and its Contract for the American Dream. Please visit and get involved.

    Here is Van Jones at Netroots Nation, talking about the American Dream movement:

    Organized labor is fighting, too, with new tactics and getting more people involved. They are focusing on labor's role in creating a middle class in America. The recent Take Back the Capitol demonstrations are a case in point. In conjunction with many local and national organizations SEIU brought unemployed people to the DC to occupy the offices of 99 legislators, asking for jobs programs and extensions of unemployment benefits. They also marched on "K Street" - the symbolic center of lobbying activity.

    Here is AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, Take Back the American Dream conference in October, calling for "a massive, militant movement":

    Trumka told the audience that the right wing is “banking on an upside-down America for its path to political power.” Trumka said that now is the time for “a mighty movement for jobs and a just economy," adding, "We won't stop fighting, shoving and kicking until everyone is back at work."

    Here is Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, talking about labor support for Occupy Wall street, and holding Wall Street accountable:

    Here is Communication Workers of America President Larry Cohen discussing the fight for the middle class on The Ed Show.

    See the pics in this post, showing labor's involvement at the November 2 Occupy Oakland actions:

    Up To Us

    What happens next is up to us. Don't be discouraged. "The people, united, will never be defeated."

    THIS is what democracy looks like. Here are Wisconsin protesters chanting: "Tell me what democracy looks like. THIS is what democracy looks like!"




    For those of us who can't get enough, here is 13 minutes of THIS is what democracy looks like!


    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 5:36 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    December 21, 2011

    For 2012 Let's Restore Our "Industrial Commons"

    David Brancaccio's Marketplace story Tuesday, Decline of Kodak offers lessons for U.S. business traced the decline of Kodak and the loss of Rochester, NY's good, middle-class jobs to Kodak's failure to tend its "industrial commons." This is a national problem. For 2012 let's resolve to restore our industrial commons and bring manufacturing back to the U.S.

    Kodak on Marketplace

    Listen to Tuesday's Marketplace story, Decline of Kodak offers lessons for U.S. business.

    Click to listen.

    Story summary: Kodak didn't tend its "industrial commons," the local concentration of expertise in making the things that go into a camera.

    You make your money by selling cameras. And you now needed to make components. You needed to make lenses; you needed to make shutters -- all kinds of things that the skills for which no longer existed in Rochester.

    This is what we have done in our country, too. We have been dismantling our "industrial commons." By sending manufacturing out of the country we have been taking apart the supply chains and abandoning the expertise and skills and culture that go with it.

    Other Warnings

    Last year former Intel CEO Andy Grove sounded a warning about this problem. In How to Make an American Job Before It's Too Late. Grove wrote that we are not just losing jobs to China, we are losing the "chain of experience" that enables new companies and industries to form and to create new jobs and argues for a national economic strategy to preserve our manufacturing and technology base. He lays out a plan: "rebuild our industrial commons,"

    The first task is to rebuild our industrial commons. We should develop a system of financial incentives: Levy an extra tax on the product of offshored labor. (If the result is a trade war, treat it like other wars—fight to win.) Keep that money separate. Deposit it in the coffers of what we might call the Scaling Bank of the U.S. and make these sums available to companies that will scale their American operations. Such a system would be a daily reminder that while pursuing our company goals, all of us in business have a responsibility to maintain the industrial base on which we depend and the society whose adaptability—and stability—we may have taken for granted.

    We Gave It Away

    Many American manufacturers made a deal with China to lower their manufacturing costs. Here is how it worked: Americans (used to) have a say in how this country was run, and said they want good wages, benefits, job safety, clean air, etc. These are the fruits of democracy, but to some they are an impediment to quick profits. So executives at the big multinational companies wanted a way around the borders of democracy and its demands, and pushed for "trade" deals that would let them move manufacturing to places where people had no say, in order to force American unions to make concessions. They got their deals and packed up our factories, moved them to places like China and then brought the manufactured goods back here to sell.

    We lost 50,000 factories to China just in the 'W' Bush years, and our trade deficit soared, and now we as a country are paying the price. Making (and growing) things is how a country earns its living. It is how we bring in the income with which to buy things others make and grow. Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers said it clearly,

    "You don’t create real wealth by flipping coupons or hamburgers, you create it by taking real things and turning them into things of value. And those things of value are turned into other things of value and all of a sudden you have a wind turbine with thousands of parts made here. You can’t have a clean economy without good jobs and can’t have good jobs without a clean economy."

    We just gave it away, and justified the loss by saying that better things will replace it. The result has been ever-increasing trade deficits that brought us a huge debt that makes us poorer. Our debt is not because of government spending, it is because we have given away our ability to make a loving!

    An Ideology To Justify

    In the process the 1%'ers who did this to us developed an ideology around hating America and democracy. To justify outsourcing our jobs and factories they said Americans had grown lazy and wanted handouts. They said that the huge profits reaped by a few from selling off our manufacturing infrastructure meant they were "producers" and that democracy was "statism" and "collectivism" that enabled the "parasites" to "steal" from them. They declared that "taxes are theft" that "punish" the "successful" and the "job creators." They stopped funding infrastructure and education and law enforcement, denegrating these as "government spending," and declared that the wealthy few have a "right to rise" and saying the rest of us are "imbeciles."

    They moved our "industrial commons" out of the country, closing the factories and thereby dismantling the supply chains and the "chain of experience" that enable us to innovate and compete. They let China capture the lead in emerging green manufacturing technologies that will bring millions of jobs and trillions of dollars. They even let China extort proprietary technologies, in exchange for short-term profits.

    They rode the tiger and now the tiger is coming back to bite us.

    Riding The Tiger

    Richard Eskow reminded me of an old Chinese saying, "He who rides the tiger cannot dismount." American manufacturers rode the Chinese tiger to short-term profits, and now they cannot dismount. They "partnered" with China to get around the borders of democracy and the good wages and benefits democracy demands. But now the tiger wants more. The tiger wants to eat them up.

    Riding the tiger: Forbes: Currency Manipulation is NOT the Biggest Chinese Threat,

    China’s hidden threats are a multi-headed info-tech “Hydra,” the parts of which are interrelated:
    • Intellectual property rights violations (or lack of enforcement in China) allowing open theft of proprietary designs, etc.
    • Theft of private-sector technology (which has been going on for years) accelerating Chinese development cycles
    • Growing number of cyber-attacks, accessing highly confidential US government information, costing the US private sector billions of dollars in IT disruption.
    • Growing military/technology stolen secrets (e.g., stealth fighter plane designs, acquisition of downed stealth-helicopter parts from the bin Laden attack, electronic technology & software from US companies in China, etc.)

    Riding the tiger: NYT: Chinese Rules Said to Threaten Proprietary Information,

    China is expected to issue regulations on Saturday requiring technology companies to disclose proprietary information like data-encryption keys and underlying software code to sell a range of security-related digital technology products to government agencies, American industry officials said on Friday.

    Riding the tiger: Fiscal Times: Stealing America: China’s Busy Cyber-Spies,

    Economic and industrial spying by China appears to be more pervasive and egregious than ever, costing America billions of dollars each year, according to a new report by a U.S. government agency. And the report raises an important question: If stolen trade and technology secrets help fuel China’s breakneck growth, then is more espionage required to feed the growing beast?

    The Chamber of Commerce rides the tiger: WSJ today: China Hackers Hit U.S. Chamber: Attacks Breached Computer System of Business-Lobbying Group; Emails Stolen,

    A group of hackers in China breached the computer defenses of America's top business-lobbying group and gained access to everything stored on its systems, including information about its three million members, according to several people familiar with the matter.

    The break-in at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the boldest known infiltrations in what has become a regular confrontation between U.S. companies and Chinese hackers.

    They rode the tiger. But now the tiger wants more. The tiger wants to eat them up.

    Let's Resolve To Rebuild American Manufacturing

    Let's resolve to rebuild American manufacturing, starting in 2012. Manufacturing is the backbone of a prosperous economy. Let's resolve to bring back good jobs that pay good wages and unpin a middle-class lifestyle. Let's resolve to balance trade with the rest of the world so we can fight our debt problems. Let's resolve to start fighting to win the lead in the Green manufacturing revolution.

    Don't let the "free traders" exploit workers in countries where they do not have a say to force concessions from Americans in unions. Don't let the oil and coal companies create false "scandals" like Solyndra to block government from investing in green alternatives. Don't let the 1% make democracy a competitive disadvantage -- democracy is the only economics that works!

    Last week President Obama appointed Commerce Secretary John Bryson and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling to co-chair a new White House Office of Manufacturing Policy. The new Office of Manufacturing Policy will have cabinet-level status, reflecting the importance of the manufacturing sector to our economy. It will coordinate the efforts of different government agencies, such as the Small Business Administration, the Department of Commerce and the Transportation Department.

    This is a positive step if there ever was one. Let's resolve to develop and execute a national manufacturing strategy. (please click through)

    It is time to restore our national "industrial commons."

    Frank Sobatka explains:


    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 12:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 16, 2011

    Who Protects Info You Give To Offshored Call Centers?

    Companies are always looking for ways to reduce the number of people they employ, and for ways to reduce the pay and benefits for the ones they keep. One way they have been doing this is to send jobs out of the country to places where the people don't have the protections of democracy. Then they come back here and threaten the rest of us with losing our jobs, too, if we don't give in. We have to find ways to restore the protections of democracy.

    We are all familiar with "offshoring." This is the process of packing up a factory or office, and moving what it does outside of the US to places where people are paid less -- usually because they don't have any say in how their country is run (a.k.a. democracy). Then the company brings the same products or services back to the US and calls that "trade." Allowing this to happen makes democracy a competitive disadvantage.

    One (more) job that has been offshored is call centers. We call to place an order or to get customer service, etc., and the person we talk to is in another country and we can't understand them. This is frustrating, but it is even more frustrating when you think that this is one more job that someone here used to do.

    Earlier this week I wrote about a new bill called The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act that would help bring call-center jobs back to the US. In Call-Center Bill Would Let Customers Ask To Talk To Americans, I explained,

    Today many call-center jobs are being moved out of the country 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 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.

    Not JUST Jobs Lost -- Data Privacy Is Lost, Too

    A new study by the Communication Workers of America backs up the need for that bill. The report is called, Why Shipping Call Center Jobs Overseas Hurts Us Back Home. The study found that offshoring call-centers undoes protection of Americans’ private information. Personal data can be available to people who could use it for criminal purposes. Also, once information is sent across borders governments do not need warrants to collect this info.

    From the press release, CWA Study Exposes Overseas Call Center Issues That Threaten American Consumers’ Personal Information,

    The Communications Workers of America today released a sobering report detailing the linkage between the off-shoring of call center jobs and a range of serious negative effects on U.S. consumers and job seekers, including placing consumers’ personal information at risk.

    … Key findings of the report include:

  • When a U.S. customer’s financial information is sent overseas, it loses the protections of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. As long as an individual’s data is not specifically “targeted,” the data can be collected and analyzed by U.S. federal agencies without a warrant.
  • The documented security hazards are in addition to the damage caused to individuals and communities in the United States by the movement of local call center jobs overseas, off-shoring that often comes after taxpayer-funded dollars and other incentives are heaped upon the corporation.
  • As of this year, the Philippines surpassed India as the top destination for U.S. companies off-shoring call center jobs. American companies also have opened call centers in countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China and Mexico.
  • Americans’ personal data also is at risk in foreign call centers in the relative difficulty in providing background checks on employees. Many foreign nations do not maintain central criminal databases and do not have standard identifiers such as the U.S. Social Security number. As a result, proper background checks are expensive, with one estimate putting the cost at up to $1,000 per employee.
  • This is one more way that offshoring is hurting us. By sending call-center jobs out of the country we are sending the data we give to those call centers out of the country and outside of the protection of our laws. So this call-center bill, named The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act (H.R.3596) is important to us. It is bipartisan, introduced by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) and Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.). Call your own member of Congress and let them know that you support this.

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

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:41 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 8, 2011

    99% March On K Street To Take Back The Capitol From The 1%

    I am in DC covering the Take Back the Capitol "99 in DC" events. On Tuesday I wrote about the efforts of unemployed people and others to get in to talk to their senators and representatives. (Watch some of them tell their stories.) On Wednesday they marched to “K Street” – the symbolic ground zero of the corporate takeover of our democracy. But first…

    When I was waiting to get on the plane to come here the jetway was backed up. Now that the airlines are charging $25 just to check a bag, everyone brings their bags on and tries to cram them into the limited on-plane carry-on space. But of course, the airlines aren't paying the flight attendants more because of the extra work this causes. So this guy come pushing his way down the left side, shouting, “First class, out of the way, first class, let me through,” because he missed boarding first, and he was entitled to already be on the airplane and not have to wait in the line like the rest of us.

    The rest of us are supposed to walk past the already-seated, first class passengers, eyeing their large, comfortable seats, while they sip their champagne mimosas, and look important and ... rich. We're supposed to envy them, and hope to eventually be among them. But until then we are supposed to be grateful that they "create jobs" and allow us to serve them. This is America today.

    Why Occupy?

    Outrages like this been getting worse and worse, and have reached a breaking point, with many of us unemployed -- because actually, the rich don't "create jobs, WE do! So the rest of us -- the 99% -- have been getting mad about things like this for a long time, and are finally starting to show it, now that things have gotten so bad. Across the country people are "occupying" places and ideas that have been taken over by the 1%. They are letting themselves get angry about the things that have been happening, the change from democracy to plutocracy, the way the big corporations and Wall Street now make the rules while they don't themselves have to follow the rules.

    Not only has our Congress come under the control of the 1%, they have done very little to help the 99% through this crisis that was caused by the 1%. This Congress -- the first since the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court -- has done nothing to create jobs while doing a lot to kill jobs, and worse, at the end of this year extended unemployment benefits run out and 2 million people will lose their entire income.

    Take Back The Capitol

    So this week Take Back the Capitol brought unemployed people and others to Washington to confront their members of Congress and the lobbyists on "K Street" that they work for, to demand a change. Today they marched on K Street, the center of lobbying activity. CAF intern Sean McMartin was observing and writes,

    On December 7, 2011, a date 70 years after Pearl Harbor, another piece of history was made. Supporters of the American Dream Movement and several other organizations from all over the country marched from the National Mall up to K Street in Washington. They came to protest their outrage with the rich, corporations, and the special interests, many of which have lobbyists with offices on "K Street." They shouted they were the 99% of the country, who have not fared well over past few years with high unemployment and stagnated wages.

    Just before noon the people from the Take Back the Capitol came to the intersection of 16th and K Street, which became the epicenter of the protest. Occupy DC, which happened to be camped only a block away, saw what was happening and came out of their tents to join the protest. Then a group came marching from the west, too, as Occupy DC came from the east. The coordination was something to see in real time and represented several groups coming together from all over the place.

    The police had to use their cars to block off a perimeter for the protest that involved 14th Street to 17th Street and I Street to L Street. Even policemen on horses,not seen often in Washington, were used as a show of force. There was no violence from what I could see, but a good old protest where people come together to show their outrage with the status quo.

    Pedestrians going to lunch stepped out of their offices to witness history in the making. They took out their cameras and smartphones to record history as it happened and some even shouted their support for the movement.

    After 1 pm city workers and police ordered the protestors onto the sidewalks and of the streets. The protestors slowly but surely followed and cleared the streets as were told.

    Politico reported:

    Wednesday morning, protesters organized by the ADM swarmed the headquarters of major corporations and financial institutions including Verizon, General Electric, Capitol Tax Partners, the American Bankers Association and the financial lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford.

    A labor organizer said the protesters targeted corporations and lobbying groups representing companies that have paid more in executive compensation and lobbying in recent years than they’ve paid in taxes, citing a recent study by Public Campaign.

    Hundreds of protesters from around the country converged on Verizon’s headquarters, chanting slogans like, “whose street — our street” and “shame on Verizon, pay your fair share.” Verizon employees and building staff looked on from the building lobby as protesters swarmed by.

    Protesters also marched around the front of the American Bankers Association, where extra security had been put in place to prevent outsiders from getting into the building.

    About 20 protesters were in the lobby of the Capitol Tax Partners’ building for a brief time, according to a source in the building.

    Also on Wednesday, activists aligned with the Occupy D.C. movement based in McPherson Square marched to protest the Podesta Group, one of the city’s most powerful lobby shops, which has close ties to the Obama administration.

    Here is a collection of photos and videos from the action at K Street (click through for videos)::

    Click here to tell House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: Stop sabotaging the economy. Quit obstructing extensions of the payroll tax cut and long-term unemployment insurance.


    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 5:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 17, 2011

    Big Day Of Action Around The Country

    A government that says corporate money is “speech” dispatches lines of police to stop actual human-being citizens from actually speaking out. It's all right there in front of us: Wall Street got bailouts, the rich got tax cuts, corporations got to buy elections, people got job loss and home loss and pension loss and health care loss, protests got crackdowns.

    Your call @NYPDnews on Twitpic
    (All pics are from twitter streams, clickable for larger, hover over them for descriptions.)

    This is a BIG day of action in cities and towns all across the country. Here is a mid-day roundup of just some -- just some -- of what is going on. Click here to see a map of the hundreds of planned actions across the country. The scope and scale of this is just amazing, and is not at all being conveyed in the media.

    Wall Street: Chanting “You’re sexy, you’re cute, now take off those riot suits,” demonstrators marched on the New York Stock Exchange. Retired police captain Ray Lewis was arrested holding a sign that read "NYPD Don't Be Wall Street Mercenaries."

    Nonviolent, peaceful American citizens being arrested at #Occ... on Twitpic

    A tweet: @digby56digby
    RT @OccupyWallSt: Some bankers are holding signs that say, "get a job." Unemployment is at 10% and they're smug in suits. #N17 #OWS

    these counter-protesters say they're trying to get to wo... on Twitpic NYPD v. Goldman salary comparison #ows #n17 on Twitpic

    At a Portland, Oregon bridge:

    Peaceful arrests have begun in Portland on the Steel Bridge #n17 on Twitpic

    Los Angeles: AP: LA protesters march in financial district,

    Los Angeles police have begun to arrest about 20 people sitting in an intersection at a rally by Occupy Wall Street sympathizers in the downtown financial district.

    Hundreds of people marched Thursday before the small group linked arms around several tents and awaited arrest.

    #N17 #OLA She's 82 years old & getting arrested for ... on Twitpic

    Iowa City:

    #N17 in Iowa City: SEIU Local 199 members were joined by Occu... on Twitpic

    Dallas: Reuters: Occupy Dallas protesters evicted, more than a dozen arrested,

    More than a dozen people were arrested on Thursday morning in Dallas when police on horseback and in riot gear evicted Occupy Dallas protesters from a site near City Hall where they have been camping for the past six weeks.

    There was no violence. Dallas city officials put the number of people arrested at 18, while Occupy Dallas officials said 17 were arrested.

    Duluth:

    Citizens in Duluth MN took to the #bridges for #N17 earlier t... on Twitpic

    Binghamton:

    Mayor Ryan speaking at the rally #occupytheforum #ows #occupy... on Twitpic

    Detroit: Huffington Post: Occupy Detroit Joins Nov. 17 Day Of Action

    Occupy Detroit protesters on Thursday were set to join nationwide protests on the two-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement's initial encampment in New York City.

    ... The group's day of action comes the morning after Detroit Mayor Dave bing announced the need for significant austerity measures to avoid an even greater financial crisis in the city. In a Wednesday night address, the mayor called for a further 10 percent wage cut for city workers and an increase in worker contributions to health care coverage. Bing city police and firefighters should give the same concessions.

    Albany: WGRZ: Occupy Buffalo Joins Demonstrations in Albany, NYC

    About 250 protesters gathered Thursday at the Occupy Albany demonstration near the state Capitol, where activists planned to present their grievances to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office.

    Buses from Buffalo, Rochester and other Occupy Wall Street encampments from around the state delivered the protesters to downtown Lafayette Park. Members of public employee unions have joined the Occupy Albany protesters.

    Onward to the Capitol #n17  on Twitpic People gathering in Lafayette Park for rally #n17 #OcccupyAlb... on Twitpic

    A bridge in Montana:

    #N17 This bridge is the number one bridge in the state of Mon... on Twitpic

    Denver: ABC7: Occupy Denver Joins 'Day Of Action',

    The first rally at noon will be at the Denver Municipal Building at 201 West Colfax Ave. The building is across the street from Civic Center Park where the Occupy Denver protesters have been camped out.

    The second rally will be held at the Greek Amphitheatre at 6 p.m. in Civic Center Park.

    Occupy Denver said the 6 p.m. rally will be a "General Assembly meeting" where they will discuss the Occupy movement as a whole and how the group feels they should progress over the coming months.

    Houston: Houston occupiers join worldwide day of action,

    “Occupy Houston stands in solidarity with those Occupy movements who have recently come under attack, including Occupy Oakland, Occupy Wall Street and now, Occupy Dallas,” spokesman Dustin Phipps said in a statement. “We continue to assert our right to occupy public space and conduct our first amendment right to peaceably assemble.”

    One Occupy protester was arrested earlier this week during an argument with police over tarps the group placed over electronic equipment in Tranquility Park, an ongoing point of contention between the protesters and City Hall.

    Columbia:

    please RT @nikkihaley  #occupycolumbia being evicted illegall... on Twitpic

    Boston:

    I pray that they may experience God's love and open thei... on Twitpic

    NY Daily News: Occupy Wall St. spreads across the United States has pictures from around the country (not necessarily today) including Minneapolis, Miami, Providence, New Orleans, Lincoln, Seattle, Anchorage, Montgomery, Cincinnati, Burlington, Salt Lake City, Little Rock, Jackson, Ashland, Richmond, Hartford, Casper, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Tulsa, St. Louis, Boise, Honolulu, Salem, Austin and others.

    Don't forget San Francisco, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Oakland/Berkeley, Philadelphia, Muncie, Davenport, Lexington, ...

    Around The World, Too

    London, Sydney, Toronto, Rome and Tokyo ... Is this pic really Tokyo?

    @ows @occupywallst @occupywallstnyc Tokyo is the 99% #ows on Twitpic

    Occupy Colleges

    National Student Strike

    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 8:46 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    November 15, 2011

    Government Shutdowns Get The 1% What They Want

    A while back I was writing about the Republican threat of a government-wide shutdown, and the two-week Federal Aviation Administration shutdown (and Delta Airlines' anti-union role in that). The shutdown threat was used to force the government to give even more favors and bucks to the 1% and even less to We, the People.

    Guess what? The shutdown threats are back.

    Last Time

    Earlier this year, and then again in September, the Republicans threatened to block the budget from passing and to just let the government shut down. In exchange for allowing the government to continue to operate they wanted favors for the 1% and their corporations, including gutting environmental regulations, gutting healthcare (especially women's healthcare), and generally gutting the things We, the People do for each other.

    They largely got their way. They even shut down the FAA, stopping construction projects in an attempt to gut union organizing. Four thousand FAA workers and about 90,000 construction workers were laid off, and the shutdown cost the government about $30 million a day.

    Which Was Which?

    The Republican threat of shutting down the government is not to be confused with the debt-ceiling hostage-taking debacle that was engineered by Republicans.

    The debt-ceiling hostage-taking involved Republicans threatening to let the government default on its obligations, sending the world's economy into a tailspin, unless We, the People dramatically roll back the things we do for each other. They got their way, resulting in big cuts plus the "super committee" of the 1% that is currently working on cutting things for the 99%. (The secretive committee is actually talking about cutting Medicare and cutting top tax rates, and calling it "pro-growth.")

    FAA And Labor

    In August Republicans shut down the FAA for two weeks, with Republicans trying to get in an anti-union rule. A temporary FAA reauthorization is currently funded only until the end of January. Last week Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, predicted that the FAA “reauthorization” bill would be done, passed and signed by Christmas.

    But the anti-labor provision is still in the bill.

    Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said the fights over funding bills like this could "make a grown man cry." According to The Hill, "We're working on the 20th-plus extension" of the FAA bill, Mineta said during an interview with The Hill. "That's something we really have to get resolved, and [with] a long-term bill."

    The Game Is Squeeze-The-Rubes

    Here is how the squeeze-the-rubes game is played.

    First, cut taxes for the rich. To accomplish this, call it "pro-growth," make the claim that these cuts will "boost the economy" for the rubes, "bring them jobs," or basically whatever they need to hear that week to get them to go along. Then borrow a ton of money to make up for the lost revenue, because when the debt comes due you have serious leverage.

    Meanwhile, cut government, cut back on education for the rubes, health care for the rubes -- they don't need it, what are they going to do with educations and health, anyway? Cut regulation. Cut enforcement. And, most of all, do what you can to hamstring labor because organized labor is the one remaining force in the country that has some power, and is working to maintain the middle class. because with a strong middle class, government is able to pay down the debt, so there is no cover for all the cuts.

    Then, to speed things up, boost the government's spending on the things that increase your wealth and power. The big one is military. Find something to scare the rubes, watch them run and hide and squeal and let you crank up the military budget, give yourselves no-bid contracts, lucrative consulting contracts, even send pallets of cash to be disbursed to you and your friends.

    And, by the way, tax subsidies for your oil and finance companies will drain the treasury pretty fast, too.

    Then, when the bill comes due, that's when the hammer comes down. That's when you spring the trap. That's when you can have real fun. You've got them where you want them, and you can go to work. Scare the bejeezus out of them with stories of insolvency, poverty, whatever it takes to make them fear the debt. And then crank up the demands.

    Congress Plays Along

    Members of Congress see this game of squeeze-the-rubes for what it is, and get what they can for themselves, too. Rep. Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, led the two-week FAA shutdown over that anti-union rule. (See The Hostage-Taking Just Keeps Coming - This Time The FAA Shuts Down, Think Default Threat Is A Yawn? The FAA Is Still Shut Down and Delta's Greed Helps Shut Down The FAA)

    Well, according to the Florida Independent, Mica, just months after being involved in the temporary shutdown over “spending” on the FAA was bragging about an FAA grant awarded to his district. Mica said he worked for a provision in that bill to keep unions from being able to organize “said he had used his vote as a ‘bargaining tool’ to gain the support of Senate Democrats” for the grant to his own district.

    P.S. Take a look at where Rep. Mica gets the money to run his campaigns.

    How The Game Is Played

    Watch Jack Abramoff explain in a 60 Minutes segment how it works Once the member of Congress or staffer thinks they might get a lobbying job from you,

    ABRAMOFF: When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, “You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.” Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to ‘em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re gonna do. And not only that, they’re gonna think of things we can’t think of to do.

    Perks, Too

    Are airlines giving perks to members of Congress and staffers, as they prepare to vote on more favors for the 1%, possible shutdowns of government for the rest of us, even the FAA reauthorization? From Roll Call, Being in Congress Has Perks,

    Most major airlines have phones lines dedicated to customers on Capitol Hill, aides and lobbyists told Roll Call. To accommodate their unpredictable travel schedules, Members are allowed to reserve seats on multiple flights but pay only for the one they board.

    A spokesman for Delta confirmed the airline has a Congressional call desk and allows members to double-book flights. United Continental Holdings Inc., US Airways and American Airlines, all of which are rumored to have similar practices, did not return Roll Call’s request for comment.

    “We get on every single flight,” said one Capitol Hill aide familiar with process. “Every offices uses it. ... The scheduler uses it for Members and chiefs of staff who fly.”

    The perks have long raised the ire of consumer advocates. “They are treated completely differently from the time they book their ticket until the time they land at the airport,” said Kate Hanni, director of Flyers Rights, an airline passenger advocacy organization.

    Short Run Good For 1%, Long Run Bad For 99%

    In the short run this game yields great riches to a few. In the long run, of course, getting rid of government defunds infrastructure and education so the economy eventually slows to a crawl. Pitting the parts of the citizenry against each other breeds social chaos, maybe even violence.

    What do they care, when they can just hop in their own jots and fly to their own private islands?

    Government is us: We, the People. Our government of the people, by the people and for the people exists to reign in the1% and act as a counterweight to the power of their wealth and their huge corporations. That is why We, the People formed our government, to counter the corrupt controlling power of the British King and his aristocracy. That is why we enabled organized labor. That is why we have regulations. That is why we have access to courts to sue giant corporations. It is about one-person-one-vote democracy, not one-dollar-one-vote plutocracy.

    What You Can Do

    Tell Delta: Stop The Union Busting,

    Delta Air Lines is holding billions of dollars in funding for crucial FAA projects hostage by insisting that Congress pass new, undemocratic rules for airline workers trying to organize a union. Delta wants union elections to count workers who don't take part as voting "No"--an absurd demand that would undermine the entire system of majority-rule voting.

    The rules are under debate now, Delta's powerful allies in Congress are holding up a long-term solution by continuing to insist on the new election rule.

    Without a long-term reauthorization bill, job-creating airport infrastructure projects and critical security improvements are on hold. And we run the risk of another FAA shutdown at the end of the year.

    Thursday National Day Of Action

    Many organizations are calling for a national day of action Thursday Nov. 17, with various events around the country.

    Follow the Twitter hashtag #N17 for info.

    Occupy Wall Street, on Thursday's Day Of Action

    Interfaith Worker Justice: National Days of Action Against Wage Theft

    Check out this We Are The 99% event Thursday,

    We're starting to get the 1% to pay attention. But this system's still rigged against us: Wall Street is still making billions and taking our homes, and Congress can't pass a jobs bill. To amplify the economic emergency, we're making Thursday, November 17, a massive day of action to show "We Are The 99%.

    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 9:01 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 14, 2011

    Egypt-Style Attacks On Several Occupy Camps

    When Egyptians stood up to Mubarak they were met with tear gas and clubs. Once upon a time American had freedom of assembly, speech and protest. Even now, as long as protests don't take on the 1%, they are OK. But in today's America-for-the-1% protests, assemblies and speech against plutocatic, 1% rule are met with tear gas and police batons to the head.

    Occupy Movement camps around the country follow strict practices of nonviolence and democracy. As with any diverse community of people, there are troublemakers who take advantage of loose organization and predators who prey on others. This is why we have police departments in every city and town. But plutocratic government response is to discourage the Occupy Movement, so government services are denied these citizens. Instead of helpfully serving communities, the frown of disapproving authority is cast upon their activities.

    Disgust and fear are powerful propaganda tools, and there has been a remarkable "soften up public opinion" media drumbeat using repeated accusations of bugs, thugs, drugs, muggings, disease, rats, filth, and other disgust and fear-invoking imagery. (Perhaps worst of all in the "shame them" index, even beards and general non-consumerism and non-conformity are described!) So with the ground prepared and the way paved for police actions, Occupy camps in Portland, Oakland, Chapel Hill, St. Louis, Albany, Salt Lake City, Burlington, San Francisco, Denver and other cities were raided over the weekend.

    "The 1% And Its Government Facilitators"

    Of course in one form or another Occupy actions will continue as long as the 1% continues its extreme shock-doctrine power and wealth grab. There are still scores of other Occupy actions taking place in cities around the country and world.

    In Oakland the mayor's legal advisor posted on Facebook that he has resigned over Monday's police raid of Occupy Oakland.

    His Facebook post: "No longer Mayor Quan's legal adviser. Resigned at 2 am. Support Occupy Oakland, not the 1% and its government facilitators."

    Report From Oakland

    AlterNet's Joshua Holland reports on the police action in Oakland, in Thousands of Riot Cops Descend on Occupy Oakland, 32 Arrested,

    It's the explosions and large volume of gunshots that made these actions excessive. The generous use of flash-bang grenades, tear gas and “less lethal” rounds deployed by police in heavy black body armor felt more like the opening scene to Saving Private Ryan than footage of, say, protests against the Vietnam War being broken up by helmeted police swinging batons. While the weapons deployed by police are designed not to kill or maim (if used properly), the visceral sensation of walking through streets dodging explosions and chemical agents while rounds crackle in the air creates an effect similar to that of actual combat – abject terror, disorientation and a sense of unease that lingers for days.


    Roundups And Videos

    RT has a roundup of of some of these actions, Occupy camps under attack across America

    Here is an AP video roundup of some of these actions:

    Here is CNN footage of various actions around the country:

    Here is footage from an early Occupy event:

    What You Can Do

    Attend at least one Occupy event.

    You may have heard about the "Occupy" protests that are occurring in cities around the country. They aren't what you are hearing. Please come to one and see for yourself. If you are young, old, white, black, brown, poor, rich, left, right, centrist, even Tea Party you will find people just like you. You might agree, you might disagree, you might love it, you might hate it, but you owe it to yourself to come and see for yourself.

    A lot of people feel frustration with the huge and increasing gap between the rich and the poor and the effect this is having on our country, culture, politics and the way we relate to each other as Americans. It seems like everything in the country is now geared toward the top 1%, and the rest of us are divided and supposed to keep quiet and accept this. Somehow the Occupy movement started at just the right time, when just the right number of people were fed up with the way things are going and the lack of solutions coming from our political leaders. It grew quickly, because people were tired of keeping quiet while our government seems to operate only for the benefit of the top few and expects the rest of us to sacrifice to pay for that.

    This all brings us a chance to restore democracy not just in our communities, but within ourselves. By attending and participating, we are exercising the "muscles" of democracy, of speaking up and being part of something. The thing is, you won’t just see it, you’ll feel it. You'll feel what it is like to have so many people around you who agree with you. You'll feel what it is like to be part of something important.

    How To Find One Near You

    The "Occupy" movement has now been going on for just over six weeks, and has spread to hundreds of towns across the country. You can probably find one near you. Start at Occupy Together which is at http://www.occupytogether.org/. Take a look at the page where they show you what is happening in your area, using a map. Also, try typing 'Occupy' and the name of your town into Google just to see what pops up.

    Also see them on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/occupyeverywhere, and http://www.facebook.com/Gilded.Age . Also visit the Rebuild the Dream movement, and, of course, MoveOn.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 2:34 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 9, 2011

    Mic Check

    In a democracy
         In a democracy
    The 99 percent
         The 99 percent
    Count just as much
         Count just as much
    As the top few
         As the top few

    In a democracy
         In a democracy
    It’s one person one vote
         It’s one person one vote
    And it’s not
         And it’s not
    One dollar one vote
         One dollar one vote

    In a democracy
         In a democracy
    Big corporations
         Big corporations
    Don’t get
         Don’t get
    To write the laws
         To write the laws

    In a democracy
         In a democracy
    We the People
         We the People
    Are the ones
         Are the ones
    Who make the rules
         Who make the rules

    In a democracy
         In a democracy
    We have rule of law
         We have rule of law
    And the rich
         And the rich
    Aren’t above the law
         Aren’t above the law


    Tell me what democracy looks like
         This is what democracy looks like
    Tell me what democracy looks like
         This is what democracy looks like

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 4, 2011

    Occupy's Asshole Problem: Flashbacks from An Old Hippie

    A guest post by Sara Robinson

    I wish I could say that the problems that the Occupy movement is having with infiltrators and agitators are new. But they're not. In fact, they're problems that the Old Hippies who survived the 60s and 70s remember acutely, and with considerable pain.

    As a veteran of those days -- with the scars to prove it -- watching the OWS organizers struggle with drummers, druggies, sexual harassers, racists, and anarchists brings me back to a few lessons we had to learn the hard way back in the day, always after putting up with way too much over-the-top behavior from people we didn't think we were allowed to say "no" to. It's heartening to watch the Occupiers begin to work out solutions to what I can only indelicately call "the asshole problem." In the hope of speeding that learning process along, here are a few glimmers from my own personal flashbacks -- things that it's high time somebody said right out loud.

