Tuesday, May 31, 2011

We Must Stop Supply-side Economics and Provide the middle class a share of economic gains sufficient to allow them to purchase more of what the economy can produce

 We Must Stop Supply-side Economics and Provide the middle class a share of economic gains sufficient to allow them to purchase more of what the economy can produce

The U.S. economy continues to stagnate. It’s growing at the rate of 1.8 percent, which is barely growing at all. Consumer spending is down. Home prices are down. Jobs and wages are going nowhere.

It’s vital that we understand the truth about the American economy.

How did we go from the Great Depression to 30 years of Great Prosperity? And from there, to 30 years of stagnant incomes and widening inequality, culminating in the Great Recession? And from the Great Recession into such an anemic recovery?

The Great Prosperity

During three decades from 1947 to 1977, the nation implemented what might be called a basic bargain with American workers. Employers paid them enough to buy what they produced. Mass production and mass consumption proved perfect complements. Almost everyone who wanted a job could find one with good wages, or at least wages that were trending upward.

During these three decades everyone’s wages grew — not just those at or near the top.

Government enforced the basic bargain in several ways. It used Keynesian policy to achieve nearly full employment. It gave ordinary workers more bargaining power. It provided social insurance. And it expanded public investment. Consequently, the portion of total income that went to the middle class grew while the portion going to the top declined. But this was no zero-sum game. As the economy grew almost everyone came out ahead, including those at the top.

The pay of workers in the bottom fifth grew 116 percent over these years — faster than the pay of those in the top fifth (which rose 99 percent), and in the top 5 percent (86 percent).

Productivity also grew quickly. Labor productivity — average output per hour worked — doubled. So did median incomes. Expressed in 2007 dollars, the typical family’s income rose from about $25,000 to $55,000. The basic bargain was cinched.

The middle class had the means to buy, and their buying created new jobs. As the economy grew, the national debt shrank as a percentage of it.

The Great Prosperity also marked the culmination of a reorganization of work that had begun during the Depression. Employers were required by law to provide extra pay — time-and-a-half — for work stretching beyond 40 hours a week. This created an incentive for employers to hire additional workers when demand picked up. Employers also were required to pay a minimum wage, which improved the pay of workers near the bottom as demand picked up.

When workers were laid off, usually during an economic downturn, government provided them with unemployment benefits, usually lasting until the economy recovered and they were rehired. Not only did this tide families over but it kept them buying goods and services — an “automatic stabilizer” for the economy in downturns.

Perhaps most significantly, government increased the bargaining leverage of ordinary workers. They were guaranteed the right to join labor unions, with which employers had to bargain in good faith. By the mid-1950s more than a third of all America workers in the private sector were unionized. And the unions demanded and received a fair slice of the American pie. Non-unionized companies, fearing their workers would otherwise want a union, offered similar deals.

Americans also enjoyed economic security against the risks of economic life — not only unemployment benefits but also, through Social Security, insurance against disability, loss of a major breadwinner, workplace injury and inability to save enough for retirement. In 1965 came health insurance for the elderly and the poor (Medicare and Medicaid). Economic security proved the handmaiden of prosperity. In requiring Americans to share the costs of adversity it enabled them to share the benefits of peace of mind. And by offering peace of mind, it freed them to consume the fruits of their labors.

The government sponsored the dreams of American families to own their own home by providing low-cost mortgages and interest deductions on mortgage payments. In many sections of the country, government subsidized electricity and water to make such homes habitable. And it built the roads and freeways that connected the homes with major commercial centers.

Government also widened access to higher education. The GI Bill paid college costs for those who returned from war. The expansion of public universities made higher education affordable to the American middle class.

Government paid for all of this with tax revenues from an expanding middle class with rising incomes. Revenues were also boosted by those at the top of the income ladder whose marginal taxes were far higher. The top marginal income tax rate during World War II was over 68 percent. In the 1950s, under Dwight Eisenhower, whom few would call a radical, it rose to 91 percent. In the 1960s and 1970s the highest marginal rate was around 70 percent. Even after exploiting all possible deductions and credits, the typical high-income taxpayer paid a marginal federal tax of over 50 percent. But contrary to what conservative commentators had predicted, the high tax rates did not reduce economic growth. To the contrary, they enabled the nation to expand middle-class prosperity and fuel growth.

The Middle-Class Squeeze, 1977-2007

During the Great Prosperity of 1947-1977, the basic bargain had ensured that the pay of American workers coincided with their output. In effect, the vast middle class received an increasing share of the benefits of economic growth. But after that point, the two lines began to diverge: Output per hour — a measure of productivity — continued to rise. But real hourly compensation was left in the dust.

It’s easy to blame “globalization” for the stagnation of middle incomes, but technological advances have played as much if not a greater role. Factories remaining in the United States have shed workers as they automated. So has the service sector.

But contrary to popular mythology, trade and technology have not reduced the overall number of American jobs. Their more profound effect has been on pay. Rather than be out of work, most Americans have quietly settled for lower real wages, or wages that have risen more slowly than the overall growth of the economy per person. Although unemployment following the Great Recession remains high, jobs are slowly returning. But in order to get them, many workers have to accept lower pay than before.

Starting more than three decades ago, trade and technology began driving a wedge between the earnings of people at the top and everyone else. The pay of well-connected graduates of prestigious colleges and MBA programs has soared. But the pay and benefits of most other workers has either flattened or dropped. And the ensuing division has also made most middle-class American families less economically secure.
Government could have enforced the basic bargain. But it did the opposite. It slashed public goods and investments — whacking school budgets, increasing the cost of public higher education, reducing job training, cutting public transportation and allowing bridges, ports and highways to corrode.

It shredded safety nets — reducing aid to jobless families with children, tightening eligibility for food stamps, and cutting unemployment insurance so much that by 2007 only 40 percent of the unemployed were covered. It halved the top income tax rate from the range of 70 to 90 percent that prevailed during the Great Prosperity to 28 to 35 percent; allowed many of the nation’s rich to treat their income as capital gains subject to no more than 15 percent tax; and shrunk inheritance taxes that affected only the top-most 1.5 percent of earners. Yet at the same time, America boosted sales and payroll taxes, both of which took a bigger chunk out of the pay the middle class and the poor than of the well off.

How America Kept Buying: Three Coping Mechanisms

Coping mechanism No. 1: Women move into paid work. Starting in the late 1970s, and escalating in the 1980s and 1990s, women went into paid work in greater and greater numbers. For the relatively small sliver of women with four-year college degrees, this was the natural consequence of wider educational opportunities and new laws against gender discrimination that opened professions to well-educated women. But the vast majority of women who migrated into paid work did so in order to prop up family incomes as households were hit by the stagnant or declining wages of male workers.

This transition of women into paid work has been one of the most important social and economic changes to occur over the last four decades. In 1966, 20 percent of mothers with young children worked outside the home. By the late 1990s, the proportion had risen to 60 percent. For married women with children under the age of 6, the transformation has been even more dramatic — from 12 percent in the 1960s to 55 percent by the late 1990s.

Coping mechanism No. 2: Everyone works longer hours. By the mid 2000s it was not uncommon for men to work more than 60 hours a week and women to work more than 50. A growing number of people took on two or three jobs. All told, by the 2000s, the typical American worker worked more than 2,200 hours a year — 350 hours more than the average European worked, more hours even than the typically industrious Japanese put in. It was many more hours than the typical American middle-class family had worked in 1979 — 500 hours longer, a full 12 weeks more.

