Sunday, July 31, 2011

Crazy Ideas?

I am getting ready to 'pack it in'.  It's too hot sit in front of my PC screen much less use my fried brain.  Blog Spot is making me go nuts.  I had some cool Maxine cartoons on the economy and it won't let me download them.  Too bad, because we all need a good laugh about now.  Instead I will write a rant to relieve my pent up anger and depression.

I am not even close to being an economist or a politician.  I'm just a simple citizen trying to figure out how Washington got so crazy.  So here a few random thoughts that I have.

First, everyone knows that the budget and raising the debt limit should not be tied together.  Who gains from this manufactured crisis?  Well, maybe the very wealthy guys (Think Koch Brothers) who are pulling the strings of the Tea Party.  Their goal is to break the unions, cut taxes and enhance their bloated bottom line even more.  How can they do this?  By tying those goals to something that must get passed, like the Debt Limit.  They could never get Congress to pass the drastic cuts that benefit them unless they use extortion and that is exactly what they have accomplished.  This was a very clever ruse on their part but in so doing, they may have killed the golden goose.  When the country slips into depression they may wish they had not been so greedy.

Every one agrees that our country owes way too much money and that paying the interest on it is going to destroy us if we don't stop.  So what's the problem?  It is no secret that when you owe more than you are taking in you have few options.  You can stop spending or you can make more money or a combination of the two.   Fine as far as it goes.  But here's the rub; a family can sit down with their budget and make a list.  First comes fixed expenses like paying the mortgage, car payment, etc.  Next come the variables like utilities and food.  After you have cut as much as you can from the variable list you decide on how to spend any money that might be left over.  If there is nothing left someone has to work at a second job so you can buy clothes, have an evening out or save for the kid's college.  There is just so much that you can do.

While this may work for a family budget it gets much more complicated if it's a business or a government.  The principle remains the same, but there are fewer things you can cut without destroying the business.  And that's just what the conservatives don't understand.  In the case of government,  if you cut money from infrastructure, education, the safety net for the vulnerable you end up destroying the country with unintended consequences.  There is just so much you can cut without raising the cost down the road for the very government you think you are saving.  It is not necessary for me to point out what happens when you cut to the bone. Crime goes up.  Poor people without jobs will rob or beg or take their anger out against the power structure that took away all hope.  We will no longer lead the world in science and development with a poorly educated populace.  And when you reduce the sick, elderly and uneducated to abject poverty it will cost more in a myriad of ways and the country that once was so great will have lost it's soul.

To me, the reasons that conservatives use to cut spending is simplistic in it's premise and stupid in it's achievement.  All economists agree that when you are in a downturn you need to spend money to get the economy growing so people can find work.  People with jobs pay taxes and that  increases government income.   They also buy things, thus increasing more revenue for businesses and, again, more income to the government in the form of taxes.  People without jobs are a drain on the economy.   Why is this so hard to understand? 

It boils down to simple logic.  The government will always have some debt and if it's citizens aren't working and  paying taxes the debt will be much larger.  The first priority should be to provide jobs.  After that we can work on the debt.  Sometimes even a government has to spend money to make money.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bernie Speaks For Us

 I could never say what I feel as well as Bernie Sanders so I will let him speak for me - and for you - and for our children - and for our grandchildren.  Bless Bernie for continuing to fight for us.


Congratulations Senator Coburn.

f there was ever a time in the modern history of America that the American people should become engaged in what's going on here in Washington, now is that time. Decisions are being made that will impact not only our generation but the lives of our children and our grandchildren for decades to come, and I fear very much that the decisions being contemplated are not good decisions, are not fair decisions.

There is increased understanding that that defaulting for the first time in our history on our debts would be a disaster for the American economy and for the world's economy. We should not do that.