    1. Let's be clear: It is absolutely OK to insist on behavior norms. #Occupy may be a DIY movement -- but it also stands for very specific ideas and principles. Central among these is: We are here to reassert the common good. And we have a LOT of work to do. Being open and accepting does not mean that we're obligated to accept behavior that damages our ability to achieve our goals. It also means that we have a perfect right to insist that people sharing our spaces either act in ways that further those goals, or go somewhere else until they're able to meet that standard.

    2. It is OK to draw boundaries between those who are clearly working toward our goals, and those who are clearly not. Or, as an earlier generation of change agents put it: "You're either on the bus, or off the bus." Are you here to change the way this country operates, and willing to sacrifice some of your almighty personal freedom to do that? Great. You're with us, and you're welcome here. Are you here on your own trip and expecting the rest of us to put up with you? In that case, you are emphatically NOT on our side, and you are not welcome in our space.

    Anybody who feels the need to put their own personal crap ahead of the health and future of the movement is (at least for that moment) an asshole, and does not belong in Occupied space. Period. This can be a very hard idea for people in an inclusive movement to accept -- we really want to have all voices heard. But the principles #Occupy stands for must always take precedence over any individual's divine right to be an asshole, or the assholes will take over. Which brings me to....

    3. The consensus model has a fatal flaw, which is this: It's very easy for power to devolve to the people who are willing to throw the biggest tantrums. When some a drama king or queen starts holding the process hostage for their own reasons, congratulations! You've got a new asshole! (See #2.) You must guard against this constantly, or consensus government becomes completely impossible.

    4. Once you've accepted the right of the group to set boundaries around people's behavior, and exclude those who put their personal "rights" ahead of the group's mission and goals, the next question becomes: How do we deal with chronic assholes?

    This is the problem Occupy's leaders are very visibly struggling with now. I've been a part of asshole-infested groups in the long-ago past that had very good luck with a whole-group restorative justice process. In this process, the full group (or some very large subset of it that's been empowered to speak for the whole) confronts the troublemaker directly. The object is not to shame or blame. Instead, it's like an intervention. You simply point out what you have seen and how it affects you. The person is given a clear choice: make some very specific changes in their behavior, or else leave.

    This requires some pre-organization. You need three to five spokespeople to moderate the session (usually as a tag team) and do most of the talking. Everybody else simply stands in a circle around the offender, watching silently, looking strong and determined. The spokespeople make factual "we" statements that reflect the observations of the group. "We have seen you using drugs inside Occupied space. We are concerned that this hurts our movement. We are asking you to either stop, or leave."

    When the person tries to make excuses (and one of the most annoying attributes of chronic assholes is they're usually skilled excuse-makers as well), then other members of the group can speak up -- always with "I" messages. "I saw you smoking a joint with X and Y under tree Z this morning. We're all worried about the cops here, and we think you're putting our movement in danger. We are asking you to leave." Every statement needs to end with that demand -- "We are asking you to either stop, or else leave and not come back." No matter what the troublemaker says, the response must always be brought back to this bottom line.

    These interventions can go on for a LONG time. You have to be committed to stay in the process, possibly for a few hours until the offender needs a pee break or gets hungry. But eventually, if everybody stays put, the person will have no option but to accept that a very large group of people do not want him or her there. Even truly committed assholes will get the message that they've crossed the line into unacceptable behavior when they're faced with several dozen determined people confronting them all at once.

    Given the time this takes, it's tempting to cut corners by confronting several people all at once. Don't do it. Confronting more than two people at a time creates a diffusion-of-responsibility effect: the troublemakers tell themselves that they just got caught up in a dragnet; the problem is those other people, not me. The one who talks the most will get most of the heat; the others will tend to slip by (though the experience may cause them to reconsider their behavior or leave as well).

    This process also leaves open the hope that the person will really, truly get that their behavior is Not OK, and agree to change it. When this happens, be sure to negotiate specific changes, boundaries, rules, and consequences ("if we see you using drugs here again, we will call the police. There will be no second warning"), and then reach a consensus agreement that allows them to stay. On the other hand: if the person turns violent and gets out of control, then the question is settled, and their choice is made. You now have a legitimate reason to call the cops to haul them away. And the cops will likely respect you more for maintaining law and order.

    Clearing out a huge number of these folks can be a massive time suck, at least for the few days it will take to weed out the worst ones and get good at it. It might make sense to create a large committee whose job it is to gather information, build cases against offenders, and conduct these meetings.

    And finally:

    5. It is not wrong for you to set boundaries this way. You will get shit for this. "But...but...it looks a whole lot like a Maoist purge unit!" No. There is nothing totalitarian about asking people who join your revolution to act in ways that support the goals of that revolution. And the Constitution guarantees your right of free association -- which includes the right to exclude people who aren't on the bus, and who are wasting the group's limited time and energy rather than maximizing it. After all: you're not sending these people to re-education camps, or doing anything else that damages them. You're just getting them out of the park, and out of your hair. You're eliminating distractions, which in turn effectively amplifies the voices and efforts of everyone else around you. And, in the process, you're also modeling a new kind of justice that sanctions people's behavior without sanctioning their being -- while also carving out safe space in which the true potential of Occupy can flourish.

    Posted by Guest at 12:56 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    October 31, 2011

    Why You Should Attend An Occupy Meeting

    Please forward this to friends, relatives, "centrists" and conservatives you know. You may have heard about the "Occupy" protests that are occurring in cities around the country. They aren't what you are hearing. Please come to one and see for yourself. If you are young, old, white, black, brown, poor, rich, left, right, centrist, even Tea Party you will find people just like you. You might agree, you might disagree, you might love it, you might hate it, but you owe it to yourself to come and see for yourself.

    A lot of people feel frustration with the huge and increasing gap between the rich and the poor and the effect this is having on our country, culture, politics and the way we relate to each other as Americans. It seems like everything in the country is now geared toward the top 1%, and the rest of us are divided and supposed to keep quiet and accept this. Somehow the Occupy movement started at just the right time, when just the right number of people were fed up with the way things are going and the lack of solutions coming from our political leaders. It grew quickly, because people were tired of keeping quiet while our government seems to operate only for the benefit of the top few and expects the rest of us to sacrifice to pay for that.

    This all brings us a chance to restore democracy not just in our communities, but within ourselves. By attending and participating, we are exercising the "muscles" of democracy, of speaking up and being part of something. The thing is, you won’t just see it, you’ll feel it. You'll feel what it is like to have so many people around you who agree with you. You'll feel what it is like to be part of something important.

    How To Find One Near You

    The "Occupy" movement has now been going on for just over six weeks, and has spread to hundreds of towns across the country. You can probably find one near you. Start at Occupy Together which is at http://www.occupytogether.org/. Take a look at the page where they show you what is happening in your area, using a map. Also, try typing 'Occupy' and the name of your town into Google just to see what pops up.

    Also see them on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/occupyeverywhere, and http://www.facebook.com/Gilded.Age . Also visit the Rebuild the Dream movement, and, of course, MoveOn.org.

    So now that you know where one is, come on down, and see for yourself. If you need a ride ask your niece or your aunt. If your aunt needs a ride, give her a ride.

    What To Expect

    Warning, there might be some people with beards, and God forbid, drum circles.

    People are out there speaking for themselves, and learning how to be citizens again, instead of just consumers. This will have a lot of interesting outcomes, most of them good, some of them won't work out. But it will be people who want to be involved again.

    Depending on your community, there will likely be a turnout of some people with signs and leaflets, maybe some people set up with tables to do things like register people to vote, organizations with literature, groups that know each other, people who don't know each other standing around, etc. There will be a diversity people people.

    These events are self-organizing, no one is "running" these events, but volunteers will be helping to organize them. The character of the event completely depends on who shows up, who volunteers to help run it, and how much the people speak up. So it's up to you to do your part.

    See the website How To Occupy and the Field Manual wiki.

    Occupy events have a "General Assembly" meeting once or twice every day. In New York the meeting is at 7pm. At the recent Redwood City, CA Occupy event it was at about 6pm. As I said above, volunteers run things, which means that after you get to know the ropes you might want to volunteer.

    From the Occupy Wall Street website:

    The occupations around the world are being organized using a non-binding consensus based collective decision making tool known as a "people's assembly". To learn more about how to use this process to organize your local community to fight back against social injustice, please read this quick guide on group dynamics in people's assemblies.

    These meetings are the heart of the movement. Please come attend one, even if it is just to watch. You'll feel what it is like to be say what is on your mind. (And you'll feel what it is like to sit there while so many other people say what is on their minds. ;-) Don't worry, it works, and people keep comments short.) This is what democracy looks like.

    Occupy Redwood City

    Friday I attended Occupy Redwood City (California), and took some pictures. It was the first Redwood City event, maybe 50 people showed up, and the General Assembly lasted a couple of hours. They'll meet again next Friday, and probably should expect a lot more people now that it is up and in operation and people are telling each other about it. If 50 people doesn't seem like a lot, this is not a huge city, and there are more than a hundred events like it going on, some with thousands of people turning out.

    Scary, no? Especially the guy (me) with the little white dog. Was that a beard? Of, that first one is a short video, click here in case it doesn't work in this post.

    Don't Let Them Scare You Away

    Speaking of being scary: There will not be violence. This is a non-violent movement. The media outlets, talk show hosts, columnists, etc. that tell you there is violence are trying to keep you from showing up. They are trying to scare you. When they send large numbers of police to shoot tear gas into these events, it is an attempt to intimidate people, not just there but people who are thinking of showing up.

    Another way they are trying to keep people from showing up is with humiliation. This is a remarkably effective technique. Make people ashamed to show up, tell them they will be laughed at, or shunned, and people will stay away. They tell you the "protesters" are "dirty," even "urine-soaked." They tell you they are "hippies" and thinkthis will make you ashamed to show up and speak your mind.

    This is about what speech is "permissible" and what is not. The corporate-conservatives on the Supreme Court say that corporations are people who “speak” and can use all of their money to swamp our elections. But when people show up to complain about the 1% running everything, they are met with force. The big banks can crash the economy and commit crimes and are offered modest “settlements,” but when people show up to complain they are beaten, maced, tear-gassed and arrested.

    Don’t let them make you feel scared or ashamed to stand up for your rights.

    Show Up & See For Yourself

    If you want democracy you have to fight for democracy. You have to stand up for your rights or they will go away. Please visit at least on Occupy event in your area, and see for yourself.

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

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:54 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 27, 2011

    Plutocratic Government Tries To Beat Down #Occupy

    In Oakland peaceful #Occupy demonstrators were camping out in front of city hall. The city launched a police raid to clear out the camp, using tear gas, flash-bank grenades, rubber bullets and beating people with batons. An Iraq war vet was hit in the head by either a rubber bullet or tear gas canister and critically injured. These days this is the typical government response to non-Tea-Party "protesters." Let's look at how the Occupiers and protests would be treated if we were a functioning democracy -- a government of by and for We, the People -- instead of a dysfunctional plutocracy serving the biggest corporations and the billionaires behind them.

    Citizens?

    The first thing to understand about every single person involved in the #occupy movement is that they are citizens and human beings. Even the ones with beards. Alas, even the drummers. (What do you call a drummer who breaks up with his girlfriend? Homeless. What do you call a drummer with half a brain? Gifted.)

    The people involved in the #occupy movement are upset that our country has abandoned democracy in favor of plutocracy. They are upset that every decision made in Washington is based on the wishes of the top 1%. They are upset that we do not have a reasonable health care system, no reasonable pension system, or child care system, or other benefits that people in democracies around the world receive. They are upset that most of the benefits of our economy instead go to a very few at the top. They are upset that a huge amount of our money goes to pay for a military machines that costs more than all other countries spend on military combined. They are upset that there is a "Super Committee" meeting in secret to decide how much money to take out of the economy to pay for the bailouts and other costs of the fiasco caused by Wall Street and the big banks.

    So with their government ignoring their majority demands they have finally decided to voice their protests publicly. For doing this they have been met with smears, derision, and police attacks.

    Police Ordered To Attack

    Just as in countries like Syria, Egypt, Libya and Iran, the instinctive response of our plutocratic government and Wall Street-backed power structures has been to see those people who have shown up at these protests as somehow suspect, possibly even as an enemy, and to attack them. FOX News and the entire corporate/conservative media machine regularly attacks them. And the police are ordered to attack them.

    This is not "protesters vs police." People who work in law enforcement are part of the 99%, just like us. They have families to feed, bills to pay, and have to do what they're told.

    Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Source: http://twitpic.com/6s2g4a

    And this is what they were ordered to do, to people who were exercising their legitimate rights:


    American citizens were treated as criminals and attacked just for speaking out about the injustice of Wall Street getting a huge bailout after they caused this mess, and now the rest of us are told to sacrifice to pay for it.

    John Stewart on The Daily Show reacts to the Oakland attack:


    If We Were A Democracy Instead Of A Plutocracy

    The occupy movement clashes with federal, state and local governments the way they currently work. We really have an opportunity here to come back to an understanding of democracy and the role of government, and who government should serve. Currently government is really set up to serve the top few, and facilitate bigger businesses, and understands the people in their communities as consumers and corporate employees, and not as citizens.

    So imagine how it cold be different, if we had a government designed to serve the people rather than keep them in their place. In a country with a true democratic culture the local governments would be serving these people and honoring their right to dissent and protest. They would instinctively be showing up at protests like this and offering to help with any sanitation problems, etc, setting up public toilets, and other services. They would even be offering tents. If there are security problems in the occupy camps a city would be posting police in the encampment to help the people there, with a clear mission to serve them. They certainly would not be seeing them as the enemy, and attacking them.

    Imagine Real Democracy and its Implications

    The #occupy movement opens up the space to imagine what the country could be if we really did have a democracy with a first instinct of serving the people, instead of serving only the wealthy and their big corporations.

    Imagine a government of, by and for the people and the things that regular people want and need. Imagine everyone entitled to a free education through college? Imagine a transportation system that helps us all get around -- mass transit and high-speed rail systems instead of just roads and highways for those who can afford cars, with plutocratic pay lanes so those with more money can get around.

    Imagine a people outraged at special passes through airport security for those with first-class tickets.

    Imagine advertisers having to get people's permission before they are allowed to interrupt their attention. Imagine the things we would have if We, the People were in charge.

    Imagine a modern, maintained infrastructure, good schools, and a guarantee of a job working on those for any9one who needed work.

    Imagine a government that enforced laws even when the top few violated them, enforced job discrimination laws, enforced anti-trust laws... or a government that protected citizens from corporate fraud, fees, scams, etc.

    Occupiers Are People Too

    These occupiers are "the people' just as much as any other people in the community and government should exist to serve them just as much as any other group.

    Alas, even the drummers.

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

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:01 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 26, 2011

    People Distrust Government -- Conservative Mission Accomplished

    The corporate/conservative plan for decades has been to turn people against government and democracy. Because when people stop accepting the idea of We, the People making decisions, guess who gets to make the decisions instead? Last month a retiring GOP staffer explained how it works, this month a new poll show how well it works.

    Distrust

    NY Times today: New Poll Finds a Deep Distrust of Government,

    Not only do 89 percent of Americans say they distrust government to do the right thing, but 74 percent say the country is on the wrong track and 84 percent disapprove of Congress — warnings for Democrats and Republicans alike.

    ... A remarkable sense of pessimism and skepticism was apparent in question after question in the survey, which found that Congressional approval has reached a new low at 9 percent.

    The Gameplan

    At the beginning of September a Republican Senate staffer retired, and wrote a widely-read "confession" that laid bare the conservative gameplan: turn people against government and democracy. In Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult, retiring Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren wrote,

    Far from being a rarity, virtually every bill, every nominee for Senate confirmation and every routine procedural motion is now subject to a Republican filibuster. Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that Washington is gridlocked: legislating has now become war minus the shooting, something one could have observed 80 years ago in the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. As Hannah Arendt observed, a disciplined minority of totalitarians can use the instruments of democratic government to undermine democracy itself.

    [. . .] A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

    A deeply cynical tactic, to be sure, but a psychologically insightful one that plays on the weaknesses both of the voting public and the news media. There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters' confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that "they are all crooks," and that "government is no good," further leading them to think, "a plague on both your houses" and "the parties are like two kids in a school yard." This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s - a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn ("Government is the problem," declared Ronald Reagan in 1980).

    Please read the whole piece. This Republican, writing from the inside, explains that they are doing it on purpose. They are making the government dysfunctional on purpose. They are making people hate government on purpose. They are working to turn people against democracy and put themselves and their corporate sponsors in power in its place.

    #occupy Brings Signs Of Hope

    There are signs of hope in the poll. Even with a dearth of media coverage (compare to the well-funded, billionaire-backed Tea Party!!!) the #occupywallstreet movement has changed the national conversation. From the NYTimes article,

    Almost half of the public thinks the sentiment at the root of the Occupy movement generally reflects the views of most Americans.

    With nearly all Americans remaining fearful that the economy is stagnating or deteriorating further, two-thirds of the public said that wealth should be distributed more evenly in the country. Seven in 10 Americans think the policies of Congressional Republicans favor the rich. Two-thirds object to tax cuts for corporations and a similar number prefer increasing income taxes on millionaires.

    [. . .] With the nation’s unemployment rate at 9.1 percent, income inequality remains a palpable issue for Americans. Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats, two-thirds of independents and just over one-third of all Republicans say that the distribution of wealth in the country should be more equitable, even as a majority of Republicans said they think it is fair.

    There is hope. The public is not stupid, and can at least sense what is going on.


    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 1:08 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 15, 2011

    Connect The Dots

    Looks really good: Connect The Dots For Democracy, Connect The Dots USA

    In the confusion of today’s 24/7 spin machine, doesn’t it often seem like the “Flat Earth Society” gets equal or more time than the “Round Earth Society”? And, left unchallenged by journalists, people are free to just pick their own facts?

    The goal of these visual, easy-to-understand presentations is to help regular, busy folks like yourself understand the issues and what is happening with our political process. Then we can start to connect the dots to get our policies to work for the benefit of most Americans again.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:47 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 7, 2011

    Washington Ignored The People, And Now You’ve Got #Occupy

    What did the politicians in Washington think would happen? They forgot about the "We, the People" part of our Constitution. After bailing out the banks and bankers and interests of the top 1% they fiddled while our jobs burned and mortgages defaulted. With people losing their incomes, pensions and healthcare they worried about deficits instead of jobs and cut back on essential services. They smugly spouted slogans at us and thought we'd be fooled and pacified. People voted for change and they didn't get change. And now people are in the streets.

    Part of the fiddling was by plan, Republicans obstructing efforts to create jobs and help the economy hoping this will give them an edge in the next election. Part of it was an attempt at "bipartisanship," trying to accommodate the ultrapartisans who only wanted to to advance their obstructionist agenda, thusly deprioritizing the needs of the people. Whatever -- change did not happen.

    One Spark Could Bring Trouble

    The problem with big groups of angry people is that it is very difficult to maintain control. This sudden enthusiastic energy of people taking to the streets to voice their anger at Wall Street and Washington is growing fast and there is really very little to control and channel it. Large groups of people concentrated into crowds can become mobs all too quickly. One cop-with-baton too many and it could turn into something no one wants. Or one too-clever Wall Street type, hiring agent-provocateurs to start violence, thinking it will "discredit" the movement... (Yes, nonsense like this happens and never works out the way the strategerizers hope.)

    Look what happened in England, with terrible riots. Did it happen as a result of the austerity - putting the top 1% ahead of regular people? Maybe, maybe not. But the tensions in England, where they still have a good safety net and everyone has health care, were certainly not greater than they are here.

    Do not take the people for granted. Do not think you can engineer a population with slogans and ignore solutions. And when they take to the streets to express their unhappiness do not ignore them or think you can finesse things. It shouldn't have gotten to this point. People have had it, they are fed up, and they are telling the leadership that they have to remember just who is supposed to be in charge here.

    The New Left Pole

    So the "incoherent" street occupiers and marchers represent the new left poll of the spectrum. Suddenly groups like Campaign for America's Future, labor unions, MoveOn.org, and especially the coalition making up the Rebuild The Dream Movement now represent the center. More importantly, they represent a controlled, organized path to sensible solutions that give the people what they need.

    The Path Forward

    There is a path forward that has been clearly defined by the responsible organizers and members of Congress who have been trying to push the political system to respond to the needs and demands of We, the People. Start by passing the President's jobs bill. Then pass The People's Budget. Take a look at CAF's "Big Ideas" for a bold jobs agenda.

    It's time to get moving, and finally get to work on the side of We, the People. That is how it is supposed to work here.


    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 2:51 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    October 1, 2011

    Nobody Can Predict The Moment Of Revolution

    A video about Occupy Wall Street

    (The reason people repeat what the spokesperson is saying is to relay what they say back into the crowd.)

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:46 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    September 22, 2011

    Conservatives Say It Out Loud: They Hate Democracy

    The roots of today's toxic conservative movement lie in Ayn Rand's teaching that wealthy "producers -- now called "job creators" -- should be left alone by the government, namely the rest of us. The rest of us are "freeloaders," "moochers," "leeches" and "parasites" who feed off these producers and who shouldn't be allowed to make decisions to collect taxes from them or regulate them or interfere in most other ways. The Randians hate democracy, and say so, declaring that "collectivism" sacrifices individual rights to majority wishes. (See Concern Over Republican Embrace Of The Ayn Rand Poison.)

    For decades these selfish, childish, "you can't make me" beliefs stayed largely below the radar, because conservatives understood that voicing them in public risked alienating ... well, anyone with any sense at all. But for various reasons sense has departed the country and conservatives are finally saying it out loud, for everyone to hear: they hate democracy. They want to limit the country's decision-making and the rewards of our society and economy to those they feel "deserve" to be on top, namely the "producers" and "job-creators."

    Writing in Registering the Poor to Vote is Un-American conservative columnist Matthew Vadum reflects these views, writing that democracy is "like handing out burglary tools to criminals." He writes,

    It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country -- which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote.

    A decade before the Motor-Voter law that required states to register voters at welfare offices was enacted, NAACP official Joe Madison explained the political economy of voter registration drives. "When people are standing in line to get cheese and butter or unemployment compensation, you don't have to tell them how to vote," said Madison, now a radio talk show host in Washington, D.C. "They know how to vote."

    Vadum echoes the Randian ideology that we should be government by the "producer" supermen, and the parasites (the rest of us) should have no say in this, calling it communism:

    Encouraging those who burden society to participate in elections isn't about helping the poor. It's about helping the poor to help themselves to others' money. It's about raw so-called social justice. It's about moving America ever farther away from the small-government ideals of the Founding Fathers.

    Registering the unproductive to vote is an idea that was heavily promoted by the small-c communists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, as I write in my new book, Subversion Inc.: How Obama's ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers.

    Thom Hartmann talks on his TV show with Vadum about this:

    In response, conservative outlets like FOX News have been giving Vadum a platform to repeat his views to large numbers of people:

    Other Conservatives Weigh In

    Vadum's perspective are not unique in conservative circles. Rush Limbaugh has questioned on the air whether poor people should be allowed to vote. Judson Phillips, president of Tea Party Nation thinks voting should be limited to those who "own property."

    Other conservatives are also on the record as opposing democracy. Walter Williams, in Democracy Versus Liberty, writes, "I find democracy and majority rule a contemptible form of government." He echoes the old "taxes are theft" line, writing, "Laws do not represent reason. They represent force."

    Pat Buchanan picks up the baton and mocks democracy, calling it a "childlike faith," and laments the downfall of a corrupt tyrant, in The Democracy Worshipers,

    ...Hosni Mubarak, though a ruthless ruler, had been our man in Cairo since the assassination of Anwar Sadat, fighting alongside us in the Gulf War, keeping the peace with Israel, allying with us in the war on terror.

    But as soon as the tide turned against him, we ditched him and cheered on the crowd in Tahrir Square, a few of whom celebrated the downfall of despotism with a sexual mauling of Lara Logan.

    Some Good Points

    Earlier this year, writing at the Cato Institute, Senior Fellow Steve H. Hanke offers a more nuanced view of democracy's failings, in, On Democracy Versus Liberty Mr. Hanke makes very good points about the tendencies of the public to be steered toward bad decisions by panic during crisis. "The result is that crises acted as a ratchet, shifting the trend line of government size and scope up to a higher level." Later, he equates the power of organized wealth (Cato's funders, anyone???) to influence lawmakers with the problems of majority rule! He uses examples including farmers continuing to receive subsidies long after the depression ended, and the Bush-era expansion of government in response to 9/11.

    But Hanke fails to see that it is not democracy that causes these distortions, but the failure of our system to keep the power of concentrated wealth from shouting down the collected wisdom of the people. It is the suppression of democracy that causes the very problems Henke attributes to democracy.

    Republican War On Voting

    Today in several states Republicans are making it harder to vote. In The Next Voting Rights Movement Must Start Now, CAF's Isaiah J. Poole warns,

    In state after state, new hurdles, such as voter ID laws, are being constructed to the right to vote that will especially trip up low-income people, students, rural residents and seniors. They disproportionately affect many of the groups who helped put Barack Obama in the White House in 2008 and who are in the vanguard of opposition to right-wing economic policies today. This disenfranchisement is largely happening below the radar of a populace and a national media preoccupied with the poor state of the economy and with the series of attacks by governors on public employee unions.

    Ari Berman, in The GOP War on Voting at Rolling Stone,

    As the nation gears up for the 2012 presidential election, Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008. Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots.

    . . . In a systematic campaign orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council – and funded in part by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who bankrolled the Tea Party – 38 states introduced legislation this year designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process.

    All told, a dozen states have approved new obstacles to voting. Kansas and Alabama now require would-be voters to provide proof of citizenship before registering. Florida and Texas made it harder for groups like the League of Women Voters to register new voters. Maine repealed Election Day voter registration, which had been on the books since 1973. Five states – Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia – cut short their early voting periods. Florida and Iowa barred all ex-felons from the polls, disenfranchising thousands of previously eligible voters. And six states controlled by Republican governors and legislatures – Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin – will require voters to produce a government-issued ID before casting ballots. More than 10 percent of U.S. citizens lack such identification, and the numbers are even higher among constituencies that traditionally lean Democratic – including 18 percent of young voters and 25 percent of African-Americans.

    Taken together, such measures could significantly dampen the Democratic turnout next year – perhaps enough to shift the outcome in favor of the GOP.

    In Taking Back The Vote, CAF's Terrance Heath writes about the Republican war on voting,

    If tea party conservatives have their way, the right to vote will revert back to a privilege — and one enjoyed by far fewer people. It's easy to dismiss media motormouths like Ann Coulter, when she says that women should not have the right to vote, because too many of them vote Democratic (single women, anyway). But it's a mistake to shrug off someone like Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips, who thinks it would be a good idea to put "certain restrictions on the right to vote," like restricting voting to property owners.

    Phillips' claim is reminiscent of Republican attempts to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the 2008 election in states like Michigan and Ohio. When right-wing pundits like Matthew Vadum (author of the ACORN "exposé" Subversion, Inc.) and Rush Limbaugh say that the poor shouldn't have the right to vote, they're expressing the same sentiment. It's a manifestation of the conservative concern that too many of the "wrong people" have too much of a voice in politics, and too few of the "right people" have any. That's what Paul Weyrich meant when he said to a group of evangelical activists in 1980: "I don't want everybody to vote. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."

    Undermining Democracy On Purpose

    We are not dealing with the Republican Party we used to know. This is not even George W. Bush's Republican party anymore. In Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult, retiring Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren writes,

    Far from being a rarity, virtually every bill, every nominee for Senate confirmation and every routine procedural motion is now subject to a Republican filibuster. Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that Washington is gridlocked: legislating has now become war minus the shooting, something one could have observed 80 years ago in the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. As Hannah Arendt observed, a disciplined minority of totalitarians can use the instruments of democratic government to undermine democracy itself.

    [. . .] A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

    A deeply cynical tactic, to be sure, but a psychologically insightful one that plays on the weaknesses both of the voting public and the news media. There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters' confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that "they are all crooks," and that "government is no good," further leading them to think, "a plague on both your houses" and "the parties are like two kids in a school yard." This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s - a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn ("Government is the problem," declared Ronald Reagan in 1980).

    Please read that again, and then read the whole piece. This is a Republican writing, from the inside. They are doing it on purpose. They are making the government dysfunctional on purpose. They are making people hate government on purpose. They are working to turn people against democracy and put themselves in power in its place.


    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 9:13 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 24, 2011

    Republicans Afraid Of Town Halls, Order Police To Seize People's Cameras

    Through Digby's Hullabaloo watch what happens when a citizen tries to document what a Republican Congressman is saying:

    Now go read Digby's post.

    These people are not fooling around. They do not like accountability, transparency or democracy. Not at all.

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

    August 23, 2011

    Rich Guy "Deeply Resents" Helping Pay For Democracy

    Hey here's a real dog bites man story for you: a really, really rich guy says to readers of billionaire Murdoch's Wall Street Journal that he "deeply resents" paying taxes and whines about how the government does things he doesn't like. This in response to Warren Buffet's call to ask billionaires to at least pay as much in taxes as their secretaries. Seriously, it wasn't in The Onion.

    Let's set the stage. Thanks to the "trickle down" policies of Reagan and Bush all the income gains in recent decades have gone to the top few. One in seven Americans and 25% of our children now live in poverty. (43% of our children are "at risk.") The average family income for "the bottom" 90% of us is $31,244, while the average income of the top .01% is over $27 MILLION. Per year, each year. The average income of the richest 400 Americans was $227.4 million -- and those 400 hold more wealth than the "bottom" 50% of Americans combined. Etc., etc. (I don't have to write about how many are unemployed, do it?)

    So with those statistics as background, former American Express CEO Harvey Golub wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, responding to Warren Buffet’s call for the rich to start paying taxes again.

    Mr. Golub writes,

    I deeply resent that President Obama has decided that I don't need all the money I've not paid in taxes over the years, or that I should leave less for my children and grandchildren and give more to him to spend as he thinks fit.

    ... After all, I did earn it.

    Now there's attitude! Never mind that someone who reached the high position of CEO of America Express doesn't even seem to understand the system well enough to know that the President doesn't spend tax dollars "as he thinks fit." In American We, the People (used to) decide how best to spend our tax dollars, for the benefit of We, the People.

    Golub gets to the heart of his complaint, government services like post offices where "no one lives":

    Governments have an obligation to spend our tax money on programs that work. They fail at this fundamental task. Do we really need dozens of retraining programs with no measure of performance or results? Do we really need to spend money on solar panels, windmills and battery-operated cars when we have ample energy supplies in this country? Do we really need all the regulations that put an estimated $2 trillion burden on our economy by raising the price of things we buy? Do we really need subsidies for domestic sugar farmers and ethanol producers?

    Why do we require that public projects pay above-market labor costs? Why do we spend billions on trains that no one will ride? Why do we keep post offices open in places no one lives? Why do we subsidize small airports in communities close to larger ones? Why do we pay government workers above-market rates and outlandish benefits? Do we really need an energy department or an education department at all?

    Summing Up His Complaint: Democracy

    He complains about the inefficiency of providing services for rural citizens because no one who conts in his eyes would live out there. He complains about efforts to help workers displaced by pro-corporate trade policies. He complains about efforts to fight the harm caused by pollution-for-profit. He complains about paying people good wages with benefits. To sum up his complaint in one word: democracy.

    Above I set the stage for Golub's complaint: millions unemployed, in poverty, wages stagnant... Contrast the situation so many of us find ourselves in with the lifestyle if the beneficiaries of the dominant conservative "trickle down" policies. Just imagine the lifestyle of Golub and the rest of the wealthiest few today. Private jets, multiple mansions, servants... (This might help your imagination: Nine Pictures Of The Extreme Income/Wealth Gap.) Did you know that the latest trend is to send your kids to summer camp in private jets?

    Now, even as the economy limps along, more of the nation’s wealthier families are cutting out the car ride and chartering planes to fly to summer camps. One private jet broker, Todd Rome of Blue Star Jets, said his summer-camp business had jumped 30 percent over the last year.

    ... “We have 50 to 60 jets up here in just that one day,” Mr. Kilmer said. “It’s a madhouse because they all leave at the same time, between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.”

    Extreme Inequality Makes Even The Rich Resentful

    They say that extreme inequality causes even the very rich to feel poor. They look upwards and feel inferior. They don't look down; We, the People are literally invisible and meaningless in their lives. They look up and see vast extremes, and feel like they are missing out. And they feel resentful.


    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 2:34 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 20, 2011

    Town Hall Pressure Is Working

    You aren't hearing about it on the news, but people are SHOWING UP at the local town halls put on by their members of Congress. And they are speaking up. And it is working.

    See David Dayen's Invisible Town Hall Revolution Continues to Roll, With Real Impact on GOP | FDL News Desk.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 9, 2011

    Contract For The American Dream And The Emergency Jobs Bill

    Rebuild The Dream

    As I wrote earlier in Ten Years Ago We Were Paying Off The Nation's Debt. But Then We Elected Obama., the The American Dream Movement is rolling out their Contract for the American Dream. The Tea-Party-fascinated press is largely ignoring this, but this movement represents the majority of the public, and can't be ignored for long.

    Today on a call with bloggers and the press to announce the The American Dream Movement Van Jones described the movement's origins. He has been traveling around the country giving talks and talking to people, and found that it seemed that the American people had smarter solutions to our problems than our politicians seemed to. So he helped set up an "open source" process to gather ideas from regular people. 131,203 participated, held 3,600 house meeting, and came up with 29,000 ideas. These ideas have been distilled down to the ten most popular ideas, which are now the Contract for the American Dream.

    No Help From FOX News

    Unlike the Tea Party, they had "no help from FOX TV or the billionaire Koch brothers." And unlike the Tea Party, which began with much smaller numbers, the American Dream movement is getting almost no press attention.

    The Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act

    Rep. Jan Schakowsky was on the call to talk about her upcoming Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act. She said this legislation reflects the spirit of the Contract for the American Dream. She said we have a jobs crisis, a disappearing-middle-class crisis, a disparity-in-income crisis. America is not broke, the top 100 make $27 million per household. This disparity means we have a shrinking and disappearing middle class.

    She said that Washington is about cuts that will make jobs situation worse, and the economy worse. We have to grow our way out, there really is no other choice, and that means put people back to work so they become taxpayers.

    The Emergency Jobs To Restore The American Dream Act creates 2.2 million jobs for 2 years to put the economy back on track. These are jobs for teachers, firefighters, cops, health care providers, maintenance, construction, and jobs for youth in parks improvement and other things.

    This is paid for by her Fairness in Taxation Act, with new tax brackets 45% income over 1 million, 49% over a billion. This will generate about $800 billion over 10 years. This is not punishment or revenge, it is fairness. To have a robust economy Have to have a robust middle class, and care about our elders.. We have to make sure youth can go to college.

    The Same People Who Led Us Off A Cliff

    Economist Dean Baker was next on the call. He said it is amazing as an economist to follow what’s going on here. He couldn’t envision that after the collapse we would have the same people determining the policy agenda who just led us off a cliff.

    Our huge deficits are the result of the economy collapse, now that is turned on its head that it is government spending, by people who don’t know the facts or just are not being honest. We have a big deficit because the economy collapsed, to fix it we get the economy going again. It is simple to show and in fact that is the history. To get the deficits down, get people working. We have 25 million un- or under-employed, if we don’t get them employed they fall out of the labor force, may never work again, politicians should be taking that very seriously. This has to be front and center and all polls show it is what is on people’s minds.

    Will Serious People Take The People Seriously?

    Justin Ruben of MoveOn.org was next on the call. He said that serious people in DC won’t take this plan seriously.
    It represents 5 million MoveOn members and majority of the American people, and a majority of economists say this plan makes sense. None of this is seriously being talked about in Washington right now and that needs to change.