Coping mechanism No. 3: Draw down savings and borrow to the hilt. After exhausting the first two coping mechanisms, the only way Americans could keep consuming as before was to save less and go deeper into debt. During the Great Prosperity the American middle class saved about 9 percent of their after-tax incomes each year. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, that portion had been whittled down to about 7 percent. The savings rate then dropped to 6 percent in 1994, and on down to 3 percent in 1999. By 2008, Americans saved nothing. Meanwhile, household debt exploded. By 2007, the typical American owed 138 percent of their after-tax income.

The Challenge for the Future

All three coping mechanisms have been exhausted. The fundamental economic challenge ahead is to restore the vast American middle class.

That requires resurrecting the basic bargain linking wages to overall gains, and providing the middle class a share of economic gains sufficient to allow them to purchase more of what the economy can produce. As we should have learned from the Great Prosperity — the 30 years after World War II when America grew because most Americans shared in the nation’s prosperity — we cannot have a growing and vibrant economy without a growing and vibrant middle class.

(This is excerpted from my testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, on May 12. It is also drawn from my recent book, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future.) - Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations

 Liberal economic policies built the world's most dynamic economy and thus a string middle-class. What has been eroding the middle-class? The Republican religion of supply-side economics. This is where conservatives guard the unearned wealth of the top 10% and cut wages and services for the people who actually work and produce products and services that have value. Republicans want something like the modern equivalent of medieval estates where the top aristocrats keep most of the wealth and the rest of us serfs get the crumbs.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What’s Driving Projected Debt? Republican Infatuation With Vooddoo Economics

What’s Driving Projected Debt? Lack of Revenue and Cowardly Conservatives Who Still Believe in Voodoo Supply-side Economics.

As we’ve noted, my colleagues Kathy Ruffing and Jim Horney have updated CBPP’s analysis showing that the economic downturn, President Bush’s tax cuts, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire federal budget deficit over the next ten years.  So, what about the public debt, which is basically the sum of annual budget deficits, minus annual surpluses, over the nation’s entire history?

The complementary chart, below, shows that the Bush-era tax cuts and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — including their associated interest costs — account for almost half of the projected public debt in 2019 (measured as a share of the economy) if we continue current policies.

Tax Cuts, Wars Account for Nearly Half of Public Debt by 2019

Altogether, the economic downturn, the measures enacted to combat it (including the 2009 Recovery Act), and the financial rescue legislation play a smaller role in the projected debt increase over the next decade.  Public debt due to all other factors fell from over 30 percent of GDP in 2001 to 20 percent of GDP in 2019.

We focus here on debt held by the public, which reflects funds that the federal government borrows in credit markets to finance deficits and other cash needs.  That’s the proper measure on which to focus because it’s what really affects the economy.  We compare it to GDP because stabilizing the debt-to-GDP ratio is a key test of fiscal sustainability.

As Kathy and Jim note, simply letting the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule (or paying for any portions that policymakers decide to extend) would stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio for the next decade.   While we’d have to do much more to keep the debt stable over the longer run, that would be a huge accomplishment.

Republicans have made their decision - its better to cut Medicare and Medicaid than rise revenue for the filthy rich. The wealthy do not, despite the claims of right-wing conservative, create wealth, all wealth starts with labor - working Americans. When are working Americans going to get feed up with Republican communism which redistributes wealth from workers to the top five percent of the obscenely wealthy.

The myth of the week - Conservative Media Revive Misleading Claim That Health Care Reform "Cut" $500 Billion. If you lie all the time about everything that means you have no honor or integrity. Those used to be the kind of values America stood for. Republicans use them to swipe themselves.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Latest Elitist Republican Attack on the Middle-class and American Values

House Republicans Escalate Attacks on Agency Created to Protect Middle-class and Poor

Congressional Republicans have frequently attacked Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau [1] (CFPB) she’s setting up, which officially launches on July 21. The House GOP escalated its anti-Warren, anti-CFPB campaign [2] at a hearing of the House Oversight Committee today, chaired by Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC).

McHenry was once known as Tom DeLay’s “attack-dog-in-training [3],” a title he more than earned today. Before the hearing had even begun, McHenry went on CNBC and brazenly accused Warren of lying to Congress [4]. He claimed that Warren had misrepresented her role in advising state attorneys general who are seeking a multibillion-dollar settlement [5] with the country’s largest mortgage service providers, who stand accused of massive and widespread foreclosure fraud. As evidence, McHenry pointed to a leaked internal document prepared by the CFPB that laid out different settlement options for the state AGs. McHenry claimed this went beyond the scope of the “advice,” that Warren had already admitted to providing, at the behest of the Treasury Department, in earlier testimony to Congress in March. “We’ve given advice when asked for advice,” she reiterated this afternoon.

The subcommittee hearing devolved into a linguistic discussion of the true meaning of the word “advise,” as the Merriam-Webster definition (“to give [someone] a recommendation about what should be done”) flashed on large TV screens in the hearing room. But given that Warren had already copped to giving such advice, it was difficult to find any meaningful contradiction in her remarks. Nor has she or the CFPB played a leading role in the settlement talks. “It’s simply not accurate to say the CFPB has masterminded this,” Geoff Greenwood, spokesman for Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who’s leading settlement talks for the AGs, told me recently.

Despite his thin paper trail, McHenry was intent on making Warren look bad. The Western North Carolina Congressman frequently interrupted her answers and accused the CFPB of possessing “virtually unchecked” power. Near the end of the hearing, Representative John Yarmouth (D-KY) apologized to Warren for the “rude and disrespectful behavior of the chair.” Incidentally, McHenry has accepted generous campaign donations this year from big banks and industry trade associations opposed to bureau, including $1,000-plus checks from the American Bankers Association, Mortgage Bankers Association, American Express, American Financial Services Organization, Cash America International, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.

Ed Mierzwinski, the consumer program director at US PIRG, said the hearing was just another attempt by the GOP “to try to weaken Warren’s credibility.” He invoked an old saying from law school: “If the law is on your side, argue the law. If the facts are on your side, argue the facts. If you don’t have either, just argue.”

The hearing was titled “Who’s Watching the Watchmen? Oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” but Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) argued that it should be dubbed “Let’s Pretend the Financial Crisis Never Happened.” Indeed, Congressional Republicans spent no time on the lax oversight and corporate deception that led to the financial crisis—and how a consumer agency dedicated to policing the murky financial services sector might have prevented or mitigated a prolonged recession. “Too often consumer protection was the second thought, third thought, or not even thought of at all,” Maloney said. That’s why Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration created the CFPB as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform act.

“I’m begging you to keep the fire,” Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) told Warren. “I’ve had constituents who’ve lost so much they don’t even know why…. We need your passion and concern. Thank you for syncing your conduct and conscience.”

At the end of the testy hearing, McHenry told Warren: “I admire your service to our government. I do.” He and the House GOP certainly have a funny way of showing it. 

