Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ha Ha Ha Now That's Funny - The Right-wing Conservative Propagandists and Serial Liars Called American Crossroads Says it is "grassroots"

Ha Ha Ha Now That's Funny - The Right-wing Conservative Propagandists and Serial Liars Called American Crossroads Says it is "grassroots"

The IRS filing of American Crossroads, an outside 527 group that was conceived by Rove and ex-RNC chair Ed Gillespie, gives a good taste of who is funding the GOP effort to make big gains in the House and Senate come the fall. The group has already burned through $600,000 on ads attacking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is facing a reelection contest against Republican Sharron Angle (see one of the spots below). Chaired by another ex-RNC chair, Mike Duncan, American Crossroads has pledged to raise $50 million to beat Democrats in the midterms and has been seen by some as a competitor to the Republican National Committee itself.

And despite the group's description of itself as "grassroots," Salon's review of its IRS filings show that four billionaires have contributed 97 percent of the $4.7 million it has raised to date. There are no limits on how much corporations, unions, and individuals can donate to 527 groups. Here's a guide to American Crossroads' four donors:

    Trevor Rees-Jones, president of Dallas-based Chief Oil and Gas, gave a $1 million donation to American Crossroads just as the group was starting in April. That's small money for Rees-Jones, who, Forbes estimated in 2009, amassed a $1.5 billion fortune investing in gas prospects around America. He has also been a big donor to John McCain and the Texas Republican Party, Politico reported.
     Bradley Wayne Hughes, chairman of Public Storage Inc, is American Crossroads' biggest donor, contributing $1.55 million to date. Hughes founded Public Storage in 1972 and the company has grown into a self-storage behemouth with over 2,000 locations. Worth $3.9 billion, he lives in Lexington, KY, where he actively raises thoroughbred horses at Spendthrift Farm. (Hughes' son, B. Wayne Hughes Jr., is on the board of former Senator Norm Coleman's new conservative group, the American Action Network.)
     A company called Southwest Louisiana Land LLC donated $1 million to American Crossroads in June. It turns out Southwest, which doesn't have much of a public footprint, is owned by Dallas billionaire investor Harold Simmons -- no stranger to conservative causes. Since the 1980s, he has ponied up for everthing from Oliver North's defense fund, to Newt Gingrich's PAC, to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004, to the American Issues Project, a group that ran ads attempting to tie Obama to Bill Ayers in 2008 (Simmons was the sole funder of the Ayers effort, giving nearly $3 million.) Simmons is worth $4.5 billion.
     TRT Holdings, owned by Dallas' Robert Rowling, gave American Crossroads $1 million. Rowling, whose firm owns Omni Hotels and Gold's Gym, got started at his father's successful company, Tana Oil & Gas. He's now worth $4.4 billion. In 2004 Rowling gave $1 million to Progress for America, an outside group backing President Bush's reelection.

It's also important to note that American Crossroads has set up a partner organization called  American Crossroads GPS that, because it has a different tax status, does not have to reveal any donor information and is also more limited in spending its money on campaigns (Politico has more on this). American Crossroads GPS took in over $5 million in June, and we'll likely nver know who is putting up the money.

[UPDATED]Virtually all of the $4.7 million raised by Karl Rove's new conservative outfit was contributed by just four billionaires, three of whom are based in Dallas, Texas, and two of whom made their fortune in the oil and gas industry.
C-Roads is currently running ads around the country that - wait for it - are fact free. Somehow facts like Republicans were responsible for the Great Recession, the Recession started on Bush's watch, the TARP and auto company bailouts were started by push and voted for by the vast majority of Republicans in both Houses is left out. They leave out that Bush's two unpaid for wars and the Bush tax cuts are responsible for the vast majority of the current deficit. They leave out that the rate of unemployment started to nose dive under Bush and that Republic economic policies cost the nation about $17 trillion dollars in wealth. In other words C-Raods and its billionaires are propagandists who want to convince the nation the years 2000 to 2008 - when for six of those years Republicans controlled all three branches of government, never happened.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Moving The Goal Posts to Appease Conservative Zealots

Moving The Goal Posts to Appease Conservative Zealots

If you want a short encapsulation of how far right the economic debate has moved, check out this passage from the Washington Post:

    Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent with socialist leanings, delivered a 90-minute address Monday outlining his plan calling for 50 percent of all savings to come from tax increases. “The wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations in this country must pay their fair share,” Sanders wrote Monday in a letter to Obama.

    Such a proposal has no chance of passing because Republicans and many Democrats believe steep tax increases are both politically unpopular and potentially harmful to the struggling domestic economy.

So the socialist plan for one of the lowest-taxed advanced economies on Earth -- a country that could balance its budget entirely through tax hikes and still have a tax burden that ranks in the lowest third among the OECD -- is to cut the deficit with a plan consisting of half spending cuts. And that plan is immediately dismissed as so wildly unrealistic it stands no chance of passage. Cut hundreds of billions of dollars of spending and also raise taxes to cut the deficit, during a massive economic crisis? Go back to Russia, you crazy socialist!

This serves as a great example of how far to the extreme Right the national conversation has shifted. How dare we increase taxes on the richest one percent of the population and solve our REVENUE problem. We must slash Medicare, education, child health care first. President Obama, the supposed socialist anti-Christ Kenyan Muslim is pretty much going along with Republicans. After its all over the extreme Right - those nutters who call themselves "conservatives" will still be calling him names and claiming he didn't cut enough.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Republicans Fight to Let Corporate Bosses Break Laws Protecting Their Workers

Republicans Fight to Let Corporate Bosses Break Laws Protecting Their Workers

Working America labors under the weakest protections from abusive management in the developed world, by far. We take it as a given that our bosses can fire us for any reason (with a few exceptions like discrimination on the basis of race or gender), or no reason at all – a notion that would shock and appall working people in most advanced economies.

But corporate America doesn't want the very modest protections that do exist in this country to be enforced. Even as companies lay claim to many of the Constitutional rights of citizenship, they want to be held above the rule of law when it comes to their employees.

This desire lays at the heart of a recent barrage of assaults on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a New Deal agency that for over 75 years has been tasked with enforcing the very modest protections for organized workers afforded by the National Labor Relations Act. The agency, according to former NLRB general counsel Fred Feinstein, “has the stated purpose of encouraging private-sector collective bargaining, protecting employees’ right to form a union to improve working conditions and preventing retaliation for exercising these rights.” He adds that passage of the law “helped the U.S. climb out of the Great Depression and encouraged the growth of a vibrant middle class for much of the last century.”

The primary focus of conservative outrage at the NLRB of late has been its complaint against Boeing for locating a new plant in South Carolina as an explicit act of retaliation against its unionized Washington state workers for going on strike – for exercising a right guaranteed by the law.

The company's CEO claimed that he'd “made a rational, legal business decision about the allocation of our capital and the placement of new work within the U.S.” The spin is that the company was simply pursuing its business interests according to “free market” principles, when pasty government bureaucrats intervened. But the truth is very different. Boeing can indeed locate its operations wherever it wants to for any legal reason, including seeking out states with low union rates and cheaper labor costs. What it cannot do is break the law, and that is what is alleged in the case.

As the American Constitution Society (ACS) explained it, “The right to strike is protected by law, and an employer’s retaliating against employees for exercising their legal rights violates the NLRA, the law the NLRB enforces.”

    After the charge [against Boeing] was filed, the NLRB’s regional office in Washington investigated the case. That investigation involved taking sworn affidavits from witnesses and collecting other relevant evidence. Boeing had the right to present its evidence during the investigation. The evidence included public statements by Boeing officials – and reported in the Seattle Post Intelligencer Aerospace News and the Seattle Times– that they were angry that Boeing employees in Washington had gone on strike in the past. Boeing officials also said that they would, therefore, move work that was originally going to be done in Washington to a plant in South Carolina. This evidence... supports a finding that Boeing violated § 8(a)(1) and (3) of the NLRA.