    We already have a Tea Party downgrade and Tea Party recession and the government is about to enact even more economy-slowing cuts on the middle class. So people are wondering what DC is thinking. This is what is fueling the rise of the American Dream movement.

    This movement began with people standing up to the attacks in Wisconsin. It is about people fighting back. We will take this contract into the streets in August, to Congressional town halls, and if they won’t do town halls we’ll find them wherever they are. We are going to make sure our elected officials in Washington hear that the American people want jobs not cuts, want everyone to pay their fair share, and want to get the economy moving again.

    The American people are not giving up on the American dream.

    America Can Be Great Again

    Jeff Parcher of the Center for Community Change said they are joining this movement to raise the voices of low income people into the policy debates that affect them. They are going to address joblessness, poverty and material deprivation and change the conversation in Washington.

    We have a revenue problem, by rectifying that America can be great again.

    In Every Laundromat, Barbershop, Etc, People Will Agree

    Van Jones then summed up: They have organized in every congressional district. This has been growing since Madison. The network, movement, has organized in every district in record time. They can take any one of those 10 points in the Contract for the American Dream, and because of such broad participation, we can take this into every laundromat, barbershop, etc, and people will agree.

    The Contract for the American Dream

    The Preamble to the Contract for the American Dream

    We, the American people, promise to defend and advance a simple ideal: liberty and justice . . . for all. Americans who are willing to work hard and play by the rules should be able to find a decent job, get a good home in a strong community, retire with dignity, and give their kids a better life. Every one of us – rich, poor, or in-between, regardless of skin color or birthplace, no matter their sexual orientation or gender – has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is our covenant, our compact, our contract with one another. It is a promise we can fulfill – but only by working together.

    Today, the American Dream is under threat. Our veterans are coming home to few jobs and little hope on the home front. Our young people are graduating off a cliff, burdened by heavy debt, into the worst job market in half a century. The big banks that American taxpayers bailed out won’t cut homeowners a break. Our firefighters, nurses, cops, and teachers – America’s everyday heroes – are being thrown out onto the street. We believe:

    AMERICA IS NOT BROKE
    America is rich – still the wealthiest nation ever. But too many at the top are grabbing the gains. No person or corporation should be allowed to take from America while giving little or nothing back. The super-rich who got tax breaks and bailouts should now pay full taxes – and help create jobs here, not overseas. Those who do well in America should do well by America.

    AMERICANS NEED JOBS, NOT CUTS
    Many of our best workers are sitting idle while the work of rebuilding America goes undone. Together, we must rebuild our country, reinvest in our people and jump-start the industries of the future. Millions of jobless Americans would love the opportunity to become working, tax-paying members of their communities again. We have a jobs crisis, not a deficit crisis.

    To produce this Contract for the American Dream, 131,203 Americans came together online and in their communities. We wrote and rated 25,904 ideas. Together, we identified the 10 most critical steps to get our economy back on track and restore the American Dream:

    The Contract for the American Dream consists of 10 critical steps to get our economy back on track: (click through for details and ways to sign up and help)

    I. Invest in America's Infrastructure
    II. Create 21st Century Energy Jobs
    III. Invest in Public Education
    IV. Offer Medicare for All
    V. Make Work Pay
    VI. Secure Social Security
    VII. Return to Fairer Tax Rates
    VIII. End the Wars and Invest at Home
    IX. Tax Wall Street Speculation
    X. Strengthen Democracy

    The Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act

    Rep. Schakowsky is introducing the The Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act. This bill:


    • Creates over 2 million jobs to address the real crisis facing America: the jobs crisis.
    • Emergency jobs are created for two years, to provide time to get the economy back up and running.
    • Emergency jobs will meet critical needs to make American communities stronger.
    • Costs $221 Billion ($110.5 billion for each of fiscal years 2012 and 2013).
    • Can be fully paid for through separate legislation such as Rep. Schakowsky’s Fairness in Taxation Act, which creates higher tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires, eliminating subsidies for Big Oil, and through eliminating tax loopholes for corporations that ship American jobs overseas.

    Here is a summary of what's in the Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act:


    • School Improvement Corps – Creates 400,000 construction and 250,000 maintenance jobs through new funding to public school districts for needed school rehabilitation improvements ($100 billion)
    • Park Improvement Corps – Creates 100,000 jobs for youth between the ages of 16 and 25 through new funding to the Department of the Interior and the USDA Forest Service’s Public Lands Corps Act. Conservation projects on public lands include restoration and rehabilitation of natural, cultural, historic, archaeological, recreational and scenic resources. ($400 million)
    • Student Jobs Corps – Creates 250,000 more part-time, work study jobs for eligible college students through new funding for the Federal Work Study Program. ($850 million)
    • Neighborhood Heroes Corps
      a. Teachers: Direct funding to states to hire, re-hire, and prevent lay-offs of 300,000 teachers. ($40 billion)
      b. Cops: New funding to hire 40,000 police officers. ($10 billion)
      c. Firefighters: New funding to hire 12,000 firefighters. ($2.4 billion)

    • Health Corps - Grants to hire at least 40,000 health care providers, including physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, and health care workers to expand access in underserved rural and urban areas. ($8 billion)

    • Community Corps – Creation of a new Community Corps that will create 750,000 jobs to do needed work in our communities, including energy audits and conservation upgrades, recycling and reclamation of reusable materials, urban land reclamation and addressing blight, including foreclosure and disaster-affected areas, rural conservation work, public property maintenance and beautification, housing rehabilitation, and new housing construction modeled after Habitat for Humanity. ($60 billion)

    Standards for new programs:


    • Priority for jobs given to the unemployed, particularly those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits (the “99ers”).
    • Formulas will allocate fair distribution of funding and jobs among states, with targeting based on high unemployment and need.
    • Ensures that jobs don’t undercut the rights of other workers or lower wages.
    • Ensures work is additive and doesn’t displace current workers or take business from small/local businesses.
    • Includes trigger for phase-out if unemployment drops below 5%.

    Fully Paid For

    The steps in the Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act are paid for by Rep. Schakowsky's Fairness in Taxation Act, introduced in March.

    The Fairness in Taxation Act asks enacts new tax brackets for income starting at $1 million and ends with a $1 billion bracket. The new brackets would be:

    • $1-10 million: 45%
    • $10-20 million: 46%
    • $20-100 million: 47%
    • $100 million to $1 billion: 48%
    • $1 billion and over: 49%
    • The bill would also tax capital gains and dividend income as ordinary income for those taxpayers with income over $1 million.

    What To Do

    Go to the Contract for the American Dream page and sign up.

    Download the Contract as a PDF.

    Print the Contract.

    Distribute the Contract by leaving stacks of them everywhere, laundromats, barbershops, coffeeshops, etc.

    Tell people to go to http://contract.rebuildthedream.com/


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

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:56 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    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...

    Something Happened

    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.

    Separation From Reality

    This DC/Tea Party argument over deficits and the Reagan/Bush debt is completely separated from facts and history. And it is completely separated from what the public wants. There are things that we are supposed to just not remember and which seem to be taboo in the national media. There are things that are "off the table" for discussion, and certainly for solving our problems.

    But here is some reality anyway, even if we're not supposed to see it. Just ten years ago we were paying off debt at a rate that would have completely paid it all off by now. But under George W. Bush we cut taxes for the rich and more than doubled military spending. We deregulated and stopped enforcing laws. We let the big corporations run rampant. Our federal budget turned from huge surpluses to massive deficits, and Bush said it was "incredibly positive news" because it would lead to a debt crisis they could use to shock people into letting the corporate right privatize and thereby profit.

    And then, under and because of Bush, our economy collapsed.

    Deficits From Tax Cuts And Military Spending

    Once again: the deficits are the direct result of tax cuts for the rich, and huge increases in military spending. Then that huge jump in already-large deficits up past the trillion-dollar level that occurred in Bush's last budget was the result of the Bush-caused financial collapse. The economy collapsed and the government stepped in with hundreds of billions, even trillions, to rescue the wealthy, with "bailouts," while doing little, even cutting back, on what our government does for We, the People. That all happened in Bush's last budget year, not Obama's first.

    To Fix The Damage, Undo The Cause

    The way to fix deficits is to undo the damage Bush did, by raising taxes on the rich, and cutting back the huge, bloated, extreme, massive, astonishing, incredible, stratospheric military budget. And we have to boost the economy by investing in rebuilding our infrastructure to get people employed. We have millions of jobs that need doing, while millions are looking for jobs. Then those people will be paying taxes instead of collecting unemployment and food stamps. And the infrastructure improvements will bosst our economy's competitiveness. This is all so simple and obvious that only DC insider types could miss it.

    Taxes And Spending = Democracy

    Cutting spending doesn't cut the need, it shifts the burden. Cutting government spending does not cut the costs to society and the overall economy of meeting those needs. Cutting government spending just shifts -- or privatizes -- those costs onto the backs of people who can't afford to spend that money. That need and cost is still there in the economy, except without government -- democracy -- handling it, doing it for all of us, less expensively. Cutting government's role opens those functions up to private profit, instead of We, the People taking care of and watching out for each other -- and making the decisions.

    Do you really think that if you phase out Medicare, that old people won't still need the medical care? Of course they will still need it, but the government won't be negotiating cost-savings for them, they'll be on their own, up against the giant insurance monopolies.

    In the 1950s the top tax rate was 90%, and the country's economy worked a lot better for a lot more of us. We didn't have big deficits. We certainly weren't piling up huge debt. With high tax rates at the top, predatory, sell-the-farm business models didn't make sense. We were investing in infrastructure, and that infrastructure made us competitive in world markets. We as a people were doing better every year, paying our bills, getting educated and becoming more civilized. This empowerment led to demands for equal rights for all of us.

    Ignored By Media

    The "both sides do it" major media is simply ignoring the majority of the public. But people aren't fooled. Poll after poll (did I already say that?) shows that the public "gets it." Poll after poll shows that the public wants our government to address jobs, not deficits, to restore top tax rates, to invest in America's infrastructure, to leave Social Security and Medicare alone (or increase them,) and to put more money into education. Poll after poll.

    The Public Wants Jobs

    The public gets it. Poll after poll shows that Americans want their government focused on jobs, not deficits. The latest, from CNN, taken August 5-7, shows 49% of Americans think unemployment is the biggest issue facing the country, while only 27% say deficits. Only 16% say the deficit is the country's biggest problem.

    Rebuild The Dream

    The The American Dream Movement is rolling out their Contract for the American Dream. The Tea-Party-fascinated press is largely ignoring this, but this movement represents the majority of the public, and can't be ignored for long. I'll be writing more about it later.

    Also the Take Back the American Dream conference is coming up on Oct. 3. Click through and learn more.

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

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:00 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 30, 2011

    Golden Oldie: Did Bush Leave Us Bankrupt, Corrupt, Ungovernable?

    Feb. 2010: Did Bush Leave Us Bankrupt, Corrupt, Ungovernable?

    When you sell the farm, the farm's gone.

    Is it already too late for America? I’m starting to think that the anti-tax, anti-government conservative movement that started in the mid-70s, elected Reagan and led to the terrible Bush Presidency may have effectively destroyed the country, leaving it bankrupt, corrupt,ungovernable, ruled by a wealthy elite -- and we're only now just starting to realize it. To cover tax cuts we stopped maintaining the infrastructure and started borrowing. To satisfy their hatred of government we increasingly stripped away rule of law, regulation, and belief in one-person-one-vote. We are seeing the consequences of all of that coming back to roost now.

    Reagan left us with massive debt and ever-increasing interest payments. Bush left us with $1.3 trillion deficits and a destroyed economy that would force further increases in the borrowing for years - to be blamed on Obama. The "free marketers" gave away our manufacturing base that will take decades and massive capital investment to recover. Obama can try, but it may just be too late to do anything about the borrowing. We need massive investment in jobs and infrastructure, and a national economic/industrial plan. But, with their own Reagan/Bush debt as ammunition, conservative ideologues continue to block every effort at investment to get out of the mess we are in.

    And with the country on the very edge of defaulting on the Reagan/Bush debt, Senate Republicans are FILIBUSTERING the very debt-ceiling deal they were for just a few weeks ago...

    There is much more at that old post, go read.

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

    July 25, 2011

    A Bipartisan Move Against Democracy

    Step back from the day-to-day, hour-to-hour details of the debt-ceiling negotiations for a minute and look at the bigger picture. Look what we're in the middle of. Our legislators are being stampeded by a manufactured "crisis" into profoundly changing the nature of our country and who our economy is "for," on extremely short notice, against the clear wishes of the majority of the public. They are doing so without following the long-established process for due consideration of important issues; they are not holding hearings, not giving time for public input, not going through committees... The act of negotiating with these hostage-takers at all is itself a violation of our established, democratic system. The question to ask is not, "What painful cuts should we agree to to save our country," but rather, "Why are we engaged in this anti-democracy exercise at all?"

    A Functioning Democracy?

    In a functioning democracy an informed public considers and debates its options and then comes to a decision on how best to proceed. In a representative republic our representatives are called "representatives" because they represent us, and vote to implement our wishes.

    The founding idea of our country is that We, the People are in charge, and our country exists to promote the common good -- "welfare" -- of all of us. Elected officials take an oath of office to protect and defend our Constitution, which begins with those words, "We, the People." Over time we have built up a system of institutions, processes, procedures, traditions and mechanisms to implement this founding idea. The oath they take is to protect and defend this system.

    Oath Of Office: Protect and Defend Our System

    Today all of this seems all to have fallen away from us. A fanatical but extremely well-funded minority is using a manufactured "crisis" to hold the country's economy hostage. As ransom -- if we don't want the country to go into default, destroying our economy -- they demand that we force fast and dramatic changes to the nature of our country and our social safety net. These changes will take effect before the public can react and gather the forces of opposition. They will be "locked in," creating "facts on the ground" that we have to deal with, and which are extremenly difficult to undo, no matter what We, the People want or need.

    Rather than honor their oath of office to protect and defend our We-the-People system from all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to listen to "We, the People," and to promote the common good of all of us, our leaders have instead entered into negotiations with the hostage-takers. The act of entering into these negotiations is by itself an agreement to work outside of our established system, and the result of these negotiations will be to change the equation of who our system is for.

    Crisis?

    Is there really a "debt crisis" necessitating such a dramatic and immediate response? Just 10 years ago the "crisis" we faced was that we were paying off the debt too fast and it was claimed this would lead to socialism as government surpluses were invested in private assets. So taxes for the wealthy were cut. At the same time, enabled by another "crisis," the military budget was dramatically increased -- in ways that enriched "private contractors."

    The result of these changes was an immediate return from budget surpluses to the dramatic budget deficits initiated by President Reagan. Then-President Bush called these deficits "Incredibly positive news" precisely because they would bring on a debt crisis that would enable today's stampede to change our system of government. The debt "crisis" was intentional.

    Cause Of Deficits and Debt

    The increase of deficits beyond $1 trillion occurred in President Bush's last budget year -- the consequence of the financial collapse and the resulting drop in tax revenue combined with increases in social safety-net program payments. But the underlying cause of the deficits was the Bush tax cuts and wars. Today, in How the Deficit Got This Big, the NY Times offers charts and figures that show that:

    ...under Mr. Bush, tax cuts and war spending were the biggest policy drivers of the swing from projected surpluses to deficits from 2002 to 2009. Budget estimates that didn’t foresee the recessions in 2001 and in 2008 and 2009 also contributed to deficits. Mr. Obama’s policies, taken out to 2017, add to deficits, but not by nearly as much.

    As for the causes of the longer-term debt picture The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has put together this chart, explaining:

    Longer term most of our country's future debt problem is from tax cuts, increases in military spending, and the effects of the economic downturn. Most of the rest is because of our private healthcare delivery system. These "debt-ceiling" negotiations are not addressing these causes of the problem at all. Instead they are about using whipped-up panic over those intentionally-created problems to move the common wealth into private hands.

    Not The First Time

    This tactic of whipping up panic over a "debt crisis" has been used before to stampede legislative bodies into making radical changes on short notice, moving common wealth into private hands. In the post Debt Crisis? Really? I hilighted a 1993 example from Canada that was very similar to today's. From the source's account,

    By the time Canadians learned that the “deficit crisis” had been grossly manipulated by the corporate-funded think tanks, it hardly mattered – the budget cuts had already been made and locked in. As a direct result, social programs for the country’s unemployed were radically eroded and have never recovered, despite many subsequent surplus budgets.

    There is example after of example of the use of manufactured "crises" to panic and stampede legislatures into privatizing public wealth, just as we are experiencing today.

    Democracy Eroded

    What is happening here is not supposed to be the process of decision-making used in a representative democracy. Instead what we are experiencing is designed specifically to engineer circumstances that persuade us to bypass established processes and safeguards. These safeguards are in place to protect us from making the very sort of panic-driven decisions that we are about to make. And they are designed to "lock in" the changes, so we can't reverse the damage when we are able to catch our breath.

    How can our leaders not recognize and resist what is being done here? Have our own leaders drifted so far from America's traditional love of democracy that they accept this and fall into playing the game?

    Elitist Mindset

    It seems that our own leaders have fallen into an elitist mindset, which enables them to go along. Persuaded by decades of corporate-funded propaganda, many now believe that the public doesn't know what is good for them, that the things democracy entitles them to -- "entitlements" -- will bankrupt the country, that taxing the wealthy and corporations -- the "job creators" -- will harm the economy. They do not seem to see how much of our wealth is now flowing to a very few at the top of the pyramid. The fact that taxes on the wealthiest have been cut from a top rate of 90% all the way to a rate of only 15% for hedge-fund managers making billions -- far lower than many of the rest of us pay -- is ignored. And the fact that we did not have budget deficits when the wealthy paid higher taxes is also ignored. In fact, today just 400 people now have more wealth than half of our population, and the trend is accelerating. But many of our leaders believe that the things We, the People do for each other are a problem, and we must be protected from ourselves.

    One example of the slow drift away from love of democracy is the recent "Deficit Commission." This was a commission of elites -- there were no teachers or unemployed or plumbers or disabled or poor people in that room -- that was assigned to come up with ways to lower our budget deficits. They did not come up with any recommendations, but the leaders of the commissions came up with a plan of their own -- to cut taxes on the wealthy while cutting the things that We, the People do for each other.

    Again and again our elites try to create bodies like this that act as an external force they have to submit to, allowing them to escape accountability to voters.

    These commissions come up with plans that benefit the wealthy few but violate what the vast majority of Americans want. They are designed to come up with recommendations that benefit the wealthy few, and are presented to Congress with "up-or-down-vote" procedures that leave legislators and voters with no recourse – on purpose. Pre-ordained conclusions with non-democratic force-through procedures.

    "Super Congress"

    Another example of this kind of anti-democratic, elitist drift was a proposal floated over the weekend to establish a "Super-Congress" -- a Politburo of elites, that sits above the Congress and is not accountable to the public. The idea is to save the people from themselves by creating a special 12-member panel of lawmakers who come up with proposals that the Congress must vote on, with no changes and an "up-or-down vote" to implement, thus bypassing the established, democratic system and keeping individual members from being held accountable for the results. The idea is to "tie the hands" of Congress, keep them from meddling, and get things done quickly before the public can rally opposition.

    That this idea was even floated shows the extend of separation that exists between our elected officials and We, the People.

    Public Will Revolt

    Regular Americans are not currently following this, and are turned out because it is just one more Chicken Little coming out of DC. But the public will revolt when the final decisions are put in front of them. The public overwhelmingly supports Social Security and Medicare, and overwhelmingly want taxes increased on the wealthy.

    So when the results are presented to them there will be trouble. And that is also part of the plan.

    In the 2010 election Republicans campaigned on a theme that "Democrats cut $500 billion from Medicare" and won the election. In 2012 the public will be presented with hundreds of millions of dollars spent on campaign ads, crying out that "Democrats cut your Social Security and Medicare, while keeping taxes low for the rich."

    Think I’m kidding? They have already started.


    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 2:14 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 21, 2011

    Government Spending Cuts Don’t Cut, They Shift Costs To US

    The conservatives are following up on their decades-old plan to use tax cuts to create terrible deficits, and then use the resulting "debt crisis" to cut government. But cutting government doesn't mean the costs go away, it means that we each have to bear those costs ourselves, on our own, without the help of the rest of us. This is really about cutting democracy so the very rich can be even very-richer.

    A Huge Tax Increase On Regular People

    A government budget cut is like a huge tax increase on regular people because it increases what each of us pays for the things government does -- or forces us to go without. This is because cuts in government spending don’t actually cut the cost of things, they just shift those costs onto each of us on our own.

    For example, if you cut the the government's Medicare or Medicaid budget our health problems don’t disappear, but each of us has to find ways to pay the cost of medical care or a nursing home on our own. If you cut what government spends for maintaining infrastructure, the roads/bridges/dams/schools/etc. deteriorate and we all pay for that through a less competitive economy, car-repair costs, and sometimes with our lives. And when each of us has to pay more for these things, it really does take money out of the economy. We're spending on those things, instead of more usefully contributing to the economy.

    Cuts Just Shift And Increase The Costs

    So spending cuts really just shift the spending and cost of the things we have to do – and often increase those costs. This is because doing things on our own instead of collectively through our government is the smallest possible economy-of-scale. The best example of this shift-and-increase effect is the Republican plan to phase out Medicare. As I wrote above, our health problems won’t disappear just because government cuts out Medicare. But the costs of treating – or not treating – those health problems is now on us, individually, instead of aggregated through the mechanism of democracy. And that is money that would otherwise be spent elsewhere in the economy.

    In Cost of Medicare Equivalent Insurance Skyrockets under Ryan Plan the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) explains what happens to the cost of health care if Medicare is eliminated. Summary: it shifts the costs to us, except each of us ends up paying seven times as much as the same care costs under Medicare. This is because Medicare covers millions, and that economy-of-scale means the government can negotiate bulk discounts, etc. that we cannot get on our own. From the CEPR explanation:

    [The Republican] plan to revamp Medicare has been described as shifting costs from the government to beneficiaries. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), however, shows that the [Republican] proposal will increase health care costs for seniors by more than seven dollars for every dollar it saves the government, a point missing from much of the debate over the plan.

    ... In addition to comparing the costs of Medicare to the government under the current system and under the [Republican] plan, the authors also show the effects of raising the age of Medicare eligibility. The paper also demonstrates that while [the Republicanplan ] shifts $4.9 trillion in health care costs from the government to Medicare beneficiaries, this number is dwarfed by a $34 trillion increase in overall costs to beneficiaries that is projected ...

    The Mechanism Of Democracy

    In other words, the Repubican plan to phase out Medicare would cost the economy seven times as much as it cuts government. In this case the mechanism of democracy works seven times better than doing the same thing on our own. The economy of scale introduced by democracy -- We, the People gathering together to watch out for and take care of each other -- saves the economy sevenfold on costs. And that is money that would be spent by each of us but now goes just to cover the healthcare costs. This is one more reason why democracies are more prosperous for regular people than other forms of government that leave people on their own against the wealthy and powerful and drive all of the income and wealth to a few at the top.

    Budget Cuts Deals Hurt Us And The Economy

    When you hear that the "debt-ceiling" deal being negotiated in Washington is going to cut $4 trillion from the government's budget it doesn’t mean that $4 trillion is is going to be saved and put into the economy, it means the opposite, and worse. It means that $4 trillion in costs will be shifted from the mechanism of democracy and onto our backs, each of us, on our own. And that means that the total costs of accomplishing the same things will go up. And that means each of us will have less to spend in the economy. Think about what that will do to jobs.


    • As government health care is cut each of us will take on those costs on our own, and will be paying up to seven times what the same care would have cost.

    • As infrastructure maintenance and modernization is cut, our economy will become less competitive, unemployment will increase and our wages and spending power will fall.

    • As spending on education is cut, our costs of educating ourselves and our kids will increase. College costs will soar.

    • As environmental regulation and enforcement is cut the costs of the resulting health problems and cleanups will increase.

    • As enforcement of labor laws is cut, our wages and protections will fall.

    • As etc. is cut, the costs of etc. are shifted to each of us, on our own, and the total costs of accomplishing etc. actually increase.

    This Is About Democracy

    In the bigger picture budget cuts are about shifting away from the mechanism of democracy -- where We, the People aggregate and cover these costs in a more effective way -- and instead moving costs to each of us on-our-own. And because of the effect of reduced economies-of-scale we then each face a much greater cost-per-person than if we did these things through the mechanism of democracy. This hurts our economy.

    Don't be fooled: this is really about shifting from democracy to a system where we are on our own, up against the wealthy and powerful. This is about shifting from a system where we can all be prosperous to a system where a few have all the wealth and power.

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

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:08 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 18, 2011

    Can US Hold Corporations Accountable Anymore?

    In the UK the News-Of-The-World/News Corp/Murdoch scandal seems to be reawakening democracy. A big, powerful corporation has been found to be engaged in criminal activity, manipulating news, paying off police and politicians, and generally getting its way. The people, press and politicians are rising up, holding the company and its executives legally accountable and are taking back control of their system. Could this happen in the US?

    This is my last full day in the UK. The top story in the media for the two weeks I have been here has been the News-Of-The-World "phone-hacking" story that I explained in some detail last week. This newspaper was engaged in criminal activity, was caught a few years ago, but used American-style damage-control techniques to manipulate the government, police and public opinion into accepting that the criminality was limited to the sacrificial lamb they threw to them. So the damage to Murdoch's News Corp. was limited at the time, and News Corp appeared to have impunity. But, unlike how things are now done in the US, investigative reporters (particularly at the Guardian) continued to dig into the story and continued to reveal to the public that News Corp. was engaging in criminal activity until the story could no longer be ignored by the powerful.

    The latest big news is that the head of Scotland Yard has resigned, in part because earlier investigations into Murdoch-corporation activities "didn't get to the bottom of this." The press is full of questions about how this criminal company was able to operate for in this manner so long, and who in the government looked the other way. This is now as big a story as the original and ongoing criminal activities of Murdoch's companies.

    Another story is the way executives left Murdoch's companies and entered government into positions where they could protect the interests of Murdoch's company, including influencing the phone-hacking investigations. And finally, the story here is about politicians who are "cozy" with Murdoch's media empire, who were propelled into government by the power of that empire.

    Not yet part of the story: the manipulation of government policy to serve the interests of the owners of the criminal company. In fact, just as the media was beginning to touch on this aspect of the story the company took extraordinary steps to build a firewall and attempt to contain the scandal. Top executives in the UK and in England were removed from their posts, an "apology" was printed in all the papers here, and Murdoch himself made public apologies and News Corp started a major counterattack. So far News Corp's second-largest shareholder, Saudi Prince Al Waleed bin Talal has been kept in the background. Prince Al Waleed was interviewed by the BBC Thursday on his yacht in Cannes. Immediately the firewall began to be constructed.

    (These are questions, not accusation. While being part-owner of the conservative News Corp., Al Waleed also speaks out for democratic reform and women's rights in Saudi Arabia.)

    But questions about News Corp. pushing policies that benefit its owners have yet to be pursued. Does News Corp. push climate-change denial to benefit the interests of oil-producing Saudi Arabit? Did News Corp push the invasion of Iraq to benefit Saudi Arabia?

    What About In The US?

    Does all of this sound familiar to any of you reading this in America?

    And so the parallels to American standard-operating-procedure stand out. Criminal corporations manipulating government, police and public opinion. A revolving door through which corporate executives pass into government and protect the interests of their companies. A conservative media empire manipulating news and propelling politicians to benefit their financial interests. Politicians cozy with corporate executives who never seem to be held accountable.

    As Richard Eskow wrote the other day, Want to Solve All your Problems, Rupert Murdoch? Become A Banker.,

    But there's an easy way for Mr. Murdoch to protect himself from these inquiries and save his company at the same time: Turn the News Corporation into a Wall Street bank. There won't be any prosecutions, and the government will even sweeten the deal with billions of dollars in easy money. And if Murdoch follows the trail blazed by bankers like Jamie Dimon at JPMorgan Chase, soon they'll be begging him to acquire more companies.

    ... By contrast, despite its long list of proven crimes nobody at [JPMorgan Chase CEO] Dimon's bank has been arrested. Apparently arrests, like the financial consequences of one's actions, are for borrowers only. And Dimon only appears before our elected representative for cozy private get-togethers, not public enquiries.

    Seriously, there was just enough democracy left in the institutions of the UK to enable a media giant like News Corp to be held accountable. Just how accountable is yet to be seen, but with the press in full investigative mode, parliamentary investigations, resignations and arrests at the tops of big, powerful corporations that are way-to-cozy with politicians we are seeing a reaction to this story that is simply not imaginable in our own country today.

    Some Tests

    Here is one test that will tell us if accountability is still possible here. What follow-up will we see from the Justice Department in response to the revelation that members of the Financial Crisis panel illegally leaked inside information, including plans to investigate foreign banks, to lobbyists? See Financial Crisis Panel Commissioners Leaked Confidential Information To Lobbyists, Report Alleges,

    Republican commissioners on the panel created by Congress to probe the roots of the financial crisis leaked documents to partisan allies and shared confidential information with influence peddlers, according to a Wednesday report by Democrats on a Congressional oversight committee.

    Another area for investigation is the revolving door through which lobbyists or top people of the criminal corporation became government officials and government officials become executives or lobbyists. Are they using their influence in government to protect the interests of the companines that paid or will pay them? That sure looks like bribery, whatever other words one might use.

    Another area of investigations is companies that fund or otherwise infleunce public opinion and politics and campaigns or reward politicians or fund their campaigns. That is bribery, because companies have to act in the financial interest of shareholders and rewarding a politician in the interest of shareholders is bribery by definition.

    Please, add some more tests in the comments. What stories have you seen revealing illegal activity and collusion between elected representatives, government officials and big corporations with no one held accountable? Obviously there is Wall Street, mortgage fraud and securities manipulations. There are all the crimes from the Bush era that went uninvestigated. (Who ended up with all that money that went missing in Iraq?) But there are so many instances of crimes reported but not investigated and certainly not prosecuted. There are so many clear cases of big corporations using media to manipulate public opinion. And there are so many cases of our election laws violated with impunity.

    Are we going to be able to take back democracy and accountability here? Or not? Will our own Department of Justice start to hold law-violators accountable? Or not.


    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 8:57 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 9, 2011

    False Conventional Wisdom In The UK, Too

    In England people "know" many of the same false things that people here "know." Except in England the false things work against English working people instead of against American working people.

    I am in England this week and next and am enjoying some pub conversations while here. (Several pubs, actually. Heh.) Here are some of the things that at least some British working people "know." I think you will find them to be familiar:


    • The reason so many people are unemployed is because the government spends too much money.

    • Public employees get lavish pensions, which is part of why working people are falling behind.

    • The government spends a lot of its money helping countries in Africa and other places.

    • People are living much longer than they used to, so the retirement age should be raised.

    • The government gives a lot of money to people who come here from other countries and then get handouts that the rest of us (British) pay for.

    • Also, there are too many lawsuits.

    Sound Familiar?

    Does this sound familiar? It looks like the same false propaganda is being served up here in the UK -- but with a UK twist. For example, the retirement system here isn't "going broke," it just isn't affordable. (How come no one says our military is "going broke" or unaffordable?) People are coming here from Eastern Europe, not Mexico. The differences stand out for the similarities of the rest of it. Things that work to create anti-government tension and panic get reformatted and used elsewhere. Hey, if it works, why reinvent the wheel?

    I did not hear that the problems come from companies not paying taxes, from bailing out the big banks, from the cost of wars, etc. I haven't probed or argued, just asked what people think to see what is on people's minds.

    I have to emphasize this is just from some conversations and not with all that many people at all. I'm only writing because of the similarities of the justifications for cutting back on things working people get from their government. Again, this is just a few people. It's like the old newspaper-pundit cab-driver test of conventional wisdom. But I heard echoes of the same stuff that is being dished out in the US.

    Things We Know

    Everyone reading this has read or is familiar with the premise of The Shock Doctrine (I hope) and maybe Winner-Take-All-Politics and The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy and some of the other key books. Anyway, we all see clearly what is going on behind these things that people "know." We understand how it works, what the public is hearing and why, who they are hearing this from, and how people are being set against each other and distracted from what is really happening. Working people are being tricked into giving up their share of the common wealth, etc. We get it.

    What To Do

    But what do we do about it? I think our task, as always, is to get more info out to the public. As more people understand how shock-doctrine attacks work they are more able to resist them. But how do we get more info out to the public? And how do we do that without it sounding like WE are the nutcases? I mean, if you try to tell regular people the crazy things the right is planning for them you sound like an extremist for even saying such things. People are really tuned out these days and don't see what is happening.

    I think sites like OurFuture.org, AlterNet, Daily Kos, FDL, Crooks and Liars, etc. have developed a progressive information ecosystem where things are being explained a dozen ways, and understood, and reinforced, over and over, and a lot of people spend time there they are getting it. So how do we drive more people to those sites? How do we loop more people into the information ecosystem we have going on?

    ONE thing I think we can do is ask our labor friends to start bringing their membership in to this loop. I think we have gotten the blogosphere tuned into labor issues, and it's time for the labor community to start joining back with us now. Join the conversation, help us understand your viewpoint, while we all help; each other understand what is happening to us.

    Maybe we can make the blogs and site more accessible to new people who show up to check it out, and explain more about how the comments work, about how to write a diary, etc... Maybe we all need "what this site is about" videos... I think this is a good next step.

    What do you think? I think we have to start reaching more and more of the public. We owe it to them. How can we accomplish this?

    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 1:06 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    June 24, 2011

    How Free Trade Made Democracy A Disadvantage

    This is my presentation from last week's Netroots Nation panel session: Revitalizing Manufacturing: The Road to Renewed Job Growth. Click through for panel details and other panelists, here for a pdf of slides, including Jared Bernstein's. See below for video -- and be sure to watch Beri Fox!!!

    Four Stories

    I want to share four quick stories:

    1. Democracy

    The story of America

    We fought a wealthy powerful few who had all the say and didn’t let us have a say, and made a country where We, the People made the decisions and share the benefits.

    So because we 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… we protect the environment, we give out social security. We take care of each other.

    And we used to protect that. We used to put a tariff on goods coming in if they were made by people who didn’t have the ability to speak up and better their condition. It was called the American System. Look it up. We’d let the goods in but we would use a tariff to strengthen our country, our infrastructure, our schools – our democracy.

    But that changed. Superman left and we stopped protecting the American Way. We started letting goods in made by people who had no say, so the goods were cheap and they undercut us.

    We have made democracy a disadvantage. We made it a disadvantage instead of an advantage.

    Make no mistake, people who say they want things more “business friendly” they mean they want America to be less of a democracy, with fewer of the protections we fought to build for ourselves.

    2. Trade

    Once upon a time some areas made some things well, and other areas made other things well, and they would trade, and both areas could have the things they made AND the things made somewhere else, and everyone benefitted. And both areas increased the customers they had.

    And so to most people “trade” means we buy things made somewhere else, and they buy things we make. In what world does “trade” mean closing a factory that is located here, moving it there where they don’t already make something, laying off all the people, and then bringing back here the same things that used to be made here and selling them in the same stores?

    And the result is a lot of people have lost jobs, devastating our communities.

    And then they tell workers who still have jobs that the same can happen to them, we can just close this factory, so shut up and don’t expect raises or benefits or safety or dignity.

    What we see happening when a company moves production out of the country is not trade, it is getting around the borders of the democracy we built, and the things we fought and sacrificed to build.

    Letting companies move factories away was giving up our ability to make a living. Sure a few people might get really rich from it, but look around you the rest of us, and our communities, and our economy have been sent sliding down a hill into the sewer.

