Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Failure of Reaganism

Since the 1970s, the Republican Party has fallen increasingly under the influence of radical ideologues, whose goal is nothing less than the elimination of the welfare state — that is, the whole legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society. From the beginning, however, these ideologues have had a big problem: The programs they want to kill are very popular. Americans may nod their heads when you attack big government in the abstract, but they strongly support Social Security, Medicare, and even Medicaid.

With Hurricane Sandy, the Ronald Reagan-inspired Republican policy of preferring small government, or even better, private industry, to big government took a really hard hit. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said back in May 2011:

... every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better,” Romney responded.
“Instead of thinking in the federal budget, ‘What we should cut?’ we should ask ourselves the opposite question, ‘What should we keep?’ We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, ‘What are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do?’ And those things we’ve got to stop doing,” Romney continued.

But all of the sudden, Romney recognized that he had a very poor case on his hands and that big government wasn't looking so bad, after all. Very understandably, Romney dodged questions about whether, as president, he'd continue to support the existence of FEMA. Understandable, but in doing that, he essentially conceded that the whole right-wing argument for shrinking the government was kind of silly. As Krugman points out, even after many decades of anti-big-government talking points being put out by the Republican Party, members of the public "strongly support [big government programs such as] Social Security, Medicare, and even Medicaid."

The fire at a factory in Bangladesh that was producing clothes for sale by Walmart was another hard blow to the right-wing, Republican project of "getting big government off the backs of the people" of industry. It turns out that corporations will not, after all, effectively regulate themselves and will cut expenditures on safety in the name of making bigger profits.

In late November, there was a toxic train wreck in Paulsboro, NJ, where whole freight cars full of a flammable gas known as vinyl chloride, used to make PVC plastics, were derailed and fell into the Mantua Creek. Of course, the industry that produces vinyl chloride has been tramsporting and handling "massive amounts of toxins with minimal oversight," which works really good until one day it doesn't.

A local blogger found a March 2010 survey that gauged public attitudes toward Republicans:

Here are the perceptions “where the Republicans seemed in trouble”:
“The Republicans are not for the average person…”
“The Republicans do not champion the public interest….
“The Republicans put the needs of big corporate interests ahead of the ordinary citizen….”
“Though the Republicans are strong on moral values, only half the voters think Republicans share their values and priorities….”
“Republicans may be going too far in pushing their religious conservative agenda….”
“They are not heralded for their economic policies….”
“They are not heralded on the environment….”
“They are not heralded for how they relate to the world….”
“They are the establishment….”

In other words, the Republican project of shrinking big government down to size has resulted in nothing more than that the American people regard the party as heartless and heedless of the damage they're causing in the name of their small-government ideology.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rewards and punishments

And on precisely the same note as in my previous post, Hostess is asking their bankruptcy judge to distribute bonuses to executives on the logic that giving out $1.8 million in bonuses to just 19 executives of a bankrupt company (While discharging 18,000 workers) means they'd be able to keep those executives on the job during the year or so that it would take to properly and effectively close the company down. The argument on behalf of the executives is that "In January, Hostess filed for its second Chapter 11 bankruptcy in less than a decade, citing steep costs associated with its unionized work force" while the counter-argument is that "The company's demise came after years of management turmoil, with workers saying the company failed to invest in updating its products."

Hostess is hardly the only company to reward executives of failed firms, but

Even as it blamed unions for the bankruptcy and the 18,500 job losses that will ensue, Hostess already gave its executives pay raises earlier this year. The salary of the company’s chief executive tripled from $750,000 to roughly $2.5 million, and at least nine other executives received pay raises ranging from $90,000 to $400,000. Those raises came just months after Hostess originally filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

But the union and the 5,600 Hostess workers represented by the union did not create the crisis that led the company’s incompetent managers to announce plans to shutter it.
The BCTGM workers did not ask for more pay.
The BCTGM workers did not ask for more benefits.
The BCTGM workers did not ask for better pensions.
The union and its members had a long history of working with the company to try to keep it viable. They had made wage and benefit concessions to keep the company viable. They adjusted to new technologies, new demands.

My problem with rewarding what strongly appears to be a case of vulture capitalism is that it gives corporate executives every incentive to drive their companies into the ground and loot them dry. If we make it pay for executives in charge of companies go under, what's to prevent them from making decisions that they know will harm the company, its customers and their larger community?