Boeing has been the driving force behind the backlash against the NLRB, and the right has been quick to jump on the bandwagon. Sarah Palin, ignoring the fact that we have far fewer protections for workers than any other developed country on the planet, offered what has become an industry-standard talking-point, predicting that “eventually every state will suffer when businesses declare 'enough is enough' with these tactics and decide to relocate in more business-friendly countries.” And during the recent GOP debate in New Hampshire, Newt Gingrich called on Congress to “Immediately...defund the National Labor Relations Board which has gone into South Carolina to punish Boeing, which wants to put 8,000 American jobs in South Carolina.”

Rep. Darrel Issa, R-California, told MSNBC host Joe Scarborough that “[If] the labor union wants to make a suit, make a suit but for the government to spend your tax dollars to pursue seems to be over the top.” Issa was either misinformed about the labor laws in this country, or he was intentionally misleading the show's audience: according to the National Labor Relations Act, unions cannot sue companies for violating the labor laws. Their only recourse is to file a complaint with the NLRB – if it were defunded, union workers would have absolutely no protection whatsoever against illegal practices on the part of employers.

Even the most modest rules that might help working people form unions are under assault today. As labor journalist Mike Elk reported, the NLRB proposed a new rule this week that would simply streamline the union elections process. “Companies seeking to stop union drives often delay union elections by months in order to allow more time for extended anti-union intimidation... campaigns,” he wrote. Those extended campaigns often involve firing” organizers – in a 2007 study, economists John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer found that “about 1 in 5 union organizers or activists can expect to be fired as a result of their union organizing.” According to John-Paul Ferguson of the Stanford Business School, under duress, 35 percent of petitions filed by workers to hold a union election don't result in one being held (PDF).

A study of employer activities during NLRB administered union campaigns between 1999-2003 by Cornell University's Kate Bronfenbrenner (PDF) found that it was “standard practice for workers to be subjected to threats, interrogation, harassment, surveillance, and retaliation for union activity.”

    63%of employers interrogate workers in mandatory one-on-one meetings with their supervisors about support for the union;

    54% of employers threaten workers in such meetings;

    57% of employers threaten to close the worksite;

    47% of employers threaten to cut wages and benefits; and

    34% of employers fire workers.

Some of that is what labor organizers say happened during an organizing campaign among Target employees at a New York outlet last week. The New York Times reported that according to the UFCW local, workers at the Valley Stream store had endured a “campaign of threats, intimidation and illegal acts by Target management.” UFCW has called on the NLRB to investigate the claim and call for a new election, enforcing a law that would be unenforced entirely were the agency defunded.

Conservatives like to claim they are pro freedom and individual rights. That has become one of the longest running jokes in America. They believe in the power of the economic elite and everyone who is not a member of the plutocracy is wage slave who better not get uppity with their plantation masters. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

More Reasons To Impeach Right-wing Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

Rep. Murphy Says Thomas’ Actions Call Into Question Whether He ‘Can Continue To Serve As A Justice’

In an exclusive interview with ThinkProgress, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT) — the lead sponsor of a bill which would strip Supreme Court justices of their immunity from a code of ethical conduct that applies to other federal judges — suggests that an investigation may be necessary to determine whether Justice Clarence Thomas’ many ethics scandals rise to the level where Thomas is no longer fit to serve on the nation’s highest Court:

    QUESTION: Do you think what Thomas has done is as serious as what forced [disgraced former Supreme Court Justice Abe] Fortas off the bench?

    MURPHY: I think our problem is we don’t know the full extent of Justice Thomas’ connections to [leading GOP donor] Harlan Crow, or, frankly, to a further network of right-wing funders. What he’s done is incredibly serious. I think, at the very least, his actions should disqualify him from sitting on any cases in which Crow-affiliated organizations are parties to or have attempted to influence [the Court]. But this is starting to rise to the level where there should start to be some real investigations as to whether Clarence Thomas can continue to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court.

Justice Thomas has sat on at least 11 cases where a Harlan Crow-affiliated group filed a brief — adopting the group’s preferred outcome in all but one case. Moreover, Thomas has yet to explain the full extent of his connections to Crow, despite news reports that Crow lavished gifts and other expensive favors on Thomas and his family. Nor has Thomas explained how his gifting scandal differs from the very similar gifting scandal that brought down Justice Abe Fortas.

While Rep. Anthony Weiner may have acted like a cad, Weiner was also a vocal critic of Thomas. Odd coincidence that some wing-nut stalkers should target Weiner.  

Fox's Chris Wallace admits he is not interested in fair and balanced but setting the "balance" to the far Right -The ‘other side of the story’

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Justice Denied - How Conservatives on the SCOTUS Decided Wal-Mart Was Too Big To Sue

Too Big to Sue? Supreme Court Blocks Massive Gender Discrimination Suit Against Wal-Mart

In a blow to group claims of gender discrimination and class actions more generally, the Supreme Court has rejected a class-action lawsuit brought by female employees of Wal-Mart who claim they suffered discriminatory pay and promotion practices resulting from the company's alleged corporate culture of discrimination. The massive lawsuit could have involved up to 1.6 million women, with Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, facing potentially billions of dollars in damages.

Much of the press so far has focused on the parts of the Supreme Court's ruling that are unanimous. The justices all agreed that the lower courts should not have allowed the case to move forward under a provision of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Rule 23(b)(2)) that allows litigants to proceed as a class when they are seeking primarily non-monetary relief, for example, an injunction against discriminatory hiring practices or a declaration from the court that a certain policy is discriminatory. But the conservative majority, led by Justice Antonin Scalia, went further than that, shutting the courthouse doors to the women's class action altogether. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, dissented from the majority's ruling on this point, arguing that the female employees should have been given the opportunity to try to make their case under another part of the class-action rules.

When it comes to gender equality questions, the court would always be wise to listen to the voice of Justice Ginsburg. Then-attorney Ginsburg, after all, won several landmark gender-equality cases in the Supreme Court before she became a judge herself and has been a fierce defender in the Supreme Court of the Constitution's guarantee of equal citizenship and equal treatment of the sexes. Her Wal-Mart opinion noted substantial evidence that "gender bias suffused Wal-Mart's corporate culture."

For example, Justice Ginsburg noted in her partial dissent that women fill 70 percent of the hourly jobs at Wal-Mart but only 33 percent of management positions and that "senior management often refer to female associates as 'little Janie Qs.'" By leaving pay and promotion decisions in the hands of "a nearly all male managerial workforce" using "arbitrary and subjective criteria," the company, as Justice Ginsburg observed, arguably does little to prevent biases and stereotypes from tainting such decisions. For instance, the company requires, "as a condition of promotion to management jobs, that employees be willing to relocate." But as Justice Ginsburg noted in her opinion, citing a federal Labor Department report, "[a]bsent instruction otherwise, there is a risk that managers will act on the familiar assumption that women, because of their services to husband and children, are less mobile than men." "The practice of delegating to supervisors large discretion to make personnel decisions, uncontrolled by formal standards, has long been known to have the potential to produce disparate effects," Ginsburg wrote. "Managers, like all humankind, may be prey to biases of which they are unaware."

These are pretty powerful claims of a widespread, discriminatory corporate culture that Justice Scalia and his fellow conservative justices in the majority brushed aside. But however strong this evidence of discrimination may or may not be, it is important to recognize that the Supreme Court's ruling today was not about whether Wal-Mart was guilty of discriminating against its female employees -- this ruling was solely about whether the courthouse doors would remain open to the class action filed by Wal-Mart's female employees, who had banded together to seek a company-wide solution to a company-wide problem. While Justice Ginsburg and the three other justices who joined her opinion would have allowed the female employees to pursue their claims under a more appropriate class-action rule, the five-justice majority closed the courthouse door to the class altogether, leaving individual lawsuits as the only potential avenue of redress.