[1] http://www.consumerfinance.gov/
[2] http://www.thenation.com/blog/160086/gop-struggles-dent-consumer-financial-protection-bureau
[3] http://www.thenation.com/article/all-delays-children
[4] http://www.cnbc.com/id/43151627
[5] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/28/big-banks-save-billions-homeowners-suffer_n_841712.html
[6] http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nationnow/id399704758?mt=8

Remember the last election was all about Republicans supposedly getting back to their roots and looking out for the middle-class and working poor who worked hard and played by the rules and were going to protect the average American from the elites on Wall St. It did not take long for conservative loons like McHenry to show their true colors. They are bought and paid for by the elite to keep watchdogs and true patriots like Elizabeth Warren from wrangling in the financial elites worse excesses.

Run, Paul, Run!
Writing in the LA Times today, Jonah Goldberg is unhappy that none of the big-name GOP presidential candidates are full-throated defenders of Paul Ryan's budget plan:

    So the question many are asking is, should Ryan ride to the rescue? If the election is going to be a referendum on his plan, maybe the one guy who can sell it should get in the race. On Monday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called for Ryan to get in the race, saying, "Paul's about real leadership."

    If Ryan ran, he would probably drive the other candidates further away from his own plan while forcing them to come up with serious alternatives of their own. If he got the nomination, many think he would clean Obama's clock in the debates.

    It's a lot to ask. He has three young kids and would have to get organized and funded from a cold start for a long-shot run. But politics is about moments, and this one is calling him. Unless someone suddenly rises to the challenge, the cries of "Help us, Paul Ryan, you're our only hope!" will only get louder.

Let me get this straight. The Ryan plan is wildly unpopular and is ripping the Republican Party apart. In fact, it's so unpopular that even Newt Gingrich won't endorse it. So the answer is for Ryan to run because somehow the great man himself will make gutting Medicare into a national movement.

How did a sissy-britches no talent hack like Goldberg get a job writing on one of the nation's biggest newspapers. No mystery. His mommy is rich and connected. Jonah lives in the typical bubble of his own opinion. America wants and deserves its Medicare. It is the kind of program a modern civilized nation should have. Jonah doesn't understand that because he has never woken up in the morning wondering where or how he can get medical care. When mommy pays for everything you never achieve anything on your own you tend to be like Jonah, totally incapable of relating to regular folks.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Conservative Agenda - Republicans Are Making the USA Into a Nation of Idiots

Conservative Agenda - Republicans Are Making the USA Into a Nation of Idiots

In the 2006 satirical science fiction comedy, Idiocracy, the protagonist Joe Bauers, “Mr. Average American", is selected by the Pentagon for a top-secret hibernation program. Forgotten, he awakens 500 years in the future, to discover a society so incredibly dumbed-down that he's easily the most intelligent person alive and their only hope for survival.

With the Republicans bullying their way through state and federal legislation, the movie has become prophetic to the point where the only thing that isn't believable is that this devolution will take another 500 years. Idiocracy already has its living, fire-breathing poster child, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the ranking Republican and former chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

You may remember Rep. Barton as the Congressman who on behalf of the American people apologized to the CEO of British Petroleum, Tony Hayward, for having our Gulf of Mexico get in the way of Hayward's oil spill. "I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any time a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, is subject to some sort of political pressure. [It] amounts to a shakedown, so I apologize."

How about Barton’s grasp of CO2 as a greenhouse gas? “It’s odorless, colorless, tasteless, doesn’t cause cancer... there’s nobody that’s ever been admitted to a hospital because of CO2 poisoning. Hell, “CO2 is in our Coca-Cola!”

Even better is Barton's explanation of how wind power could speed up climate change. "Wind is God’s way of balancing heat. Wind is the way you shift heat from areas where it’s hotter to areas where it’s cooler. Wouldn’t it be ironic if in the interest of global warming we mandated massive switches to energy, which is a finite resource, which slows the winds down, which causes the temperature to go up? Now, I’m not saying that’s going to happen, Mr. Chairman, but that is definitely something on the massive scale. I mean, it does make some sense. You stop something, you can’t transfer that heat, and the heat goes up. It’s just something to think about.” Yes, Joe, that sure is something to think about!

If Barton's awareness of why we must stop building wind turbines isn't enough to blow you over, how about his penetrating insight into just how innocuous air pollution is. At a Congressional hearing in April, Barton insisted that an EPA estimate that pollution controls on coal power plants would prevent 17,000 premature deaths a year had been “pulled out of thin air.”

Unfortunately, the air coming out of coal smoke stacks is hardly thin, but Barton's understanding of medicine certainly is. “To cause poisoning or a premature death, you have to get a large concentration of mercury into the body. I am not a medical doctor, but my hypothesis is that is not going to happen. You are not going to get enough mercury exposure or SO2 exposure or even particulate matter exposure.”

The only remotely true part of Barton's statement is that he is indeed not a medical doctor. Real medical doctors from the American Lung Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association and other health groups were so outraged and stunned at Barton's statement they sent him a letter pointing out decades of medical research contradicting everything he said.

Mercury is the second most toxic substance on earth, after only plutonium, and is capable of causing brain damage in fetuses and children at unimaginably small concentrations. One out of every six women of child-bearing age has enough mercury in her blood to cause measurable brain damage in any child she might conceive.

The largest source of this mercury contamination is the emissions of coal fired power plants. Nonetheless, industry lobbyists and their allies in Congress, like Barton, have vowed to fight any attempt by the EPA to correct this deplorable public health disaster. Without a shred of supportive evidence, pollution control and environmental protection of any kind is suddenly being smeared as "job-killing", ignoring all the while that science clearly proves that pollution itself is “heart-killing, lung-killing, brain-killing and people-killing". Which Joe could argue does create job openings.

If Rep. Barton was just your crazy uncle who everyone avoids at family reunions, this would just be entertainment. But he is only the most outspoken of an entire legion of Republican politicians from their Presidential contenders on down who are strutting their disdain for science and the environment like a fully spread peacock’s tail. Even many Democrats are tagging along with this menacing flock.

In a normal world people who repeatedly lose their arm wrestles with reality would also lose the next election, their careers, and the right to leave the house without their medication and a chaperone. But in an idiocracy, they rise to power, ignore the facts, re-write the laws, cash the lobbyists’ checks, and force us all into their asylum. Idiocracy has indeed come to America, 500 years ahead of schedule.

Dr. Brian Moench is President of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

How un-American do conservatives have to be before America wakes up and smells the coffee. With their war on science and rationalism they will be responsible for killing more American adults and children this year and next than any terrorist organization. That is not name calling or hyperbolic, it is just a simple fact. What is sad or frightening is that the deeply radical and destructive conservative agenda has become largely mainstream. Letting polluters kill Americans is good for business profits so it is good for America. Why is it OK to die from lack of access to medical care because of the draconian cuts in state Medicaid (rather than rise revenue) OK, but it is bad to be killed by a terrorists. Apparently the difference between a Republican and a terrorist is the methods by which they kill people. Republicans like Crazy Joe Barton are servants of their corporate masters. Offering up bizarre "logical" cover for some deeply immoral behavior. Behavior that conservatives consider patriotic. At least conservatives are funny in a dark medieval kind of way.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

How Can We Save Medicare

How Can We Save Save Medicare

Medicare is arguably one of the nation’s most successful and cherished public insurance programs. The program covers approximately 47 million elderly and disabled Americans, and helps pay for hospital, physician visits, and prescription drugs. It is truly hard to argue with success.

The traditional Medicare program, coupled with a supplemental private insurance policy, covers most of our seniors’ medical bills, with far less co-pays and out-of- pocket costs than private insurance.