My proposed solution is to remove the profit motivation for corporate executives to seek the destruction of the firms they supervise. When a company goes under, every executive should be placed on seven-eighths of their usual pay and no bonuses, ever! No stock sell-offs, no financial compensation of any sort. Any stock they own should be taken back and discontinued. I don't think the employees should be automatically rewarded either, just in case it really is union demands that make the company go under, but most certainly, the owners and executives should "take a haircut" on any company that goes bankrupt.

Friday, September 21, 2012


I'm absolutely amazed that the Romney campaign has not only failed to cut the salaries of all of their people in half, but that they've actually gone in the other direction and have handed out bonuses!!!!!! Now, I would understand that, on victory night, you give everybody a "Well done!" and a slap on the back and the next day, cut them all nice, fat checks. That would make complete sense.
I can understand that after a loss, you'd need about a month to close up shop, pay off all your bills and debts or at least set up long-term arrangements to do so and maybe, just maybe, you'd have something left over to hand out as a consolation and as a "Better luck next time."
But to hand out bonuses before the campaign is over?!?!? To hand out bonuses to a campaign that's a complete disaster??!?! This is beyond incompetence, this is why the culture of the golden parachute is so horribly inappropriate and so blatantly counterproductive for American business.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Republican Convention

Ann Romney started it off by giving a very nice, pleasant speech that was completely devoid of any bothersome policy specifics, y'know, anything that might tax the minds of any of the gentle, proper ladies that were listening. Reading between the lines and listening carefully, a feminist might actually take heart from Romney's acknowledgement of women's struggles, but Romney presented it as "whattaya gonna do, huh?" instead of as a challenge to be confronted and surmounted.

Clint Eastwood talking to the empty chair that was supposed to represent President Obama...whooo-weee!!!!!! Yeah, Eastwood's Hollywood buddies clearly thought that he's, uh, kinda lost it.

The speech reminded me of the grandfather on the cartoon The Simpsons yelling at clouds.

What really bothered me about the speech was that Eastwood addressed a right-wing caricature of a rude, disrespectful Obama and not the real-life fellow who's actually quite likeable.

Wow! ALL of the factcheckers came out swinging against Ryan's speech!

Of course, some media outlets don't regard fact-checking as their mandate and contented themselves with theater critcism, i.e., how well did Ryan tell his many lies?

An especially annoying lie of Ryan's was his description of the Simpson-Bowles "Cat Food Commission" (As it's policy prescriptions were guaranteed to leave the middle and working classes more desperate and impoverished than before).

But there's so much more. Ryan claimed that Obama "created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report.  He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing." In fact, the Simpson-Bowles debt commission never issued an official report—in part because Paul Ryan, who sat on the commission, voted against it because he and his fellow Republicans opposed raising taxes on the rich to increase revenue and reduce the debt.

Romney's speech? Well, again, the speech completely lacked any real specifics. Romney promised 12 million new jobs, no specifics as to how and his point number three, his promise to forge "new trade agreements," presumably in the mold of NAFTA, actually contradicts the idea that he'll create new jobs here in America. Also, as we DFH lefties have been pointing out for many years, Romney's fifth point, that he wants to cut the deficit, ALSO completely contradicts the promise of new jobs. America simply cannot cut the Federal Budget AND create new jobs in the numbers that are desperately needed.

Jon Stewart ran a segment on The Daily Show a few years ago on Romney's first point, that of energy independence, showing that EVERY American president, from Harry Truman onwards, has made exactly the same promise. Not that it's a bad promise to make, but Romney really needs to flesh that promise out a bit. I looked at his campaign website a few weeks ago and his energy policy is just Sarah Palin's "Drill, baby, drill." Romney wants Americans to be educated. Okay, what does he plan to do about the crushing burden that student loans have become? No word on that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