In this respect, the Wal-Mart case represents a disturbing trend in this year's Supreme Court Term. Justice Scalia also authored the pro-corporate, anti-consumer ruling in AT&T v. Concepcion. In that case, a sharply divided Supreme Court tossed out the Concepcions lawsuit against AT&T on behalf of themselves and all others who were charged $30.32 in sales tax for a supposedly free mobile phone. If successful, the class action could have yielded millions of dollars for all of AT&T's customers who allegedly had been improperly charged. However, because Justice Scalia's majority opinion enforced an arbitration agreement containing a provision banning class actions, the Concepcions were faced with fighting just for their own $30, an amount over which it's hardly worth the time and expense of pressing a legal claim against a corporate giant like AT&T. The Supreme Court in Concepcion blessed a contract provision that basically allows corporations to get away with wrongdoing so long as they do it on an individually small scale, making individual claims too small to pursue.

This is a big deal. Class actions are crucial for victims of discrimination or other corporate misconduct who may not have the means to bring their own individual lawsuits -- including many of the Wal-Mart employees who earn modest wages. Joining individual claims together also allows for a fuller picture of widespread patterns of discrimination or fraud, and provides a greater opportunity to fundamentally change a corporate culture of discrimination. The million-and-a-half women of Wal-Mart allege that they experienced discrimination because of the corporate culture and practices of America's largest retailer. The experiences of these plaintiffs may be diverse in many ways, but as Justice Ginsburg explained, these female employees have in common their claims of pay and promotion discrimination. Should they be penalized simply because Wal-Mart is a massive company and its corporate practices occur on a massive scale?

We've all heard about corporate bailouts for banks that are "too big to fail." By limiting class actions that claim widespread corporate misconduct, the Supreme Court could be turning corporations into entities that are too big to be held accountable.

So conservatives who say they love America, that America has justice and ideals, shuts down the basic democratic republican ideals of access to justice. That's right. If you as an individual join with others to seek an impartial hearing on the facts - conservatives have decided you should just stuff it. No justice for you because there will be no hearing of the evidence..

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Big Lie - Tax Cuts Create Jobs. A Decade of Economic Disaster

The Big Lie - Tax Cuts Create Jobs. A Decade of Economic Disaster

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the first of the two tax cuts sought by President George W. Bush. The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act was enacted in 2001 to be followed, in 2003, by the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act.

Ten years later, it is time we assess the actual results of these tax cuts, looking at economic performance rather than political promises. The results have been a disaster for the U.S. economy and for almost all of the American people. We have had very slow income and employment growth for the vast majority of families, an extremely unequal distribution of the direct financial benefits from these measures and very slow growth in the economy as a whole.

As a high-income person who has received these tax cuts during the past 10 years, I feel that it is my responsibility to speak out.

Supporters of tax cuts for high-income households, such as House Speaker John Boehner (R.-Ohio), argue that rich people are the “job creators” and that tax cuts encourage them to create jobs and that these new jobs, in turn, increase employment opportunities and improve the wages of the rest of the population.

Did any of these benefits occur after the Bush tax cuts? The quick and accurate answer is, no, they did not. Adjusted for inflation, the median weekly earnings of working Americans actually fell 2.3 percent from the end of the 2000-01 recession to the onset of the Great Recession. This is unique in the post World War II period.

Further, the recovery from the 2000-01 recession was the slowest of any post World War II recession to date, requiring 39 months before the number of employed Americans reached the pre-recession level. Where is even a scintilla of evidence that tax cuts such as those passed in 2001 and 2003 generate income and employment growth for the vast majority of the population?

A significant part of the failure of the Bush tax cuts to generate jobs and income growth flows from the top-heavy distribution of the benefits conveyed by these measures. The vast bulk of the reduced taxes were reaped by a very small number of families. In 2011, the average tax reduction to families receiving an income of $1 million or more (about 321,000 families) will be $139,199.

For this less than 0.5 percent of all families this is a total reduction in taxes of $860 million/week. Compare these tax benefits with the yearly savings proposed by cutting the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) health and nutrition program: $833 million. An obvious question is, why can’t this very small group of very high-income families give up just one week of their tax cut to provide nutrition for the tens of thousands of women and children that benefit from the WIC program?

More significantly, in light of the deficit hysteria gripping Washington, D.C., the combined impact of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts has been the addition of more than $2.6 trillion to the federal debt. This included more than $400 billion in interest payments on the debt necessary to pay for the cuts.

Of course, one might forgive these policy failures if the promise of economic growth had been fulfilled. On this measure, however, the record is even worse.

The 2000-01 recession ended in the fourth quarter of 2001, just in time for the first Bush tax cut to take effect. From the end of the recession until the onset of the Great Recession, the economy grew at a slower rate than in any other post recession period since World War II. Thus, despite promises from the advocates of the tax cuts, the reality was slower growth rather than faster growth. The additional tax cut in 2003 did nothing to increase the pace of economic growth.

In sum, the Bush tax cuts were a bad idea at the time and are an even worse idea today. Ending these cuts for incomes over $250,000 would generate over $100 billion a year in additional revenue. If we also created additional tax rates for very high-income families (e.g., at $500,000, $1 million, $5 million and $10 million) we could increase federal revenue by more than double that amount and put ourselves on the road to reducing deficits and debts.

William Barclay worked for 22 years in financial services before retiring from that sector, and the Chicago Stock Exchange, in 2004. He is now an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Liautaud Graduate School of Business and is a member of Wealth for the Common Good.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Perverse Conservative Meme of The Week - Obama and ATM Machines

Right-Wing Republican Media Attack Obama For Accurate Remarks On Business' Investment In Automated Machines

Right-wing media have seized on recent comments by President Obama to claim that Obama "blame[d] ATMs for high unemployment." But Obama's full comments show that he was suggesting that businesses are investing more heavily in automated machines than in hiring new employees, a view shared by economists.
Obama: "[B]usinesses Have Learned To Become Much More Efficient With A Lot Fewer Workers"

Obama: "[T]here Are Some Structural Issues With Our Economy Where A Lot Of Businesses Have Learned To Become Much More Efficient With A Lot Fewer Workers." From a June 14 interview on NBC's Today:

    ANN CURRY (host, NBC's Today): You're here encouraging private sector hiring. This just after The New York Times just past -- this past Friday reported that since the recovery began, businesses have spent just 2 percent more on hiring people, while at the same time spending 26 percent more on equipment. So why, at a time when corporate America is enjoying record profits have you been unable to convince businesses to hire more people, Mr. President?

    OBAMA: Well, I don't think it's a matter of me being unable to convince them to hire more people. They're making decisions based on what they think will be good for their companies. A couple of things have happened. Look, we went through the worst crisis since the Great Depression. We are now in a process where the economy is growing again, and we've created 2 million jobs over the last 15 months. But it's not as fast as it needs to be to make up for all the jobs that were lost.

    The other thing that happened, though, and this goes to the point you were just making, is there are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM; you don't go to a bank teller. Or you go to the airport, and you're using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate. So all these things have created changes in the economy, and what we have to do now -- and that's what this job council is all about -- is identifying where the jobs for the future are going to be; how do we make sure that there's a match between what people are getting trained for and the jobs that exist; how do we make sure that capital is flowing into those places with the greatest opportunity. We are on the right track. The key is figuring out how do we accelerate it. [NBC, Today, 6/14/11]

Right-Wing Media Seize On ATM Remark To Attack Obama As "Completely And Utterly Ignorant About Job Creation"

Fox Nation: "Obama Blames ATMs For High Unemployment." A June 14 Fox Nation post embedded video of Obama's comments under the headline, "Obama Blames ATMs for High Unemployment." [Fox Nation, 6/14/11]

But Economists Agree With Obama's Suggestion That Technology Advancements Have Displaced Workers

NFIB Economist: Shift To Automated Production "Displaces A Lot Of Workers At Once." In a June 9 New York Times article, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) chief economist William Dunkelberg cited the mechanization of farming as an example of mass worker displacement by automated production. From the Times:

    Of course the shift to more automated production predates the Great Recession. And in the long run, better technology lowers prices, raises living standards and helps workers move into higher-paying jobs. This was the case with the mechanization of farming, which a century ago employed 41 percent of the American work force.