    3. The Deal

    There once was a company. The company made a deal with a company in the next county, they make something you don’t, and you make something they don’t. So the deal is you’ll buy things from them if they buy from you. And you start buying from them, but they aren’t buying from you. And this goes on, and they still aren’t buying from you, but you are starting to owe them a lot of money. And they you’re borrowing from them to buy from them, and they still aren’t buying. And then they show up in your county selling the things you already made and sold, buy they used the money they got selling to you to set up to make what you made.

    And by the way they say you have to pay them what you owe them.

    That is how our deal with China is working out. We bought from them, they didn’t buy form us, and now they have accumulated $1.5 trillion which they were supposed to have been buying American-made goods with.

    And they cheated. Or I would say they were smart and watched out for their own interests excessively, and we didn’t at all.

    $1.5 trillion! So imagine what would happen if we said we're going to default on the debt but these bonds are redeemable in the next 3 months for American made good. Can you imagine what $1.5 trillion of orders would do for our economy right now? $1.5 trillion in orders? Factories humming...

    Well the picture of what that would do FOR our economy is a way of understanding what that has done TO our economy.

    4. The Cost

    I like to tell you a story about the cost of our free-trade deals and tax policies.

    I took a road trip last fall, through four industrial states, MI, OH, WV, PA to visit some of the Manufacturing Town Hall meetings that Scott’s group put on. [Note - see posts about this tour here.]

    They call it the "rust belt" because so many factories are closed and rusting.

    From town to town you see downtowns devastated, because the way you make a living is gone and the cheap imported goods at wal mart competing with local businesses. Michael Moore wrote about Flint after the auto plants closed. That kept happening, town after town, year after year, and got worse.

    You have to see to first hand. [Note - there are pics in this post.]

    But I’ll tell you, we’re even seeing it now in Silicon Valley, seeing downtowns with lots of empty storefronts. Empty office and manufacturing buildings everywhere. That wave that hit the Midwest has reached the tech areas now.

    So the moral of the four stories is that We the People have to protect the things we fought for and won. And we have to remember that We, the People have to take care of and watch out for each other because the wealthy and powerful won’t do that for us. And markets aren’t about that, either.

    When we relax our eternal vigilance they will come back with a vengeance.

    Progressive Solutions


      a. Industrial Policy

      We don’t believe in having the government help. We think the markets will fix everything. But other countries don’t see it that way.
      We are pitting our companies on their own against the national resources of governments. We can live in an ideological dream world and say we shouldn’t, but our competitors in the rest of the world DO.

      b. Protect Democracy

      Tariffs. Call it a democracy tariff. Or a thugocracy tax. Use this to help lift others out of their exploitation. By making democracy a disadvantage we are only encouraging the worst, and encouraging it here, too. “Business friendly” is a code word that means get rid of all the protections We, the People have built for ourselves.

      They can protect the environment, etc, or charge a tariff to bring those goods in.

      c. Renegotiate Trade Deals

      Trade can mean something different. We still have a huge market. We can require goods to either be made by people who are not exploited and who have a say so

      d. Enforce Trade Laws

      China cheats in so many ways, and we all know it. Currency rates. Indigenous innovation . Forcing companies to turn over proprietary IP…


    We can do these things. Because of the strong prosperity that democracy brought us others really want to sell into our markets.

    And my own favorite:

      e. Top tax rates

      With high top rates it takes time to build a fortune. You have to have long-term plans, sustainable businesses that are surrounded by healthy communities, good schools, good infrastructure.

      Lower rates, you can make a fortune in a few days. Business models changed, became short term, cash in, quick-buck schemes. Harvest infrastructure, close factories, no need for healthy communities, etc.

    Video Of The Panel

    Scott Paul opens
    Jared Bernstein at 6:02
    Rep. Jim McGovern at 17:00
    Beri Fox at 31:29
    Dave Johnson at 48:13

    IF the video below doesn't show up, click to see it here.

    Sobotka

    As always, Frank Sobotka explains what's wrong:


    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 10:16 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    June 2, 2011

    Jobs Fix Deficits

    Polls show that the American Majority is much more concerned about jobs than deficits. So why is DC talking only about deficits instead of jobs, when jobs are the medicine for deficits? And why is DC only talking about budget cuts as a path to fixing the deficits, when the deficits were caused by tax cuts and lack of jobs? In fact most of the “deficit cures” being discussed in DC don’t make the deficit better, they make deficits worse because they kill jobs.

    Stimulus Ends And Job Growth Ends, Too

    Now that the stimulus is running out, so is any sign of a jobs recovery. The stimulus stopped the economic freefall that was occurring under the prior administration, and restored at least some job growth. It worked, but it was not big enough. Much of it was wasted on tax cuts that leave behind only debt, and it is running out. At the same time, state and local government cutbacks are working against any current economic rebound. For the longer term, badly-needed restructuring of trade deals, development of a national industrial policy and removal of the plutocratic tax and regulatory changes that led to intense concentration of wealth have not occurred, keeping the economy from moving forward. See for yourself in the following chart:

    All Jobs - April 2011

    Follow the timeline on this chart:


    • First, the Bush freefall,

    • then the effect of the stimulus spending,

    • then the stimulus winds down,

    • combined with state & local budget cutbacks.

    Until needed changes are made the economy remains mired in the failed Reagan/Bush/Bush plutocratic, everything-to-the-top structure and cannot sustain itself without stimulus. The worst thing that could happen now is federal budget cutbacks on top of the state and local government cutbacks. Pulling that much out of the economy, laying off all those government employees, and ceasing to invest in the infrastructure and education that make us competitive in the world would be a tragic mistake.

    Jobs In The News

    Stimulus winding down, state and local governments cutting back, trade deficit increasing again... Which brings us to to this week's economic news. Reuters: Private sector job growth slumps in May,

    The ADP report showed private employers added a scant 38,000 jobs last month, falling from a downwardly revised 177,000 in April and well short of expectations for 175,000. It was the lowest level since September 2010.

    ... A separate report showed the number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms rose modestly in May with the government and non-profit sectors making up a large portion of the cuts.

    ... The housing market, meanwhile, continued to struggle as a report from an industry group showed applications for U.S. home mortgages fell last week, pulled lower by a decline in refinancing demand.

    And, Manufacturing growth slowest since September 2009: ISM

    The pace of growth in the manufacturing sector tumbled in May, slackening more than expected to its slowest since September 2009, according to an industry report released on Wednesday.

    ... New orders fell to 51.0 from 61.7 in April, the lowest since June 2009. The index for prices paid fell to 76.5 from 85.5, below expectations of 82.0.

    Forbes: Double Dip in Housing; Could Double Dip Recession Be Next?

    This chart from Business Insider shows what the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Index looks like on a graph chart: bad. National home prices are back to their 2002 levels, according to the index data released May 31.

    . . . Moreover, consumer confidence unexpectedly declined in May to its lowest level in six months due to the lackluster job market and declining home values.

    Austerity Cuts Jobs

    But DC is not only not talking about jobs, they are talking about austerity -- cutting the very things that create jobs. History and the experience of other countries as they struggle to crawl out of the economic collapse has shown again and again that government investment in infrastructure and education and scientific research and manufacturing are the path to recovery. England, Greece and others trying austerity are falling back into recession. Meanwhile China is investing hundreds of billion in high-speed rail and other infrastructure. Germany is investing in manufacturing. Others are investing billions more in infrastructure. All are pursuing green energy sources.

    Mired in austerity ideology we are doing none of these. For example, on a PBS NewsHour discussion of the House vote rejecting a "clean" debt-ceiling bill Tuesday, Rep. Peter Roskam said,

    ...any raising of the debt ceiling has to be preconditioned upon cuts that drive towards a real economic recovery and long-term growth and prosperity and job creation.

    Rep. Roskam actually claimed that cutting the things that have proven to drive growth and job creation will drive growth and job creation.

    Austerity Can't Cut Deficits

    The other day I wrote about calculations that shows that cutting budgets does not cut deficits. From See WHY Austerity Can't Reduce The Deficit, (click through to see the calculations that prove austerity can't reduce deficits),

    Austerity -- cutting government benefits and services -- is not the path to fixing deficits. In fact, economists warn that trying to fix a sluggish economy by cutting government spending will just make things worse. Worse yet, this approach can have damaging effects that last into the future. This can be easily shown with simple calculations.

    Jobs First In Democracy

    In a democracy jobs would be the first topic of discussion and the only toipic until plenty of good-paying jobs are available. But in a plutocracy -- government by the wealthy -- jobs for regular people would be of little concern. Which are we seeing here?

    The American Majority clearly, absolutely, firmly and primarily want jobs as government's -- our -- first priority (click through to see the polling), while our leaders are talking about doing things that cut jobs and cut the thing that We, the People do for each other.

    The solution to the huge post-collapse jump in deficits is to restore the jobs. Restoring good-paying jobs starts to restore the tax base and stops the emergency spending on the unemployed. The increased demand as people find work and paychecks revives retail and manufacturing. Housing recovery, for example, depends on more jobs. With more jobs and better pay. Unemployment is high and wages are low, so many people just can't afford to buy -- or keep -- a house.

    Just cutting people out of the economy doesn't fix the problem, it shifts the problem and eventually will kill the economy.

    Jobs First In Election

    One thing is for sure: jobs will be the first concern of voters in the coming 2012 elections. And Republicans understand that making things worse now helps Republicans later. The question is why aren't Democrats and the President focusing on making things better now to help themselves and all of us later?

    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 6:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 31, 2011

    Dems Should Vote For Clean Debt Limit Bill

    The House is voting on a “clean” debt ceiling bill today -- a bill to raise the debt ceiling without any "hostage-taking" conditions. This is the right thing to do for the country and every Democrat should vote for this. Voting for a clean bill will draw the contrast for the public between those who are doing the right thing, and those willing to hold the world's economy hostage to a make-the-rich-richer plutocracy agenda. Democrats who do not vote for a clean bill should lose committee assignments, parking places, even bathroom keys.

    The Debt Ceiling

    The country's "debt ceiling" has been reached. This means that the government's authority to borrow money has reached its limit. The Treasury Department is engaging in gimmicks and schemes to keep the country going but time is running out. The Congress must extend this limit, or the government will default on its bonds.

    If our government defaults on its bonds it would initiate a worldwide financial crisis that dwarfs the Wall Street meltdown of a few years ago.

    WHY We Have This Debt

    In 1981 the Reagan administration dramatically changed the course of the country. They defunded government by passing huge tax cuts for the rich and massively increasing military spending, and began cutting back on the things We, the People (government) do for each other. The country cut back on maintaining -- never mind modernizing -- our infrastructure, our schools, colleges and universities, scientific research and other things that make us competitive in world markets. We began cashing in our factories and moving the jobs out of the country. As a result of Reagan-era changes our trade deficits soared, wages stagnated, pensions disappeared, and a few extremely wealthy started getting much, much richer.

    One major result of these changes, of course, was the huge budget deficits that accumulated into today's massive debt. This was the plan from the start, to "starve the beast" by defunding government and forcing the debt to reach a level where there was no choice but to cut back on democratic government's protections for the people, unleashing plutocracy.

    Hostage-Taking Enabled: The Tax Cut Extension

    This debate over the debt ceiling and hostage-taking follows the recent extension of the Bush tax cuts -- another product of hostage-taking. At the end of the last Congress unemployment benefits for the millions of unemployed were running out. Republicans -- having filibustered much of the legislation of the prior two years -- held the extension of benefits "hostage" saying they would not let it pass unless the deficit-creating Bush tax cuts were extended.

    Enough Democrats caved and passed an extension of the Bush tax cuts. This validated hostage-taking as a successful tactic while making the deficit much worse, setting the stage for today's debt-ceiling fight.

    The Vote Is A Trick

    Today's vote has been scheduled by the Republican leadership as a trap, trying to get some Democrats to vote with Republicans to support their hostage-taking agenda and create the appearance of bipartisan support for plutocracy. If the Republican position gets the support of enough Democratic members, Republicans can then demand deep cuts in Medicare and other programs that help people and hold corporate power in check, in exchange for their votes to allow the world's economy to continue to operate.

    From TPM: First Debt Limit Vote Today As GOP Looks To Divide Dems,

    The vote is intended to expose fault lines within the Democratic caucus, with Republicans counting on sizable number of Democrats to side with them and bolster their case that Democrats need to agree to deep spending cuts as a condition to raising the debt limit.

    Vote For A Clean Debt-Ceiling Bill

    Voting for a clean bill stops government-by-hostage-in its tracks. Voting for a clean bill saves the world's economy. Voting for a clean bill fights the plutocracy agenda. Voting for a clean bill saves Medicare, Social Security and the things We, the People do for each other. Voting for a clean bill is the right thing to do and doing the right thing is the right thing politically.

    Call your member of Congress NOW and demand a vote for a clean debt-ceiling 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 9:27 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 25, 2011

    They're STILL Demonstrating in WI

    The news might not tell you, but there a big demonstrations still going on in the states. Read this about WI today: Let it be known that the day Walker suppressed the vote, people yelled like hell. - blue cheddar blog

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:08 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    NY-26 Lesson: Don't Mess With Medicare -- Or Social Security!

    In 2010 Republicans and corporate front groups ran ad after ad after ad after ad claiming that Democrats had "Cut 500 billion from Medicare." Those ads brought them the senior vote, and they took the House. Confident in their ability to "create their own reality" they came out with a plan to privatize Medicare and told the public it would save Medicare. Well, last night's win by Kathy Hochul in the NY-26 special election -- with pretty high turnout in a Republican district -- shows that the American people are smarter than they look, and figured out what was what. The lesson: don't mess with Medicare.

    Soundly Defeated

    Yesterday's NY-26 Congressional election turned on Medicare and the candidate who supported Medicare won. The candidate who supported the Republican plan to privatize Medicare was soundly defeated.

    House Republicans voted to change Medicare from a single-payer plan to a private-insurance voucher plan as a measure to "cut government spending." Republicans had talked themselves into believing the public hates government as much as they do and therefore gutting it is what the public wants. Instead of working to control health care costs they just shifted those costs away from the government into "personal responsibility" land. In plain non-propagandized English personal responsibility means each of us on our own, alone, instead of all of us watching out for and taking care of each other.

    The public figured it out and voted to keep the Medicare-gutter out.

    American Majority

    The American Majority understands what is going on. They know that our budget problems come from tax cuts, military spending and the lack of jobs. Those are the things the public wants the Congress to fix.

    Where the deficits come from:

    What the public wants:

    Gallup Poll, January 14-16, 2011

    • 64% oppose spending cuts to Medicare.

    The Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll, February 24-28, 2011

    • 54% believe it will not be necessary to cut spending on Medicare to reduce the national deficit.
    • 76% believe cutting Medicare to help reduce the budget deficit is mostly or totally unacceptable.
    • 60% oppose turning the Medicare system into a government-issued voucher program, which would require the beneficiary to purchase private health insurance.

    First Focus and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Poll, April 13-18, 2011

    • 70% oppose cuts/changes to the Medicare system as described in the House Republican Budget.
    • 49% support not reducing funds to Medicare.
    • 53% believe replacing the current Medicare program with a voucher system in which retirees will receive vouchers to use to purchase subsidized insurance from private insurance companies for those 55 or older is totally or mostly unacceptable.

    CBS News/The New York Times Poll, April 15-20, 2011

    • 61% believe that Medicare is currently “worth the costs.”
    • 76% think government has the responsibility to provide health care coverage to the elderly.
    • 49% believe higher-income beneficiaries should pay more in taxes.

    Bloomberg News Poll, March 4-7, 2011

    • 54% oppose replacing Medicare with a system in which government vouchers would help participants pay for their own health insurance.
    • 76% oppose reducing benefits for Medicare.

    Pulse Opinion Research for The Hill Poll, April 28, 2011

    • 53% said they would oppose a reduction in Medicare benefits in order to get the deficit/debt under control.

    Pew Research Poll, March 8-14, 2011

    • 65% oppose changes to Social Security as a way to reduce the budget deficit.

    More recent polling shows the public has moved to an even strong support for Medicare, and will remove from office anyone who votes to cut it.

    Social Security The Same

    Those polls don't just test public support for Medicare, they test support for Social Security as well. The public feels just as strongly that politicians had best keep their hands off our Social Security.

    In order to reduce the national debt, would you support or oppose cutting spending on Social Security, which is the retirement program for the elderly? Ohio: 16% support, 80% oppose Missouri: 17% support, 76% oppose Montana: 20% support, 76% oppose Minnesota: 23% support, 72% oppose

    Reality Restored

    During the Bush years the idea of a "reality-based community" circulated after an article by Ron Suskind about a meeting he had with "a senior advisor to Bush." In the article he described how the aide scoffed at people who bother with reality:

    The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

    Republicans and their corporate money tried to create a reality that let them gut Medicare without the public rising up to do something about it. It didn't work.

    Do The Right Thing

    Well, reality is coming back. The public is figuring things out. Politicians should learn the lesson of NY-26: don't mess with Medicare -- or Social Security. To fix the deficit fix the causes of the deficit: invest in jobs through maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure, restore top tax rates to where they were before we had huge deficits and, by the way, the Soviet Union is long gone so cut military spending back to maybe only twice our nearest potential competitor.


    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 9:14 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 18, 2011

    Privatization

    In 2001 Defense Sec Rumsfeld launched a campaign to shift Defense Dept, government functions to private contractors, because the private sector is more efficient.

    Here is a chart of US spending on "defense:"


    <Military_spending_chart

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:44 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 17, 2011

    The People's Budget Is The Template

    The debt limit has been reached. The President should be demanding a "clean" debt ceiling bill instead of letting hostage-takers force negotiations over their ransom. For deficit reduction The People's Budget is the right approach. It's the budget that polls show the majority of the public wants, but the media and Washington elite are ignoring.

    Just this week we heard that America's richest 400 taxpayers averaged $270.5 million of income each last year but paid only 18.1 percent of their total incomes in federal income tax. (In 1955 the top 400 paid 51.2 percent of their total incomes in taxes. No wonder we didn't have huge-ass budget deficits then.) And this is at the same time that Republicans are trying to turn Medicare into a voucher program, saying "We're broke."

    As pointed out for us in this morning's Progressive Breakfast (sign up here and get it every morning), Robert Reich, in The Battle is Squared, and Why We Need Budget Jujitsu,

    Technically, the federal government has now reached the limit of its capacity to borrow money.

    Raising the debt ceiling used to be a technical adjustment, made almost automatically. Now it’s a political football.

    Democrats should never have agreed to linking it to an agreement on the long-term budget deficit.

    But, being the Democrats we have come to know and love, they did, and here we are. Where can we go from here?

    We can reduce the long-term budget deficit, keep everything Americans truly depend on, and also increase spending on education and infrastructure — by cutting unnecessary military expenditures, ending corporate welfare, and raising taxes on the rich.

    I commend to you the “People’s Budget,” a detailed plan for doing exactly this – while reducing the long-term budget deficit more than either the Republican’s or the President’s plan does. When I read through the People’s Budget my first thought was how modest and reasonable it is.

    A reasonable budget that would have been called "centrist" not long ago. The public supports the approach.

    The message from the “People’s Party” should be unconditional: No cuts in Medicare and Medicaid or Social Security. More spending on education and infrastructure. Pay for it and reduce the long-term budget deficit by cutting military spending and raising taxes on the rich. The People’s Budget is the template.

    Reich said it all for me...

    The People's Budget

    The Progressive Caucus -- a group of progressives in the Congress -- have put together a budget that fixes the deficit and grows the economy, providing jobs. It is called The PEOPLE'S Budget Plan.

    Read the plan at: Congressional Progressive Caucus : FY2012 Progressive Budget,

    The CPC proposal:

    • Eliminates the deficits and creates a surplus by 2021
    • Puts America back to work with a “Make it in America” jobs program
    • Protects the social safety net
    • Ends the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
    • Is FAIR (Fixing America’s Inequality Responsibly)

    What the proposal accomplishes:

    • Primary budget balance by 2014.
    • Budget surplus by 2021.
    • Reduces public debt as a share of GDP to 64.1% by 2021, down 16.5 percentage points from a baseline fully adjusted for both the doc fix and the AMT patch.
    • Reduces deficits by $5.6 trillion over 2012-21, relative to this adjusted baseline.
    • Outlays equal to 22.2% of GDP and revenue equal 22.3% of GDP by 2021.


    Rep. Mike Honda and Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva explain, in The Only Real Democratic Budget: Why Progressives Have the Answer to What the American Public Wants,

    Budgets are more than collections of numbers. They are a statement of our values. The Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget is a reflection of the values and priorities of America's working families. The "People's Budget" charts a path that keeps America exceptional in the 21st century, while addressing the most pressing problems facing the nation today. Our Budget eliminates the deficit, stabilizes the debt, puts Americans back to work, and restores our economic competiveness.

    [. . .]

    Our Budget listens to what the American people are telling us. It does all of the above in a fiscally responsible way that dramatically reduces our borrowing from banks and foreign governments and ensures our long-term economic competitiveness.
    ...
    Our Budget Eliminates the Deficit by 2021: The CPC budget eliminates the deficit in a way that does not devastate what Americans want preserved, specifically, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. ...

    Our Budget Puts America Back to Work & Restores America's Competitiveness: The CPC budget rebuilds America and makes it competitive again. We put America back to work. We rebuild our roads and bridges, ensuring that those who use it help pay for it. ...

    Our Budget's Fair Tax System: The CPC budget implements a fair tax system, based on the American notion that fairness and equality are integral to our society. ...

    Our Budget Brings Our Troops Home: The CPC budget responsibly ends our wars, currently paid for by American taxpayer dollars we do not have. ...

    Our Budget's Bottom Line (Over 10 year Window)

    • Deficit reduction of $5.6 trillion
    • Primary spending cuts of $869 billion
    • Net interest savings of $856 billion
    • Total spending cuts: $1.7 trillion
    • Revenue increase of $3.9 trillion
    • Public investment of $1.7 trillion
    • Budget surplus of $30.7 billion in 2021, debt at 64.1% of GDP.

    Take action: Tell President Obama to put the People's Budget on the table.

    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 9:08 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 13, 2011

    Actually, "The Rich" Don't "Create Jobs," We Do.

    You hear it again and again, variation after variation on a core message: if you tax rich people it kills jobs. You hear about "job-killing tax hikes," or that "taxing the rich hurts jobs," "taxes kill jobs," "taxes take money out of the economy, "if you tax the rich they won't be able to provide jobs." ... on and on it goes. So do we really depend on "the rich" to "create" jobs? Or do jobs get created when they fill a need?

    Here is a recent typical example, Obama Touts Job-Killing Tax Plan, written by a "senior fellow at the Cato Institute and chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth,"

    Some people, in their pursuit of profit, benefit their fellow humans by creating new or better goods and services, and then by employing others. We call such people entrepreneurs and productive workers.

    Others are parasites who suck the blood and energy away from the productive. Such people are most often found in government.

    Perhaps the most vivid description of what happens to a society where the parasites become so numerous and powerful that they destroy their productive hosts is Ayn Rand’s classic novel “Atlas Shrugged.” ...

    Producers and Parasites

    The idea that there are producers and parasites as expressed in the example above has become a core philosophy of conservatives. They claim that wealthy people "produce" and are rich because they "produce." The rest of us are "parasites" who suck blood and energy from the productive rich, by taxing them. In this belief system, We, the People are basically just "the help" who are otherwise in the way, and taxing the producers to pay for our "entitlements." We "take money" from the producers through taxes, which are "redistributed" to the parasites. They repeat the slogan, "Taxes are theft," and take the "money we earned" by "force" (i.e. government.)

    Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner echoes this core philosophy of "producers" and "parasites," saying yesterday,

    I believe raising taxes on the very people that we expect to reinvest in our economy and to hire people is the wrong idea,” he said. “For those people to give that money to the government…means it wont get reinvested in our economy at a time when we’re trying to create jobs.”

    "The very people" who "hire people" shouldn't have to pay taxes because that money is then taken out of the productive economy and just given to the parasites -- "the help" -- meaning you and me...

    So is it true? Do "they" create jobs? Do we "depend on" the wealthy to "create jobs?"

    Demand Creates Jobs

    I used to own a business and have been in senior positions at other businesses, and I know many others who have started and operated businesses of all sizes. I can tell you from direct experience that I tried very hard to employ the right number of people. What I mean by this is that when there were lots of customers I would add people to meet the demand. And when demand slacked off I had to let people go.

    If I had extra money I wouldn't just hire people to sit around and read the paper. And if I had more customers than I could handle that -- the revenue generated by meeting the additional demand from the extra customers -- is what would pay for employing more people to meet the demand. It is a pretty simple equation: you employ the right number of people to meet the demand your business has.

    If you ask around you will find that every business tries to employ the right number of people to meet the demand. Any business owner or manager will tell you that they hire based on need, not on how much they have in the bank. (Read more here, in last year's Businesses Do Not Create Jobs.)

    Taxes make absolutely no difference in the hiring equation. In fact, paying taxes means you are already making money, which means you have already hired the right number of people. Taxes are based on subtracting your costs from your revenue, and if you have profits after you cover your costs, then you might be taxed. You don't even calculate your taxes until well after the hiring decision has been made. You don;t lay people off to "cover" your taxes. And even if you did lay people off to "cover' taxes it would lower your costs and you would have more profit, which means you would have more taxes... except that laying someone off when you had demand would cause you to have less revenue, ... and you see how ridiculous it is to associate taxes with hiring at all!

    People coming in the door and buying things is what creates jobs.

    The Rich Do Not Create Jobs

    Lots of regular people having money to spend is what creates jobs and businesses. That is the basic idea of demand-side economics and it works. In a consumer-driven economy designed to serve people, regular people with money in their pockets is what keeps everything going. And the equal opportunity of democracy with its reinvestment in infrastructure and education and the other fruits of democracy is fundamental to keeping a demand-side economy functioning.

    When all the money goes to a few at the top everything breaks down. Taxing the people at the top and reinvesting the money into the democratic society is fundamental to keeping things going.

    Democracy Creates Jobs

    This idea that a few wealthy people -- the "producers" -- hand everything down to the rest of us -- "the parasites" -- is fundamentally at odds with the concept of democracy. In a democracy we all have an equal voice and an equal stake in how our society and our economy does. We do not "depend" on the good graces of a favored few for our livelihoods. We all are supposed to have an equal opportunity, and equal rights. And there are things we are all entitled to -- "entitlements" -- that we get just because we were born here. But we all share in the responsibility to cover the costs of democracy -- with the rich having a greater responsibility than the rest of us because they receive the most benefit from it. This is why we have "progressive taxes" where the rates are supposed to go up as the income does.

    Taxes Are The Lifeblood Of Democracy And The Prosperity That Democracy Produces

    In a democracy the rich are supposed to pay more to cover things like building and maintaining the roads and schools because these are the things that enable their wealth. They actually do use the roads and schools more because the roads enable their businesses to prosper and the schools provide educated employees. But it isn't just that the rich use roads more, it is that everyone has a right to use roads and a right to transportation because we are a democracy and everyone has the same rights. And as a citizen in a democracy you have an obligation to pay your share for that.

    A democracy is supposed have a progressive tax structure that is in proportion to the means to pay. We do this because those who get more from the system do so because the democratic system offers them that ability. Their wealth is because of our system and therefore they owe back to the system in proportion. (Plus, history has taught the lesson that great wealth opposes democracy, so democracy must oppose the accumulation of great, disproportional wealth. In other words, part of the contract of living in a democracy is your obligation to protect the democracy and high taxes at the top is one of those protections.)

    The conservative "producer and parasite" anti-tax philosophy is fundamentally at odds with the concepts of democracy (which they proudly acknowledge - see more here, and here) and should be understood and criticized as such. Taxes do not "take money out of the economy" they enable the economy. The rich do not "create jobs, We, the People create jobs.

    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 2:26 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 12, 2011

    Budget Talks: Who Speaks For The American People?


    When we hear about the deficits we hear a lot of scare stories, which most "serious" media just echo and amplify. The prevailing "serious" narrative we hear is that we must cut entitlements -- any “serious” budget proposal cuts Medicare and Social Security. Even though they just extended tax cuts for the rich the deficits are the worst problem in the world, ever, so we are supposed to be really scared and give in. Seriously.

    Polls show that the public wants taxes raised on the rich, cuts in military spending and more & bettter-paying jobs. The public isn't stupid, because it turns out that these are exactly the things that economists say will get us out of the deficits. But raising taxes isn't considered a "serious" deficit-cutting option. Either is cutting military. And to top it off, in DC the idea of creating more and better-paying jobs is so unserious that it isn't even discussed.

    Serious Commissions and Gangs Of Negotiators

    The public recoils every time politicians get close to reaching their "serious" goal of cutting Social Security or Medicare, instead of raising taxes and cutting military. So the DC elite come up with ways to mask what they are doing : commissions, "triggers," "caps," "across-the-board cuts" all of which avoid actually spelling out that these will cut Social Security and Medicare without touching taxes or military. All the "serious" people favor this approach.

    There are so many “serious” reporters and editors and politicians and deficit commissions and negotiators and even “gangs” consist of very “serious” people who come up with these “serious” recommendations.

    Who Is At The Table?

    These “serious” people who engaged in these “serious” negotiations have something in common. They are almost all very, very well paid, usually white, always DC or Wall Street or big-corporate insiders, always college-educated and comfortable people who work in offices. They do not reflect the diverse makup of the American population. Doing that wouldn’t be “serious,” but it would be ‘small-d’ democratic.

    The fact is, the American People just are not reflected "at the table" in these budget negotiations. When you hear about these deficit commissions, discussions, etc. ask yourself: How many make less than $250K? How many are unemployed? How many work taking care of someone else? Who speaks for We, the People in these negotiations?

    And ask yourself: What would these deficits talks, commissions, gangs consist of if they were representative of the interests of regular Americans?

    What If a Deficit Commission Looked Like America?

    If a deficit commission with 100 members had the diversity of the American population "at the table" it would look like this:

    • 19 people on the commission would receive some form of Social Security benefits, 12 of those as retirees. And on this deficit commission they get to talk when the ones making over $250K propose cutting Social Security.
    • 43 of the commission members would have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement. 27 of those less than $1,000.
    • 98 of the 100 members would make less than $250,000 a year.
    • 50 of the members would come from households in which the total income of all wage-earners is less than $52,029.
    • 13 wold have income below the poverty level.
    • 14 members would be receiving food stamps.
    • 16.6% of the commission members would be un- or underemployed, and would be wondering why they are on a deficit commission at all instead of a jobs commission.
    • The commission would include the right proportion of factory and construction workers, and people who work in a kitchen, and work waiting tables, and teaching, and nursing, and installing tires, and all the other things that people do except, apparently, those on DC elite commissions. (People who do hard, manual labor get an extra vote each on what the retirement age should be.)
    • 74 members would not have college degrees.
    • 20 would not have graduated high school.
    • 18 would speak a language other than English at home.

    Have you seen any deficit commissions like that lately? No, seriously, have you?

    What does the PUBLIC want?

    A "serious" deficit commission in a democracy would come up with deficit solutions that reflect what the public wants. Here are some of the polling results compiled at The American Majority Project Polling:

    Social Security & Medicare:


    • 53% support Collecting Social Security taxes on all the money a worker earns, rather than taxing only up to about $107,000 of annual income.
    • 57% oppose raising the retirement age from 66 to 67.
    • 64% oppose spending cuts to Social Security.
    • 82% oppose cutting Social Security benefits in order to reduce the debt.
    • 67% oppose cutting Social Security to make the program more solvent in the long term.

    • 66% support enacting Social Security taxes on wages about $106,800 (the Pay Roll Tax Cap) to make the program more solvent.
    • 64% oppose spending cuts to Medicare.


    Lots more polling on Social Security at The American Majority Project Polling

    Taxes:

    • 74% believe eliminating tax credits for the oil and gas industries to help reduce the budget deficit is mostly or totally acceptable.
    • 68% believe that phasing out the Bush tax cuts for families earning $250,000 per year is mostly or totally acceptable to help reduce the budget deficit.
    • 72% of one group of 512 participants favored raising taxes on people earning more than $1 million a year over cutting important programs once they received details on the impact of the budget cuts. That percentage had been 62% before receiving details of the cuts.
    • 53% believe it is totally or mostly unacceptable to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25% .
    • etc...

    Lots more polling on taxes at The American Majority Project Polling

    Military Spending:


    • 67% support minor or major reductions in funds to national defense.
    • 66% support removing all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
    • 49% said to cut defense “even if it means eliminating programs that bring jobs to your state.”

    • Pew Research Poll, March 8-14, 2011

      etc.

    More polling on military spending at The American Majority Project Polling

    Union Employees and Collective Bargaining Rights:


    • 81% support the rights of workers to unionize to negotiate with their employers.
    • 77% believe public employees who belong to a union and work for the state government, city government, or school districts should have the same right to bargain when it comes to their health care, pension and other benefits like those members of unions who work for private companies.

    More polling on labor rights at The American Majority Project Polling

    Job Creation and the Economy:


    • 56% believe creating jobs, rather than spending cuts is the more important priority for the federal government right now.
    • 56% agree that “it is time for government to take a larger and stronger roll in making the economy work for the average American.”
    • 62% believe the government should focus on creating jobs, even if it means increasing the deficit in the short-term.

    More polling on jobs and the economy at The American Majority Project Polling

    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 7:30 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    May 7, 2011

    Require Corp Political Disclosure

    Go sign this petition: President Obama, Stand Up to the U.S. Chamber and Fight for Disclosure

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

    May 3, 2011

    American Workers - Unneeded

    Nancy Folbre: Super Sad True Jobs Story - NYTimes.com

    Unneeded as workers, the unemployed also become superfluous as consumers and burdensome as citizens.

    We CAN fight this, but we have to remember who "We, the People" are. We have to remember WE are supposed to be in charge here, and do something about it. We are the people in charge, not a burden, in the way of profits.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 29, 2011

    A Medicare Phase-Out By Any Other Name Still Stinks

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

    The "Ryan Plan" To Phase Out Medicare

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

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

    Town Hall Anger

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

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

    The Polls

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

    Demand The Details

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

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

    Get Angry

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

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

    And then:

    Get Active

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

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

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

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

    April 26, 2011

    Does Government Know Who The Boss Is?

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

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

    Illegal, But So What?

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

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

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


    Or this picture of the President visiting Google:

    viers_mill_PS-0253

    Workers' Rights A Thing Of The Past

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

    But THIS Time!

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

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

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

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

    Who Is Boss?

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

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

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

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

    The Threat Against Us

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

    We Still Have The Power

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

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

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

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

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

    April 21, 2011

    Congressional Town Halls

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

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

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

    April 20, 2011

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

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

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

    From today's Progressive Breakfast,

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

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

    Serious People

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

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

    Democracy vs Plutocracy

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • 60 members would not have college degrees.

    • 13 members would be receiving food stamps.

    What The Public Wants Is Smart

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

    Plutocracy Stupid, Democracy Smart

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

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

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

    Plutocracy stupid, democracy smart, fire baaaad!:

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

    April 9, 2011

    Please Read

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

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

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

    April 7, 2011

    Budget Battle: Who Is Our Country FOR?

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

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

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

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

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

    Decades of Stealth Attack

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

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

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

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

    Now The Attack Is In The Open

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

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

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

    How We Got Here

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

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

    Top Tax Rate

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

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

    Corp_Taxes_Share_GDP
    wealth2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    How It Happened

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

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

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

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

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

    More Charts

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

    lobbying_spending_totals_98-09
    (Chart source Sunlight Foundation.)

    The Republican budget doesn't fix this at all.