USA Today poll

I was corresponding with a right-winger last night (Using the comments section attached to a piece in our local paper) and he suggested that I check out a USA Today poll concerning the Obama campaign's attacks on Bain Capital and what people thought of Romney's  business experience as far as his economic expertise goes. Apparently, the news on that is good for Romney as the poll showed that the public thinks 63% to 29%, that Romney's business experience is a plus when it comes to dealing with our economy.
Slight problem, though. When the focus of the question is narrowed from the public at large to just independent voters who have been paying attention to the campaign in swing states (Where the Obama campaign anti-Bain advertisements have been airing), the result is far less pleasant to the Romney campaign. The polling there shows a significant movement towards Obama and against Romney when those particular voters hear about Bain focusing on "creat[ing] wealth for their investors" as opposed to "creat[ing] a stronger American economy."
Problem is, there's a difference between running a private, for-profit corporation, no matter how large it may be, and between running a democratic government. Democratic governments can't simply toss liabilities overboard and stick others with taking care of them the way private industries regularly do. Overseeing the budget for a private company is a relatively simple matter, you want to make sure that your bottom line is a positive number. If it is, you're a success and if it's a really big positive number, you're even more of a success. Governments are more multi-purposed and have several different mandates to juggle. As US News pointed out back in February, the idea that businessmen automatically make good presidents, well, that may be a great idea in theory, but once you start really examining that idea, it quickly falls apart.

Update: and yes, we've now confirmed that Obama's attacks on Bain Capital did indeed have their intended effect. Romney has now stopped talking about his business background and is now talking about his being Governor of Massachusetts!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

WaPo fact-checker needs to be sanctioned

There's a good summary of the Mitt Romney-Bain Capital "Who was leading Bain Capital during the time when Bain was a national leader in outsourcing/offshoring production from America to low-wage countries?" dispute. The years were 1999 to 2002 and Romney's story is that during those years, he was out of the loop and retired as the company's founder and chief executive. As the piece points out, Romney was receiving an annual $100,000 salary during those years. What was Bain paying him six figures for if all he was doing was standing around and acting as the figurehead, but not actually being involved in the operations of the company?

Also, as another blogger points out, where is the evidence that a new chairman took over in 1999?

And another thing. If Romney wasn’t the CEO for those three years, who was? Shouldn’t someone be coming forward to say they were in charge, not Mitt. Wouldn’t there be minutes from a board meeting detailing the line of succession? How about a mass email sent out to everyone at Bain congratulating the new CEO like you would get at every other company in America? These are arrogant fuckers, surely there has to be one Bain brochure with the new non-Mitt CEO standing in front of his office. Surely Bain must have an investor newsletter that would tell investors that Romney was out in 1999 and the new CEO was in charge. Where is all that stuff?

The WaPo Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, states that:

We had examined many SEC documents related to Romney and Bain in January, and concluded that much of the language saying Romney was “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president” was boilerplate that did not reveal whether he was actually managing Bain at the time.

Erm. slight problem with the "boilerplate" theory is that lying to the SEC is a felony, and for very good reason. Such a situation would be

"Very, very serious. And in the normal course would subject somebody in this position to every manner of investigation with all the consequences that you can imagine that would follow."

The reason why it's so serious is that investors need full, complete and accurate information about a company that they might be investing millions of dollars into. As Romney was the “sole stockholder" in Bain Capital, that particular provision might not matter so much as nobody was investing directly in the company. But as Romney is running for President of the United States, to dismiss these misrepresentations as mere "boilerplate" holds Romney to an extraordinarily low standard of truthfulness and trustworthiness.

An amusing "rebuttal" Kessler makes is that: "To accept some of the claims, one would have to believe that Romney, with the advice of his lawyers, lied on government documents and committed a criminal offense." Problem is, we've now uncovered conflicting documents that say different things. Not only did Romney claim on official government filings that he was “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president,” but he also said, again, on official government filings, that "Since February 11, 1999, Mr. Romney has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity." It's kinda difficult for both statements to be true. Seems to me that he had to have lied on at least one of those occasions. Romney's situation is now made even more difficult by the statement made several months after his alleged "retirement," that he was now a part-time CEO. Sure, he was running preparations for the Olympics, no one is making the claim that he retained day-to-day control of Bain Capital, but the quoted press release directly contradicts his assertion that he played no role in the company after  February 1999.