    "We don't have 11 million unemployed farmers today because over time farmers and their children transitioned into different sectors," says William C. Dunkelberg, chief economist at the National Federation of Independent Business. "We don't usually have this kind of shock, though, that displaces a lot of workers at once."

    Better technologies may eventually offer better job opportunities, but only if people can upgrade their skills quickly enough to qualify. That is hard to do in the short run, especially when so many displaced workers need to be retrained at once. [The New York Times, 6/9/11]

Harvard Economist: "If You're Doing Something That Can Be Written Down In A Programmatic, Algorithmic Manner, You're Going To Be Substituted For Quickly." The Times further reported:

    Usually economists cheer on capital spending, and have supported Congress's tax breaks for capital investment, like bonus depreciation, which lets companies expense the full cost of purchases immediately instead of waiting several years. That is because capital and labor can be complementary: a business that buys a new truck often hires a new driver, too.

    But with the rising costs of hiring, companies like Vista are finding ways to use capital to replace workers whose jobs are relatively routine.

    "If you're doing something that can be written down in a programmatic, algorithmic manner, you're going to be substituted for quickly," said Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard. [The New York Times, 6/9/11]

Barclays Economist: "Firms Are Just Responding To Incentives. ... And Capital Has Gotten Much Cheaper Relative To Labor." The Times further reported that chief United States economist at Barclays Capital Dean Maki stated, "Firms are just responding to incentives. ... And capital has gotten much cheaper relative to labor." From the Times:

    Two years into the recovery, hiring is still painfully slow. The economy is producing as much as it was before the downturn, but with seven million fewer jobs. Since the recovery began, businesses' spending on employees has grown 2 percent as equipment and software spending has swelled 26 percent, according to the Commerce Department. A capital rebound that sharp and a labor rebound that slow have been recorded only once before -- after the 1982 recession.

    With equipment prices dropping, and tax incentives to subsidize capital investments, these trends seem likely to continue.

    "Firms are just responding to incentives," said Dean Maki, chief United States economist at Barclays Capital. "And capital has gotten much cheaper relative to labor." [The New York Times, 6/9/11]

NY Times: MIT Economics Professor Said That "Jobs In The Middle Are Being Lost To Automation And Outsourcing, And Now Job Growth At The Top Is Slowing Because Of Automation." From a March 4 Times article:

    David H. Autor, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says the United States economy is being "hollowed out." New jobs, he says, are coming at the bottom of the economic pyramid, jobs in the middle are being lost to automation and outsourcing, and now job growth at the top is slowing because of automation.

    "There is no reason to think that technology creates unemployment," Professor Autor said. "Over the long run we find things for people to do. The harder question is, does changing technology always lead to better jobs? The answer is no."

    Automation of higher-level jobs is accelerating because of progress in computer science and linguistics. Only recently have researchers been able to test and refine algorithms on vast data samples, including a huge trove of e-mail from the Enron Corporation. [The New York Times, 3/4/11]

Vista Technologies Managing Director: "You Don't Have To Train Machines." The June 9 Times article further quoted Dan Mishek, managing director of Vista Technologies, as saying that hiring employees "has some hidden costs, as well as the expenses of salary and benefits" and that "you don't have to train machines."

This is becoming a pathetic pattern by those pretend patriots who call them selves conservatives. They twist facts, lie, manufacture a narrative that bears little resemblance to reality and move on to the next falsehood or smear or hatchet job. Conservative do not and have never loved the USA. They love their egos, money and the sound of their own voice. Their foreign policies caught 4000 Americans killed for a lie. They created the worse economic disaster in  80 years. Just judging by their actions one could swear conservatives are one of America's worse enemies.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Did President Obama Make The Economy Worse

Did President Obama Make The Economy Worse. Of course Fox News and all its "fair and balanced" "reporters" and "experts" feel very deeply that President Obama did makes things worse. As usual the facts are not on their side.

Right-wing media have seized on a line from a Peggy Noonan column -- "he made it worse" -- and have begun repeating the false message that President Obama's policies have worsened the economy. In reality, there is broad agreement among economists that the stimulus boosted growth and employment, and most of the deficit is attributable to Bush policies and the recession.

[   ]...National Review: Noonan "Finds The Campaign Theme"

National Review's Ponnuru Titles Blog Post "Peggy Noonan Finds The Campaign Theme." The day Noonan's column was published, National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru posted an entry to the National Review Online blog The Corner that excerpted from the column and declared that she had found the campaign theme. [National Review Online, The Corner, 6/3/11]
Fox Figures Hammer Home False Message That Obama "Made It Worse"

Doocy Touts Noonan's Claim In "Great Editorial": "It Comes Down To Four Words: 'He Made It Worse.' " From the June 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends

[   ]... Charles Krauthammer: "I Think You Can Argue Strongly That The Obama Administration Made It Worse." From the June 7 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier

[   ]...Analyses Agree: Stimulus Curbed Unemployment And Boosted Growth, And Most Debt Is Attributable to Bush Policies And Economic Downturn

Independent And Private Analysts: Stimulus Significantly Raised Employment. As Media Matters has previously documented, many analysts confirmed that the stimulus significantly raised employment. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the stimulus increased the number of people employed, as of the second quarter of FY2010, by "between 1.4 million and 3.3 million." Moody's estimated it would have created 1.9 million jobs by 2010. [Media Matters, 9/26/10]

Economists: "The Effects Of The Fiscal Stimulus" On Economy "Appear Very Substantial." Economists also agreed that the stimulus was effective. A March 2010 study in The Wall Street Journal found that 70 percent of economists surveyed said the stimulus "boosted growth and mitigated job losses." ABC News reported on February 18, 2010, that most of the economists on its panel thought the economy "would be worse today without the big aid package." And a February 2010 survey of 203 members of the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) found that "[e]ighty-three percent believe that GDP is currently higher than it would have been without the 2009 stimulus package (ARRA)." [Media Matters, 9/26/10]

Wash. Post Graphic Shows Bush Tax Cuts And Iraq Wars Contributed Most To Current Deficit. From a June 4 post on The Washington Post blog PostPolitics:

    In the debate over the nation's rising debt, rhetoric trumps reality. In January 2001, the U.S. budget was balanced for the first time in decades and the Congressional Budget Office was forecasting surpluses totaling $5.6 trillion by 2011. A decade later, the national debt is larger, as a percentage of the economy, than at any time in U.S. history except for the period shortly after World War II.


    In fact, 75 percent of the members currently serving in Congress voted for at least one -- and in most cases more than one -- of three policies that contributed to fully one-third of the $12.7 trillion swing from projected surpluses to real debt: President George W. Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and President Obama's 2009 stimulus bill.

The post also included the following graphic illustrating the CBO's estimates on how much Bush's tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the 2009 stimulus contributed to the current debt:


[The Washington Post, 6/4/11]

CBPP: "[V]irtually The Entire Deficit Over The Next Ten Years" Due To Bush Policies, Economic Downturn." The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) published an analysis of federal deficits in December 2009, which was updated on June 28, 2010, titled, "Critics Still Wrong on What's Driving Deficits in Coming Years: Economic Downturn, Financial Rescues, and Bush-Era Policies Drive the Numbers." The report noted:

    Some critics continue to assert that President George W. Bush's policies bear little responsibility for the deficits the nation faces over the coming decade -- that, instead, the new policies of President Barack Obama and the 111th Congress are to blame.  Most recently, a Heritage Foundation paper downplayed the role of Bush-era policies (for more on that paper, see p. 4).  Nevertheless, the fact remains: Together with the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years. see chart above.
Conservatives and their policies are responsible for the greatest economic down turn in American history after the Great Depression. No wonder they are desperately trying to double up on the propaganda to deflect blame.