There also is increased discussion about long-term deficit reduction and how we address the crisis which we face today of a record-breaking deficit of $1.4 trillion and a $14 trillion-plus national debt.
One of the long-term deficit reduction plans came from the so-called Gang of Six. We do not know all of the details of that proposal. In fact, we never will know because a lot of the decisions are booted to committees to work out the details.

It is fair to say, however, that Senators Coburn, Crapo and Chambliss deserve congratulations. Clearly, they have won this debate in a very significant way. My guess is that they will probably get 80 percent or 90 percent of what they wanted. In this town, that is quite an achievement, but they have stood firm in their desire to represent the wealthy and the powerful and multinational corporations. They have threatened. They have been smart. They have been determined. And at the end of the day, they will get almost all of what they want. That is their victory, and I congratulate them.

Unfortunately, their victory will be a disaster for working families in this country, for the elderly, for the sick, for the children and for low-income people.

Based on the limited information that we have, I think it is important to highlight some of what is in this so-called Gang of Six proposal that the corporate media, among others, are enthralled about.
Some may remember that for a number of years, leading Democrats said that we will do everything that we can to protect Social Security, that Social Security has been an extraordinary success in our country, that for 75 years, with such volatility in the economy, Social Security has paid out every nickel owed to every eligible American. I heard Democrats say that Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. That is right because Social Security is funded by the payroll tax, not by the US Treasury. Social Security has a $2.6 trillion surplus today. It can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 25 years. It is an enormously popular program. Poll after poll from the American people says doesn't cut Social Security. Two and a half years ago when Barack Obama, then a senator from Illinois, ran for president of the United States, he made it very clear if you voted for him there would be no cuts in Social Security.

What Senators Coburn, Crapo and Chambliss have managed to do in the Gang of Six is reach an agreement where there will be major cuts in Social Security. Don't let anybody kid you about this being some minor thing. It is not. What we are talking about is that Social Security cuts would go into effect virtually immediately. Ten years from now, the typical 75-year-old person will see their Social Security benefits cut by $560 a year. The average 85-year-old will see a cut of $1,000 a year. Now, for some people here in Washington, maybe the big lobbyists who make hundreds of thousands a year, $560 a year or $1,000 a year may not seem like a lot of money, but if you are a senior trying to get by on $14,000, $15,000, $18,000 a year and you're 85 years old, the end of your life, you're totally vulnerable, you're sick - a $1,000 per year cut in what you otherwise would have received is a major, major blow.

So I congratulate Senator Coburn, Senator Crapo, Senator Chambliss for doing what president Obama said would not happen under his watch, what the Democrats have said would not happen under their watch.
But it's not just Social Security. We have 50 million Americans today who have no health insurance at all. Under the Gang of Six proposals, there will be cuts in Medicare over a 10-year period of almost $300 billion. There will be massive cuts in Medicaid and other health care programs. There will be caps on spending, which mean that there will be major cuts in education. If you are a working-class family, hoping that you're going to be able to send your kid to college and thinking that you will be eligible for a Pell grant, think twice about that. Pell grants may not be there. If you're a senior who relies on a nutrition program, that nutrition program may not be there. If you think it's a good idea that we enforce clean air and clean water provisions so that our kids can be healthy, those provisions may not be there because there will be major cuts in environmental protection.

Some people think that's not so good, but at least our Republican friends are saying we need revenue and we're going to get $1 trillion in revenue. But wait a minute,. If you read the proposal, there are very, very clear provisions making sure that we are going to make massive cuts in programs for working families, for the elderly, for the children. Those cuts are written in black and white. What about the revenue? Well, it's kind of vague. The projection is that we would rise over a 10-year period $100 billion in revenue. Where is that going to come? Is it necessarily going to come from the wealthiest people in this economy? Is it going to come from large corporations who are enjoying huge tax breaks? That is not clear at all. I want middle-class families to understand that when we talk about increased revenues, do you know where that comes from? It may come from cutbacks in the home mortgage interest deduction program, which is so very important to millions and millions of families. It may mean that if you have a health care program today, that health care program may be taxed. That's a way to raise revenue. It may be that there will be increased taxes on your retirement programs, your IRA's, your 401(k)'s. But we don't have the details for that. All we have is some kind of vague promise that we're going to raise $1 trillion over the next 10 years, no enforcement mechanism and no clarity as to where that revenue will come from.