Regardless of how much a "hands-on" manager Romney was, the bottom line, no matter how many anonymous Democrats say otherwise,  is that

Look at it this way, guys like Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling also tried to say they didn't know what was going on and Enron and couldn't be held responsible for details. The law disagreed. That's not to say that Bain did anything illegal during that period, but the underlying principle is the same. If your name is on the legal paperwork, you're responsible.

One comment I found truly annoying was the assertion by Kessler that: " these partisan times, the backgrounds of sources should be disclosed." It's difficult to see why the backgrounds of any of the sources for the story are of the slightest relevance. The Boston Globe piece very clearly refers to documents, not just to people testifying. If you've seen the actual documents, why do you need to know the motivations of the people who brought those documents to light?

Perhaps Kessler doesn't need to be dismissed as a reporter entirely, perhaps he can simply be relieved of his duties as a fact-checker, but doing nothing will further degrade the esteem in which fact-checkers are held.


Romney responds

Romney responded to a particularly biting attack - that he may either be guilty of a felony or of lying to the American public - by asking in his CNN interview, "is that really what's expected from the campaign of the sitting president of the United States?"
"Is this the level that the Obama campaign is willing to stoop to? Is this up to the standards expected of the presidency of the United States," he asked. "It's disgusting; it's demeaning; it's something which I think the president should take responsibility for and stop."

If one reads the piece above, there is plenty of good reason to believe that Romney is either lying and/or a felon. If he wants to disprove that, he can begin by releasing all of his tax returns from 1998 onwards.

Update II:

Kessler backs down

With a lot of hemming and hawing and irrelevant asides, Kessler concedes the points made by the Obama campaign concerning Romney and his departure date from Bain Capital.

I found Kessler's following statement to be hugely amusing: "The years 1999-2002 are a gray period in Romney’s life." Gee, why would that be? Could it be because Romney himself has been vague and unwilling to produce documentation about that period? There is no inherent ambiguity here, The only questions are raised by the Romney campaign and its refusal to be open and honest about what Romney's status was.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Re: "Focusing on wrong issues" Letter 14 May 2012

The writer sets out a number of propositions, that:

  • the $15 trillion debt,
  • the $1.5 trillion annual deficit,
  • the high unemployment rate,
  • a failed strategy in the Middle East,
  • and 50 percent of the population paying no federal income tax in an ever-expanding entitlement society.

are all very serious problems that need to be tackled and all of which are far more timely and urgent than marriage equality between gays and straights. I wrote about this letter to the Inky on the subject of whether or not marriage equality was a meaningful issue (I think it is), but the above is an interesting list. The first two items on the list, debt and deficit, cannot be pursued at the same time that the third item, unemployment, is pursued. The President and the Republican Congress spent all of 2010 and the first half of 2011 trying to lower the deficit and at the same time, promised that they were pursuing job growth. They couldn't do both and a quick look at employment growth for the last several years shows some progress in climbing out of the hole of the Great Recession, but very slow progress. The red line going upwards doesn't look anything like a strong, healthy financial recovery. In fact, at precisely the time when job growth should have been really taking off in response to the policies that the President and Congress were pursuing, job growth abruptly slowed down instead. This was a complete surprise to those who had put their faith in the "Comfidence Fairy," but not all surprising to liberal Keynesians. An economist explains on The Real News what the agenda of the pro-austerity crowd is. It's nothing that regular citizens should support and there's a reason that Europeans are opposed to it. Back in 1999, anti-globalists spoke of the "race to the bottom," and that seems to be precisely what's going on.

Not sure how Obama's strategy in the Middle East is a failure. Certainly he's doing no worse than the last president did.

And no, first off, entitlements are not "ever-expanding," the number of people on food stamps has grown tremendously, but that's entirely because of the Great Recession. Why are so many people still on food stamps, years after the crash? Well, if Obama and the Republicans had not "pivoted" towards deficit reduction and away from getting Americans back to work, there wouldn't be as many people on food stamps. There would be more Americans paying taxes because there more of our citizens would have well or at least decently-paying jobs.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Paul vs Paul - Krugman vs Ron Paul

Bloomberg News presents a 20-minute debate between Rep. Ron Paul and Professor Paul Krugman.

From Raw Story:

Paul made his case for Austrian economics, arguing for a limited government that keeps its hands off the economy. In contrast, Krugman made the case for Keynesian economics, arguing that a completely unmanaged economy would inevitably lead to a volatile boom and bust cycle.