Monday, June 13, 2011

O'Reilly and Fox News Has Long Been A Home For Race-Baiting Attacks

O'Reilly and Fox News Has Long Been A Home For Race-Baiting Attacks

Bill O'Reilly attacked Rev. Wallace Charles Smith, whose church President Obama attended on Easter Sunday, as a "race activist" for claiming that Fox News provides a forum for racially charged statements. In fact, Fox News has a history of hosts and guests who make race-baiting statements, in addition to its relentless promotion of the phony New Black Panthers controversy.

O'Reilly "Offended" By Pastor's Suggestion That Fox Promotes Racism

From the April 26 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

    O'REILLY: Finally, as you may know, Mr. and Mrs. Obama attended Easter services at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington. Here's the problem: The pastor's a guy named Wallace Smith, who is a race activist. Here's what he said in a speech last year.

    SMITH [video clip]: When you look at what's going on, it may not be Jim Crow anymore. Now Jim Crow wears blue pinstripes, goes to law school, and carries fancy briefs and cases. And now Jim Crow has become James Crow, Esquire. And he doesn't have to wear white robes anymore because now he can wear the protective cover of talk radio or can get a regular news program on Fox.

[  ]...In Fact, Fox Has A Long History Of Airing Race-Baiting Attacks On Obama

Beck: Obama Satisfying His "Desire For Racial Justice" Though "Intimidation, Vilification, Bullying." Glenn Beck said on his Fox News show: "We have demonstrated President Obama's desire for racial justice, but how is he setting out to achieve it? Exactly the way a community organizer would: through intimidation, vilification, bullying, a system, an underground shell game." Beck continued: "Look how he has handled different things. [Henry Louis] Gates -- he calls the cops stupid and racist before he admits, he says, 'I don't know all of the facts.' But he jumps to the conclusion that the cops are racist." [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 7/23/09]

Beck Called Obama A "Racist" With A "Deep-Seated Hatred For White People." Discussing on Fox News' Fox & Friends Obama's response to the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Beck asserted that Obama has "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture." After being reminded that Obama has numerous white staffers, Beck contradicted himself, stating, "I'm not saying that he doesn't like white people. I'm saying he has a problem," before going on to state, "this guy is, I believe, a racist." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/28/09]

Beck: "[R]acist" Is "Too Small Of A Word" To Describe "Those In Power." Beck said on his Fox News show that "I have learned a lot. We don't need to call people names. We don't have to. Their words are evidence enough. They cannot make the argument in the open. They know no man of any color would choose to be enslaved, so they have to lie, they have to cheat. I don't think that those in power and those who seek even more power are racists, as I have come to understand that 'racist' is too small of a word. I believe these people will enslave any man -- it doesn't matter what color they are." [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 7/26/10]

Beck Suggested Obama Doesn't Believe All Men Are Created Equal. After claiming that President Obama "knows" that Arizona police "will act stupidly" and "be racist," Beck asked, "Does he believe that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights?" [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 8/3/10]

Beck Claimed Obama Didn't Want To Meet With BP Chief Because He's A "White CEO," Says Obama's Comments "Sound Like Racism." On his Fox News show, Beck misrepresented comments Obama made during a 1995 interview to claim Obama did not want to meet with BP CEO Tony Hayward because he is a "white CEO" and that Obama's comments were "code language" that "sounds like racism," "stereotyping," and "profiling" [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 6/14/10]

Tucker Carlson: Obama Used "Racial Anxiety For Political Gain." On Special Report, Fox News contributor Tucker Carlson criticized Obama's midterm election message, in which Obama told supporters that it "will be up to each of you to make sure that the young people, African-Americans, Latinos, and women who powered our victory in 2008 stand together once again." After host Bret Baier played a clip of the video, Carlson said: "So, how's this different substantially from Nixon's Southern Strategy? What he's doing is, saying, 'You have reason to fear on racial grounds; therefore, vote for me.' I think he is using racial anxiety for political gain." [Fox News, Special Report, 4/27/10]

Ingraham: Obama "Channeled His Best Jeremiah Wright Accent" In NAACP Speech. Talking about a speech Obama gave to the NAACP, O'Reilly Factor guest host Laura Ingraham said: "Last night, President Obama spoke to the NAACP and channeled his best Jeremiah Wright accent." After airing a clip of Obama's remarks, Ingraham added: "Now, why does the first African-American president feel the need to affect an accent that he clearly does not possess? Or is that the way people speak in Honolulu? It's a cheap attempt to pander to an audience that already supports him." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/17/10]

Kilmeade, Johnson Claimed Obama Was Referring To Racial Segregation With His Car Analogy. Responding to Obama's statement that middle-class families should be "up in front," while Republicans can "come for the ride, but they've got to sit in back," Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade asked if Obama was "bringing up imagery of segregation," while Fox News analyst Peter Johnson Jr. said that Obama was making "a reference to the notion of being in the back of the bus," adding, "So, now we have a president referring to this kind of malignant, charged era in history." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/27/10]

Crowley Claimed Obama's Car Analogy Had "Racial Overtones." Monica Crowley said Obama's car analogy was "appalling" and that if it had been a Republican president, "there might even be a movement to impeach at this point, but this man gets away with it." Crowley also said: "I think after the civil rights movement of the 1960s, 'riding in the back' certainly does have some civil rights, some racial overtones to it, and you can't tell me that the president of the United States was not aware of that when he said it." [Fox News, America Live, 10/27/10]

Fox Host Varney: Obama's Alleged Treatment Of Churchill Bust Due To His Father Being A "Native Kenyan." From the February 7 edition of Fox News' America Live:

    MEGYN KELLY (host): [T]he thing about the bust, has the White House ever spoken out publicly to actually explain why they sent that bust back?

    VARNEY: It was apparently because President Obama's father, who was a native Kenyan --

    KELLY: Have they admitted to that?

    VARNEY: I believe that that is out there. I've not read the formal statement, but an explanation was requested and that was the explanation was that President Obama's father, being a native Kenyan, disliked the British colonial rule in Kenya that ended in 1963. [Fox News, America Live, 2/7/11]

Fox Touted Phony, Racially Charged Scandal, But Largely Ignored Its Debunking. Accusations that President Obama's Justice Department engaged in racially charged "corruption" in the New Black Panther Party case, promoted by right-wing activist J. Christian Adams, were given heavy coverage on Fox News despite the unsubstantiated nature of Adams' charges. When an internal investigation cleared DOJ officials of any wrongdoing or misconduct in that case, Fox News programs devoted just two segments and 88 seconds to the story, compared with the 95 segments and more than eight hours of airtime they devoted to the phony scandal. [Media Matters, 7/16/10, 4/13/11]

    Breitbart, Asman Agreed Obama Is "Defending Racism" In New Black Panthers Case, Which Is "Virtually The Same" As Being Racist. On Fox Business' America's Nightly Scoreboard, Andrew Breitbart agreed with host David Asman, who stated that while it "may or may not be true" that Obama is a racist, "in letting the Black Panthers off," Obama "is defending racists," which is "virtually the same, in my mind, as to whether you're a racist or not." [Fox Business, America's Nightly Scoreboard, 7/6/10]

Fox's Race Baiting Not Limited To Attacks On Obama

Stossel Said "Private Businesses Ought To Get To Discriminate" And "It Should Be Their Right To Be Racist." On Fox News' America Live, Fox Business Network host John Stossel stated that "it's time now to repeal" the public accommodations sections of the Civil Rights Act. Stossel went on to say that "private businesses ought to get to discriminate" and that "it should be their right to be racist," adding that he personally would not go into a business that discriminated. [Fox News, America Live, 5/20/10]

Doocy: Sherrod's Comments Were "Exhibit A" Of "What Racism Looks Like." Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said that Shirley Sherrod made "a speech to the NAACP that sure sounded racist." Later, after guest host Alisyn Camerota asserted that Sherrod's remarks are "outrageous, and perhaps everybody needs a refresher course on what racism looks like," Doocy responded that Sherrod's comments were "Exhibit A." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/20/10]

Crowley: Sherrod May Be Among The "Racists" In The Obama Administration. Discussing Andrew Breitbart's truncated video of Sherrod on The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News contributor Monica Crowley suggested that Sherrod may be among the "radicals, racists, socialists" in the Obama administration. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/20/10] 
We backed into a corner Fox News has admitted that its commentators are biased. Than they claim their news is different, their straight news reporting is not biased. There is a huge Orwellian sized problem with that. No one can tell where their news starts and their radical fascist -lite agenda starts.

