Saturday, December 31, 2011

How Anti-American Conservatives Hijacked Rage Over the Economic Collapse and Swindled America
























How Anti-American Conservatives Hijacked Rage Over the Economic Collapse and Swindled America

In his new book, “Pity the Billionaire,” Tom Frank turns his mordant eye on the unlikeliest political development of the Obama presidency: how the crash of 2008 served to strengthen the political right. The deregulation of Wall Street, championed for 30 years by right-wing leaders, had led to an economic catastrophe so frightening that the country elected a liberal Democrat to the presidency. Yet two years later, the most conservative faction of the Republican Party, the Tea Party, had taken effective control of the House of Representatives, the regulation of Wall Street had stalled, and the champions of economic deregulation in Washington had emerged stronger than ever.

Frank, author of the bestselling book “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” provides a pithy and nuanced explanation of what he calls the “hard-times swindle.” He spoke with Salon from his father’s home in Kansas City, Mo.

Early in the book, you describe the moment in the spring of 2009 when free-market economics had been so thoroughly discredited that Newsweek could run a cover story proclaiming, “We’re all socialists now.” What happened? Why did that moment dissipate?

I saw that cover so many times [at Tea Party events]. For these people, that rang the alarm bell. I think the AIG moment [when the bailed-out insurance behemoth used taxpayer relief to dole out huge bonuses to its executives] was in some ways the high point of the crisis, when [the politics] could have gone either way. There was this amazing public outrage, and that for me was the turning point. Newsweek had another cover, “Thinking Man’s Guide to Populism,” and I remember this feeling around the country, that people were just furious. Somehow the right captured the sense of anger. They completely captured it. You could say they had no right to it, but they did. And one of the reasons they were able to do it was because the liberals were not interested in that anger.

I’m speaking here of the liberal culture in Washington, D.C. There was no Occupy Wall Street movement [at that time] and there was only people like me on the fringes talking about it. The liberals had their leader in Barack Obama … they had their various people in Congress. But these people are completely unfamiliar with populist anger. It’s an alien thing to them. They don’t trust it, and they have trouble speaking to it. I like Barack Obama, but at the end of the day he’s a very professorial kind of guy. The liberals totally missed the opportunity, and the right was able to grab it.

Looking back on it, I feel like people like myself were part of the problem. We sort of assumed with the Democrats in power, the system would correct itself.

One of the problems with liberalism in this country is that it’s headquartered in Washington and its leaders are a very comfortable class of people. Washington is one of the richest cities in the country, maybe the richest. It’s not a place that feels the crisis, that feels the economic downturn. By and large, the real estate market stayed OK. The city continued to boom. The contracts continued to flow. What we’re talking about here is the failure of modern liberalism. At one time it was a movement of working-class people. The idea that liberals wouldn’t feel economic pain was ridiculous. That’s who liberals were. No more.

You write that after Obama took office, “market populism was the only utopian scheme available to disgruntled Americans.” There was no liberal utopian scheme that said, “Here’s how we get out of this.”

There wasn’t even a Rooseveltian scheme, which was not utopian but very practical. Just to talk about Roosevelt would have been fantastic. One of the research points in the book that I thought was really interesting … was the history of the bailouts in 1932 and 1933 — when the Hoover administration did a lot of bailouts. We don’t remember that. [These bailouts] were massively unpopular for the same reason they were unpopular this time around: really blatant cronyism. We don’t remember that a big part of Franklin Roosevelt’s campaign [in 1932] was to be against these bailouts. There were maybe five newspaper articles in 2008 that mentioned this pre-history of the bailouts. It just never came up.

It was like the party’s muscle memory of the New Deal was lost. With Obama the muscle memory of the Democratic Party is the Clintonian technocracy of the 1990s.

That’s exactly right. Their message was: The technocratic way is going to solve our problems. Just leave it up to the experts who are going to figure a way out. [Obama and the Democrats]  seemed to think they didn’t need to dirty their hands by making a populist appeal. They did a lot of good things — the stimulus package of 2008 was good thing — but they didn’t realize you have to sell something like that. They were like, “We know what the answer is: Keynesian stimulus. So let’s just do it.” They didn’t understand that this nation only adopted Keynesian stimulus spending back in the 1930s amidst this terrible wrenching experience, the Depression, and an enormous campaign [by FDR] to tell the nation why this was necessary.

If you don’t sell it — if you just do this spending — well, people have a lot of suspicion of government handouts. Government debt bothers people for very obvious reasons. [Obama] didn’t make any effort to make the argument. It was just “listen to the experts.” I have a quote from [Obama economic advisor] Christy Roemer where she says, “Things would be better if we listened to the experts.” And she’s one of the good guys, one of the best people in the Obama administration. That’s their view.

You have an interesting discussion about how the Tea Party movement mimics what was once the left-wing style. This seems to be the dominant mode: The right is saying, “We’re the revolutionaries. We’re taking on the powers that be.”

At first I thought it was a peculiarity of Glenn Beck, and then I noticed it across the board. They picked up this 1930s style and language, complete with utopianism, with this intense faith in an economic system that will solve all your problems and that represents you perfectly, this miraculous economic system … So [the right] is constantly talking about this infernal elite that controls  government, controls corporations, and controls the academy, and that we have to wrench ourselves free.

So maybe it is true that the Obama technocracy is the infernal elite. Maybe not in the hellish way it is portrayed on the right, but in the sense that these are the defenders of bailouts, the defenders of the system.

I wouldn’t go too far with that, because I don’t think that is a way of understanding our modern world that can bear a lot of the weight. It is true that the Democrats completely imagine themselves as being the party of the professional class, and that is an elite. It’s not the elite, but it is an elite. The Democrats very definitely identify with academia. That’s the home of the professions, where they come from.

Still, I think that the conservative idea of revolting against the ruling class by holding up the market as an ideal is completely backwards. There is a ruling class in this country. But the notion that the free market is an act of rebellion against it seems pretty fanciful.  I can say it stronger than that. It is absolutely preposterous.

At one point you talk about “a cognitive withdrawal from the shared world.” It seems like the modern digital communication revolution encourages this. “A cognitive withdrawal from the shared world” — that sounds like a description of the Internet.

This is where we’re going. You can now believe things that are demonstrably false and never be challenged, directly or indirectly. You can withdraw. That’s the end that the Internet is constantly pushing us toward. That’s what modern marketing is all about.

So it’s a technological phenomenon, but it’s also an ideological phenomenon, a product of the times we’re in. You saw this in the ’30s, especially on the left. People would be so committed to this economic utopia [communism]. They believed in it, and their faith in it was so great … It is a product of economic collapse. People are desperate. They think their entire way of life is crumbling around them, and they reach for … a utopian system where everything is explained.

This is the genius of Fox News. It is fun to watch, and if you agree with them, it’s very gratifying to watch — and on a level deeper than most TV entertainment. The message is “You’ve worked really hard. You played by the rules and now they’re disrespecting you. They won’t let you say the word ‘Christmas.’”

You finished this book around the time Occupy Wall Street started. Were you surprised by the emergence of the movement?

I was surprised. I thought the left’s moment had passed. That was almost exactly three years after the crash of September 2008, and it seemed like the expiration date had come and gone. I’m very pleased, but in a lot of ways the horse has already left the barn.

Is it possible for the Occupy movement to reverse the gains of the right?