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

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

    Lobbying for "defense' has increased:

    Defense_Lobbying

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

    Military_spending_chart

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

    Imbalances

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

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

    April 5, 2011

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

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

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

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

    Note: This post will appear in other blogs.

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

    March 31, 2011

    Did American Workers "Get What They Deserved?"

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

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

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

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

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

    No and no. You didn’t bother.

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

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

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

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

    Whose Fault?

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

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

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

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

    Information for Democracy!

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

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

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

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

    March 1, 2011

    Did You Know

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

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

    February 23, 2011

    What Is The Real Agenda Of The Budget-Cutters?

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

    What is the real agenda of the budget-cutters? Are they really trying to bring the country back from the edge of financial ruin? Or did they bring about the appearance of a borrowing crisis to create a public panic that enables them to impose "solutions" that change the very nature of our country -- while doing little about the borrowing?

    In the news this week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker "ginned up" a budget crisis, then introduced legislation that removes collective bargaining rights from public employees, and over time effectively destroys their unions. Similar measures have been introduced by Republican governors or legislatures in several other states.

    This legislative attack on public employees follows more than a year of "preparing the ground" with a coordinated campaign from conservative organizations to convince the public that public employees are overpaid and that their pensions are "bankrupting" state governments -- not the effects of the recession.

    In the news soon, the coming strategic "shutdown" of the federal government by Republicans. After decades of forcing through tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, again and again -- most recently just a few weeks ago -- Republicans and corporate conservatives are engaged in a national campaign promoting the belief that there is a "deficit crisis." Their solutions involve gutting the things government does for We, the People like consumer, health, safety, labor and financial, retirement and income protections, while keeping things the government does for corporations and the wealthy "off the table."

    We see variations of the same formula over and over. Here is how it works:

    1) Cut taxes for the rich and corporations (corporate stock is mostly owned by the top 1%); big deficits result.
    2) Claim a deficit emergency and use their domination of corporate-owned media to whip the public into a panic, creating the appearance of demand for corporate-approved "solutions." Manipulate the appearance of consensus.
    3) With taxes and military “off the table” push through cuts in the things government does for We, the People.

    Repeat as often as needed to create a plutocracy.

    Today's "debt crisis" is the culmination of the long-term "starve the beast" strategy from an organized corporate-conservative movement. By cutting taxes for the wealthy they have starved the government, created massive debt (guess where the interest payments go) gutted the infrastructure, and put our country on the road to third-world status. This conservative movement has an agenda, and is not interested in working out "bipartisan" compromised.

    In an example in the news this week, a hoax call, purported to be from David Koch, one of the billionaire-industrialists helping fund the conservative movement and major funder of efforts to make it appear that Wisconsin is having a budget crisis. In the hoax call, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker clearly understands that he and Koch are in engaged a joint effort, describing a Democratic Senator who could work with him as "not one of us."

    Koch: Now you’re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?

    Walker: Ah, I—there’s one guy that’s actually voted with me on a bunch of things I called on Saturday for about 45 minutes, mainly to tell him that while I appreciate his friendship and he’s worked with us on other things, to tell him I wasn’t going to budge.

    Koch: Goddamn right!

    Walker: …his name is Tim Cullen—

    Koch: All right, I’ll have to give that man a call.

    Walker: Well, actually, in his case I wouldn’t call him and I’ll tell you why: he’s pretty reasonable but he’s not one of us…

    Elsewhere in the call Walker and faux-Koch talk about whether "planting troublemakers" would "work" or not.

    In another example of the self-awareness of this strategy: On public radio's Marketplace, February 22 Vincent Vernuccio of the Koch/conservative movement/corporate front-group Competitive Enterprise Institute discusses how the real agenda of the state actions is to destroy unions and their ability to fight corporate power politically, not to solve budget problems. (Note, he was not identified on the show as funded by conservative/corporate interests and Koch.)

    VINCENT VERNUCCIO: Union bosses want to inflate these budgets so they can get more members, so they can get more dues. And in turn, they take that dues money they have and give it to politicians who are going to give them more favors in the future.

    Several states are considering bills that would allow workers to opt-out of a union. Again, Vincent Vernuccio.

    VERNUCCIO: The main focus of this isn't just the budget cuts. It's actually giving workers the right to say no to the union if they so choose.

    Professor Bruno also sees broader implications for the debate. Since union money helps support the Democratic party, he argues changes in collective bargaining could shake up the political landscape far beyond the Midwest.

    These are just two small examples, in the news on the same day, showing the difference between the public pronouncements of concern for the country and a private agenda to fool the country. It is one thing when responsible leaders disagree on the best way to solve the country's real problems. It is quite another thing when organized wealth pursues a strategy to scare the country into handing over our remaining wealth and power.

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

    February 18, 2011

    WI Dems Show Right Way To Filibuster

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


    In Wisconsin the Governor and Republican majority are trying to strip state employees of the right to collective bargaining. The are literally trying to "ram through" in a very short time, out of nowhere, a bill that removes employee rights.

    The Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate had one recourse: just leave. There are not enough members of the Wisconsin Senate to hold a vote if none of the Democrats are there, so in a dramatic move they left the state. And it is making news.

    This short post by Thers at Atrios' Eschaton blog sums it up:

    Hey, remember how for the past couple of years the Republicans routinely and shamelessly and without precedent used a parliamentary gimmick to enforce a non-Constitutional supermajority in the United States Senate?

    Keep in mind those shenanigans whenever you're told that the Wisconsin State Senate Democrats are opposed to "democracy."

    Exactly right. This is how it should be done. The Democrats in the Wisconsin legislature are engaged in a delaying action to give the public a chance to express their opinions on how this should proceed. This is what a filibuster is supposed to do. It is not supposed to be an easy, silent "parliamentary procedure" that lets a minority just block everything, as Washington Republicans have been doing. It is supposed to be rare, dramatic, a show, something to rouse public interest, giving the public a chance to weigh in.

    In the post Filibuster: Make Them Talk

    Making them talk would be good for democracy, because the public will be able to see that a dramatic event is taking place. Just as in the movie, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, the public will have a chance to rise in support of the effort, or let Senators know they oppose it.

    Making them talk all night gives the public an opportunity to rally, one way or the other. It also, frankly, puts on a show, which will engage the public, restoring interest in government. This is good and we should do it.

    Unlike so many in Washington, Wisconsin Democrats are showing they have a spine. They are showing that they understand democracy and how public opinion can be moved. They are showing us all how to stand up for ourselves!

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:45 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 14, 2011

    Nine Pictures Of The Extreme Income/Wealth Gap

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

    Many people don’t understand our country’s problem of concentration of income and wealth because they don’t see it. People just don't understand how much wealth there is at the top now. The wealth at the top is so extreme that it is beyond most people’s ability to comprehend.

    If people understood just how concentrated wealth has become in our country and the effect is has on our politics, our democracy and our people, they would demand our politicians do something about it.

    How Much Is A Billion?

    Some Wall Street types (and others) make over a billion dollars a year – each year. How much is a billion dollars? How can you visualize an amount of money so high? Here is one way to think about it: The median income in the US is around $29,000, meaning half of us make less and half make more. If you make $29,000 a year, and don’t spend a single penny of it, it will take you 34,482 years to save a billion dollars. . . . (Please come back and read the rest of this after you have recovered.)


    What Do People Do With SO Much?

    What do people do with all that money? Good question. After you own a stable of politicians who will cut your taxes, there are still a few more things you can buy. Let’s see what $1 billion will buy.


    Cars

    This is a Maybach. Most people don’t even know there is something called a Maybach. The one in the picture, the Landaulet model, costs $1 million. (Rush Limbaugh, who has 5 homes in Palm Beach, drives a cheaper Maybach 57 S -- but makes up for it by owning 6 of them.)

    Your $1 billion will only buy you a thousand Maybach Landaulets.

    Here are pics of just some of Ralph Lauren’s collection of cars. This is not a museum, this is one person’s private collection. You don't get to go look at them.


    Luxury Hotels

    This is the Mardan Palace Hotel in Turkey, Burj Al Arab in Dubai.

    Here is a photo gallery of some other expensive hotels, where people pay $20-30,000 per night. Yes, there are people who pay that much. Remember to send me a postcard!

    A billion dollars will buy you a $20,000 room every night for 137 years.


    Yachts

    Le Grand Bleu - $90 million.

    Some people spend as much as $200 million or more on yachts.

    You can buy ten $100 million yachts with a billion dollars.


    Private Jets

    Of course, there are private jets. There are approx. 15,000 private jets registered in the US according to NBAA. (Note: See the IPS High-Flyers study.)

    This is a Gulfstream G550. You can pick one up for around $40 million, depending. Maybe $60 million top-of-the-line.

    Your billion will buy you 25 of these.


    Private Islands

    If the rabble are getting you down you can always escape to a private island.

    This one is going for only $24.5 million – castle included. You can only buy 40 of these with your billion.


    Mansions

    This modest home (it actually is, for the neighborhood it is in) is offered right now at only about $8 million. I ride my bike past it on my regular exercise route, while I think about how the top tax rate used to be high enough to have good courts, schools & roads and counter the Soviet Union and we didn't even have deficits.

    I ride there but that neighborhood is not like my neighborhood at all. While there is one family in that house, I live closer to the nearby soup kitchen that serves hundreds of families. One family in a huge estate and hundreds at a soup kitchen roughly matches the ratio of wealth concentration described below.

    Here are a few nearby homes up for sale.

    You can buy 125 houses like this one with your billion.


    Luxury Items

    Here is an article about ten watches that are more expensive than a Ferrari.

    The one in this picture costs more than $5 million. You can buy 200 of these with your billion.


    Medieval Castles

    Just for fun, this is Derneburg Castle. Do you remember the big oil-price runup a few years ago that too the price of a gallon at the pump up towards $5? One speculator who helped make that happen got a huge bonus paid with government bailout money. He owns this castle. He has filled it with rare art. You can’t go in and see any of the rare art.

    Click here to see the layout in an aerial view. That’s as close as you're going to get, peasant.


    Let's Go Shopping

    So you say to yourself, "I want me some of that. I’d like to place the following order, please."


    • One Maybach Landaulet for $1 million to drive around in. (Actually to be driven around in.)

    • One $100 million yacht for when I want to get seasick.

    • One Gulfstream G550 private jet for $40 million.

    • One private island for $24.5 million (castle included) for when I want to escape the masses.

    • One $8 million estate for when I have to go ashore and mingle with the masses (but not too close.)

    • One $5 million watch so I can have one.
    • Total: $178.5 million.

    My change after paying with a billion-dollar bill is a meager $821.5 million left over. I might be hard up for cash after my spending spree, but I can still stay in a $20,000 room every night for 112 and 1/2 years.

    So, as you see, $1 billion is more than enough to really live it up. People today are amassing multiples of billions, paying very little in taxes and using it in ways that harm the rest of us.


    How Extreme Is The Concentration?

    Now you have a way to visualize just how much money is concentrated at the very top. And the concentration is increasing. The top 1% took in 23.5% of all of the country’s income in 2007. In 1979 they only took in 8.9%.

    It is concentrating at the expense of the rest of us. Between 1979 and 2008, the top 5% of American families saw their real incomes increase 73%, according to Census data. Over the same period, the lowest-income fifth (20% of us) saw a decrease in real income of 4.1%. The rest were just stagnant or saw very little increase. This is why people are borrowing more and more, falling further and further behind. (From the Working Group on Extreme Inequality)


    Income VS Wealth

    There are a few people who make hundreds of millions of income in a single year. Some people make more than $1 billion in a year But that is in a single year. If you make vast sums every year, after a while it starts to add up. (And then there is the story of inherited wealth, passed down and growing for generation after generation...)

    Top 1% owns more than 90% of us combined. "In 2007, the latest year for which figures are available from the Federal Reserve Board, the richest 1% of U.S. households owned 33.8% of the nation’s private wealth. That’s more than the combined wealth of the bottom 90 percent." (Also from the Working Group on Extreme Inequality)

    400 people have as much wealth as half of our population. The combined net worth of the Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans in 2007: $1.5 trillion. The combined net worth of the poorest 50% of American households: $1.6 trillion.

    wealth1

    Corporate wealth is also personal wealth. When you hear about corporations doing well, think about this chart:

    wealth2

    The top 1% also own 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The top 10% own 90.3%.


    Worse Than Egypt

    In fact our country's concentration of wealth is worse than Egypt. Richard Eskow writes,

    Imagine: A government run by and for the rich and powerful. Leaders who lecture others about "sacrifice" and deficits while cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy. A system so corrupt that rich executives can break the law without fear of being punished. Increasing poverty and hardship even as the stock market rises. And now, a nation caught between a broken political system and a populist movement that could be hijacked by religious extremists at any moment.

    Here's the reality: Income inequality is actually greater in the United States than it is in Egypt. Politicians here have close financial ties to big corporations, both personally and through their campaigns. Corporate lawbreakers often do go unpunished. Poverty and unemployment statistics for US minorities are surprisingly similar to Egypt's.


    The Harmful Effect on The Rest Of Us

    This concentration is having a harmful effect on the rest of us, and even on the wealthy. When income becomes so concentrated people who would otherwise think they are well off look up the ladder, see vastly more wealth accumulating, and think they are not doing all that well after all. This leads to dissatisfaction and risk-taking, in an effort to get even more. And this risk-taking is what leads to financial collapse.

    Aside from the resultant risk of financial collapse, the effect of so much in the hands of so few is also bad psychologically. People need to feel they earned that they have earned what they have, and develop theories about why they have so much when others do not. Bizzare and cruel explanations like Ayn Rand's psychopathic theories about "producers" and "parasites" take hold. Regular people become little more than commodities, blamed for their misery ("personal responsibility") as they become ever poorer.

    Teddy Roosevelt, speaking to the educators about "False Standards Resulting From Swollen Fortunes," warned that while teachers believe their ideals to be worth sacrifice and so do non-renumerative work for the good of others, seeing great wealth makes people think that obtaining wealth is itself a lofty ideal,

    The chief harm done by men of swollen fortune to the community is not the harm that the demagogue is apt to depict as springing from their actions, but the effect that their success sets up a false standard, and serves as a bad example to the rest of us. If we do not ourselves attach an exaggerated importance to the rich man who is distinguished only by his riches, this rich man would have a most insignificant influence over us.

    Societies that are more equal do better. In the book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett make the case that great inequality harms us physically as well as spiritually, and the these harmful effects show up across society. The book examines social relations, mental health, drug use, physical health, life expectancy, violence, social mobility and other effects and show how inequality worsens each.


    Influence Buying

    There is a problem of the effect on our democracy from the influence that extreme, concentrated wealth buys. In the book Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson make the case that the anti-democracy changes we have seen in America since the late 1970s that led to intense concentration of wealth and income are the intentional result of an organized campaign by the wealthy and businesses to use their wealth to, well, buy even more wealth.

    The secretive Koch Brothers are said to have a net worth of $21.5 billion each and are particularly influential. They financed the Tea Party movement and along with big corporations and other billionaires they financed the massive assault of TV ads in the midterm elections that helped change the makeup of the Congress. And now Congress is paying them back,

    Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group — Americans for Prosperity — to oppose the Obama administration's proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. Of the six GOP freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group's separate advertising and grassroots activity during the 2010 campaign.

    ... Republicans on the committee have launched an agenda of the sort long backed by the Koch brothers. A top early goal: restricting the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Kochs' core energy businesses.


    We Must Address This

    We owe it to ourselves to come to grips with this problem. We owe it to democracy to begin taxing high incomes and inheritance again. We owe it to future generations to use a temporary wealth tax to pay off the debt.

    Resources

    The Working Group on Extreme Inequality explains why inequality matters in many more ways, and is well worth clicking through to study. They also have a page of resources for study with links to other organizations. Also, spend some time at Too Much, A commentary on excess and inequality because it is "Dedicated to the notion that our world would be considerably more caring, prosperous, and democratic if we narrowed the vast gap that divides our wealthy from everyone else." The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a Poverty and Income area of research with good resources. The Center for Economic and Policy Research has a research section on Inequality and Poverty.


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:32 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    February 3, 2011

    Jobs, Income Crisis As Govt Captured By Interests

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

    Earlier in Jobs Crisis In Real World ... Just Not In DC I wrote about the gap between DC/Wall Street thinking about the jobs crisis and reality in the rest of the country. Summary: Our government is not addressing out problems because it is captured by interests:

    Out here in the real world the real problem is not "structural," it is that there just are not enough jobs, they don't pay enough, "free trade" deals have lowered wages and undermined our manufacturing base, there is not enough demand in the economy and the government is not doing its job of picking up the slack and after 30 years of tax-cutting the infrastructure is crumbling and not supporting competitiveness for our businesses.

    There are millions of unemployed and millions of infrastructure jobs that need doing. There is a new green energy and manufacturing revolution going on in the world and we do not have an economic/industrial policy to capture our share. There is problem after problem that is not being addressed by a government captured by interests.

    Harold Meyerson writes today, in What's holding back the U.S. economy? that income has stagnated for everyone, while a few at the top are raking in tremendous amounts, because we have "lost power to our corporate and financial elites."

    From 1947 through 1973, according to the Economic Policy Institute's State of Working America report, released this week, the incomes of the poorest 20 percent of Americans rose 117 percent, while the middle 20 percent saw a rise of 104 percent and the wealthiest 20 percent a rise of 89 percent. From 1973 through 2000, however, the income of the bottom fifth increased by a scant 9 percent, the middle fifth by 23 percent and the richest fifth by 62 percent. Since 2000, the concentration of income gains at the very top has grown only more pronounced. The share of income going to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, which was less than 10 percent in the early '70s, reached 23.5 percent in 2007 - the highest level on record save for 1928. (Note: Both years preceded epic crashes.)

    Lagging innovation may explain many things, but it doesn't explain the rise of the rich over everybody else. For that, we need to look at changing power relationships, something that most mainstream economists resolutely ignore. Surely, the shrinking of unions - from 35 percent of the private-sector workforce in the 1950s to less than 7 percent today - has decreased American workers' ability to win good wages. Surely, the offshoring of manufacturing has diminished both the number of good jobs and our ability to exploit our innovations productively. Surely, the deregulation of finance has diverted more and more resources to a relatively small circle of bankers and speculators. And that tiny cadre has chiefly enriched itself at the expense of the rest of the nation.

    Meyerson is saying that the changes in our economy that are causing the middle-class-destroying joblessness and wage stagnation are not due to lack of innovation, a great stagnation from a "lack of low-hanging fruit," or any of the other excuses we are hearing. (Other countries and their economies are growing.) He says it is because the economic benefits of growth are now going to a very few.

    The difference between America pre- and post-1973 is that in the years preceding, the benefits from economic growth were widely shared, while in the years following, they increasingly went only to the top.

    These things are happening because we have lost the checks and balances that functioning democracy brings to our economic and political system, which are supposed to moderate the savage effects of unbridled, top-down capitalism. As a result both systems are captured by the very wealthy interest who are running things to further concentrate their wealth and power.

    As I began the earlier post: Who is our economy for? Who is our government for? For 30 years we have been undergoing a transition from "We, the People" democratic government to a plutocracy run by and for the wealthy.

    Jobs, income, infrastructure, dignity, security and mostly the benefits of democracy, all falling away from us at a faster and faster rate. This is The Reagan Ruins, hitting us upside the head like a hammer. This is "trickle down" not trickling down at all.

    March 10 Summit on Jobs and America's Future

    On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

    Free. $15 with lunch. Register here.


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:25 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Jobs Crisis In Real World ... Just Not In DC

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

    Who is our economy for? Who is our government for? For 30 years we have been undergoing a transition from "We, the People" democratic government to a plutocracy run by and for the wealthy. One indicator of this transition is the way the DC Elite respond to unemployment. 9-10% unemployment used to be a national emergency. Now it's a yawn.

    What The Washington Paper Says

    The Washington Post has a front-page story, Why does Fresno have thousands of job openings - and high unemployment? that says the problem is really "structural," a skills gap, and there is little we can do. This is significant because so many people who make policy read the Washington Post while sitting in their nice, expensive restaurants. Stories like this risk that they will think that there really are plenty of jobs out there, but the serfs just aren’t up to taking them, or are too spoiled, but in any event there is no problem that needs solving, and call the lobbyist because this month’s check is late.

    Meanwhile, anyone in the real world outside of Washington or Wall Street, reading about “thousands” of job openings going unfilled immediately knows something is fishy. In fact, if this story ran on the front page outside of DC or Wall Street we might even need to worry about Egypt-style riots. Anyone on the same side of the continent as Fresno knows that there are not “thousands’ of unfilled job openings. There might be thousands of foreclosures, or thousands of people in food lines, or thousands of people whose unemployment has run out but there are not thousands of unfilled job openings.

    What The Local Paper Says

    The Fresno Bee has a different story to tell, EDITORIAL: President should come see impact of joblessness in Valley:

    The economy may be improving, but it would be difficult to persuade the thousands of out-of-work Valley residents that things are looking up.

    The six Valley communities cited in a U.S. Labor Department report have unemployment rates that run from 16.4% in Hanford-Corcoran to 18.6% in Merced. The other Valley cities on the list are Fresno (16.9%), Visalia-Porterville (16.8%), Modesto (17.2%) and Stockton (17.5%).

    . . . The nation's economic recovery will not be complete until Americans go back to work. At every level of government, the goal should be to implement policies that improve consumer confidence and encourage businesses to hire workers.

    The Fresno Want Ads

    The Fresno Bee help-wanted ads tell the story.

    There are 963 “Sales” jobs listed, but the first 519 of those are at the same "company," called “Work At Home Jobs, Inc.” and are mostly the same "job," if you can call it that. The next 136 are a different "company" and the "jobs" are calling people from home to sell them wireless cell service – on commission. The next 52 are the same deal but a different "company," selling internet from home, on commission. The next 46, same story. Etc.

    The next category after Sales is “Business development”, with 691 jobs, 466 are “work at home” and many of the rest are the same jobs at the same companies as the “sales” jobs. The next two categories are "General Business" and "Other" and, again, list the same "jobs" at the same "companies." The next category is "Business Opportunity." I challenge you to guess what "companies" and "jobs" are listed. (Hint: it's the same ones again.)

    Supply And Demand

    Among the few specifics in the story is the example of "Jain Irrigation, which cannot find all the workers it wants for $15-an-hour jobs running expensive machinery that spins out precision irrigation tubing at 600 feet a minute, 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

    $15-an-hour is just above the poverty level for a family of four, at about 130%.

    Dean Baker, writing in, The Problem of Structrual Unemployment: Really Incompetent Managers, makes the point that a company complaining they can’t find skilled workers at $15 an hour needs to think about raising their offer. Baker writes,

    It presents comments from one employer who complains that he can't find workers for jobs that pay $15 an hour. This is not a very good wage. It would be difficult for someone to support themselves and their children on a job paying $15 an hour ($30,000 a year). If the company president understand economics, then he would raise wages enough so that the jobs were attractive to workers who have the necessary skills.

    If they can't get workers, they should know that they need to bump up the wage offered until they can. That is about as basic as it gets in the supply/demand equation.

    Can't Sell The House And Move

    Part of this problem is the housing market. If Fresno really doesn’t have the skilled workers businesses need, Silicon Valley and Las Vegas certainly do, and have very high unemployment rates, but the people there can’t sell their houses and move! And even if they could sell they are "underwater," will come out of the sale owing a ton of money that they can't make up by taking a $15-per-hour job!

    Externalizing Training Costs

    Companies expect workers to already be trained, “externalizing” one more cost onto local communities, while shopping for the lowest tax areas to locate.

    California has a budget crisis and is cutting back on funding for the community colleges and other programs where people are trained for jobs. One reason for the budget crisis is businesses demanding ever-lower taxes, or playing communities and states against each other for tax incentives to relocate, using property tax avoidance schemes and so many other ways to get out of paying something back to the public for the public investment that enabled them to prosper.

    The Real Problem

    Out here in the real world the real problem is not "structural," it is that there just are not enough jobs, they don't pay enough, "free trade" deals have lowered wages and undermined our manufacturing base, there is not enough demand in the economy and the government is not doing its job of picking up the slack and after 30 years of tax-cutting the infrastructure is crumbling and not supporting competitiveness for our businesses.

    There are millions of unemployed and millions of infrastructure jobs that need doing. There is a new green energy and manufacturing revolution going on in the world and we do not have an economic/industrial policy to capture our share. There is problem after problem that is not being addressed by a government captured by interests.

    DC Avoids Dealing With The Problem

    It seems that the DC Elite will do anything to avoid just seeing what is in front of their faces.

    Clearly we have lost jobs from trade deals, Wall Street financialization and domination, lack of investment in infrastructure and education, etc. But the DC Elite come up with a thousand reasons not to fix these because the interests that benefit from those deals have influence over them. Our budget deficit is obviously from tax cuts and military spending – but you will never, ever, ever, ever hear that. Instead we hear job-killing "austerity" solutions that avoid asking the wealthy few to pitch in.

    On one issue after another, the DC Elite provide cover for the wealthy elite interests who now control DC. The transition from We, the People democracy to a plutocracy of, by and for the wealthy few is nearly complete.

    The real problem is not a breakdown of the structure of the job market and is not a mismatch between the jobs and the skills, it is a lack of jobs because of lack of demand, and a mismatch between who our government and economy are supposed to work for, and the interests that have brought this about.

    March 10 Summit on Jobs and America's Future

    On March 10, 2011, the Summit on Jobs and America’s Future will bring together leaders and activists who understand that America faces a jobs crisis – and who are committed to building a political movement for sustainable economic growth, dynamic job creation, and a revival of the American economy.

    It's free, $15 if you want lunch. Beat that.


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    February 1, 2011

    Democracy vs Plutocracy: Public Transportation

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

    Here is a letter in a recent "Mr. Roadshow" column in the San Jose Mercury News. The letter illustrates the problems in plutocratic/libertarian thinking vs democracy. (Note: Caltrain is the commuter-rail line serving towns between San Francisco and San Jose.)

    Your recent article on Caltrain's $30 million deficit is once again showing your socialist leanings. Saying Larry Ellison of Oracle or Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google or Steve Jobs of Apple should rescue Caltrain is one of your famous inane ideas. If Caltrain cannot operate without taxpayer funding, it should go out of business. Just how much taxpayer money is used to fund the likes of Southwest Airlines, Greyhound Bus or any taxi services? As a taxpayer, I have never received a billing statement from any of these companies for not using their business! If you want the rich to pay for Caltrain, I suggest you tax rich athletes, actors, entertainers, the major news network anchors and, of course, rich politicians such as Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry, to name a few. Private business is the heart of America! Not government! Maybe you should quit the Mercury News and go to work for Gov. Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown and become director of Caltrans.

    Let's look at the assumptions in this letter:

  • If XXXX cannot operate without taxpayer funding, it should go out of business. (Insert Caltrain, Public Radio, schools, libraries, health clinic for the poor, etc., as needed.)
  • Private business is the heart of America! Not government!
  • No taxpayer money goes to help airlines, bus companies, etc. operate.
  • Never mind the idea of public infrastructure, courts, etc. that provide the underpinnings of all business. An airline can't operate without an airport, air traffic control, weather forecasting, etc. A bus or taxi company cannot operate without roads, police, and the rest of the system. No business would exist without courts and the financial system...

    I want to explore a deeper question. What are we, as citizens in a democracy, entitled to? Yes, that word, "entitled." There are things we are entitled to because we are human beings and citizens. We are supposedly still a one-person-one-vote system and not a one-dollar-one-vote system, and we are supposedly entitled to equal opportunity, equal access and an equal voice.

    But for-profit systems only respect those with lots of money. In a democracy is it right to require people to have a lot of money have access to transportation? To health care? To information?

    What are your thoughts?


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:36 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    January 28, 2011

    Democracy or Plutocracy? A Chart

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

    DEMOCRACY

    PLUTOCRACY

    We, the People

    Wealthy Few

    One Person One Vote

    One Dollar One Vote

    Government

    Limited Government

    Majority

    Supermajority

    Information

    Propaganda

    Taxes on the Wealthy

    Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

    Budgets

    Budget Cuts

    Jobs programs

    Bank Bailouts

    Welfare

    Warfare

    Express Lanes for 2 or More People

    Express Lanes for 2 or More Dollars

    Security Lines at Airports

    Special First-Class Security Lanes at Airports

    Public Schools

    Private Schools

    Public Investment

    Private Investment

    Updates:

    Public TransportationPrivate Jets
    AccountabilityImpunity
    Rule Of LawAbove The Law
    TransparencySecrecy
    Sustainable growthPolluter Growth
    Medicare-For-AllHealthcare For Profit
    Clean ElectionsRigged Elections
    Savings AccountsOffshore Accounts
    Credit Card DebtCredit Default Swaps
    Union membersSerfs
    LayoffsPayoffs
    HomiesCronies
    GrassrootsAstroturf

    Feel free to add additional contrasts in the comments.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:52 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    January 24, 2011

    Filibuster Changes Would Bring The Public Back In

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

    We all want to see the Senate start working again, and be more democratic. We have all lived through the breakdown of the Senate and the damage this has done to our democracy and the public's faith in government because of the abuse of the current rules. There is a vote likely tomorrow and we want to see real changes. There is a way to fix the problem and restore public interest in government at the same time: make them talk!

    Background

    On the first “day” of a Senate session the rules can be changed. The Senate met January 5 but did not adjourn the session, which means that the first “day” continues. The Senate reconvenes tomorrow. There is likely to be a vote on rules reform tomorrow. And if the vote is not tomorrow, the Senate can go into recess instead of adjourning for the day, and continue in the “first day.”

    Rumors

    There are rumors in every direction about what they might do about the dysfunction of the Senate. Rumors aside, one month ago every Democrat in the Senate signed a letter in support of changing the rules to require Senators to actually talk. This is the best outcome and there is no reason at all not to do this. If another "compromise" against democracy occurs, the public will be further demoralized. The country does not need another blow against trust in government.

    Restore Public Interest

    The public thinks this is how it is done. The movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” has cemented this in the minds of everyone. Unfortunately it isn’t how it has been done, and the result is that the public does not even know that the Senate is broken. They only know that “government” doesn’t work for them, and the change they need just does not happen.

    If the Senate required Senators to actually stand up and talk, in the conventional understanding of what a filibuster is, it would restore public interest. It would be dramatic. People would notice. It is a show, with a purpose. When Senators stand up and talk and don't stop the public wants to know why and they want to get involved. People would want to weigh in. This is the right way to fix the Senate. Just as in the movie, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, the public will have a chance to rise in support of the effort, or let Senators know they oppose it.

    Please visit Fix The Senate Now for more information. And CALL YOUR SENATORS to tell them you support reforming the filibuster!

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:11 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    January 18, 2011

    Filibuster: Make Them Talk

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

    The Senate is considering reforming the rules for filibusters. In the last few years the filibuster has been used so frequently that it is now conventional wisdom that "it takes 60 votes to pass a bill in the Senate." This is because the public, and apparently even much of the news media, does not understand how the Senate operates. In fact, when you hear that something takes 60 votes to pass it is because it has been filibustered.

    In the last two years everything has been blocked by an obstructive minority in the Senate. This was done as a strategy, on purpose, with the idea that by blocking everything and keeping the public from understanding this was what was going on, the public would turn against the Democrats for not getting enough done to solve the country's problems. And it worked.

    Make Them Talk

    So the Senate is considering changing the rules for the filibuster, in an attempt to restore democracy and enable a return to governing and problem-solving. They are not talking about getting rid of the filibuster, they are talking about returning to its original purpose. To sum it up, they are going to try to make them talk.

    Currently a Senator can can announce a filibuster or place a "hold," and that alone requires that the Senate gather 60 votes to undo it. For nominations the Senator does not even have to be identified. But this is not what the public understand the filibuster to be. The public thinks the filibuster is a dramatic event, with Senators talking all night, like in the movie Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.

    So the proposed changes in the filibuster will bring this back. Senators will have to talk, and it will be dramatic, and the public will know that there is a filibuster underway.

    Senator Harkin: The Purpose Of The Filibuster

    On a call with the press today Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa talked about this idea for changing the filibuster. He began by reminding us of the original purpose of the filibuster. This was so that when the majority is doing something that is egregious, the minority can hold it up, giving the public time to react if they so choose. But this is not at all what we have today. Today it enables the minority to block everything, subverting democracy.

    Harkin said that by enabling the minority to block everything we have "stood democracy on its head." The minority decides everything, which means "the majority has the responsibility but not the ability to govern." "The minority should not have the power to dictate what the senate does."

    The purpose of the filibuster, he said, should be to slow things down and let the public know something dramatic is happening. And the use of a supermajority was historically limited, originally for impeachment, treaties and overturing a veto. Not for passing legislation or confirming nominees.

    Harkin would like to see a return to a dramatic, make-them-talk filibuster.

    Good For Democracy

    Making them talk would be good for democracy, because the public will be able to see that a dramatic event is taking place. Just as in the movie, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, the public will have a chance to rise in support of the effort, or let Senators know they oppose it.

    Making them talk all night gives the public an opportunity to rally, one way or the other. It also, frankly, puts on a show, which will engage the public, restoring interest in government. This is good and we should do it.

    Please visit Fix The Senate Now for more information. And CALL YOUR SENATORS to tell them you support reforming the filibuster!


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

    January 15, 2011

    Tunisia???

    Tunisia tossed out a dictator after months of public protests and street demonstrations. Scarecrow at FDL, talk about ... Tunisia? Tunisians Help "Expand Our Moral Imaginations"

    Suppose you lived in a country in which the ruling elite had retained power for decades and then used that power to heap enormous wealth and privilege on the ruling elite, while the elite’s financiers profited even more from their regime by looting the nation’s financial system.

    Suppose these financial and political elites had ignored the plight of ordinary citizens, allowed massive poverty and income inequality to persist, and instead fostered conditions allowing the elite to plunder the country’s resources and loot its citizen’s wealth, leaving millions unemployed and at risk of losing their homes.

    Suppose this same elite controlled the media, could buy/bribe government officials at will, and could use the media and the trappings of democracy to claim legitimacy while enforcing a narrow range on political discourse and even narrower range of which problems and solutions possess political legitimacy.

    And suppose any efforts at reform kept the same elites and their institutions in charge, even after they ransacked the country and caused great harm to millions of ordinary citizens, while the elite held none of themselves accountable, let alone criminally responsible.

    What should the citizens of that nation do? And which country am I describing?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:08 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    January 12, 2011

    They Even Filibustered The Public Printer!

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

    The Senate is considering changing the rules for the "filibuster" and this is an opportunity for you to do something that can make a difference. The filibuster has been abused and the Senate is broken. Call your Senators and tell them you want this fixed!

    "Abuse" does not adequately describe what has happened with the filibuster and "broken" does not adequately describe what has happened with the U.S. Senate. Two years ago We, the People voted for change, but in the Senate change and everything else was blocked. Everything was filibustered as part of a strategy to demoralize people and undermine democracy. Everything. Important bills, judges, agency heads, ambassadors and all the things that constitute "everything." And the strategy worked.

    They even filibustered the Public Printer!

    What is the Public Printer? The Public Printer heads up the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). The GPO manages our country's public documents. They print but also electronically distribute the Congressional Record, Supreme Court decisions, passports, tax forms, internal government documents, and agency publications. (They don't print the money.)

    Benjamin Franklin served as the Public Printer when we were a colony, though the current office was established by Congress in 1861.

    I am unable to locate any stated reason why the nomination of the Public Printer was filibustered, leaving me to assume that this particular filibuster came under the classification of "everything." Therefore the Public Printer was filibustered.