Therefore, proposals to privatize Medicare — like Rep. Paul Ryan’s — have been met with such fierce opposition, because it was revealed in the national media that privatization meant much higher out-of-pocket costs for seniors. National polls have shown strong general support for maintaining Medicare or even increasing funding for it.

However, Medicare costs are projected to increase from $519 billion per year in 2010 to $929 billion in 2020.

The simplistic argument we often hear from conservatives is that Medicare is a costly federal government program because all federal government programs are inefficient and therefore costly. According to their line of reasoning, privatization is the only way to save money.

The truth is that there are several other ways to strengthen Medicare, but there has been a false debate in the nation regarding the rising costs of Medicare.

This may be partly due to not understanding a fundamentally key concept regarding current healthcare policy — there are no effective cost-containment mechanisms in place to control the private market costs of prescription drug costs, corporate hospitals and medical technology which are the main drivers of Medicare costs.

Research by respected nationally renowned economist Dean Baker shows that the federal government and Medicare beneficiaries would save $600 billion dollars between 2006 and 2013 if Medicare were allowed to directly negotiate prices with pharmaceutical manufacturers.

One study by Families USA found that the Veterans Administration was able to negotiate substantially lower prices for the top 20 drugs used by seniors, compared to private Medicare part D plans.

It would only make sense for there to be bipartisan support for Medicare to be able to use the full faith and credit of the federal government and be able to negotiate down the rising costs of prescription drugs.

According to Forbes magazine, hospital charges represent about one third of total healthcare spending — $718 billion altogether. Twenty four hospitals in this country with over 200 beds make an operating margin of 25 percent or more — a profit margin that compares favorably to drug giants like Pfizer, and easily beats the operating profit margin that General Electric reported in 2009.

We can no longer continue to have America’s hospitals make these kinds of large profit margins, when the health of our senior citizens and the fiscal health of our nation are at stake. It will take much needed political courage to address the root causes of rising Medicare costs — a Wall Street-dominated healthcare system.

America must transition to a non-profit improved Medicare-For-All program, if we are to have any chance of realistically containing over-all healthcare costs. That’ s why I have reintroduced H.R. 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare For All Act, that would provide for a single-payer healthcare system, providing all Americans with healthcare coverage.

Countries in Europe, Japan, and Taiwan have been able to effectively contain their healthcare costs for decades through their very successful universal healthcare systems — without waiting lines, rationed care, and out of control taxes.

America can learn invaluable lessons from other nations on how to control healthcare costs, and the time has come to be open minded about their success and honest about our need to change course from our corporate-dominated and inefficient healthcare system.

Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Republicans want to destroy Medicare and Medicaid. They say they are not because they would leave a thin shell of what they would call Medicare. That is just a lie by degrees. Rather than try to take Medicare away from Americans that need this basic entitlement to have a life of dignity after they retire, the answer is to open it up for everyone. If the private sector wants to compete or sale supplemental policies they can.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Republicans Continue to Create Judicial Crisis Which in Their Own Words is Unconstitutional

Republicans Continue to Create Judicial Crisis Which in Their Own Words is Unconstitutional

The Senate just voted by a 52-43 majority to end the GOP’s filibuster of Professor Goodwin Liu’s nomination to a federal appeal court — which, in the bizarro world that is the U.S. Senate, means that Liu’s nomination will not move forward. The vote was entirely along party lines, except that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted “yea” and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) voted “nay.”

Just six short years ago, Republicans sang a very different tune when it came to judicial filibusters. Senate Republicans almost unanimously declared filibusters of judicial nominees to be a horrific betrayal of their constitutional role. Many Republicans outright declared judicial filibusters to be unconstitutional. Here is a representative sample of how current GOP senators felt about such filibusters when a Republican was in the White House:

    Lamar Alexander (R-TN): “I would never filibuster any President’s judicial nominee, period. I might vote against them, but I will always see they came to a vote.”

    Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA): “Every judge nominated by this president or any president deserves an up-or-down vote. It’s the responsibility of the Senate. The Constitution requires it.

    Tom Coburn (R-OK): “If you look at the Constitution, it says the president is to nominate these people, and the Senate is to advise and consent.  That means you got to have a vote if they come out of committee.  And that happened for 200 years.”

    John Cornyn (R-TX): “We have a Democratic leader defeated, in part, as I said, because I believe he was identified with this obstructionist practice, this unconstitutional use of the filibuster to deny the president his judicial nominations.

    Mike Crapo (R-ID): “Until this Congress, not one of the President’s nominees has been successfully filibustered in the Senate of the United States because of the understanding of the fact that the Constitution gives the President the right to a vote.”

    Chuck Grassley (R-IA): “It would be a real constitutional crisis if we up the confirmation of judges from 51 to 60, and that’s essentially what we’d be doing if the Democrats were going to filibuster.”

    Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “The Constitution of the United States is at stake.  Article II, Section 2 clearly provides that the President, and the President alone, nominates judges.  The Senate is empowered to give advice and consent.  But my Democratic colleagues want to change the rules.  They want to reinterpret the Constitution to require a supermajority for confirmation.”

Sadly, this willingness to declare something unconstitutional when it suits them and then pretend the Constitution says something else entirely when the political winds change is par for the GOP’s course. Republicans invented a previously unheard of constitutional objection to the Affordable Care Act, they’ve called everything from Social Security to Medicare to child labor laws unconstitutional, and they’ve even pretended that the Constitution allows them to strip Americans of their citizenship.

Sen. Nelson’s vote against Liu, however, is utterly inexplicable. When Bush was naming judges, Nelson voted to end cloture on Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a radical tenther who once compared liberalism to “slavery” and Social Security to a “socialist revolution.” It is impossible to imagine what standard Nelson applied that would keep a mainstream voice like Liu off the court, but allow Judge Brown to shape the law.

Republicans probably do love some country and its constitution, it just isn't the USA. In 2005 Republicans gave their word they would not filibuster judicial nominations and here they are doing just that. Which means the courts are in crisis. The people of the USA cannot get justice if there is not judge to listen to their case which is what is happening on the federal bench. Republican governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker was said to have acted like the former president of Egypt when he bulldozed the rights of middle-class workers. Apparently Senate Republicans are also fans of the old Egyptian government way of looking at the law, justice and freedom. 

The media is liberal? Yea sure, whatever, CBS Edits Obama Speech to Stir Israel Controversy

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

National Disgrace - Many Blame Victim in Dominique Strauss-Kahn Case

What about the Woman Strauss-Kahn Allegedly Raped?

As details emerge in the case of International Monetary Fund chief and alleged rapist Dominique Strauss-Kahn, my eye is on how his wrecked political clout is getting all the attention. The brutal assault of a hotel housekeeper that Manhattan District Attorney Artie McConnell described yesterday to a judge, who subsequently ordered that the IMF's managing director be held without bail at the Rikers Island jail complex? Not so much.

The IMF leader was (I think it's safe to use the past tense here because it’s doubtful he'll re-emerge in politics, regardless of the outcome of this apparently damning case) a very likely French presidential candidate. In fact, he was widely seen as the Socialist Party's best hope for unseating French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Within hours of the story breaking, comments about a "Sarkozy setup” flooded the comments sections of online news reports, and soon emerged as their own articles.