I hope so, but I honestly don’t know. At the end of the day I doubt it. My liberal friends have been doubting the right for decades. They’re always saying, “There’s no way these guys can recover now after this screw-up. People will never come back to them after this.” But they keep coming back.

The right does seems to be a little bit on the defensive at the moment. The dominant narrative of last summer — government spending is the problem — has been lost. Occupy Wall Street has injected a change in discourse. People aren’t defensive when they talk about inequality.

Tell me about it. When I started writing about inequality 10 years ago, it … was not something for NPR Book Talk. It was not quite within the bounds of the acceptable. Now it is. And that’s a huge change.

The main thing that has to change is that Democrats and liberals have to be able to speak to the outrage, and that requires a complete change in the way they look at the world. The problem is that they’ve been going the other direction for 30 years. Ever since the right-wing backlash began, liberals have been making their own move to professionalism. [To voice outrage] would require them to reverse course. I would like to see that happen, but I don’t know how it’s going to happen.

I think one thing has happened: Middle-class or upper-middle-class liberals in Washington, all of a sudden we realize we are insecure. The system is not just screwed up for people out there who we sympathize with. It’s screwed up for us. Economic insecurity is now pervasive even in the professional class.
To be fair the economic stimulus did work - it stopped the economy from hemorrhaging the loss of 700,000 jobs a month. One third of it was tax cuts. It was Keynes-lite. It should have been bigger. We might have as much as a one or two percent improvement in unemployment if Conservatives stopped blocking every job creation measure.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fed Up With Congress? Get Rid of One of Its Worse Congressmen, Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin






















Can Paul Ryan—and His Radical Anti-Middle-Class Agenda—Be Beat?

House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, is the poster boy for the assault on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. His budget plan, which laid the groundwork for the undermining of those essential programs and their eventual privatization, speaked a national outcry earlier this year. A historically Republican Congressional seat in western New York fell to the Democrats in a special election that turned largely on the question of Ryan’s austerity agenda.

But could Ryan himself be beat in 2012?

It’s possible. His southeastern Wisconsin district has elected Democrats in the past. It voted for Barack Obama in 2008. And even after a Republican-friendly redistricting, it is still home to traditionally Democratic towns such as Racine, Kenosha and Janesville.

Ryan faces a determined challenger in Democrat Rob Zerban, a local elected official in Kenosha who has been running hard all year. And a new poll suggests that Zerban, who has made the defense of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid the core theme of his campaign, poses a genuine threat to the Republican incumbent.

Pollster Paul Maslin writes, on the basis of his survey of 405 voters in Ryan’s district, that the fight over Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid has “weakened incumbent Paul Ryan, who used to enjoy electoral and image majorities well over 60%. Ryan’s favorable rating has declined to 54% positive, his job rating is 55% and his reelect is 54%—all this before the beginning of an active campaign against Ryan. When voters hear positive information about Rob Zerban and Paul Ryan, Ryan’s support weakens further to 52%. Rob Zerban’s description receives a better than 3 to 1 positive reaction.”

Maslin adds that: “after respondents hear one additional paragraph description linking Ryan to the Republican leadership in Congress and describing his authorship of the House budget plan, his support falls below 50% and his favorable rating becomes like Obama’s and Walker’s—dead even at 46% positive and 46% negative. And… Rob Zerban trails Ryan by only six points after this very brief exposition of Ryan’s signature idea, 49-43%, with undecideds holding nearly unanimously negative views of Congress in general and more than 80% saying they have either a negative or neutral feeling toward Ryan at the end of the poll.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why Is Anti-American Values Candidate Mitt Romney Lying About Democrats and Equal Opportunity




















Why Is Anti-American Values Candidate Mitt Romney Lying About Democrats and Equal Opportunity

So Mitt Romney, writes Thomas Edsall in The New York Times, wants to make the election about entitlements vs. opportunity.  He warns darkly against a government that “provides every citizen the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to innovate, pioneer or take risk.” This is the sort of thing that used to scare the bejesus out of Democrats and still does frighten some of them, but it needn’t. Romney’s error in this framing is one Republicans often make—assuming that they are the “real Americans,” and Democrats are in some way fake Americans, and therefore all of middle America must agree with them.

Romney’s approach is clever up to a point. It does successfully blend more traditional Republicanism with Tea Party resentment (reflecting, perhaps, the way in which this supposedly “new” Tea Party is really just the same old anger at poor people and nonwhite people, outfitted anew in sans culottes). He uses the lie Republicans have used for many, many elections, that liberals and Democrats insist not on equality of opportunity but equality of result. And he invokes “government dependency”—a well-turned locution I must confess, those being two pretty unappealing words to most people. If he becomes the nominee, and if he can get most Americans to see the election as a choice between the candidate who wants Big Daddy government to look after every aspect of your life and the candidate who insists on your freedom to pursue wealth and liberate yourself from any obligation to those below you, then he’ll be in pretty good shape.

But there exist mountains of evidence that most Americans don’t think the way Republicans want them to. As Edsall notes: “The American public is highly conflicted on the subject of providing aid to people in need. While strongly opposed to ‘welfare,’ decisive majorities support more spending in key public policy areas. Polls conducted since 1972 by the General Social Survey show that by margins of two to one, voters consistently say too little is spent on the poor, on education, on health care, on drug treatment—the list is long.”

And that’s just spending on the poor. Spending on the middle class enjoys far greater support. “Welfare” as we once knew it being largely off the table as a divisive political issue, the Republicans really don’t have much material to work with here. In one sense, the entire GOP approach on these issues since Ronald Reagan’s time has been to hide the actual agenda because Republicans know most people don’t agree with them. A famous memo from Paul O’Neill’s Treasury Department in early 2001 to the Bush White House told the new president and others to be careful about juxtaposing tax cuts with spending because “the public prefers spending on things like health and education over cutting taxes.”

Conservatives will not and cannot argue with the reality of Democrats on public policy and the concept of equal opportunity. Democrats want everyone to have a CHANCE to prove themselves and to achieve. Because most Americans believe the same thing - it is a challenge that most Americans are personally familiar with through their own life experience - so the integrity challenged conservatives twist that to mean wanting everyone to have equal outcomes by force of law. That is yet another conservative BIG LIE. Not to mention how cowardly it is that they will not have an honest debate about the subject.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Fannie May and Freddie Mac - The Zombie Lie

























Fannie May and Freddie Mac - The Zombie Lie

You begin with a hypothesis that has a certain surface plausibility. You find an ally whose background suggests that he’s an “expert”; out of thin air, he devises “data.” You write articles in sympathetic publications, repeating the data endlessly; in time, some of these publications make your cause their own. Like-minded congressmen pick up your mantra and invite you to testify at hearings.

You’re chosen for an investigative panel related to your topic. When other panel members, after inspecting your evidence, reject your thesis, you claim that they did so for ideological reasons. This, too, is repeated by your allies. Soon, the echo chamber you created drowns out dissenting views; even presidential candidates begin repeating the Big Lie.

Thus has Peter Wallison, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and a former member of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, almost single-handedly created the myth that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac caused the financial crisis. His partner in crime is another A.E.I. scholar, Edward Pinto, who a very long time ago was Fannie’s chief credit officer. Pinto claims that as of June 2008, 27 million “risky” mortgages had been issued — “and a lion’s share was on Fannie and Freddie’s books,” as Wallison wrote recently. Never mind that his definition of “risky” is so all-encompassing that it includes mortgages with extremely low default rates as well as those with default rates nearing 30 percent. These latter mortgages were the ones created by the unholy alliance between subprime lenders and Wall Street. Pinto’s numbers are the Big Lie’s primary data point.