FDR once said that fascism is an unholy alliance between government and business - Using the Legislature to Crush Your Competition. What are Republicans in Wisconsin smoking?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Destroying Medicare to Balance the Budget is a False Narrative. We Have a Revenue Problem.The United States Is a Low-Tax Country

Destroying Medicare to Balance the Budget is a False Narrative. We Have a Revenue Problem.The United States Is a Low-Tax Country

Ten Charts that Prove the United States Is a Low-Tax Country ( see above).
Our Citizens and Corporations Pay Much Less Than They Once Did and Much Less Than in Most Other Countries.

The United States is a low-tax country. That’s true for individuals and for corporations, and it’s true whether you compare us to other countries or the America of the past. No matter how you slice it the conclusion is the same.

Conservatives like to claim that our budget deficits are purely a “spending problem.” Said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “We don’t have this problem because we tax too little. We have it because we spent too much.”

It’s a popular talking point, but it simply isn’t true. Deficits do not stem from spending levels alone. They are the product of a mismatch between spending and revenue. And when revenue is as low as ours is, you end up with big deficits.

Recently, President Obama met with a group of House Republicans to discuss the federal budget and the national debt. During the course of that meeting, the president noted, correctly, that taxes today are even lower than they were under President Ronald Reagan. This fact was met with “a lot of ‘eye-rolling’” from the Republicans. They didn’t believe him.

This anecdote suggests that perhaps the reason conservatives think we don’t have a revenue problem is because they don’t know the facts. Taxes today are lower than they were under President Reagan. They’re lower today than they’ve been in 60 years. And they’re lower than they are in most developed countries.

We do have a debt problem coming down the road. That debt problem is the result of an aging population, rising health care costs, and, yes, revenue levels that are too low.

Michael Linden is the Director for Tax and Budget Policy at American Progress, Seth Hanlon is Director of Fiscal Reform for CAP's Doing What Works project, and Jordan Eizenga is a Policy Analyst with the Economic Policy team at American Progress.

Amazing what trash becomes a national narrative, pushed along by the so-called liberal media. As of today in order to be a'serious adult" one has to beleive that our national finances are in such diaarry we must destroy or severely cripple programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security because the deficit is high. One of the reasons for that is simple: The Bush tax cuts and a low tax on capital gains. In other words we have a revenue problem. Republicans, the people who lost 17 trillion dollars of America's wealth in the Great Recession which begin in 2007, claim taxes are too high. How often do conservatives have to burn America before people get tired of being burned. Time to say enough with the kind of BS spoon feed the American public by serial lying snake oil salesman like Mitch McConnell(R-KY) and the Anti-America stooges at Fox News.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Republican Hypocrite of the Week - Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) Wanted to Destroy Social Security Before He Wanted to Save It

Republican Hypocrite of the Week - Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) Wanted to Destroy Social Security Before He Wanted to Save It

Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) can't make up his mind on what he thinks about Social Security.
As ThinkProgress reported last week, Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) faced an angry crowd of constituents last month after telling them at a town hall meeting that Social Security is a “pyramid scheme” that “isn’t working.” The congressman doubled down this week, once again referring to the program as a “pyramid scheme” during an appearance on a local radio show, telling a caller he was “exactly right” to call it that. Then Wednesday morning, on a seperate radio show, he called his aforementioned comments a “poor choice of words.”

At a town hall last night, Heck refused to address his previous comments and only claimed that he actually wants to defend the program:

    U.S. Rep. Joe Heck vowed Wednesday to preserve Social Security but refused to explain why he called the federal program a “pyramid scheme” that does not work. [...] “At this point I am not going to comment on that question,” Heck told a reporter who probed him about the pyramid scheme gaffe. When another reporter asked him about the comment after the meeting, he ignored the question and walked out of the room, avoiding the crowd of constituents gathered to greet him. [...] At Wednesday’s town hall, he said he would protect the program, adding, “For future generations there may need to be changes for long-term sustainability.”

Responding to Heck’s rapidly changing positions, Americans United for Change’s Jeremy Funk said, “It’s a good thing Congressman Heck decided to keep his government health care benefits despite opposing health reform. He may need to be treated for whiplash soon, with all the flip-flopping going on here.”
"First, in the case of Social Security, no one is being misled. Madoff and other Ponzi schemers allegedly falsely claimed to have discovered a "black box" method of earning impressive results, and by doing so enticed individuals and organizations to invest with him. Social Security is exactly what it claims to be: A mandatory transfer payment system under which current workers are taxed on their incomes to pay benefits, with no promises of huge returns. (Of course, it's true that if Madoff had the power to require participation, he would have had an easier time keeping his alleged scheme rolling.)

Second, Social Security isn't automatically doomed to fail. Played out to its logical conclusion, a Ponzi scheme is unsustainable because the number of potential investors is eventually exhausted. That's when the last people to participate are out of luck; the music stops and there's nowhere to sit."

Social Security is morally the polar opposite of a Ponzi scheme and fundamentally different from what Madoff allegedly did. At the height of the Great Depression, our society resolved to create a safety net  in the form of a social insurance policy that would pay modest benefits to retirees, the disabled and the survivors of deceased workers. By design, that means a certain amount of wealth is not paid in wages but deferred to be collected on retirement. Social Security is one of the major ways in which the USA elevated poverty among seniors. Mr. Ponzi died in a charity hospital penniless.

One thing conservatives are consistent about is demonizing things they do not like with falsehoods and illogical arguments. Conservatism remains to be one of the biggest threats to American traditions and way of life.

Colbert Reenacts Revere's Famous Ride To Prove Palin Right (VIDEO). Why do conservatives keep saying they want to return to some kind of American originalism yet do not know sqaut about American history.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Bank Lobby And Republicans Steps Up Attacks on America's Advocate Elizabeth Warren

The Bank Lobby Steps Up Its Attack on Elizabeth Warren

On May 24 Elizabeth Warren was back on Capitol Hill testifying before Congress, defending her brainchild, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a key element of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation. Warren is a major celebrity in Washington, an Oklahoma-born Harvard law professor who’s done more than anyone since Ralph Nader to put consumer protection on the national agenda. The room was packed with reporters, consumer advocates and lobbyists. GOP Representative Patrick McHenry, who chaired the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing, could barely hide his disgust for the CFPB and Warren, accusing her of lying to Congress and frequently interrupting her answers. “In a few short weeks,” McHenry warned ominously, “the bureau will become a powerful instrument in the hands of progressive regulators.”

In part because it’s one of the strongest aspects of Dodd-Frank, the CFPB has become a favorite target of Republican attacks, right up there with George Soros, ACORN and Planned Parenthood. It’s been called “one of the greatest assaults on economic liberty in my lifetime” (Representative Jeb Hensarling) and “the most powerful agency ever created” (Representative Spencer Bachus). The Wall Street Journal opinion page denounced Warren and the bureau three times in one week in March. And the bureau hasn’t even officially launched!

On May 13 the House Financial Services Committee passed three bills designed to weaken the CFPB, which goes live on July 21. One was sponsored by freshman Representative Sean Duffy, the telegenic former star of The Real World: Boston. When he entered Congress, Duffy admitted he “wasn’t very familiar” with “banking issues, housing issues, insurance issues. These are specific issues that I didn’t deal with in my entire life.” Yet within a few months he found himself denouncing the CFPB as a “rogue agency” with an “authoritarian structure” and introducing legislation to give existing banking regulators greater authority to override the bureau’s new rules. Other bills passed by the committee sought to change the structure of the bureau from a single director to a bipartisan commission, making it harder to act quickly and decisively, and prevent the bureau from assuming power until the Senate confirms a director. In a rather stunning bit of hostage taking, forty-four Senate Republicans recently announced they would not approve any nominee for the CFPB unless the GOP proposals were implemented. (Warren and CFPB officials declined interview requests.)