As this story develops, it's all about Strauss-Kahn, instead of the woman (so far unidentified), who accuses him of brutally attacking her. At her workplace. This woman, who was cleaning a $3,000-per-night hotel suite, is a human being. She deserves compassion as the global punditocracy conjectures about what's going happen to the IMF without that French "rockstar" at its helm.

My work focuses on the trafficking and exploitation of immigrant domestic workers. Of course, I'm reading the news coverage with interest. Over the past days, I have been watching how HER story is covered, in light of her occupation, ethnicity (reporters say that she's an African immigrant), and status as a crime victim. Usually, housekeepers are treated as silent, anonymous machines of the household, hotel, or office building, if they're noticed at all. But surely a vicious attack would shed light on the fact that this is a real person…right?

While I mostly work with household workers in private homes, the life of a hotel chambermaid is very similar. Being a housekeeper at a hotel (or anywhere else) doesn't exactly put you on equal footing with the wealthy and powerful when you are in "their" space. So when you're stuck in a bedroom (or private household) with them, what are your defenses?

Statistics about the frequency of sexual assault of hotel maids are difficult to find, but here's what I know about New York City's household workers, from a 2006 report by the Data Center and Domestic Workers United: "Thirty-three percent of workers experience verbal or physical abuse or have been made to feel uncomfortable by their employers. One-third of workers who face abuse identify race and immigration status as factors for their employers’ actions." What we do know about the conditions of hotel housekeepers is that immigrants comprise the majority of that workforce, as do women of color, and that their workplace is dangerous on its own, let alone with the additional risk of sexual assault. Rushing to keep up with demand, hotel housekeepers have an injury rate 40 percent higher than workers in the overall service sector.

I have many other questions too. The two that come to mind immediately are:

    Do Europeans and North Americans just assume that being subjected to sexual aggression is a given if you're a woman working as a maid in a wealthy man's home or hotel suite?
    Why would anyone assume that a working-class woman would lie about a sexual assault to get money from a settlement?

I can't fathom why anyone would believe these things, but here we are in the comments section in Vanity Fair, The New York Times, and ABC News where every fourth word is "setup" and where the maid's getting very little empathy. I don’t think the people writing these comments or news stories are malicious. It's just a symptom of the way household workers are treated in the United States and around the world. They are servants, and therefore — for hotel guests and the people who can afford to have them clean their homes — barely human.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyer Benjamin Brafman said that he represents "good people who have gone astray…that doesn’t mean their lives should be destroyed." The themes of many of the reports and commentaries I have read center around the feeling that it would be a tragedy for this politician's career, and his removal would put the global economy at risk.

Because this "just" involves a hotel housekeeper, there's not a lot of conjecture about the tragedy she'll face as she tries to put her own life back together. Even if the reason that reporters aren’t covering her story with humanity is that they want to respect our legal system's promise of "innocent until proven guilty," they're missing the broader point: this storyline isn't uncommon. No one is talking about the countless other household and hotel workers who have endured sexual harassment and assault at the hands of wealthy (or even middle-class) men around the world.

Why? Perhaps because it's supposed to be a fact of life that poor women’s bodies are collateral damage of war, prizes for global accomplishment, or simply a means to an end. Women who are household workers or "servants" are even more vulnerable to dehumanizing sexual assault than others because their relationships are inherently unequal to their employers. We don’t have scientific studies of the relative risks, but we have hundreds of testimonies of household workers who have been trafficked, exploited, and assaulted, and our common sense that tells us there are many more out there.
And this is some of what right-wing conservative Ben Stein has to say,

He is one of the most recognizable people on the planet. Did he really have to be put in Riker’s Island?
    A man pays $3,000 a night for a hotel room? He’s got to be guilty of something. Bring out the guillotine.
    Was Riker’s Island really the place to put him on the allegations of one human being? Hadn’t he earned slightly better treatment than that?
    Can anyone tell me of any heads of nonprofit international economic entities who have ever been charged and convicted of violent sexual crimes?
    People accuse other people of crimes all of the time. What do we know about the complainant besides that she is a hotel maid?
While the accused are presumed innocent, why all the striking out at the victim. Why does Stein and many others think she is guilty yet presume  Strauss-Kahn should be roaming the streets as though nothing has happened.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Did the Stimulus or ARRA Work?

Did the Stimulus Work?

When you look at the program as a whole, the picture is not nearly as uncertain. Home buying jumped during the very period when a tax credit for home buying was in effect. The same happened with corporate investment. State spending stabilized in the middle of last year — just as states were hearing about their stimulus awards — even though state revenues were continuing to fall at the time. Consumer spending has risen faster than income growth would suggest, but about as fast as you’d expect given the combination of income growth and stimulus tax cuts.

More broadly, job cuts began shrinking just as the stimulus was going into effect last year, and the stock market began rising shortly after it passed. The stimulus was by no means the only reason, but it appears to have been a significant one.

Based on its economic models, the Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that between 1.4 million and 3.4 million workers who have jobs would be unemployed if the stimulus hadn’t been enacted. Three of the best-known private economic research firms — IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s Economy.com — have come up with similar estimates. The average estimated effect on employment is about 2.5 million jobs.

Nariman Behravesh, IHS Global Insight’s chief economist, has a nice way of summarizing what the bill did (and, to some extent, didn’t) do: “It prevented things from getting much worse than they otherwise would have been. I think everyone would have to acknowledge that’s a good thing.”

You would think conservative Republicans would just change the subject. The economy did a nose dive while they were in charge. The country lost trillions in wealth - people lost jobs and their homes. They apparently would have done nothing to fix the problems that happened on their watch.  Conservatives Continue To Claim The Stimulus ‘Failed,’ After CBO Report Said Otherwise

This effort comes in the wake of a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report showing that the economic stimulus package is having its intended effect — creating or saving 600,000 to 1.6 million jobs — albeit in a weaker than anticipated economy.

Republicans, though, have said that additional jobs legislation “would meet resistance.” They’re justifying this position — aided by the conservative media — by claiming that the “failed economic stimulus” has not created jobs, despite the CBO reporting otherwise. Here’s a roundup of conservative statements that have occurred after the CBO released its report:

    Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA): The 800-billion dollar stimulus bill that Washington passed has failed to create – or save – the jobs it promised…There is now talk of a second — or is it a third – stimulus bill…More government spending, more bailouts for states, more transfer payments to individuals, expanded government agencies.

    RNC Chairman Michael Steele: [Obama's] failed economic stimulus has considerably added to our national debt, skyrocketing it to a record-breaking $1.42 trillion in 2009…This time using a “jobs summit” to distract from the 10.2 percent national unemployment rate as well as President Obama’s and Congressional Democrats’ plans to unleash a second wave of stimulus spending on the American public, known as Stimulus II.

    Rep. John Boehner (R-OH): Washington Democrats staked their credibility on a nearly trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ that was supposed to be about putting people back to work…Given the last 11 months of outrageous ‘stimulus’ claims, the American people are right to wonder whether Washington Democrats can be trusted to create jobs and cut the deficit.

    Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: [T]he stimulus has been a manifest bust, much as the critics who appeared on our pages predicted. As the recovery continues, sooner or later the economy will begin to create new jobs, thank heaven. But the stimulus won’t have much do with it, except insofar as the higher taxes to finance the runaway spending further retard private investment and hiring.