Allies? Start with Congressional Republicans, who have vowed to eliminate Fannie and Freddie — because, after all, they caused the crisis! Throw in The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, which, on Wednesday, published one of Wallison’s many articles repeating the Big Lie. It was followed on Thursday by an editorial in The Journal making essentially the same point. Repetition is all-important to spreading a Big Lie.

In Wallison’s article, he claimed that the charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission against six former Fannie and Freddie executives last week prove him right. This is another favorite tactic: He takes a victory lap whenever events cast Fannie and Freddie in a bad light. Rarely, however, has his intellectual dishonesty been on such vivid display. In fact, what the S.E.C.’s allegations show is that the Big Lie is, well, a lie.

Central to Wallison’s argument is that the government’s effort to encourage homeownership among low- and moderate-income Americans is what led to the crisis. Fannie and Freddie, which were required by law to meet certain “affordable housing mandates,” were the primary instruments of that government policy; their need to meet those mandates, says Wallison, is what caused them to dive so heavily into those “risky” mortgages. And because they were powerful forces in the housing market, their entry into subprime dragged along the rest of the mortgage industry.

But the S.E.C. complaint makes almost no mention of affordable housing mandates. Instead, it charges that the executives were motivated to begin buying subprime mortgages — belatedly, contrary to the Big Lie — because they were trying to reclaim lost market share, and thus maximize their bonuses.

As Karen Petrou, a well-regarded bank analyst, puts it: “The S.E.C.’s facts paint a picture in which it wasn’t high-minded government mandates that did [Fannie and Freddie] wrong, but rather the monomaniacal focus of top management on market share.” As I wrote on Tuesday, Fannie and Freddie, rather than leading the housing industry astray, got into riskier mortgages only after the horse was out of the barn.

Fannie and Freddie have been guilty of some accounting shenanigans, but that is hardly the same thing as being responsible for the financial collapse or Great Recession. There is one big problem with the rabid Right's big lie about Fannie and Freddie, they did not and do not make loans directly to borrowers. They buy loans from banks. Let's stop and think about some logic and facts. Freddie and Fannie bought laons from banks, but only if they meant Freddie and Fannie criteria - and sub-prime loans did not meet that criteria. Another logical point. If Fannie and Freddie caused the meltdown how come none of the big banks are calling for Fannie and Freddie to be punished or dome away with? Because Freddie and Fannie still provide a valuable service to banks. They buy loans that free up capital so the banks can make more loans. For some charts and other FACTS about the right-wing Zombie lie see here. This lie is important to the wacky far Right for one reason - they want to shift blame away from private enterprise-private banks. Which brings up another problem with the Big Lie - Freddie and Fannie are privately owned and private individuals can invest in them. They have corporate officers just like any corporation. Stop buying right-wing lies America. Just as conservatives lied about WMD in Iraq, they're lying about what caused the Great Recession. I know it is hard to believe that a political movement composed of your neighbors and friends who constantly talk about values and patriotism are betraying the country, but they have and they are.

America's Most Anti-American Sheriff Joe Arpaio Runs a Jail Responsible For Vet's Death

























America's Most Anti-American Sheriff Joe Arpaio Runs a Jail Responsible For Vet's Death

More than eight hours of video footage released Friday showed it was one of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s officers who used a Taser on a Latino military veteran that later died. The video also showed the veteran was nearly lifeless when officers put him naked in a cell and left him alone for about 11 minutes.

Two agencies were involved in an altercation with Ernest “Marty” Atencio when they tried to book him into an Arizona jail on suspicion of assault last week. But until now, neither the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office nor the Phoenix Police Department had admitted to using a Taser in the melee. That was despite the fact that an attorney for Atencio’s family said doctors found obvious signs that some sort of stun gun had been used.

Now, video released Arpaio’s office shows it was one of his men, not any of the Phoenix police officers, who used the Taser to try to subdue Atencio.

The veteran was taken to a Phoenix hospital after the scuffle. There, he was pronounced brain dead and kept on life support for days. On Tuesday, his family gathered by his bedside and gave doctors the order to remove him. He died a short time later.

A lawyer who viewed the video stated that while Atencio may have been loud and a little obnoxious he was not posing any physical threat that required as many as ten law enforcement officers to jump on him and eventually use a taser - that was may have been what triggered his physical reaction and death.

Friday, December 23, 2011

How Conservatives Define Capitalism - Republican "family values" Leadership Selling His Endorsement of Candidates
















How Conservatives Define Capitalism - Republican "family values" Leadership Selling His Endorsement of Candidates

Bob Vander Plaats’ endorsement of Rick Santorum has produced a backlash among conservatives in Iowa, some of whom are accusing the FAMiLY LEADER president of engaging in “pay for play” schemes and selling his coveted support to the highest bidder. Earlier this week, Santorum admitted that Vander Plaats approached the campaign with an indirect solicitation of money to help promote his support, but now other sources familiar with the talks between Vander Plaats and GOP candidates are characterizing the tactics as “corrupt.”

“Clearly the endorsement was for sale — without a doubt,” one source told ABC News’ Shushannah Walshe and Michael Falcone, stressing that Vander Plaats had tried to receive money for his support in past election cycles:

    Though Santorum did not specify the dollar amount he and Vander Plaats discussed, multiple sources said he was soliciting as much as $1 million from Santorum and other candidates.

    In an interview with the Des Moines Register this week, Vander Plaats said that it was his “ethical responsibility” to essentially put some money where his mouth is. “You can’t say, ‘We endorsed you. Now see you later,’” Vander Plaats told the Iowa newspaper. “That’s not going to do a lot in the long run.” But one long-time Iowa conservative activist told ABC News, “There is no way he could buy enough ad space in Iowa for a million dollars — couldn’t buy that much advertising in a week and a half in Iowa.”

    ABC News has learned that Vander Plaats tried to solicit money for his endorsement during the last presidential cycle too. A former staffer for Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential bid who is currently unaffiliated with a campaign said Vander Plaats came to them seeking money for his backing if he supported the former Massachusetts governor. “He wanted to be paid,” the former staffer said. “He was clearly looking for a paycheck. There was a conversation about him getting a title, but being a paid consultant was much more important.”

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum revealed yesterday that Michele Bachmann was not the only candidate Vander Plaats called to suggest she drop out. Both he and Rick Perry received similar requests:

This seems to also raise speculation about who exactly Vander Plaats actually wanted to endorse. Last month, he indicated that he had narrowed the endorsement down to four candidates: Santorum, Bachmann, Perry, and Newt Gingrich. During the weeks after that announcement, The FAMiLY LEADER’s attention seemed to be focused entirely on raising support for Gingrich, saying “he’s had a life transformation,” accepting that he “asked God’s forgiveness” for his infidelities, and accepting his affirming letter of the group’s “marriage pledge.”