After watching the video, I appreciated a very good question that the hosts asked of both participants: "Which is worse, big government debt or high unemployment?" Krugman I believe, answers the question correctly, and says that high unemployment is much worse.

I disagree with Paul's answer that government debt is worse because he's prioritizing an abstract problem above one that causes very real pain to real people in real time. The example I've often used is Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. How could people tell there was a problem? Well, because their streets were underwater! How can people tell that debt is a problem? Only because pundits and experts tell them it's a problem.

There's no way for an average citizen to even tell whether the government's in debt or not. In fact, a local right-winger recently claimed in a comments section that government debt has gotten worse under President Obama. Has it? Actually no, it hasn't. The US debt load is actually smaller than it was three years ago. Why is the right-winger able to claim the opposite with a straight face? Because it's an abstract problem that doesn't directly affect anyone.

Nah, I agree with Krugman, Paul wants to go back 150 years to the Gilded Age. Problem is, there's a reason that the Gilded Age ended and the Progressive Era began.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Budgets and priorities

Can we Occupy the budget debate? The Congressional Progressive Caucus actually has a good proposal on the table, but the chattering class and the press corps are fixated on Representative Ryan's plan, which doesn't
meet any criteria of reasonableness or rationality. But it does meet the criteria of "austerity," the idea that addressing the "debt crisis" takes precedence over all other possible priorities. What is to be done? Fortunately, grassroots organizers have some ideas and are gearing up to act.

According to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, they've come up with a budget that, within ten years, would eliminate the deficit and produce a $31 billion surplus to boot. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) did an analysis (PDF) of their handiwork. The EPI states that:

National budget policy should adequately fund up-front job creation, invest in long-term economic growth, reform the tax code, and put the debt on a sustainable path while protecting the economic security of low-income Americans and growing the middle class. The proposal by the Congressional Progressive caucus achieves all of these goals.

Significantly, the Progressive budget proposal begins with the need to rebuild America's physical infrastructure. Roads and railways, power plants and sewage systems, that is, real stuff that directly affects people's lives. By contrast, the House of Representatives 2013 Budget Proposal, modestly termed "The Path to Prosperity," takes as its main priority the heading off of a "debt-fueled crisis." Is there any such crisis to be avoided? That's far from clear.

Let's take student loans as an example of a debt problem. The total amount owed to the Federal Government on student loans just now hit the $1 trillion mark. According to President Obama, as reported by Oregon Live, the need to repay "the massive debt overhang ... casts a dark shadow on millions of Americans and their future."

"Student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt for the first time ever," the president told the Colorado crowd. "Living with that kind of debt means making some tough choices when you're first starting out. You put off buying a house or starting a business or starting a family. When a big chunk of your paycheck goes to student loans, that's painful not just for the middle class, but it's harmful for our economy because that money's not going to help businesses grow."
"Student debt is a huge, huge problem for everyone," says University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere. "It's skewing the choices that students make in terms of what they can do afterward. It deters significant elements of the population who should be in school from going to school."

So, obviously, having to owe either the government or a private business lots of money for one's education is an unpleasant problem that no one wants to have, but student loans can be paid off over ten or more years. Applying the term "crisis" to the student loan situation sounds to me like you're applying an awfully overheated, melodramatic description to a long-term problem. It's just not clear that the description of "crisis" even remotely applies. Likewise, it's far from clear that government debt constitutes a "crisis" either. Certainly, it can be a "huge, huge problem," but it's difficult to see why people's needs for an up-to-date infrastructure should be deferred so that America can solve a "debt-fueled crisis."

Next to last paragraph from a very interesting piece on a favorite blog of mine:

There will come a day in the future when regular people look back at us, thunderstuck. "Deficits? That's what these idiots cared about? Their big political arguments were about paying back deficits on bonds held by bankers the government bailed out, right during the middle of a recession, while ignoring the impending climate change disaster? Not only ignoring it, but desperately trying to figure out how to extract more oil? Just how stupid were these people, anyway?" [emphasis in original]

I concluded a long time ago that the desire for aristocracy was a permanent, inborn, inherent trait. I don't connect that desire to any sort of Marxist theory because I believe the desire long pre-dates capitalism. I guess we have to add, as a corollary to that, that the desire to impose austerity upon those who aren't members of the aristocracy is a related phenomenon. After all, aristocrats like to feel that there's a real and substantive difference between themselves and everyone else. Maybe when working people enjoy middle-class existences, that is a source of anger, or at least disgruntlement, for aristocrats.