For their part, Republicans have organized an economic roundtable for today, chock full of former Bush administration and McCain campaign staffers who, among other things, are responsible for the Bush tax cuts and Medicare Part D. Cantor also released a jobs plan yesterday, which Andrew Leonard characterized as a “magic pony jobs plan.” “Cut regulations. Freeze spending. Cut taxes. No new taxes. That’s the plan,” Leonard wrote. New CBO Report Finds Up to 3.6 Million People Owe Their Jobs to the Recovery Act

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Anti-American Republicans of the Week - Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) and State Rep. Alan Clemmons (R)

Anti-American Republicans of the Week - Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) and State Rep. Alan Clemmons (R)

Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) is expected to soon sign a Voter ID bill passed by both chambers of the South Carolina Legislature. When she does, South Carolina will become the second state in the country to pass such legislation this year, although Voter ID bills are being considered by GOP-led state legislatures nationwide. According to the ACLU, “nearly 180,000 voters in South Carolina – most of whom are elderly, student, minority or low-income voters – will be disenfranchised as a result of this discriminatory bill.” The NAACP adds that it “immediately disenfranchises eight percent of registered voters in the state.” But while the new law will be very bad for the voting rights of minority groups, it’s already been very good for one person: the man who proposed it. State Rep. Alan Clemmons (R) received the South Carolina Republican Party Legislator of the Year Award this week for his role writing and sponsoring a bill that will kick thousands of South Carolinians off the voter rolls:

    Regarding the Voter ID Bill, Clemmons says, “Voting is a special American right. We have a duty to protect that right and to prevent Chicago-style election fraud. By requiring photo-identification to vote we are insuring the credibility of elections and instilling faith in a process designed to detect and prevent abuse…I’m humbled by the title ‘Legislator of the Year’, but I’m grateful that it has been presented at such a pivotal time in the legislative progress of the Voter ID Bill so as to reinforce the SC Senate’s determination to cast that final vote to make Voter ID the law of South Carolina!”

The prize is one of the state’s top distinctions and is presented to one elected official each year “for dedication and conspicuous service.” Clemmons, Chairman of the House Election Law Subcommittee, has led the charge for a Voter ID law in South Carolina for the past three years. His attempts had been successfully blocked until this session. But now, with victory finally in sight, Clemmons’ relentless efforts to make voting more difficult for people who tend to vote Democrat are at last being recognized and commended by his colleagues:

    “Representative Clemmons has been instrumental in securing the integrity of our voting process and ensuring clean elections by helping to move the Voter ID Bill through the South Carolina House of Representatives, and for that I am grateful,” said Karen Floyd, the outgoing Chairwoman of the South Carolina Republican Party.

The allegation of widespread voter fraud is, of course, a Republican myth. An exhaustive investigation of voter fraud during the Bush administration turned up only 38 cases nationally between October 2002 and September 2005 — of which only 13 resulted in convictions. One editorial in a South Carolina newspaper called voter fraud “the phantom menace,” and pointed out the law requiring all voters to present ID at the polls will cost over $1 million to implement at a time when unemployment in the state is still well above the national average. Governor Haley and House members also insisted on passing a “clean” version of the bill that will not allow early voting in the state, which, as one paper put it, “shows a partisan bias.”

When South Carolina Republicans tried to push through a Voter ID bill last year, state Sen. John Matthews (D) pointed out that the proposal was all about keeping blacks from the polls, reviving painful memories of South Carolina’s checkered racial history. “I operate from history, and my history tells me it’s more to this than is being presented — that we are trying to fix a problem where there is no problem,” Matthews said.

While there is always an underlying racism in Conservative efforts to lock out certain voters this one also includes, as a kind of bonus I guess, a war on the basic democratic rights of students and retired seniors. On top of the regular racism the attack on the rights of the elderly is also an attack on those serving in the military - who frequently use early and absentee ballots to vote. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How Much Has Convervatism Stole From The U.S. Economy Since 2007?

The Consequences of Conservatism - Loss of Wealth Stunning During Great Recession

The 2012 presidential primary season is already upon us and the Grand Old Party is, not surprisingly, engaged in a grand old opportunity to rewrite history about the causes and consequences of the Great Recession. So it’s time, once again, to set the record straight.

The Great Recession was so great not just because of very sharp unemployment increases but also due to an unprecedented decline in wealth—as the Federal Reserve detailed in a report released this week. That wealth destruction is key to understanding the Great Recession since massive house price drops led to a foreclosure crisis that then fueled massive layoffs. Much of the unprecedented wealth destruction in 2007 and 2008 can be traced back to failed economic policies under President George W. Bush, when opportunities to put the economy and the labor market on the right track were ignored.

Incoming President Barack Obama’s hand was thus forced to first pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to save the economy from sliding deeper into an economic hole amid rising job losses, and to then tackle the problems that had been ailing the economy and American families—low incomes and rapidly rising prices for health care and energy—for the previous eight years.

Wealth destruction probably doesn’t adequately capture what happened in the early stages of the crisis. Wealth was vaporized at a breathtaking, eye-popping speed. American families lost a total of $19.4 trillion (in 2010 dollars) in household wealth from June 2007 to March 2009, when the stimulus started to take hold. First it was the housing market, and then it was the housing and the stock market together that tanked. American families lost $6.4 trillion in home value during this period.

Trillions of dollars are sometimes hard to grasp, so think of it this way: One complete house (at 2008 prices) was lost every 1.7 seconds during the Great Wealth Destruction. And this doesn’t even count what happened to American families’ rainy day funds and retirement savings.

The story of the Great Recession unfolded very quickly after that. The drop in home values meant that fewer people wanted to build and buy new homes, putting a lot of construction workers out of work. And the drop in home values put many borrowers underwater, meaning they owed more on their mortgage than their house was worth, precipitating a massive wave in foreclosures. This ultimately threatened to bring down the entire U.S. financial system but it also tightened credit such that businesses couldn’t expand, even if they wanted to. Jobs disappeared across all industries, not just in construction, leading to the highest unemployment rate in almost 30 years.

This crisis did not fall from the sky. We saw it coming. My colleague Scott Lilly and I pointed out in 2004 that the economic trends that ailed the economy and led to the sharp rise in household debt were unsustainable. American workers lived through the weakest labor market since the Great Depression after the previous recession ended in November 2001. Yet prices for key household items such as health care, energy, transportation, food, and housing rose, often at runaway speed. American families only managed to pay their bills by borrowing on their credit cards, for large consumer items and on their homes. The massive debt boom was a reflection of the economic squeeze American families were in during the 2000s.

The sad part is that the Great Recession could have been prevented. The George W. Bush administration had several opportunities to seriously address the unfolding crisis.

There were several chances to promote faster growth. The first opportunity came early in 2001 when Congress negotiated a tax bill pushed for by the newly inaugurated president. Rather than shovel enormous amounts of money to the top income earners with a tax bill that cost well more than $1 trillion in the first 10 years, the money could have been used to stimulate economic growth by giving middle-class families a boost and by investing in needed infrastructure such as new energy sources.

OK, so policymakers missed the boat on this one. But Congress had another chance to address the looming crisis when President Bush pushed for another tax bill in 2003. This one was intended to stimulate growth through cuts in taxes for dividends and capital gains, among other things. The bill was derided by many economists as a woefully ineffective way to turn the economy around and to bring stronger job growth to American families. And true to this prediction, the years after the bill’s passage were marked with job growth that was about one-third below its long-term average.