While Santorum may be correct that conservatives like Vander Plaats were just trying to unite social conservatives, it may be that Vander Plaats was building support for Gingrich, the thrice-married former speaker whose complicated marital past raised concerns for certain Evangelical leaders. After all, Gingrich donated $350,000 last year to his campaign against the Iowa Supreme Court Justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality, which is quite the “pay for play.” Santorum, Bachmann, and Perry have the social conservative credentials Vander Plaats would want to endorse without the baggage of Gingrich’s infidelities, but if they had dropped out, he could have endorsed Gingrich without it looking like blatant quid pro quo.
What did we learn about conservative values and capitalism to day kids? Republicans see those things a lot like European princes during the reign of monarchs. Vander Plaats simply wants to play king maker like the good old days. If he has to buy his way into influence, hey why not use the money they people send in as donations, with the naive idea that Plaats cares about or has any American values.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

If Newt Gingrich is Fundamentally Anti-Democratic Republic, What Does That Say About The Conservative Base


















If Newt Gingrich is Fundamentally Anti-Democratic Republic, What Does That Say About The Conservative Base

“I’m not sure I understand how that works,” Bob Schieffer, of CBS, said to Newt Gingrich on “Face the Nation.” Gingrich was explaining how he would handle, or manhandle, judges who didn’t agree with him. In a debate a few days earlier, on Fox News, he had called America’s courts “grotesquely dictatorial”; he said that he had “warned” Supreme Court Justices to their faces that if “you keep attacking the core base of American exceptionalism, and you are going to find an uprising against you which will rebalance the judiciary.” He told Schieffer that he was ready to send the Capitol police to bring judges to Congress to explain their decisions, to abolish entire courts, and, as President, to put his hands over his ears and pretend that he didn’t hear rulings that he didn’t like.

Gingrich expounds on various theories so often and so grandiosely that it can be hard to know whether he is stating a policy or just making things up. But he seemed as serious about this as about anything. “Your folks said to me be sure and ask him about judges so I know this is something you want to talk about,” Schieffer said at the beginning of the segment. Gingrich also directed viewers to a paper they could find at Newt.org, which he’d put together

    because I knew I was launching a topic that no other presidential candidate in modern time has launched. And I knew it had to be intellectually defensible.

The paper, which is more than fifty pages long (pdf), is much like Newt: skewed and self-important, its danger mitigated only by its lack of discipline, and seemingly constructed in the belief that anything will sound “intellectually defensible” if you add enough quotes from the Federalist Papers. (It’s also a bit hard to find on Newt.org, where the “Learn More” tab sends a person off to buy things at gingrichproductions.com.) Basically, he argues that the Supreme Court is is acting in a close to criminal way when it disagrees with anything the Congress and President agree on, or rules on matters of national security or public safety, or arrives at a decision that is unpopular or against “the culture.” The same is true of the lower federal courts, in his view.

Gingrich’s list of what he calls “constitutional steps” to take against judges includes several questionable measures, like abolishing unaccommodating courts, but one item stands out: “Ignoring a judicial decision.” This is the one that most confused Schieffer. “How do you decide, how does the president decide what’s a good law and I’m going to obey the Supreme Court or what’s a bad law and I’m just going to ignore it?” he asked.

This may be the place to pause and note that Gingrich’s scheme makes little practical or legal sense, that it has been rejected by Republicans like Mike Mukasey, George W. Bush’s former attorney general (“It would lead us to become a banana republic, in which administrations would become regimes, and each regime would feel it perfectly appropriate to disregard decisions of courts staffed by previous regimes,” Mukasey told the Times; “That’s not what we are”); that he mangles key cases, from Dred Scott to Cooper v. Aaron (which he argues is the ur-text for the judicial usurpation of Presidential and congressional power, although, as PolitiFact notes, in rating Gingrich’s statement’s on “Face the Nation” “Mostly False,” it’s actually about state officials); that he cites an order Lincoln gave that is news to Lincoln scholars; that his whole approach is about as un-conservative as one could get, in terms of its scorn for the eleven score years of effort that has gone into the still unfinished project of perfecting our union and securing our liberties; and that there is a serious argument to be made that one shouldn’t drive oneself mad figuring out what this is all about, because Newt’s whole judicial plan is just a vector for code words to excite Republican primary voters (prayer in schools, pornography, gay marriage), and his campaign is going to implode anyway. (Dahlia Lithwick, eloquently containing her impatience, wonders if beating up on judges, who can’t fight back, simply appeals to him as a bully.) Given all that, why worry about Newt?

There are a few reasons. One has to do with those code words: it’s worth figuring them out, and engaging in the conversation to which Gingrich’s meanderings may only be an allusion. Iowa, after all, is a state in which three judges lost their jobs in a recall campaign after ruling in favor of gay marriage. Was it just historical clumsiness that led Gingrich to cite Cooper v. Aaron, which was decided in 1958, in a period of the Court’s great civil-rights cases, as the moment when the principle of judicial supremacy was arrived at, rather than Marbury v. Madison, or any of several landmark cases in between? Many of his lines about judicial “oligarchs” and the dictatorship of the “lawyer class” echo those heard in Southern statehouses in the fifties and sixties.

And then there is the question of history and its uses. What is notable about Gingrich’s foraging in our country’s annals is that he treats what some might view as low or at least troubling moments, such as Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus or Roosevelt’s court-packing scheme, as prizes—sources of comfort and encouragement. What should be admonitions are inducements, not just precedents but lodestars. That should give pause to any President—including the current one, in his countenancing of the National Defense Authorization Act, with its provisions on indefinite detention—who thinks that the situation he faces is a truly unique crisis that allows for a dodge of the rule of law. It might be useful to picture a Gingrich-like figure a hundred and fifty years for now, in a silvery jumpsuit or whatever they’re wearing then, bringing up Guantánamo as he defends the military commissions on Gliese-581d.

Gingrich’s second-favorite example of judicial overreach, after the Ninth Circuit rulings on religious speech in public institutions (overturned, incidentally, by the Supreme Court) is Boumediene v. Bush, which recognized that habeas corpus ought to be available to prisoners at Guantánamo. One of the spectres, in the discussion around Boumediene and other Bush-era detention cases, was the court’s decision, in Korematsu v. United States, deferring to an executive order for the internment of Americans of Japanese dissent. (In an example of the plasticity with which he treats facts, Gingrich cites Korematsu, a case in which the Court did just what he says it should, as an example of the danger of unchecked judges.) A part of Korematsu that has endured is the passage, in Judge Robert Jackson’s dissent, in which he warned that, by going along with the argument of military necessity, the court was establishing a principle:

    The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.

Gingrich picks up those loaded weapons, wherever he can find them, and adds on sniper scopes and Teflon bullets. He also, in his distortions of the past, covers toy water guns with shoe polish and pretends that they are real. But sometimes a person armed with a fake still manages to rob a bank. And Newt is still in the race.
Newt is just your average conservative. He hates the basic framework of the Constitution and the freedoms, and checks and balances it guarantees. So like the average conservative he has a point of view he pulled out of who knows where and uses mangled bits and pieces of the law and history to justify his deeply Anti-American beliefs and those of his knuckle dragging followers.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Like Most American Conservatives Newt Gingrich Admires the Tools of Tyrants















Like Most American Conservatives Newt Gingrich Admires the Tools of Tyrants

Newt Gingrich and His 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' Constitution

The candidate is selling a wrongheaded plan for legislators to bully the judiciary

 "[T]he surest curb on judicial activism, for those who fear it, is executive and legislative activism in defense of constitutional liberties. The courts possess only so much power as the other branches relinquish."
                                                                           -U.S. District Judge Frank Johnson, 1979

The closer Newt Gingrich gets to the Republican nomination for president, the more unhinged become his attacks on the independence of the federal judiciary. In early October, when Gingrich was nowhere in the polls, he ginned up a patently unconstitutional argument for subpoenaing judges to come before Congress to justify and explain what Gingrich considers their "radical" decisions. "The spectacle would be like a dog walking on its hind legs," said Bruce Fein, the respected conservative attorney and former Reagan official, when asked about Gingrich's plan. "You are surprised not that it is done ineptly, but that it is attempted at all."