One noticeable claim made by the Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) is:

Senate Democrats – for over 1,000 days – have refused to pass a budget.

This is a more-or-less true claim. certainly it is true that no budget has been passed for over 1,000 days, but is that because Senate Democrats have "refused" to pass one? Back in June 2010, the reason that the then-Majority Leader Steny Hoyer gave was that 

“It isn’t possible to debate and pass a realistic, long-term budget until we’ve considered the bipartisan commission’s deficit-reduction plan, which is expected in December.”

Of course, "Cat Food Commission II" failed to produce any such plan as austerity, the underlying philosophy of the commission to begin with, was and is an incredibly bad idea. The Hill confirmed in February 2012 that Republicans were using Ryan's "1,000 days" talking point, but Democrats have said that the deal reached in August of last year serves as a budget as it calls for everything to remain as it was in late 2010 (Before the mid-term election of that year) with the exception of a few specified cuts. There's no real question that Democrats want a very, very different budget from what Republicans want. As Slate puts it:

There are two issues: Republicans who won't vote for a final bill unless it contains "riders" related to health care, abortion, and funding for the EPA; and those who think anything less than the $61 billion in cuts is too little.

The Democrats are not simply being stubborn for the sake of being stubborn. It's that Republicans want things to go along with a budget resolution that Democrats simply can't stand to see put into legislation. So no, the story is nowhere near as simple and straightforward as "Senate Democrats ... have refused to pass a budget."

Ryan has lost some of his "bipartisan" cover with the clarification from Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) that he's in favor of the original white paper that he and Ryan put together, but is not in favor of the Republican budget plan for this year, which makes Ryan and Republicans at least a bit more exposed. Wyden showed in The Hill piece that's he's a staunch Blue Dog Democrat by stating that he was in favor of the plan put forward by the two co-chairmen of "Cat Food Commission I," Chester Bowles and Alan Simpson. The Commission never put out a plan in its own name as they couldn't get the necessary number of members to all sign onto the plan supported by the two co-chairs. I believe it says something about Wyden's credibility that he refers to "the deficit-reduction plan drafted by the Simpson-Bowles commission" when there was actually never any such agreed-upon plan. What he means is "the plan put forward by the two co-chairs" as the commmission as a whole was a failure.   

Critics of the Ryan have been numerous. Economist Dean Baker points out that Ryan's plan preserves the big three New Deal/Great Society programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and would leave defense expenditures intact or even greater, but would eliminate pretty much all of the rest of the US Government. Forbes says the Ryan plan "would result in huge benefits for high-income people and very modest—or no— benefits for low income working households" and "would likely result in a huge tax cut for those who need it least." The WaPo states that:

Bowing to demands from conservatives influenced by the tea party movement, House leaders are pressing to protect the Pentagon in 2013 while cutting budgets for domestic agencies below levels set during last summer’s showdown over the federal debt ceiling. The decision has alarmed both Democrats and some GOP moderates, who said the move could spark a fresh clash over the annual bills needed to keep the government running into the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

Fox News, of course, loves the Ryan plan, lauding Ryan's "courage." The Cleveland Plain Dealer editor Kevin O'Brien thinks the Ryan plan "would not cut government far enough fast enough." The fact that "Ryan's budget would devastate children, seniors and people with disabilities" is treated as either untrue or just a bothersome technicality. And Jared Bernstein asks a series of 10 questions that he (and I) don't think Ryan is willing to answer on the record.

So it is a puzzle. Why is the chattering class and the press corps in Washington DC busy discussing the Ryan plan and not that of the Congressional Progressive Caucus? Fortunately, many grassroots groups and organizations are taking action to shift the national political conversation away from deficits and toward the priorities of the 99%.