    So now the Senate is considering whether to change their system. They are voting on January 24. They are considering making Senators actually filibuster instead of being able to block things from a nice table at a nice restaurant. This way the public will be aware that this tactic is being used to block things and can respond accordingly.

    This is why you should call your Senators - both of them - today, and tell them that you want the Senate to reform the filibuster.

    If you do this, some of them will say "Uh oh, they're on to us." They depend on the public not understanding what is going on, but if you call they will know that you are hip to their bag of tricks.

    Others will say, "Hey, I don't have to be afraid to change things, they are paying attention!" These Senators will know that they have support and will be nudged toward voting to fix the problem, which will help make it so they can fix the rest of the problems.

    Either way, calling WILL do some good. So call. Today. And tell others to call.

    This is Annie Hill of the Communication Workers Union, with an overview of Senate Rules Reform:


    Warning: If you are not a political junkie you might want to stop reading now and go call your Senators and say you want the filibuster reformed. The following content might be unsuitable for normal audiences.

    Ezra Klein, with one of the best blog post titles in a long time, If you read only one John Kerry speech today ...,

    I'm not going to summarize it here, because I think it's actually worth taking five minutes to read it in full. But the whole thing is below the fold:

    Yes, if you like to read John Kerry speeches you should click through to read the whole thing, but just in case you are the rare individual who does not live to read John Kerry speeches here is "the meat," (and keep in mind that I, a vegetarian, had to actually read the speech to find "the meat" for you),

    John and I considered postponing this speech, which had been planned for some time. But serious times call for serious discussions. And after some reflection, both of us felt that not only should this speech not be postponed, but that, in fact, it was imperative to give it.

    Oh, wait, that's apparently not the interesting part. This is, about 115 paragraphs into the filibuster talk.,

    Sometimes, as John Kennedy once said, “party asks too much.” Sometimes, party leaders also ask too much, especially if they exploit the rules of the United States Senate for the sole purpose of denying a President a second term. But that is what we have witnessed the last two years; Republicans nearly unanimous in opposition to almost every proposal by the President and almost every proposal by Democratic colleagues. The extraordinary measure of a filibuster has become an ordinary expedient. Today it’s possible for 41 Senators representing only about one tenth of the American population to bring the Senate to a standstill.

    Certainly, I believe the filibuster has its rightful place. I used it to stop drilling for oil in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge because I believed that was in our national interest --and 60 or more Senators should be required to speak up on such an irrevocable decision. But we have reached the point where the filibuster is being invoked by the minority not necessarily because of a difference over policy, but as a political tool to undermine the Presidency.

    Consider this: in the entire 19th century, including the struggle against slavery, fewer than two dozen filibusters were mounted. Between 1933 and the coming of World War II, it was attempted only twice. During the Eisenhower administration, twice. During John Kennedy’s presidency, four times-- and then eight during Lyndon Johnson’s push for civil rights and voting rights bills. By the time Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan occupied the White House, there were about 20 filibusters a year.

    But in the 110th Congress of 2007-2008, there were a record 112 cloture votes. And in the 111th Congress, there were 136, one of which even delayed a vote to authorize funding for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps during a time of war. That’s not how the Founders intended the Senate to work-- and that's not how our country can afford the Senate not to work.

    If only I could move to DC so I could listen to speeches like this every day instead of just reading them.

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

    January 10, 2011

    Filibuster Reform ... But

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

    “But.” Everything you read about the filibuster talks about how important the filibuster is, allowing a minority to retain some power over abuse by a majority… and then it says, “But.”

    For example, the Camden, NJ Courier Post, editorial today, Alter filibuster rules in Senate, reads,

    In a representative democracy, the minority group or party should never be without any power, and the filibuster in the Senate has proved an important tool for both Republicans and Democrats when they've been in the minority. It allows the minority party to have a voice in the legislative process, even when the majority party would like to ignore that voice.

    But over the last decade, as partisan divisions in Washington have become more entrenched, the filibuster privilege has been overused and abused by both parties. In just the last two congresses, filibusters have been used to block legislation or nominees 275 times. During the eight years when Dwight Eisenhower was president from 1953 to 1961, the Senate had to vote just twice to stop filibusters, according to Senate records.

    "But over the last decade..." "overused," "used to block," etc... "But."

    Of course the Courier Post threw in the “both sides” equivalence with no evidence. It’s a media rule that you can’t explain what conservatives are doing to the country without finding some way to equivalently blame "the other side."

    The Albany, NY Times Union Fix the Senate, gets to the heart of the problem,

    There actually were more filibusters in 2009 alone than in the 1950s and '60s combined.

    A tool designed to guard against the tyranny of the majority has instead led to the tyranny of the minority. It's time for the Senate to consider allowing fewer than 60 votes to keep a bill under consideration. The rule of the majority, in both spirit and letter, remember, is just 51.

    Even if a minority in the Senate is to retain this weapon, it should have to use it in a way that enhances debate, not undermines it.

    More filibusters in the one year than the '50s and '60s combined...

    The Problem: Blocking Everything

    In the last two years Republicans pursued a strategy of trying to block everything -- every bill, every nominee, every judge -- and then campaigning saying that our country's problems were not being fixed. It worked. They got away with it. And our country's problems were not solved.

    How bad is the problem? Last year one Senator placed a "blanket hold" on all Presidential appointments until he got earmarks for a defense contractor that was giving him tons of "campaign contributions." Even worse, here is a story about a lobbying firm that arranges filibusters for cash.

    Abuse And Consequences

    The filibuster is being abused, and the Senate is broken. Important bills are blocked. 420 important bills that had passed the House were not voted on in the Senate. The judges and executive appointees we need are not able to be confirmed. The country's problems are not being addressed.

    This is more than just abuse, the filibuster is abused to the point that it is damaging the country and the world's understanding of democracy itself. Columnist Thomas Friedman has been warning that the abuse of the filibuster is causing the world to believe that China's autocratic system is a more effective form of government than our own. In Our One-Party Democracy, Friedman wrote,

    The fact is, on both the energy/climate legislation and health care legislation, only the Democrats are really playing. With a few notable exceptions, the Republican Party is standing, arms folded and saying “no.” Many of them just want President Obama to fail. Such a waste.

    And in a column titled, Never Heard That Before, he writes about whisperings heard at the Davos conference of world leaders,

    This year, Asians and Europeans, in particular, pull you aside and ask you some version of: “Tell me, what’s going on in your country?” We’re making people nervous. . . . “Our two-party political system is broken just when everything needs major repair, not minor repair,” said K.R. Sridhar, the founder of Bloom Energy, a fuel cell company in Silicon Valley, who is attending the forum. “I am talking about health care, infrastructure, education, energy. We are the ones who need a Marshall Plan now.”

    Indeed, speaking of phrases I’ve never heard here before, another goes like this: “Is the ‘Beijing Consensus’ replacing the ‘Washington Consensus?’ ”

    Please read that whole column to see the damage to our country this obstructionism is bringing in the world's eyes. It is causing the world to view democracy as an inferior system.

    Democracy Thwarted

    The filibuster is not just abused now, so is the public's understanding of it. The public understands what a filibuster is and when it should and should not be used. But they think a filibuster is Senators talking, not sitting in a restaurant and placing an anonymous "hold."

    The problem is that the public does not even know that the filibuster is being used. The public is not getting the information it needs to make decisions, and to apply political pressure where it should be applied. All they hear is that the Senate can't pass things. How many times have you read that "Senate rules require 60 votes to pass a bill?" This is now the accepted "conventional wisdom" assumption. But, in fact, Senate rules require a simple majority to pass a bill, not 60 votes.

    Lat year, in Harry -- Roll Out The Cots! Again And Again And Again!, I wrote,

    You are not drawing a clear contrast and repeating it. You are not telling a simple story in a clear, understandable way. It is not getting through to the public that the hated filibuster is being used over and over. You need to put on a show that breaks through the haze and informs the public. There is a way to do that: roll out the cots! The public gets that. They associate cots with filibusters. It is theater but the public needs to have the information and without the theater – yes, the circus – of rolling out the cots again and again and again, the public is, in effect, having that information withheld from them.

    Ever since the movie, "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" the public has believed that a filibuster is about Senators staying up all night, talking. If that is what they believe, then that is what you have to give them. You have a responsibility to democracy to find ways to break through the media filter and help the public to understand what is really going on. You need to roll out the cots, and do it again and again, until the point is made with the public that what is going on is not the normal operation of the Senate, but instead is pure obstruction, used as a strategy to prevent the public from getting what they need, to demoralize them and keep them from voting.

    After a while the public will get it. You owe it to them to do this. Roll out the cots.

    Fix the filibuster. Fix the Senate. Stop the anonymous holds. Stop the silent filibuster. If they want to block a bill, make them block it, make them talk all night! Roll out the cots!

    Cots.

    filibuster_xl

    Cots.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:47 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 23, 2010

    Pension Crisis

    Everyone please read: Daily Kos: The Selfish Rich Are Killing Retired People

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:56 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 21, 2010

    The Debt-Ceiling Threat To Gut The Things Government Does For Us

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

    The country’s huge debt was caused by tax cuts for the rich and increases in military spending. But debt-cutting recommendations from the D.C. Elite never suggest restoring taxes on the rich and cutting military spending. Go figure. Instead they suggest cutting the things government does for We, the People. The D.C. Elite is not We, the People. Let's stop this in its tracks.

    Just a week after the Senate voted to give a big tax cut to the rich, increasing the deficit by more than $800 billion, a few senators have gotten together to push the deficit-cutting recommendations of … two guys.

    According to The Washington Post, Senators Mark Warner and Saxby Chambliss are leading a group of senators gearing up to push deficit-cutting recommendations made by Senator “Milk cow with 300 million tits” Alan Simpson and Senator “On the Board of Morgan Stanley” Erskine Bowles. They will push this as the recommendations of the full deficit commission, even though the deficit commission specifically did not recommend this. This is just a plan that two guys came up with. Or, as they described themselves, "just two clowns from Wyoming and North Carolina."

    From Reuters, Warner, misrepresenting the source of the deficit plan,

    "Taking the commission's report ... we'll be introducing that as legislation, a legislative vehicle, next year, recognizing in the process that a lot of that would be subject to change," Democratic Senator Mark Warner said.

    Wrong! Not the deficit commission, just two guys.

    Everything On The Table -- Except Anything Wall Street Doesn't Like

    The group claims that "everything" will be on the table, even though the recommendations of the two guys closely follows a Wall Street corporate/conservative agenda.

    "The way you do it is put everything on the table," Chambliss said Wednesday, appearing with Warner before a group of reporters.

    Everything, that is, except tax rates on the rich and corporations, and military spending, and a financial transaction tax, and restoring the estate tax, and... . In fact, the plan is to get rid of tax breaks for the middle class and cut tax rates on the rich and corporations, and the recommendations of the Citizens Deficit Commission or commission member Rep. Jan Schakowsky's deficit plan. Everything -- except all of that.

    So what does the plan by the two guys propose? From the Washington Post story,

    Warner noted that the two men agree on the general idea of broadening the tax base by eliminating many existing deductions, while at the same time lowering personal and corporate tax rates.

    That’s right, the two guys propose cutting tax rates for the rich and corporations even more. Income and wealth is increasingly concentrating at the top, leaving the rest of us with less and less, starving the country's infrastructure, starving our people's education and health care and retirement and pushing us ever closer to third-world status, the D.C. Elite are pushing even more tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations and even more cuts in the things government does for We, the People.

    Take a minute to absorb that.

    The "Leverage" Of Destroying The Economy

    In our democracy, how do they think they can push this Wall-Street-oriented plan to gut our government through? For some reason, they think that taking hostages might work. Why, oh why, would they think that threatening to do harm to the country and its economy might give them "leverage" to get what they want? Where would they ever get that idea? What hostage do they plan to take?

    They plan to threaten to destroy the "full faith and credit' of the country if we don't give in.

    Before next summer, Congress will have to take a painful vote to raise the federal debt ceiling to allow the country to borrow more money.

    "If we can use that as a leverage" to get the ball rolling on a deficit-reduction plan, Chambliss said, "that's an ideal scenario."

    The threat to block a debt-ceiling increase is leverage because if the debt ceiling is not raised the United States of America will be forced to default on its debts, destroying the "full faith and credit" of our country, the "soundness" of the dollar, and the underpinnings of the world's economy. This would have consequences that go far beyond the harm caused by the financial crisis of 2008. This is the fire they want to light.

    But who is really being taken hostage with this "leverage" play? Dean Baker, in Saving Social Security: Stopping Obama's Next Bad Deal says that the debt default threat is actually pointing at Wall Street, not the country. Baker writes:

    A debt default would be a very bad situation and one that we absolutely should try to avoid. But the day after the default, the country would still have the same capital stock and infrastructure, the same skilled labor force and the same technical knowledge as it did the day before the default. In other words, the ability of our economy to produce more than $15 trillion in goods and services each year will not have been affected.

    One thing that would not be around the day after a default is Wall Street. The default would wipe out the value the assets of the Wall Street banks, sending Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and the rest into bankruptcy. The recovery for the economy from such a situation will be difficult, but the shareholders of the Wall Street banks would be wiped out and their top executives unemployed.

    For this reason, the threat of a default is a gun pointed most directly at Wall Street. Given the power of Wall Street over Congress, is inconceivable that they would ever let the Republicans pull the trigger.

    So while the conservatives claim they have "leverage" by taking the country hostage, the country would survive but Wall Street would not.

    Outrageous Threats

    Even so, this idea that holding the full faith and credit of the country hostage is playing with fire. It is an outrageous threat to hold over anyone’s head. They are literally threatening the livelihood of, well, everyone, to get more tax cuts for the rich and big corporations and cuts in the things government does for We, the People. Not a vote by the public, but a threat to wipe us out if we do not give this to them.

    Should our representatives in the Congress be trying to find common ground with people who want to gut our government and threaten to wipe out our ability to make a living?

    The Public Hates Threats

    Conservatives tried this before, under Speaker Newt Gingrich. They actually closed down the government in an attempt to dismantle the Medicare program. President Clinton stood up to the threat. The country was aghast that Gingrich and his party acted so irresponsibly and they paid the price. Clinton turned his presidency around by standing up to Gingrich.

    President Obama should show the backbone that Clinton showed against the Gingrich Congress. The public hates being threatened and will not forgive anyone who gives in to it. Do not give in.

    Action: Get ready now for the coming fight!

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:38 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    December 15, 2010

    The New Revolutionaries Take to the Internet: The Tale of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange

    WikiLeaks raises some of the most poignant questions of our time about the power of cyber warfare, the role of hackers, and the future of the Internet. It is not a coincidence that Madame Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has created a whole new effort to explore and fight cyber terrorism. In fact, WikiLeaks and Assange may represent the first of the wholesale anarchists using today's information highway to do battle. Consider that instead of taking to the streets in protest, this generation may take to the Internet to wage their battles and carry their message. We are living a time represented by the power of Facebook that links over 500 million people together. And if this is true, we may have unleashed a whole new generation of cyber warlords on the world's information centers.

    Many of our brethren are writing about democracy, liberty and the freedom of information pivoting off what they believe WikiLeaks stands for. Julian Assange has been elevated to the "Man of the People" as filmmaker Michael Moore contributes to his bail fund, and the Huffington Post sets up a whole section devoted to whistleblower Fantasy Land. You know, we all need something valiant to believe in during the difficult days of Obama. The obnoxious wealthy are dancing on the heads of US lawmakers. The banks are still doing the Texas two-step, and the Middle Class continues to suffer in silence with simmering rage. There are two deeply divisive wars. China is rising and scaring the heck out of us. The liberals of the Democratic Party continue to act like toddlers, and Sarah Palin is making hay laughing all the way to her off-shore accounts. So Julian Assange, or whoever is backing him, could not have picked a better moment of discontent. They are evoking new archetypes of good and bad in a world that is increasing grey.

    Assange is the anti-hero. He has been personified as a man with no country who is a metrosexual kind of guy willing to risk it all to uncover the truth. Yet, we don't really know much about this man, or what makes him tick. Is he really the wizard behind or the curtain, or there really someone or something else pulling the strings. Is he a hacker extraordinaire, or just a man that is a brilliant online community organizer? In fact and most importantly, what does it mean to be a hacker? Are hackers by definition anarchists, or is it just Julian that wants to topple the establishment at any cost. Or are there droves of these cyber-sleuths trolling the black lands of the Internet looking for back doors into silos of information? Remember Assange was a cryptologist of sorts which is the super duper folks that develop the ways to tunnel into software code. And it may be fair to assume that these same hackers were probably responsible for the DOS (Denial of Service) attacks on Visa, Master Card and others. And if this is true then who is really pulling the strings since these were very, targeted attacks on specific corporations that shut out the money flow for WikiLeaks? The bottom line is that we still don't know how the WikiLeaks information is gathered and/or obtained. Does it come from this new breed of whistleblowers, such as Private Manning that had a rare blend of tech talents and access? If so; does this new breed even resemble our beloved archetypical whistleblowers circa Daniel Ellsberg, or even Erin Brockovich? And I ask again, have we grappled with the ramifications of an Internet that is locked down in response to WikiLeaks? Are we ready to usher in a new age of restrictions? This sadly will make the debate around net neutrality seem like child's play if cyber war erupts.

    Please note that this post appeared earlier in the day in the Huffington Post.

    Please note that a selection of the reference material used for this article and others in the past on WikiLeaks is included in the complex pearltree below.

    Wiki Leaks

    Posted by Michelle at 11:43 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    November 26, 2010

    Tax The Rich: A Deficit Plan That Doesn't Hit 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.

    Here is MY deficit-reduction plan. This plan does not reflect the views of anyone but myself -- and maybe half the population. Unlike deficit plans from the "serious people" in DC, this one doesn't annihilate the poor and gut Social Security and the middle class while passing even more of the benefits of our society up to a few at the top.

    1) Restore pre-Reagan top tax rates. We didn't have massive deficits until we reduced the top tax rates.

    2) Income is income. No more reduced capital gains tax rate. The incentive to invest should be to make a bunch of money from a good investment. The reason there is a low capital gains tax rate is that the wealthy get most of their income from capital gains. And the reason they get most of their income from capital gains is there is a low capital gains rate. The resulting income shifting schemes are a drag on the rest of us. (Also applies to dividends.)

    3) Income is income. Inheritance income should be taxed as income, except there should be a "democracy cap" on how much someone can inherit. We decided not to have an aristocracy when we founded this country so we shouldn't have one.

    4) Businesses should be taxed or not taxed, but not taxed AND not taxed. They shouldn't be able to use "double Irish" or "Dutch sandwich" or operate out of PO boxes in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands. (Bonus, this also helps reduce incentives to send our jobs and factories out of the country.)

    5) If you don't pay your taxes We, the People won't pay to provide you with services. We can start by not allowing you to have a driveway that connects to public streets, or water/sewer hookups or mail. Also we won't enforce any contracts for you, including the one that says you "own" your house(s). And no government-developed Internet for you.

    If companies like Google want to "double Irish" and "Dutch Sandwich" us or operate out of PO boxes in tax havens, we shouldn't let them use government services like courts, or the government-developed Internet. See how well they operate without access to roads (that includes for employees to get to go to work.) How about withdrawing the limited liability protection that investors in corporations receive? And of course no protection for "intellectual property" or trademarks. Oh, yeah, no access to anyone who went to a school that used tax dollars. And no government services means no sea-lane protection for your products shipping from Chinese factories, by the way.

    6) Speaking of sea-lane protection, why do we have a military budget comparable to when we faced nuclear annihilation by the Soviet empire? Bases in Germany and Japan? And why can I go to this website, pick a DC-area zip code, say 22314, and learn that "Dollar Amount of Defense Contracts Awarded to Contractors in this Zip Code from 2000 to 2009: $7,086,397,848." Seriously, scroll down the page and look at some of the contracts and amounts awarded. I suspect there's some serious deficit reduction to be found in the military budget. A comprehensive and very public audit of where all that money has been going since, say, 1981 might take a chunk out of the debt problem all by itself

    7) I could start listing all the corporate subsidies, tax breaks, monopoly grants, schemes, contracts, etc. that we pay for, but I think you get the idea. How about calling bribery by its name: bribery, and doing something about it?

    8) To the extent that implementing this plan does not clear up the deficit and start paying off the debt, how about a yearly national property tax on all individual holdings above, say, $5 million, with the tax rate progressively increasing as total wealth increases, and keep doing this each year until the debt is paid off. Perhaps start at 1% on $5 million, 2.5% at $10 million, 5% at $50 million, etc. (Hedge fund managers and investment bankers start at 50% and go up, just for the heck of it. We can call this the "get the money from where the money went tax.")

    So there is MY deficit-reduction plan. Or, instead, we could do what the "serious people" deficit-reduction plans do: cut services for We, the People, cut Social Security, cut health care, cut education, cut infrastructure, cut the things that make life better for people, and give all the money to a few at the top. Take your pick.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:39 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

    November 10, 2010

    What's Next, Impeachment from the Republicans?

    So much for making nice Mr. President, the gloves are off as the Republican leadership comes out swinging. These folks don’t want to work with you, or your minions or any of us. Just tune into FOX News at any random moment, and the disdain is visceral. And to be blunt, what’s to keep them from starting impeachment proceedings as a tactic to erode your precious time and focus? Not much, if you listen closely to the Senate Republican leadership, the soon to be Speaker of the House, and all the other hooligans over the last few days, and even on the Sunday morning talk shows. Senator Mitch McConnell’s words sure don’t sound like a lullaby to me. Do not be fooled, it may be more than making sure that Obama is a one-term President. These are fighting words: “The only way to do all these things is to put someone in the White House who won't veto...”

    And if that’s not bad enough, there’s dissent and discontent (as usual) among our fellow Democrats. The so-called Blue Dog Democrats are acting out by attempting to distance themselves from the prevailing incumbent-rage by attacking now Speaker Pelosi. Have they no shame? This is self-serving hypocrisy at its worst. Not now kids. Go back to your corner and sing “Kumbaya” to keep from shooting off your big mouths at this fragile time. Enough of your ranks have been lost in this recent election. Stop with the posturing, and the “Anti-Pelosi Caucus.” These types of shenanigans only fuel the fires, and distract us from our goals. Please realize that we are under an unprecedented assault from the rabid Republican leadership. They will attempt to sink the Obama ship at any cost.

    Democrats (Blue Dogs, Moderates, and Progressives) hunker down. Put a stop to the malarkey from the newly anointed Republicans. This “lame duck” session is vital. We have barely two months to protect Social Security for the elders, unwind Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and fund many, many programs. Consider that the Congress may be deadlocked for two years with very little emerging from gridlock, and Pelosi's steam rolling machine has taken heavy artillery hits. If you feel compelled to beat up on someone or something, go after the bad guys. And pray that all attempts to bring impeachment proceedings against Obama are quashed. This would be a travesty filled with hate and racism from which this country might never recover. Don't let them take our President away.

    Note: A version of this article was published earlier today in the Huffington Post.

    Posted by Michelle at 8:46 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

    October 10, 2010

    How Tax Cuts For The Rich Made Corporations Predatory

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    America used to have a top tax rate of around 90%. This meant that after a person earned a lot of money in a year, additional income beyond that amount was taxed at the higher rate. Back then government worked a lot better. We didn't have deficits, the schools and public universities were better, there were enough police and firefighters, the courts were not overwhelmed, even the IRS was better. Most important, our country's infrastructure -- the soil in which business thrives -- was kept in good shape so the country was more competitive and livable. And all of this meant that the very people who were paying those top rates benefited because their businesses did better.

    Government and the services it provides aren't all that has changed for the worse since we cut tax rates for the very, very rich. It caused the relationship between big businesses and the rest of us to deteriorate, too. Here is why.

    When top tax rates were high it took time to build up a fortune. So businesses had to depend on the health of the communities around them to help keep them growing over a long period. They had to plan and act long-term. Businesspeople had to carefully build up solid businesses that served their customers and kept them coming back. And they had to train and hold on to employees because their experience was needed.

    After the top tax rates were lowered people could reap huge fortunes in a hurry. This changed everything. It created incentives for people to do things that we can now see have harmed our country. Quick-buck schemes for short-term profit became the business model. It made more sense to run up high debt, cut for very high short-term profit or just sell off businesses rather than invest and build build carefully for the long term. Cost-cutting was the name of the game. So cutting R&D and training and quality and support, closing factories and outsourcing jobs made more sense than investing in new equipment and training & retaining a good workforce. Managers who held to the old-fashioned serve-the-customer and support-the-community model faced the private equity buyout -- where companies become buy-and-sell commodities with workers, customers and the country as costs.

    So big corporations became predatory, caring little for customers, communities and country because executives planned to get rich quick and leave soon. Businesses’ interdependence with the community went out the window. It made more sense to fleece the community with quick-buck schemes than to rely on its well-being over a long period of time. Short-thinking business models that cut employees to the bone and took advantage of customers began to make sense. Then, as communities fell apart, those few who benefited from such business practices could just fly away in their private jets or sail away in their yachts. The greater community was no longer of any use to them except as a crop to be harvested.

    Bring Back The 90% Top Tax Rate

    So it is time to change the formula. It's time to bring back the 90% top tax rates. We can use the money to start paying off our debt. It is time to rein in our businesses and make them part of our communities again. The way to do this is to continue to help people become wealthy – just a bit more slowly, please, and bring us all along. Bring back the top tax rates of America's golden years so we can all enjoy the benefits of our economy again.

    A top rate of 90%, phased in as income gets higher and higher, wouldn't raise taxes at all for most of the people in the country but it would mean that the top 15 hedge fund managers would only take home an average of about $100 million a year. While bringing in only $100 million a year might be a terrible hardship for them, it brings up an important question for the rest of us: how much is enough? Especially when a few having so much means that the rest of us have much, much less and live in communities that are much, much worse off than they used to be.

    See also Tax Cuts Are Theft.
    And see Tax Cuts Are Theft: An Amplification by Sara Robinson.

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

    September 14, 2010

    Social Security Proposal: Make Them Work -- Longer

    Update - please see RJ Eskow's post, As The Aging Stoop To Their Labors, Prosperous Pundits Lecture Them About Sacrifice

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

    DC is talking about cutting Social Security for working people at the very same time it is talking about extending tax breaks for the wealthiest people in history. This is a result of our county's shift away from democracy and toward plutocracy. This post is about the astonishing change in attitude toward regular people that is the result of this shift.

    There is a DC "Deficit Commission" that is supposed to be cutting budget deficits (that result from tax cuts for the wealthy and increases in military spending) but is instead talking about cutting Social Security. Get this: Social Security is a fully-funded program that uses no tax money. By law it cannot borrow so it cannot contribute to the deficit! At the same time, the huge military budget (we spend more than all other countries combined) is completely unfunded and faces a huge shortfall every year -- but cutting that is off the table.

    The real problem: Social Security built up a huge trust fund that was spent on tax cuts for the rich, and that money is coming due. DC thinking is to cut Social Security instead of paying back what was borrowed. One proposal under consideration is to raise the retirement age, recently increased to 67, to 70! This at the very time that every social indicator is saying that we should be increasing Social Security and lowering the retirement age. Increasing because people's savings have been slammed by the financial collapse so they need Social Security as their fall-back position, and lowering because so many people over 50 can't find work.

    What About The People Affected?

    Almost no one has been talking about how this will effect the people whose benefits will be cut. This is because there has been a change in attitudes in America. We are becoming a not kinder, not gentler nation. The crippled compassion component of conservative ideas about citizenship continues to cut into what's left of our consciences.

    Kudos to the NY Times for sending a reporter out from a comfortable desk in their air-conditioned offices to look at what cutting Social Security means to actual people who actually work. Retiring Later Is Hard Road for Laborers,

    A new analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that one in three workers over age 58 does a physically demanding job ... — including hammering nails, bending under sinks, lifting baggage — that can be radically different at age 69 than at age 62. Still others work under difficult conditions, like exposure to heat or cold, exposure to contaminants or weather, cramped workplaces or standing for long stretches.

    A Washington Post story the next day looks at the flood of desperate people trying to get on Social Security disability because their unemployment benefits are exhausted and they can't find work. Jobless are straining Social Security's disability benefits program,

    Social Security officials say they are confident that their vetting process screens out most people who might try to get benefits without being qualified. But, they acknowledge, when jobs are scarce, more workers who might otherwise struggle through with their ailments try to secure disability benefits.

    McClatchy looked at desperate older people who can't get jobs and are "taking early retirement" even though it means dramatically reduced monthly checks. Social Security surplus hit by joblessness, early retirement,

    Led by aging baby boomers and older workers frustrated by the tough job market, record numbers of eligible Americans started receiving Social Security retirement benefits in 2009. . . . Annual jobless rates for men and women age 55 and older were higher in 2009 than at any time since the government started collecting the data in 1948, Johnson said. That forced many to claim retirement benefits at 62, their first year of eligibility, instead of waiting to collect at the full retirement age of 66.

    The findings: People really need the help that Social Security offers.

    Cut Social Security? Really? We spent trillions bailing out the wealthy Wall Street elite, we gave huge tax cuts to the wealthiest people in history, we spend hundreds of billions on unaccountable "defense" contractors with shadowy addresses concentrated around DC, and we are seriously considering cutting Social Security?

    The New American Attitude

    But this is the new America. We're helping the rich and taking our frustrations out on the unfortunate and weak: "the help." I wrote about this attitude change in Simpson Social Security Comments Highlight Battle Of Democracy Vs. Plutocracy

    These battles over cutting Social Security and extending tax cuts for the wealthy expose the competing worldviews of We, the People democracy vs corporatist plutocracy. Is our country a community of the people, by the people and for the people? Or are we "the help," only here for the benefit of the wealthy few. In the democracy worldview we are a community that takes care of and watches out for each other. We are each citizens with equal rights and equal value, to be respected equally. Our government and economy are supposed to be for us. In the democracy worldview we should be increasing Social Security's benefits because people really need it.

    An effect of moving to plutocracy is that the rest of us need to "know our place." I mean, just who do we think we are? We have been acting like we own this place, like We, the People are in charge here! We think we are entitled to ... entitlements. Things have changed and we need to get with the new program. Our job now is to shut up and be thankful for anything we receive the the behest of the country's new owners.

    This is the new attitude: Make Them Work - Citizens As "The Help"

    That's right, you have to make them work, or they'll just sit around and wont be "productive." They wont face up to the "consequences" of unemployment. These parasites will just suck the blood out of the producers. You hear language like this all the time from conservatives. The unemployed are "lazy," or "on drugs" etc. They are not "productive." They are mooching off the rest of us.

    This is all in sharp contrast to the noble rich, who are an entirely different species biologically and spiritually. They are the "wealth producers" who we must treat with kid gloves and certainly not ask them to pay for their use of infrastructure or government services lest they decide to stop working. They just want to keep working, and what they do is so important, so pure, so necessary to the sustenance of the rest of us that they must be coddled at all times lest we lose their golden-egg magic touch!

    This is the new attitude: If You Feed Them They Breed -- And Other Dehumanizing Conservative Idiocy We Should Ignore

    The latest nonsense they are spreading is that helping the unemployed keeps them from finding jobs. Good Lord! This is basically the old "if you feed them they just breed" storyline. They say "it makes them dependent" as if hard-working people laid off because of Wall Street's scams are squirrels. Or, to hear the nasty way conservatives talk about these human beings, they are like rats. "Hobos," one Congressman called the unemployed! And the DC elite listen, chuckle and repeat.

    This battle over Social Security, at the very same time as DC fights over extending tax cuts to the wealthiest people in history, points out how it will be as our democracy slides away. If we sit back and accept these changes, we lose. To fight this we need to come back to an understanding of what it means to be a citizen in a country where We, the People are supposed to be in charge. A government of We, the People should be about taking care of each other, protecting and empowering each other and respecting each other. WE are supposed to be the boss of you here. And we are supposed to be in charge.

    Please add your name to the "Hands Off Social Security" petition. The Deficit Commission should get on to figuring out how to reduce the deficit (clue: it was caused by tax cuts for the rich and military spending increases) and keep their hands off Social Security!


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

    September 9, 2010

    To Fix The Economy Raise Wages

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    To fix the economy we have to fix wages. Increased wages will restore demand. The changes that will increase wages will help restore democracy.

    The social contract used to be that citizens in our democracy share the benefits of our economy through increased wages that come from increases in productivity. This broke down and working people's incomes have been stagnant since the Reagan Revolution. (Yes, I'm telling the same story again. It needs to be told, over and over so people can understand what is happening to us. We are feeling the effects of the Reagan Revolution coming home to roost.)

    Reagan and the conservatives weakened the government and broke the unions. Government and organized labor were the forces in our society that had stood up for the interests of regular people against the "moneyed interests" and weakening them fundamentally changed the fairness equation of our economy. After the Reagan Revolution working people's share of the benefits from increased productivity turned down:

    All of the benefits of improvements in our economy now flow to a few at the top. This results in intense concentration of wealth:

    With more and more of the income and wealth going to a top few, We, the People are thought of less and less as citizens and more and more as "the help." But who is our economy for, anyway? Our economy can operate for the benefit of We, the People, or it can operate for the benefit of a wealthy few at the expense of the rest of us. This is the ongoing battle. And history has shown over and over that when economies operate for the few, they don't work.

    This is not just about sharing the economy, it is about sharing the decision-making power. In our form of government We, the People are supposed to make the decisions. When Reagan said, "Government is the problem" he was really saying that decision-making by We, the People is a bad thing. When conservatives complain about "big government" they are complaining about We, the People having a big share in decision-making. When they call for "less government" they are calling for less of a share of the decisions-making by us. This means the wealthy and powerful have more of a share -- of everything.

    With the income, wealth and benefits of the economy increasingly flowing to a top few, working families tried to compensate for the loss in various ways. Women entered the workforce. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich explains, "By the late 1990s, more than 60 percent of mothers with young children worked outside the home (in 1966, only 24 percent did)." (Please read his whole post if you have time.)

    Then, still not getting by on stagnant wages with rising prices, people worked more hours or added second jobs. Then they started using up their savings.

    Finally they resorted to adding debt.

    This all finally broke down, demand slowed, and the economy has slowed to a crawl. The 90s financialization and "dot com" bubbles obscured the way things were headed, and then the housing bubble of the 2000s continued the illusion. But debt just kept rising people kept working longer and harder to get by, while the richest few kept getting richer. Finally it all crashed and current attempts to prop it up by helping the wealthy and big businesses are not succeeding. Bailing out big banks and their executives and shareholders and not holding anyone accountable, while letting predatory corporations continue their economy-draining practices has not only kept the worst parts of the "share of the wealth" problem in place, it has undermined people's faith in government and demcoracy. Changes need to be made.

    Most people pay for things with income from jobs. If we want demand to rise, then we need to raise incomes. But things are still going in the wrong direction. As CAF's Robert Borosage writes today,

    "Over the last decade, we lost one in three manufacturing jobs. Inequality reached Gilded Age extremes. CEOs and bankers pocketed million dollar bonuses while cooking the books and gambling on exotic securities, inflating the housing bubble until it burst. Health insurance companies kept a strangle hold on a health care system that costs twice as much as those in other industrial countries, leaves millions uninsured and provides worse health care."

    Who Gets What For What?

    This bad economy situation is going to drag on until we make real changes in the structure of who gets what for what in this country. Every incentive in the economy is to try to reduce wages, cut benefits and eliminate jobs. Think about that. People get bonuses and raises and owners get richer if they eliminate YOUR job or at least cut back your pay and benefits. For example, by replacing a worker with a machine, the owner of the machine gets more money, the worker gets nothing. But in the larger economy each time this happens it means there are fewer people in a position to buy whatever goods or services the same companies that eliminated the jobs are in business to provide. And it means that a few wealthy people become more wealthy and powerful.