Now, leading most polls, but evidently still needing his own radical pitch, Gingrich has doubled down on his crackpottery. On Sunday morning, he told Bob Schieffer of CBS News' Face The Nation that the Capitol police, or federal marshals, could and should come and arrest those judges if they refuse to respond in person to a subpoena seeking to publicly shame them for making unpopular decisions. He also delivered this shuddering version of the Constitution, an unfamiliar Rock-Paper-Scissors version, in which the promise of separation of powers is akin to a playground game:

    Here's the key -- it's always two out of three. If the president and the congress say the court is wrong, in the end the court would lose. If the congress and the court say the president is wrong, in the end the president would lose. And if the president and the court agreed, the congress loses. The founding fathers designed the constitution very specifically in a Montesquieu spirit of the laws to have a balance of power not to have a  dictatorship by any one of the three branches.

Poof, just like that, the leading candidate's "key" to nowhere. What Gingrich really is saying, under the guise of blasting "elitist" judges, is that the Bill of Rights would no longer be used to protect individual rights because the judges who help ensure those (often unpopular) rights can be outvoted by the White House and the Congress. In President Gingrich's world, evidently, the Supreme Court would not have the final say on the law. The majority, as represented by the popularly elected branches, would have the ultimate vote. Not in every case, Gingrich says, just in some. Does that reassure you the way he meant it to?

Here's the Face The Nation video from this morning in which Gingrich says "... there's no reason the American people need to tolerate a federal judge who who is that out of sync with an entire culture...."

There are two possibilities for this level of jeremiad. Either Gingrich actually believes this nonsense, in which case he would be a constitutionally dangerous president, or he doesn't, in which case he's committing constitutional heresy just to win a few primary votes. Either way, it is conduct unbecoming a president. Close your eyes for a second and imagine if a Democratic candidate for the White House suggested that the judiciary be neutered by the White House and Congress; if a "liberal" running for president suggested that individual liberties and minority rights would hereafter be defined by Washington. Wouldn't Gingrich be first in line with his pitchfork and torch?
Gingrich's view is simply an appeal to the mob. Which way is public opinion blowing? Well just forget judges ruling on the merits of the law and the structure provided by the Constitution and the courts, let's just go with what the mob wants on any particular day. Not exactly what the Founders had in mind when they established the SCOTUS. Modern conservatism is literally infested with this constant attacks on American values, wrapped up in plastic patriotism. It is mind boggling how many people fall it.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Income Redistribution - Food Stamps Are a Tiny part of the Thin Safety Net That Conservatives Want to Destroy























Income Redistribution - Food Stamps Are a Tiny part of the Thin Safety Net That Conservatives Want to Destroy 

Just past Fifth Avenue, where the gourmet food shops shift into dollar stores and Fourteenth Street turns suddenly seedy, there is a squat, metal-sided building that looks like a relic from a half-familiar past. Coated in grime so thick it’s hard to tell whether the striped siding is green or blue, it still bears boxy traces of postwar optimism (it was built in 1946), but mostly it looks haggard, a smile snaggled with broken teeth.

This is the home of the Waverly Food Stamp Center, one of eighteen such centers in New York City. On a recent Monday morning, it was choked with visitors—men, women and kids in strollers—heading to appointments, picking up applications and pressing to get cases reopened. They came in waves, big and constant, which got sucked upward in two tin-can elevators and then spit out into a room that one applicant, Erica, described as “really hot,” “crowded” and “loud.” It was the kind of place where no one seemed to be in control, and where anyone who might be in control didn’t seem to care. And yet somehow, Erica said, the place functioned. Despite hoops and hurdles, visitors frequently walked out with the help they so desperately needed when they came in.

“They do assist you, they do,” said a middle-aged man who asked to be identified by his nickname, Mr. Monk, as he breezed out of the Waverly Center. Mr. Monk had lost his job, then his home, to the recession and had decided to apply for benefits because “I have to eat.” Still waiting to see if his welfare application would be accepted, he’d already received an emergency food stamp disbursement. “Every red penny goes to food.”

Welcome to the food stamp system: decaying, inundated and one of the most unexpectedly effective safety net programs still standing. Indeed, like the crumbling Waverly Center, the food stamp program, more formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, still stands, still works—remarkably well, all things considered. It may not look pretty, but while other social safety net programs, like public assistance (more commonly called welfare), public housing, Section 8 and even unemployment insurance, have been so thoroughly hobbled that they can no longer respond to the struggles of millions of Americans, the food stamp program has remained surprisingly sensitive to people’s needs. It is one of the defining reasons more Americans were not as immiserated by this recession as they were in eras past.

The statistics tell the story. On any given day, nearly 1.8 million New Yorkers participate in the program, using electronic benefit cards to buy bread, milk, cheese and other staples. Across the country, the number is 46.3 million, or one out of every seven people. And thanks to an infusion of $45.2 billion in stimulus money, SNAP has helped millions of unemployed and underemployed recession victims. In 2010 alone, food stamps lifted 3.9 million people above the poverty line, the Census Bureau reports. And it did this, continues to do it, despite decades of on-again, off-again neglect, budget cuts and Republican attacks.

“Food stamps are really the only functioning part of the safety net,” says Joel Berg, executive director of the New York Coalition Against Hunger. “It’s the only thing left.”

The question now is, how much longer can the food stamp program withstand the conservative assault on the nation’s safety net? And why haven’t Obama and the Democrats done more to defend such a vital program?

* * *

The modern-day food stamp system is, in many ways, a model entitlement program—far from perfect, but as good as it gets in social welfare–wary America. Born of the Food Stamp Act of 1977, which in turn was born of the anti-hunger movement of the 1970s, it is accessible, far-reaching, resilient and lean, with an overhead that consumes less than 10 percent of its budget. True, its benefit levels are so stingy that many recipients are forced to survive on little more than $1 a meal. True as well that it fails to reach three of every ten people who are eligible, helping explain how some 14.5 percent of this country’s households experienced food insecurity in 2010. Among those denied: a desperate mother of two who walked into a Texas food stamp center earlier this month and took a supervisor hostage, ultimately killing herself and two kids.

And yet, for all these stunning and starved beast failings, SNAP remains the best of the bunch, a program whose essential effectiveness has enabled it not only to stave off food insecurity for millions but to catch the overflow of need caused by the attack on other entitlement programs. Call it the safety net’s safety net.

“In terms of food security in this country, food stamps really are the foundational component of the safety net,” says Triada Stampas, director of government relations and public education for the Food Bank for New York City. “It is a program that by and large works.”

In cities like New York, Atlanta and Miami wages are so low in proportion to the cost of living that after many workers pay their basic bills there is not enough left over to pay for food. Many conservatives think those people should be taught a lesson - get a better paying job of starve to death. That doesn't sound like America, it sounds like 18th century Russia and the way the royals thought about the hungry.