We know the people want to be composing our national budget around real priorities, not around manufactured austerity-driven crises. The strength of this need is precisely what caused the explosive growth of the Occupy movement last fall. Locally, our own Occupy Philly is organizing around this shift in a campaign to protect food distribution programs that serve the poor and the homeless. It appears also, that just about all the major anti-war groups around the country are addressing economic issues along with war and peace issues. For the mid-May gathering in Chicago, the War Resisters League, United for Peace & Justice and the American Friends Service Committee, along with many others, issued a list of five demands, the third of which is: "Substantial reductions in U.S. and NATO military spending to fund our communities and to meet human needs." is going to try to draw all this together with its top campaign, "The 99% Spring," which will be a nationwide uprising April 9-15 "to train ourselves in non-violent action and join together in the work of reclaiming our country."

Editorial assistance by fellow IMCer Amy Dalton

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cat Food Commission - misleading statements

The NY Times publishes a highly misleading paragraph on the Simpson-Bowles  deficit reduction commission.

It came just a few months after the president had opted not to endorse the recommendations of a deficit commission he had created in hopes of brokering a bold, bipartisan deficit deal. That gave rise to a portrayal that has stuck, popularized by Republicans, pundits and some Democrats: that the president, out of political timidity, snubbed his own panel’s plan.

The emphasized portions are incorrect. There was no recommendation from the commission. A recommendation was produced, yes, but it failed to get all 14 members to sign on to it, so it was the recommendation of only the two co-chairs. This is an extremely important point as, if the commission couldn't even get all 14 of their own members to sign on to it, then how can the author possibly make the case that the plan is so popular that it needs to be adopted wholesale?

Mitt Romney thinks it's terrible that the President “simply brushed aside” those recommendations, but if the recommendations had so little support in the first place, than what's the big deal?

And sorry, but I paid close attention to what the deal was projected to be. It thoroughly deserved the name "Cat Food Commission" because under it, senior citizens would have felt lucky to be having a can of cat food for dinner. It was an awful plan that cut into benefits for citizens far too deeply.

Monday, February 20, 2012


It never ceases to amaze me that people who worked for G.W. Bush have any political credibility whatsoever or are considered to be "Very Serious People" on economics. Republican Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is occasionally mentioned as a presidential contender, but the tax cuts he did much to get through did little or no good for the economy and on the larger economic questions, the ideas that Daniels pushed are what Paul Krugman refers to as "austerity economics," and they've proven to be utterly disastrous in practice. Amazingly enough, Daniels is even considered to be an acceptable emergency fill-in substitute presidential candidate for Mitt Romney by “ 'the adults' in the [Republican] party."
Thomas Friedman, the poor man's "deep thinker," is pushing for David Walker, who headed up the Government Accountability Office from 1998 to 2008 before leaving to take the helm as President of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. Again, this is an economist who has little or nothing to recommend him. Walker was conducting "a 'fiscal wake-up tour' around the country in the years 2004-2008 to try to call attention to the problem of the budget deficit." Problem of course, was that the housing bubble popped during this tour and promptly caused far more misery and havoc than anything that Walker was busy earnestly warning the country about. I didn't find any evidence that Mitch Daniels had any opinions about the housing bubble during this critical time. To be fair, Daniels was busy being Governor of Indiana during that time, but it's most curious how no reporter is known to have ever asked Daniels why he missed the housing bubble.
What's truly amazing is that these are people who completely failed the country during a time when sensible economists were very sorely needed. Why are they being considered "Very Serious People" today?!?!!?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bad news for the 1%

In a dial-poll (People twist their dials as they approve or disapprove of parts of a speech while listening to it), Republicans, Democrats and Independents all very strongly approve of the part of the SOTU where President Obama speaks of wealthy people like himself and others paying "our fair share of taxes." Take a bow, OWS!!!

Oh, and did the House of Representatives pass 30 jobs bills? Uh, no, actually, they did nothing of the kind.

And after the State of the Union speech, former G.W. Bush Budget Director Mitch Daniels gives the Republican rebuttal, proving that he has no better grasp of economics than he did in his former job (Rachel Maddow looks at his career as Governor of Indiana and no, there's no sign that he's improved there, either). Fox News, of course, loved Daniels' speech.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Flyer on austerity

Austerity flyer. Austerity strikes me as pretty much THE issue of the Obama Administration. I take a primer piece on it from a piece in Crooks & Liars and jazz it up with some graphics and short pieces before and after.