That is why it is so terribly important that the American people become engaged in this debate which will have a huge impact on them, on their parents and on their children. The American people must fight for a fair deal. At a time when the wealthiest people in this country are doing phenomenally well and their effective tax rate is the lowest on record, at a time when the top 400 individuals in this country own more wealth than 150 million Americans, at a time when corporate profits are soaring and in many instances corporations, these same corporations pay nothing in taxes, at a time when we have tripled military spending since 1997, there are fair ways to move toward deficit reduction which do not slash programs that working families and children and the elderly desperately depend upon.

This Senator is going to fight back. I was not elected to the United States Senate to make devastating cuts in Social Security, in Medicare, in Medicaid, in children's programs, while lowering tax rates for the wealthiest people in this country.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Power To The People

This is what 'people power' can do.  Russell Pearce, Speaker of the House in Arizona, has been recalled.  For those of you not familiar with Arizona politics, he is the radical guy who exposed our state to scorn with his right-wing emigration legislation.  He has introduced other bills; some so radical that Governor Jan Brewer (no bleeding heart liberal) vetoed them. 

The special election will be held in November.  There were 30% more signatures on the petition than needed so I do believe we will rid ourselves of one of the Tea Party numbskull's once and for all.  

Making our voices heard works, but we have to let the politicians know how we feel first.  Right now there are many  bad puppets in our government and Wall Street is pulling their strings.   They are trying to do us in and make our country into a plutocracy.  The only way to stop them is by a massive noise from the voters.  Write, call, join protest groups, and march.  The wealthy power machine that is trying to take over our country and make serfs of 'we the people' can only be stopped by us.  

Our founding fathers gave us a republic if we can keep it.  This is not the time to be apathetic.   Write or call your representative every time you read about another unjust law that is being considered in Congress and let them know you are watching and objecting.  

We are on the brink of losing our freedoms, good education for our children and grandchildren, social services, Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security,  a decent wage, unemployment insurance, and a host of other services we used to take for granted.   Meanwhile our infrastructure is crumbling, China is rapidly overtaking us, and we no longer fund innovative new ideas that used to be the cornerstone of our country.

Am I trying to scare you?  You bet your sweet bippies I am.  This is crisis time and if I can inspire one person to contact their representative or to notify everyone on their mailing list to write or make that call I will be happy.  Don't put it off.  Do it today and keep on doing it until the word spreads and Washington hears our voices.  Write about every issue that you care about and do it often.  Here is a link to find out how to contact your representative.

How to contact your representatives

The Supremes are another scary bunch right now.  Thom Hartmann lays out a good case for impeaching Clarence Thomas.  This is another cause to take up.  Please watch the video.

The following video was posted in error.  You can watch it or not.  I can't seem to get rid of it.  

And here is another video on the subject of People Power from Move On.  Tip of the hat to Nancy.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Forgotten History

The 'big bang' day is over and we can all relax for another year.  I watched so many fireworks displays on TV last night that I have sparklers shining under my eyelids.  The nicest thing about the Fourth Of July is that we are, for one day, united in our patriotism.  It's too bad that we now revert to the divisiveness that polarizes us.  It's back to politics as usual. 

Lord John Dalberg Acton understood the corruption of power.  Following are a few of his quotes (source;Wikipedia) that illustrate how well he knew the hidden evils inherent in politics.
  • “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
  • "Great men are almost always bad men."
  • “There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”
  • “The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.” 
  • "The issue which has swept down the centuries and which will have to be fought sooner or later is the people versus the banks."
  • "Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity."
  • "The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern."
  • "There is no error so monstrous that it fails to find defenders among the ablest men.
My favorite quote is not from Lord Acton, but the famous one by George Santayana.  It is:  "Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it."  To which Harry Truman added the words "and understand" making it read 'Those who do not read and understand history ----.  