At one May hearing Duffy claimed his bill would protect small bankers and credit unions in his district. “I come from central and northern Wisconsin,” he said. “This is not Wall Street, I promise you.” Yet the legislation has endeared him to the most powerful financial interests on Capitol Hill and K Street’s lobbying corridor. In recent months groups opposed to the bureau, such as the American Bankers Association (ABA), the American Financial Services Association (AFSA), the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) and the National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU), have donated thousands to Duffy’s re-election campaign. “Why is Sean Duffy sponsoring this legislation?” asks Ed Mierzwinski, director of the consumer program at USPIRG. “How many big banks are in Wausau, Wisconsin? This is all about money.”

The three chief sponsors of the CFPB bills—Duffy, Bachus and Shelley Moore Capito—received a total of $1.4 million from the finance, real estate and insurance sector during the 2010 election. Now they’re returning the favor. The GOP Congressional assault on the CFPB is a clever way for the caucus to appeal to the Tea Party’s antigovernment fervor while attracting prodigious campaign contributions from Wall Street and forcing the Obama administration to play defense on yet another critical piece of legislation. ”This is a preview of coming attractions,” says Congressman Barney Frank, the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, “and the audience is the business community and their donors.”

The idea for the bureau emerged from a 2007 essay by Warren in Democracy. “If it’s good enough for microwaves, it’s good enough for mortgages,” she wrote. The horror stories of the financial crisis—ballooning subprime mortgages, payday loans with 400 percent interest rates, inescapable credit card debt—added urgency to her proposal for a new consumer agency modeled on the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

During last year’s financial reform debate, Congressional Republicans, along with some bank-friendly Democrats, launched a furious campaign to defeat the bureau. The US Chamber of Commerce led a $2 million industrywide ad campaign opposing the CFPB, using a butcher as its unlikely public face. “Virtually every business that extends credit to American consumers would be affected—even the local butcher,” one ad claimed. “I don’t know how many of your butchers are offering financial services,” quipped President Obama after meeting victims of lending abuses. The financial services firms that will fall under CFPB purview—big and small banks, payday lenders, mortgage brokers—did all they could to weaken it and create special exemptions for their industries, yet the consumer bureau improbably became “one of the central aspects of financial reform,” according to Obama, and the most tangible victory for consumers. Under pressure from consumer advocates, the administration named Warren a special adviser to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, her onetime foe, and the bureau’s interim director. Now Congressional Republicans and their industry backers are mounting a last-ditch effort to constrain the CFPB before its launch. Warren, according to associates, views this as an attempt to “pull the arms and legs off of the agency.”

* * *

The CFPB will inherit consumer protection responsibilities from seven agencies and assume powers to police “unfair, deceptive, or abusive” financial services products. It will write new rules and enforce existing ones for banks with assets of $10 billion or more and the tens of thousands of companies in the shadow banking industry—payday lenders, student loan companies, mortgage brokers, debt collectors, pawn shops. Smaller banks will be subject to CFPB rules, but other regulators like the FDIC will enforce them. According to Americans for Financial Reform (AFR), a coalition of consumer groups, “The CFPB has authority to write rules affecting mortgage down payments and disclosures, loan modifications, credit card rates and fees, bank overdraft programs, credit score usage, and eligibility for student loans, credit cards, pre-paid cards and more….[and] to impose fines on companies, require restitution (repayment) to aggrieved consumers, rescind consumer contracts and/or file lawsuits against firms that violate its rules.”

The bureau’s mission is mostly about making it easier for consumers to understand the often indecipherable fine print that financial firms throw at them. To do that, Warren wants to strike a balance between government intervention and personal responsibility. “If there had been just a few basic rules and a cop on the beat to enforce them, we could have avoided or minimized the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression,” she wrote to Congress. “In the future, the new consumer bureau will be that cop.” It even has a shield as its logo.

Under an unusual arrangement, the bureau will be housed in the Federal Reserve but have independent authority. Despite claims about its unlimited power, the CFPB is the only banking regulator whose budget will be capped (for now, at 12 percent of the total Fed budget) and whose rules can be overturned (by a two-thirds vote from the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a new group of top federal economic policy-makers). Warren calls the CFPB the “most constrained of all federal agencies.” Nonetheless, its creation was a historic feat. “The last time this country made any significant pro-consumer advances was in the ’70s,” Warren said, referring to Nader’s heyday. “The resulting bureau has the independence and the authority it needs to get the job done,” concludes AFR.

Warren and the CFPB are up against what she estimates to be a $3 trillion consumer financial services industry, which views the bureau as a potentially grave threat to its prosperity. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 156 groups—the vast majority representing corporate interests—lobbied the government about the CFPB in the second half of 2010 and the first quarter of 2011. The list ranged from JPMorgan Chase to McDonald’s. For some in the business community, the CFPB represents an annoying “nuisance,” says Scott Talbot, chief lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable, while for others it’s “holy jihad.”

Representatives from the Chamber, ABA, ICBA, Consumer Bankers Association (CBA), CUNA and NAFCU testified in favor of the House bills, which gives a pretty good sense of where Republicans are getting their legislative direction. “I certainly think they’re talking to the Chamber,” says Mark Calabria, a former Republican aide on the Senate Banking Committee who is director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute. “I certainly think they’re talking to the bankers.” Different sectors in the finance community feuded over Dodd-Frank, but now they’re united in efforts to weaken the bureau.

The Chamber has an entire division devoted to fighting Dodd-Frank, the Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness, and a huge budget. In the first quarter of this year, the Chamber spent $17 million on federal lobbying, far more than any other group, with a dozen lobbyists focused on the CFPB alone. In 2009 the Chamber was anything but subtle in its attacks on the bureau. “We’re fundamentally trying to kill this,” said senior director Ryan McKee. It called the CFPB an “unprecedented expansion of government intervention” and a “new tax” on small businesses. But after losing round one, the Chamber and other opponents decided to work behind closed doors. “They’re much more stealth than they were before,” says Mierzwinski of USPIRG. Who needs a public campaign, after all, when you have the House GOP as a new best friend?

Alabama Republican Spencer Bachus, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, aptly described the mindset of the incoming GOP majority in December: “In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.” Bachus led the House GOP’s effort to raise Wall Street money in 2010. In a meeting with 100 financial services lobbyists two months before the election, he castigated banks for giving more money to Democrats than to Republicans, according to Politico. The strategy worked—of the $22 million commercial banks gave to political parties and Congressional candidates in the 2010 cycle, 62 percent went to Republicans, compared with 52 percent in the 2008 cycle. Bachus was more reliant on donations from the finance sector during the 2010 cycle than any other member of Congress. In the first quarter of this year, 97 percent of his donations came from out of state, including $18,650 in one day from pawnbrokers across the country.

In addition to introducing the aforementioned legislation, Congressional Republicans tried unsuccessfully to cut the CFPB’s budget earlier this year and succeeded in mandating two audits of the bureau per year. “It’s a death-of-a-thousand-cuts strategy,” says Mierzwinski. “They’re throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if anything will stick,” adds Lisa Donner of AFR. The hope is to intimidate the Obama administration and/or lay the groundwork for a Dodd-Frank repeal if Obama loses in 2012. “If the House Republicans had their way, they would just repeal the CFPB!” said Hazen Marshall, a former Republican staff director for the Senate Budget Committee, earlier this year.