    This is where government comes in. Government is supposed to be the force that speaks for and protects the interests of the people, empowers people through education and rules, set conditions to keep wages high, lay down the infrastructure in which businesses thrive, and coordinates the international competition for industries and jobs. But the Reagan Revolution broke that. We need to restore it.

    There are so many things that government could be doing to get the economy working again for working people, small and medium businesses and big corporations that want to make an honest living. Boost the minimum wage, modernize the infrastructure, provide health care, provide free education through graduate level, increase Social Security, help unions organize, impose a democracy tariff so imports don't get around the protections provided by our democracy, and return to taxing the rich who reap the dividends and payout of all the past investment that We, the People made to make business thrive.

    And there are larger structural changes we can make. Just brainstorming but what if workers replaced by machines directly got some of the income generated by the machine. Workers laid off this way several times might then have enough income to get by without working! Or what if we cut the workweek from 40 hours to, say, 35 before overtime kicks in. Maybe that would increase hiring, while giving regular people more leisure time. (And keep cutting the workweek as machines and computers do more of the work.)

    And, of course, to have wages at all people have to have jobs. One would think this would go without saying but these days it seems there is a need to point out that people are hurting for jobs, because the DC elite seem to have moved on from that. We badly need government programs to directly hire people to do things that help the people of the country. We would have all of this if the Reagan Revolution hadn't weakened government of, by and for We, the People.

    Other posts in the Reagan Revolution Home To Roost series:

    Tax Cuts Are Theft
    Reagan Revolution Home To Roost -- In Charts
    Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Drowning In Debt
    Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Is Crumbling
    Finance, Mine, Oil & Debt Disasters: THIS Is Deregulation

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    September 3, 2010

    Labor Day: Labor Got It Right -- Who Could Have Known?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    "Who could have known?" That's the cry from the big-corporate and DC elite as the economy and the environment and so many imporant things crash around us. (Around us, not them, they're doing just fine and taking good care of each other.)

    Who could have known that 25%-per-year house price increases was a bubble?
    Who could have known that a housing bubble could burst?
    Who could have known that deregulating the financial industry could lead to a financial meltdown?
    Who could have known that concentration of wealth could cause consumer demand to dry up?
    Who could have known that huge tax cuts for the rich combined with huge military spending increases could cause massive budget deficits?
    Who could have known that the Social Security trust fund needed a "lockbox" so it wouldn't be given away as tax cuts?
    Who could have known a deregulated deep-water well could cause a massive, destructive, uncontrolled underwater gusher?
    Who could have known that continuing to put carbon into the air would cause problems for the climate?
    Who could have known that moving our factories out of the country would lead to high unemployment and structural trade deficits?
    Who could have known that invading Iraq was wrong and a deadly, disastrous, costly, long-term mistake?
    Who could have known that a too-small stimulus that focused on tax cuts wouldn't turn the economy completely around and then conservatives would claim that the stimulus "killed the recovery?"

    (List continues into infinity...)

    Add organized labor to the list of those who got it right, time after time.

    Organized labor was right about the 40-hour workweek.
    They were right about the middle class.
    They were right about the weekend.
    They were right about paid vacations.
    They were right about paid holidays.
    They were right about paid sick leave.
    They were right about providing good, secure retirement plans for everyone.
    They were right about providing unemployment benefits to tide people over.
    They were right about providing maternity leave, child care and family leave for families.
    They were right that trade agreements like NAFTA and letting China into the WTO would lead to massive trade deficits and job losses.
    They were right about workplace and consumer safety.
    They were right about keeping manufacturing in America.
    They were right about fighting discrimination in the workplace.
    They were right about raising the minimum wage and the effect that low-wage policies would have on the economy.
    They were right about the effect of excessive CEO pay on the economy.
    They were right about the devastating effect of the Bush tax cuts.
    They were right about the need to maintain and modernize our country's infrastructure.
    They were right about going green.
    They were right ab out the dangers of Wall Street's financialization of the economy.
    They were right about providing good health care to everyone.
    They were right about strengthening, not cutting Social Security.
    They were right about democratizing corporate governance.
    They were right about fighting privatization.
    They were right about fighting deregulation.
    They were right about providing good education opportunities to everyone.
    They were and are right that we need a national jobs agenda
    Labor was right about people joining together instead of being on our own.

    (List continues into infinity...) They were right and they continue to be right.

    And unions have been fighting for these things for all of us, not just for their members.

    Please add to these lists in the comments! What other things could nobody have known, and what other things did labor get right?

    Enjoy Labor Day. In fact, for those of you that still have jobs after the decades of conservative policies, enjoy having weekends off, the 40-hour week, paid vacations, sick pay, health care, etc. And if you have a job but don't have those things ... JOIN A UNION!

    P.S. Here's an example of being right:


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

    August 28, 2010

    Corporate Power

    We went into health care reform looking to free ourselves from a predatory industry that was harming us and the country, and get ourselves Medicare-For-All.

    We came out the other side with all of us ordered to buy health insurance from the predatory health insurers.

    This has been another chapter in democracy v.s. predatory corporatist plutocracy.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:52 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 26, 2010

    Simpson Social Security Comments Highlight Battle Of Democracy Vs. Plutocracy

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

    Former Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson is co-chair of President Obama's Fiscal Commission. This is what he said the other day about the relationship between the American people and our government:

    "We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits!"

    This country that was once run by We, the People with government "of the people, by the people and for the people" has become instead a country where the ruling elites can talk about the public as babies, the unemployed as parasites who are jobless because they are "lazy." The prevailing attitude about the public, from the new Versailles that has grown up around Washington, DC -- what bloggers call "the village" seems to be if you feed them they will breed.

    Look at the weird situation we are in today. The wealthy are wealthier than ever. The gap between the rich and the rest of us is bigger than ever. Big corporate profits are soaring and the too-big-to-fail multinational corporations have more power than ever. At the same time wages that were stagnant for decades are now dropping, people with jobs are working longer and harder, more of our people are unemployed and unemployed for longer, more without health insurance, more are depending on food stamps for basic nutrition, more are losing their homes than ever with bankruptcies soaring, and small businesses are barely hanging on or are going under at an alarming rate.

    But what are our political leaders up to? On the one hand, the deficit commission is focused on cutting Social Security (which does not contribute to the deficit or debt) at a time when more people need it and need it more than ever. On the other hand many in the Congress are looking for ways to extend the deficit-causing Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%.

    And few are talking about our government hiring or helping the unemployed, stimulating the economy, or holding the bad actors who caused this mess accountable. In fact, far from talking about helping our fellow citizens, our ruling DC elites have a different view of things entirely. We, the People are just in the way. It is our own tit-sucking fault, they say, and we need to step up and sacrifice because we are not doing enough to help the people who really deserve it: the producers, the "job creators."

    Did you catch the rhetorical trick I used above? I said "our" people, and "our" government. How quaint. You don't hear that kind of talk much anymore. Instead you hear about "personal responsibility," which makes everything that is done to someone by the wealthy and powerful their own fault.

    This Is About Democracy vs. Corporatist Plutocracy

    These battles over cutting Social Security and extending tax cuts for the wealthy expose the competing worldviews of We, the People democracy vs corporatist plutocracy. Is our country a community of the people, by the people and for the people? Or are we "the help," only here for the benefit of the wealthy few.

    In the democracy worldview we are a community that takes care of and watches out for each other. We are each citizens with equal rights and equal value, to be respected equally. Our government and economy are supposed to be for us. In the democracy worldview we should be increasing Social Security's benefits because people really need it.

    In the plutocratic worldview held by conservatives and corporatist moderates we are "the help," 310 million loafers ("parasites" is the Randian word) sucking their " unearned sustenance" (more Rand) from the tits of the milk cow when we all ought to be working harder because the portfolios of the "achievers" (and more) are down a bit. Your value to society is only what you "produce." Your role otherwise is to "consume." In that worldview the wealthy deserve tax cuts and the parasites shouldn't be getting Social Security checks at all.

    So what is it going to be? Will we see and understand ourselves as citizens, who share this country on an equal basis with the rich and the poor, with rights and entitlements, deserving dignity, respect, protection and empowerment from a government that is of, be and for We, the People? Will we demand those things and fight for them? Or will we quietly yield those hard-won rights to our "betters" and allow ourselves to be told what to do, fleeced by giant corporations, hoping to get a flat-screen TV out of the deal if we behave?

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:19 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 25, 2010

    Boehner Trade Plan: Go Back To Disaster

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) gave a speech yesterday describing his party's positions on jobs & the economy going into the fall election. Summary: Our economic policies destroyed the country’s economy and millions of lives, but it made a few of my buddies really REALLY rich, so let’s do more of it.

    I write about the specifics of Boehner's call to return to disastrous trade policies below, but first I just have to say a few words about his economic ideas in general and how utterly wrong they are. In the speech Boehner said we have an "economy stalled by ‘stimulus’ spending." But according to FOX News' Wall Street Journal, yesterday the CBO reported that "the impact of the stimulus program estimated ... the plan lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points." In addition, the Washington Post reported, "The CBO said the act also increased the nation's gross domestic product by between 1.7 percent and 4.5 percent in the second quarter, indicating that the stimulus may have been the primary source of growth in the U.S. economy."

    Boehner also said that "each dollar the government collects is taken directly out of the private sector." This is the old "taxes take money out of the economy" argument, which is intended to trick people into thinking that the money just disappears instead of being used to pay for the schools, courts, agencies and infrastructure that enable businesses to thrive and drive the country's prosperity. If you think that President Eisenhower's spending on the Interstate Highway System "took money out of the economy" you really need to see someone about your problems and not take them out of the rest of us.

    Taking direct shots at democracy, Boehner complained about "big government" -- namely We, the People making decisions instead of a few wealthy corporate owners making decisions for us -- and said, "As Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, recently said, "You'd really be amazed at how much government you'd never miss." Boehner really has a problem with this whole "We, the People" thing.

    Boehner on Trade

    Boehner wants to go back to the trade policies that brought us massive job losses and trade deficits. In the speech he called for “passing free-trade agreements” with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. He doesn’t mention what is IN these agreements, only calls for passing them. These trade agreements were negotiated by the Bush administration. Here are charts showing the Bush administration's record:

    Manufacturing_job_decline_China_0.jpg
    baltrade

    This is bad enough, but these "free trade" agreements create a worldwide race to the bottom, allowing companies to bypass the protections that democracies fought to provide for their citizens, pitting exploited, low-wage workers against citizens in democracies, forcing wages and standards ever lower.

    These "free trade" agreements need to be reviewed and reformed, so they protect wages, the environment., worker's rights and small businesses around the world. We have a chance to lift each other up instead of push each other down. In February I wrote about Whirlpool closing a refrigerator plant in Evansville, moving the jobs to Mexico where workers are paid $70 a week. The problem is that Mexican Workers Paid $70/Week Can't Buy Refrigerators! If they were paid decent wages, we could sell things we make to them, while they sell things they make to us. But if we follow Boehner's trade ideas everyone just gets poorer and eventually the economy stops.

    Oh, wait, we DID follow Boehner's trade plans, and everyone DID get poorer, and the economy DID stop! But a few of his buddies got really REALLY rich. So he wants to do more of that.

    This speech by Boehner is just more calling for a return to the policies of the past: we’ve been seeing the trade deficit soaring in the last few months, as the economy tries to go back to old economy. China is 96% of our trade deficit. Boehner sayting lets go back to the path we followed when we were borrowing $2 billion a day, it took away 2.8% growth in 1st quarter, sapping the recovery. This notion that Boehner calling for continuing course shows a perverse blindness to changes country has to make.

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

    August 14, 2010

    Man Goes All Out Against Democracy

    Man Scrawls World’s Biggest Message With GPS ‘Pen’ | Gadget Lab.

    The guy drove all around the country to put the message "Read Ayn Rand" on a map of the United States.

    Ayn Rand ranted against democracy, favoring a system where the biggest corporations run things.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:18 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 9, 2010

    Tax Cuts Are Theft

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

    Update: see Tax Cuts Are Theft: An Amplification by Sara Robinson.

    Conservatives like to say that taxes are theft. In fact it is tax cuts that are theft because they break a long-standing contract.

    The American Social Contract: We, the People built our democracy and the empowerment and protections it bestows. We built the infrastructure, schools and all of the public structures, laws, courts, monetary system, etc. that enable enterprise to prosper. That prosperity is the bounty of our democracy and by contract it is supposed to be shared and reinvested. That is the contract. Our system enables some people to become wealthy but all of us are supposed to benefit from this system. Why else would We, the People have set up this system, if not for the benefit of We, the People?

    The American Social Contract is supposed to work like this:

    virtual_cycle

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

    We fought hard to develop this system and it worked for us. We, the People fought and built our government to empower and protect us providing social services for the general welfare. We, through our government built up infrastructure and public structures like courts, laws, schools, roads, bridges. That investment creates the conditions that enable commerce to prosper – the bounty of democracy. In return we ask those who benefit most from the enterprise we enabled to share the return on our investment with all of us – through good wages, benefits and taxes.

    But the “Reagan Revolution” broke the contract. Since Reagan the system is working like this:

    virtual_cycle_diverted

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

    This is the Reagan Revolution home to roost: the social contract is broken. Instead of providing good wages and benefits and paying taxes to provide for the general welfare and reinvestment in infrastructure and public structures, the bounty of our democracy is being diverted to a wealthy few.

    We, the People built this country’s prosperity and this built wealth. We reinvested that wealth, building the world’s most competitive economy. Now a few people are gaming the system and breaking the formula, taking for themselves vast riches, leaving the rest of us to clean up the mess.

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

    Other posts in the Reagan Revolution Home To Roost series:

    Reagan Revolution Home To Roost -- In Charts
    Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Drowning In Debt
    Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Is Crumbling
    Finance, Mine, Oil & Debt Disasters: THIS Is Deregulation

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:46 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 6, 2010

    Dear Senate: ROLL OUT THE COTS! People Need To See Cots!

    The latest obstruction: Senate Rejects Fed Nominee

    This is bullshit. "The Senate" didn't "reject" the Fed nominee, ONE Senator placed a "hold" on the nomination. Pure obstruction. There have been over 100 filibusters since President Obama took office!

    The public just isn't getting it that the things they want and need are being blocked by a few obstructionists. The public does not like filibusters or obstruction, but do not KNOW that filibuster and obstruction are occurring. And they aren't going to know unless it is driven home to them, repeated, pounded and dramatized.

    Dramatized! That is what the public understands! ROLL OUT THE COTS! The public understands cots! They need to see COTS!

    This is another opportunity for theater. Cots! Set up a giant "Filibuster Counter" that shows how many filibusters there have been so far! Roll out the cots! Just bring out a bunch of cots, set them up in the Senate where photographers can get pictures! Set up an "Obstruction Livecam" that shows Senators sitting on the cots, sleeping overnight. It doesn't have to have anything to do with actual Senate proceedings, it just has to dramatize that everything is being obstructed.

    filibuster_xl

    Cots!

    Roll out the cots!

    Cots!

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:00 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    August 3, 2010

    Do We Need A Democracy Tariff?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    We need a Democracy Tariff, imposed at the border on goods that are brought in from countries where the people have not been able to build a strong democracy that protects their workers, wages and environment.

    Yesterday in Exporting Jobs Is Not “Trade.” It Evades Democracy's Protections I wrote that ... well ... exporting jobs is not "trade." Packing up a factory here to send the jobs there, and then bringing the same goods that factory was making back here to sell is done for one and only one reason. It is done to get around the wage, safety and environmental protections that We, the People fought to build.

    We formed this country and we fought to build protections that brought us a reasonably good life, and a middle class, and some security - social security - so we don't always have to be struggling and living on the edge of a cliff, surviving only at the whim of a wealthy few with all the power. We fought a revolution against government by a wealthy and powerful few, and we fought again and again to keep and protect government of the people, by the people and for the people.

    Our wage, safety and environmental protections are the result of our democracy. We, the People fought and built a government to empower and protect us, to provide good wages and provide some security and that involves rules that limit what the owners of companies can do -- regulations. We build up a system of public structures like courts, laws, schools, roads, bridges -- spending -- that enable commerce to prosper. And we ask those who benefit from that commerce we enabled to share the return on our investment with us -- taxes and wages.

    Democracy, government, regulations, spending, taxes. The stronger each of these are, the better We, the People do. The weaker they are, the worse off we are.

    Lately wealthy corporate owners -- who benefit from the commerce that our democracy, government, regulations, spending and taxes enabled -- have found another way to get around these protections that We, the People built for ourselves. They move manufacturing and jobs to countries where the people have not been able to build strong democracies to protect their interests, and then bring the goods made by the exploited workers there back here to sell. They call that "trade" when really it is just a way to get around the borders that we are able to protect. As I wrote yesterday,

    These workers make the same products that had been made here, sell them in the same stores here, but make them outside of the boundaries of our democratically-won protections. And to make things worse, the companies then demand wage and benefit cuts from the workers who are still here, claiming that "globalization" means they now have to compete with workers with no rights, so they must accept less.

    There is a solution to this problem. These protections that we built brought us prosperity. And that means we have a strong market. Everyone in the world wants to be able to sell to us, and we can use that power to set the rules for access to our markets.

    A Democracy Tariff

    We should not let exploitation of workers and the environment be a competitive advantage that is used against the democratic protections we have built for ourselves. We can and should set a "Democracy Tariff" on goods that come from countries that do not protect their workers and/or environment. This tariff should be enough to offset the competitive advantage that comes from exploiting workers and the environment. If those countries do not change we can use the revenue from the tariff to build our infrastructure and strengthen our competitive position. If those countries do change, all the better, because as democracy strengthens there, the people will prosper and can trade fairly with us to buy things we make here. Everyone is better off when trade is free and fair.

    There are degrees of democracy and there can be degrees of Democracy Tariff. For example, some countries might protect workers but not the environment. The tariff on goods from those countries should be enough to offset the advantage gained from exploiting the environment but not as high as for countries that exploit both workers and the environment. Other countries might have some degree of protections but not allow unionization. The tariff should be enough to offset whatever degree of exploitation is at work.

    If a Democracy Tariff is called "protectionism" so be it. We have learned the hard way that democracy is fragile and must be protected.

    We must not allow exploitation of workers and the environment to be a "comparative advantage" used against our democracy -- government of the people, by the people and for the people -- and the protections and prosperity it has brought us.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:19 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    July 29, 2010

    Harry -- Roll Out The Cots! Again And Again And Again!

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

    Dear Senate Majority Leader, you are letting the public down. We, the People need you to get things done but everything is being blocked by a minority. The public doesn't understand that everything is being filibustered, so they are not applying the pressure that could break the tactic. That is your fault, not theirs: you have to show them. You owe it to the public, in the name of democracy, to let them know what is going on. There is a clear way to do that: Roll out the cots!

    The country has so many things wrong that need fixing. A majority of the Congress, elected to make changes, is trying to get things moving for the people, but a corporate-sponsored minority is blocking almost everything. Their strategy is to frustrate the public and they count on misinformation to confuse people as to who is responsible for the logjam. As a result the public doesn’t see that there is a strategy of pure obstruction at work here.

    The obstructionists have help in spreading the confusion. Newspaper stories rarely use the word "filibuster." Many in the media tell the public that Senate rules require 60 votes to pass bills. Other stories blame "partisan bickering" for the lack of progress. So the public blames "both sides" because they don't know what is really going on.

    But you are helping spread the confusion too. You are not drawing a clear contrast and repeating it. You are not telling a simple story in a clear, understandable way. It is not getting through to the public that the hated filibuster is being used over and over. You need to put on a show that breaks through the haze and informs the public. There is a way to do that: roll out the cots! The public gets that. They associate cots with filibusters. It is theater but the public needs to have the information and without the theater – yes, the circus – of rolling out the cots again and again and again, the public is, in effect, having that information withheld from them.

    Ever since the movie, "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" the public has believed that a filibuster is about Senators staying up all night, talking. If that is what they believe, then that is what you have to give them. You have a responsibility to democracy to find ways to break through the media filter and help the public to understand what is really going on. You need to roll out the cots, and do it again and again, until the point is made with the public that what is going on is not the normal operation of the Senate, but instead is pure obstruction, used as a strategy to prevent the public from getting what they need, to demoralize them and keep them from voting.

    Look what happened in April when you did roll out the cots! The cots were only part way down the hall when the obstructors held up their hands in surrender! That was a clue, Harry!

    A Senator might (probably would) say, “But Senate Rules don’t recognize the circumstances unless there is an amendment to an amendment that meets a motion from the designated parliamentarian over the division of the rule to the committee and the amendment amends the amdenment to amend, and we have to suspend the rule by consent to amend the amendment before the amendment can be amended."

    I would respond, "ROLL OUT THE COTS." Roll out the cots every single time they try to filibuster. Every single day. Cots. Cots. Cots. Park a truck out front of the Capital, filled with cots, and every time any Senator starts to say “No” workers should be starting to unpack the cots from the truck.

    After a while the public will get it. You owe it to them to do this. Roll out the cots.

    Cots.

    filibuster_xl

    Cots.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:03 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 28, 2010

    Iraq Money Stolen - Will There Be Accountability?

    The Obama administration STILL has not prosecuted anyone from the Bush administration - for anything. But maybe now that we have learned this?

    Iraq_Money_Stolen_By_Bush_Cronies

    See Where Did the Money to Rebuild Iraq Go?

    P.S. After the S&L crisis there were 1,852 prosecutions, over 1,000 jailed. This time? not so much.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:44 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 27, 2010

    Shouldn't High Unemployment = Less Work To Do?

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

    Simple question: have we reached a point where machines and computers leave us with less work to do? If so it can mean a lot of people are left without jobs and incomes, losing their homes and health, while the rest have our wages dragged ever downward. Or we can make some changes in who gets what for what, and every one of us ends up better off.

    Cake or death? Which will it be? (*explained below)

    Somewhere around one in five of us is un- or under-employed while at the same time so many of the rest of us, still employed are stressed, tired, doing the work of those laid off. With too few employed many stores, restaurants, hotels and many other businesses are falling behind. As Bob Herbert puts it today, "Simply stated, more and more families are facing utter economic devastation: completely out of money, with their jobs, savings and retirement funds gone, and nowhere to turn for the next dollar." The government has stepped in with stimulus to pick up some of the slack in demand but that can’t go on forever and we need to find long-term solutions.

    Is it structural?

    There are signs that the jobs crisis may now be structural, or built into the system. This means that the usual solutions are not going to "restart the engine" and trigger a return to an economy that had where almost everyone can find a job, (even if it is a menial, boring time-suck).

    Our unemployment emergency may really be about less work to do. Hale "Bonddad" Stewart writing at 538.com, Labor Force Realignment and Jobless Recoveries concludes, (click through for gazillions of charts and full explanation)

    The "jobless recovery" is in fact a realignment of the US labor force. Fewer and fewer employees are needed to produce durable goods. As this situation has progressed, the durable goods workforce has decreased as well. This does not mean the US manufacturing base is in decline. If this were the case, we would see a drop in both manufacturing output and productivity. Instead both of those metrics have increased smartly over the last two decades, indicating that instead of being in decline, US manufacturing is simply doing more with less.

    So it may be that machines and computers are doing more of the work that people used to have to do.

    Robert Reich sees signs of structural unemployment as well, writing in The Great Decoupling of Corporate Profits From Jobs,

    ... big U.S. businesses are investing their cash in labor-saving technologies. This boosts their productivity, but not their payrolls. [. . .] The reality is this: Big American companies may never rehire large numbers of workers. And they won’t even begin to think about hiring until they know American consumers will buy their products. The problem is, American consumers won’t start buying against until they know they have reliable paychecks.

    So what do we do?

    Maybe we need some changes in who gets what for what. Right now we have an economy that is structured to send most of its benefits to a few at the top, while the rest of us -- the help -- sink ever downward into less and less security. People with power and wealth benefit when they figure out how to cause other people to receive lower pay -- or just lose their jobs. Eliminating jobs brings bonuses to the eliminators -- a perverse incentive if ever there was one. If someone can figure out how to cut your pay and benefits or just get rid of you (“eliminate your position”) they get to pocket what you were making, and you get nothing (and conservatives say you're lazy). If you don't own the company you're out of luck.

    In the past this perverse incentive was mitigated by people banding together in governments and/or unions and forcing the wealthy and powerful to share. But modern marketing science has been successful at making people believe that government and unions are bad for them. This was also mitigated by the ongoing need to find people to do the jobs that needed to get done. But with continual improvements in technology this need is reduced. We're living the result.

    Also, this perverse incentive structure assumes an infinite pool of customers to sell to, ignoring that the transaction of benefiting from eliminating a job also eliminates a customer. But modern business has become so efficient at job elimination that this comes into play. Who will be able to buy theTVs that the employee-eliminating factory makes, if all the employees are eliminated and have no income?

    These are structural problems that we can change. Let me just brainstorm a few possibilities for structural changes into the mix here:

  • Today when they replace a worker with a machine, the few at the top get another chunk of income, the worker gets nothing. But suppose a worker got to keep some of the economic benefit from getting laid off! Suppose that if your company replaces you with with a machine you get, say, 15% of the cost-savings as ongoing income. Heck, getting laid off would be a good thing, like winning a prize. After you get laid off a few times you only have to work part time. Get laid off enough times, you can retire.

  • Suppose we just shorten the workweek? What if we change from a 40-hour workweek to a 30-hour workweek? Economist Dean Baker has been offering ideas for workweek reductions for some time:

    The other obvious way to provide a quick boost to the economy is by giving employers tax incentives for shortening their standard workweek or work year. This can take different forms. An employer who currently provides no paid vacation can offer all her workers three weeks a year of paid vacation, approximately a 6% reduction in work time.

  • Suppose the corporations and wealthy were taxed at the rate they were taxed before all the deficits and income inequality started, and the government just sent everyone a check, which served as a base income? Then everyone's wages would be higher because desperate people wouldn't be fighting over the few jobs. So then the better those at the top do, the better all of us do.

    These are just a few ideas for restructuring the economy in ways the help all of us instead of just a few at the top. Please add your ideas in the comments.

    We have a choice. We can continue with the system we have, and most of us -- the help -- will just get poorer and poorer while a few at the top take home more and more. Or we can change who gets what for what, and everyone comes out ahead.

    *So which will it be, cake or death?

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:52 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

    Cut Social Security To Pay For Tax Cuts For Rich?

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

    We have a deficit because we cut taxes for the rich, increased military spending, started two decade-long wars and handed tons of money to Wall Street. The Washington elite crowd says therefore, to fix a deficit caused by cutting taxes for the rich and sending military spending up into the stratosphere we have to ... cut Social Security?

    I see. And while we're at it I have a bridge I want to sell you, too.

    Social Security and the deficit are like apples and oranges. They are different things. Social Security has nothing to do with the budget deficit. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at Netroots Nation last week,

    "To change Social Security in order to balance the budget, they aren't the same thing in my view," the Democrat said today at the Netroots Nation conference in Las Vegas. "When you talk about reducing the deficit and Social Security, you're talking about apples and oranges."

    As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said at Netroots Nation,

    During a question and answer session, Reid ... argued against "fear tactics of those who say Social Security is going broke. It's not." ... "Social Security is the most successful social program in the history of the world," he said.

    Don't fall for it. The way to fix a budget deficit caused by cutting taxes for the rich and increasing military spending way beyond what is needed is to ... well see if you can figure it out. Hint: get the money from where the money went.

    Coming Soon: Strengthen Social Security Campaign

    On Thursday there will be a news conference to announce a Strengthen Social Security Campaign. A coalition of 60 groups are getting together to fight this latest effort to kill Social Security. At the announcement: Richard Trumka (AFL-CIO), Gerald McEntee (AFSCME), Justin Ruben (MoveOn.org), Dennis Van Roekel (NEA), Eliseo Medina (SEIU), Terry O'Neill (NOW), Donna Meltzer (Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities), Hilary Shelton (NAACP), Ed Coyle (Alliance for Retired Americans).

    You can go sign the petition at strengthensocialsecurity.org

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:36 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 14, 2010

    Against All Odds: Save the Middle Class and the American Dream

    The American Dream is what is at stake for the Obama Administration, and they know it. This is the dirty, little secret that can longer be contained -- it is escalating, cannot remain hidden, and may have significant political ramifications for the 2010 elections. The atrocity of the past years is this broken promise with the people, and it is deeply affecting the way they think, behave, vote and live. Moreover, it could begin to explain the groundswell response to candidate Barack Obama in 2008. The power of his words helped them believe that the dream was recoverable. He exemplified what was possible through education and hard work in his meteoric rise through American politics to the Oval Office. Further and more importantly, it also explains why we are now suffering such profound political despair reflected in the dropping poll numbers.

    The middle class, for its survival, needs life to return to a semblance of "normalcy" - a time when they didn't know how to spell the word "deficit" and didn't have to care. They want their retirement savings back so they don't have to work until they drop. They want a bank account that makes more then one percent interest. They want to know what their health insurance premiums will be this year and in ten. They want to know if their kids study, and if they save and sacrifice, that their lives will be better. They want their kids to get good jobs, and they want to hold onto our own jobs. And with despair and anger they realize that despite the heroic work of the Congress with this President in passing landmark legislation in all of these areas -- they still are not safe. Economic ruin may still be right around the corner, and makes it hard to sleep at night.

    You know we've all been hoodwinked and sold a bill of goods about the sanctity of the middle class in this country. It is a basic tenet of our lives, and made us different from other countries. The ranks swelled over the last decades after FDR to the present. But now for the first time since the Great Depression, the middle class is at risk of tipping over once and for all. They are not coming out of the financial, housing and environmental crises intact. Interest rates have ratcheted up on the family home, maybe there's a balloon payment on the mortgage and its impossible to refinance under the "new" programs; savings have virtually no interest and are drying up; pensions have evaporated; health insurance premiums are basically unaffordable until 2014 if then; schools are overcrowded and on the decline; there are no jobs except in China and they don't speak Mandarin; and unemployment is still at 9.5% -- higher in key areas throughout the country. The new legislation is riddled with loopholes, as all legislation can be after laborious compromises and extensive details. What is different is that each of these loopholes is flagrantly being exploited by the banks, the credit card companies and the health insurance companies. For example, many of the unemployed cannot qualify for COBRA because their companies failed which is code for closed their doors. COBRA is not available when a company terminates their health insurance plan, and 2014 is a long way off when you need health insurance coverage now.

    Frankly, this is not what the middle class signed up for. It was not part of the implicit promise made to them. As a result, they are angry (enter stage right the Tea Party to exploit this vulnerability), and depressed (evidenced in the lackluster June election voter turnout). This is a deadly combination that could seal the deal on the November elections for the big, bad guys. Yet somehow the middle class and its Democrats must rally again and rise above the collective depression (no pun intended). We cannot let the brilliant and effective message machine of the Republican Party lull them into universal amnesia -- forgetting all the wrongs of the past. Remember these are the same guys (Bush and Cheney) that put the nails in the coffin cementing the potential extermination of the middle class. These same guys two weeks ago even blocked the extension of unemployment benefits while they frolicked on vacation. How could they do that to working families in this country? The extension passed the House before the break, but was filibustered in the Senate. And given all that, imagine life when we essentially give away the House because we are too depressed to vote or disorganized to keep these seats.

    I will take liberal Speaker Nancy Pelosi any day over anti-choice, sanctimonious Republican Representative John Boehner as Speaker of the House. That would be a bad dream that just keeps on giving. This threat should be enough for the White House to saddle up and come out with a plan, a message (remember "hope and change"), and leadership to deliver - not the White House Press Secretary Gibbs message yesterday. David Gregory of Meet the Press has gotten so very good and Gibbs just walked into a fiasco announcing the potential lose of seats in the House. It was as bad as giving away candy instead of feeding the homeless, and maybe that's why White House Special Advisor, David Axelrod, was so snarky with CNN's Candy Crowley during the next hour on the Sunday morning political shows because it sure didn't make any sense.

    Snarky or not, we all know Obama and his team are awful busy with the economy, the oil spill and a few dozen Russian spies, but we need them to reach out to that disenfranchised middle class again, aka big voting block. After all, Obama is the master communicator and we know that he can do it because he has done it before to win in 2008. And now the stakes may even be higher. If we allow 40 seats in the House to go asunder and a few more in the US Senate -- we can start waving bye-bye to the American Dream, the middle class, economic recovery, and maybe the Supreme Court for the next couple of decades.

    Please see my Pearltree for some of the reference materials with more to come. This is a new tool to organize and share materials on the web. In full disclosure, I advise them as they build out the new features of this platform.

    Middlle Class

    Note, an earlier version of this article appeared this week on the Huffington Post.

    Posted by Michelle at 1:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Make Them Work

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

    Conservatives seem to think of America's citizens as "the help."

    "Everyone knows Americans are lazy, shiftless, always looking for a way to shirk their responsibilities. People don't want to work so we have to make them work. And good dose of humiliation is good for the soul. If you let them have any dignity they might get uppity." That is what conservatives sound like when they talk about the long-term unemployed -- who, by the way, are out of work because of conservative policies.

    For example, from Tuesday's WaPo, No extension of unemployment benefits in sight for the long-term jobless,

    "Workers are less likely to look for work, or accept less-than-ideal jobs, as long as they are protected from the full consequences of being unemployed," said Michael D. Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. "That is not to say that anyone is getting rich off unemployment, or that unemployed people are lazy. But it is simple human nature that people are a little less motivated as long as a check is coming in."

    That's right, you have to make them work, or they'll just sit around and wont be "productive." They wont face up to the "consequences" of unemployment. These parasites will just suck the blood out of the producers. You hear language like this all the time from conservatives. The unemployed are "lazy," or "on drugs" etc. They are not "productive." They are mooching off the rest of us.

    This is all in sharp contrast to the noble rich, who are an entirely different species biologically and spiritually. They are the "wealth producers" who we must treat with kid gloves and certainly not ask them to pay for their use of infrastructure or government services lest they decide to stop working. They just want to keep working, and what they do is so important, so pure, so necessary to the sustenance of the rest of us that they must be coddled at all times lest we lose their golden-egg magic touch!

    Maybe this kind of attitude towards their fellow citizens comes from the slaveholder roots of conservatism. According to Robin L. Einhorn, author of American Taxation, American Slavery,

    ...Americans are right to think that our antitax and antigovernment attitudes have deep historical roots. Our mistake is to dig for them in Boston. We should be digging in Virginia and South Carolina rather than in Massachusetts or Pennsylvania, because the origins of these attitudes have more to do with the history of American slavery than the history of American freedom. They have more to do with protections for entrenched wealth than with promises of opportunity, and more to do with the demands of privileged elites than with the strivings of the common man. Instead of reflecting a heritage that valued liberty over all other concerns, they are part of the poisonous legacy we have inherited from the slaveholders who forged much of our political tradition. [emphasis added]

    As for this idea of low taxes, smaller government that we hear about so often, (and please read this, it is so important)

    It might seem strange to trace our antitax and antigovernment ideas to slavery instead of to liberty and democracy. Isn't it obvious that a democratic society where "the people" make the basic political decisions will choose lower taxes and smaller governments? The short answer is no. In this democratic society, the people might decide to pool their resources to buy good roads, excellent schools, convenient courthouses, and an effective military establishment. But slaveholders had different priorities than other people—and special reasons to be afraid of taxes. Slaveholders had little need for transportation improvements (since their land was often already on good transportation links such as rivers) and hardly any interest in an educated workforce (it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write because slaveholders thought education would help African Americans seize their freedom). Slaveholders wanted the military, not least to promote the westward expansion of slavery, and they also wanted local police forces ("slave patrols") to protect them against rebellious slaves. They wanted all manner of government action to protect slavery, while they tended to dismiss everything else as wasteful government spending.