And there were opportunities to start to tackle high costs, particularly in health care and energy. The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, a key piece of the Bush policy agenda, which added prescription drug benefits to Medicare, explicitly excluded two mechanisms that could have helped lower costs—allowing drug reimportation from other, cheaper countries such as Canada, and permitting Medicare to use its market power to negotiate lower drug prices.

In addition, several versions of an energy bill that would have brought more alternative fuels and promoted greater energy efficiency were negotiated but never passed—in large measure because President Bush either did not make energy reform his priority or because he directly opposed the upfront costs necessary to invest in the country’s energy future.

We are now climbing out of the hole that the failed economic policies of the Bush administration created. That’s why the more proper name for the Great Recession should be the Bush Recession.

Indeed, President Obama took office and led the economy out of recession in June 2009, though much more remains to be done. Household wealth has been growing, at least outside of housing wealth, because the stock market has been doing OK. American families are now down only $12.8 trillion from where they were in June 2007. Job growth has come back for more than a year but we still have more than 7 million fewer jobs than at the start of the recession in December 2007. And the unemployment rate has been gradually declining from a high of 10 percent at the end of 2009.

Wealth would be much lower and unemployment much higher without the constant policy attention of the Obama administration. The administration took massive quick steps necessary to prevent another Great Depression with the passage of the stimulus packet in early 2009. It also paid constant attention to economic growth and the labor market with support for small businesses that couldn’t get credit; with a health insurance bill that promises to lower health care inflation; with a financial regulatory reform bill that will shine some lights on the shadier players in the financial market; with a push for an energy bill that would have promoted alternative fuels and increased energy savings; and with extended unemployment benefits for those caught in the mess due to no fault of their own.

As bad as the Great Recession was, it could have been much worse, even though that seems hard to believe. Remember that when conservatives try to run from the record of the Bush administration’s failed economic policies while also trying to reintroduce the very same failed policies. The consequences of conservatism were dire then and would be again.

Christian E. Weller is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and associate professor, Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs, University of Massachusetts Boston. 
Unfortunately the financial reform bill passed by President Obama and Democrats before far Right radical Republican got a majority in the House in the 2010 elections, was watered down by Republicans and a few conservative Democrats. Whether financial reform works or not is highly dependent on regulators enforcing regulations, rather than item by item laws. If Republicans have their way - they are currently working to weaken reform by cutting funding - we'll be right back to where we were in 2007. The big shadow banking system is still in place and they are still too big to fail. The only way to get to where we should be - making protection of the middle-class a priority - is to restore a progressive liberal Congress in the 2012 election cycle.

University Officials Conclude Latest Investigation Discrediting Breitbart and His Right-wing Propaganda Web Sites That Turn Out Some of the Most Insidious Lies On The Internet,

University of Missouri officials Monday issued a statement concluding that Andrew Breitbart-promoted videos smearing university lecturers were "highly distorted through splicing and editing." This is just the latest investigation to discredit deceptively edited videos promoted by Breitbart.
University Officials: Big Government Video Was "Highly Distorted" And "Out Of Context"

Big Government: Videos Prove Professors Teach "Fear, Intimidation, And, Even, Industrial Sabotage." In April, Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment website posted a series of clearly edited videos and claimed they showed evidence of, among other things, professors "instruct[ing] students on how fear, intimidation, and, even, industrial sabotage are important and, often, necessary tools." [BigGovernment, 4/25/11, 4/25/11]

Fact: Big Government Eliminated Crucial Context And Qualifying Statements From Video Excerpts. Media Matters obtained and reviewed the context of remarks highlighted in the video Breitbart promoted. The video clearly excised crucially qualifying statements in a way that changes the meaning of what the speakers were saying, including portions where a professor explicitly rejected violence as an ineffective tactic. [See the truth HERE]

Andrew Breitbart and his parade of proto-fascist writers cannot win arguments based on the truth, so they constantly and brazenly resort to lies, misinformation and half-truths.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Republican Crook of the Week - House Education Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline (R-MN)

Republican Crook of the Week - House Education Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline (R-MN)

The for-profit higher education industry, known as subprime schools for their rampant abuses and systematic fraud, is fighting back aggressively against proposed regulations from the Department of Education. The rules call for schools to show that a higher percentage of their students actually gain employment after graduation in order for for-profit school companies to qualify for taxpayer money. As we have reported extensively, subprime colleges have hired an army of lobbyists and have declared “war” against reform advocates.

House Education Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline (R-MN) has been the industry’s best friend. Kline repeatedly slipped provisions into House spending bills to restrict the Department of Education from implementing more oversight over subprime schools. Kline pushed the effort, essentially a bailout to a multi-billion dollar industry that receives ninety percent of its money from the government, while industry lobbyists astroturfed support on Capitol Hill.

With the release of first quarter campaign donations, an examination of Federal Elections Commission disclosures by the Wonk Room has found that Kline received nearly $50,000 from for-profit colleges so far this year. Notably, on March 15, 2011, two days before the House passed his amendment against the Department of Education, Kline received $21,200 from the same companies:

    Mark Perry, President of San Joaquin Valley College: $2,500 on 03/15/2011.
    Rex D Spaulding is President of North American Trade Schools Inc: $1,000 of 03/15/2011.
    Alva R Sullivan is President And CEO of Sullivan University: $2,400 on 03/15/2011.
    Robert F Herzog is VP at IN Business College: $1,000 on 03/15/2011.
    Daniel M Hamburger is CEO at DeVry Inc: $1,000 on 03/15/2011.
    Lawrence D Earle is CEO of Carrer Point College: $1,000 on 03/15/2011.
    Corinthian Colleges Inc. PAC: $4,000 donation to Kline for Congress on 3/15/2011.
    Education Management Corp PAC: $2,500 on 03/15/2011.
    NELNET Higher Education Access PAC: $2,400 on 03/15/2011.
    Westwood College Fund: $1,000 on 03/15/2011
    Duncan M Anderson, CEO of Education Affiliates Inc: $2,400 on 03/15/2011.

Kline, who received another $100,000 from the industry last year, also hosted a brazen fundraiser with subprime college lobbyists on March 8th. That means for two straight weeks, industry lobbyists funneled cash to Kline so he could help them drain more taxpayer money without properly educating their students.

This morning, the Justice Department announced that it is joining a whistle-blower lawsuit against Kline donor Education Management Corporation (EDMC), a for-profit college company owned partially by Goldman Sachs. The company, which owns the Art Institutes and other private colleges, has been accused of defrauding students in several states.

Republicans keep saying government is bad, but they always seem to benefit the most from feeding like pigs at the lobbyist trough. Like your average right-wing conservative, Kline doesn't want government to work for the people and by the people. The more government fails at its tasks the more money Kline makes. Bank robbers are such morons. If they would just run for office as a Republican they can stuff their pockets with cash and conservative voters will reward them with another term in office.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Federal Budget By The People For The People Needs Your Support

Find True Centrism in the People's Budget

The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) People’s Budget [1]—the strongest rebuke to the Robin Hood in reverse “Ryan Budget [2]” that was passed by the best Republican House Citizens United can buy—is receiving some well deserved national attention as the budget debate now moves to the Senate.