Before Dodd-Frank, the banks had rarely lost a fight on Capitol Hill. They don’t want to lose another one, which is why they’re trying to defang every aspect of the law. The twenty-six largest financial firms spent more money on lobbying in this quarter than during the peak of the reform fight last year. The ABA alone dropped $2.2 million on lobbying and has eleven lobbyists working on the CFPB, led by Wayne Abernathy, a former aide to Senate Banking chair Phil Gramm, who co-sponsored repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which helped spawn the economic crisis. The ICBA has spent $1 million on lobbying in 2011. The banking sector clashed over Dodd-Frank, with the ICBA supporting parts of the bill after winning an exemption from CFPB enforcement, while the ABA remained bitterly opposed. Yet both have backed the House GOP bills. The ABA claims Dodd-Frank will drive 1,000 small banks out of business.

To blunt the potential impact of CFPB, the biggest banks have leaned on their existing regulator, the industry-friendly Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, for support. “For years, the OCC has had the power and the responsibility to protect both banks and consumers, and it has consistently thrown the consumer under the bus,” Warren told The Nation in 2009. The OCC used its authority more than twenty times at the height of the bubble to pre-empt states and cities that tried to go after predatory subprime lending. As part of the CFPB’s creation, the banks managed to get an amendment that limited the ability of state regulators to sue national banks at the state level. The OCC recently announced a settlement with the country’s largest banks, which have admitted to massive foreclosure fraud, that is viewed as far more lenient than a deal being pursued by state attorneys general. (Republicans have accused Warren of masterminding the state AG deal, which Geoff Greenwood, spokesman for Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, calls “simply not true.”) The CFPB was established to mitigate this kind of cushy arrangement, which allowed banks to prosper while consumers suffered.

The banks have also found a strange bedfellow in the ?$42 billion payday lending industry, even though banks support the CFPB’s efforts to regulate that industry at the federal level for the first time. “The payday lenders would be the top foe of the CFPB,” says Mike Calhoun, president of the Center for Responsible Lending. “They recognize that CFPB has the power to put them out of business or make them fundamentally change their business model.” During the Dodd-Frank debate, payday lobbyists defeated amendments that would have capped payday interest rates and limited the number of loans one person can take out. “We have lobbyists, and they made their point,” industry spokesman Steven Schlein told The Huffington Post.

The industry continues to flex its lobby muscle to evade regulation. In 2002 the Community Financial Services Association, a trade group for payday lenders, hired top lobbyist Tim Rupli, a former aide to Tom DeLay “known for his ability to kill legislation and his prodigious fundraising power,” according to The Hill (he’s also on the payroll of ICBA). Another association for the payday industry, the Financial Service Centers of America, recently moved its headquarters from New Jersey to Washington and retained the services of ex-Senator Don Nickles, former GOP chair of the Budget Committee, as part of what FiSCA chair Joe Coleman calls its “greatly expanded lobbying teams.” He says the industry “must focus like a laser beam” on the CFPB. Everyone from Tea Party darling Dick Armey to civil rights groups like the National Urban League has worked with the industry. Former Democratic Representative Larry LaRocco, whose firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck represents the payday titan ACE Cash Express, is launching a website to monitor the bureau. “It’s going to be a huge bureau with many tentacles,” LaRocco predicts. “It’s going to be like an octopus shaking hands with itself.”

In response to these lobbying efforts, the CFPB is keeping its post-July plans close to the vest and focusing on low-hanging fruit, such as clearer mortgage disclosure forms, that can draw consensus among consumer advocates and industry groups. Everyone agrees the real fights are yet to come, once the CFPB goes live and begins tackling difficult issues like policing scams in the credit and mortgage markets, and cracking down on overdraft lending fees and shady prepaid credit cards. “There’s bound to be a fight about every single rule-making, supervision and enforcement action,” says Donner of AFR. That’s when the CFPB’s clout within the Obama administration will really be tested. “The dirty little secret in our community is that once in a while we succeed in passing laws, but keeping up with the trench warfare of implementation is enormously expensive, and we almost never have the resources to do it right,” says Travis Plunkett, legislative director of the Consumer Federation of America. One consumer advocate described the current stage as the honeymoon period between the CFPB and industry. If this is the honeymoon, Lord knows what the marriage will look like.

* * *

Since becoming the CFPB’s interim director in September, Warren has begun a well-publicized “charm offensive,” meeting regularly with leaders of the biggest Wall Street banks and the Chamber. She’s met with community bankers from all fifty states and won praise from JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and local bankers alike. The president of the ABA, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, even said in May he’d support her nomination to lead the bureau, before quickly walking back the endorsement under pressure from fellow bankers and Congressional Republicans. “We’ve embraced the CFPB because we want to make sure they get it right on behalf of the banking industry and the consumer,” says CBA president Richard Hunt. “It’s reality. Deal with it.” Warren’s open-door policy has helped win over skeptics. “Right now she’s trying to get out and just lower everyone’s anxiety,” says AFSA lobbyist Bill Himpler. At the very least, she’s forced some companies that are privately lobbying to weaken the CFPB to say nice things about it. “I reject the allegation that we’re trying to cripple the bureau,” says Talbot, who in ‘09 said his goal would be to “kill” it. “Our goal is to make it as effective as possible.” American Banker named Warren its Innovator of the Year in 2010.

Warren has been something of an outcast even within the Obama administration, dating back to her time as chair of the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel, when her withering questioning of Geithner achieved cult status among econ junkies on YouTube. “I’m a thorn in this administration’s side as much as in the last administration’s,” she said in 2010. Her populist politics scared the likes of Geithner, Larry Summers and Rahm Emanuel, and she was only reluctantly appointed interim director after an intense public campaign on her behalf. The administration has reportedly offered the CFPB post to former Delaware Senator Ted Kaufman, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and three state AGs, all of whom have turned it down. After all, Warren is uniquely suited to lead the agency she created.

For months the administration tried to find a director who could please Warren and Richard Shelby, ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee. But now that Shelby has threatened to block any nominee without changes to the bureau, the Obama team may be more inclined to install Warren via a recess appointment, which would last until the end of 2012, even if she complicates its outreach to the business community. “I was troubled the administration was going so slowly, but now Republicans have solved that problem with their announcement that they wouldn’t confirm anybody,” says Barney Frank, who calls Warren the front-runner. Sixty-five House Democrats have circulated a letter urging Obama to recess-appoint Warren, while a pro-Warren petition by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee generated 175,000 signatures in two days. (Harry Reid has urged her instead to run for the Senate in Massachusetts against Scott Brown.)

Shelby has said that a Warren recess appointment would be “dangerous to the American economy,” and the White House seems reluctant to pick another fight with him. The cantankerous Alabama senator, who last year put a hold on seventy administration nominees while fighting for a defense contract in his home state, recently scuttled well-regarded nominees for the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the Fed Board of Governors (the latter, Peter Diamond, boasts a Nobel Prize in economics). ABA lobbyist Wayne Abernathy predicts that some industry groups might challenge the legality of a Warren recess appointment. More broadly, five of the ten top federal financial regulator posts are empty or occupied by temporary caretakers, which suits opponents of reform just fine. If Obama doesn’t step in soon, the entire Dodd-Frank legislation may unravel from inertia.

Warren has seen this play before. In 1994 Congress established the National Bankruptcy Review Commission. Warren was its chief adviser. Banks hated the idea and urged Congress to ignore its findings. In 2005 Congress and the Bush administration enacted a bankruptcy bill, favored by the credit card companies, that made it harder for people to file for bankruptcy. Warren is determined not to let something like that happen again. “If it’s going to be weak,” she said of the new consumer bureau, “we’d just as soon not have it at all.”
One of the things that the tea baggers said made them angry was that they should not have to pay for Wall Street's failure (TARP has been largely paid back since then). Liberals warned that the tea baggers were false populists. They were really just pawns for the special interests that caused the Great Recession. It turns out Democrats and liberals were right. All the new tea baggers right-wingers in Congress - like Sean Duffy - are just puppets for the banks and large financial companies who tanked the economy. Now that we have some really modest reforms the special interests with the help of the tea nuts want to do away with that modest reform. They never did care about consumers or investors.

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How Koch Became An Oil Speculation Powerhouse. The graph at the top is part of this story.