Pipe dreams? Jobs Gained, Jobs Lost by the Construction of Keystone XL. A report by Cornell University Global Labor Institute(pdf). The XL pipeline would create a few jobs for two years and ultimately destroy more American jobs. Don't buy into the oil industry propaganda.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Shocker: Conservatives and Democrats Agree on Something - Destroying the 4th,5th and 6th Amendment









 





































All images on this blog are copyrighted.


Shocker: Conservatives and Democrats Agree on Something - Destroying the 4th,5th and 6th Amendment

Paraphrasing Shakespeare, something is rotten in the state of Capitol Hill. A majority of Congress is just about to put the finishing touches on an amendment to the military budget authorization legislation that will finish off some critical American rights under our Constitution.

Here is how two retired 4 star marine generals, Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar, described in the New York Times the stripmining of your freedom to resist tyranny in urging a veto by President Obama:

“One provision would authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge people suspected of involvement with terrorism, including United States citizens apprehended on American soil. Due process would be a thing of the past….

“A second provision would mandate military custody for most terrorism suspects. It would force on the military responsibilities it hasn’t sought”…. "for domestic law enforcement….”

“A third provision would further extend a ban on transfers from Guantanamo, ensuring that this morally and financially expensive symbol of detainee abuse will remain open well into the future.”

All of Obama’s leading military and security officials oppose this codification of the ultimate Big Brother power. Imagine allowing the government to deny people accused of involvement with terrorism (undefined), including U.S. citizens arrested within the United States, the right to a trial by jury. Imagine allowing indefinite imprisonment for those accused without even proffering charges against them. Goodbye 5th and 6th Amendments.

On some government agency’s unbridled order: just pick them up, arrest them without charges and throw them into the military brig indefinitely. This atrocity deserves to be repeatedly condemned loudly throughout the land by Americans who believe in the rights of due process, habeas corpus, right to confront your accusers, right to a jury trial—in short, liberty and the just rule of law.

Some stalwart lawyers are speaking out soundly: They include Georgetown Law Professor, David Cole, George Washington University Law Professor, Jonathan Turley, Republican lawyer, Bruce Fein, former American Bar Association (2005-2006) president, Michael Greco, and the always alert lawyers at the civil liberties groups. Their well-grounded outcries are not awakening the citizenry.

Where are the one million lawyers? Where are the thousands of law professors? Where are the scores of law school deans? Are they not supposed to be our first constitutional responders?

Where is the Tea Party and its haughty rhetoric about the sanctity of constitutional liberty? Most of the Tea caucus voted for tyranny. Presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul has been an outspoken critic of this attack on our civil liberties.

The majority also voted to ratify a dictatorial procedure in the Congress, as well. This indefinite, arbitrary, open-ended dictatorial White House mandate was never subjected to even a House or Senate Committee hearing, and was not explained with any rationale known as legislative “findings.” It was rammed through by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees without the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees invoking their concurrent jurisdiction for public hearings.

So extreme are these majority Congressional extremists, composed of both Republicans and renegade Democrats, the latter led by Senator Carl Levin, that the Obama Administration has to lecture them about the fundamental American principle that “our military does not patrol our streets.”

It is not as if the imperial presidencies of Bush and Obama need any more encouragement and legitimization to continue on their lawless paths to criminal wars of aggression, unlawful surveillance, arbitrary slayings of innocents, wrongful imprisonments, and unauthorized spending. Instead of Congress using its constitutional authority regarding the war, appropriations and investigative powers, it formalizes its impotence by handing the “go for it” power to the Executive branch with the vaguest of language boundaries.

Usually there are a few Senators whose upfront defense of our Constitution would lead them to stand tall against the “Senate Club” and put a “hold” on this pernicious amendment. Civil libertarians hope that, before the final Senate vote in the rush to get home for the Holidays, Senators Rand Paul, Tom Harkin, Al Franken, Richard Blumenthal, Ron Wyden, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, Tom Coburn or Mike Lee would step forth.

A “hold” could spark the demand for public hearings and floor debate to give the American people the time and information to react and ask themselves “how dare Congress take away our most fundamental rights?”

President Obama initially threatened to veto the entire bill and make Congress drop these pernicious dictates that so insult the memory and vision of our founding fathers. He is already signaling that he doesn’t have the backbone to reject the false choice “between our safety and our ideals,” that he asserted in his Inaugural Address.

 president Obama has initially said it would veto the very ambiguous and dangerous language contained in section  1031 and 1032 of the National Defense Authorization Act. he has recently signaled he will sign it as written. Ar that point the only hope America and the future of freedom has is a Constitutional challenge brought before the Supreme Court.








Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Another Dirty Secret Newt Gingrich Does Not Want Anyone to Know - The GOP candidate holds up his old nonprofit, Earning by Learning, as a way to teach kids the value of a buck.



















Another Dirty Secret Newt Gingrich Does Not Want Anyone to Know - The GOP candidate holds up his old nonprofit, Earning by Learning, as a way to teach kids the value of a buck. Here's what he doesn't mention.

For a politician who once proposed relocating children from single-parent households to orphanages, it was not all that surprising when Newt Gingrich recently declared that, if elected president, he'd ease child labor laws to allow poor kids to work as janitors.

What's notable, however, is the newly minted GOP presidential front-runner's explanation. Gingrich argues that poor children lack role models who can instill in them the value of hard work—something that, say, a part-time job cleaning bathrooms could easily remedy. Making his case to an audience in Des Moines, Iowa, last week, Gingrich touted the work of an educational nonprofit he founded in the early 1990s called Earning by Learning (EBL). The program offered cash—$2 per book—to students as an incentive to read over the summer. What he failed to mention is that his group also led to a formal ethics complaint amid concerns about not just who was funding Gingrich's program, but where that money was really going.

As Gingrich tells it, the program started that first summer in 1990 with 9 kids and ended with 30. "What happened was simple," he said. "The ice cream truck comes by. The kid who's in the program walks up and buys their own ice cream. Their friend says to them, 'How come you have money?' He goes, 'Well, I read.' So kids are showing up to the program saying, 'I demand that you let me read!'"

The point of the story is that private initiatives often succeed where government programs fail. EBL was a lean, mean, private machine. "The overhead is entirely voluntary," Gingrich said of the program in 1995. "The only money goes to the kids. So if you have $1,000 at $2 a book, you can pay for 500 books. Whereas, in the welfare state model, if you have $1,000, you pay $850 for the bureaucracy."

But that description turned out to be false. A 1995 Mother Jones investigation revealed that the program's all-volunteer army came at a hefty price. The group paid its Atlanta volunteers $500 each; nearly half of the total budget of the Houston branch of the program went to one salaried staff position.

A Wall Street Journal report earlier that year was even more damning, revealing that most of the money in the program's endowment in Georgia was being kicked back to Gingrich's friends, including Mel Steely, a former Gingrich staffer who was at the time working on an authorized biography of the House speaker. According to the paper, "90% of the $20,000 raised in the past year went to Steely and two other professors who help him evaluate the program. The children earned less than $10,000, from money leftover from prior years."

The Los Angeles Times piled on, noting that "reading program funds were used to reimburse Steely for travel, lodging and meal expenses during three trips to attend Gingrich's Saturday morning college course." The overhead, in other words, was actually quite substantial.

Much of the funding came from Gingrich himself, in part because he had nowhere else to spend the proceeds of his 1995 book To Renew America. After Democrats cried foul over his decision to go on 25-city book tour hawking the book, Gingrich announced that he'd donate the receipts from the tour to Earning by Learning instead.