    Compromises with the slave states became entrenched in our political system with consequences to this day,

    Majorities voluntarily renounced the right to regulate their society by majority rule. Giving up the essence of democratic self-government, they celebrated the outcome as democracy. The consequences would outlive the slaveholders who played such a large role in establishing this attitude toward government and taxation. Long after slavery was gone, a regime forged around preferential treatment for the slaveholding elite came to favor very different elites—commercial and industrial elites who shared little with their slaveholding predecessors except a demand that majorities renounce their right to govern what ostensibly was a democratic society.

    . . . Today, this brand of politics looks eerily familiar. We have experience with political parties that attack "elites" in order to rally voters behind policies that benefit elites. This is what the slaveholders did in early American history, and they did it very well. Expansions of slavery became expansions of "liberty," constitutional limitations on democratic self-government became defenses of "equal rights," and the power of slaveholding elites became the power of the "common man." In the topsy-turvy political world we have inherited from the age of slavery, the power of the majority to decide how to tax became the power of an alien "government" to oppress "the people."

    Please go read it all.

    It is time to take a fresh look at what it means to be a citizen in a country where We, the People are supposed to be in charge. This idea that we should force people into demeaning jobs with no minimum wage and make them work seems antithetical to democracy. A government of We, the People should be about taking care of each other, protecting and empowering each other and respecting each other. You are supposed to be the boss of you here. And we are supposed to be in charge.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:21 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    July 13, 2010

    Wait, Who Said We Want Less Government Protecting And Empowering Us?

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

    Cut spending? Wait - where did that terrible idea come from? Government is We, the People and its job is to protect and empower us. Why in the world would we want to cut back on that?

    WSJ today, The Bush Tax Cuts and the Deficit Myth, "Runaway government spending, not declining tax revenues, is the reason the U.S. faces dramatic budget shortfalls for years to come."

    Wait a minute. Back up. Where did this come from? Who, anywhere, any time agreed to cut government? Why do We, the People allow these anti-government zealots to pre-frame the budget deficit as a problem of government doing too much for us? Which government function is the "too much" part? Reigning in runaway corporations? Consumer protection? Worker safety inspections? Food safety inspections? Maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure? Educating people? The courts? Keeping the water and air clean? There is a long list of things our government does for us. Why would we want less of that?

    Imagine if Democrats voted to just put $500 billion a year in rockets and shot the rockets at the moon, and spent the next 30 years demanding that conservatives do their part and raise taxes to pay for that. Do you think the top 1% would just say, "OH, OK, let's do that." Of course they wouldn't.

    But under anti-government conservatives all of these things that our government does to protect and empower us were cut to the bone or just ended, resulting in mine disasters, bank meltdowns, predatory corporations scamming all of us, and the BP oil spill. We, the people got poorer and less secure while the rich got really, really richer.

    Why would anyone in their right mind think that was a good idea?

    Conservatives cut taxes on the rich, resulting in the greatest concentration of wealth ever. The entire economy turned into an everything-to-the-top vacuum cleaner scheme, filled with scams shaking down and fleecing We, the People of everything we have and delivering it to a few wealthy corporation-owners. And then we get this bamboozlement that "the deficit" is out of control, so we have to cut back on anything that remains of government working for We, the People? I don't think so.

    Think about the level of bamboozlement that is going on here. Conservatives cut taxes on the rich, and then spend the next 30 years saying, "OK, now you have to do your part and cut the things government does for the people." The whole thing was a scheme to deliver power to a few at the top. In Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Drowning In Debt you can see the step-by-step outline of the plan, in their own words. The deficit plan was right there for everyone to see:


    • Step 1: Cut taxes to "cut the allowance" of government so that it can't function on the side of We, the People. Intentionally force the government into greater and greater debt.
    • Step 2: Use the debt as a reason to cut the things government does for We, the People. When the resulting deficits pile up scare people that the government is "going bankrupt" so they'll let you sell off the people's assets and "privatize" the functions of government. Of course, insist that putting taxes back where they were will "harm the economy."
    • Step 3: Blame liberals for the disastrous effects of spending cutbacks.

    So when did We, the People agree to this one-way bargain, cut taxes for the rich and cut what government does for us? We didn't, and we should stop acting like we did.

    Every single one of us knows that the deficits are the result of tax cuts for the rich and huge military spending increases. If we want to fix the deficit problem we know exactly what to do.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:01 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    July 4, 2010

    Independence

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

    July 4, 1776, Independence Day celebrates our fight to cast off colonial rule by a wealthy elite who were keeping the benefits of our labors for themselves. We fought this system and we won our independence.

    In the years since We, the People have built up solid public structures like our system of laws and courts, schools and universities, roads and transit systems, police and fire departments, food and drug regulations, worker protections, minimum wages and maximum hours -- all of which have enabled us to prosper together.

    In 1776 democracy and government by the people were literally revolutionary concepts but even now they continue to face constant attack from the interests of concentrated wealth. Today we face a new form of this attack on our shared prosperity. Where we have fought and built protections and rule by the people, companies evade our rules by moving factories and jobs to places that have not, and remain exploited. They hold us hostage, saying “give in or we’ll just move your job, too.” They create conditions where we are forced to fight each other for lower and lower wages just to keep a roof over our heads. They corrupt our democracy with floods of cash, and our politicians with promises of jobs as highly-paid lobbyists. They buy our news sources and pollute our information. Their propaganda poisons our people against their own leaders.

    When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to cast off the chains of corporate rule and great concentration of wealth and power, we must do so. We can fight this now, just as we fought it in 1776, and fought it again and again in our history. We built this country and its government and democracy, and we ought to keep it.


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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    June 29, 2010

    The Real Deficit Is Jobs!

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

    The real deficit is jobs. That is one more of those things that everyone can see in front of their faces, but we're told it isn't what it is. There aren't enough jobs, and we're being told this is our fault because we wanted pensions and good wages and vacations and respect and dignity and please, sir, just a little slice of the pie.

    In case you haven't noticed, the world's economy is suddenly undergoing a classic "Shock Doctrine"-style, coordinated propaganda attack. The wealthy and powerful, having insisted that countries cut their taxes and run up debt, now insist that the middle class and poor must work harder, have their pensions reduced, sell off (to them) their publicly-held resources, and take other "austerity" steps to pay off the debt that these lazy, parasitic peasants dared to run up.

    The excuse is that "the markets" will “lose confidence” in us. Apparently we aren't working the salt mines hard enough. "The markets" -- that's the crowd who got in trouble and insisted that the world would end unless we immediately handed over to them all the rest of the money in the world -- will "lose confidence" in our ability to work the mines hard enough, and will cut us off, unless we cut our pensions, sell off (to them) our resources, and promise never to be lazy and make demands for better wages, pensions, workplace safety, and do it now.

    The real deficit is jobs.

    History teaches that the way out of an economic slowdown is to invest in infrastructure, education and modernizing manufacturing.

    Slactivist said it best the other day,

    This calls to mind an old story:
    But knowing their hypocrisy, he said unto them, "Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a dime and let me see it."

    And they brought one. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this -- FDR's or Herbert Hoover's?"

    They answered, "Roosevelt's."

    And he said unto them, "Right. So shut up. Have you morons already forgotten the 20th Century? When the choice is between imitating what worked and what really, really didn't work, why are you pretending it's terribly complicated?"

    And after that, no one dared to ask him any question.

    I'm not an economist, but we've got five applicants for every single job opening. If you tell me that the best response to that situation is to lay off hundreds of thousands of teachers, I will not accept that this means that you're smarter and more expert than I am. I will instead conclude -- regardless of your prestige or position or years of study -- that you're a moral imbecile.


    According to the Labor Department,
    By the end of 2009, the jobless rate stood at 10.0 percent and the number of unemployed persons at 15.3 million. Among the unemployed, 4 in 10 (6.1 million) had been jobless for 27 weeks or more, by far the highest proportion of long-term unemployment on record, with data back to 1948.

    That's right, it was the policies of austerity that created a depression, and the policies of job-creation, infrastructure investment and taxing the wealthy to pay for it that got us out. But that was back when We, the People were still in charge.

    In other news:

    Number Of Millionaires Grew Amid Recession.

    The rich grew richer last year, even as the world endured the worst recession in decades.

    Top 1 Percent of Americans Reaped Two-Thirds of Income Gains in Last Economic Expansion, Income Concentration in 2007 Was at Highest Level Since 1928, New Analysis Shows,

    Two-thirds of the nation’s total income gains from 2002 to 2007 flowed to the top 1 percent of U.S. households, and that top 1 percent held a larger share of income in 2007 than at any time since 1928, according to an analysis of newly released IRS data by economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez.

    During those years, the Piketty-Saez data also show, the inflation-adjusted income of the top 1 percent of households grew more than ten times faster than the income of the bottom 90 percent of households.

    Top 1% Increased Their Share of Wealth in Financial Crisis,

    According to his analysis, the top 1% held 34.6% of all national wealth in 2007. By Dec. 31, 2009, they held 35.6%.

    Meanwhile, share of national wealth held by the bottom 90% fell to 25% from 27%.

    Corporate Wealth Share Rises for Top-Income Americans

    In 2003 the top 1 percent of households owned 57.5 percent of corporate wealth, up from 53.4 percent the year before, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the latest income tax data.

    . . . For every group below the top 1 percent, shares of corporate wealth have declined since 1991.

    . . . Long-term capital gains were taxed at 28 percent until 1997, and at 20 percent until 2003, when rates were cut to 15 percent. The top rate on dividends was cut to 15 percent from 35 percent that year.

    See if you can make the connection. They want us to cut back our pensions, cut our wages, sell off our resources and work harder, to pay back the money that was borrowed and handed to them.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:14 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    June 15, 2010

    Obama's Speech - The Carter Context

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

    "The moral equivalent of war."

    Tonight President Obama will talk about the Gulf oil catastrophe, and, hopefully, overall energy and climate policy. A look back at President Carter's fight over energy brings some context to this situation.

    On April 18, 1977, 33 years ago, President Jimmy Carter gave a White House speech on energy and asked the country to change direction.

    "Tonight I want to have an unpleasant talk with you about a problem unprecedented in our history. With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes. The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly."

    Carter said solving this energy problem would be "The moral equivalent of war." Please, please read the speech, and its ten principles. It will help set the stage for understanding where we are today.

    If we fail to act soon, we will face an economic, social and political crisis that will threaten our free institutions.

    But we still have another choice. We can begin to prepare right now. We can decide to act while there is time.

    That is the concept of the energy policy we will present on Wednesday. Our national energy plan is based on ten fundamental principles.

    The first principle is that we can have an effective and comprehensive energy policy only if the government takes responsibility for it and if the people understand the seriousness of the challenge and are willing to make sacrifices.


    We failed to act soon. And we face an economic, social and political crisis that threatens our free institutions.

    It turned out to be a very, very hard fight. The right's new network of corporate-funded "think tanks" was setting up shop and beginning to spread their poisonous, divisive, anti-government propaganda. They didn't like the idea of government trying to solve problems. The big oil giants certainly didn't want government researching alternatives to their gravy train. We understand the right's operation today, but people did not yet understand what was going on because the country had never been subjected to a destabilization campaign of this magnitude -- from the inside.

    You can really feel the effect of the right's campaign when you read a speech Carter gave two years later. On July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter gave what is called the "Crisis of Confidence" speech. It's also known as the "Malaise" speech. I consider it to be one of the great speeches by a President. Carter again talked to the country about energy policy, pleading with people to take this seriously. He said, "The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our Nation. These are facts and we simply must face them."

    Well, we didn't face them. Instead the country elected Reagan who immediately took the solar panels off of the White House, killed mass transit and alternative energy programs and steered the country on a path of toward dominance by the wealthy and big corporations - especially oil companies.

    Now it is 2010, we have been at war in the Middle East for years, carbon in the air is raising the planet's temperature and melting the Arctic ice cap, and ... the oil in the Gulf. President Obama is giving his first Oval Office speech this evening and all of this is the broader context. Will he take on the entrenched interests that defeated Carter and brought us Reagan and later the two oil-company executives who invaded Iraq, encouraged buying Hummers and left us with a $1.4 trillion deficit?

    As Carter said, "It is a clear and present danger to our Nation. These are facts and we simply must face them."

    Energy speech:

    Crisis of confidence speech:

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:47 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    Reagan Revolution Home To Roost -- In Charts

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

    It seems that you can look at a chart of almost anything and right around 1981 or soon after you'll see the chart make a sharp change in direction, and probably not in a good way. And I really do mean almost anything, from economics to trade to infrastructure to ... well almost anything. I spent some time looking for charts of things, and here are just a few examples. In each of the charts below look for the year 1981, when Reagan took office.

    Conservative policies transformed the United States from the largest creditor nation to the largest debtor nation in just a few years, and it has only gotten worse since then:





    Working people's share of the benefits from increased productivity took a sudden turn down:




    This resulted in intense concentration of wealth at the top:




    And forced working people to spend down savings to get by:




    Which forced working people to go into debt: (total household debt as percentage of GDP)

    \


    None of which has helped economic growth much: (12-quarter rolling average nominal GDP growth.)




    Please leave a comment pointing people to a chart with a change after Reagan took office. How about a chart that shows America's investment in maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure over time?

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

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


    Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Drowning In Debt
    Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Is Crumbling
    Finance, Mine, Oil & Debt Disasters: THIS Is Deregulation

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:45 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    June 11, 2010

    Citizens to Consumers to Beggars

    Americans used to be citizens. Then they were trained to be consumers instead.

    But now they're just wage slaves in a plutocracy (rule by a wealthy few). "Shut up and beg for a job." "Rich people provide jobs." Just look at the attitudes toward fellow citizens who are unemployed, "living off' the government, "unemployment benefits make people lazy" and "keep people from looking for work" etc.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:34 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 27, 2010

    "Government Doesn’t Have The Resources To Stop It"

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

    People want the President to exert leadership to turn things around.

    The oil leak. Unemployment. Credit card scams. Foreclosures. Predatory corporations. Environmental destruction. Global warming. Roads and bridges crumbling. Incomes stagnant. Schools getting worse. Companies moving overseas. Problem after problem.

    People want to know, "Why doesn't the government push BP aside and take over?" The answer is, "Government doesn't have the resources to stop it."

    People want to know why the government can't do more to help unemployed people, help with health care, help provide good educations, help with college, maintain the infrastructure, and all the other things that government does.

    The answer, these days, is always, "Government doesn't have the resources." And that, in a nutshell, was exactly the plan.

    We, the People no longer have the resources to solve our problems. We now must depend on and defer to the corporations and the wealthy few to make the important decisions and get things done instead of being able to decide and do on our own.

    This is the legacy of 30 years of conservatism. They called it "starving the beast." Reagan called it “cutting their allowance.” President Bush, told that his policies had turned the country back to massive deficits, said this was, "Incredibly positive news'' because it will create "a fiscal straitjacket for Congress." He came into office with a $236 billion surplus. His last budget left us with a $1.4 trillion deficit. "Incredibly positive news."

    They disemboweled the regulatory agencies. They "privatized" government functions and resources, letting a well-connected few profit at the expense of the rest of us.

    The Reagan deficit plan was right there for everyone to see:


      Step 1: Cut taxes to "cut the allowance" of government so that it can't function on the side of We, the People. Intentionally force the government into greater and greater debt.

      Step 2: Use the debt as a reason to cut the things government does for We, the People. When the resulting deficits pile up scare people that the government is "going bankrupt" so they'll let you sell off the people's assets and "privatize" the functions of government. Of course, insist that putting taxes back where they were will "harm the economy."

      Step 3: Blame liberals for the disastrous effects of spending cutbacks.

    And here we are. Every time you hear someone say that we have to fight the deficit instead of getting things done that We, the People need done you are witnessing The Plan in action.

    And now, government doesn't have the resources to stop it.


    NOTE: Part of the America's Future Now conference in Washington D.C. from June 7-9 will be devoted to strategy on how the progressive movement can fight the deficit cutters. Speakers such as Van Jones, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, AFL CIO President Richard Trumka, Arianna Huffington will offer a build vision for how the progressive movement can rebuild America's economy and put people back to work. Click here to attend.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    May 5, 2010

    Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Is Crumbling

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    The conservative argument of the last 30-40 years boils down to this: "Hey look at this big pile of seed corn. Let's eat it!" Almost 30 years after the "Reagan Revolution" our infrastructure is crumbling around us. Since the Reagan-era tax cuts we have been deferring maintenance of (and never mind modernizing) our infrastructure, and as a result have become less competitive in the world economy.

    Meanwhile our economic competitors, countries like China and India, have been building infrastructure like crazy. Other countries are investing, educating, improving public services because they know these things make the economy explode later. A major component of China's stimulus was infrastructure and public services - including public welfare - because of the economic benefits that come later.

    Now for those countries it is later, while for us it's just becoming too late. Their investment is paying off while we're having trouble paying off the accumulated Reagan/Bush tax-cut debt.

    How did we get here?

    Public infrastructure is the roads, courts, education, etc. that enable an economy to prosper. We got ourselves out of the Great Depression with a big investment in public infrastructure. The government taxed the wealthy and built or improved modern roads, bridges, post offices, courthouses, shipyards, schools and other public structures that enabled business to take off.

    And then business took off. The idea was, of course, that business would give back some of the returns to keep that process going. But instead the big companies and wealthy families funded a conservative propaganda machine that convinced people to let them just keep it. Look at this chart from 14 Ways A 90 Percent Top Tax Rate Fixes Our Economy And Our Country:

    krugman_chart

    You can clearly see that the money that should have been invested in maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure instead has gone to a few wealthy people at the top of the food chain. (We're the food.) And of course, we all can clearly see the results of this in today's economy. They ate the seed corn, America is crumbling.

    Now, here we are later and we are seeing the result of the Reagan Revolution. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Infrastructure Report Card estimates that we are $2.2 trillion behind just on maintaining the existing infrastructure, never mind modernizing. Please click through and explore what ASCE is saying there. (Conservatives -- there are lots of pictures!)

    What do we do?

    The answer is obvious. It is called public investment. Ask the big companies, the banks and the wealthy to pay back some of the incredible amounts of money they have been piling up as a result of the past investment that We, the People made in building that infrastructure that enabled the economy to boom. Use that money to invest in maintaining and modernizing the infrastructure so that the economy can again thrive for all of us.

    We can employ the unemployed and bring our infrastructure up to par at the same time. There is a lot of work that needs doing and we have a lot of people out of work.

    The payback will be enormous. The economy will explode. And we can build sustainability into the process this time.

    What is in the way?

    The problem now is that the corporate/conservative propaganda machine has gone way past talking people into cutting taxes for the rich and cutting back on public spending for infrastructure and our people. Now they have become very extreme, convincing a number of people that government spending - We, the People spending on the common good - and government itself - We, the People making the decisions for ourselves - is the wrong approach. They believe that any government at all is "socialism" -- run for the benefit of all of us -- and that all public services must be "privatized" -- meaning run for the benefit of a few. They believe it is wrong, even immoral to have public schools, public transit, public health care, regulations that restrict what companies can do to consumers or the environment, etc.

    They have the megaphone because they have the money. We have to confront this head on.

    More to come!

    This is another story of a wealthy few selling off the country's people and future. This is another story of gains for a few at the expense of the rest of us. These stories are becoming all too common. This is the Reagan Revolution coming home to roost, and I will continue to write about the terrible price we are paying and will be paying for a long time for the failed experiment in conservative ideology.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:56 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

    May 4, 2010

    Finance, Mine, Oil & Debt Disasters: THIS Is Deregulation

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

    The terrible Gulf oil, West Virginia mining, Wall Street finance and government debt disasters all demonstrate the ongoing catastrophic and continuing results of conservative policies. Each of these is a direct consequence of letting corporate conservatives take over government and dismantle the regulatory and democratic protections that We, the People fought so hard for following the Great Depression -- itself a previous demonstration of the failure of conservative policies.

    How often have you had to hear that "the market" is the best way to run things? That is is "self-correcting?" That regulations are government "interference" or "meddling" in the market? That business/free markets/private sector always does things better or is more efficient than government? When you hear these you are experiencing the clash between a "one-dollar-one-vote" free market system -- as we had before the Teddy Roosevelt progressive era and the Franklin Roosevelt New Deal -- and "one-person-one-vote" democratic, We, the People system that brings the benefits of our economy and our country to the most people. But because of the power of money and marketing most people are hearing only one side of an ongoing argument between the wealthy few and the broad masses of working people.

    For decades we have heard these pro-market, anti-government arguments repeated over and over and over and over and over and over. Big corporations have a lot of money to buy a big megaphone, so you hear that government is bad, business is good and the people ought to just keep their noses out of the marketplace and stop telling businesses how to do things. You hear that taxes are bad, "hurt the economy," "cost jobs," "take money out of the economy," "just get passed through to customers anyway" and a million similar great-sounding slogans that fall down under minimal evaluation. They have been repeated over and over, until we forgot why we had fought so hard for strong government regulations and high taxes at the top.

    After the disaster of Nixon the country learned about cracks in our democracy that let big money get their nose under the tent. But after Watergate we didn't plug all of the leaks, and big money got into the tent anyway. They used their position to give themselves more power, and used that power to give themselves even more, etc. and now we have a system that is corrupted absolutely.

    So with the conservative government of Reagan and then later under the all-out anti-government conservative administration of George W. Bush we have had the opportunity of seeing just what happens when these "free market" ideas are given free reign to replace democracy. Anti-government zealots were put into positions inside the government and used that power to take apart the protections that We, the People had painstakingly built.

    Taxes were cut to "defund" government in order to "starve the beast." The strategy was create huge deficits so the public would later demand cuts in government benefits. In the meantime the deficits would be used as an excuse to cut government oversight, inspections and enforcement of rules restricting the activities of big corporations. But all they did was create huge deficit that added up to massive debt.

    Katrina was the first clear, public demonstration of the governing offered by conservatives. When they talked about replacing progressive ideas of "we're in this together" and "watching out for each other" with "personal responsibility" they meant it. And the country saw what that meant to real people in real trouble.

    More recently we have been hearing about disaster after disaster and catastrophe after catastrophe, all caused by businesses running out of control, aided by conservative government that relaxed or just stopped enforcing regulations and laws. Each catastrophe is beyond the scope or willingness of private businesses to repair, requiring public intervention, at great cost. (But never any suggestion of "clawback" - or getting back the profits that were made while creating the catastrophe.)

    We all certainly know about the Wall Street financial crisis caused by the big banks and insurance giants. We heard about the SEC ignoring warnings about Bernie Madoff and Goldman Sachs and all the others. We've seen hearings about the things that WaMu was doing, and loans going to people who couldn't read, and brokers making up incomes on "liar loans" and ratings agencies giving top ratings to "designed to fail" bond deals that investment banks and hedge funds had put together so they could make huge "swap" bets against them when the loans went under... The government, under control of "free market" conservatives looked the other way the whole time.

    They brought down the economy of the whole world, requiring government bailouts that added up to more money that has been spent by our government in the history of the country. And now they are fighting tooth and nail to keep We, the People from passing financial reforms to bring Wall Street back under control.

    Just recently there was the West Virginia mining disaster caused by deregulation, sweet deals between the company and regulators and lack of enforcement. The CEO of the Massey Energy had literally bought himself a judge, who then voted in favor of Massey Energy. Corrupted absolutely, 29 dead later.

    And now, the huge, huge catastrophe in the Gulf.

    This is the Reagan Revolution coming home to roost, and I will be writing about the terrible price we are paying and will be paying for a long time for the failed experiment in conservative ideology.

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    Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:15 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 28, 2010

    Attacking Deficits

    This post originally appeared at Open Left.

    Yesterday was the President's Deficit Commission and today is the Peterson summit. The very serious people (who didn't know there was a housing bubble) are telling us that our own government providing benefits to our people is baaaad and very unserious. (Military spending? What's that?)

    As Paul mentioned here yesterday in a GREAT post, Campaign for America's Future is hosting a "Virtual Summit On Economic & Fiscal Responsibility (For People Who Did Not Wreck The Economy)". Mike Lux has pitched in there as well. Lots of great stuff.

    So what about that deficit, and the Social Security crisis? Always, always keep in mind that the whole bruhaha over Social Security comes out of a strategic plan to get rid of it. As Paul pointed out in his post and as I have written about,

    This strategy goes back to a larger Wall Street effort to get rid of Social Security. A 1983 Cato Institute Journal document, "Achieving a Leninist Strategy" by Stuart Butler of Cato and Peter Germanis of Heritage lays it out for us. The document is still available at Cato, and select quotes are available at Plotting Privatization? from Z Magazine. ...

    [quotes from the Cato strategy document]

    ... Every time you hear that "Social Security is going broke" you are hearing a manufactured propaganda point. Every time you hear that "Social Security is a Ponzi scheme" you are hearing a manufactured propaganda point. Every time you hear that "Social Security won't be there for me anyway" " you are hearing a manufactured propaganda point.

    Don't fall for it. If they can gut Social Security they stand to make a lot of money but you stand to lose your retirement.


    AND never forget that the deficit was also manufactured on purpose, to defund government's ability to regulate business and protect citizens, and to force a shrinking of what the corporate right calls "big government." Government is We, the People making the decisions for ourselves, "big government" is We, the People making more decisions for ourselves. The only alternative is the wealthy and big corporations making the decisions for us instead. Don't fall for it. We didn't have deficits until we cut taxes on the rich.

    At risk (and with full intent) of repeating myself allow me to offer these 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

    I'd like to add a chart from another post, 14 Ways a 90 Percent Top Tax Rate Fixes Our Economy and Our Country:

    Top Tax Rate vs GDP
    A consumption-based economy does better when consumers have more to spend. Perhaps not cause-and-effect, though I suspect so, but after FDR raised top tax rates the economy grew dramatically. The 90% top rate years under FDR, Truman, Eisenhower and the beginning of the Kennedy years were the years when we built the middle class. And remember, after Clinton raised top tax rates only modestly the economy grew. How's it been doing since Bush's tax cuts for the rich?

    A look at economic growth rate charts shows a steady decline in the decades since top tax rates began to fall. Is it just a coincidence that the economy booms after tax increases that provide revenue to invest in new “seed corn,” and that the economy declines as we reduce taxes?

    So that's my two cents...

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

    April 26, 2010

    14 Ways A 90 Percent Top Tax Rate Fixes Our Economy And Our Country

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

    A return to Eisenhower-era 90% top tax rates helps fix our economy in several ways:

    1) It makes it take longer to end up with a fortune. In fact it makes people build and earn a fortune, instead of shooting for quick windfalls. This forces long-term thinking and planning instead of short-term scheming and scamming. If grabbing everything in sight and running doesn’t pay off anymore, you have to change your strategy.

    2) It gets rid of the quick-buck-scheme business model. Making people take a longer-term approach to building rather than grabbing a fortune will help reattach businesses to communities by reinforcing interdependence between businesses and their surrounding communities. When it takes owners and executives years to build up a fortune they need solid companies that are around for a long time. This requires the surrounding public infrastructure of roads, schools, police, fire, courts, etc., to be in good shape to provide long-term support for the enterprise. You also want your company to build a solid reputation for serving its customers rather than cheapening the product, pursuing quick-buck scams, cutting customer service, etc. The current Wall Street/private equity business model of looting companies, leaving behind an empty shell, unemployed workers and a surrounding community in devastation will no longer be a viable business strategy.

    3) It will lower the executive crime rate. Today it is possible to run scams that let you pocket huge sums in a single year, and leave behind the mess you make for others to fix. A high top tax rate removes the incentive to lie, cheat and steal to grab every buck you can as fast as you can. This reduces the temptation to be dishonest. If you aren’t going to keep the whole dime, why risk doing the time? When excessive, massive paydays are possible, it opens the door to overwhelming greed and a resulting compromising of principles. Sort of the definition of the decades since Reagan, no?

    4) Combined with badly-needed cuts in military spending – we spend more on military than all other countries on earth combined – taxing the wealthy ends budget deficits and starts paying off the massive Reagan/Bush debt. This reduces and ultimately eliminates the share of the budget that goes to pay interest. The United States now has to pay a huge share of its budget just to cover the interest on the borrowing that tax cuts made necessary. Paying off the debt would remove this huge drag on our economy. (Never mind that Alan Greenspan famously called for Bush’s tax cuts by saying it was dangerous to pay off our debt – now that same Alan Greenspan says we need to cut benefits to retired people because our debt is so high.)

    5) It will bring in revenue to pay for improvements in infrastructure that then cause the economy to explode for the better. Investing in modern transit systems, smart grid, energy efficiency, fast internet and other improvements leads to a huge payoff of increased prosperity for all of us – especially for those at the top income levels. Infrastructure improvement and maintenance is the “seed corn” of economic growth. We have been eating that seed corn since Reagan’s tax cuts.

    6) (related) It will bring in revenue for improving our schools, colleges and universities. Not only will this help our competitiveness, but it will improve each of our lives and level of happiness.

    7) It will boost economic growth and rebuild a strong middle class. A consumption-based economy does better when consumers have more to spend. Perhaps not cause-and-effect, though I suspect so, but after FDR raised top tax rates the economy grew dramatically. The 90% top rate years under FDR, Truman, Eisenhower and the beginning of the Kennedy years were the years when we built the middle class. And remember, after Clinton raised top tax rates only modestly the economy grew. How's it been doing since Bush's tax cuts for the rich?

    A look at economic growth rate charts shows a steady decline in the decades since top tax rates began to fall. Is it just a coincidence that the economy booms after tax increases that provide revenue to invest in new “seed corn,” and that the economy declines as we reduce taxes?

    8) It is good for business because increased revenue will enable increasing government spending for the benefit of regular people. This recirculates money into the economy more productively than the current system of putting huge fortunes into a few hands and hoping for a resulting consumption of high-end goods. The wealthy can only spend so muc h so more disposable income in the hands of regular people is good for business. Any business owner will tell you they want customers more than they want tax cuts. (Let’s wait until the top one percent no longer owns most of everything before we talk about whether there is an effect on investment.)

    9) It protects working people. Exploiting workers with long hours, low pay or lack of pay increases, lack of worker protections, firing union organizers and schemes that call employees “contractors” will no longer pay off as it does today. The era of extreme union-busting came in at the same time as the tax cuts.

    Krugman:

    The chart shows the share of the richest 10 percent of the American population in total income – an indicator that closely tracks many other measures of economic inequality – over the past 90 years, as estimated by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez.

    10) It redistributes income and wealth in ways that help all of us. Currently a few people receive most of the income and own most of everything. A very high top tax rate reduces this concentration of wealth.

    11) It fights the political instability that results from concentration of wealth. Great inequality in a society and the resulting loss of opportunity results in political instability that can lead to extreme ideologies, rebellion, etc. We are seeing all the signs of a resurgence of these problems today.

    12) It will help rebuild our sense of democracy and belief in equality. As we have seen and are seeing, when too much is in the hands of too few, they have too much power and influence and use it to get even more.

    13) It will strengthen the government that We, the People have worked hard to build, and strengthen its ability to enforce the laws and regulations that protect all of us and the resources we hold in common. It will increase its ability to provide all of us equally with the benefits of our joint efforts and our economy.

    14) Finally, for good measure, increasing top tax rates will cause those affected to work harder to make up the difference. The Ayn Randians claim the very rich are the “producers” and all the rest of us are just parasites and slackers who feed off their “work.” So it will be very good for our economy to get them working harder by taxing them at 90%! You may have heard about those 25 hedge fund managers who brought in an average of $1 billion each last year – an amount that would have paid for 658,000 teachers -- while the rest of the country suffered through a terrible economy. If we had a top tax rate of 90% they would “only” take home $100 million or so each – in a single year. And we could have 658,000 more teachers. So it’s a win-win.

    Taxes are how we all pitch in to enjoy the benefits and protections of modern society. Those benefits and protections are what enable people to become wealthy, and we ask that they give some back so others can prosper as well.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:13 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 20, 2010

    Financial Reform And SEC Suit ARE Politically Motivated!

    Republicans are accusing the Obama administration and the SEC of having a political agenda behind going after the financial companies that wrecked the economy, and are trying to warn them off from going after any more Wall Street firms.

    Of course they have a political agenda. Fairly enforcing laws and regulations is good politics. Bringing Wall Street to justice is good politics. In a democracy it is the JOB of politicians to do the bidding of the public, which is to enforce the laws and protect consumers from fraud. Wall Street and Republicans don't like that one bit, and are doing what they can to stop the Obama administration from bringing Wall Street to justice.

    See GOP seeks SEC records on Goldman, GOP probes whether Goldman charges were politically timed, Is the White House, SEC, and DNC Colluding to Destroy Goldman Sachs to Pass Financial Reform?, Hatch: Timing Of Goldman Lawsuit Is 'Very Suspect',

    "This whole Goldman Sachs thing, isn't that a little odd that all of a sudden, right at the height of this legislative period, we suddenly have the SEC filing suit against Goldman Sachs?" Hatch asked.

    "I think the timing is very suspect," he said

    .

    Bush ordered the SEC not to enforce regulations, not even against Bernie Madoff. It has taken time but the SEC has been rebuilt sufficiently to begin regulating again. Soon the Justice Department - ordered by Bush not to enforce any white collar laws at all -- will be back up to snuff and will be prosecuting as well.

    The public wants these laws enforced, Wall Street doesn't and is paying the Republicans to front for them.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:58 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 19, 2010

    Distrusting The Government

    Hey, that could be a good blog name, like Seeing the Forest, Smelling the Coffee and Growing the Garden.

    A Pew Poll says Distrust in Government Skyrockets.

    If you look at the poll you find that trust in government tends to drop through Republican administrations, and then rises through Democratic ones.

    Also, there is a huge, well-funded anti-government effort out there with dozens of corporate-funded think tanks, an entire TV network, and all of talk radio. All the time, 20 hours a day, telling the public that government and democracy are bad, and corporations should run things. Marketing works, so I'm not surprised by these results.

    One last point. Reading the poll - 142 pages - one thing runs through it. People don't see what government does for them anymore, and thinks that interests - especially the banks right now - are who the government is representing. I think some of that is people taking much of what the government does for granted, like roads, bridges, police, etc. I think some of it is that a huge amount of the spending is on things like military -- currently more than a $trillion for everything related to the military budget -- and interest on the Reagan/Bush debt.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:30 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

    April 16, 2010

    What Conservatives Mean By "Freedom" and "Big Government"

    This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
    Many of us have wondered what conservatives mean by terms like "big government" and "freedom." Today the vice chairman of the California Republican Party gives us a hint. In Constitution guarantees freedom, not a cushy life, published in the Rev. Moon's Washington Times (do Christians know he's writing there?), Thomas G. Del Beccaro writes,

       
    Today, politicians literally speak of the "rights" of people as they attempt to guarantee a certain standard of living for their constituent-subjects. Of course, most recently, the federal government took on the role of guaranteeing that Americans had a minimum standard of health care because, to the government, it was a right - however unenumerated. 
    Now, it would be one thing if a government could actually guarantee such standards of living, but it cannot. After all, before the Great Society was enacted to take on the War on Poverty, the government-measured poverty rate was 14 percent.The pre-Great Society federal budget was less than $130 billion.Since then, we have spent tens of trillions of dollars in good intentions and have a nearly $4 trillion budget, yet the poverty rate remains virtually the same 14 percent. 
     In the process, of course, we have diminished freedoms immeasurably - whether by forcing people to pay for those trillions or by being forced to be subject to government rules....

    So "big government" means m