The Nation immediately recognized the sense and sanity of the progressive plan [3] to create a budget surplus in ten years--through tax fairness, bringing troops home, and investing in job creation, and others are now praising its strengths too.

“The Courageous Progressive Caucus Budget,” writes [4] The Economist.  “Mr. Ryan has been fulsomely praised for his courage. The Progressive Caucus has not. I’m not really sure what ‘courage’ is supposed to mean here, but this seems precisely backwards.”

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman describes [5] the People’s Budget as “the only major budget proposal out there offering a plausible path to balancing the budget… unlike the Ryan plan, which was just right-wing orthodoxy with an added dose of magical thinking—[it] is genuinely courageous because it calls for shared sacrifice.”

While a Democratic Senate won’t pass this budget, with some savvy and organized pressure from the grassroots and outside groups it could push its principles during the upcoming debate on the budget and debt ceiling, and an expected deficit reduction package from the “Gang of Six”.

For example, closing tax loopholes that encourage companies to ship jobs overseas, eliminating oil and gas subsidies, ending our wars abroad, taxing the mega-rich—these are true centrist policies, reflecting mainstream views. While embracing these good ideas might do damage to some Senators’ corporate campaign contributions, it could pay off at the polls (and strengthen our democracy, which ideally would be more than a peripheral consideration for our legislators).

“The public wants job creation, tax fairness, strong retirement protections and deficit reduction—none of that is in dispute,” Representative Raúl Grijalva, co-chair of the CPC, told me. “The People’s Budget has been embraced by the public and the economic community. All the Senate has to do now is lead by following. Anyone who takes a serious look around the country sees the need for a fair budget that lifts us all up together. The People’s Budget fits the bill and needs to be considered.”

An April 17 Washington Post/ABC poll found 72 percent support [6] raising taxes on Americans with incomes over $250,000 dollars per year as the best way to eliminate the national debt. The People’s Budget does just that—rescinding the upper-income tax cuts in December’s tax deal, and creating higher income tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires as proposed in Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s Fairness in Taxation Act.

A March 31 Gallup Poll indicates the top two preferences for improving the economy are to “stop sending jobs overseas” and “create more infrastructure work.” The People’s Budget accomplishes both goals, including an investment of $1.45 trillion in job creation, education, clean energy, broadband infrastructure, housing, and R&D, and finally creating a long-proposed national infrastructure investment bank [7] to support loans and grants on projects that are vital to US economic competitiveness. It would also tax the earnings of US-controlled foreign subsidiary corporations as earned income, rather than promoting offshoring by deferring those taxes until earnings are repatriated to the US.

The budget debate will play out in the Senate and the media for the next several weeks, and it can indeed be moved in the direction of a People’s Budget—if Senators hear from constituents [8] and begin to speak out in support of these principles. They need to know that these are the issues you will be voting on—a budget that makes the wealthy pay their fair share, that ends the wars and brings the troops home, that invests in infrastructure and job creation. They need to know that there is a blueprint out there that accomplishes this and it deserves their attention and support—the Congressional Progressive Caucus People’s Budget.

This effort will continue into the summer, when the CPC participates in a 12-city nationwide “People’s Tour." No matter your issue—peace, the environment, education, poverty and economic inequality—all issues will be impacted by these vital budget choices we make. Get involved [9] in the People’s fight now.

As more and more patriotic Americans read the very anti-American Paul Ryan(R-WI)/Republican Plan they realize the center piece of that plan is all about dismantling Medicare and is a backdoor attack on Social Security. It is time for some sanity and courage in Washington. We do not have a runaway spending problem. We have a lack of revenue problem and a problem of Republicans who despite the economic collapse partly due to supply-side(voodoo) economics - still believe in that disastrous form of crony capitalism that rewards the wealthy and punishes working Americans.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Small Business and Families Under Attack From Republicans -The Dangerous and Misleading "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act"

Small Business and Families Under Attack From Republicans -The Dangerous and Misleading "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act"

H.R. 3, also known as the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," is a dangerous and misleading bill that raises taxes and increases costs on millions of individuals and families and threatens to take away coverage for abortion that women already have.

This fact sheet updates our previous analyses of H.R. 3, which can be found here and here.

See below for a PDF version of this document with citations and sources.

For a more in-depth look at H.R. 3, please see our long fact sheet below.
H.R. 3 Would Raise Taxes on Potentially Millions of Individuals and Small Businesses that Keep the Insurance Plans They Currently Have.

Right now, most insurance plans include coverage of abortion. H.R. 3 makes any small business or individual that has a health care plan that includes coverage of abortion ineligible for the small business health tax credit and the premium assistance tax credit, thereby raising taxes on potentially millions of otherwise eligible small business owners and individuals. If this bill were enacted, millions of individuals and small businesses will face significant increased costs just for keeping the comprehensive insurance coverage they currently have. Below are hypothetical examples of the harm that millions of individuals and businesses would face if they keep their abortion coverage:

    The Small Business Health Tax Credit is worth up to 35 percent of an eligible small business's premium costs in 2010 and will be worth up to 50 percent in 2014. Right now, a restaurant with forty half-time employees, wages totaling $500,000, and $240,000 per year in health care costs will be eligible for the credit. If the restaurant's health insurance plan includes coverage of abortion, H.R. 3 would increase the restaurant's taxes by $28,000.
    A single mother with two young children struggled to find insurance coverage in the individual market. Because the family earned just $24,000 per year and was not offered health insurance through her employer, the family would be eligible in 2014 to buy health insurance through an Exchange and would be eligible for a premium assistance tax credit to help defray its cost. If the family's health insurance plan includes coverage of abortion, H.R. 3 would cost a single mother earning $24,000 per year $3,173 in premium assistance.

There is more here. Republicans are hoping the public has forgotten or does not know that the Hyde Amendment already prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars for abortion. So they are using Big Government to intrude on what is a private matter between individuals and their insurance companies. 

If torture is a good thing, kind of like apple-pie according to Republicans than why are they fighting Senate investigations into torture. Would such hearings give them a chance to brag about all the good things torture has done for America. Or could it be that torture is still illegal, immoral and endangers the lives of our troops and intelligence operatives.

The death of Osama Bin Laden is a good thing. Well it is to most Americans. Conservative Republicans are pissed that the Kenya Muslim Marxist Anti-Christ President succeeded in killing Bin laden where they failed - FLASHBACK: Conservative Media Repeatedly Attacked Obama's Commitment To Fighting Terrorism

Monday, May 2, 2011

Texas Republicans Aspire to the Good Old Days of Medieval Europe

The New Know-Nothings

Texas, the extreme right’s political mushroom factory, is at it again. (See photo, right: a mushroom called a “dunce cap.”) Americans had better look out, especially if they still care about knowledge, truth, curiosity, the exploration of new frontiers, the power of literature, art, and, especially, real science.

Gov. Rick Perry’s allies are now attacking state-supported colleges and universities, insisting that research is a waste of time. They want to tie professor compensation to some kind of “how-much-money-do-you-make-us” evaluation. And on and on.

This new Know-Nothing movement is born of the unholy coupling of a home-schooling mentality with the ethics of a pyramid schemer. At bottom most of the recommendations are simply stupid. How stupid?

Consider that one of the reforms would remove the University of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and other state-supported schools from the national accreditation process. Well guess what? Withdraw from that process and you can’t play NCAA sports. Period. It’s in the rules.