But EBL was also, as such charities tend to be, a magnet for activists and groups looking to curry favor with the GOP whip-turned speaker of the House. As Michelle Dally Johnson noted for MoJo, the list of donors was "heavy on conservative activists, elected officials, and party donors, but light on educators and people noted for volunteerism." Some of them were also donors to GOPAC, Gingrich's political action committee, which was itself the subject of multiple ethics investigations. The Houston Automobile Dealers Association, which helped sponsor that city's EBL affiliate, admitted that the relationship gave them more access to Gingrich; the group's president was later invited to testify before Congress about the luxury tax.

It was that overlap between political activism and private enterprise that ultimately led Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) to formally request an ethics investigation into Gingrich and Earning by Learning in 1996.

House rules prohibit members from using their Congressional resources (such as office space) for personal endeavors. In 2010, for instance, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) was censured by his colleagues for, among other things, using official House stationary to solicit funds for City College of New York, which was naming its school of public policy after him. Miller, at the behest of Ralph Nader's Congressional Accountability Project, alleged that Gingrich had violated those standards through Earning by Learning.

The case concerned Donald Jones, a Wisconsin-based telecommunications entrepreneur—and a major donor to Gingrich's political action committee—whom Gingrich had invited to work out of his congressional office three days a week in a voluntary capacity (through Gingrich, he'd even received a Congressional ID badge). Jones was there to help work out the wording of the major telecommunications bill that was signed into law the next year.

"That the Speaker would apparently allow a telecommunications executive to act as 'Telecommunications director for Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich' in negotiations over telecommunications legislation—which may affect Jones' own holdings directly—is cause for alarm," Nader's group wrote.

But Gingrich's somewhat contradictory excuse, as explained to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was that Jones wasn't working on telecommunications—he was in Washington on behalf of the speaker's Earning by Learning program, for which he served as the president of the Wisconsin chapter. (His telecommunications company, US Cyber, provided the 800 number for EBL, which Gingrich helpfully plugged in floor speeches.) According to Gingrich, "95 percent" of Jones' time at the Capitol was devoted to Earning by Learning.

But that explanation was also problematic. As the Congressional Accountability Project noted, "Earning By Learning is a non-profit organization with no official ties to the United States House of Representatives." Granting office space and official resources would therefore violate House rules. Either Gingrich was using his education nonprofit as cover to allow a top donor to draft legislation directly affecting his own company, or he was using official resources to help out his private endeavor.

With Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), a Gingrich ally, in charge of the House ethics committee, the speaker got off with a slap on the wrist, in the form of a formal "letter of admonition" and no further sanctions.

But the controversy over Gingrich's Earning by Learning program spoke to the larger issues at play in Gingrich's dealings. Jones, in his role as an informal adviser, donor, and volunteer at EBL, was illustrative of just how interconnected Gingrich's private and public ventures, collectively known as "Newt Inc.," really were. (In another, related instance, Gingrich transferred money from a scholarship program an ally had set up for inner-city students*, known as the Abraham Lincoln Opportunity Fund, to his political action committee, GOPAC.).........

Will Newt's lack of ethics, money funneling, twisted sense of morals, failure to live up to the promises of E-Learning, letting down the kids, his doubletalk denials and spin make any difference to America's conservatives? Of course not. Conservatism is by definition is unregulated rampant corruption. Democrats are the lightweights in corruption and with a majority of Democrats in both houses of Congress America has a much better chance of taking at least some of the funny money out of politics.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What Are Some Common Myths About the Economy

















 














 Six Myths About the U.S. Economy

MYTH #1: THE STIMULUS FAILED

For the first four years of his presidency, Franklin Roosevelt tackled the Great Depression with inflation, easy monetary policy, and government spending. But in 1937, FDR's advisers persuaded him to reverse gears. After all, interest rates had been close to zero for years, commodity prices were climbing, and fear of inflation was on the rise.
Bust or Boost?

What happened next is now called the "Mistake of 1937" (PDF). Federal spending was cut and monetary policy was tightened up, with disastrous results: GDP immediately began to plummet, and industrial production fell by a third. Within a year everyone had had enough. In 1938 the austerity program was abandoned, and the economy started to grow again.

The truth is that stimulus worked in 1933 and it worked in 2009. So why is our economy still in such bad shape? For one, partly due to political considerations and partly because it wasrushed through Congress, the 2009 stimulus wasn't as well designed as it could have been. It was also sold badly. If the bill passed, administration economists predicted, unemployment would peak at 8 percent and then start declining (PDF). But the recession was far worse than the White House originally thought. Unemployment peaked in the double digits, and that's made the stimulus a fat target for Republican critics ever since.

...MYTH #2: THE DEFICIT IS OUR BIGGEST PROBLEM

If your credit card company offered you $30,000 interest-free to buy a car, would you take the deal? Sure you would. It's a three-way win: You replace your clunker, the auto industry keeps its assembly lines humming, and the credit card company is happy to have made a safe loan, even at no interest. Apparently, they think you're a pretty good credit risk.

The Bush Effect

This is pretty much the situation the US government is in now. If our national debt were really at dire and unsustainable levels, as conservative economists and Republican leaders have taken to arguing, nervous investors would be driving up interest rates on federal borrowing. But just the opposite has happened: As I'm writing this, 10-year real treasury yields are at 0.00 percent. The seven-year rate is actually negative. Apparently, the financial markets think we're a pretty good credit risk.

...MYTH $3: LOWER TAXES ARE THE BEST WAY TO GROW THE ECONOMY

There's no greater orthodoxy in the Republican Party than unconditional fealty to tax cuts. In a recent GOP debate, when the candidates were asked whether they'd walk away from a deficit deal that included just $1 in tax increases for every $10 in spending cuts, every single hand shot up.

Taxes have been the third rail of American politics ever since the California tax revolt of 1978. Even Democrats are nervous about touching them: President Obama has famously called for letting some of the Bush tax cuts expire, but he's always careful to make it clear that he wouldn't change rates for anyone earning less than $250,000 per year. In other words, he'd repeal less than a quarter of the Bush tax cuts.

This fear is easy to understand. No one likes paying higher taxes. But do lower taxes actually spur economic growth? Bruce Bartlett, an economist in the Reagan administration, has compared tax rates in various rich countries in 1979 to each country's growth rate since then. His conclusion? There's virtually no correlation.

Recent US history backs this up too. Bill Clinton raised tax rates in 1993, and Republicans insisted it would cripple the economy. Instead, the economy boomed. In 2001 and 2003, George W. Bush lowered taxes and Republicans insisted the economy would flourish. Instead, we got the weakest expansion of the past century.

...MYTH #4: REGULATORY UNCERTAINTY IS CLOGGING THE ECONOMY

Are American businesses paralyzed by fear of a tidal wave of new regulations? WhenMcClatchy reporter Kevin Hall went out and asked small-business owners about this, he got a clear answer. "Absolutely, positively not," said one. "Government regulations are not choking our business," said another. In its most recent quarterly survey (PDF) of small-business trends, the National Federation of Independent Business reports that sales—i.e., lack of demand—is the No. 1 concern, beating out taxes, regulations, inflation, and everything else.

The Bottom Line Is the Bottom Line

In any case, regardless of what the Wall Street Journal editorial page says, the Obama administration has hardly been a whirlwind of regulatory activity. Its health care reform will have very little effect on either small businesses (which are exempt) or large businesses (which mostly offer health plans already) and only a modest effect on medium-size businesses (PDF). Its financial reform bill affects only the financial sector. Its proposed new air-quality regulations will mostly affect old coal-fired electrical plants that would have shut down anyway (PDF).