It's one thing to fail to understand the lessons to be learned from mistakes made hundreds of years ago, but quite another to be so brain dead that some men fail to learn the lessons of the past 50 years.  More accurately, the past 12 years.  

If the bonehead men in Congress can't remember what caused our recession they are doomed to repeat it.  Paul Krugman pointedly takes them to task for repeating the same mistakes before the ink is dry on the most recent ones.  

 Here are a few excerpts from "Corporate Cash Con" as published in the New York Times.

. -- the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis have been forgotten, and the very ideas that got us into the crisis — regulation is always bad, what’s good for the bankers is good for America, tax cuts are the universal elixir — have regained their hold. 

And now trickle-down economics — specifically, the idea that anything that increases corporate profits is good for the economy — is making a comeback. 

How can people simultaneously demand savage cuts in Medicare and Medicaid and defend special tax breaks favoring hedge fund managers and owners of corporate jets? 

--here’s what a spokesman for Eric Cantor, told Greg Sargent of The Washington Post: “You can’t help the wage earner by taxing the wage payer offering a job.” He went on to imply, disingenuously, that the tax breaks at issue mainly help small businesses (they’re actually mainly for big corporations). But the basic argument was that anything that leaves more money in the hands of corporations will mean more jobs.

U.S. corporations are supposed to pay taxes on the profits of their overseas subsidiaries — but only when those profits are transferred back to the parent company. Now there’s a move afoot — driven, of course, by a major lobbying campaign — to offer an amnesty under which companies could move funds back while paying hardly any taxes. And even some Democrats are supporting this idea, claiming that it would create jobs.

As opponents of this plan point out, we’ve already seen this movie:  Companies did indeed take advantage of the amnesty to move a lot of money back to the United States. But they used that money to pay dividends, pay down debt, buy up other companies, buy back their own stock — pretty much everything except increasing investment and creating jobs. Indeed, there’s no evidence that the 2004 tax holiday did anything at all to stimulate the economy. 

--[ the tax holiday] did  give big corporations a chance to avoid paying taxes, because they would eventually have repatriated, and paid taxes on, much of the money they brought in under the amnesty. And it also gave these companies an incentive to move even more jobs overseas, since they now know that there’s a good chance that they’ll be able to bring overseas profits home nearly tax-free under future amnesties. 

--How can anyone imagine that lack of corporate cash is what’s holding back recovery in America right now? After all, it’s widely understood that corporations are already sitting on large amounts of cash that they aren’t investing in their own businesses. 

--  a major conservative talking point, with right-wingers claiming that businesses are failing to invest because of political uncertainty. That’s almost surely false: the evidence strongly says that the real reason businesses are sitting on cash is lack of consumer demand.

--claims that a corporate tax holiday would create jobs, or that ending the tax break for corporate jets would destroy jobs, are nonsense. 

 -- Lack of corporate cash is not the problem facing America. Big business already has the money it needs to expand; what it lacks is a reason to expand with consumers still on the ropes and the government slashing spending. 


Now the Republicans (and some Democrats) want to let the banks and big corporations run amok with more tax breaks, less regulation and the right of person-hood without the responsibilities.  How did that work for them during the past 12 years?

It has been noted that some Republicans aren't really that stupid; they are actually venal and will take the country down just so Obama will be blamed for the recession (or depression) and will lose the next election.  Now that's just plain evil.  It was Mitch McConnell who bragged that "The single most important thing that we want to achieve  is for President  Obama to be a one-term president."   That's not the oath of office that he swore to.  It is a perversion of Democracy.  To so blatantly brag about his main goal is despicable.