Dumb and outdated regulations are no friends to the economy—and the Obama administration has undertaken a regulatory review that's projected to save an estimated $10 billion during the next five years. 

 The full article with the links to the studies(pdf files) are at the link along with the last two myths. Remember that best selling book that everything they teach you, especially about history, in public schools is wrong ( everything is whitewashed so no one is offended) that is what these myth busters do to what bone headed conservatives and libertarians tell America about the economy. The conservative and libertarian models never have worked, at least not before they cause a big crash

Friday, December 9, 2011

Greed and The Elite in America - The Takers on Wall Street Still Have Reason to be Jolly



Greed and The Elite in America - The Takers on Wall Street Still Have Reason to be Jolly

Financial industry insiders are grousing about a big downturn in annual bonuses. They should be thanking the rest of us - bombshell new research shows - for their continuing awesome good tidings.

Wall Street’s power suits aren’t humming along, this December, with all the holiday jingles. Bankers, traders, and law firm partners are quite frankly feeling kind of foul. End-of-year Wall Street bonuses, experts predict, are going to be down from 2010 levels — by as much, on average, as 35 percent. [Bonuses might be reduced, but at $1.8 million on average, there's still plenty to be jolly about in Wall Street. Photo by Benjamin Dumas.] Bonuses might be reduced, but at $1.8 million on average, there's still plenty to be jolly about in Wall Street. Photo by Benjamin Dumas.

Total 2011 pay for the typical bond-trading managing director at a top Wall Street securities firm will likely be off, says analyst Michael Karp, nearly 40 percent.

But those typical managing directors should be able to survive the holidays quite nicely. Bonus cuts will leave average high-powered bond traders with $1.8 million for their daily labors in 2011. The average U.S. worker would have to labor 43 years — an adult lifetime — to take home that same $1.8 million.

In other words, by any real-world yardstick, Wall Street’s finest are doing just fine. And they owe their good fortune, blockbuster new research makes clear, to the generosity of Uncle Sam’s one and only central bank, the Federal Reserve.

During the financial meltdown, a new analysis of 29,000 pages of previously secret documents shows, central bankers at the Fed shoveled out an incredible $7.77 trillion in dirt-cheap loans to the nation’s financial institutions.

This massive wave of low-cost loans, note the Bloomberg news analysts who broke the story last week, amounted to a bailout over ten times larger than the $700 billion funneled to banks via the Treasury Department’s controversial Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

Bloomberg reporters had to win a court case to access the stunning new bailout data. How stunning? The $7.77 trillion the Fed committed to the nation’s financial industry, observes Bloomberg, equaled “more than half the value of everything produced” in the entire United States during the key crisis year.

To put the bailout in more homespun terms: The Fed provided banks the equivalent of over $25,000 per American.

The nation’s six biggest banks — J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley — grabbed $460 billion of the secret loans. Morgan Stanley took in $10 billion in publicly visible TARP bailout dollars and $107 billion from the hidden Fed loan program.
If you think something is a little wrong with this, if you think America has gone a little off the rails, if you think greed and corruption has taken the place of capitalism, than you're what conservative Republican refer to as a commie liberal enemy of America. If you and a lot of other people work hard to make a pie and a few people run off with it, leaving the vast majority with a few crumbs - who are the bad guys? The people who only got the crumbs? That is what conservative Republicans want you to believe. If you believe otherwise, if you're a sane rational American, than you're not being patriotic.

Woman Upset With Obama Apologizes After Breast Cancer Diagnosis. Some people seem to think they live in a bubble in which nothing bad can happen to them.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

President Obama Steps Up to The Plate and Delivers Some Good Old Fashioned American Populism


















President Obama Steps Up to The Plate and Delivers Some Good Old Fashioned American Populism

The President’s speech on Tuesday in Osawatomie, Kansas — where Teddy Roosevelt gave his “New Nationalism” speech in 1910 — is the most important economic speech of his presidency in terms of connecting the dots, laying out the reasons behind our economic and political crises, and asserting a willingness to take on the powerful and the privileged that have gamed the system to their advantage.

Here are the highlights (and, if you’ll pardon me, my annotations):

    For most Americans, the basic bargain that made this country great has eroded. Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefitted from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and investments than ever before. But everyone else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren’t – and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up.

He’s absolutely right – and it’s the first time he or any other president has clearly stated the long-term structural problem that’s been widening the gap between the very top and everyone else for thirty years – the breaking of the basic bargain linking pay to productivity gains.

    For many years, credit cards and home equity loans papered over the harsh realities of this new economy. But in 2008, the house of cards collapsed.

Exactly. But the first papering over was when large numbers of women went into paid work, starting the in the late 1970s and 1980s, in order to prop up family incomes that were stagnating or dropping because male wages were under siege – from globalization, technological change and the decline of unions. Only when this coping mechanism was exhausted, and when housing prices started to climb, did Americans shift to credit cards and home equity loans as a means of papering over the new harsh reality of an economy that was working for a minority at the top but not for most of the middle class.

    We all know the story by now: Mortgages sold to people who couldn’t afford them, or sometimes even understand them. Banks and investors allowed to keep packaging the risk and selling it off. Huge bets – and huge bonuses – made with other people’s money on the line. Regulators who were supposed to warn us about the dangers of all this, but looked the other way or didn’t have the authority to look at all.

    It was wrong. It combined the breathtaking greed of a few with irresponsibility across the system. And it plunged our economy and the world into a crisis from which we are still fighting to recover. It claimed the jobs, homes, and the basic security of millions – innocent, hard-working Americans who had met their responsibilities, but were still left holding the bag.

Precisely – and it’s about time he used the term “wrong” to describe Wall Street’s antics, and the abject failure of regulators (led by Alan Greenspan and the Fed) to stop what was going on. But these “wrongs” were only the proximate cause of the economic crisis. The underlying cause was, as the President said before, the breaking of the basic bargain linking pay to productivity.

    Ever since, there has been a raging debate over the best way to restore growth and prosperity; balance and fairness. Throughout the country, it has sparked protests and political movements – from the Tea Party to the people who have been occupying the streets of New York and other cities. It’s left Washington in a near-constant state of gridlock. And it’s been the topic of heated and sometimes colorful discussion among the men and women who are running for president.

    But this isn’t just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make or break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, and secure their retirement.

Right again. It is the defining issue of our time. But I wish he wouldn’t lump the Tea Party in with the Occupiers. The former hates government; the latter focuses blame on Wall Street and corporate greed – just where the President did a moment ago.

    Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that have stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for too many years. Their philosophy is simple: we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.

He might have been a bit stronger here. The “they” who are suffering collective amnesia include many of the privileged and powerful who have gained enormous wealth by using their political muscle to entrench their privilege and power. In other words, it’s not simply or even mainly amnesia. It’s a clear and concerted strategy.

It may be make it or break it time for this democratic republic we call the USA. Voters can bring back the disastrous policies of George W. Bush - which all the conservative presidential candidates embrace to one degree or another, or we can move away from become a plutocracy ruled by multi-national corporations and Wall Street financial elite.

Fox News fabricates part of US Constitution in effort to convince viewers Elena Kagan should recuse herself from Affordable Care Act case.